November 25, 1998
Freshman quarterback Arnaz Battle:
It hasn’t been overwhelming this week. We’re just preparing a little bit more than usual. I’m obviously taking more reps this week with the first and second offense. We’re just going out there and preparing and trying to do the things we know how to do. I’m trying to learn the material as best I can. Jarious Jackson is going to help us out this week. A lot of the coaches and other players have been very supportive, just telling us to go out and play our game and just play football.
It’s a matter of looking at film, looking at a lot of things in practice, getting the reads and coverages down. We’ve watched a lot of USC film to learn their personnel and what they do best. So I think we’ll both be prepared and ready to go on Saturday.
My shoulder is a non-factor. I’m 100 percent. I’m healthy. I can go out there and do anything I need to do. It’s the least of my worries.
It hasn’t been any different on campus from what I’ve seen. I’d like to think people believe Eric and I can do the job. People have been great about backing us up and supporting us. We’ve just got to go out and execute as a team and play ball.
I haven’t really felt any different waking up the last couple of days. I know it’s going to be a long week preparing for this game. But this is only one position. We’re one of 22 guys on the field. It’s going to be the same offense, the same things as when Jarious is in there. We’ll let the seniors step up and take control. It’s our job to try to make sure nothing’s different just because someone else is at quarterback.
After Jarious got hurt, he just told me and Eric we had to step up and lead the offense.
Junior quarterback Eric Chappell:
It’s been exciting this week, kind of unpredictable. I just know I’ve got to concentrate this week and get a lot of work done, a lot more than most other weeks.
It’s more looking at film, getting quality reps in practice, going with the ones and getting a chance to show what I can do.
Everyone has been very supportive. Jarious has been behind us and Arnaz and I have talked about what we need to do. The coaches have been the same way. It’s not just us — I think everyone feels like they’re helping to make it all work out this week. I think everyone wants to do whatever it takes to carry on so the two of us can do a good job leading this team.
I’m just excited about getting a chance to go out there and represent Notre Dame in this kind of situation. That’s what I came here for.
The biggest thing I have to deal with is just the whole idea of playing in a game like this for the first time. It’s different because the others times I’ve been in there it’s with their second or third strings. So I have to get acclimated to playing with the ones on our team against the quality of the competition.
Junior center John Merandi:
I told them both, ‘When I look at you, I hope I see you smiling, because this should be fun.’
I think they’ll be fine. It’s up to the rest of us to pick things up however we can.
I remember I started for the first time against Michigan this year and people made a big deal out of it because I was the one lineman who hadn’t started. But everyone has to make their first start at some point. Once the game starts you just play.
Head coach Bob Davie:
Eric has been here three years, he’s a little more vocal, a little more upbeat in terms of personality — and he kind of plays that way. Arnaz is only a freshman, but he’s solid, he’s steady and he works hard not to make a mistake.
But what will happen Saturday? I don’t really know because we haven’t seen either one of them in a situation like this at this level. How will they respond if something bad happens? I don’t know.
It’s a different week having two quarterbacks who haven’t played. But it’s kind of an exciting situation. My only concern is that they haven’t done it in games. But they’ve worked hard and they deserve the opportunity. As bad as we all felt for Jarious, when you’ve got another game the next Saturday, you’ve got to move on.
We’ve probably actually added some things to our running game based on what they can do. What you want to do is reduce their reads in the drop-back passing game. There’s not a drastic change in the scheme, but you want to make sure the other 10 guys are in sync, too.
I remember when Ron Powlus broke his collarbone in 1995 and Tom Krug came in and started our last regular season game at Air Force with a lot riding on the outcome. We didn’t ask him to win the game by himself and in the process it raised the level of all those around the quarterback. There’s a lesson to be learned there.
If we had to lose our quarterback, it’s a little easier because this team has shown the ability to have different people step up. That’s what we need now. Our chemistry has been good and we’ve rallied around the situation from week to week.
I talked to Ara Parseghian and he talked about the 1966 game at USC after Terry Hanratty was hurt in the 10-10 tie against Michigan State and Notre Dame went out to USC the next week and won 51-0. He told me about Coley O’Brien taking over at quarterback. So I told our football team, Arnaz Battle is ‘Coley’ and Eric Chappell is ‘O’Brien.’ That’s how we’re coaching. it. We’re trying to get the best out of both of them.
Notre Dame quarterback coach Mike Sanford:
Eric has shown a lot of improvement lately. When Arnaz hurt his shoulder (vs. Baylor Oct. 31), and he got more reps, Eric got better in just about everything — running the team and specifically as a passer. He’s an excellent runner, he’s a very good guy running the option, and he has improved as a passer.
Arnaz has great athletic ability. Outstanding running ability. Both of them are bright guys. A lot of their strengths are similar. They’re guys a little bit like Jarious. Arnaz fit that kind of quarterback when we recruited him. Their weaknesses — experience. For both of them, obviously, it’s a factor.