Oct. 13, 2003
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-3)
vs. (#5 AP/#4 ESPN/USA Today) USC Trojans (5-1)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 18, 2003 at 1:30 p.m. EST (11:30 a.m. PDT in Los Angeles).
The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: They’re all sold < with=”” this=”” being=”” the=”” 170th=”” consecutive=”” sellout=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium=”” (the=”” first=”” 130=”” coming=”” at=”” the=”” old=”” 59,075=”” capacity).=”” the=”” usc=”” game=”” marks=”” the=”” 218th=”” home=”” sellout=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” 219=”” games=”” (dating=”” back=”” to=”” 1964),=”” the=”” 156th=”” sellout=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” 179=”” games=”” and=”” the=”” 20th=”” consecutive=”” sellout=”” involving=”” notre=”” dame,=”” including=”” the=”” first=”” 10=”” games=”” of=”” 1998,=”” the=”” first=”” 11=”” in=”” ’99,=”” the=”” first=”” five=”” in=”” ’00,=”” the=”” first=”” nine=”” in=”” ’01,=”” all=”” 13=”” in=”” ’02=”” and=”” the=”” first=”” six=”” in=”” ’03.=””>
The TV Plans: NBC Sports national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), Jim Bell (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).
The Radio Plans: For the 36th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 200 stations in all 50 states by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play by play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis), former Irish quarterback and 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis) and Al Smith (producer). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available via the Notre Dame athletics web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games are heard on WDND-AM (1620) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Andy Budzinski, Shawn Lewallen, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000, which also will do a live remote pre- and post-game show from Notre Dame Stadium this weekend.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the USC game, via the Notre Dame (www.und.com) and USC (www.usctrojans.com) athletics web sites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), USC (www.usctrojans.com).
For the 75th time, Notre Dame and USC will meet on the gridiron when they tangle Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) at Notre Dame Stadium in a game that will be broadcast live to a national audience by NBC. The Irish and Trojans have played one another nearly continuously since 1926, when legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne became the first Midwestern coach to take his team to the West Coast (the Irish won on that day, 13-12).
This season, Notre Dame (2-3) will be looking to capitalize on the momentum it generated from a 20-14 win at No. 15 Pittsburgh last weekend. The Irish were led by a sturdy rushing attack that produced 352 yards, the highest total on the ground for Notre Dame in more than four years. Senior running back Julius Jones stole the show for the Irish, breaking a 25-year-old school record with 262 yards rushing on 24 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
Not to be outdone, the Notre Dame defense came up with eight sacks and held Pittsburgh to an opponent season-low 175 yards in total offense. The Panthers also managed just eight yards net rushing, fewest rushing yards allowed by the Irish since Rutgers had minus-six yards on the ground in 1996.
USC (5-1) comes into Saturday’s game ranked fifth in the nation by the Associated Press and fourth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. The Trojans upended Stanford, 44-21 last Saturday night, logging 493 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Matt Leinart, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. His primary target was wideout Mike Williams, who caught seven passes for 129 yards and three scores.
Leinart seems to have had no trouble replacing last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer. Leinart is ranked 18th in the nation in pass efficiency (148.91) and 30th in total offense (243.67). Having a weapon like Williams has helped Leinart’s cause < williams=”” is=”” sixth=”” in=”” receiving=”” yards=”” per=”” game=”” (105.17)=”” and=”” 17th=”” in=”” receptions=”” per=”” game=”” (6.5).=”” as=”” a=”” unit,=”” the=”” usc=”” offense=”” is=”” ninth=”” in=”” the=”” country=”” in=”” scoring,=”” piling=”” up=”” better=”” than=”” 38=”” points=”” per=”” game.=””>
NOTRE DAME-USC SERIES HISTORY
- Notre Dame and USC are meeting for the 58th straight season (the only gap in the series came during World War II, from 1943-45) and the 75th time in the last 78 years.
- Notre Dame holds a 42-27-5 series edge over the Trojans, including a 23-9-1 advantage in games played at Notre Dame Stadium.
- The series began in 1926, when Knute Rockne became one of the first Midwestern or Eastern coaches to take his team to the West Coast. The next four games then alternated between Soldier Field in Chicago and the Los Angeles Coliseum, with the first game played at Notre Dame Stadium in 1931.
- Notre Dame”s 42 wins over USC are the most by a Trojan opponent (12 more than California”s second-most 30). The Trojans” 26 wins over the Irish are the most by a Notre Dame opponent (two more than Purdue and Michigan State”s second-most 24).
- USC is tied with Purdue as the second-most common opponent in Irish football history, as Notre Dame are playing both for the 75th time this season. The Notre Dame-Navy series remains the longest in school history, with the 77th game in that rivalry to be played next month.
- Prior to USC”s 27-20 overtime win over the Irish in 1996, Notre Dame had not lost in any of the previous 13 series meetings (11 straight Irish wins from “83-93, a tie in “94, then another Irish win in “95). Notre Dame had a three-game winning streak vs. USC snapped last season, but still has won 15 of the last 20 games (15-4-1) between the two schools, including nine of its last 10 against the Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium.
- Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham has had recent success with the Trojans as well. Overall, Willingham has a 4-4 career mark vs. USC (first seven games as head coach at Stanford), but he has won three of his last four matchups with the Trojans.
- Since 1965, the ND-USC game has been nationally televised on 30 occasions (including the 2003 game).
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- The Irish will register back-to-back wins over ranked opponents for the second time in as many seasons, after downing #18 Air Force and #11 Florida State on the road on Oct. 18-25, 2002.
- The Irish will defeat a top-five team for the first time since a 36-20 win over #5 Michigan on Sept. 5, 1998 at Notre Dame Stadium.
- Notre Dame will topple USC for the 16th time in its last 21 games with the Trojans and will card its 10th home win in the last 11 matchups with USC at Notre Dame Stadium.
- Notre Dame will record its 43rd series win over USC, tying with Pittsburgh for the third-most victories against one opponent behind its 66 wins over Navy and 49 wins over Purdue. Those 43 victories also will continue to rank as the highest total ever by a USC opponent, 13 more than the next closest Trojan conqueror (California – 30).
- The Irish will pick up their eighth consecutive home victory over a Pac-10 Conference team, a streak that dates back to a 20-17 loss to USC in 1997.
- Notre Dame will improve to 70-35-6 (.658) all-time against Pac-10 teams, including a 41-12-1 (.769) mark at home.
- Notre Dame will claim its 22nd win in its last 23 games in the month of October, and jump to 54-8 (.871) in October games since 1988. The Irish also will log their 16th consecutive home win in October, dating back to 1997.
IF USC WINS …
- The Trojans will collect back-to-back wins over Notre Dame for the first time since they pieced together a three-game winning streak from 1996-98.
- USC will register its second win in its last 11 visits to Notre Dame Stadium and will snap a seven-game Irish home winning streak against Pac-10 schools.
- The Irish will lose consecutive home games for the first time since Sept. 9, 2000, when Notre Dame fell to #1 Nebraska in overtime (27-24) after dropping a 31-29 decision to #25 Boston College in the 1999 home finale.
- Notre Dame will suffer just its second loss in its last 23 games in the month of October and will see their 15-game home winning streak in October come to an end.
THE SHILLELAGH TROPHY
The winner of the Notre Dame-USC game keeps a shillelagh (presented by the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles), with shamrocks representing Notre Dame victories and ruby Trojan heads standing for USC wins (each is engraved with the year and final score). The original foot-long shillelagh was flown from Ireland by Howard Hughes” pilot, according to legend, and was introduced in 1952 (although the medallions date back to the start of the series in 1926). When the original shillelagh ran out of space after the 1989 game, it was retired and is permanently displayed at Notre Dame. A new shillelagh < slightly=”” larger=”” than=”” the=”” original=””>< was=”” commissioned=”” by=”” jim=”” gillis,=”” a=”” former=”” baseball=”” player=”” at=”” both=”” usc=”” and=”” notre=”” dame=”” and=”” onetime=”” president=”” of=”” the=”” notre=”” dame=”” club=”” of=”” los=”” angeles.=”” the=”” new=”” trophy=”” was=”” handcrafted=”” in=”” 1997=”” in=”” county=”” leitrum,=”” ireland,=”” and=”” contains=”” medallions=”” beginning=”” with=”” the=”” “90=”” game.=””>
- Notre Dame assistant coaches John McDonell and Buzz Preston served as assistant coaches at Washington State when Trojans’ secondary coach Greg Burns was a defensive back for the Cougars (1991-93, 1995).
- Trojans’ wide receivers coach Lane Kiffin was a graduate assistant coach at Fresno State when Irish receivers coach Trent Miles was the receivers coach there.
- Six Irish players hail from the state of California: sophomore OL James Bonelli (Camarillo/St. Bonaventure), junior QB Pat Dillingham (Portola Valley/St. Francis HS), sophomore DE Chris Frome (Saugus/Newhart Hall), sophomore NG Derek Landri (Concord/De La Salle), sophomore WR Rhema McKnight (LaPalma/Kennedy) and freshman DB Freddie Parish IV (Redondo Beach/Long Beach Poly HS).
- Several Notre Dame and USC players hail from the same hometown or attended the same high school:
- Dillingham, USC redshirt junior S Matt Lemos (Redwood City), Trojan redshirt junior S Forrest Mozart (Los Altos Hills) and USC redshirt junior CB Ronald Nunn (San Mateo) all attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif.
- Bonelli and USC junior LB Bobby Otani (Oxnard) both went to St. Bonaventure HS, as did Trojan freshman WR Whitney Lewis (Oxnard).
- Notre Dame freshman DB Freddie Parish IV (Redondo Beach), USC sophomore TB Hershel Dennis (Long Beach) and Trojan sophomore OT Winston Justice (Long Beach) all attended Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif.
- Irish senior TE Gary Godsey (Jesuit HS), senior CB Preston Jackson (Hillsborough HS) and junior CB Dwight Ellick (Wharton HS), along with USC sophomore S Mike Ross (St. Petersburg Catholic HS) and Trojan sophomore WR Mike Williams (Plant HS) are all from Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
- 12th-year Notre Dame women”s volleyball head coach Debbie (Landreth) Brown was twice named the national player of the year while helping USC win the 1976 and “77 national championship in women”s volleyball. Brown received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in January 2003.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE PAC-10 CONFERENCE
- Notre Dame has won more than 65 percent of its games versus Pac-10 Conference opponents, with a winning series record versus nine of the Pac-10 teams and an overall mark of 69-35-6 (.655) in 110 games against Pac-10 schools < including=”” the=”” “98,=”” 2000=”” and=”” “02=”” wins=”” over=”” stanford,=”” the=”” “98=”” and=”” “99=”” wins=”” over=”” arizona=”” state,=”” the=”” “99,=”” “00=”” and=”” “01=”” wins=”” over=”” usc=”” and=”” the=”” “03=”” victory=”” over=”” washington=”” state.=”” nearly=”” 70=”” percent=”” of=”” those=”” games=”” (75)=”” have=”” come=”” versus=”” usc=”” (42-27-5)=”” while=”” another=”” 15=”” percent=”” have=”” come=”” against=”” stanford=”” (11-6-0).=””>
- Notre Dame has played a handful of games vs. California (4-0), Washington (4-0), Arizona (2-1), Oregon (1-0-1) and UCLA (2-0). Notre Dame and Arizona State met for the first time in 1998, while the Irish met Oregon State for the first time in the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame played its first-ever game against Washington State back on Sept. 6, downing the Cougars, 29-26 in overtime.
- The Irish won at Washington in “95 (29-21) and beat the Huskies at Notre Dame Stadium in “96 (54-20), with the only other previous games in that series coming in “48 and “49. The most recent games vs. other Pac-10 teams are: a 16-13 home loss to Arizona in “82, a 41-8 home win over California in “67, a 13-13 tie at Oregon in “82 and a 24-0 home win over UCLA in “64.
- Notre Dame is 14-8-1 (.630) in its last 23 games vs. Pac-10 schools (4-4-1 vs. USC, 5-3 vs. Stanford, 2-0 vs. Washington, 2-0 vs. Arizona State, 1-0 vs. Washington State, 0-1 vs. Oregon State), starting with a “92 victory over USC. The Irish also are 11-1 (.917) in their last 12 home games against Pac-10 squads, dating back to 1993.
- USC stands tied with Purdue as the second-most common opponent in Notre Dame football history. The Irish and Trojans are celebrating the 75th anniversary of their storied rivalry this season.
- Notre Dame plays its five most common opponents this season (Navy, Purdue, USC, Michigan State and Pittsburgh).
- The Irish have played 134 different teams in 115 seasons of varsity football.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND USC MET
Like millions throughout history, Notre Dame headed west, seeking to fulfill dreams of making it big in California. However, under the harsh glare of the Los Angeles spotlight, aspirations of a Bowl Championship Series berth went bust for the seventh-ranked Irish.
No. 6 USC reeled off 34 unanswered points in the final 31 minutes of the game to upend Notre Dame, 44-13, before a sellout crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The loss prevented the Irish from posting the first 11-win regular season in school history, and it snapped a three-game winning streak for Notre Dame against the Trojans.
For the first time all season, the Irish defense bent under the weight of a sturdy USC offense which rolled up a Notre Dame opponent-record 610 yards, including 425 yards passing. Eventual Heisman Trophy winner (and NFL No. 1 draft pick) Carson Palmer tossed four touchdown passes for the Trojans, tying another Irish opponent record.
Notre Dame stood evenly with USC throughout the majority of the first half. After Ryan Killeen missed an early field goal try for the Trojans, the Irish marched to the USC 17-yard line before settling for a 34-yard field goal by Nicholas Setta. On the ensuing kickoff, USC fumbled and the Irish recovered deep in Trojan territory. Yet, the Notre Dame offense could not capitalize on the turnover, and Setta came on to boot a 32-yard field goal for a 6-0 Irish lead.
USC bounced back, as Palmer connected with Mike Williams on a six-yard touchdown pass and Killeen added a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter. The Irish special teams then came up with a key play late in the period, as senior linebacker Carlos Pierre-Antoine blocked Tom Malone’s punt and fell on the loose ball in the end zone to give Notre Dame a 13-10 lead with 1:07 remaining.
However, there was still enough time for USC to mount a late scoring drive and the Trojans did just that. Palmer moved his charges crisply down the field, capping the march with a 19-yard TD toss to Williams only five seconds before halftime. USC rode the momentum of its late first-half scoring drive into the third quarter, as Palmer threw another scoring pass and Killeen kicked a pair of field goals to give the hosts a 30-13 lead.
Trailing by 17 points late in the third period, the Irish defense gave Notre Dame an opportunity to get back in the contest, as senior linebacker Courtney Watson intercepted Palmer at the goal line and raced 60 yards to give the Irish excellent field position. That chance died moments later when the Notre Dame offense went three-and-out and was forced to punt the ball back to USC.
The Trojans put the game on ice in the fourth quarter, as Sultan McCullough scored on an 11-yard run and Palmer flipped his fourth touchdown pass of the night. Meanwhile, the Irish held the ball for less than 22 minutes in the game and amassed a season-low 109 yards en route to just their second loss of the season.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND USC MET AT NOTRE DAME STADIUM
Notre Dame took advantage of three USC turnovers in the second half and scored 17 unanswered points to post a 27-16 win on Oct. 20, 2001 before a capacity crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish picked up the win behind their strong offensive unit which rolled up 346 yards in total offense, the third 300-yard effort in as many games for Notre Dame.
Sophomore quarterback Carlyle Holiday added another page into his growing encyclopedia of offensive knowledge, rushing 18 times for 98 yards and one touchdown. He also completed nine of 12 passes for a career-best 133 yards, nearly becoming the first Irish signal-caller in three years to rush and pass for 100 yards in the same game.
Holiday was the key to Notre Dame”s opening scoring drive, highlighting a seven-play, 59-yard march with a 43-yard scramble to the USC 18-yard line. Nicholas Setta came on to kick a 38-yard field goal and give the Irish a 3-0 lead at the 6:31 mark in the first quarter.
Aided by a bit of good fortune, USC quickly took the lead, as Carson Palmer lofted a 54-yard scoring pass to Chad Pierson. On the play, Irish sophomore cornerback Vontez Duff appeared to have the ball in his sights, only to mistime his leap and allow Pierson to get free for the touchdown.
USC then took advantage of a Notre Dame error to pad its lead. After Holiday fumbled deep in Irish territory early in the second quarter, the Trojans needed only one play to find pay dirt, as Palmer connected with Keary Colbert on a 20-yard scoring strike.
The Irish then capitalized on the first of several opportunities in the game. Late in the second quarter, USC attempted a fake punt deep in its own end of the field, but Notre Dame junior cornerback Shane Walton tackled Trojan punter Mike MacGillivray at the USC 28-yard line, and six plays later, Terrance Howard scored his first touchdown of the season from four yards out.
Leading 13-10 at the half, USC looked to add to its lead again, driving to the Irish one-yard line after Holiday”s second fumble of the day. But the Notre Dame defense stiffened and held the Trojans to an 18-yard field goal by David Davis, the last points the visitors would score.
Holiday redeemed himself on the next possession, driving the Irish 71 yards in eight plays before calling his own number with a 35-yard touchdown run, giving Notre Dame a 17-16 lead with 5:07 left in the third period. Notre Dame nearly added to its lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but Holiday fumbled at the USC two-yard line, halting the Irish charge. However, the Trojans never crossed midfield in the final period thanks to a ferocious Irish defense that picked up five sacks on the day.
Setta tacked on a 29-yard field goal with under three minutes to play, and following a fumble recovery, the Irish clinched the win on a five-yard TD run by junior tailback Julius Jones at the 1:21 mark.
IRISH STRONG IN OCTOBER
Notre Dame enters the USC game having won 21 of its last 22 games in the month of October, dating back to a 20-17 loss to the Trojans on Oct. 18, 1997. The only blemish on that record was a 21-17 loss at Boston College in 2001. Since the 1988 season, Notre Dame is 53-8 (.869) in October and was 32-7 (.821) in October in the 1990s. In addition, the Irish have won 15 consecutive October home games, dating back to the 1997 loss to USC.
NOTRE DAME WELCOMES BACK 1973 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM THIS WEEKEND
During Saturday’s game with USC, Notre Dame will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its 1973 national championship season by recognizing many members of that team who are expected to be in attendance. Led by head coach Ara Parseghian, the Irish went 11-0 in 1973, capped off with a thrilling 24-23 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. One of the highlights of that season was a 23-14 win over USC which snapped the Trojans’ 23-game unbeaten streak and vaulted Notre Dame into the national championship race. The Irish completed their perfect season in the Sugar Bowl with a win over top-ranked Crimson Tide, as Bob Thomas kicked a 19-yard field goal with 4:26 left to provide the margin of victory. However, it was Tom Clements’ crucial third-down pass out of his own end zone to Robin Weber with the Irish nursing its one-point lead in the closing minutes that remains the signature moment of Notre Dame’s ninth national championship.
JOE THEISMANN TO BE HONORED SATURDAY AT USC GAME
Former Notre Dame All-America quarterback Joe Theismann will be honored during Saturday’s game with USC, recognizing his selection to the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. The 2003 class will be inducted at the 46th Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9, 2003, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The players and coaches will be officially enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend in August 2004.
Theismann launched an attack on the Irish passing record books, setting 19 school marks while leading the team to its first bowl appearance in 45 years in 1969 and a 10-1 record capped by a Cotton Bowl victory in 1970 over top-rated and unbeaten Texas.
A first-team All-America selection as a senior by Associated Press, Theismann was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1970. A participant in the 1970 Hula Bowl, Theismann set school records for passing yards in a game (526), yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16) among others. He ranked second in the nation in total offense as a senior at 291.3 yards per game < and=”” that=”” year=”” he=”” helped=”” the=”” irish=”” as=”” a=”” team=”” average=”” 510.5=”” total=”” yards=”” per=”” game=”” and=”” 252.7=”” passing=”” yards=”” per=”” game,=”” two=”” marks=”” that=”” remain=”” all-time=”” notre=”” dame=”” bests.=””>
In three seasons, Theismann led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3-2 record while completing 290 passes on 509 attempts for 4,411 yards, a mark that still ranks fifth in school history. Honored for his classroom prowess, he earned Academic All-America? honors in 1970 and was later named to the GTE Academic All-America? Hall of Fame.
Following graduation, Theismann embarked on a 15-year professional career, his final 12 years in the NFL as a member of the Washington Redskins. Upon retirement, he became a highly successful businessman as well as a prominent television sports analyst for ESPN. Theismann continues to support such charitable interests as the United Way, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Originally from South River, N.J., Theismann becomes the 40th Notre Dame player to be chosen for the Hall of Fame since inductions began in 1951. Five former Irish coaches also have been selected. No other school has produced more than those 45 enshrinees, the most recent being Ralph Guglielmi in 2001. Theismann also becomes the eighth Notre Dame quarterback selected to the Hall of Fame, joining Frank Carideo in 1954, Harry Stuhldreher in 1958, John Lujack in 1960, Angelo Bertelli in 1972, Paul Hornung in 1985, Bob Williams in 1988 and Guglielmi in 2001.
NOTRE DAME TO RECOGNIZE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FENCING TEAM ON SATURDAY
The national champion Notre Dame fencing team will be honored during Saturday’s game against USC at Notre Dame Stadium. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Janusz Bednarski, the Irish claimed their sixth NCAA title (second most in school history behind football’s 11 crowns) back in March in Colorado Springs, defeating archrival Penn State by a mere three points. Notre Dame also boasted a staggering 11 All-Americans out of the 12 fencers that competed at the national meet. The fencing title is the 23rd national championship in Notre Dame history and the first since the women’s basketball team hoisted the hardware in 2001.
RANK AND FILE
Notre Dame’s penchant for playing the best teams in the country is well known. In fact, over the last 17 seasons (1987-2003), the Irish have played 80 games against ranked opponents, an average of nearly five games per season. Notre Dame has posted a record of 43-35-2 (.550) in these games, including a 22-10-1 (.682) mark against ranked teams at home.
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Senior running back Julius Jones turned in the finest single-game rushing performance in school history Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh, piling up a school-record 262 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns. Jones broke the nearly 25-year-old Notre Dame record of 255 yards by Vagas Ferguson at Georgia Tech on Nov. 18, 1978. Jones’ total also is the highest single-game rushing output in the nation this season, 17 yards more than North Texas back Patrick Cobbs, who ran for 249 yards on the same night Jones went on his record-breaking spree. Jones’ performance in the Pittsburgh game was good enough for The Sporting News to tab him as its College Football Player of the Week.
Jones becomes the first Irish back to break the 200-yard mark on the ground since Reggie Brooks ran for 227 yards at USC on Nov. 28, 1992. The Pittsburgh game also marked the seventh 100-yard rushing game of Jones” career and his first since a 106-yard effort at Stanford on Nov. 24, 2001. For the season, Jones leads Notre Dame with 67 carries for 414 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and three TDs.
Notre Dame rushed for a season-high 352 yards on 56 carries at Pittsburgh, averaging better than 6.2 yards per carry. It was the highest rushing total for the Irish since Aug. 28, 1999, when they amassed 363 yards in a 48-13 win over Kansas at Notre Dame Stadium. The 352-yard effort at Pittsburgh also is tied for the 14th-highest single-game total in the nation this season.
In its past two games at No. 22 Purdue and No. 15 Pittsburgh, Notre Dame has been particularly stingy on defense, allowing an average of just 199 yards per game, including a season-low 175 yards against Pittsburgh. The Irish also have clamped down in critical situations, holding their last two opponents to a combined four of 30 (.133) on third down after the first three Notre Dame foes were converting at better than 47 percent in the same situation.
The Pittsburgh game represented one of the signature defensive performances in recent memory for the Irish, as Notre Dame sacked Panther quarterback Rod Rutherford eight times for the second year in a row, led by a career-high 3.5 sacks from junior defensive end Justin Tuck. The Irish also held Pittsburgh to just eight net yards rushing, the lowest opponent ground total since Rutgers had minus-six yards on Nov. 23, 1996. That eight-yard lockdown is ranked 13th-best in the nation this season.
Thanks to its recent defensive surge, Notre Dame now is ranked 14th in the nation in total defense (293.2 yards per game), 25th in rushing defense (105.6 ypg.) and 25th in passing defense (187.6 ypg.).
Notre Dame’s 20-14 win at No. 15 Pittsburgh continues a trend of remarkable victories that began last season. The Irish now are 8-2 (.800) in games decided by eight points or less since Tyrone Willingham took over as the Notre Dame head coach prior to last season. The only times the Irish have not won a close ball game under Willingham’s guidance were against Boston College in 2002 (14-7) and earlier this year vs. Michigan State (22-16).
Fourth-quarter comebacks also aren’t anything new to Notre Dame in the Willingham era. The Irish have won five times during the past two seasons when they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter, including a 29-26 overtime win over Washington State in the season opener back on Sept. 6.
SETTA NEARING SCHOOL RECORD FOR CONSECUTIVE FIELD GOALS
Senior kicker Nicholas Setta has been successful on his last nine field goal attempts after a low snap caused him to come up short on his first try of the year (a 47-yarder vs. Washington State). Setta’s current streak is the second-longest of his career, topped only by a run of 10 straight treys spanning the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Mike Johnston holds the record with 13 consecutive field goals made from Sept. 18-Oct. 23, 1982, hitting on his first 13 attempts of the year, including a game-tying kick at Oregon. Johnston saw his streak come to an end the following week on Oct. 30, 1982, when Navy blocked his 34-yard attempt in the first quarter.
THE MIGHTY QUINN
Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn made his first career start at Purdue on Sept. 27, completing 29-of-59 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. His 29 completions were the most by an Irish quarterback since Ron Powlus connected 31 times at Purdue in 1997 and the 59 attempts were the second-most in school history behind Terry Hanratty’s 63 passes at Purdue in 1967. In addition, Quinn’s 297 yards passing were the most by a Notre Dame signal-caller since Jarious Jackson threw for 317 yards in a loss at Pittsburgh in 1999. Quinn’s passing yardage total also was the best by a Notre Dame quarterback in his first start since Hanratty threw for 304 yards in that game at Purdue in 1967, and Quinn’s total was the best by an Irish first-time freshman starting QB in the last 53 seasons.
Sophomore wide receiver Maurice Stovall turned in the best performance of his young Notre Dame career at Purdue, catching nine passes for 171 yards and one touchdown. It was the highest single-game yardage total by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown caught 12 balls for 208 yards at Pittsburgh in 1999. In addition, Stovall’s 85-yard touchdown catch from Brady Quinn at Purdue was the third-longest connection in school history and the longest since Nov. 7, 1981, when Blair Kiel hit Joe Howard with a school-record 96-yard scoring strike. Stovall now leads the Irish with 195 receiving yards this season and he is third on the squad with 12 receptions. He also leads the team with 48.8 yards per catch.
BACK FROM THE BRINK
Notre Dame erased a 19-0 second-quarter deficit in its win over Washington State, representing the largest comeback for the Irish since Oct. 16, 1999 against another Pac-10 team, USC. In that game, Notre Dame trailed 24-3 early in the third quarter, but reeled off 22 unanswered points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to snatch the victory away from the stunned Trojans.
FIVE O’CLOCK LIGHTNING
The 20 points scored by Notre Dame in the fourth quarter against Washington State were the most the Irish have tallied in the final period since Oct. 25, 1997, when they erupted for 21 fourth-quarter points in a 52-20 blowout of Boston College.
The Washington State game was the fifth overtime contest in Notre Dame history and the first since a 34-31 win over Air Force on Oct. 28, 2000. The Irish are 2-3 when they are pushed to an extra session (2-2 at home), and have won both games in which they won the overtime coin toss.
One other OT tidbit: senior safety Glenn Earl has played a key role in each of the last two overtime wins for the Irish. Against Air Force in 2000, Earl blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation, allowing Notre Dame to go on and win on Joey Getherall’s nine-yard TD run in the extra period. Earlier this season against Washington State, Earl broke up a third-down pass intended for WSU’s Scott Lunde, forcing the Cougars to try a 34-yard field goal that missed, opening the door for the Irish to win on Nicholas Setta’s 40-yard field goal.
RETURN TO SENDER
The return game has been a source of strength for Notre Dame over the past five seasons. The Irish have logged 23 returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdowns in that time, a figure that ranks eighth in the country. Here’s a look at the national leaders in touchdown returns since 1999 (research courtesy of the University of Colorado athletic media relations office < bowl=”” games=”” counted=”” separately):=””>
THEY SHALL RETURN
- During the past 17-plus seasons (’86-’03), Notre Dame has produced 77 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns ?- including Vontez Duff’s 76-yard punt return vs. Maryland, Duff’s 33-yard interception return, Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return and Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return vs. Purdue, Shane Walton’s 18-yard interception return and Courtney Watson’s 34-yard interception return against Stanford, Duff’s 92-yard kickoff return vs. Navy, Walton’s 45-yard interception return against Rutgers and Carlos Pierre-Antoine’s 27-yard blocked punt return at USC in ’02.
- Irish opponents in the past 17-plus seasons have combined for just 21 total returns for touchdowns.
- The ’02 Irish joined the ’93 and ’00 teams as the only squads to return at least one punt, kickoff, interception and fumble for TDs.
- Among current Notre Dame players, senior cornerback Vontez Duff has four touchdown returns (2 KR, 1 PR, 1 INT), senior running back Julius Jones has two TD returns (1 KR, 1 PR) and senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson also has two touchdown runbacks (2 INT). Allen Rossum holds the school and NCAA record for most TDs on runbacks with nine (3 KR, 3 PR, 3 INT) from 1994-97.
THE FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT
Notre Dame has recorded 11 takeaways (8 FUM, 3 INT) through five games this season, coming up with three turnovers in each of its first three outings. However, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to recent followers of Irish football. Over the past three seasons (2001-03), Notre Dame has forced two or more turnovers in 22 of their last 29 games, including 17 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways.
HOYTE STANDS TALL ON DEFENSE
Junior inside linebacker Brandon Hoyte has been masterful on defense in crucial situations. Coming into each of the last two seasons, Hoyte has been designated as Notre Dame’s top reserve linebacker. However, an injury to Mike Goolsby has pressed Hoyte into a starting role and he has delivered in the clutch, registering double-digit tackle totals in three contests (North Carolina State in the ’03 Gator Bowl, Washington State and Michigan in ’03). In addition, Hoyte has been Notre Dame’s leading tackler four times (Maryland, Purdue and North Carolina State in ’02; Washington State in ’03), including a career-best 11 tackles in the overtime win over Washington State on Sept. 6. He also registered two tackles for loss at Purdue and now is second on the team with 5.5 stops behind the line this season.
Six true freshmen have played for Notre Dame this season. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri, offensive tackle Ryan Harris, wide receiver Chinedum Ndukwe, defensive back Freddie Parish IV, quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija all have made significant contributions during the early portion of the year. Abiamiri has made nine tackles, including a career-high seven in his first start vs. Michigan State. Meanwhile, Parish has logged three tackles and Samardzija has caught seven passes for 53 yards (including a career-high four receptions at Purdue, the same game that saw Ndukwe catch his first career pass).
Perhaps the most high-profile rookie starter for the Irish has been Quinn, who cracked the lineup for the first time at Purdue, becoming only the seventh freshman starting QB for Notre Dame in the last 53 seasons. Quinn was 29 of 59 for 297 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions against the Boilermakers, posting the most passing yards by any rookie signal-caller since 1951. For the season, Quinn is 44 of 103 for 469 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Harris is the latest Irish freshman to make his debut. After not appearing in Notre Dame’s first four games, the St. Paul, Minn., native not only saw action against Pittsburgh, but started at right tackle and was part of the Irish offensive line that helped roll up a season-high 352 yards rushing, the most by Notre Dame in four years.
One other freshman note: five of the aforementioned rookies (all but Harris) played against Washington State, marking the first time five freshmen have played for the Irish in a season opener since Aug. 28, 1999. On that afternoon, Jason Beckstrom, Joey Hildbold, Julius Jones, Gerome Sapp and Chris Yura all participated in a 48-13 Irish rout of Kansas in the State of Indiana Eddie Robinson Classic. Beckstrom and Jones now are seniors on the 2003 Irish roster.
ABIAMIRI MAKES RARE FRESHMAN DEFENSIVE LINE START
Victor Abiamiri’s start vs. Michigan State marked the first time a Notre Dame freshman started on the defensive line since Anthony Weaver got the call against Georgia Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl. Abiamiri made the most of his first starting assignment, rolling up seven tackles, including six solo stops against the Spartans. Prior to Weaver’s start against Georgia Tech, the last Irish freshmen to start on the defensive line were Germaine Holden and John Taliaferro, who both were in the lineup against Tennessee on Nov. 9, 1991.
Weaver made 10 starts during his freshman season and went on to rank second on Notre Dame’s season and career tackles-for-loss charts behind two-time unanimous All-American and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame selection Ross Browner. Weaver now is in his second season as a defensive end for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
SETTA PULLING DOUBLE DUTY
Senior Nicholas Setta is serving as the starting placekicker and punter for the Irish this season, marking the first time a Notre Dame player regularly has filled both roles since Craig Hentrich turned the trick from 1989-92. Hentrich is now an all-pro punter with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and even booted three field goals as the Titans’ emergency kicker in their season-opening win over Oakland on Sept. 7.
Setta is in his fourth year as the Irish placekicker, having twice been named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List. He also has been selected as a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s each of the last two seasons. This year, he is aiming to break several Notre Dame records, including career field goal attempts (Setta is second with 66, while John Carney holds the record of 69 from 1984-86), career field goal made (Setta is second with 46, while Carney is first with 51), and career points by kicking (Setta is third with 242, while Hentrich owns the top mark of 294). In addition, Setta has made 92 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history behind Hentrich’s run of 136 straight PATs from 1989-92. Setta’s last missed PAT kick came on Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford.
Setta has been one of the primary sources of offense for Notre Dame through the first three games of the 2003 season. He has connected on nine of 10 field-goal attempts (making his last nine in a row), including a perfect seven of seven on kicks inside of 40 yards, and leads the Irish with 32 points this season. His average of 1.8 field goals per game ranks 15th in the nation.
Setta got his final season at Notre Dame off to a flying start against Washington State, matching his career high (and tying the school record) with five field goals in six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yard boot in overtime. He also set a new personal best with 17 points by kicking (five field goals, two PAT), one better than his previous high of 16, set in last year’s season opener vs. Maryland (five field goals, one PAT). Those 17 points vs. WSU helped push the Lockport, Ill., product into third place on the school’s career points-by-kicking list < he=”” now=”” has=”” 242=”” points=”” and=”” is=”” within=”” sight=”” of=”” dave=”” reeve,=”” who=”” is=”” second=”” all-time=”” with=”” 247=”” points=”” from=”” 1974-77.=”” setta=”” added=”” three=”” more=”” field=”” goals=”” on=”” as=”” many=”” attempts=”” against=”” michigan=”” state,=”” marking=”” the=”” fourth=”” time=”” in=”” his=”” career=”” he=”” has=”” kicked=”” three=”” field=”” goals=”” in=”” a=”” single=”” game.=””>
While he has a wealth of experience as a placekicker, Setta comes into this season having only served as a backup punter behind two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. However, while filling in for the injured Hildbold against Boston College in 2000, Setta did punt four times for 160 yards (a 40-yard average), including a career-long 47-yard boot in a 28-16 Irish victory. Setta was one of 32 candidates named to the ’03 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list and has backed up that selection through the first six weeks of the season, averaging 40.9 yards on 26 punts with three kicks dropped inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and six kicks of 50+ yards. He also boomed a career-long 54-yard punt on his first try of the season vs. Washington State and carded a career-high nine punts at Michigan for a 43.9-yard average (including a 51-yard kick).
Courtney Watson NAMED TO AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM
Senior All-America linebacker Courtney Watson was one of 11 people named Sept. 17 to the 2003 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Football Team. The award recognizes players for their dedication and commitment to community service and all nominees must display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations in which they were involved.
Watson, who joins former defensive end Grant Irons as the only Irish players to win the award, was recognized for his extensive work within the University and South Bend communities. A native of Sarasota, Fla., Watson was responsible for creating and developing the football team”s community service initiative entitled Tackle The Arts. The program, now in its second year, partners with the St. Joseph Country Public Library in South Bend, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and the Notre Dame Marching Band in providing an interactive approach helping inspire children to explore different areas of the arts including reading, creative writing and poetry, drawing and music. In addition to providing scholastic support with area children, Watson also installed a food drive dimension to the event to benefit the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.
In conjunction with the 2003 Tackle the Arts event, Watson along with teammates Brandon Hoyte and Dan Stevenson , also played host to a picnic for at-risk children in the South Bend area. The children, who attended the picnic and later Tackle the Arts, were identified through the NCAA”s National Youth in Sports Program, the South Bend Housing Authority, the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Urban League of South Bend.
Additionally, Watson has made many surprise visits to the pediatric floor at Memorial Hospital in South Bend and has addressed the Jackson Middle School football team at its end of the year banquet. He has participated in the St. Joseph County City Bureau Youth Fest and made hospital visits while the Irish were in Jacksonville, Fla., playing in the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl.
Watson has also been very active in the Notre Dame community as he was nominated and then elected a member of the Notre Dame Student Senate in 2002-03. Meeting every Wednesday night, Watson and his fellow senators would discuss issues pertinent to the University community. He also served as a member of the Residence Life and Academic Council committees.
Watson is also a four-year participant, and two-time champion, in Notre Dame”s student-run basketball tournament called Bookstore Basketball, which is the largest five-on-five outdoor basketball tournament in America.
SIX IRISH PLAYERS EARN PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson was a preseason first-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News. Meanwhile, senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was a preseason first-team All-American according to Street & Smith’s and a second-team choice by Athlon. The latter publication also named senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard to its preseason All-America third team. Senior safety Glenn Earl, junior running back Ryan Grant and senior kicker/punter Nicholas Setta all were awarded preseason honorable mention All-America status by Street & Smith’s.
THREE NOTRE DAME POSITION UNITS LAUDED BY NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS
Athlon named the Irish linebacking corps the fourth-best unit in the country, while The Sporting News labelled them the ninth-best group in the land. In addition, Athlon selected the Notre Dame defensive line as the fifth-best unit in the nation.
WATSON NAMED TO WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson has been named to the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, the nation’s fourth-oldest individual accolade which is given annually by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Through a vote of the 117 Division I-A head coach and sports information directors, the list will be cut to 10 semifinalists in early November, with the winner to be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The official award presentation is slated for Feb. 14, 2004, at the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards banquet, which will be held in New Haven, Conn., at the Yale University Commons.
WATSON, GOOLSBY NAMED TO BUTKUS AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior inside linebackers Courtney Watson and Mike Goolsby have been named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. The list of 90 candidates will be pared down to 10 semifinalists on Oct. 16, with the three finalists chosen on Nov. 13. The winner will be unveiled Dec. 12 at a banquet in Orlando.
DUFF, EARL PICKED FOR THORPE AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl have been named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association, based in Oklahoma City. Ten semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3, with the three finalists selected on Nov. 24. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for Feb. 9, 2004, in Oklahoma City.
HOLIDAY TAPPED FOR O’BRIEN AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday has earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback by the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Fort Worth.
TUCK EARNS PLACE ON HENDRICKS AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end by the Ted Hendricks Foundation in Chicago. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation set for February 2004 in Chicago.
SETTA APPEARS ON RAY GUY AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior punter/placekicker Nicholas Setta has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. Ten semifinalists will be announced in early November and the three finalists will be chosen later that month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show and will receive his award live during the broadcast.
FOUR PLAYERS NAMED TO 2003 STREET & SMITH’S AWARD WATCH LISTS
Street & Smith’s tapped senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson for spots on its Butkus Award and Bednarik/Nagurski Award watch lists (as did Lindy’s). The former honor recognizes the country’s top linebacker, while the latter awards spotlight the nation’s best overall defensive player. In addition, Street & Smith’s placed senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl on its watch list for the Thorpe Award (which goes to the top defensive back in the country), and the publication named senior kicker Nicholas Setta to its watch list for the Lou Groza Award (presented to the nation’s top kicker).
IRISH PLAYERS RANK HIGH IN LINDY’S AND THE SPORTING NEWS IN 2003
Senior Courtney Watson was tabbed the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Vontez Duff was rated the seventh-best cornerback and ninth-best all-purpose player by Lindy’s, and the nation’s 10th best as both a cornerback and kick returner by The Sporting News. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard was ranked the sixth-best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior safety Glenn Earl placed 14th among free safeties by The Sporting News and 19th by Lindy’s. Senior Mike Goolsby was rated 12th among the nation’s inside linebackers by Lindy’s, while junior Ryan Grant was 18th among running backs and senior Darrell Campbell was charted 19th among defensive linemen by the same publication.
IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham
A veteran with 26 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is now in his second season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after previously serving as the leader at Stanford University. In eight years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 56-42-1 (.571) overall record, including a 12-6 (.667) mark with the Irish, and has guided his charges to bowl games on five occasions. The Notre Dame mentor will reach a personal milestone against USC, coaching the 100th game of his career.
Willingham used his years of service in the coaching business to reverse the tides of the Irish program in ’02, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl. He became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, and he was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he made history in 2002 as the first college football coach ever to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award.
Willingham was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91.
Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served on the coaching staffs at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line — The offensive line has been largely retooled for the Irish this season. Four of the five starters from last year were selected in the NFL Draft (and all four remain on active ’03 NFL rosters), taking with them more than 80 combined starts and nine combined seasons of starting experience. Senior right guard Sean Milligan (28:57 minutes played) is the lone holdover on the offensive line and he is being called upon to anchor the rebuilt 2003 crew. Milligan is a three-year monogram winner who played in all 13 games last season, playing a total of 266:27. He has made 19 career starts, including the first two games of 2003, but he has missed the last three contests with an injury.
Junior Mark LeVoir (129:16) has earned the starting nod at left guard all five games this year (the first starts of his career) after spending the past two campaigns as a backup at both tackle positions. One of the largest linemen on the Irish roster this year (6-7, 320), LeVoir played in four games last season for a total of 10:09. Juniors Jeff Thompson and Darin Mitchell (24:09), along with sophomore Jamie Ryan (34:18) all serve as the primary reserves at the guard spot for Notre Dame. Mitchell made his first career start against Michigan State and Ryan started at Purdue, both replacing Milligan in the Irish lineup.
Besides Milligan, two other members of the Irish offensive line saw significant playing time last year. Senior tackle Jim Molinaro (129:16) has started the last eight games for the Irish, including seven on the left end. On the other side of the line, junior right guard Dan Stevenson (129:16) was thrust in the starting lineup at right tackle for last year’s Gator Bowl and played extremely well, cementing his presence on the line in 2003. Stevenson played a total of 82:23 in 11 games last season, seeing time as both a reserve guard and tackle. Stevenson started the first four games of this season at right tackle before shifting to his old postion of right guard at Pittsburgh, replacing Milligan. Freshman Ryan Harris (32:51) stepped in to fill Stevenson’s shoes at right tackle vs. Pittsburgh and the new line setup paid off as the Irish rolled up their best rushing performance (352 yards) in more than four years. Ryan and sophomore Brian Mattes (17 special teams appearances) were penciled in to be the backup tackles this year.
The battle to replace All-America center Jeff Faine was a tight one throughout preseason camp, with sophomore Bob Morton (97:45) and junior Zachary Giles (40:32) both competing for the starting spot. Morton earned the starting job in three of the first four games of the season, although Giles saw plenty of action against Washington State. In fact, the two ended up playing alongside one another (Giles at center, Morton at right guard) late in the WSU contest as the Irish were mounting their comeback win over the Cougars. When Morton succumbed to an injury prior to the Michigan State game, Giles stepped in against the Spartans and made his first career start. Morton returned to the lineup at Purdue and Pittsburgh, anchoring the line that sprung Julius Jones for a school-record 262 yards rushing.
Backs — Freshman Brady Quinn (44-103-469, 2 TD, 6 INT) has taken over as the starting quarterback for the Irish, becoming only the seventh true freshman to start at QB for Notre Dame in the last 53 seasons. Quinn made his college debut against Washington State, coming in midway through the fourth quarter when Holiday was shaken up and directing the Irish on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. Quinn was three of 10 for 36 yards at Michigan before completing a season-best seven of 17 throws for 103 yards and his first career touchdown (a 29-yard pass to Rhema McKnight) vs. Michigan State. The Dublin, Ohio, native then made his first-ever start at Purdue, connecting on 29 of 59 passes for 297 yards with one TD and four interceptions. His 297 yards were the most by a Irish freshman QB in his debut since 1951 and his 85-yard second-quarter TD pass to Maurice Stovall was the third-longest strike in school history.
Senior Carlyle Holiday (36-73-303, 1 TD, 4 INT) now serves as Quinn’s understudy after having been the starting quarterback for Notre Dame since the third week of the 2001 season. Last year was Holiday’s first in the new West Coast offense employed by head coach Tyrone Willingham and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, and the veteran signal-caller thrived, setting a school record with 126 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. A 2003 Davey O’Brien Award candidate, Holiday has the fifth-lowest interception percentage in school history (.0338), having thrown just 16 picks in 474 career pass attempts. He opened this season by connecting on a career-high 21 of 34 passes for 149 yards with one TD and one interception in the win over Washington State. In the last two games, Holiday has seen some time at wide receiver, but has yet to catch a pass.
Meanwhile, junior Pat Dillingham gives the Irish another experienced option at quarterback behind Quinn and Holiday. Dillingham appeared in seven games last season, completing 41 of 81 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown. He carved a place in Irish history last season at Michigan State, throwing the game-winning 60-yard TD pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 to play. Dillingham also made his first career start vs. Stanford, throwing for 129 yards in a 31-7 victory.
Junior Ryan Grant (73-242) leads a veteran group of Irish running backs who were the main beneficiaries of Notre Dame’s new offensive style last year. Fresh off a 1,000-yard season in 2002, Grant picked up right where he left off, rushing 17 times for 98 yards against Washington State and 27 times for 84 yards at Pittsburgh. In his career, he now has posted four 100-yard games and four other 90-yard efforts. Senior Julius Jones (67 rushes, team-high 414 yards, 3 TD) and junior Marcus Wilson (6-11) also will see plenty of action out of the backfield this season. After sitting out last season, Jones made a triumphant return to the Irish lineup against Washington State, carrying 11 times for 72 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run with 5:03 to play that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. That was just an appetizer for the main course Jones served at Pittsburgh, rushing for a school-record 262 yards on 24 carries along with two touchdowns. The Big Stone Gap, Va., native also rolled up four carries of 25 yards or more against the Panthers.
Junior Rashon Powers-Neal (2-9) has stepped into the starting lineup at fullback after serving as Grant’s primary understudy at tailback last season. A bruising back who deftly complements the fluid styles of Grant, Jones and Wilson, Powers-Neal carried 77 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns last season. Junior walk-on Josh Schmidt was the surprise of this year’s preseason camp, working his way into a position for playing time, along with sophomore Nate Schiccatano, who opened some eyes with 24 yards rushing and a touchdown in the ’03 Blue-Gold Game. Schmidt has caught three passes out of the backfield this season for 26 yards.
Receivers — Despite the loss of last year’s leading receiver Arnaz Battle, the Irish receiving corps is well stocked in 2003. Junior Omar Jenkins (16-137) takes over as the leader of the unit after pulling in 37 balls for 633 yards and three touchdowns last season. He wasted little time in showing the way for the Irish pass-catchers, tying his career high with five catches for 46 yards vs. WSU. He had five more receptions for 29 yards in the loss at Purdue and added a critical third-down reception late in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh to seal that victory. Sophomore Rhema McKnight (team-high 19-186, 2 TD) has started the last four games for the Irish at the other wideout position, scoring touchdowns vs. Michigan and Michigan State and logging career highs of eight catches and 104 yards against MSU. Rangy sophomore Maurice Stovall (12-195, 1 TD), senior Ronnie Rodamer and junior Matt Shelton (1-9) all can stretch defenses vertically and will see significant time in Notre Dame’s balanced offensive scheme. Stovall erupted for a career-high nine catches and 171 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown at Purdue. It was the highest receiving yardage total by an Irish wideout since 1999. Freshman receivers Chinedum Ndukwe (1-(-1)) and Jeff Samardzija (7-53) also could be heard from this season, with the latter amassing a season-high four catches for 18 yards at Purdue.
Senior tight end Jared Clark (9-90), a converted quarterback, has seen significant action this season, starting at Purdue and ranking fourth on the team in catches and yardage. He tied his personal best with four receptions for 28 yards against Washington State and also had a team-high 39 yards receiving on two catches at Michigan. Senior Billy Palmer (1-13) was the starting tight end for the Irish in the first three games of this season after appearing in all 13 games last year. He has started four times in his career and caught the second pass of his career for 13 yards against Michigan State. Sophomores Anthony Fasano (2-34) and Marcus Freeman also are contending for playing time this season. Fasano registered his first career reception, a 19-yard grab, at Michigan, added a 15-yard reception against Michigan State, then made his first career start at Pittsburgh and collected two catches for 15 yards.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line — One of the strengths of this year’s Irish squad will be its defensive line, where three starters are back in the fold. Senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (13 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (13 tackles, 0.5 for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery) both provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. Although he did not start vs. Washington State, Hilliard was a factor, finishing with four tackles and his first career fumble recovery. He returned to the starting lineup against Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, carding a season-high five tackles vs. MSU. Sophomore Derek Landri (four tackles, 0.5 TFL, one fumble recovery) made his first career start vs. WSU in place of Hilliard and logged his first career tackle at Michigan before adding two tackles (0.5 for loss) at Purdue. He also recovered a fumble late in the first half at Pittsburgh, setting up the eventual game-winning field goal. Senior Greg Pauly (eight tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 sacks) also has seen time in the middle of the defensive line, adding two tackles (0.5 TFL) in a reserve role against Washington State. When Hilliard was sidelined against Pittsburgh, Pauly made his fourth career start and had three tackles. Junior Brian Beidatsch (one fumble recovery) is the primary backup at the interior line spots and saw limited action against Washington State, Michigan and Pittsburgh, notching his first career fumble recovery in the UM contest. Senior right end Kyle Budinscak (11 tackles, three TFL, two sacks, one fumble recovery), the other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line, is in his second season as a starter (19 career starts). A two-time Academic All-District selection, Budinscak is second on the team in sacks after chalking up a career-high two sacks in the win over Washington State. He also added his first career fumble recovery against Michigan State. Junior end Justin Tuck (28 tackles, team-high six TFL, team-high six sacks, two forced fumble, two PBU), a pass-rushing specialist with exceptional quickness, had started just one game in his career prior to this season, but cracked the lineup in four of the first five games this year, tallying four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble vs. Washington State, adding five tackles at Michigan and seven tackles and 1.5 sacks at Purdue. However, his best performance to date came at Pittsburgh, when he rolled up a career-high 10 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, and added a forced fumble in the win over the Panthers. Highly-touted freshman Victor Abiamiri (nine tackles, two TFL, one sack) and sophomore Travis Leitko (one tackle) both serve as the top understudies at the defensive end positions. Abiamiri earned the starting nod against Michigan State and did not disappoint, registering seven tackles (six solo). He added his first career sack at Pittsburgh.
Linebackers — All three starting linebackers return for the Irish this season, led by senior inside linebackers and Butkus Award candidates Courtney Watson (team-high 42 tackles, three TFL, one forced fumble, two PBU) and Mike Goolsby. Watson, a 2002 Butkus Award finalist, led the team with 90 tackles last year despite missing three games due to injury. He sat out the Washington State game, but returned with a vengeance against Michigan and Michigan State, logging a team-high 12 tackles (one for loss) in each game. He also forced an early fumble at Michigan and now leads the Irish in total tackles and solo tackles (24) this season. Goolsby was third on the squad with 75 tackles last season, but currently is sidelined with an injury. Junior Brandon Hoyte (33 tackles, 5.5 for loss, one sack, one fumble recovery, two PBU) has stepped in for Goolsby this season, carding a career-high 11 tackles vs. Washington State, adding 10 stops and his second career fumble recovery at Michigan and logging two tackles for loss at Purdue (he is second on the team in TFL). Senior Derek Curry (22 tackles, 3 TFL, three sacks, one INT) mans the outside linebacker post and had a career day against Washington State, logging a personal-best seven tackles and his first career interception. He also chalked up a career-high two sacks at Purdue and added another at Pittsburgh. Junior Corey Mays (10 tackles, 0.5 TFL), who started in place of Watson vs. Washington State and had a career-high four tackles at Michigan, and senior Jerome Collins (two tackles) are the main linebacker reserves.
Backs — Even with the loss of unanimous All-America cornerback Shane Walton and strong safety Gerome Sapp to the NFL, the Irish secondary is particularly sturdy in 2003. Senior cornerback Vontez Duff (15 tackles, one forced fumble, two PBU) was a third-team All-American last year and has started the last 26 games for the Irish, while hard-hitting senior strong safety Glenn Earl (28 tackles, 1.5 TFL, one sack, one fumble recovery, one INT, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two PBU) tied for second on the team with 81 tackles last year. Both Duff and Earl are preseason candidates for the Jim Thorpe Award and both were key parts of the win over Washington State < duff=”” forced=”” a=”” critical=”” fourth-quarter=”” fumble=”” and=”” earl=”” recovered=”” the=”” loose=”” pigskin=”” to=”” help=”” ignite=”” a=”” 20-point=”” irish=”” rally.=”” earl=”” also=”” registered=”” a=”” season-high=”” 10=”” tackles=”” at=”” michigan=”” before=”” adding=”” six=”” stops=”” and=”” an=”” interception=”” against=”” michigan=”” state.=”” he=”” has=”” since=”” shifted=”” over=”” to=”” strong=”” safety=”” for=”” the=”” first=”” time=”” in=”” his=”” career,=”” starting=”” at=”” that=”” position=”” against=”” purdue=”” and=”” pittsburgh.=”” junior=””>Quentin Burrell (15 tackles, one TFL, 0.5 sacks, one INT, one PBU) had been used primarily as the Irish dime back in the first three games, but has made the first starts of his career at free safety against Purdue and Pittsburgh, logging a career-best five tackles against the Boilers. Senior Garron Bible (15 tackles, one fumble recovery) started the first three games this season at strong safety after having had only two career starts entering 2003. He tied his career high with seven tackles against both Washington State and Michigan and added his second career fumble recovery against the Wolverines. Meanwhile, the competition to replace Walton at the other cornerback position was tight between seniors Jason Beckstrom (11 tackles, one PBU) and Preston Jackson (17 tackles, one TFL), as well as junior Dwight Ellick (four tackles, one QB hurry). Beckstrom missed all of last season with a torn biceps, while Jackson appeared in every game last year (starting once). At the same time, Ellick is a former all-BIG EAST track standout who has played in 26 career games, mostly on special teams. Jackson got the starting call in the first four games this season, picking up a career-high eight tackles at Michigan. All three men saw extensive time in the win over Washington State, but Ellick did not play in the Michigan or Michigan State game. Beckstrom sparkled against MSU, turning in a career-high six tackles and was rewarded with a start at Purdue as the Irish began in a nicke package. Ellick got his turn in the lineup at Pittsburgh, making his first career start and collecting a tackle and a pass breakup against the Panthers. Junior Lionel Bolen (two tackles) and freshman Freddie Parish IV (three tackles) head up the reserve secondary unit. Parish has appeared in four of the first five contests, mainly in nickel situations.
SCOUTING THE IRISH KICKING GAME
Senior Nicholas Setta takes on the dual role of placekicker and punter in 2003, becoming the first person to hold down both positions for the Irish since Craig Hentrich from 1989-92. A two-time Lou Groza Award candidate, Setta is now in his fourth season as Notre Dame’s kicker this year, setting his sights on several school records. He has made 46 career field goals (five shy of John Carney’s mark) and is third on the Irish career points-by-kicking chart (242, record is 294 by Hentrich). In addition, Setta has made 92 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history (136 by Hentrich from 1989-92). Setta got his final season off to a terrific start against Washington State, tying his career best with five field goals on six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yarder in overtime. He also established a new personal best with 17 points by kicking, one more than his previous high set in the ’02 opener vs. Maryland. The Lockport, Ill., native then made all three of his field goal attempts against Michigan State, marking the fourth time in his career he has made at least three field goals in one game. For the season, Setta is nine for 10 on field goals, including seven of seven inside 40 yards, and ranks 15th in the nation with an average of 1.8 field goals per game. His nine consecutive field goals stands as the third-longest streak in school history, four away from Mike Johnston’s mark of 13 set back in 1982.
This season marks Setta’s first as the everyday punter following the departure of two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. Setta, a 2003 Ray Guy Award candidate, has easily slipped into his second job, averaging 40.9 yards on 26 punts this season, including a 43.9-yard average on a career-high nine punts at Michigan. Setta also has boomed six 50-yard punts this year, including a career-long 54-yard shot on his first kick of the season in the win over Washington State.
Junior walk-on offensive lineman Casey Dunn (31 special teams appearances) and sophomore Scott Raridon (20 special teams appearances) are splitting time as the Irish snappers, taking over for the departed John Crowther. Meanwhile, junior reserve kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick (29 special teams appearances, 2-4 FG, 1-1 PAT, 37.4-yard punting average) has assumed Hildbold’s role as the holder on placement kicks, while also backing up Setta at both kicking positions. Fitzpatrick was called upon to replace Setta in the lineup at Pittsburgh, and the Mishawaka, Ind., native didn’t waver, kicking a pair of field goals (19 and 34 yards) and adding a PAT, all of which proved to be critical in the six-point Irish win.
Seniors Vontez Duff and Julius Jones make up a formidable kick return crew for Notre Dame. Duff is ranked 25th in the nation in punt return yardage (13.0). He rang up 63 yards on two punt runbacks at Pittsburgh, pushing him past Raghib Ismail and into third place on Notre Dame’s career total kick return yardage list (now with 1,644). In addition, he has 98 career total kick returns (punts and kickoffs), which also is good for third place in the Irish record books. Meanwhile, Jones leads the Irish with 539 all-purpose yards this season and ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in four career return categories. with two kick returns at Pittsburgh, he supplanted 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown as Notre Dame’s career leader for total kick returns (106 and counting). He also is second to Brown in terms of total kick return yardage (1,989), kickoff returns (68) and kickoff returns yardage (1,563).
Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2003 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 54,244 ticket requests for Saturday’s game vs. USC, making it the fourth-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Nov. 1 Notre Dame-Florida State game garnered 51,051 requests, placing it fifth on the all-time list. In fact, Notre Dame set a record by refunding $5.1 million to lottery losers in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni. That total easily exceeded last year’s mark of $2.1 million and outdistanced the old refund record of $3.8 million in 2001.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest < plus=”” contributing=”” alumni=”” having=”” the=”” opportunity=”” to=”” apply=”” for=”” four=”” tickets=”” instead=”” of=”” the=”” usual=”” two,=”” based=”” on=”” its=”” designation=”” as=”” an=”” alumni=”” family=”” game.=””>
Counting Saturday’s game vs. USC, the Irish have posted 170 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 218 in their last 219 home games.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 155 of its previous 178 games, including its last 19 games in a row. On Sept. 13 at Michigan, the Irish and Wolverines helped bring in the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of that series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represents the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been a part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002).
NOTRE DAME FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON TELEVISION THIS YEAR
In addition to continuing its streak of consecutive games played on one of the four major television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN), Notre Dame is being spotlighted on the small screen in several other ways during the 2003 season. Here’s a thumbnail look at each of the individual TV projects which are featuring the Irish this year:
- ESPN is filming “The Season: Notre Dame Football” in South Bend throughout the ’03 campaign. Crews from the network are attending practice sessions, team meals and other team-related activities, as well as conducting regular interviews with Irish players and coaches. “The Season: Notre Dame Football” airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.
- ESPN College GameDay is celebrating its 10th season of live remotes from college football’s top games. In recognition of its first-ever road trip (a Nov. 13, 1993 journey to South Bend for the game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame) is airing weekly all-access features on the Irish adapted from its feature presentation, “The Season: Notre Dame Football.” Former Irish flanker and two-time All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail lends more of a Notre Dame flavor to “College GameDay” this year as he joins the crew for regular contributions.
- College Sports Television (CSTV), the nation’s new 24-hour cable channel devoted exclusively to college sports, highlights Irish athletics on Sunday nights (8:30-9:30 p.m. EDT) in a show called “Notre Dame Primetime.” The program, which is co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics. In addition to its regular Sunday night broadcast, the show also airs on a delayed basis Mondays at 7 p.m. (EST) on WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend.
- Besides these features, Notre Dame is now in the 13th season of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2005. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) are in their third full season broadcasting the action for NBC.
NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With Saturday’s USC game slated to be televised nationally by NBC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 130 straight games, a stretch that spans 10 full seasons (1993-2002). The last time the Irish didn”t appear on one of those four networks was more than a decade ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.
THE 2003 CAPTAINS
For the second consecutive season and the third time in the 115-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. The 2003 captains have been named as follows (career captain selections in parentheses):
Washington State: CB Vontez Duff (3), FS Glenn Earl (2), WR Omar Jenkins (1), OT Jim Molinaro (1)
Michigan: DT Darrell Campbell (3), LB Derek Curry (1), QB Carlyle Holiday (1), K/P Nicholas Setta (3)
Michigan State: RB Ryan Grant (1), NG Cedric Hilliard (3), TE Billy Palmer (1), LB Courtney Watson (4)
Purdue: CB Vontez Duff (4), SS Glenn Earl (3), WR Omar Jenkins (2), OT Jim Molinaro (2)
Pittsburgh: SS Glenn Earl (4), OT Jim Molinaro (3), K/P Nicholas Setta (4), LB Courtney Watson (5)
2003 Notre Dame Opponent UPDATE
The following is a look at Notre Dame opponents’ upcoming games. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995) and has appeared in the top 25 a total of 19 times in the last 26 years.
THE 2003 SCHEDULE
Once again, Notre Dame is facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play six of their first eight games against teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 5/4 USC, No. 6/6 Washington State, No. 7/7 Florida State, No. 13/15 Purdue, No. 15/18 Michigan State and No. 17/17 Michigan). In addition, two other Notre Dame opponents < boston=”” college=”” and=”” pittsburgh=””>< are=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” one=”” or=”” both=”” polls.=”” seven=”” of=”” the=”” 12=”” foes=”” on=”” this=”” year’s=”” notre=”” dame’s=”” schedule=”” went=”” to=”” bowl=”” games=”” last=”” season,=”” highlighted=”” by=”” three=”” bowl=”” championship=”” series=”” qualifiers=”” (washington=”” state,=”” usc,=”” florida=”” state).=”” all=”” of=”” this=”” comes=”” on=”” the=”” heels=”” of=”” the=”” 2002=”” irish=”” schedule,=”” which=”” was=”” ranked=”” 28th=”” in=”” the=”” nation.=””>
THE 2003 NFL DRAFT
Seven former Irish players were selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, the most of any school in the country with the exception of Florida and Ohio State (eight each). Leading the way was center Jeff Faine, who was chosen in the first round (21st overall) by the Cleveland Browns. Notre Dame now has had 58 opening-round selections, which ranks second only to USC (62) in the 67-year history of the NFL Draft.
Joining Faine in Notre Dame’s ’03 draft class were: offensive tackle Jordan Black (fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs), offensive guard Sean Mahan (fifth round by the Tampa Buccaneers), cornerback Shane Walton (fifth round by the St. Louis Rams), strong safety Gerome Sapp (sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens), wide receiver Arnaz Battle (sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers) and offensive tackle Brennan Curtin (sixth round by the Green Bay Packers). All seven Notre Dame players selected in the 2003 NFL Draft made the final cut and were on their teams’ opening-day rosters.
IRISH FOOTBALL NAMED ONE OF NATION’S TOP 10 MOST POWERFUL PROGRAMS
As part of its 2003 college football preview, SI.com developed its list of the top 10 most powerful programs in the nation and Notre Dame was listed second behind only Miami (Fla.). According to the website, “college football’s most recognizable program saw a return to glory under Lou Holtz, which included landing its own TV deal with NBC, and after a few down years appears to be headed in the right direction under Tyrone Willingham.”
MAKING THE GRADE
The Notre Dame football squad recently has had four of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the past four semesters (2001-03). In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished (at the time) with its second-highest combined grade-point average on record (2.685) since statistics were kept beginning in 1992. A total of 12 players earned Dean’s List recognition and 38 players posted a “B” average or higher last fall. Then, in the spring of 2002, the Irish topped that mark with a record-setting 2.911 combined team GPA, with 13 players making the Dean’s List and another 47 averaging a “B” or better. In the fall of ’02, the Irish logged a 2.835 team GPA, followed by a 2.79 average in the spring of ’03. Eight players made the Dean’s List in both of the last two semesters, while 43 players had a “B” or better during the fall of 2002, and 50 more reached that mark in the spring of 2003.
NOTRE DAME EXCELS IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD
The Notre Dame football team has earned American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award special mention honors announced in August. To earn the award, a team must have a graduation rate of over 70 percent. Duke won the 2003 overall award with a 100 percent graduation rate.
Notre Dame has been recognized 22 of 23 years the award has been presented, the most of any school in the nation. Notre Dame has won the overall award six times with the most recent coming in 2001 as the Irish posted a perfect 100 percent graduation rate, becoming (at the time) the eighth school in history to graduate everyone in the class during the reporting period. Notre Dame also won the overall award in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1991. In 1988, Notre Dame became the only school to win the Academic Achievement Award and the National Championship in the same year.
FORMER IRISH GREAT DAVE DUERSON HEADS UP NATIONAL MONOGRAM CLUB
Former Notre Dame football All-American Dave Duerson is still extremely involved with the University in a number of capacities. A former team captain, Duerson was named to the Notre Dame Board of Trustees in 2001, and was the winner of the 2001 Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. The Sorin Award is presented annually to a graduate who has embodied “the values of Our Lady’s University” in his service to the community. In 2002, Duerson founded his own company, Duerson Foods, after serving as president of Fair Oaks Farms, Inc., a Wisconsin-based international meat supplier that in 1999 was ranked 64th among Black Enterprise 100 companies. In addition, Duerson was a member of the advisory council for the University”s Mendoza College of Business and currently is president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, a post he will hold through June 2005. He also is a member of the athletic department”s student development mentoring program.
“THE SHIRT” NOW ON SALE FOR 2003 SEASON
For the 14th consecutive year, Notre Dame Student Activities and Government are sponsoring a T-shirt that benefits scholarship funds, student groups and service projects. Already, the initial run of 50,000 shirts has sold out, easily topping last year’s early sellout of 44,000. In 2002, a record-setting total of 130,000 shirts were sold, with that initial run of 44,000 selling out within six weeks of its debut (at the time, it was one of the earliest sellouts in the history of the project). As a result, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham began labelling the Shirt-clad crowd as the “sea of green.”
Over the past 13 years, the venture has more than $2 million in net profit for worthy causes and serves the dual purpose of promoting spirit and raising funds. Some of the proceeds supported students and employees who have incurred catastrophic accidents, while others benefitted endowment funds and additional monies were given to support service projects for student organizations on the Notre Dame campus.
In a rare break from tradition, “The Shirt 2003” once again is green and features this year’s motto, “Here Come The Irish.” The short-sleeve shirt is traditionally worn by Notre Dame students and fans at the first home game of each football season. The cost of this year’s shirt is $15 and it is available on campus to the University community and the general public at the Hammes Bookstore, Irish Express, the information desk at the LaFortune Student Center, the Varsity Shop at the Joyce Center and the Alumni Association at the Eck Center. Orders also may be placed by telephone (1-800-647-4641) or on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com).
TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR 2003 FOOTBALL KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 Notre Dame Kickoff Luncheons held the Friday prior to each Irish home football game. The luncheons feature Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham, Irish players and assistant coaches, plus special guests and other attractions.
Tickets are $18 each, with a handling fee of $3 (payment may be made with one check for more than one luncheon). There are 10 seats per table < and=”” if=”” you=”” wish=”” to=”” sit=”” as=”” a=”” group=”” at=”” the=”” same=”” table=”” with=”” other=”” guests,=”” please=”” return=”” all=”” reservations=”” in=”” one=”” envelope.=””>
Checks should be made payable to “University of Notre Dame” and mailed to: Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone and credit card reservations are not accepted. A printed reservation form also is available on Notre Dame”s athletics web site at www.und.com.
The luncheons are held in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome) on the Notre Dame campus, with a noon (EST) start. Be aware that advance reservations are required for tickets, and tickets are not routinely available at the door.
Remaining luncheon dates are Oct. 17 (USC), Oct. 31 (Florida State), Nov. 7 (Navy) and Nov. 14 (BYU).
All 2003 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome) on Fridays before Saturday home games, beginning at 6 p.m. (EST). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.
“NOTRE DAME EXPERIENCE” RETURNS FOR 2003 SEASON
For years, the Joyce Center Fieldhouse has been the “pregame meeting place” for several thousand Notre Dame alumni. In an effort to add to this tradition, the Notre Dame Athletics Department is providing an interactive fan experience for each of the 2003 home football games. For the second consecutive season, the “Notre Dame Experience” will combine the Notre Dame Alumni Association Hospitality Center with interactive inflatables, photo booths, autograph sessions, Notre Dame football trivia and stage activities. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. Admission is free for all “Notre Dame Experience” events.
ORDER THE 2003 NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL YEARBOOK TODAY
This season marks the 10th edition of the Notre Dame Football Yearbook < an=”” official=”” publication=”” by=”” the=”” university=”” of=”” notre=”” dame=”” athletic=”” department.=”” the=”” 1994,=”” “95,=”” “96,=”” “97=”” and=”” “98=”” and=”” 2000=”” editions=”” were=”” voted=”” best=”” in=”” the=”” nation=”” in=”” the=”” special=”” publications=”” competition=”” sponsored=”” by=”” the=”” college=”” sports=”” information=”” directors=”” of=”” america.=”” the=”” yearbook,=”” published=”” by=”” ave=”” maria=”” press,=”” numbers=”” nearly=”” 100=”” pages,=”” including=”” game=”” action=”” shots=”” of=”” returning=”” irish=”” players=”” and=”” coaches,=”” position-by-position=”” breakdowns=”” and=”” a=”” feature=”” on=”” head=”” coach=””>Tyrone Willingham. It”s a collectors item perfect for autographs < with=”” an=”” emphasis=”” on=”” outstanding=”” color=”” photography=”” unavailable=”” in=”” any=”” other=”” publication.=”” the=”” yearbook=”” is=”” priced=”” at=”” $8=”” (plus=”” $4=”” for=”” postage=”” and=”” handling)=”” and=”” can=”” be=”” ordered=”” by=”” calling=”” 1-800-647-4641.=””>
TRIO OF BOOKS FEATURING NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL NOW ON SALE
The rich history of Irish football is the focus of three books that recently went on sale to the general public. The first is entitled “Return To Glory” and it was written by Alan Grant, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a former defensive back at Stanford who played for current Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham. Grant received unique behind-the-scenes access to the Irish throughout last season and his book details Notre Dame’s remarkable 10-3 campaign in 2002, including its eight-game winning streak to begin Willingham’s tenure. “Return To Glory” is now available nationwide, including the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.
Also new in bookstores is a coffee table book by The Sporting News called “Fighting Irish,” a 224-page work that spotlights the unparalleled history and pageantry of the Notre Dame football program through a variety of photographs and essays. A special section is devoted to the ’02 season and the foreword to the book was written by former Irish quarterback and 2003 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Theismann. In addition to appearing in bookstores across the country, it also is available at the Hammes Bookstore, as well as online through The Sporting News web site (www.tsn.com).
The third new book featuring Notre Dame to debut is entitled “Tyrone Willingham: The Meaning of Victory,” a 144-page hardcover piece on the coaching career of Irish mentor Tyrone Willingham and what his arrival at Notre Dame has meant to the program. Written by longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter and columnist Fred Mitchell and packed with dozens of full-color photos, this book is available at bookstores nationwide, including Notre Dame’s Hammes Bookstore.