Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Irish And Seminoles To Square Off On Saturday

Oct. 27, 2003

Complete Release in PDF Format
dot.gifspacer.gifDownload Free Acrobat Reader

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-5) vs. (#5 AP/#5 ESPN/USA Today) Florida State Seminoles (7-1)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003 at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Tickets: They’re all sold < with=”” this=”” being=”” the=”” 171st=”” consecutive=”” sellout=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium=”” (the=”” first=”” 130=”” coming=”” at=”” the=”” old=”” 59,075=”” capacity).=”” the=”” florida=”” state=”” game=”” marks=”” the=”” 219th=”” home=”” sellout=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” 220=”” games=”” (dating=”” back=”” to=”” 1964),=”” with=”” this=”” being=”” the=”” 158th=”” sellout=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” 181=”” irish=”” games=”” and=”” the=”” 22nd=”” 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=”” eight=”” 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 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, with Dave Wills hosting a live remote pre- and post-game show Saturday outside Gate 10 at the Joyce Center.

Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Florida State game, via the Notre Dame ( and Florida State ( athletics web sites.

Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Florida State (

For the first time since they squared off in “The Game of the Century” a decade ago, Notre Dame and No. 5 Florida State will return to the scene of that epic battle Saturday at 2:30 p.m. (EST) at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by NBC and will mark the fifth time this season that the Irish have played a ranked opponent, including the third time they have faced a top-five squad.

Notre Dame (2-5) dropped its second consecutive game last Saturday at Boston College, rallying from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter before the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds remaining. Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn sparkled in defeat for the Irish, completing 23 of 39 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His 350 yards passing were the most by a Notre Dame quarterback since Joe Montana had 358 yards at USC in 1978. Senior linebacker Courtney Watson, a Butkus Award semifinalist, continued to make an emphatic case for the honor, piling up 13 tackles for his fifth double-digit outing in six games this season. Watson is averaging 11.5 tackles per game this season.

Florida State (7-1) is coming off a 48-24 win over Atlantic Coast Conference foe Wake Forest last Saturday in Tallahassee. Quarterback Chris Rix completed 22 of 34 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for the Seminoles, who rolled up 505 yards of total offense. It also proved to be a milestone win for FSU head coach Bobby Bowden, who became the winningest coach in NCAA Division I-A history with the 339th victory of his storied career.

The Seminoles are strong on both sides of the ball, ranking 27th in the nation in total offense (424 yards per game) and eighth in total defense (280.13). Rix is 28th in the country in passing efficiency (140.47), while FSU wideout Craphonso Thorpe is 40th in the land with 79.88 receiving yards per game.

Florida State leads the abbreviated series with Notre Dame, 3-2, although the teams have split their only two meetings at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish won last year’s matchup in Tallahassee by a 34-24 count after converting three Seminole turnovers in 17 points over a 2:21 span in the third quarter.


  • Saturday’s game marks the sixth meeting between Notre Dame and Florida State, with the Seminoles holding a 3-2 series lead. This will be the third time the teams have met at Notre Dame Stadium, with FSU winning in 1981 and the Irish returning the favor in 1993.
  • Four of the five previous games in the series have been decided by seven points or less, with the outcome of all four games still in doubt until the final minute.
  • Including this year’s meeting, at least one of the two combatants has been ranked in the Top 25 in every game between Notre Dame and Florida State. The 2003 matchup marks the fourth time in six games that Florida State will be the higher-ranked team (the Seminoles won in 1981 and 1994, while the Irish were victorious in 1993).
  • The 1993 game between top-ranked FSU and No. 2 Notre Dame (won by the Irish, 31-24) was voted the third-greatest moment in the last century of Irish football as part of Notre Dame’s Century of Greatness program that ran throughout the 1999 season. That game also represented the last time Notre Dame was involved in a “No. 1 vs. No. 2” contest.
  • Notre Dame ranks as the winningest team in college football history, based on its current .747 winning percentage (793-255-42). Florida State ranks 11th all-time in terms of winning percentage, sporting a .675 success ratio (415-195-17) entering this weekend’s contest. The big difference between the two programs is their longevity — the Irish are in the midst of their 115th season of football, while the Seminoles are only in their 57th year on the gridiron.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State both rank in the top five in terms of all-time No. 1 rankings in the Associated Press poll. The Irish are first with 95 appearances in the top spot, while the Seminoles are fifth with 57 weeks in the No. 1 position since the AP poll first began in 1936.
  • Since 1969 (when Notre Dame began regularly playing in bowl games), the Irish have made 24 bowl appearances, tying them for 10th in the nation during that 34-year span. FSU has made one more bowl trip in that time, good for ninth on the list.
  • FSU has 17 bowl wins since 1969, tying for the third-most in the nation over that span. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has won 12 bowl games in the last 34 years, tying for 10th in the country.
  • Notre Dame had 40 former players on 2003 opening-day NFL rosters, tying Florida for the most from any school. Florida State was right behind the Irish and Gators with 37 alums on ’02 opening-day rosters.


  • Notre Dame will even its all-time series with Florida State at 3-3 and take a 2-1 series lead over the Seminoles at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • The Irish will earn back-to-back wins over Florida State for the first time in series history.
  • Notre Dame will register its second win over a ranked opponent this season and will improve to 6-5 against Top 25 opponents over the last two seasons (2-1 vs. Top 25 at Notre Dame Stadium).
  • Notre Dame will rise to 49-12-1 (.798) all-time against ACC teams, including a 29-4 (.879) mark at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • The Irish will pick up their third win in their last four games against ACC opponents and their first at home since Sept. 6, 1997 (a 17-13 victory over Georgia Tech in the first game at the expanded Notre Dame Stadium).


  • The Seminoles will take a 4-2 lead in the all-time series with Notre Dame and rise to 2-1 in the series at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Florida State will earn its first win at Notre Dame Stadium since Oct. 10, 1981, when the 20th-ranked Seminoles rallied for a 19-13 win (also the last time an ACC team won in South Bend).
  • FSU will log the fifth career win for the ACC in 33 games at Notre Dame Stadium. Georgia Tech has two wins (1942, 1959) and Clemson has the other victory (1979).
  • The Irish will lose three consecutive home games for the first time since Oct. 6-20, 1984, when Notre Dame fell to #14 Miami (31-13), Air Force (21-7) and #11 South Carolina (36-32) in successive weeks at Notre Dame Stadium.


  • Florida State leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 3-2, although the teams have split their previous two matchups at Notre Dame Stadium (FSU won in 1981, while the Irish were victorious in 1993).
  • Notre Dame and Florida State played one another for the first time in 1981, Gerry Faust’s debut season as the Irish head coach. The 20th-ranked Seminoles managed to pull out a 19-13 victory, scoring the winning touchdown with just under eight minutes to play.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State did not face one another again until 1993, when they collided at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish came into the game ranked second in the nation, while the Seminoles were the country’s No. 1 team. However, it would be Notre Dame which would come out on top, leading almost the entire way and then fighting off a last-ditch FSU rally to win 31-24 in what was termed at the time “The Game of the Century.” (For more details on this game, please see page 240 of the 2003 Irish football media guide).
  • Florida State got its revenge against Notre Dame in 1994, squeezing out a 23-16 win over the Irish at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Seminoles actually outgained Notre Dame by more than a two-to-one margin (517 to 221), but the Irish gamely hung with FSU, tying the score at 16-16 with 5:17 to play on an 11-yard TD pass from Ron Powlus to Derrick Mayes. But, the Seminoles drove back down the field and Warrick Dunn scored on a five-yard run at the 2:53 mark to give Florida State the win.
  • Notre Dame met the Seminoles for the third consecutive season at the 1996 Orange Bowl, with FSU once again coming out ahead, 31-26. The Irish played without Powlus and leading rusher Randy Kinder, which seemingly left Notre Dame at a serious disadvantage. However, Powlus’ understudy, Thomas Krug, performed admirably, tossing three touchdown passes, two to Mayes, and steering the Irish to a 26-14 fourth-quarter lead. Still, the Seminoles managed to put together a late comeback, scoring 17 points in the final 10 minutes to snatch the victory away from Notre Dame. (For more details on this game, please see page 346 of the ’03 Irish football media guide).
  • After a nearly seven-year hiatus in the series, Notre Dame made its first-ever trip to Tallahassee last season and defeated Florida State, 34-24 to run its season-opening win streak to eight games. The Irish turned three Seminole turnovers into 17 points in a span of 2:21 late in the third quarter, breaking a 10-all tie and propelling the visitors to the win. Quarterback Carlyle Holiday completed 13 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Ryan Grant carried 19 times for 94 yards and two scores. (For more details on this game, please see page 143 of the ’03 Irish football media guide).


  • Notre Dame has won nearly 80 percent of its games versus Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, with a record of .500 or better against six of the eight ACC teams that the Irish have played and an overall mark of 48-12-1 (.795) in 61 games against ACC schools. That winning percentage is the second-best in school history against a major Division I-A conference, topped only by a .850 success rate against the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).
  • More than half of those games (32) have come versus Georgia Tech (26-5-1) while another 16 have come against North Carolina (15-1).
  • The Irish have been particularly successful against the ACC at Notre Dame Stadium, going 28-4 (.875) all-time. Georgia Tech has two of those four rare ACC wins in South Bend (1942, 1959), while Clemson (1979) and Florida State (1981) have the others.
  • Notre Dame has played a handful of games vs. Florida State (2-3), Duke (2-1) and Clemson (1-1). The Irish and Virginia met for the only time in 1989, with Notre Dame chalking up a 36-13 win in the Kickoff Classic.
  • The Irish played two ACC opponents for the first time last season. Notre Dame faced Maryland for the first time at the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J., blanking the Terrapins, 22-0. The Irish then closed the season with a 28-6 loss to North Carolina State at the Toyota Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
  • The 2002 campaign marked the first time in school history Notre Dame played three ACC teams in the same season. The Irish went 2-1 with wins over Maryland and Florida State.
  • Notre Dame never has faced ACC member Wake Forest on the gridiron.

The 1953 Notre Dame football team, which went 9-0-1 and claimed a share of the national championship from several outlets, will be recognized this weekend during Friday’s pep rally and Saturday’s game with Florida State. The Irish were led that year by legendary head coach Frank Leahy, who was in his final season at Notre Dame and wound up guiding his team to an unbeaten record for the sixth time in his 11-year tenure. Yet, Maryland was recognized as the ’53 national champion by the Associated Press and the United Press, the top two polls of the day, after posting a 10-1 record. However, it should be noted that the final AP and UP ballots were cast before the Terrapins lost to Oklahoma, 7-0, in the Orange Bowl. The Irish did not play in a bowl game that season in accordance with University policy, which had prohibited postseason football competition from 1925-69.

Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn has opened some eyes with his poise and confidence under center this season. The Dublin, Ohio, native owns a respectable 93.98 pass efficiency rating, having completed 82 of 176 passes for 987 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions.

Quinn’s strongest performance to date came in his most recent outing at Boston College last weekend. The Irish rookie completed 59 percent of his passes (23 of 39) for a career-best 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His 350 yards through the air were the most by a Notre Dame quarterback since Nov. 25, 1978, when Joe Montana threw for 358 yards in a loss at USC. The BC game also reflected Quinn’s growing knowledge of Notre Dame complex offense as he distributed the ball to 10 different receivers, the most for the Irish in four seasons.

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 passing yardage total 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. Quinn’s yardage total also was the best by an Irish first-time freshman starting QB in the last 53 seasons.

In last Saturday’s loss at Boston College, Notre Dame displayed a diversified passing attack that rolled up 350 yards and yielded a pair of touchdowns. It was the most passing yardage piled up by an Irish offense since Oct. 27, 1979, when Dan Devine’s charges threw for 383 yards in a last-minute 18-17 win over South Carolina at Notre Dame Stadium. Rusty Lisch led the Notre Dame offense on that day, completing 24 of 43 passes for 336 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Notre Dame had a season-high 10 different players catch passes in its loss at Boston College on Oct. 25, led by sophomore wide receiver Rhema McKnight and sophomore tight end Anthony Fasano, who caught four passes apiece. It was the highest number of pass-catchers the Irish have had in a single game since Oct. 16, 1999, when 10 Notre Dame players had a reception in a 25-24 come-from-behind win over USC at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Boston College game also marked the fourth time in seven contests this season that the Irish have had at least eight players catch a pass.

Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn threw for a career-high 350 yards in Notre Dame’s loss at Boston College last Saturday. That was the most passing yardage by an Irish quarterback in nearly a quarter of a century < joe=”” montana=”” piled=”” up=”” 358=”” yards=”” at=”” usc=”” on=”” nov.=”” 25,=”” 1978.=”” upon=”” closer=”” examination,=”” there=”” are=”” some=”” eerie=”” coincidences=”” between=”” the=”” performances=”” of=”” montana=”” and=””>

  • In both games, Notre Dame fell behind, 24-6 in the third quarter.
  • In both games, the Irish quarterback threw a pair of touchdown passes to help spark the comeback.
  • In both games, the opposing team drove downfield and kicked a game-winning field goal in the final minute to beat the Irish by the score of 27-25.

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 third-highest single-game rushing output in the nation this season.

Jones’ performance in the Pittsburgh game was good enough for the Big Stone Gap, Va., native to be named the national Player of the Week by three media outlets. The Sporting News, and all tabbed him to receive the honor for the week of Oct. 12.

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 100 carries for 538 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and four 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 17th-highest single-game total in the nation this season.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been a menace for opposing quarterbacks this season. The Kellyton, Ala., product ranks among the national leaders with 1.0 sacks per game, with six of his seven sacks coming in the last four games. His best performance to date came on Oct. 11 at No. 15 Pittsburgh, when he wound up with a career-high 10 tackles, a career-best 3.5 sacks (part of an eight-sack night by the Irish) and a forced fumble in Notre Dame’s 20-14 win over the Panthers.

For the season, Tuck leads the Irish in sacks (seven), tackles for loss (nine) and forced fumbles (two), and he is fourth on the team with 38 tackles.

Notre Dame’s 27-25 loss at Boston College last Saturday bucked a trend of remarkable Irish victories that began last season. The Irish now are 8-3 (.727) in games decided by eight points or less since Tyrone Willingham took over as the Notre Dame head coach prior to last season. Besides this year’s BC game, the only other 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 season 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. Notre Dame nearly added to that total against Boston College, rallying from a 24-12 fourth-quarter deficit to take a 25-24 lead before the Eagles drove downfield and kicked the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds remaining.

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.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson has been chosen as one of 11 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. Watson, who was a Butkus Award finalist in 2002, leads Notre Dame with 69 tackles (11.5 per game) and 43 solo stops in just six games this year (he did not play against Washington State). Joining Watson on this year’s list of Butkus Award semifinalists are: Michael Boulware (Florida State), Josh Buhl (Kansas State), Karlos Dansby (Auburn), Rod Davis (Southern Mississippi), Matt Grootegoed (USC), Derrick Johnson (Texas), Teddy Lehman (Oklahoma), Jonathan Vilma (Miami), Demorrio Williams (Nebraska) and D.J. Williams (Miami).

The three Butkus Award finalists will be chosen on Nov. 13, with the winner to be unveiled Dec. 12 in a banquet at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World.

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 is second on the Irish with 295 receiving yards this season and third on the squad with 16 receptions. He also leads the team with 18.4 yards per catch and is tied for top honors with two receiving touchdowns.

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.

The Irish nearly pulled off a similar comeback on Oct. 25 at Boston College, erasing an 18-point third-quarter deficit (24-6) and taking a 25-24 lead with under four minutes to play. However, the Eagles put together a rally of their own and drove down to kick the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds to play.

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.

Notre Dame has recorded 13 takeaways (10 FUM, 3 INT) through seven games this season, coming up with three turnovers in each of its first three outings and averaging nearly two takeaways per game. 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 its last 31 games, including 17 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways.

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 11 tackles, including a career-high seven in his first start vs. Michigan State. He also picked up the first sack of his career at Pittsburgh. 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. He then threw for 350 yards and had his first two-TD game on Oct. 25 at Boston College, piling up the most passing yardage by an Irish quarterback in 25 years. For the season, Quinn is 82 of 176 for 987 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Harris was the latest Irish freshman to make his debut, coming on the scene at No. 15 Pittsburgh. After not appearing in Notre Dame’s first four games, the St. Paul, Minn., native not only saw action against the Panthers, 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. He since has started against USC and Boston College. Harris joined an elite club against Pittsburgh, becoming just the third Irish freshman to start on the offensive line in the last 30 years < mike=”” rosenthal=”” started=”” against=”” ohio=”” state,=”” usc=”” and=”” air=”” force=”” in=”” 1995,=”” while=””>Brad Williams made starts against Navy and Boston College in 1996.

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.

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.


  • During the past 17-plus seasons (’86-’03), Notre Dame has produced 78 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns ?- including Carlos Campbell’s 25-yard blocked punt return last Saturday at Boston College and the following returns from 2002: 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.
  • 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.

Before his current injury, senior Nicholas Setta was serving as the starting placekicker and punter for the Irish this season, marking the first time a Notre Dame player regularly 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 six 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 1.5 field goals per game ranks 19th 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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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 56-44-1 (.559) overall record, including a 12-8 (.600) mark with the Irish, and has guided his charges to bowl games on five occasions. The Notre Dame mentor reached 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).

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 four contests with an injury.

Junior Mark LeVoir (177:27) has earned the starting nod at left guard in all seven 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 (177:27) has started the last 10 games for the Irish, including nine on the left end. On the other side of the line, junior right guard Dan Stevenson (177:27) 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 in the last three contests, replacing Milligan. Freshman Ryan Harris (81:02) has stepped in to fill Stevenson’s shoes at right tackle in the past three games and the new line setup paid off as the Irish rolled up their best rushing performance (352 yards) since 1999 against Pittsburgh and added their best passing total (350) in 24 years at Boston College. Harris also became only the third Notre Dame freshman to start on the offensive line in the last 30 years, joining Mike Rosenthal (1995) and Brad Williams (1996) in that elite group. Ryan and sophomore Brian Mattes 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 (136:29) and junior Zachary Giles (49:59) 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 has returned to the lineup the last four games, anchoring the line that sprung Julius Jones for a school-record 262 yards rushing at Pittsburgh and provided protection for Brady Quinn to throw for 350 yards, the most by an Irish signal-caller since 1978.

Backs — Freshman Brady Quinn (82-176-987, 5 TD, 8 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. In his most recent outing at Boston College, Quinn continued his evolution by completing 23 of 39 passes (a .590 completion percentage) for 350 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It was the first two-TD game of his career and the 350-yard effort was the most by a Notre Dame quarterback in 25 years.

Senior Carlyle Holiday (36-73-303, 1 TD, 4 INT; 1 catch for 10 yards) 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 three games, Holiday has seen some time at wide receiver, logging his first reception of the season (and second of his career) for 10 yards at Boston College.

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.

Senior Julius Jones (team-high 100 rushes, team-high 538 yards, 4 TD) leads a veteran group of Irish running backs who are the main beneficiaries of Notre Dame’s new offensive style. 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. For his efforts, the Big Stone Gap, Va., native was named the national Player of the Week by The Sporting News, and Jones also was rewarded with the starting nod against USC and wound up with 84 yards on 18 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Junior Ryan Grant (95 carries, 297 yards) and junior Marcus Wilson (6-11) also have seen plenty of action out of the backfield this season. 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.

Junior Rashon Powers-Neal (3-12) 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 (seven catches for 67 yards) was the surprise of this year’s preseason camp, working his way into a position for playing time, along with sophomore Nate Schiccatano (11 special teams appearances) who opened some eyes with 24 yards rushing and a touchdown in the ’03 Blue-Gold Game. Schmidt has proven to be a dependable receiver out of the backfield, catching seven passes for 67 yards this season. Meanwhile, Schiccatano has been a contributor on special teams, blocking a punt that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown at Boston College.

Receivers — Despite the loss of last year’s leading receiver Arnaz Battle, the Irish receiving corps is well stocked in 2003. Junior Omar Jenkins (22-189, 1 TD) 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. He then caught four passes for 35 yards and his first TD of the season at Boston College. Sophomore Rhema McKnight (team-high 26-353, 2 TD) has started five games for the Irish at the other wideout position, scoring touchdowns vs. Michigan and Michigan State while logging a career-high eight catches and his first career 100-yard game (104) vs. MSU. He then chalked up four catches for a career-high 121 yards at Boston College. Rangy sophomore Maurice Stovall (16-295, 2 TD), senior Ronnie Rodamer and junior Matt Shelton (1-9) all can stretch defenses vertically and have seen significant time in Notre Dame’s balanced offensive scheme. Stovall, who has made two starts this season, 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. He also contributed three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown at Boston College. Freshman receivers Chinedum Ndukwe (1-(-1)) and Jeff Samardzija (7-53) also have been heard from this season, with the latter amassing a season-high four catches for 18 yards at Purdue.

Senior Billy Palmer (1-13) has been the starting tight end for the Irish in five games this season after appearing in all 13 games last year. He has started six times in his career and caught the second pass of his career for 13 yards against Michigan State. Sophomore Anthony Fasano (12-130, 1 TD) has made exceptional strides in recent weeks. 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. He followed that up against USC with a career-best four receptions for 33 yards and his first career touchdown, a diving two-yard grab in the first quarter. He then returned to the lineup at Boston College as part of a two tight end formation and wound up with a game-high four catches for a career-best 48 yards. Senior tight end Jared Clark (11-105), a converted quarterback, also has seen significant action this season, starting at Purdue and ranking fifth 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. Sophomore Marcus Freeman also is contending for playing time this season, although his primary action has come on special teams thus far.

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 (16 tackles, 3.5 TFL, one sack, one PBU) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (15 tackles, 0.5 for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup) 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, Purdue and Boston College, carding a season-high five tackles vs. MSU. Sophomore Derek Landri (six tackles, 1.5 TFL, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup) 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 (13 tackles, two TFL, 1.5 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. With Hilliard hobbled by injuries vs. Pittsburgh and USC, Pauly started both times (the fourth and fifth starts of his career) and had three tackles at Pittsburgh. He then came off the bench at Boston College and logged a career-high four tackles and a sack. Junior Brian Beidatsch (one tackle, one fumble recovery) is the primary backup at the interior line spots and has seen limited action in five games this year, notching his first career fumble recovery at Michigan. Senior right end Kyle Budinscak (16 tackles, four TFL, three sacks, one fumble recovery), the other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line, is in his second season as a starter (21 career starts). A two-time Academic All-District selection, Budinscak is tied for second on the team in sacks, 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 (38 tackles, team-high nine TFL, team-high seven sacks, two forced fumbles, two PBU), a pass-rushing specialist with exceptional quickness, had started just one game in his career prior to this season, but has cracked the lineup in six 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. Tuck then added eight tackles (two for loss) and a sack against USC. Tuck currently ranks among the national leaders with 1.0 sacks per game. Highly-touted freshman Victor Abiamiri (11 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 69 tackles, five TFL, one sack, 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 has 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, added a season-best 14 tackles against USC and had 13 tackles (12 solo) at Boston College. Watson now leads the Irish in total tackles and solo tackles (43) and has posted double-digit tackle marks in five of his six outings this season. Goolsby was third on the squad with 75 tackles last season, but currently is sidelined with an injury. Junior Brandon Hoyte (44 tackles, six 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 (41 tackles, three TFL, three sacks, one INT, two forced fumbles) mans the outside linebacker post and sparkled in the season opener vs. Washington State, logging seven tackles and his first career interception. He also chalked up a career-high two sacks at Purdue and added another at Pittsburgh before carding eight tackles against USC. He then erupted for a career-high 11 tackles (all solo) at Boston Colleg and now is third on the team in tackles. Junior Corey Mays (13 tackles, 1.5 TFL, one blocked kick) started in place of Watson vs. Washington State and had a career-high four tackles at Michigan. He also has been effective on special teams, blocking a punt vs. USC and tackling the Boston College punter for a heavy loss. Besides Mays, senior Jerome Collins (four tackles) is the other main linebacker reserve.

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 (24 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two PBU) was a third-team All-American last year who has started the last 28 games for the Irish. He collected a season-high six tackles vs. USC and added a fumble recovery at Boston College. Meanwhile, hard-hitting senior strong safety Glenn Earl (35 tackles, 1.5 TFL, one sack, one fumble recovery, one INT, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two PBU) wound up tied for second on the team with 81 tackles last year. Both Duff and Earl were 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=”” for=”” the=”” purdue,=”” pittsburgh=”” and=”” usc=”” games,=”” logging=”” seven=”” tackles=”” against=”” usc.=”” however,=”” he=”” since=”” has=”” been=”” sidelined=”” with=”” an=”” injury.=”” junior=””>Quentin Burrell (26 tackles, one TFL, 0.5 sacks, one INT, one fumble recovery, one PBU) had been used primarily as the Irish dime back in the first three games, picking off a pass against Michigan State. However, he has made the first starts of his career at free safety in the last four contests, logging five tackles against Purdue and USC and adding a fumble recovery in the latter game. He then piled up a career-high six tackles at Boston College. Senior Garron Bible (18 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. With the injury to Earl, Bible returned to the lineup at Boston College. Meanwhile, the competition to replace Walton at the other cornerback position was tight between seniors Jason Beckstrom (13 tackles, one PBU) and Preston Jackson (21 tackles, one TFL), as well as junior Dwight Ellick (14 tackles, two PBU, 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 28 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 nickel package. Ellick has gotten his turn in the lineup the last three games, making the first starts of his career and collecting a career-best nine tackles against USC. Junior Lionel Bolen (six tackles) and freshman Freddie Parish IV (three tackles) head up the reserve secondary unit. Parish has appeared in five contests, mainly in nickel and dime situations, while Bolen had a career-high four tackles at Boston College.

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. However, Setta has been sidelined the past three games with an injury.

Junior walk-on offensive lineman Casey Dunn (46 special teams appearances) and sophomore Scott Raridon (25 special teams appearances) are splitting time as the Irish snappers, taking over for the departed John Crowther. Meanwhile, junior reserve kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick (4-6 FG, 4-4 PAT, 35.2-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 the last three games, and the Mishawaka, Ind., native didn’t waver, kicking a pair of field goals (19 and 34 yards) and adding a PAT at Pittsburgh, all of which proved to be critical in the six-point Irish win. He then converted both of his field goal attempts (27 and 38 yards) and only PAT try at Boston College.

Seniors Vontez Duff and Julius Jones make up a formidable kick return crew for Notre Dame. Duff is ranked 23rd in the nation in punt return yardage (12.07). He rang up 50 yards on two kickoff runbacks at Boston College, pushing him into fourth place on Notre Dame’s career kickoff return yardage list (now with 1,100). In addition, he has 103 career total kick returns (punts and kickoffs) and 1,725 career total kick return yards, both of which are good for third place in the Irish record books. Meanwhile, Jones leads the Irish in all-purpose yards (112.6 ypg.) this season and ranks as the school’s all-time leader in four career return categories. With one kickoff return for 18 yards at Boston College, he supplanted 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown as Notre Dame’s career leader for total kick return yardage (2,104 and counting). Earlier this season, he passed Brown to become the Irish all-time leader in kickoff returns (72), total kick returns (110) and kickoff returns yardage (1,678).

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 the Oct. 18 game vs. USC, making it the fourth-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, Saturday’s 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, the Irish have posted 171 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 219 in their last 220 home games.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 157 of its previous 180 games, including its last 21 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).

With Saturday’s Florida State 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 132 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 11 years 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. Here?s a breakdown of the networks on which the Irish have played during this impressive streak:

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 (8-9 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.

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. This year’s schedule currently is ranked as the third-toughest in the nation by the NCAA (as of Oct. 26).

Once again, Notre Dame is facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play seven of their first eight games against teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 3/3 USC, No. 5/5 Florida State, No. 6/6 Washington State, No. 9/10 Michigan State, No. 11/12 Michigan, No. 18/17 Purdue and No. 25/23 Pittsburgh). In addition, one other Notre Dame opponents < boston=”” college=””>< is=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” the=”” coaches’=”” poll.=”” 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.=””>

According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Oct. 26), Notre Dame has the third-toughest schedule in the nation. Here’s a look at the teams with the 10 toughest schedules in the land to date. In addition, the most recent USA Today/Sagarin ratings have ranked the Irish schedule as the toughest in the nation. Furthermore, the latest data compiled by Pythagoras Sports shows that Notre Dame has the nation’s most demanding schedule, based both on quality of opposition (all seven of the Irish opponents to date have winning records, the highest percentage in the nation) and Division I-A wins per opponent (Notre Dame’s first seven foes have averaged 6.29 wins vs. I-A opposition, leading the nation in that category as well).

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)
USC: DT Darrell Campbell (4), RB Julius Jones (1), OT Jim Molinaro (4), LB Courtney Watson (6)
Boston College: LB Derek Curry (1), CB Vontez Duff (5), WR Omar Jenkins (3), TE Billy Palmer (2)

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.

As part of its 2003 college football preview, 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.”

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.

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 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.

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 (

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

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. 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.

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.

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,=”” 5,=”” 6,=”” 7=”” and=”” 8=”” 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.=””>

The rich history of Irish football is the focus of four books that currently are on sale to the general public nationwide, including at Notre Dame’s Hammes Bookstore. 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.

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 was written by former Irish quarterback and 2003 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Theismann.

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. It was written by longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter and columnist Fred Mitchell and is packed with dozens of full-color photos.

The most recent book on Irish football to hit store shelves in “Connor: The Life Story of George Connor,” written by Jack Connor, the older brother of the legendary Notre Dame All-America tackle. The 272-page work details George Connor’s struggles growing up on the south side of Chicago, through his athletic development at De La Salle Institute and Holy Cross College, his maturation into one of the greatest players in Irish football history, and his Hall of Fame status as the last and best of the two-way players for George Halas’ Chicago Bears.