Nov. 25, 2002
The following is a partial excerpt from the Notre Dame football release. To view the complete release, please see the PDF version.
(#7 AP/#7 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-1) vs. (#6 AP/#6 ESPN/USA Today) USC Trojans (9-2)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Nov. 30, 2002, at 5:00 p.m. PST (8:00 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Memorial Coliseum (92,000/Natural Grass) in Los Angeles, Calif.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 149th sellout in the last 172 games 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 and the first 12 in ’02.
The TV Plans: ABC Sports telecast with Keith Jackson (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (analysis), Todd Harris (sideline)and Mark Loomis (producer).The game will be a split national telecast, with the Florida-Florida State game scheduled for the same time slot.
The Radio Plans: For the 35th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on nearly 200 stations nationwide by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games are heard on WNDV-AM (1490) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams.
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 websites.
HEAD COACH TYRONE WILLINGHAM
A veteran with 25 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is in his first season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, owning a 10-1 (.909) record with the Irish and a 54-37-1 (.592) mark overall. His 10 wins in 2002 are the most in Notre Dame history for a first-year Irish head coach, and he was the only the third Irish coach to start his debut season with eight consecutive victories (first since Ara Parseghian in 1964). Willingham also has guided Notre Dame to wins over four ranked opponents (No. 7 Michigan, No. 11 Florida State, No. 18 Air Force and No. 21 Maryland) this season, making him the first Irish head coach to win his first four games against ranked opponents (Frank Leahy went 3-0-1 against his first four ranked foes in 1941 and ’42).
Willingham was introduced as the new Irish head coach on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford University. 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. Most recently in 2001, he piloted the Cardinal to a 9-3 record, a berth in the Seattle Bowl, and final regular-season rankings of ninth in the Bowl Championship Series poll and 11th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. 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 two 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 at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).
The Injury Update (as of Nov. 24)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom – Arm injury, out indefinitely
Senior NG Cedric Hilliard – Knee sprain, week-to-week (DNP vs. BC, Navy, Rutgers)
Senior SS Gerome Sapp – Knee injury, week-to-week (DNP vs. Navy, Rutgers)
IRISH TRAVEL PLANS
While in Los Angeles, Notre Dame will be headquartered at The Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa, 1401 South Oak Knoll Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106, (626) 568-3900. The Irish are scheduled to depart by chartered Delta aircraft Thursday evening following Thanksgiving dinner on campus. Notre Dame will return to South Bend Sunday afternoon.
NOTRE DAME-USC SERIES HISTORY
- Notre Dame holds a 42-26-5 series edge, but the series is tied 17-17-4 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Irish do hold a 23-9-1 advantage in games played at Notre Dame Stadium.
- The teams will meet for the 57th straight season (the only gap in the series came during World War II, from 1943-45) and the 74th time in the last 77 years.
- 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 Memorial Coliseum, with the first game played at Notre Dame Stadium in 1931.
- Both teams come into Saturday’s game ranked for the first time since 1995 when Notre Dame was 17th and USC fifth (Notre Dame won 38-10). With USC ranked sixth and Notre Dame seventh, it marks the first time that both team appear in the top 10 since 1989 when Notre Dame was No. 1 and USC was ninth. Notre Dame won that game 28-24. In 1988, Notre Dame came into the game No. 1 and USC No. 2 with the Irish prevailing 27-10.
- Notre Dame?s 42 wins over USC are the most by a Trojan opponent (14 more than California?s second-most 28). The Trojans? 26 wins over the Irish are the most by a Notre Dame opponent (three more than Purdue and Michigan State?s second-most 23).
- USC is tied with Purdue as the second-most common opponent in Irish football history, as Notre Dame will play both for the 74th time this season. The Notre Dame-Navy series remains the longest in school history, with the 76th game played earlier this 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 also has a three-game winning streak coming into this year’s game and has won 15 of the last 19 games (15-3-1) between the two schools.
- Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham has had recent success with the Trojans as well. Overall, Willingham has a 4-3 career mark vs. USC (all seven games as head coach at Stanford), but won the last three matchups between the two schools.
- Since 1965, the ND-USC game has been nationally televised on 29 occasions (including the 2002 game).
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- Notre Dame will record its first 11-win season since 1993, when the Irish finished 11-1, and only the sixth 11-win season in school history.
- The Irish will win 11 regular-season games for only the third time in school history, having previously turned the trick in 1988 (12-0, national champions) and 1989 (12-1, Orange Bowl champions).
- Notre Dame will win its fifth game against a ranked opponent in 2002, tying the record for the most regular-season wins over ranked foes in school history, and the most in the nation.The Irish have also defeated #18 Maryland, #12 Michigan, #17 Pittsburgh and #24 Florida State this season.
- Notre Dame will win its fourth consecutive game against USC, the longest winning streak for the Irish against the Trojans since a series-long 11-game success run from 1983-93.
- Notre Dame will improve to 9-3 in the regular season against Pacific-10 Conference teams over the last five years.
IF USC WINS …
- The Trojans will pick up their first win over Notre Dame since a 10-0 upset of the ninth-ranked Irish on Nov. 28, 1998 in Los Angeles.
- It will be the Trojans first 10-win season since 1988 when they were 10-2.
- USC will record its first win over a top-seven opponent since a 41-32 victory over #3 Northwestern in the 1996 Rose Bowl. It also will be the Trojans’ first regular-season win over a top-seven foe since a 21-10 triumph over #5 Penn State on Sept. 14, 1991.
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=”” 0=”” game.=””>
NOTRE DAME-USC CONNECTIONS
- 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 wide receivers coach there.
- Seven Irish players hail from the state of California: freshman OG/OT James Bonelli (Camarillo/St. Bonaventure), sophomore QB Pat Dillingham (Portola Valley/St. Francis HS), freshman DE Chris Frome (Saugus/Newhart Hall), NG Derek Landri (Concord/De La Salle), freshman WR Rhema McKnight (LaPalma/Kennedy), senior FB Mike McNair (Irvine/Mater Dei HS) and senior CB Shane Walton (San Diego/Bishop?s School).
- Several Notre Dame and USC players hail from the same hometown or attended the same high school:
- McNair played at Mater Dei High School, as did four USC players: freshman C/OG Chris Doyle (Newport Beach), redshirt sophomore S Matt Grootegoed (Huntington Beach), redshirt freshman QB Matt Leinart (Santa Ana) and redshirt junior C Lenny Vandermade (Santa Ana).
- Dillingham, USC redshirt sophomore CB Matt Lemos (Redwood City), USC senior WR Grant Mattos (Mountain View) and Trojan redshirt sophomore WR Forrest Mozart (Los Altos Hills) all attended St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif.
- Bonelli and USC sophomore LB Bobby Otani (Oxnard) both went to St. Bonaventure HS.
- Irish senior TE Gary Godsey (Jesuit), junior CB Preston Jackson (Tampa Hillsborough), sophomore cornerback Dwight Ellick (Wharton) and Trojan freshman WR Mike Williams (Plant) are all from Tampa, Fla.
- Eleventh-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.
NOTRE DAME VS. PACIFIC-10 TEAMS
- Notre Dame has won 66 percent of its games versus Pacific-10 Conference opponents, with a winning series record versus each of the Pac-10 teams that the Irish have played and an overall mark of 68-34-6 (.663) in 108 games against Pac-10 schools < including=”” the=”” 1998,=”” 2000=”” and=”” 2002=”” wins=”” over=”” stanford,=”” the=”” 8=”” and=”” 9=”” wins=”” over=”” arizona=”” state=”” and=”” the=”” 9,=”” 0=”” and=”” ’01=”” wins=”” over=”” usc.=”” nearly=”” 70=”” percent=”” of=”” those=”” games=”” (74)=”” have=”” come=”” versus=”” usc=”” (42-26-5)=”” while=”” another=”” 15=”” 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 has never played Washington State on the gridiron, although they are scheduled to meet on Sept. 6, 2003.
- 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 13-7-1 (.639) in its last 21 games vs. Pacific-10 schools (4-3-1 vs. USC, 5-3 vs. Stanford, 2-0 vs. Washington, 2-0 vs. Arizona State, 0-1 vs. Oregon State), starting with a ?92 victory over USC.
With a victory over Rutgers on Nov. 23, Notre Dame posted 10 wins in a season for the 14th time in school history and the first time since 1993. Among Irish head coaches, Lou Holtz recorded five 10-win campaigns (1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993), while Knute Rockne had three 10-win seasons (1921, 1924, 1930), as did Ara Parseghian (1970, 1973, 1974). The other Notre Dame coaches to notch 10 wins in a season were Frank Leahy (1949) and Dan Devine (1977).
The 10 wins also marked the first time Tyrone Willingham has achieved that milestone in his career. His previous season high for wins was nine, set last season at Stanford.
With a victory against USC, the Irish will win 11 games for only the sixth time in school history. Notre Dame won at least 11 games in 1973 (11-0-0), 1977 (11-1-0), 1988 (12-0-0), 1989 (12-1-0) and 1993 (11-1), with the Irish winning the national championship in 1977 and 1988.
For the first time in school history, Notre Dame defeated ranked opponents at their home stadiums in consecutive weeks, winning at No. 18 Air Force and No. 11 Florida State in late October. The Irish also defeated No. 21 Maryland (22-0) and No. 7 Michigan (25-23), with the Maryland win coming in Kickoff Classic XX at a neutral site (Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.). This season marks the first time Notre Dame has knocked off four ranked opponents in the same season since 1992, when the Irish ousted No. 9 Boston College (54-7), No. 22 Penn State (17-16), No. 19 USC (31-23) and No. 4 Texas A&M (28-3) in the last four games of that year, with the final win coming in the Cotton Bowl. The school record for wins over ranked opponents in one season is six, set by the 1989 team which capped that year with a 21-6 win over No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. The record for wins over ranked opponents in regular-season games is five, shared by the 1943, 1953, 1989 and 1990 squads.
With its four wins over ranked teams, Notre Dame has beaten more teams currently ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll than any other team in the country except No. 1 Miami, which also has four wins over ranked opponents. Ohio State and Oklahoma have three wins over opponents that appear in this week’s AP poll.
With its current No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has spent nine consecutive weeks in the AP top 10. That’s the longest run in the top 10 for the Irish since a 16-week stretch from Sept. 12, 1993 to Oct. 9, 1994.
WATSON NAMED BUTKUS AWARD FINALIST
Senior ILB Courtney Watson has been named one of three finalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. He is the first Notre Dame linebacker to make the final cut for the Butkus Award since Michael Stonebreaker placed third in both 1988 and 1990.
Watson, a native of Sarasota, Fla., leads Notre Dame with 83 tackles this season, despite missing the first two games of the year due to illness. He also has nine tackles for loss, three sacks and three interceptions, including one he returned 34 yards for his second career touchdown on Oct. 5 against Stanford. Watson joins Maryland’s E.J. Henderson and Oklahoma’s Teddy Lehman as finalists for this year’s Butkus Award. The winner will be announced Dec. 13 at the Butkus Award Gala in Orlando.
SHANE WALTON NAMED FINALIST FOR BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY
Senior CB Shane Walton has been selected as one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Walton joins Maryland LB E.J. Henderson, Kansas State DB Terrence Newman, Georgia DE David Pollack and Arizona State DE Terrell Suggs as finalists for the award with the winner announced on Dec. 9 in Charlotte, N.C. All the players are first-time finalists for the FWAA Defensive Player of the Year Award, which is in its 10th year of existence.
Walton, who is the first Notre Dame player to be a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, leads a potent Irish defense which is ranked fifth in the country in total defense and third in scoring defense allowing only 13.18 points a game. Walton On the season, Walton is fifth on the team in tackles with 56, including 36 solos. He has a team-high seven interceptions, four tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble. His seven picks rank him fifth in the nation (0.64 per game) and are the most interceptions by a Notre Dame player since Todd Lyght recorded eight during the 1989 season. The fifth-year player recorded three of his interceptions against Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, setting a new Kickoff Classic record and tying the Notre Dame record for interceptions in a game.
Walton was not on the preseason Nagurski Trophy Watch List, but was a late addition after being named the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for the weekend of Sept. 14, following his outstanding performance in Notre Dame’s win over No. 7 Michigan. In that game, he knocked down a critical two-point conversion in the final minutes of the game to preserve Notre Dame’s 25-23 lead and then clinched the victory by intercepting a pass with under a minute to go in the contest.
The Nagurski Trophy finalists were selected by the FWAA All-America Committee, which is balanced across the country. Walton and Suggs are the only two finalists that have won Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors this season.
NOTRE DAME OFF AND RUNNING
For only the fifth time in the last 30 years, and the 19th time in school history, Notre Dame opened with eight consecutive victories. The last time that happened was 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games before dropping a last-second 41-39 decision to Boston College. Notre Dame rebounded to defeat Texas A&M, 24-21, in the Cotton Bowl. The 18 previous 8-0 starts in school history led to 11 undefeated seasons, nine national championships and six bowl berths (6-0 record).
Among all-time Irish head coaches, Knute Rockne posted six 8-0 starts in his career, followed by Frank Leahy (four), Ara Parseghian (four), and Lou Holtz (three). Elmer Layden and Tyrone Willingham both have one 8-0 start to their credit.
WILLINGHAM OFF TO A GOOD START
Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham has seen his tenure with the Irish open in strong fashion. In the season opener, Willingham guided the Irish to a 22-0 win over No. 21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. That shutout was the first by a rookie Notre Dame head coach in his first game since 1954, when Terry Brennan piloted the second-ranked Irish to a 21-0 win over No. 4 Texas.
Willingham followed that up with nine more wins, including victories over No. 7 Michigan, No. 11 Florida State and No. 18 Air Force, and he became the first Irish head coach to win his first eight games at Notre Dame since Ara Parseghian went 9-0 to open the 1964 season. In addition, Willingham is the first coach in school history to win his first four games against ranked opponents — in 1941, Frank Leahy posted a 0-0 tie vs. No. 14 Army and earned wins over sixth-ranked Navy (20-13) and eighth-ranked Northwestern (7-6), followed by a 21-14 win at No. 5 Illinois in 1942.
With a 42-0 win over Rutgers on Nov. 23, Willingham broke Brennan’s (1954) and Parseghian’s (1964) record for the most wins by a first-year Notre Dame head coach with 10 wins.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
The Irish defense has been one of the driving forces behind Notre Dame’s 10-1 record this season. The Irish rank in the top 10 in the nation in several major defensive categories — pass efficiency defense (second, 85.92), scoring defense (third, 13.18 points/game), total defense (fifth, 270.64 yards/game) and rushing defense (ninth, 90.45 yards/game).
Here are some other points of interest on the Notre Dame defense:
- The Irish have scored eight non-offensive (defense/special teams) touchdowns this season by five different players < ss=””>Gerome Sapp (fumble return), CB Lionel Bolen (special teams – fumble return) and CB Vontez Duff (interception return) scored against Purdue, while CB Shane Walton (interception return) and ILB Courtney Watson (interception return) scored against Stanford, and Duff added a punt return vs. Maryland and a kickoff return vs. Navy. Walton carded another interception return for a touchdown vs. Rutgers, establishing the school record for interception returns for TDs in one season at five, and breaking the old record set by the 1966 club en route to the national championship.
- Notre Dame’s defensive acumen started with a stellar effort against Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, as the Irish held the defending ACC champion Terrapins to no points, eight first downs, 16 yards rushing and 133 yards of total offense. Maryland’s offensive production was the lowest by an Irish opponent since Rutgers had six first downs, minus-6 yards rushing and 43 yards of total offense on Nov. 23, 1996. Notre Dame also had a field day with Rutgers in 2002 as the Irish held the Scarlet Knights to 14 yards rushing and 176 yards of total offense.
- Notre Dame shut out its opponents over the first five quarters of the 2002 season, its longest scoreless string on defense since Oct. 2-16, 1993, when it blanked Stanford (fourth quarter), Pittsburgh (all four quarters) and BYU (first quarter).
- Notre Dame recorded its second shutout of the season with a 42-0 whitewashing of Rutgers, marking the first time the Irish have posted two shutouts in one season since 1996, when the Irish shut out Purdue (35-0) and Rutgers (62-0).
- Notre Dame’s pass rush against Pittsburgh was its best in nearly six years, registering eight sacks against the Panthers. That was the most by the Irish since they collected nine sacks in a 62-0 win over Rutgers on Nov. 23, 1996.
- Through 11 contests (76 possessions), the Irish defense has allowed just four offensive touchdowns in the first half (by Stanford, Florida State, Boston College and Navy) — the only other opponent TDs in the first half this season came via a punt return (Purdue), two interception returns (Michigan and BC) and a fumble return (Air Force).
- Notre Dame’s defense has been toughest during the middle portion of the game. The Irish have outscored their opponents, 166-65, during the second and third quarters of the first 11 games this season. Notre Dame scored 28 points in the third quarter vs. Rutgers, the most points an Irish team have ever scored in the third quarter.
SPINNING THEIR WHEELS
Notre Dame’s opponents have found the going extremely difficult this year when it comes to running the football. The Irish defense currently ranks ninth in the nation in rushing defense (90.45 yards per game), despite having faced seven opponents that were ranked in the top 50 in the nation in rushing offense when they played Notre Dame. In fact, only four of Notre Dame’s 11 opponents have managed to rush for more than 100 yards this season, and only one adversary (Navy) has broken the 150-yard mark. Furthermore, no Irish opponent has come close to matching its season rushing average and only four (Purdue, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Navy) have managed to register even half of their seasonal rushing averages against Notre Dame. The chart below shows each opponent’s season rushing average at the time it played Notre Dame, as well as its NCAA statistical ranking entering the game.
Notre Dame has posted to a 10-1 record this season, thanks in part to its ability to take care of the ball. The Irish own a +8 turnover margin (+0.73/game), which is good for 27th in the nation in 2002. All together, Notre Dame has recorded 30 takeaways, while giving the ball away 22 times (five in the loss to Boston College). Those 30 takeaways have led to 102 Irish points (9.3 ppg.), including six turnovers which were turned directly into scores by the defense and special teams. In an interesting twist, five of those touchdowns were scored by Notre Dame’s defensive backs, with three coming against Purdue — SS Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return, CB Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return on the ensuing kickoff after Sapp’s score, and CB Vontez Duff’s game-winning 33-yard interception return. The other defensive scores were by CB Shane Walton, who brought an interception back 18 yards for a TD against Stanford and then matched that feat with a 45-yard INT return against Rutgers, and ILB Courtney Watson had a 34-yard interception return for a score.
Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s success this season has been its penchant for pulling out close victories. In fact, the Irish have gone 6-1 this season in games decided by eight points or less, defeating Purdue (24-17), No. 7 Michigan (25-23), Michigan State (21-17), Pittsburgh (14-6), No. 18 Air Force (21-14) and Navy (30-23), while losing to Boston College (14-7). Six of those games (all but Air Force) went down to the final seconds, with the Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Navy contests in doubt until the Irish came up with critical interceptions.
- This year’s squad has tied the Notre Dame record for wins by eight points or less in a season, previously set in 1939 when that club had a 6-2 record in games decided by eight or less. The 1937 team was 5-1-1 in games decided by eight or less, while 1974 squad posted a 5-0 record in eight-point games. The 1929 (4-0), 1940 (4-1), 1984 (4-3), 1990 (4-3), 1997 (4-2) and 1998 (4-1) teams all had four wins by eight or less over the course of the season.
- The three-game stretch earlier this season (Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State) marked just the fifth time Notre Dame won three consecutive games by eight points or less. The others are the last three games of the 1941 season (Nov. 8-22), the first five games of 1939 (Sept. 30-Oct. 28), the second, third and fourth games of the 1938 season (Oct. 8-22), and the last three games of 1937 (Nov. 13-27).
- As for winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less, the 1974 team went 5-0, while the 1929 unit was 4-0. The 1926, 1928, 1954 and 1989 teams all finished 3-0 in eight-point games.
- One item of note on the greatness of Knute Rockne: He was 21-4-5 (.783) in games decided by eight points or less over his Notre Dame career, including 16-0-2 (.944) over his last seven years.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART I
Notre Dame quickly turned fortunes in its favor against Purdue with a pair of touchdowns just 11 seconds apart in the second quarter. Senior SS Gerome Sapp returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD with 13:47 left in the period. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Boilermakers fumbled and sophomore CB Lionel Bolen returned the loose ball four yards for his first career score at the 13:36 mark. It represented the quickest two-touchdown burst in school history, one second faster than the previous mark. The Irish had scored two TDs in 12 seconds against Vanderbilt in 1995 — Autry Denson had a five-yard touchdown run at 6:39 of the second quarter, and Jarvis Edison had an eight-yard fumble return for a TD on the next kickoff at the 6:27 mark of the second period.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART II
For the second time this season, Notre Dame scored two touchdowns less than 30 seconds apart, turning the trick in only 24 seconds against Stanford. Sophomore TB Rashon Powers-Neal found the end zone first, bulling over from three yards out for his first career score with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Four plays after that score, senior CB Shane Walton returned a Cardinal interception 18 yards for another touchdown at the 3:58 mark. Both scores were part of a staggering 28-point outburst by the Irish over a stretch of 6:54 between the third and fourth quarters, turning what had been a 7-3 Stanford lead into a 31-7 Notre Dame victory.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART III
Tied at 10-10 midway through the third quarter at No. 11 Florida State, the Irish defense sparked a 17-point uprising in a span of just 2:21 to put the game on ice. Senior ILB Courtney Watson started the blitz, intercepting a Chris Rix pass to set up a 35-yard field goal by senior PK Nicholas Setta. Two plays after the kickoff, Rix fumbled and junior LCB Vontez Duff recovered at the FSU two-yard line. Sophomore TB Ryan Grant scored on the next play, just 1:17 after the Setta field goal. Then, on the following kickoff, Leon Washington fumbled and sophomore ILB Brandon Hoyte recovered at the Seminoles’ 17-yard line. Three plays later, junior QB Carlyle Holiday flipped a 16-yard TD pass to junior WR Omar Jenkins, only 1:04 after the Grant score.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART IV
With the Irish leading 14-0 at halftime vs. Rutgers, Notre Dame came out smoking in the third quarter scoring three touchdowns in only five plays. Junior QB Carlyle Holiday completed a 65-yard TD pass to senior WR Arnaz Battle on the second play from scrimmage in the second half. Notre Dame got the ball back after Rutgers went three-and-out. On the next play, Holiday found junior WR Omar Jenkins in the end zone for a 37-yard TD pass. Rutgers ran four plays before relinquishing the ball back to the Irish. Sophomore TB Ryan Grant then rushed for a 28-yard TD giving the Irish a 35-0 lead. All told, Notre Dame’s three touchdowns occured in just 100 seconds.
The Irish offense has started to click the past two weeks as Notre Dame put a season-high 42 points on the board versus Rutgers, after posting 30 against Navy. Notre Dame has had 30 or more points in three of its last four games. Notre Dame also had a season-high with 478 yards of total offense vs. Rutgers. It was the most yardage the Irish had since piling up 481 yards against the Scarlet Knights in 2000.
Junior QB Carlyle Holiday also has taken off the past two games, as he has thrown for 542 yards the last two games, including a career-high 272 yards vs. Navy. Holiday also has five touchdown passes in his last two games, including tying a Notre Dame record with four against Rutgers.
Holiday also has not let interceptions hurt him, as he has a current string of 118 pass attempts without throwing an interception. Holiday is only one pass attempt away from tying Steve Beuerlein’s Notre Dame record of 119 consective passes without an INT, set in 1985.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Notre Dame quarterbacks have done a solid job of distributing the ball to several different receivers in 2002. In fact, 15 different players have caught at least one pass this season, the most since 1996, when the Irish had 16 players catch passes. What’s more, the Irish have seen at least five players catch a pass in eight games this year, including a season-high eight different receivers against Maryland, Stanford and Rutgers and seven different pass-catchers against Boston College.
Thanks to its new offensive scheme, Notre Dame has seen its receivers have success far beyond anything they had amassed in their careers to date. In fact, senior Arnaz Battle and junior Omar Jenkins are the first irish receiver duo to surpass 500 yards in the same season since 1997 when Malcolm Johnson (42-596) and Bobby Brown (45-543) did it.
READY FOR BATTLE
Senior WR Arnaz Battle has emerged as Notre Dame’s top receiving weapon this season. The converted quarterback leads the Irish with 46 catches for 696 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and five touchdowns this season. His reception total is the highest by an Irish receiver since Derrick Mayes had 48 catches in 1995. Battle currently sits in eighth place on the Irish single-season list with 46 catches.
Battle’s best performances came this season against Pittsburgh, No. 18 Air Force and Rutgers. In the first contest, he caught a career-high 10 passes for 101 yards and a TD. His 10 receptions were the most by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown pulled in 12 passes at Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, 1999. Then, Battle topped the 100-yard mark again a week later, registering eight catches for a career-best 112 yards in the victory over Air Force. Battle’s 18 catches in back-to-back games vs. Pittsburgh and Air Force were the most by an Irish pass catcher since Tom Gatewood hauled in 21 passes in consecutive wins over Purdue and Michigan on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 1970. Battle then pulled in three passes for 108 yards and a career-best two touchdowns against Rutgers, making him the first Irish wideout to catch two TD passes in a game since Joey Getherall did the same vs. Air Force in 2000.
THE GOOD HANDS TEAM
Senior WR Arnaz Battle and junior WR Omar Jenkins have evolved into a formidable receiving tandem for Notre Dame this season. Battle leads the Irish with 46 catches for 696 yards and three touchdowns, while Jenkins is second on the squad with 31 catches for 558 yards, including a career-high 166-yard outing against Navy, the best day by an Irish wideout in more than 12 years (173 yards by Raghib Ismail vs. Navy, 1990).
Together, Battle and Jenkins have given Notre Dame a pair of 500-yard receivers for the first time since 1997. That season, Malcolm Johnson caught 42 passes for 596 yards, while Bobby Brown logged 45 catches for 543 yards. The 1997 campaign also represents the last time the Irish had two players catch 40 passes in a season — Jenkins currently is nine receptions away from that mark.
Among the pass-catching options on the Notre Dame roster this season are three former Irish quarterbacks who elected to change positions. Senior WR Arnaz Battle was Notre Dame’s starting signal-caller in 2000, but a broken wrist in the second game of the season against No. 1 Nebraska sidelined him and led to his eventual move to wideout in time for the 2001 season. This year, Battle leads the team with 46 receptions for 696 yards and three touchdowns, after he logged five receptions for 40 yards in ’01. Battle’s best three games as a receiver came against Pittsburgh, Air Force and Rutgers, when he caught a career-high 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers, collected eight receptions for a career-best 112 yards against the Falcons and had three catches for 108 yards and two TDs vs. Rutgers.
Battle’s 10 catches against Pittsburgh were the most by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown had 12 in a 1999 win at Pittsburgh. Also, the 18 catches in consecutive games were the most by an Irish receiver since Tom Gatewood caught 21 passes (12 vs. Purdue, nine vs. Michigan State) in back-to-back contests on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 1970. For the season, Battle’s 46 catches are the most by an Irish receiver since Derrick Mayes had 48 receptions in 1995.
With Battle’s injury in ’00, up stepped senior TE Gary Godsey, who was Battle’s quarterback understudy to begin that season. Godsey promptly engineered Notre Dame’s last-second 23-21 win over Purdue on Sept. 16, 2000. However, Godsey had played tight end in high school, and his size made his return to the position a natural one. He is third on the squad with 15 catches for 150 yards this year, including a career-best four receptions vs. Purdue.
The third former Irish quarterback now in the receiving corps is junior TE Jared Clark. The Sarasota, Fla., native is the latest Notre Dame QB to switch positions, electing to do so during spring practice in 2002. He has made three catches for 63 yards this season, including a career-long 37-yard reception at No. 11 Florida State.
Defensive Back Shane Walton is one of seven Irish players who hail from the state of California.
IRISH ENJOYING THEIR HOLIDAY
Despite adjusting to a new offensive scheme during the offseason, junior QB Carlyle Holiday has put up some solid numbers during the 2002 season. He has completed 52.3 percent of his passes (116-of-222) for 1,696 yards and 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions, good for a 129.49 pass efficiency rating. In fact, he needs six completions to tie Tom Clements (122 in 1974) for 10th place on the Irish single-season list. And, Holiday is 150 yards away from tracking down Ron Powlus (1,853 in 1995) for 10th place on that single-season chart. Holiday also broke a school record in the win over Navy, averaging 12.95 yards per pass attempt to top the previous mark of 12.8 yards per attempt by George Izo vs. Pittsburgh in 1958.
Holiday might have had his best day as a passer when he tied a Notre Dame record with four touchdown passes versus Rutgers. Holiday, whose previous personal best was two TDs against Boston College (2001) and Florida State (2002), became the eighth player in Irish history to throw four TD passes in a game and the first since Jarious Jackson did it against Arizona State on Oct. 9, 1999.
Also, Holiday has thrown 118 consecutive passes without an interception and is only one pass away from tying former Irish quarterback Steve Beuerlein’s record of 119 set during the 1986 season.
LAND GRANT OFFENSE
Sophomore TB Ryan Grant has given Notre Dame added balance on offense through his dynamic rushing abilities. After getting his first taste of collegiate action late last season, the Nyack, N.Y., native has been a major force for the Irish this season, ranking 49th in the nation in rushing at 91.0 yards per game.
Grant has posted four 100-yard games this season, and has three other games with at least 90 yards rushing. His best outing came at No. 18 Air Force, when he established new career highs with 30 carries for 190 yards and one touchdown. It was the 12th-highest single-game output in school history, and the most since Tony Fisher rolled up 196 yards on the ground on Nov. 11, 2000, against Boston College. Grant’s 30 carries also were the most by an Irish back since Autry Denson toted the pigskin 31 times in a 1998 win over Purdue.
In addition, Grant has had a nose for the end zone in 2002. He scored on a 28-yard run vs. Rutgers, and now has a team-high nine touchdowns this season, the most since Denson scored 15 times in 1998. Grant’s two scores at FSU also capped a string of six consecutive games in which the Irish tailback had found the end zone. The last Notre Dame player to collect TDs in six straight games in the same season was Denson, who scored in each of the first 10 games of 1998.
GRANT BREAKS 1,000-YARD BARRIER
Sophomore TB Ryan Grant joined a long line of stellar running backs in Notre Dame lore with his 68-yard effort vs. Rutgers. He now has rushed 230 times for 1,001 yards this season, becoming only the seventh player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season, and the first since Autry Denson in 1998 (1,176 yards). Denson and Allen Pinkett are the only Irish runners to crack the 1,000-yard mark three times in their careers — Pinkett did it from 1983-85, while Denson turned the trick from 1996-98. The other Notre Dame 1,000-yard rushers are Al Hunter (1976), Vagas Ferguson (1978-79), Reggie Brooks (1992) and Lee Becton (1993). Ferguson holds the single-season school record with 1,437 yards in 1979.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS FOR DUFF
With his game-winning 33-yard interception return against Purdue, junior Vontez Duff joined an elite group, becoming just the fourth player in school history to return an interception, punt and kickoff for a touchdown in his career, and the first to do all three in consecutive games. In the season opener, Duff returned a Maryland punt 76 yards for a score. That came on the heels of his final game in 2001, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win. For good measure, Duff added a 92-yard kickoff return for a score this year vs. Navy, becoming the first player in school history to have an intercepton, punt and kickoff return for a touchdown in the same season.
Here’s a list of the other players to turn this unique triple play in their careers:
- Allen Rossum (1994-97) < three=”” kickoff=”” returns=”” for=”” td=”” (1996=”” vs.=”” purdue,=”” 1997=”” at=”” pittsburgh=”” and=”” vs.=”” boston=”” college);=”” three=”” interception=”” returns=”” for=”” td=”” (1995=”” vs.=”” texas=”” and=”” at=”” washington,=”” 1997=”” at=”” hawaii);=”” three=”” punt=”” returns=”” for=”” td=”” (1996=”” vs.=”” air=”” force=”” and=”” pittsburgh=”” (two));=”” also=”” had=”” one=”” blocked=”” pat=”” return=”” (1995=”” vs.=”” texas).=””>
- John Lattner (1951-53) < two=”” kickoff=”” returns=”” for=”” td=”” (1953=”” at=”” purdue=”” and=”” pennsylvania);=”” one=”” punt=”” return=”” for=”” td=”” (1952=”” at=”” iowa);=”” one=”” interception=”” return=”” for=”” td=”” (1951=”” vs.=”” detroit);=”” won=”” heisman=”” trophy=”” in=”” 1953.=””>
- John Petitbon (1949-51) < one=”” kickoff=”” return=”” for=”” td=”” (1951=”” vs.=”” detroit);=”” one=”” punt=”” return=”” for=”” td=”” (1951=”” vs.=”” detroit);=”” one=”” interception=”” return=”” for=”” td=”” (1949=”” vs.=”” usc).=”” note:=”” heartley=”” (hunk)=”” anderson=”” (1918-21)=”” returned=”” an=”” interception=”” for=”” a=”” td=”” at=”” purdue=”” in=”” 1919,=”” and=”” returned=”” a=”” fumble=”” and=”” a=”” blocked=”” punt=”” for=”” a=”” td=”” at=”” purdue=”” in=”” 1921.=””>
DUFF HAS BEEN THE STUFF FOR NOTRE DAME
Junior Vontez Duff has proven to be a multi-dimensional talent for Notre Dame. A preseason honorable mention All-America pick at cornerback by Street & Smith’s, Duff lived up to that billing against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown. His efforts have helped the Irish defense rank among the top 10 in the nation in several major statistical categories.
However, the Copperas Cove, Texas, native is not only a defensive threat. He also is a weapon on special teams as a kick returner. He proved that in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, returning a Terrapin punt 76 yards for a score. That followed up his effort in the 2001 season finale, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win. Duff nearly added a second punt return for a touchdown this season, but his 92-yard scamper against Stanford was wiped out by a penalty. Still, Duff’s touchdowns in three consecutive games also earned him a place in Notre Dame history. No defensive player had ever recorded touchdowns, whether on defense or special teams, in three straight games prior to Duff’s hat trick.
The junior kick returner, who ranks fourth in the nation in kickoff return yardage at 29.2 per return, carved another spot for himself in the Irish record books following his 92-yard kickoff return for a TD vs. Navy. Duff became the first player in school history to score touchdowns via an interception, punt and kickoff return in the same season.
WALTON LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
Senior CB Shane Walton rapidly has developed into one of the top defensive backs in the country as he is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and is a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award. He ranks fifth in the nation in interceptions (0.64 per game; seven total), including a school-record-tying three interceptions in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland at Kickoff Classic XX. Walton was the first Irish player since Dave Duerson vs. Navy in 1982 to have three interceptions in a single game, and his three picks tied a Kickoff Classic record. Walton’s seven interceptions this year are the most by an Irish player since Todd Lyght had eight thefts in 1989. Mike Townsend holds the school record for interceptions in a season with 10 in 1972. Walton also has tied the school record with two interception returns for touchdowns (vs. Stanford and Rutgers), a mark most recently achieved by Allen Rossum in 1995. In addition, Walton is 26th in the nation in passes defended (1.44 per game; 13 total).
All told, Walton has had a hand in 10 of Notre Dame’s 30 takeaways this season, adding a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a pass deflection for an interception to his seven interceptions. The San Diego, Calif., native also ranks fifth on the team with 56 tackles, including a career-high nine stops at No. 11 Florida State. Walton also played a key role in defeating No. 7 Michigan, knocking down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass with 2:53 left, and intercepting UM quarterback John Navarre to stop the Wolverines’ final drive with 21 seconds to play. Walton’s efforts against Michigan earned him the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week award by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). It also was one of the key factors in Walton’s selection as a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player. He was named the midseason Thorpe Award winner by CBS Sportsline.com.
HILDBOLD KICKING UP A STORM
Senior P Joey Hildbold, a two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist (2000 and 2002), has shown his importance to the Notre Dame effort this season. The fourth-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., is averaging 39.7 yards per punt (65 kicks, 2,579 yards), and he has dropped over 43 percent (28) of his 65 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, including 10 inside the 10-yard line.
Hildbold?s four-year average of 40.51 yards per punt (9,845 yards on 243 punts) puts him in fifth place on the Notre Dame career list, just behind Bill Shakespeare, who averaged 40.71 yards per punt from 1933-35.
SETTA PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Senior PK Nicholas Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and ’02 Groza Award candidate, has been one of Notre Dame?s top offensive weapons over the last three seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. Setta got his season going in a big way in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland at the Kickoff Classic. Setta set a Classic record by kicking five field goals, tying the school record set by Craig Hentrich against Miami (Fla.) in 1990. One of Setta’s kicks came from 51 yards out, setting a new Kickoff Classic mark and personal high for the Lockport, Ill., native. Along with his one PAT, Setta scored 16 points on the night, good enough to earn him Kickoff Classic MVP honors and recognition as the USATODAY.com National Player of the Week.
Setta currently owns a streak of 86 consecutive made extra points, dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000. That streak is the second-longest in school history behind Hentrich, who converted 136 consecutive PAT from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992.
However, while one of Setta’s streaks continues, another ended at Michigan State. The Irish placekicker did not kick a field goal against the Spartans, snapping his school-record string of three-pointers in 16 consecutive regular-season games. Setta wound up just three games shy of the NCAA record, jointly held by Oklahoma’s Larry Roach (1983-84) and Miami-Ohio’s Gary Gussman (1986-87), who each kicked a field goal in 19 consecutive games.
For his career, Setta has made 33 field goals, placing him fourth on the Notre Dame all-time list.
WALTON NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR JIM THORPE AWARD
Senior RCB Shane Walton has been selected as one of 14 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to the nation’s best defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City. Walton, a product of San Diego, Calif., ranks fifth in the nation in interceptions (0.64 per game; seven overall) and 26th in passes defended (1.44 per game; 13 total). In addition, his six interceptions this season are the most by an Irish defender since Todd Lyght had eight picks in 1989.
FAINE NAMED ROTARY LOMBARDI AWARD SEMIFINALIST
Senior C Jeff Faine remains under consideration for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. Faine also has been selected to the watch list for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation’s top center. Ironically, the latter award’s namesake, former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, is the only center to have won the Lombardi Award.
HILDBOLD NAMED RAY GUY AWARD SEMIFINALIST
Senior P Joey Hildbold is among a group of 10 players who have been named semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. It marks the second time in the three-year history of the award that Hildbold has been selected as one of the 10 semifinalists — he also was recognized during the 2000 season. This year, Hildbold has averaged 39.7 yards per punt, dropping 28 of his 65 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, and pinning the opposition inside its 10-yard line 10 times.
IRISH PLAYERS RANK HIGH IN LINDY’S AND THE SPORTING NEWS
Senior Jeff Faine was tabbed the fifth-best center in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Gerome Sapp was rated the fifth-best strong safety in the land by The Sporting News. Senior cornerback Shane Walton was ranked 12th in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior Nicholas Setta was placed fifth among kickers by Lindy’s and 13th by The Sporting News. Senior Courtney Watson was rated 17th among the nation’s middle linebackers by The Sporting News, while senior Tom Lopienski was charted 18th among fullbacks by the same publication.
JEFF FAINE EARNS QUARTET OF PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior center Jeff Faine was a first-team preseason All-America selection by Street & Smith’s, a second-team preseason All-America choice by Athlon, a third-team preseason All-America designee by Football News and a preseason All-America pick by the Football Writers Association of America (no individual teams were selected by the FWAA). Faine is seeking to become Notre Dame’s first All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993.
SIX EARN PRESEASON HONORABLE MENTION ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Street & Smith’s cited six Irish players as preseason honorable mention All-America selections. Senior Jordan Black was listed among offensive linemen, senior Shane Walton and junior Vontez Duff among defensive backs, senior Courtney Watson among linebackers, senior Joey Hildbold among punters and senior Nicholas Setta among kickers.
NICHOLAS SETTA NAMED TO LOU GROZA AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior PK Nicholas Setta has been named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s top placekicker by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Commission.
FAINE, SETTA NAMED TO STREET & SMITH’S AWARD WATCH LISTS
Street & Smith’s tapped senior center Jeff Faine for a spot on its Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. In addition, senior kicker Nicholas Setta earned a place on the publication’s Lou Groza Award watch list.
NINE PLAYERS SELECTED TO FOOTBALL NEWS PRESEASON ALL-INDEPENDENT TEAM
Football News named nine Notre Dame players to its 2002 preseason all-independent team. Sophomore RB Ryan Grant, senior TE Gary Godsey, senior OT Jordan Black and senior C Jeff Faine were chosen from the offensive side of the ball. Senior DT Darrell Campbell, senior LB Courtney Watson, senior CB Shane Walton and junior CB Vontez Duff were tapped on the defensive end. Senior PK Nicholas Setta represented the Irish special teams units on the squad.
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line — The Irish have an extremely talented and experienced crew up front on the offensive line this season. Four starters — senior tackles Jordan Black and Brennan Curtin, senior guard Sean Mahan and senior center Jeff Faine — returned this season and are legitimate contenders for postseason awards. Black has been a staple on the Notre Dame offensive line, now in his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 42 regular-season games and amassing more than 1,000 minutes of playing time. Faine, a preseason first-team All-American, Lombardi Award semifinalist, and candidate for the Outland and Rimington Trophies, is in his third season as the everyday Irish center, having started 33 consecutive regular-season games and leading the team in playing time this year. Mahan and Curtin are in their second seasons as starters at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Mahan has appeared in 39 games, starting his last 22 games, and he is second on the team in playing time this season. Curtin has made 17 career starts (including the last 15 games in a row) after alternating between right tackle and right guard in ’01. This season, he moved into the right tackle position vacated by the graduation of Kurt Vollers.
With Vollers’ departure and Curtin’s move back to tackle, senior Sean Milligan returned to the starting lineup at right guard in 10 of the 11 Irish games this season. An injury limited his effectiveness vs. Purdue, and senior Ryan Scarola stepped into the starting right guard spot against the Boilermakers. Scarola also has spent time as Faine’s understudy at center. Seniors Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also have seen significant minutes in reserve roles this season at guard and tackle, respectively. Molinaro earned his first career start at left tackle in the win over Rutgers.
Backs — Junior Carlyle Holiday took over as the starting quarterback for the Irish in the third week of the 2001 season and kept a firm grip on his job throughout the campaign. In 10 games this season, Holiday has completed 116 of 222 passes for 1,696 yards and 10 TD, including a career-high 272 yards in the win over Navy. He also tossed a career-best four touchdown passes vs. Rutgers, tying a Notre Dame record. Sophomore Pat Dillingham (22-44, 268 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT), a former walk-on, has appeared in six games for the Irish this season. He replaced the injured Holiday against Michigan State and threw the game-winning touchdown pass, a 60-yard strike to WR Arnaz Battle with just 1:15 to play. Dillingham then made his first career start against Stanford, guiding the Irish to a victory over the Cardinal. Freshman Chris Olsen fills the role as Notre Dame’s No. 3 QB.
Sophomore Ryan Grant (230-1,001, 9 TD) leads a youthful corps of Irish running backs who are benefitting not only from Notre Dame’s new offensive style, but also from its veteran offensive line. Grant ranks 49th in the nation with 91.0 yards per game and became Notre Dame’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Autry Denson in 1998 (1,176). Grant’s best outing to date came at No. 18 Air Force, when he piled up career highs of 30 carries and 190 yards, the 12th-highest single-game rushing total in school history. In addition, he has a team-high eight touchdowns this season. Sophomore Rashon Powers-Neal (69-317, 2 TD) has given Notre Dame an alternate, tough-nosed option out of the backfield, after his conversion from linebacker last spring. He rushed for a career-best 108 yards and his first career TD against Stanford, but missed the Air Force game with an injury and did not play vs. Florida State or Boston College. He returned to the lineup against Navy and ran for a team-high 51 yards and the tying TD late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Marcus Wilson (38-107) and senior Chris Yura (1-7) also have seen action out of the backfield. Wilson stepped in to replace the injured Powers-Neal against Air Force and Boston College, turning in the best game of his young career against Air Force with 10 carries for 44 yards. Yura also picked up his first carry of the season vs. Air Force, notching a career-long seven-yard run.
Senior Tom Lopienski (19-47, 1 TD) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 29 career starts, serving mainly as a blocking back. However, his role has been expanded in the new Irish offensive scheme, and he collected his first career rushing touchdown against Navy with a one-yard dive in the second quarter. Senior Mike McNair (1-12) has fought through injuries during his career, but he is ready to make a major contribution for Notre Dame in 2002. Like Yura, McNair got his first carry of the year against Air Force, racing 12 yards.
Receivers — The Irish receiving corps has been the most closely-examined unit on the roster this season, as the new offensive program shifts its focus to a balanced attack. Experience is limited at the position, with only two returning monogram winners from a year ago. After catching five passes for 40 yards all of 2001, senior Arnaz Battle leads the team with 46 catches this season for 696 yards and five TDs, including a career-high 10 catches against Pittsburgh and a career-best 112 yards receiving against Air Force. He also hauled in a 65-yard score on the first play from scrimmage at Florida State, and added six catches for 86 yards vs. Boston College. Battle also had two TDs against Rutgers, including a 63-yard reception. Sophomore Omar Jenkins (31-558, 3 TD) has shown the ability to be a deep threat for the Irish. He caught his first touchdown pass of the season at No. 11 Florida State, and caught four passes for a career-high 166 yards at Navy, including the game-winning 67-yard TD with 2:06 remaining. Jenkins’ 166-yard output was the most by an Irish receiver in more than 12 years. Junior Ronnie Rodamer (1-9) and sophomore Carlos Campbell (4-38) each played just over 14 minutes last season, but also have seen significant time in the starting lineup this season. Campbell had one reception for 12 yards against Boston College, his first catch since the Purdue game, while Rodamer hauled in his first pass of the year, a nine-yard pitch, against Navy. Both Rodamer and Campbell have been challenged by a pair of speedy freshman wideouts, Rhema McKnight (6-73) and Maurice Stovall (14-280, 3 TD), who are anxious to make their mark at the college level. Both young men stood out against Boston College — McKnight registered two catches for a career-high 37 yards, while Stovall caught a career-high three passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Another converted quarterback, senior Gary Godsey gets the starting nod at tight end. The 6-6, 250-pound Godsey is a formidable target for Irish quarterbacks, and he is third on the team with 15 receptions for 150 yards, including a career-best four-catch day vs. Purdue and three receptions for 32 yards against Boston College. Godsey also is a talented blocker and gives the Irish a sizeable advantage on the offensive line. Junior Billy Palmer (1-4) serves as Godsey’s understudy, along with junior Jared Clark (3-63), who moved from QB to TE in the spring. Palmer logged his first career reception in the Navy game, while Clark had a career-long 37-yard reception in the fourth quarter at Florida State.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line — The Irish defensive line is anchored by senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (29 tackles, six for loss, four sacks) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (26 tackles, four for loss, two sacks). Campbell carded a career-high five tackles (two for loss and one sack) vs. Pittsburgh, while Hilliard logged a career-best seven tackles against Air Force and was a key factor in shutting down the Falcons’ top-ranked rushing attack. Hilliard missed the last three games with an injury and was replaced by junior Greg Pauly (nine tackles), who has made his first three career starts against Boston College, Navy and Rutgers. Pauly also had a career-high three stops against Air Force. On the outside, fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (37 tackles, nine for loss, team-high eight sacks) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak (17 tackles, six for loss, three sacks) who has made 14 career starts, are the other veterans returning on the Irish defensive line. Roberts was a key force in Notre Dame’s wins over Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh, registering a pair of sacks in all three games, and adding sacks vs. Boston College and Navy. Assistance comes in the form of sophomore end Justin Tuck (32 tackles, seven for loss, five sacks), a pass-rushing specialist and converted linebacker, as well as junior end Jason Sapp. Tuck turned in back-to-back solid outings against Stanford and Pittsburgh, registering five tackles and a sack vs. the Cardinal, and four tackles and two sacks against the Panthers. He also carded a career-high nine tackles against Navy and made his first career start vs. Rutgers when the Irish came out in a nickel defense.
Linebackers — Senior ILB Courtney Watson is the lone returning linebacker for the Irish. He ranked second on the team with 76 tackles last season, including 13 for loss, and is a 2002 Butkus Award finalist, the first Notre Dame player to make the final Butkus cut since Michael Stonebreaker in 1990. Watson missed the Maryland and Purdue games with a viral infection, but has returned with a vengeance since then, rolling up a team-high 83 tackles (nine for loss, three sacks, three INT), including a game-high 15 stops at Michigan State. He also returned an interception 34 yards for a score vs. Stanford, came up with his second theft of the year at Florida State (leading to another Irish score) and stifled Navy’s comeback attempt with his third interception of the year late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Brandon Hoyte (47 tackles, four for loss, one sack) has proven to be a more than capable understudy for Watson, ranking sixth on the team in tackles. Hoyte stepped in for Watson in the Maryland and Purdue games, recording a career-high nine tackles in the latter contest, one week after notching his first career sack in his first career appearance against Maryland. He also had his first career fumble recovery at No. 11 Florida State and tied his career-high with nine tackles (including two tackles for loss) at Navy. At the other two positions, Notre Dame was faced with the tall task of replacing honorable mention All-American Tyreo Harrison (97 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Rocky Boiman (41 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks), who were first and sixth on the team in tackles in ’01, respectively. Sophomore Mike Goolsby (61 tackles, 13 for loss, four sacks) has stepped into the starting lineup at the other inside linebacker spot, ringing up a career-high 11 tackles, including three for losses, against Purdue. He also leads the team with 13 tackles for losses, including three TFL and two sacks in the win over Rutgers. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (13 tackles) serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker post, while junior Derek Curry (29 tackles, six for loss, four sacks, one fumble recovery) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. As a force on kickoff coverage, Pierre-Antoine caused a critical fumble at Florida State, leading to an Irish TD. He also chipped in with a season-high three tackles against Boston College. Curry recorded a career-high five tackles at Michigan State and has had a sack in four of his last seven games, the first takedowns of his career. Sophomore Corey Mays (four tackles) and junior Jerome Collins (one tackle) both lend support in the linebacking corps.
Backs — The Irish secondary has been a particular source of strength in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton (56 tackles, four for loss, seven INT, seven pass breakups), a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist and Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist, has started the last 22 games at cornerback for the Irish, and he currently ranks fifth in the nation in interceptions (0.64 per game), and 26th in passes defended (1.44 per game). The San Diego native opened the season by setting a Kickoff Classic record and tying a school standard with three thefts against Maryland. Walton’s seven interceptions are the most by an Irish player in one season since Todd Lyght had eight picks in 1989 and his two returns for scores tied the school record most recently set by Allen Rossum in 1995. Walton also logged a career-high nine tackles and three pass breakups at Florida State. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff (30 tackles, one INT, two fumble recoveries, five pass breakups) gets the starting call at the other cornerback position, a position he has held for the last 18 games. Duff was the hero against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown with just over five minutes to play. Senior strong safety Gerome Sapp (60 tackles, three for loss, four INT, one fumble return, seven pass breakups) ranks 29th in the nation with 0.44 interceptions per game, and he also returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD in the first quarter of Notre Dame’s win over Purdue. Sapp recorded a career-high 10 tackles at Air Force, including two for losses as the Irish stifled the nation’s top rushing offense. However, he missed the Navy and Rutgers games with a knee injury and was replaced by junior Garron Bible (29 tackles), who logged a career-best seven tackles against the Scarlet Knights. Senior Glenn Earl (69 tackles, four for loss, one sack, two INT, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries) ranks second on the team in tackles and solo stops (43). He posted a season-high 11 tackles at Florida State, along with a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. The reserve secondary unit is headed by junior Preston Jackson (18 tackles, one INT), who had a career-high seven tackles vs. Rutgers, and sophomore Dwight Ellick (five tackles) at cornerback, and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety. Jackson preserved the win over Pittsburgh by snaring his first career interception with just over a minute to play. Bolen also has made an important contribution, scoring his first career TD on special teams vs. Purdue, scooping up a Boilermaker fumble and going four yards for a second-quarter score.
SCOUTING THE IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the finest kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, who recently was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the second time in three seasons, ranks fifth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.51) and he is second in school history with 243 punts and 9,845 yards. Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 86 straight PAT attempts, the second-longest run in school history. He also holds the Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 16 consecutive games, a streak which ended at Michigan State. Setta established a Kickoff Classic record and tying the school mark with five field goals, including a Classic-record 51-yard boot, to earn game MVP honors. He also ranks fourth in school history with 33 career field goals. Hildbold and Setta join veteran long snapper John Crowther (279 special teams appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit. Duff is ranked fourth nationally in kickoff return yardage, averaging 29.2 yards per return, highlighted by his 92-yard runback for a score against Navy. Duff also has been strong on punt runbacks with a 76-yard TD return vs. Maryland to his credit < he=”” also=”” had=”” a=”” 92-yard=”” punt=”” return=”” for=”” a=”” score=”” vs.=”” stanford=”” called=”” back=”” by=”” a=”” penalty.=””>Arnaz Battle shares the kickoff return duties, averaging more than 21 yards per kickoff return (12 returns, 253 yards). Shane Walton (nine punt returns for 85 yards) has helped to return punts this season.
Notre Dame’s freshman practices included 17 scholarship players and four walkons: OL James Bent (6-2, 260, Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) wears No. 59, OL David Fitzgerald (6-4, 270, Godfrey, Ill./Marquette Catholic) shares No. 54 with DL Jason Halvorson, WR Mike O’Hara (5-10, 175, Bellevue, Wash./Newport) sports No. 84, and ILB Anthony Salvador (6-2, 195, Concord, Calif./De La Salle) wears No. 81.
Coach Tyrone Willingham has won three in a row over USC dating back to his days at Stanford.
The Irish made one number change from the 2002 media guide rosters as senior strong safety/special teams player Chad DeBolt has changed from No. 58 to No. 24.
THE 2002 CAPTAINS
For only the second time in the 114-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game — the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championships.
The 2002 captains have been as follows:
Maryland: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, RE Ryan Roberts, RCB Shane Walton
Purdue: TE Gary Godsey, NG Cedric Hilliard, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta
Michigan: LT Jordan Black, DT Darrell Campbell, LCB Vontez Duff, C Jeff Faine
Michigan State: WR Arnaz Battle, FS Glenn Earl, LG Sean Mahan, ILB Courtney Watson
Stanford: C Jeff Faine, WR Omar Jenkins, RE Ryan Roberts, RCB Shane Walton
Pittsburgh: WR Arnaz Battle, LT Jordan Black, P Joey Hildbold, NG Cedric Hilliard
Air Force: LG Sean Mahan, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta, RE Ryan Roberts
Florida State: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, RCB Shane Walton, ILB Courtney Watson
Boston College: LT Jordan Black, DT Darrell Campbell, LCB Vontez Duff, C Jeff Faine
Navy: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, RE Ryan Roberts, ILB Courtney Watson
Rutgers: C/SNP John Crowther, C Jeff Faine, RE Ryan Roberts, ILB Courtney Watson
Notre Dame has seven athletes who are two-sport standouts with the Irish:
- Senior CB Shane Walton is less than three years removed from earning all-BIG EAST Conference honors as a freshman forward on the ?98 Irish men?s soccer team. Walton has started 31 of the last 32 regular-season games for the Irish (missed 2000 USC game with broken arm), dating back to the start of the 2000 season, earning preseason honorable mention All-America honors this year from Street & Smith’s. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of ?99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the ?99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second Notre Dame monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
- Senior SS and special teams player Chad DeBolt has made 274 special teams appearances over the last three seasons and was one of just four walkons on the usual travel list during that time. In 2000, he recovered a blocked punt vs. Rutgers and blocked a punt vs. USC — both of which led to Irish TDs. DeBolt also was a four-year monogram winner for the Notre Dame men?s lacrosse team which advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2001. The Waterloo, N.Y., native served as team captain in ’02, handling the majority of the faceoff duties for the Irish. He won better than 56 percent of his draws and scooping up a team-high 51 ground balls in ’02. DeBolt missed just one contest during his 57-game career, scoring four goals and collecting 168 ground balls. DeBolt’s lacrosse talents also have earned him a place at the professional level. He recently was drafted by the Rochester (N.Y.) Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.
- Sophomore CB Dwight Ellick earned a monogram last winter while competing for Irish head coach Joe Piane and the Notre Dame track and field team. Ellick garnered all-BIG EAST honors after placing third in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes at the 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships. He was a two-time state champion in the 100 meters in high school, winning the New York crown in 1999, before moving to Florida and winning the Sunshine State title in 2000.
- Senior PK Nicholas Setta, who finished sixth at the Illinois state track and field meet in the high jump and was the top hurdler in the state, has competed for Piane and the Irish track and field program the last two years. Setta ran middle distance for the Irish and participated in the 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships.
- Other Notre Dame football players who also ran track for the Irish include senior CB Jason Beckstrom, senior FB Mike McNair and sophomore WR Matt Shelton.
THE 2002 SCHEDULE
Once again, Notre Dame faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play five teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 6/6 USC, No. 12/14 Michigan, No. 17/18 Pittsburgh , No. 23/22 Florida State and No. 25/23 Maryland). In addition, two other Notre Dame opponents — Air Force and Boston College — are receiving votes in one or both polls. Nine of the 12 foes on this year’s Notre Dame’s schedule went to bowl games last season, highlighted by Maryland’s Orange Bowl berth, Michigan’s spot in the Citrus Bowl and Stanford’s trip to the Seattle Bowl. All of this comes on the heels of the 2001 Irish schedule, which was ranked 22nd in the nation and featured nine opponents that appeared in bowl games — Notre Dame was the only school to play nine bowl-bound teams last season.
According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Nov. 24), Notre Dame has the 57th-toughest schedule in the nation. These rankings take into account the cumulative performance of all Irish opponents during the 2002 season.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 148 of its previous 171 games, including its first 11 games this season. In addition, the Irish have attracted stadium record crowds in three games this season < the=”” air=”” force=”” contest=”” brought=”” in=”” a=”” falcon=”” stadium-record=”” crowd=”” of=”” 56,409=”” (nearly=”” 4,000=”” more=”” than=”” its=”” listed=”” capacity),=”” while=”” the=”” florida=”” state=”” game=”” resulted=”” in=”” a=”” doak=”” campbell=”” stadium-record=”” gathering=”” of=”” 84,106=”” (more=”” than=”” 2,000=”” above=”” its=”” listed=”” capacity).=”” then,=”” with=”” the=”” addition=”” of=”” 140=”” field=”” seats=”” against=”” boston=”” college,=”” the=”” irish=”” and=”” eagles=”” set=”” a=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium=”” attendance=”” record=”” of=”” 80,935.=”” all=”” told,=”” notre=”” dame=”” has=”” helped=”” set=”” a=”” new=”” stadium=”” attendance=”” record=”” at=”” an=”” opponents’=”” facility=”” five=”” times=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” two=”” seasons=”” (also=”” nebraska=”” and=”” texas=”” a&m=”” last=”” year).=”” also,=”” the=”” notre=”” dame/usc=”” game=”” at=”” the=”” historic=”” los=”” angeles=”” memorial=”” coliseum=”” (92,000)=”” is=”” a=””>
In 2001, not only were 10 of the 11 Irish games designated sellouts (only Stanford was not), but eight came in front of stadium-record crowds. The Irish played before 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 fans at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big XII Conference and state of Texas record in the process. In fact, since 1998, Notre Dame has played before sellout crowds in 52 of the last 58 games — the only non-sellouts in that time were the ’98 and 2000 games at USC, the ’99 and 2001 games at Stanford, and neutral site games vs. Georgia Tech (’99 Gator Bowl at Jacksonville) and Navy (2000 at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl).
NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With the USC game slated to be televised nationally by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 123 straight games. That?s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the 2002 campaign, as all 12 games this year are slated to be televised. The last time the Irish didn?t appear on one of those four networks was more than 10 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.
Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2002 ranked among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 55,482 ticket requests for the Nov. 2 game vs. Boston College, making it the third-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Sept. 14 Notre Dame-Michigan game garnered 50,883 requests, placing it fourth on the all-time list.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set last season when the Irish took on West Virginia on Oct. 13. Demand for that game, like this year’s Boston College contest, 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.
The Irish have posted 166 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 214 in their last 215 home games dating back to 1966 (only non-sellout was the 1973 Thanksgiving Day game with Air Force, which was changed to the holiday to accommodate television and was played with students absent from campus).
120,000 “RETURN TO GLORY” T-SHIRTS CREATE “SEA OF GREEN”
More than 120,000 of the “Return to Glory” T-shirts that have created a “sea of green” in Notre Dame Stadium this year have been sold, according to the university’s Student Activities Office. The initial run of 44,000 shirts sold out within six weeks, making it one of the earliest sellouts in the 13-year history of what is officially known as The Shirt Project. Due to the extraordinary popularity of The Shirt, a second run of 20,000 shirts was produced for the Stanford game, with the complete run selling out within the week. A third run of 22,000 arrived for the Pittsburgh game and that order sold out within seven days. Currently, a fourth shipment is on sale for $15 at campus outlets, as well as on the Internet.
As a result of this year’s sales, more than $500,000 has been raised to aid student charities and help fund the cost of operating student clubs and organizations, according to Mary Edgington, assistant director of Student Activities and adviser to the student-run project.
Notre Dame students have been wearing “The Shirt” to home football games since 1990 to show their support of the team. The project started when a graduate student suffered injuries in a car accident and students sold T-shirts to raise money to cover his medical expenses. Over time, other members of the Notre Dame community adopted the tradition, including alumni, faculty, staff and fans.
This year, The Shirt Project attracted national media attention because the slogan on the front of the shirt, “Return to Glory,” has been accompanied by the team’s first 8-0 start since 1993. As the largest student-run fundraiser on campus, The Shirt Project has raised over $2 million in the past 13 years.
The Shirt is kelly green and displays an interlocking ND with the “Return to Glory” slogan on the front. The back features a battle-chipped gold helmet, the Four Horsemen (the backfield made famous by sportswriter Grantland Rice), former Irish coach Knute Rockne, and an excerpt from a well-known Rockne speech – “We’re gonna go, go, go! And we aren’t going to stop until we go over that goal line!”
FORMER IRISH ASSISTANTS SHINING IN TOP POSITIONS
Four former Notre Dame assistant coaches currently are walking the sidelines as college head coaches. Most notably, second-year Bowling Green mentor Urban Meyer, who coached the Irish receivers from 1996-2000, has guided the Falcons to a 9-2 record. The other former Irish assistants now in the Division I-A head coaching ranks all were former defensive coordinators at Notre Dame: Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez (1987-89), Western Michigan’s Gary Darnell (1990-91) and Cincinnati’s Rick Minter (1992-93).
NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS WEBSITE RANKED FIRST IN NATION IN SEPTEMBER
Notre Dame’s success on the gridiron has resulted in success on the school’s athletics website (www.und.com). The site, run by the Official College Sports Network (OCSN), attracted more than five million page views during the month of September, tops among the 130 college websites in the OCSN family. In addition, the website tallied more orders for its online store than any other OCSN institution, including Miami and Oklahoma. More than 3,200 orders were processed and approximately $95,000 in sales were registered, with the best-selling item being “The Shirt” — the kelly green T-shirt with the slogan “Return to Glory,” which has been wildly popular among Irish fans this season.
WILLINGHAM NAMED HEAD COACH FOR 2003 EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Notre Dame mentor Tyrone Willingham has been named a head coach for the 78th East-West Shrine Game, to be played Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Willingham will pilot the East squad, while Washington State skipper Mike Price will lead the West team. Both men previously served as assistant coaches at the Shrine Game — Willingham worked with the West squad in 1998, while Price was a West assistant in 1996.
The Shrine Game showcases the talents of many of the nation’s top college senior players, while raising funds for thousands of children who receive medical care, at no cost, from the 22 Shriners’ Hospitals for Children throughout North America. In the 2002 NFL draft, 33 players from the 2002 Shrine Game were selected, including the third overall pick, Joey Harrington of Oregon.
NOTRE DAME LEGENDS ON BALLOT FOR “COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S 10 GREATEST PLAYERS”
No less than a dozen Notre Dame standouts will be under consideration when CBS airs “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” at 1:30 p.m. (EST) this Friday. Among the nearly 200 former college greats listed on the ballot were all seven of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners — Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987). Other former Irish players being considered for this elite group include a quartet of consensus All-Americans and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductees — DE Ross Browner (1973-77), T George Connor (1946-47), HB George Gipp (1917-20) and DT Alan Page (1964-66) — as well as consensus All-American and current Dallas Cowboys’ wideout Raghib Ismail (1988-90).
Balloting for “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” included less than 600 voters representing five groups — the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Downtown Athletic Club and prominent members of the college football media. Fans also were encouraged to vote online through CBSSportsline.com, with more than 100,000 entries received. Voting was not limited to the 200 players on the ballot, as voters were able to cast write-in selections as well.
THE 2002 NFL DRAFT
Six former Irish players were selected in the 2002 NFL entry draft, while five other players signed free agent contracts. Anthony Weaver (second round, Baltimore Ravens) was the first Notre Dame player chosen. Rocky Boiman (fourth round, Tennessee Titans) was next, followed by John Owens (fifth round, Detroit Lions), Tyreo Harrison (sixth round, Philadelphia Eagles), Javin Hunter (sixth round, Baltimore Ravens) and David Givens (seventh round, New England Patriots). In addition, Tony Fisher (Green Bay Packers), Grant Irons (Buffalo Bills), Ron Israel (Washington Redskins), Jason Murray (Cincinnati Bengals) and Kurt Vollers (Indianapolis Colts) all signed free agent deals. Of these 11 players, eight made the final 53-man roster with their respective teams (all six draftees plus Fisher and Irons), while Vollers was re-signed to the Colts’ practice squad.
MAKING THE GRADE
The Notre Dame football squad recently had two of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the 2001 fall semester and the 2002 spring semester. In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished 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.
TRIO OF IRISH PLAYERS EARN ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT HONORS
Senior C/LS John Crowther and junior LE Kyle Budinscak were named to the Verizon Academic All-District V football team, while sophomore ILB Brandon Hoyte was named to the second team. To be eligible, a player must be a starter or significant contributor, at least a sophomore academically, play in 75 percent of the team’s contests and have a 3.2 grade-point average or higher. It is the second time Crowther and Budinscak have won the award, and the first-such distinction for Hoyte. Both Crowther and Budinscak are now eligible for Academic All-America honors.
Crowther, from Edina, Minn., has played in all 11 games for the Irish this season as the snapper on field goals, PATs and punts. Crowther has been a key component in the success of Irish senior P Joey Hildbold, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, who is leading the nation with 28 kicks inside the 20-yard line and 10 inside the 10. Hildbold is also fifth in Notre Dame history averaging 40.51 yards a punt. Crowther also has been instrumental in the success of senior PK Nicholas Setta, who set a Kickoff Classic and Notre Dame record with five field goals, including a career-high 51-yarder, against Maryland in the season opener. Enrolled in the MBA program after graduating in May with finance and computer applications degrees from the Mendoza College of Business, Crowther has a 3.7 grade-point average and has been on the Dean’s List seven of eight semesters at Notre Dame.
Budinscak, from Bridgewater, N.J., has recorded 17 tackles on the season, including six for loss and three sacks. He also has been a key component on an Irish defense which as a unit is ranked fifth in the nation and third nationally in scoring defense giving up only 13.18 points a game. Enrolled in the Mendoza College of Business and majoring in finance, Budinscak has a 3.515 grade-point average and has been on the Dean’s List three of four semesters.
Hoyte, from Parlin, N.J., started the first two games of the season in place of an injured Courtney Watson, who is now a Butkus Award finalist. In those two games, Hoyte was Notre Dame’s leading tackler with 17 stops. He has since served in a back-up role to Watson and is currently sixth on the team with 47 tackles, including four for loss. A pre-professional major in the College of Arts and Letters, Hoyte has a 3.4 grade-point average.
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. Northwestern won the 2002 overall award with a perfect 100 percent graduation rate. Notre Dame joined distinct company as it was one of eight schools to graduate over 90 percent of its players from the freshman class of 1996-97. The Irish joined Boston College, Duke, Nebraska, Penn State, Rice, Vanderbilt and Western Michigan in the elite group. Sixteen other schools graduated 70 percent of their athletes or better in earning special mention status as well.
Notre Dame has been recognized 21 of 22 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 only 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
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. Earlier this year, 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 first vice president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club (he will serve as president from June 2003-June 2005). He also is a member of the athletic department?s student development mentoring program.
ORDER YOUR MEDIA GUIDES AND FOOTBALL PREVIEW MAGAZINES TODAY
This season marks the ninth edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine — 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 (CoSIDA). The preview magazine, published by Host Communications, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on new 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 1-800-313-4678 or by writing to: Notre Dame Programs, 904 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40505.
Notre Dame’s award-winning football media guide, which was voted best in the nation by CoSIDA for the 10th time in the last 20 years in 2001, features more than 450 pages of information and statistics on the 2002 Irish squad, as well as a complete record book and history of Notre Dame football. The media guide is priced at $10 (plus $6 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-647-4641 or by visiting the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.