Sept. 2, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – That huge sigh of relief leaving Notre Dame came from Irish coach Bob Davie.
Arnaz Battle made his first start a memorable one by throwing the first two touchdown passes of his career as Notre Dame held off No. 25 Texas A&M 24-10 on Saturday before a jittery crowd of 80,232.
Davie began his fourth season knowing his job would be in jeopardy if the Irish failed to get off to a winning start. It took a while, but Davie was a happy man after Battle loosened up late in the first half and finished with scoring passes of 9 yards to Joey Getherall and 46 yards to Javin Hunter.
The pass to Hunter, who appeared to shove Aggies cornerback Jay Brooks with his left hand before grabbing the ball on the goal line, put the Irish ahead 14-10 with 3:24 remaining in the third period.
From that point, the Irish took control the rest of the way, with Julius Jones running 17 yards for a fourth-quarter TD and Nick Setta adding a 32-yard field goal with 7:17 left. Any hopes for a Texas A&M comeback ended when free safety Tony Driver intercepted a pass by Mark Farris at the Irish 14 with 4:09 remaining.
Notre Dame ended last season with four straight losses for a 5-7 record – its first sub .500 season since 1986. A win over the Aggies, visiting Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, was crucial because the Irish face No. 1 Nebraska next Saturday, followed by games against Purdue, Michigan State and defending Pac-10 champion Stanford.
The Cornhuskers opened their season Saturday with a 49-13 win over San Jose State.
With the game tied 7-all at halftime, the Aggies went ahead 10-7 on Terence Kitchens’ 23-yard field goal. Texas A&M had a first-and-goal at the Irish 2, but were unable to get the ball into the end zone. On the drive, Irish right end Grant Irons left the game suffering from dehydration.
But that seemed to fire up the Irish, who took their first lead of the game on Battle’s hookup with Hunter, who caught the first TD pass of his career.
Battle was 10 of 16 for 133 yards and carried 12 times for 50 yards. Farris, making his first start, was 16 of 28 for 165 yards and an interception.
With temperatures soaring near 90 degrees and the on-field mark announced at 108 degrees, the teams played the first 30 minutes as if they were winding up two-a-day practices. Even the 150th consecutive sellout crowd had trouble getting into the game, occasionally rising from their seats to cheer on the Irish.
Play-calling was conservative in the first quarter, with 21 running plays out of 28 total plays. In the second, the Aggies took a 7-0 lead when Richard Whitaker ran 8 yards on a draw play. Three plays earlier, he ran 19 yards to the Irish 15 on the same play.
Battle got Notre Dame going late in the half, driving the Irish 70 yards on seven plays and hitting Getherall for a 9-yard TD pass with 1:31 left. On the drive, Battle was 3-of-3 for 43 yards and ran twice for 17 yards.