Aug. 10, 2002

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With their golden helmets shining brilliantly in the bright August sunlight, the 102 members of the Notre Dame football team took the field for the first time as a unit on Saturday, participating in two grueling workouts on the intramural fields west of Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.

After the Irish freshmen went through two-a-day practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Notre Dame veterans got their first taste of action this preseason. An almost endless procession of drills and exercises, capped off by a rugged series of conditioning sprints, kept the Irish focused on the task at hand — their season opener with Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX, exactly three weeks from Saturday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

First-year head coach Tyrone Willingham was happy with the progress his charges showed on their first day as a complete squad.

“I was very pleased with the overall effort that we had in our first day,” Willingham said. “There’s still a lot of learning taking place and we’ll be in good shape in time.”

The Irish head coach also noted that time is limited before his team takes the field for the first time against the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Terrapins.

“That is a huge challenge and an honor to be able to start your season against a team as highly touted as they are,” Willingham commented. “They have great players, some of the best in the country, so that will be a huge challenge.”

Although both of Saturday’s practices were conducted with players in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, the team did execute several contact drills, allowing the Irish to get physical and release some of the aggression that had been pent-up during the offseason. While the environment was a controlled one, the pace and intensity of the practice sessions was by design.

“Everyone would love to have their practice simulate a game as much as possible,” Willingham said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. But, we’re also trying to put them in the mental situations that they’re always responding to game-like conditions.”

Notre Dame will return to the practice field Sunday for a single afternoon workout before reverting back to its two-a-day practice schedule on Monday.

— ND —