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Irish Hold Off Stanford, 20-14

Oct. 7, 2000

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By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – The option was back at Notre Dame. The Irish offense, however, didn’t show a lot of improvement.

Freshman Matt LoVecchio guided the No. 25 Irish 91 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, and a blocked punt and an interception set up two TDs as Notre Dame beat Stanford 20-14 on Saturday.

“Any time that you can win a big-time college football game, you need to enjoy it,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “I also think the football team, particularly the defensive side, didn’t play as well as we should.”

Stanford (2-3) scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Chris Lewis to Darin Naatjes with 1:07 left to close within six points, but Jabari Holloway recovered the onside kick at the Stanford 45.

“We beat ourselves,” Stanford receiver DeRonnie Pitts said.

The Irish (3-2), who entered the game with the 106th rated offense of 114 teams, managed just 266 yards total offense. Combined with the 224 yards they averaged their previous three games, Notre Dame is in its worst offensive streak since being held to less than 200 yards in each of their last five games in 1963.

Stanford had 384 yards total offense but was hurt by two turnovers, the blocked punt and a missed field goal. The Cardinal were led by Chris Lewis, who was 19-of-31 for 242 yards with one interception.

“We made a lot of mistakes,” said Pitts, who had eight catches for 100 yards, including a 13-yard TD reception. “We should have put more points on the board.”

The victory was the fourth straight game by the Irish decided by six points or less. Stanford lost consecutive games for the first time since 1998.

“More than anything, we think of missed opportunities,” Cardinal coach Tyrone Willingham said.

LoVecchio, making his first start, threw two touchdown passes to David Givens in the first half. LoVecchio was 10-of-18 for 100 yards and rushed for 36 yards on 13 carries. He was sacked three times.

“He did a good job with the execution. He is one cool customer,” Davie said.

LoVecchio said he felt good about his performance.

“I felt comfortable with the whole offense and when I looked at everyone in the huddle I knew they were ready,” he said.

The Irish, who lost starting quarterback Arnaz Battle when he broke his wrist against Nebraska in the second game, turned to LoVecchio when the offense sputtered under Gary Godsey, who could not run the option.

The offense did show signs of life early as LoVecchio guided the Irish to an 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive. LoVecchio rushed for 17 yards on three carries during the drive and was 4-of-4 passing for 40 yards, connecting with Givens on a 17-yard TD pass.

“The first drive went really well, but I knew it wasn’t going to stay like that. I knew they would change things up,” LoVecchio said.

The Irish, who have had troubles with sustained drives this season, did manage to get a few short drives in the first half but couldn’t score again until Givens blocked a punt by Mike Biselli and the Irish recovered on the 10 with 39 seconds left in the first half.

“I wasn’t touched at all,” Givens said. “I think they messed up on their assignments.”

LoVecchio lobbed an 8-yard scoring pass to Givens two plays later to give the Irish a 13-0 lead.

“That gave them seven points and we lost by six,” Pitts said. “You can’t do those kinds of things and expect to win.”

It marked the third time this season the Irish scored a touchdown on a drive of 10 yards or less.

Givens became the first Irish player with two touchdown catches in a game since Holloway, a tight end, had two against Purdue two years ago, and the first wide receiver since Derrick Mayes had two against Florida State in the 1996 Orange Bowl.

Stanford, which had six turnovers against Arizona, had two crucial turnovers against the Irish. Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the Cardinal were on the Irish 15 when Lewis fumbled the snap and Anthony Weaver recovered.

Irish cornerback Brock Williams intercepted a pass by Lewis that was tipped by Tyreo Harrison. The Irish took over on the Stanford 34. Jones scored on a 7-yard run one play after he gained 24 yards on a pass from LoVecchio.

Stanford also failed to score when Mike Bisselli missed a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.