Sept. 5, 2000

AP MegaSports Writer

NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame is trying to regain its status as one of the nation’s elite college football teams. A win Saturday over top-ranked Nebraska would go a long way toward helping the No. 23 Fighting Irish achieve that goal.

“If we want to set our sights high, that’s a good place to start,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “If you want to raise the bar of your football team, you raise that bar comparing yourself to Nebraska.”

Teams used to compare themselves to Notre Dame when trying to decide whether they were part of college football’s elite. Now Nebraska is the measuring stick.

“Nebraska is a heck of a football team and a heck of a football program, and I’m not embarrassed to say that in any way,” Davie said. “It’s a compliment to them. I think we’re a heck of a football team and a heck of a football program, too.”

The Irish (1-0), who were not ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 for the first time since 1986, have ended two of the past three season unranked, and were only No. 22 at the end of 1998.

Doubts surrounded Notre Dame during the past offseason after the Irish completed their first seven-loss campaign since 1963. Notre Dame also suffered its first losing season in 14 years, but last Saturday’s 24-10 victory over Texas A&M should quiet the critics, at least temporarily.

“It’s a lot more fun to play the No. 1-ranked team in the country 1-0 rather than 0-1, I promise you that,” Davie said.

Nebraska (1-0) maintained its top ranking with a 49-13 victory over San Jose State.

Quarterback Eric Crouch ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as the Huskers overcame 100-degree heat. Crouch, who had surgery on his throwing shoulder in January, was just 4-of-10 for 67 yards with two interceptions.

Dan Alexander rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns and teammate Correll Buckhalter had 13 carries for 117 yards for the Huskers, who scored on their first four possessions and didn’t punt until the fourth quarter.

“We know what kind of game we have. The tradition they have – it’s always tough for opponents to go in there and play,” Nebraska defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Notre Dame. “A lot of people have been looking forward to this. We’re going to go out there and give it our best effort.”