By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame knows how to break in a quarterback.
Since 1985, the Irish are 11-1 with a quarterback making his first start, including 2-0 this season. The latest success was Gary Godsey leading the 16th-ranked Irish to a 23-21 victory over No. 21 Purdue on Saturday when Nick Setta kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
“That’s a heck of a story,” coach Bob Davie said Sunday.
Even for a school with a history as storied as Notre Dame’s, Godsey’s feat is unusual. He was not supposed to be a quarterback at Notre Dame, and he definitely wasn’t supposed to be starting the third game of his sophomore year. But because of a recruiting snafu, a player being dismissed from the team and an injury to Arnaz Battle, Godsey is Notre Dame’s starter.
Godsey was a 6-foot-7 high school quarterback recruited by Davie as a tight end. He passed up scholarship offers from other major schools to play quarterback because he wanted to attend Notre Dame. On Saturday, he joined Tony Rice, Kent Graham, Rick Mirer and Ron Powlus on the list of Irish quarterbacks winning in their first starts.
But Godsey’s tale might be the most impressive. Some of those 11 victories by other Irish quarterback came against weaker opponents, and some of those quarterbacks had at least played some downs at Notre Dame. Godsey had never taken a snap in a game.
“We spent basically two years to get Arnaz Battle in a position to lead this football team,” Davie said.
The coaches had five practices to get Godsey ready.
Godsey went to bed after the overtime loss to top-ranked Nebraska on Sept. 9 as a little-known, never-used backup who most Irish supporters believed would return to tight end once one of the three freshmen quarterbacks were ready to take over as Battle’s backup.
The problem was, Battle got injured before the freshmen were ready. The Irish coaching staff had spent so much time getting Battle ready that Godsey hadn’t gotten much chance to prepare.
They knew from the outset they would have to scrap the option. So the coaches had to alter Notre Dame’s whole style of play.
The Irish tried to establish the run against Purdue, but weren’t successful. Just as they had done with Battle, the Irish coaching staff started Godsey conservatively. He attempted just two passes in the first quarter, completing one. However, trailing 21-20 with 3:39 left, there was no more time for being conservative.
Asked what Godsey was thinking at that point, Davie answered: “I was afraid to ask him.”
Godsey let his teammates know his thoughts, though.
“I went up to the guys and told them, ‘Let’s not leave the field second,”‘ Godsey said. “They all looked at me confident.”
Notre Dame was just 3-of-12 on third-down conversions before converted on all three during the final drive, including Godsey’s 15-yard completion to Javin Hunter on a third-and-10. He followed that with an 11-yard pass to David Givens.
“That’s a couple of huge plays right there,” Davie said. “He found a way to get us down there and get us a field goal at the end of the game.”
After passing for 75 yards through three quarters, Godsey passed for 83 yards in the fourth quarter. He was 14-of-25 for the game, completing one more pass than Purdue’s Drew Brees and one more than Battle had through Notre Dame’s first two games.
“I did? Wow. Sweet,” Godsey said.
Davie said he was impressed by what Godsey was able to accomplish with a limited game plan. The goal now is to try to get more of the offense in for the Irish game Saturday at No. 23 Michigan State.
“Our coaching staff has a tremendous challenge this week trying to do some things with Gary Godsey to be successful,” Davie said.
Davie said he doesn’t know why the Irish have been so successful with first-time starting quarterbacks. But it did get him thinking.
“Maybe we ought to start (freshman Matt) LoVecchio this week.”