Sept. 22, 2003
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-2)
vs. (#22 AP) Purdue Boilermakers (2-1)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003, at 2:38 p.m. EST.
The Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500/Prescription Athletic Turf) in West Lafayette, Ind.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 154th sellout in the last 177 games and the 18th consecutive sellout involving Notre Dame, including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in ’99, the first five in ’00, the first nine in ’01, all 13 in ’02 and the first four in ’03.
The TV Plans: ABC Sports regional telecast with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese (analysis), Lynn Swann (sideline), Bruce Clark (producer) and Steve Beim (director). The Notre Dame-Purdue game will be seen in 37 percent of the country – including all of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, plus parts of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The Radio Plans: For the 36th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 200 stations in all 50 states nationwide by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis), former Irish quarterback and 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis) and Al Smith (producer). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available via the Notre Dame athletics web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games are heard on WDND-AM (1620) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Andy Budzinski, Shawn Lewallen, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Purdue game, via the Notre Dame (www.und.com) and Purdue (www.purduesports.com) athletics web sites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Purdue (www.purduesports.com).
After falling out of the national polls for the first time since the beginning of last season, Notre Dame will aim for a reversal of fortune as it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday for a 2:38 p.m. (EST) matchup with No. 22 Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Irish and Boilermakers will be meeting for the 75th time in a series that dates all the way back to 1896, making it the third-oldest rivalry in the 115-year history of Notre Dame football.
The Irish (1-2) enter this weekend’s contest on the heels of a tough 22-16 loss to Michigan State last Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Senior placekicker Nicholas Setta continued his strong play this season by converting on all three of his field goal attempts, while sophomore wide receiver Rhema McKnight caught a career-high eight passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. The Notre Dame defense also rose up and forced three turnovers for the third consecutive game. However, MSU defensive lineman Greg Taplin returned an interception 40 yards for a backbreaking score midway through the fourth quarter and the Spartans held on to win their fourth consecutive game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Purdue (2-1) is coming off a 59-7 rout of Arizona last weekend at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers put together a complete offensive performance, rolling up 580 yards and scoring eight touchdowns in the win. Quarterback Kyle Orton connected on 16-of-28 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Jerome Brooks toted the ball 21 times for 122 yards and two scores. Brooks’ backfield mate, Jerod Void, added 60 yards on 12 carries and also scored twice.
Orton ranks 31st in the nation in passing efficiency (142.94) and two of his targets are among the country’s best wideouts. Taylor Stubblefield is third nationally with 8.67 receptions per game, while John Standeford averages 86.67 yards per game, good for 35th in the land.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Purdue, 49-23-2, including wins in 15 of its last 17 meetings with the Boilermakers. The Irish won last year’s matchup, 24-17, on a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Vontez Duff with 5:09 remaining.
NOTRE DAME-PURDUE SERIES NOTES
- Saturday’s game marks the 75th meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue, making the Boilermakers the second-most common foe ever for the Irish. Notre Dame will play Navy for the 77th time and USC for the 75th time later this season.
- The Irish and Boilermakers first met in 1896, making this series the third-oldest rivalry with a current Division I-A school in Notre Dame history behind Michigan (1887) and Northwestern (1889).
- The Irish lead the series, 49-23-2, with a 23-12-2 record at West Lafayette and a 17-10 mark at Ross-Ade Stadium. Notre Dame has more wins in West Lafayette (23) and at Ross-Ade Stadium (17) than any other Purdue opponent in its history.
- Notre Dame has won 15 of the last 17 games between the two schools, including the last three which were all close (a 23-21 nailbiter in 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium, a 24-18 thriller in 2001 at Purdue and a 24-17 barnburner last season at Notre Dame Stadium).
- Notre Dame and Purdue have played every season since 1946, with this season marking the 58th consecutive season the teams have met. It matches the USC rivalry as Notre Dame’s second longest current continuous series behind Navy which started in 1927.
- The Irish have 49 series wins over the Boilermakers, the second-most against any opponent < 66=”” against=”” navy=”” remains=”” the=”” highest.=””>
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- The Irish will knock off Purdue for the 16th time in the last 18 games, dating back to a 41-9 victory on Sept. 27, 1986 (Lou Holtz’s first win as Notre Dame’s head coach).
- Notre Dame will record its 50th series win over Purdue, the second-most victories against one opponent behind its 66 wins over Navy.
- The Irish will win back-to-back games at Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time since a five-game winning streak in West Lafayette from 1987-95.
- Notre Dame will improve to 36-16-1 (.689) in its last 53 games against Big Ten Conference opposition and chalk up its fifth win in the last seven games against that league.
- The Irish will register their 24th all-time victory in West Lafayette, breaking a tie with Pittsburgh for the most wins ever on an opponent’s home field.
- Notre Dame will claim its fourth consecutive win over the Boilermakers for the first time since it put together a series-record 11-game winning streak from 1986-96.
IF PURDUE WINS …
- Purdue will log its 24th series win over the Irish, tying Michigan State for the second-most wins ever by a Notre Dame opponent (USC has 27 career wins over the Irish).
- Notre Dame will lose three games to Big Ten Conference opponents in the same season for the first time since 1999 (losses to Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State).
- The Irish will drop their fifth consecutive game away from home, dating back to a loss at USC in the 2002 regular-season finale. The last time Notre Dame fell in five straight games outside of Notre Dame Stadium was 2000-01 (Oregon State in the ’00 Fiesta Bowl, at Nebraska, at Texas A&M, at Boston College, at Stanford). The game that stopped that streak was a 24-18 win at Purdue on Dec. 1, 2001.
- Notre Dame will lose three consecutive games for the first time since a loss to Oregon State in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, followed by an 0-3 record to open the ’01 season.
NOTRE DAME-PURDUE SERIES HISTORY
- Notre Dame leads the all-time series (49-23-2), including 23-12-2 at Purdue and 17-10 at Notre Dame Stadium (Purdue also won the neutral-site 1984 game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, which also served as the Dedication Game for that stadium).
- The Irish have had the most success of any opponent on the Boilermakers’ home field. Notre Dame’s 23 wins in West Lafayette and 17 victories at Ross-Ade Stadium are the most by any Purdue foe in the 116-year history of that program.
- The Irish and Purdue first met in 1896 (a 28-22 Boilermaker win). This series is the third-oldest in school history, topped only by the Michigan (1887) and Northwestern (1889) rivalries.
- The teams played seven times from 1899-1907 before a 11-year break (the longest hiatus in the history of the series). The teams resumed play in 1918 and met every year until 1923 before a 10-year break in the series. The teams then met in 1933, ’34 and ’39 and the series has been continuous since 1946, tying with the USC rivalry for Notre Dame’s second-longest continuous series (Notre Dame and Navy have played every year since 1927).
- The Irish have won 15 of the last 17 games in the series (dating back to 1986), outscoring Purdue 575-265 over that span for an average score of 33-15. However, the games have been much tighter during the past five seasons with all five contests decided by a touchdown or less. Notre Dame has won four of those nailbiters < 31-30=”” in=”” ’98=”” (on=””>Jim Sanson’s 17-yard field goal with 57 seconds left), 23-21 in ’00 (on Nicholas Setta’s 38-yard field goal as time expired) and 24-17 in ’02 (on Vontez Duff’s 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:09 to play).
- The winner of the Notre Dame-Purdue series receives the Shillelagh Trophy, a tradition which began in 1957. The trophy was donated by the late Joe McLaughlin (a merchant seaman and Notre Dame fan who brought the club from Ireland). Notre Dame has taken home the Shillelagh Trophy 30 times in the 46-year history of the award.
- The 2003 game will mark the 16th time in the last 17 meetings and 22nd time in the last 25 clashes that at least one of the two teams has been ranked.
NOTRE DAME-PURDUE CONNECTIONS
- Notre Dame offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick and Irish offensive line coach John McDonell worked alongside Purdue head coach Joe Tiller when all three were members of Mike Price’s staff at Washington State from 1989-90. In addition, Boilermaker quarterbacks coach Blaine Bennett was a graduate assistant on the WSU staff with the afore-mentioned trio in 1989.
- Purdue defensive ends coach Gary Emanuel worked with Notre Dame offensive line coach John McDonell and running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston at Washington State from 1994-96.
- Irish head athletic trainer Jim Russ < now=”” in=”” his=”” 18th=”” season=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=””>< served=”” as=”” an=”” assistant=”” athletic=”” trainer=”” at=”” purdue=”” from=”” 1977-82=”” (when=”” the=”” boilers=”” went=”” 2-4=”” against=”” the=”” irish).=””>
- Third-year Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Tricia Matasyk is a 1999 Purdue graduate.
The last five games in the Notre Dame-Purdue series all have been decided by seven points or less, with the Irish winning four of those five nailbiters. In 1998, Jim Sanson kicked a 17-yard field goal with 57 seconds left to give the Irish a 31-30 win. A year later, the Boilermakers exacted a measure of revenge, as Travis Dorsch booted a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to lead Purdue past Notre Dame, 28-23. In 2000, another Irish kicker took center stage, as Nicholas Setta drilled a 38-yard field goal on the game’s final play to lift Notre Dame to a 23-21 victory. In 2001, Vontez Duff returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score and Jason Beckstrom brought an interception back 29 yards for a TD, helping the Irish weather a late Purdue rally for the 24-18 win. Last season, Duff returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown with 5:09 remaining to give the Irish a 24-17 victory.
SCORING BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY
In Notre Dame’s last two games against Purdue, five of the six touchdowns scored by the Irish have come from their defense or special teams. In 2001, Vontez Duff returned a kickoff 96 yards for a score and Jason Beckstrom followed with a 29-yard interception for a touchdown, lifting the Irish to the 24-18 win. Then, last season, all three Notre Dame scores were provided by the defense and special teams. Gerome Sapp returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown and Lionel Bolen followed suit with a four-yard fumble return for a score on the ensuing kickoff just 11 seconds later (the fastest two-TD outburst in school history). Then, after Purdue had tied the game at 17, Duff brought an interception back 33 yards for the game-winning score with 5:09 remaining.
- The series has produced 47 previous games in which at least one team was ranked in the AP poll, but the higher-ranked team is just 29-18 in those games.
- Purdue has been the beneficiary in 15 of the series’ 18 upsets of the higher-ranked teams, including four times in which the Boilermakers knocked off the top-rated Irish: 1950 (28-14) and 1954 (27-14) at Notre Dame Stadium, and 1965 (25-21) and 1967 (28-21) at Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue was unranked in 1950, No. 19 in ’54, No. 6 in ’65 and No. 10 in ’67.
- Unranked Purdue teams also have beaten ranked Irish teams in 1956, ’59, ’60, ’74 (31-20, when ND was No. 2), ’81, ’84 and ’97 while lower-ranked Purdue teams also have beaten higher-ranked ND teams in ’58, ’69, ’79 and ’99.
- Lower-ranked Irish teams have upset a higher-ranked Purdue squad three times, most recently at Notre Dame Stadium in 2000 when Notre Dame’s Nicholas Setta connected on a 38-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the 23rd-ranked Irish a 23-21 victory over the 13th-ranked Boilermakers. Other Irish upsets include at Ross-Ade Stadium in 1952, when the unranked Irish knocked off No. 9 Purdue (26-14); and at Notre Dame Stadium in 1980, when the No. 11 Irish topped the ninth-ranked Boilermakers (31-10).
- Purdue is tied with USC as the second-most common opponent in Irish football history (both play Notre Dame for the 75th time this season), trailing one other ’03 foe: Navy (77th meeting this year).
- Notre Dame faces its five most common opponents this season (Navy, Purdue, USC, Michigan State and Pittsburgh).
- The Irish have played 134 different teams in 115 seasons of varsity football.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE BIG TEN CONFERENCE
- Notre Dame has played nearly three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (326) as any other league. The Pac-10 (110) and BIG EAST (108) are the only other conferences against whom the Irish have played at least 100 games.
- Notre Dame has won more than 66 percent of its games versus Big Ten Conference opponents, with a record of .500 or better against 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams (Michigan is the lone exception). The Irish have an overall mark of 209-102-15 (.664) in 326 games against Big Ten schools, with more than 52 percent of those games (172) coming versus Michigan (12-18-1), Michigan State (42-24-1) and Purdue (49-23-2), all of whom are on Notre Dame’s 2003 schedule.
- For the second consecutive season, Notre Dame is playing three Big Ten schools (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue). Last year, the Irish swept those same three Big Ten opponents, winning each game in the fourth quarter.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND PURDUE MET
Notre Dame cornerback Vontez Duff intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown with 5:09 to play, lifting the 23rd-ranked Irish to a 24-17 victory over Purdue at Notre Dame Stadium.
Duff’s heroics earned the Copperas Cove, Texas, native a place in the Irish record books as the first defensive player to score touchdowns in three consecutive games (he previously scored on kick and punt returns). Duff also sent the sun-drenched capacity crowd of 80,795 home happy as Notre Dame improved to 2-0 for the first time since 1996 and downed the Boilermakers for the 15th time in the last 17 meetings.
Running back Ryan Grant added a solid effort, rushing 21 times for a career-high 96 yards in the victory. It was the second consecutive successful outing for Grant against Purdue < he=”” ran=”” for=”” a=”” (then)=”” career-best=”” 77=”” yards=”” in=”” the=”” 2001=”” season=”” finale=”” against=”” the=”” boilermakers=”” in=”” west=”” lafayette.=””>
However, it was once again the Notre Dame defense which was the story. The Irish forced four Purdue turnovers on the afternoon and kept the high-powered Boiler passing game largely in check, as Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton completed only 14 of 30 passes for 171 yards with one interception.
Following a scoreless first quarter, Notre Dame seized the momentum in the blink of an eye. Strong safety Gerome Sapp scooped up a Purdue fumble, danced past two tacklers and raced 54 yards for a touchdown to put the Irish in front. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Boilermakers fumbled again. Cornerback Lionel Bolen found himself in the right spot, plucking the ball out of midair and waltzing four yards into the end zone for a quick 14-0 lead.
The two Notre Dame scores came just 11 seconds apart, breaking the school record for the fastest two TDs by one second. It also rocked Purdue back on its collective heels, a feeling which would be magnified later in the quarter, when Nicholas Setta banged home a 19-yard field goal to hike the Irish lead to 17-0 at the 6:25 mark.
The Boilermakers then regained their balance with some help from their special teams. Anthony Chambers floated back to his own 24-yard line to receive an Irish punt, drifted to his left and then slashed up the middle, going virtually untouched 76 yards for the score. The touchdown, which came just over two minutes before halftime, gave Purdue some life heading into the locker room.
As it did for much of the afternoon, the Notre Dame offense struggled and the Boilermakers took advantage. Late in the third quarter, Orton drove the visitors on a 10-play, 71-yard drive, which was capped by Jerod Void’s three-yard TD run. Berin Lacevic then completed the Purdue comeback by kicking a 35-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17-17.
Notre Dame had a pair of golden opportunities to regain the lead, but the normally-reliable Setta missed field goal attempts from 38 and 42 yards. However, the Irish finally seized on their third chance, as Duff’s interception sent the Notre Dame faithful into a frenzy.
The Boilers had one last opportunity, driving to the Irish 36-yard line with 1:44 left, but Orton’s fourth-down pass fell harmlessly to the turf and Notre Dame collected its sixth win in the last seven home openers.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND PURDUE MET AT ROSS-ADE STADIUM
Notre Dame used a Vontez Duff kickoff return and a Jason Beckstrom interception in the second half, both for touchdowns, as the Irish ended the 2001 season on a positive note by defeating Purdue, 24-18, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.
Freshman tailback Ryan Grant rushed for a career-high 77 yards on 19 carries and scored his first career touchdown from 14 yards out earlier in the second quarter to put Notre Dame ahead for good. Still, the Irish held just a slim 10-9 lead after Purdue’s Travis Dorsch kicked the third of his four field goals with 4:24 left in the third quarter. However, Duff quickly stopped the Boilermakers in their tracks by taking the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a score.
Early in the fourth quarter, after a Joey Hildbold punt pinned Purdue deep in its own territory, Beckstrom intercepted Kyle Orton’s third-down pass and scampered 29 yards for the touchdown to give the Irish a 24-9 lead. That would be enough to withstand a late rally by the Boilers, who pulled within six points and drove to the Notre Dame 44-yard line in the waning seconds before senior cornerback Clifford Jefferson picked off Orton’s Hail Mary pass to preserve the first Irish win at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1995.
Courtney Watson NAMED TO AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM
Senior All-America linebacker Courtney Watson was one of 11 people named Sept. 17 to the 2003 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Football Team. The award recognizes players for their dedication and commitment to community service and all nominees must display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations in which they were involved.
Watson, who joins former defensive end Grant Irons as the only Irish players to win the award, was recognized for his extensive work within the University and South Bend communities. A native of Sarasota, Fla., Watson was responsible for creating and developing the football team’s community service initiative entitled Tackle The Arts. The program, now in its second year, partners with the St. Joseph Country Public Library in South Bend, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and the Notre Dame Marching Band in providing an interactive approach helping inspire children to explore different areas of the arts including reading, creative writing and poetry, drawing and music. In addition to providing scholastic support with area children, Watson also installed a food drive dimension to the event to benefit the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.
In conjunction with the 2003 Tackle the Arts event, Watson along with teammates Brandon Hoyte and Dan Stevenson , also played host to a picnic for at-risk children in the South Bend area. The children, who attended the picnic and later Tackle the Arts, were identified through the NCAA’s National Youth in Sports Program, the South Bend Housing Authority, the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Urban League of South Bend.
Additionally, Watson has made many surprise visits to the pediatric floor at Memorial Hospital in South Bend and has addressed the Jackson Middle School football team at its end of the year banquet. He has participated in the St. Joseph County City Bureau Youth Fest and made hospital visits while the Irish were in Jacksonville, Fla., playing in the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl.
Watson has also been very active in the Notre Dame community as he was nominated and then elected a member of the Notre Dame Student Senate in 2002-03. Meeting every Wednesday night, Watson and his fellow senators would discuss issues pertinent to the University community. He also served as a member of the Residence Life and Academic Council committees.
Watson is also a four-year participant, and two-time champion, in Notre Dame’s student-run basketball tournament called Bookstore Basketball, which is the largest 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournament in America.
The Washington State game was the fifth overtime contest in Notre Dame history and the first since a 34-31 win over Air Force on Oct. 28, 2000. The Irish are 2-3 when they are pushed to an extra session (2-2 at home), and have won both games in which they won the overtime coin toss.
One other OT tidbit: senior safety Glenn Earl has played a key role in each of the last two overtime wins for the Irish. Against Air Force in 2000, Earl blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation, allowing Notre Dame to go on and win on Joey Getherall’s nine-yard TD run in the extra period. Earlier this season against Washington State, Earl broke up a third-down pass intended for WSU’s Scott Lunde, forcing the Cougars to try a 34-yard field goal that missed, opening the door for the Irish to win on Nicholas Setta’s 40-yard field goal.
BACK FROM THE BRINK
Notre Dame erased a 19-0 second-quarter deficit in its win over Washington State, representing the largest comeback for the Irish since Oct. 16, 1999 against another Pac-10 team, USC. In that game, Notre Dame trailed 24-3 early in the third quarter, but reeled off 22 unanswered points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to snatch the victory away from the stunned Trojans.
YOU GOTTA BELIEVE
Notre Dame’s 29-26 overtime win over Washington State continues a trend of remarkable victories that began last season. The Irish now are 7-2 (.778) in games decided by eight points or less since Tyrone Willingham took over as the Notre Dame head coach prior to last season. The only times the Irish have not won a close ball game under Willingham’s guidance were against Boston College in 2002 (14-7) and earlier this year vs. Michigan State (22-16).
Fourth-quarter comebacks also aren’t anything new to Notre Dame in the Willingham era. The Irish have won five times during the past two seasons when they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
FIVE O’CLOCK LIGHTNING
The 20 points scored by Notre Dame in the fourth quarter against Washington State were the most the Irish have tallied in the final period since Oct. 25, 1997, when they erupted for 21 fourth-quarter points in a 52-20 blowout of Boston College.
RETURN TO SENDER
One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s success last season was its ability to capitalize on an opponent’s mistakes. In fact, the Irish wound up with nine returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdowns in 2002, which tied North Carolina State for second-most in the nation behind Kansas State’s 12 returns for touchdowns.
Upon closer inspection, the return game has been a source of strength for Notre Dame over the past five seasons. The Irish have logged 23 returns for touchdowns in that time, a figure that ranks eighth in the country.
THEY SHALL RETURN
- During the past 17-plus seasons (’86-’03), Notre Dame has produced 77 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns ?- including Vontez Duff’s 76-yard punt return vs. Maryland, Duff’s 33-yard interception return, Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return and Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return vs. Purdue, Shane Walton’s 18-yard interception return and Courtney Watson’s 34-yard interception return against Stanford, Duff’s 92-yard kickoff return vs. Navy, Walton’s 45-yard interception return against Rutgers and Carlos Pierre-Antoine’s 27-yard blocked punt return at USC in ’02.
- Irish opponents in the past 17-plus seasons have combined for just 20 total returns for touchdowns.
- The ’02 Irish joined the ’93 and ’00 teams as the only squads to return at least one punt, kickoff, interception and fumble for TDs.
- Among current Notre Dame players, senior cornerback Vontez Duff has four touchdown returns (2 KR, 1 PR, 1 INT), senior running back Julius Jones has two TD returns (1 KR, 1 PR) and senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson also has two touchdown runbacks (2 INT). Allen Rossum holds the school and NCAA record for most TDs on runbacks with nine (3 KR, 3 PR, 3 INT) from 1994-97.
WILLINGHAM OFF TO A GOOD START
Second-year Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham has posted an 11-5 (.688) career mark with the Irish, a record that matches up favorably with past Notre Dame coaches. In fact, of the 13 full-time Irish mentors since 1913, nine won at least 11 of their first 15 games, and all nine wound up with at least a .630 winning percentage over their careers at Notre Dame.
DON’T TAKE RYAN FOR GRANTED
Junior running back Ryan Grant quietly posted another solid performance against Washington State, rolling up a game-high 98 yards on 17 carries. It was the eighth career 90-yard game for Grant, with the Irish going 7-1 in games when he reaches that landmark (only loss vs. Boston College in 2002 after he rushed 27 times for 107 yards).
MR. JONES AND ME
Senior running back Julius Jones played a critical role in Notre Dame’s win over Washington State. Despite missing all of last season, Jones wasted little time in showing some of the brilliance that made him the team’s leading rusher in 2000 and 2001. The Big Stone Gap, Va., native carried 11 times for 72 yards in the win, including a 19-yard touchdown run with 5:03 remaining in the fourth quarter that gave the Irish their first lead of the game. It also was Jones’ first TD since a 44-yard run vs. Navy in 2001.
Jones also continues to inch closer to several Notre Dame career kick return records, all held by 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown. Jones has 64 career kickoff runbacks (five behind Brown) and returned the 100th kick of his career (punts and kickoffs combined) at Michigan < he=”” now=”” has=”” 101=”” career=”” kick=”” returns=”” (four=”” behind=”” brown).=”” in=”” addition,=”” jones=”” has=”” 1,507=”” career=”” kickoff=”” return=”” yards,=”” putting=”” him=”” 106=”” yards=”” behind=”” brown.=”” jones=”” also=”” has=”” 1,929=”” career=”” kick=”” return=”” yards,=”” leaving=”” him=”” only=”” 160=”” yards=”” shy=”” of=”” brown’s=”” school=”” record.=””>
HOYTE STANDS TALL ON DEFENSE
Junior inside linebacker Brandon Hoyte has been masterful on defense in crucial situations. Coming into each of the last two seasons, Hoyte has been designated as Notre Dame’s top reserve linebacker. However, on six occasions, he has been pressed into a starting role and he has delivered in the clutch, averaging 8.3 tackles per game, including double-digit outings in three of his last four contests (North Carolina State in the ’03 Gator Bowl, Washington State and Michigan in ’03). In addition, Hoyte has been Notre Dame’s leading tackler four times (Maryland, Purdue and North Carolina State in ’02; Washington State in ’03), including a career-best 11 tackles in the overtime win over Washington State on Sept. 6.
Five true freshmen have played for Notre Dame in all three games this season. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri, wide receiver Chinedum Ndukwe, defensive back Freddie Parish, Jr., quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija all have made significant contributions during the early portion of the year. Abiamiri has made eight tackles, including a career-high seven in his first start vs. Michigan State. Meanwhile, Parish has logged three tackles (one in each game), Samardzija has caught three passes (one in each game) for 35 yards and Quinn is 10-of-27 for 139 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He has directed the Irish on two scoring drives this season < a=”” six-play,=”” 80-yard=”” march=”” that=”” put=”” notre=”” dame=”” on=”” top=”” in=”” the=”” fourth=”” quarter=”” against=”” washington=”” state,=”” and=”” a=”” nine-play,=”” 85-yard=”” journey=”” in=”” the=”” fourth=”” period=”” vs.=”” michigan=”” state=”” that=”” was=”” capped=”” off=”” by=”” his=”” first=”” career=”” td=”” pass,=”” a=”” 29-yard=”” strike=”” to=”” sophomore=”” wide=”” receiver=””>Rhema McKnight.
The WSU game also marked the first time Notre Dame had five true freshmen play in a season opener since Aug. 28, 1999. On that afternoon, Jason Beckstrom, Joey Hildbold, Julius Jones, Gerome Sapp and Chris Yura all participated in a 48-13 Irish rout of Kansas in the State of Indiana Eddie Robinson Classic. Beckstrom and Jones now are seniors on the 2003 Irish roster.
SETTA PULLING DOUBLE DUTY
Senior Nicholas Setta is serving as the starting placekicker and punter for the Irish this season, marking the first time a Notre Dame player regularly has filled both roles since Craig Hentrich turned the trick from 1989-92. Hentrich is now an all-pro punter with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and even booted three field goals as the Titans’ emergency kicker in their season-opening win over Oakland on Sept. 7.
Setta is in his fourth year as the Irish placekicker, having twice been named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List. He also has been selected as a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s each of the last two seasons. This year, he is aiming to break several Notre Dame records, including career field goal attempts (Setta is second with 65, while John Carney holds the record of 69 from 1984-86), career field goal made (Setta is second with 45, while Carney is first with 51), and career points by kicking (Setta is third with 237, while Hentrich owns the top mark of 294). In addition, Setta has made 90 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history behind Hentrich’s run of 136 straight PATs from 1989-92. Setta’s last missed PAT kick came on Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford.
Setta has been one of the primary sources of offense for Notre Dame through the first three games of the 2003 season. He has connected on 8-of-9 field goal attempts, including a perfect 6-of-6 on kicks inside of 40 yards, and leads the Irish with 27 points this season. His average of 2.67 field goals per game is third-best in the nation, while his 9.0 points-per-game average ranks 27th nationally.
Setta got his final season at Notre Dame off to a flying start against Washington State, matching his career high (and tying the school record) with five field goals in six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yard boot in overtime. He also set a new personal best with 17 points by kicking (five field goals, two PAT), one better than his previous high of 16, set in last year’s season opener vs. Maryland (five field goals, one PAT). Those 17 points vs. WSU helped push the Lockport, Ill., product into third place on the school’s career points-by-kicking list < he=”” now=”” has=”” 237=”” points=”” and=”” is=”” within=”” sight=”” of=”” dave=”” reeve,=”” who=”” is=”” second=”” all-time=”” with=”” 247=”” points=”” from=”” 1974-77.=”” setta=”” added=”” three=”” more=”” field=”” goals=”” on=”” as=”” many=”” attempts=”” against=”” michigan=”” state,=”” marking=”” the=”” fourth=”” time=”” in=”” his=”” career=”” he=”” has=”” kicked=”” three=”” field=”” goals=”” in=”” a=”” single=”” game.=””>
While he has a wealth of experience as a placekicker, Setta comes into this season having only served as a backup punter behind two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. However, while filling in for the injured Hildbold against Boston College in 2000, Setta did punt four times for 160 yards (a 40-yard average), including a career-long 47-yard boot in a 28-16 Irish victory. Setta was one of 32 candidates named to the ’03 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list and has backed up that selection through the first three weeks of the season, ranking 46th in the nation with an average of 41.3 yards on 19 punts. He also boomed a career-long 54-yard punt on his first try of the season vs. Washington State and carded a career-high nine punts at Michigan for a 43.9-yard average (including a 51-yard kick).
SIX IRISH PLAYERS EARN PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson was a preseason first-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News. Meanwhile, senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was a preseason first-team All-American according to Street & Smith’s and a second-team choice by Athlon. The latter publication also named senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard to its preseason All-America third team. Senior safety Glenn Earl, junior running back Ryan Grant and senior kicker/punter Nicholas Setta all were awarded preseason honorable mention All-America status by Street & Smith’s.
THREE NOTRE DAME POSITION UNITS LAUDED BY NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS
Athlon named the Irish linebacking corps the fourth-best unit in the country, while The Sporting News labelled them the ninth-best group in the land. In addition, Athlon selected the Notre Dame defensive line as the fifth-best unit in the nation.
WATSON NAMED TO WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson has been named to the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, the nation’s fourth-oldest individual accolade which is given annually by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Through a vote of the 117 Division I-A head coach and sports information directors, the list will be cut to 10 semifinalists in early November, with the winner to be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The official award presentation is slated for Feb. 14, 2004, at the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards banquet, which will be held in New Haven, Conn., at the Yale University Commons.
WATSON, GOOLSBY NAMED TO BUTKUS AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior inside linebackers Courtney Watson and Mike Goolsby have been named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. The list of 90 candidates will be pared down to 10 semifinalists on Oct. 16, with the three finalists chosen on Nov. 13. The winner will be unveiled Dec. 12 at a banquet in Orlando.
DUFF, EARL PICKED FOR THORPE AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl have been named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association, based in Oklahoma City. Ten semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3, with the three finalists selected on Nov. 24. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for Feb. 9, 2004, in Oklahoma City.
HOLIDAY TAPPED FOR O’BRIEN AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday has earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback by the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Fort Worth.
TUCK EARNS PLACE ON HENDRICKS AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end by the Ted Hendricks Foundation in Chicago. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation set for February 2004 in Chicago.
SETTA APPEARS ON RAY GUY AWARD PRESEASON WATCH LIST
Senior punter/placekicker Nicholas Setta has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. Ten semifinalists will be announced in early November and the three finalists will be chosen later that month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show and will receive his award live during the broadcast.
FOUR PLAYERS NAMED TO 2003 STREET & SMITH’S AWARD WATCH LISTS
Street & Smith’s tapped senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson for spots on its Butkus Award and Bednarik/Nagurski Award watch lists (as did Lindy’s). The former honor recognizes the country’s top linebacker, while the latter awards spotlight the nation’s best overall defensive player. In addition, Street & Smith’s placed senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl on its watch list for the Thorpe Award (which goes to the top defensive back in the country), and the publication named senior kicker Nicholas Setta to its watch list for the Lou Groza Award (presented to the nation’s top kicker).
IRISH PLAYERS RANK HIGH IN LINDY’S AND THE SPORTING NEWS IN 2003
Senior Courtney Watson was tabbed the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Vontez Duff was rated the seventh-best cornerback and ninth-best all-purpose player by Lindy’s, and the nation’s 10th best as both a cornerback and kick returner by The Sporting News. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard was ranked the sixth-best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior safety Glenn Earl placed 14th among free safeties by The Sporting News and 19th by Lindy’s. Senior Mike Goolsby was rated 12th among the nation’s inside linebackers by Lindy’s, while junior Ryan Grant was 18th among running backs and senior Darrell Campbell was charted 19th among defensive linemen by the same publication.
IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham
A veteran with 26 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is now in his second season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after previously serving as the leader at Stanford University. In eight years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 55-41-1 (.572) overall record, including an 11-5 (.688) mark with the Irish, and has guided his charges to bowl games on five occasions.
Willingham used his years of service in the coaching business to reverse the tides of the Irish program in ’02, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl. He became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, and he was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he made history in 2002 as the first college football coach ever to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award.
Willingham was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91.
Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served on the coaching staffs at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line — The offensive line has been largely retooled for the Irish this season. Four of the five starters from last year were selected in the NFL Draft (and all four remain on active ’03 NFL rosters), taking with them more than 80 combined starts and nine combined seasons of starting experience. Senior right guard Sean Milligan is the lone holdover on the offensive line and he is being called upon to anchor the rebuilt 2003 crew. Milligan is a three-year monogram winner who played in all 13 games last season, playing a total of 266:27. He has made 19 career starts, including the first two games of 2003, but he missed the Michigan State contest with a back injury.
Junior Mark LeVoir earned the starting nod at left guard all three games this year (the first starts of his career) after spending the past two campaigns as a backup at both tackle positions. One of the largest linemen on the Irish roster this year (6-7, 320), LeVoir played in four games last season for a total of 10:09. Juniors Jeff Thompson and Darin Mitchell serve as the primary understudies at the guard spot for Notre Dame. Mitchell made his first career start against Michigan State, replacing Milligan in the Irish lineup.
While Milligan is the only regular starter back this season, both of this year’s tackles saw significant playing time last year. Senior tackle Jim Molinaro has started the last six games for the Irish, including five on the left end, protecting Carlyle Holiday’s blind side. On the other side of the line, junior right tackle Dan Stevenson was thrust in the starting lineup for last year’s Gator Bowl and played extremely well, cementing his role at that position in 2003. Stevenson played a total of 82:23 in 11 games last season, seeing time as both a reserve guard and tackle. Molinaro and Stevenson have started the first three games this season for the Irish and were instrumental in Notre Dame’s 167-yard rushing performance against Washington State. A pair of sophomores, Brian Mattes and Jamie Ryan, are penciled in to be the backup tackles this year. Ryan saw his first action of the season in the Michigan State game, but it came at the right guard position, spelling Mitchell.
The battle to replace All-America center Jeff Faine was a tight one throughout preseason camp, with sophomore Bob Morton and junior Zachary Giles both competing for the starting spot. Morton earned the starting job for the first two games of the season, although Giles saw plenty of action against Washington State. In fact, the two ended up playing alongside one another (Giles at center, Morton at right guard) late in the WSU contest as the Irish were mounting their comeback win over the Cougars. When Morton succumbed to an injury prior to the Michigan State game, Giles stepped in against the Spartans and made his first career start.
Backs — Senior Carlyle Holiday (36-73-303, 1 TD, 4 INT) has been the starting quarterback for Notre Dame since the third week of the 2001 season. Last year was Holiday’s first in the new West Coast offense employed by head coach Tyrone Willingham and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, and the veteran signal-caller thrived, setting a school record with 126 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. A 2003 Davey O’Brien Award candidate, Holiday has the fifth-lowest interception percentage in school history (.0338), having thrown just 16 picks in 474 career pass attempts. He opened this season by connecting on a career-high 21-of-34 passes for 149 yards with one TD and one interception in the win over Washington State.
Freshman Brady Quinn (10-27-139, 1 TD, 1 INT) also has seen significant action this season. Quinn made his college debut against Washington State, coming in midway through the fourth quarter when Holiday was shaken up and directing the Irish on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. Quinn was 3-of-10 for 36 yards at Michigan before completing a season-best 7-of-17 throws for 103 yards and his first career touchdown (a 29-yard pass to Rhema McKnight) vs. Michigan State. Meanwhile, junior Pat Dillingham gives the Irish an experienced option at quarterback behind Holiday. Dillingham appeared in seven games last season, completing 41-of-81 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown. He carved a place in Irish history last season at Michigan State, throwing the game-winning 60-yard TD pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 to play. Dillingham also made his first career start vs. Stanford, throwing for 129 yards in a 31-7 victory.
Junior Ryan Grant (37-139) leads a veteran group of Irish running backs who were the main beneficiaries of Notre Dame’s new offensive style last year. Fresh off a 1,000-yard season in 2002, Grant picked up right where he left off, rushing 17 times for 98 yards against Washington State. In his career, he now has posted four 100-yard games and four other 90-yard efforts. Senior Julius Jones (36-146, 1 TD) and junior Marcus Wilson (5-8) also will see plenty of action out of the backfield this season. After sitting out last season, Jones made a triumphant return to the Irish lineup against Washington State, carrying 11 times for 72 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run with 5:03 to play that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. Jones also was the team’s leading rusher against Michigan (11-42) and Michigan State (14-32).
Junior Rashon Powers-Neal (1-2) steps into the starting lineup at fullback after serving as Grant’s primary understudy at tailback last season. A bruising back who deftly complements the fluid styles of Grant, Jones and Wilson, Powers-Neal carried 77 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns last season. Junior walk-on Josh Schmidt was the surprise of this year’s preseason camp, working his way into a position for playing time, along with sophomore Nate Schiccatano, who opened some eyes with 24 yards rushing and a touchdown in the ’03 Blue-Gold Game. Schmidt has caught two passes out of the backfield this season for 17 yards.
Receivers — Despite the loss of last year’s leading receiver Arnaz Battle, the Irish receiving corps should be well-stocked in 2003. Junior Omar Jenkins (10-89) takes over as the leader of the unit after pulling in 37 balls for 633 yards and three touchdowns last season. He wasted little time in showing the way for the Irish pass-catchers, tying his career high with five catches for 46 yards vs. WSU. Sophomore Rhema McKnight (14-148, 2 TD) has started the last two games vs. Michigan and Michigan State at the other wideout position, scoring touchdowns in both games and logging career highs of eight catches and 104 yards against MSU. Rangy sophomore Maurice Stovall (3-24), senior Ronnie Rodamer and junior Matt Shelton all can stretch defenses vertically and will see significant time in Notre Dame’s balanced offensive scheme. Stovall started the season opener against Washington State and matched his career high with three catches for 24 yards. Freshman receivers Chinedum Ndukwe and Jeff Samardzija (3-35) also could be heard from this season, with the latter recording one catch in each of his first three games, including a 19-yard grab against Michigan State.
Senior Billy Palmer (1-13) is the starting tight end for the Irish after appearing in all 13 games last year. He has started four times in his career, including all three games this season and caught the second pass of his career for 13 yards against Michigan State. Senior Jared Clark (6-67), a converted quarterback, has adjusted well to his new position and tied his personal best with four receptions for 28 yards against Washington State. He also had a team-high 39 yards receiving on two catches at Michigan. Sophomores Anthony Fasano (2-34) and Marcus Freeman also will contend for playing time this season < fasano=”” registered=”” his=”” first=”” career=”” reception,=”” a=”” 19-yard=”” grab,=”” at=”” michigan=”” and=”” added=”” a=”” 15-yard=”” reception=”” against=”” michigan=”” state.=””>
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line — One of the strengths of this year’s Irish squad will be its defensive line, where three starters are back in the fold. Senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (six tackles, 1 PBU) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (13 tackles, 0.5 for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery) both provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. Although he did not start vs. Washington State, Hilliard was a factor, finishing with four tackles and his first career fumble recovery. He has since returned to the starting lineup against Michigan and Michigan State, carding a season-high five tackles in the latter contest. Sophomore Derek Landri (two tackles) made his first career start vs. WSU in place of Hilliard and logged his first career tackle at Michigan, while senior Greg Pauly (five tackles, 0.5 for loss) had two tackles (0.5 for loss) in a reserve role against Washington State. Junior Brian Beidatsch (one fumble recovery) is the primary backup at the interior line spots and saw limited action against Washington State and Michigan, notching his first career fumble recovery in the UM contest. Senior right end Kyle Budinscak (six tackles, two for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery), the other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line, is in his second season as a starter (17 career starts). A two-time Academic All-District selection, Budinscak leads the team in sacks after chalking up a career-high two sacks in the win over Washington State. He also added his first career fumble recovery against Michigan State. Junior end Justin Tuck (11 tackles, one for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one PBU), a pass-rushing specialist with exceptional quickness, had started just one game in his career prior to this season, but cracked the lineup in the first two games this year, tallying four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble vs. Washington State and adding five tackles at Michigan. Highly-touted freshman Victor Abiamiri (eight tackles, one for loss) and sophomore Travis Leitko (one tackle) both serve as the top understudies at the defensive end positions. Abiamiri earned the starting nod against Michigan State and did not disappoint, registering seven tackles (six solo).
Linebackers — All three starting linebackers return for the Irish this season, led by senior inside linebackers and Butkus Award candidates Courtney Watson (24 tackles, two for loss, one forced fumble, one PBU) and Mike Goolsby. Watson, a 2002 Butkus Award finalist, led the team with 90 tackles last year despite missing three games due to injury. He sat out the Washington State game, but returned with a vengeance against Michigan and Michigan State, logging a team-high 12 tackles (one for loss) in each game. He also forced an early fumble at Michigan and now leads the Irish in tackles this season. Goolsby was third on the squad with 75 tackles last season, but currently is sidelined with a shoulder injury. Junior Brandon Hoyte (23 tackles, 2.5 for loss, one fumble recovery, two PBU) has stepped in for Goolsby this season, carding a career-high 11 tackles vs. Washington State, then adding 10 stops and his second career fumble recovery in the Michigan game. He leads the team in tackles for loss. Senior Derek Curry (15 tackles, one INT) mans the outside linebacker post and had a career day against Washington State, logging a personal-best seven tackles and his first career interception. Junior Corey Mays (eight tackles, 0.5 for loss), who started in place of Watson vs. Washington State and had a career-high four tackles at Michigan, and senior Jerome Collins (two tackles) are the main linebacker reserves.
Backs — Even with the loss of unanimous All-America cornerback Shane Walton and strong safety Gerome Sapp to the NFL, the Irish secondary should be particularly sturdy in 2003. Senior cornerback Vontez Duff (nine tackles, one forced fumble, two PBU) was a third-team All-American last year and has started the last 24 games for the Irish, while hard-hitting senior free safety Glenn Earl (19 tackles, one fumble recovery, one INT, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one PBU) tied for second on the team with 81 tackles last year. Both Duff and Earl are preseason candidates for the Jim Thorpe Award and both were key parts of the win over Washington State < duff=”” forced=”” a=”” critical=”” fourth-quarter=”” fumble=”” and=”” earl=”” recovered=”” the=”” loose=”” pigskin=”” to=”” help=”” ignite=”” a=”” 20-point=”” irish=”” rally.=”” earl=”” also=”” registered=”” a=”” season-high=”” 10=”” tackles=”” at=”” michigan=”” before=”” adding=”” six=”” stops=”” and=”” an=”” interception=”” against=”” michigan=”” state.=”” senior=””>Garron Bible (14 tackles, one fumble recovery) is filling Sapp’s role at strong safety admirably, starting all three games this season after having had only two career starts entering 2003. He tied his career high with seven tackles against both Washington State and Michigan and added his second career fumble recovery against the Wolverines. Meanwhile, the competition to replace Walton at the other cornerback position was tight between seniors Jason Beckstrom (11 tackles, one PBU) and Preston Jackson (15 tackles, one for loss), as well as junior Dwight Ellick (one tackle, one QB hurry). Beckstrom missed all of last season with a torn biceps, while Jackson appeared in every game last year (starting once). At the same time, Ellick is a former all-BIG EAST track standout who has played in 24 career games, mostly on special teams. Jackson has gotten the starting call in the first two games this season and had a career-high eight tackles at Michigan. All three men saw extensive time in the win over Washington State, but Ellick did not play in the Michigan or Michigan State game. Beckstrom sparkled against MSU, turning in a career-high six tackles. Juniors Quentin Burrell (eight tackles) and Lionel Bolen (one tackle), along with freshman Freddie Parish, Jr. (three tackles) head up the reserve secondary unit. Burrell, who logged a career-high four tackles against Michigan State, has been used primarily as the Irish dime back in the first three games, while Parish has appeared in both contests mainly in nickel situations.
SCOUTING THE IRISH KICKING GAME
Senior Nicholas Setta takes on the dual role of placekicker and punter in 2003, becoming the first person to hold down both positions for the Irish since Craig Hentrich from 1989-92. A two-time Lou Groza Award candidate, Setta is now in his fourth season as Notre Dame’s kicker this year, setting his sights on several school records. He has made 45 career field goals (six shy of John Carney’s mark) and is third on the Irish career points-by-kicking chart (237, record is 294 by Hentrich). In addition, Setta has made 90 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history (136 by Hentrich from 1989-92). Setta got his final season off to a terrific start against Washington State, tying his career best with five field goals on six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yarder in overtime. He also established a new personal best with 17 points by kicking, one more than his previous high set in the ’02 opener vs. Maryland. The Lockport, Ill., native then made all three of his field goal attempts against Michigan State, marking the fourth time in his career he has made at least three field goals in one game. For the season, Setta is 8-for-9 on field goals, including 6-of-6 inside 40 yards, and ranks third in the nation with an average of 2.67 field goals per game. His 9.0 points-per-game average also is good for 27th in the country.
This season marks Setta’s first as the everyday punter following the departure of two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. Setta, a 2003 Ray Guy Award candidate, has easily slipped into his second job, ranking 46th in the nation with an average of 41.3 yards on 19 punts this season, including a 43.9-yard average on a career-high nine punts at Michigan. Setta also has boomed three 50-yard punts this year, including a career-long 54-yard shot on his first kick of the season in the win over Washington State.
Junior walk-on offensive lineman Casey Dunn and sophomore Scott Raridon are splitting time as the Irish snappers, taking over for the departed John Crowther. Meanwhile, junior reserve kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick has assumed Hildbold’s role as the holder on placement kicks, while also backing up Setta at both kicking positions.
Seniors Vontez Duff and Julius Jones make up a formidable kick return crew for Notre Dame. Duff is ranked nationally in both punt and kickoff returns, standing 24th in punt runbacks (13.6 yards per return) and 46th in kickoff returns (23.17). He now has 1,032 career kickoff return yards and became the sixth player in school history to amass 1,000 yards in career kickoff runbacks with his 40-yard effort at Michigan. Jones leads the Irish with 218 all-purpose yards this season and ranks second in school history in four career return categories < total=”” kick=”” return=”” yardage=”” (1,929),=”” total=”” kick=”” returns=”” (101),=”” kickoff=”” returns=”” (64)=”” and=”” kickoff=”” returns=”” yardage=”” (1,507).=”” he=”” is=”” closing=”” in=”” on=”” 1987=”” heisman=”” trophy=”” winner=”” (and=”” school=”” record=”” holder)=””>Tim Brown in all four departments.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 153 of its previous 176 games, including its last 17 games in a row. On Sept. 13 at Michigan, the Irish and Wolverines helped bring in the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of that series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represents the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been a part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002).
Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2003 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 54,244 ticket requests for the Oct. 18 game vs. USC, making it the fourth-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Nov. 1 Notre Dame-Florida State game garnered 51,051 requests, placing it fifth on the all-time list. In fact, Notre Dame set a record by refunding $5.1 million to lottery losers in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni. That total easily exceeded last year’s mark of $2.1 million and outdistanced the old refund record of $3.8 million in 2001.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest < plus=”” contributing=”” alumni=”” having=”” the=”” opportunity=”” to=”” apply=”” for=”” four=”” tickets=”” instead=”” of=”” the=”” usual=”” two,=”” based=”” on=”” its=”” designation=”” as=”” an=”” alumni=”” family=”” game.=””>
Currently, the Irish have posted 169 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 217 in their last 218 home games.
NOTRE DAME FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON TELEVISION THIS YEAR
In addition to continuing its streak of consecutive games played on one of the four major television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN), Notre Dame is being spotlighted on the small screen in several other ways during the 2003 season. Here’s a thumbnail look at each of the individual TV projects which are featuring the Irish this year:
- ESPN is filming “The Season: Notre Dame Football” in South Bend throughout the ’03 campaign. Crews from the network are attending practice sessions, team meals and other team-related activities, as well as conducting regular interviews with Irish players and coaches. “The Season: Notre Dame Football” airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.
- ESPN College GameDay is celebrating its 10th season of live remotes from college football’s top games. In recognition of its first-ever road trip (a Nov. 13, 1993 journey to South Bend for the game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame) is airing weekly all-access features on the Irish adapted from its feature presentation, “The Season: Notre Dame Football.” Former Irish flanker and two-time All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail lends more of a Notre Dame flavor to “College GameDay” this year as he joins the crew for regular contributions.
- College Sports Television (CSTV), the nation’s new 24-hour cable channel devoted exclusively to college sports, highlights Irish athletics on Sunday nights (8:30-10:30 p.m. EDT) in a show called “Notre Dame Primetime.” The program, which is co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics.
- Besides these features, Notre Dame is now in the 13th season of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2005. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) are in their third full season broadcasting the action for NBC.
NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With the Purdue game slated to be televised regionally by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 128 straight games, a stretch that spans 10 full seasons (1993-2002). The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was more than a decade ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.
THE 2003 SCHEDULE
Once again, Notre Dame is facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play five teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 3/3 USC, No. 6/6 Florida State, No. 11/10 Michigan, No. 17/19 Pittsburgh and No. 21/21 Washington State). In addition, Purdue is ranked 22nd in the latest AP poll, while three other Notre Dame opponents < byu,=”” michigan=”” state=”” and=”” stanford=””>< are=”” receiving=”” votes=”” in=”” one=”” or=”” both=”” polls.=”” seven=”” of=”” the=”” 12=”” foes=”” on=”” this=”” year’s=”” notre=”” dame’s=”” schedule=”” went=”” to=”” bowl=”” games=”” last=”” season,=”” highlighted=”” by=”” three=”” bowl=”” championship=”” series=”” qualifiers=”” (washington=”” state,=”” usc,=”” florida=”” state).=”” all=”” of=”” this=”” comes=”” on=”” the=”” heels=”” of=”” the=”” 2002=”” irish=”” schedule,=”” which=”” was=”” ranked=”” 28th=”” in=”” the=”” nation.=””>
According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Sept. 21), Notre Dame has the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation.
THE 2003 CAPTAINS
For the second consecutive season and the third time in the 115-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. The 2003 captains have been named as follows (career captain selections in parentheses):
Washington State: CB Vontez Duff (3), FS Glenn Earl (2), WR Omar Jenkins (1), OT Jim Molinaro (1)
Michigan: DT Darrell Campbell (3), LB Derek Curry (1), QB Carlyle Holiday (1), K/P Nicholas Setta (3)
Michigan State: RB Ryan Grant (1), NG Cedric Hilliard (3), TE Billy Palmer (1), LB Courtney Watson (4)
THE 2003 NFL DRAFT
Seven former Irish players were selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, the most of any school in the country with the exception of Florida and Ohio State (eight each). Leading the way was center Jeff Faine, who was chosen in the first round (21st overall) by the Cleveland Browns. Notre Dame now has had 58 opening-round selections, which ranks second only to USC (62) in the 67-year history of the NFL Draft.
Joining Faine in Notre Dame’s ’03 draft class were: offensive tackle Jordan Black (fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs), offensive guard Sean Mahan (fifth round by the Tampa Buccaneers), cornerback Shane Walton (fifth round by the St. Louis Rams), strong safety Gerome Sapp (sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens), wide receiver Arnaz Battle (sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers) and offensive tackle Brennan Curtin (sixth round by the Green Bay Packers). All seven Notre Dame players selected in the 2003 NFL Draft made the final cut and were on their teams’ opening-day rosters.
JOE THEISMANN NAMED TO 2003 COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME CLASS
Former Notre Dame All-America quarterback Joe Theismann is one of 11 former college players and two coaches named March 24 to the National Football Foundation’s 2003 College Football Hall of Fame Division I-A class by Jon F. Hanson, chairman of the National Football Foundation.
The 2003 College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted at the 46th Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9, 2003, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The players and coaches will be officially enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend in August 2004. He also will be honored on campus on Oct. 18, 2003, in conjunction with the Notre Dame-USC game.
Theismann launched an attack on the Irish passing record books, setting 19 school marks while leading the team to its first bowl appearance in 45 years in 1969 and a 10-1 record capped by a Cotton Bowl victory in 1970 over top-rated and unbeaten Texas.
A first-team All-America selection as a senior by Associated Press, Theismann was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1970. A participant in the 1970 Hula Bowl, Theismann set school records for passing yards in a game (526), yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16) among others. He ranked second in the nation in total offense as a senior at 291.3 yards per game < and=”” that=”” year=”” he=”” helped=”” the=”” irish=”” as=”” a=”” team=”” average=”” 510.5=”” total=”” yards=”” per=”” game=”” and=”” 252.7=”” passing=”” yards=”” per=”” game,=”” two=”” marks=”” that=”” remain=”” all-time=”” notre=”” dame=”” bests.=””>
In three seasons, Theismann led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3-2 record while completing 290 passes on 509 attempts for 4,411 yards, a mark that still ranks fifth in school history. Honored for his classroom prowess, he earned Academic All-America? honors in 1970 and was later named to the GTE Academic All-America? Hall of Fame.
Following graduation, Theismann embarked on a 15-year professional career, his final 12 years in the NFL as a member of the Washington Redskins. Upon retirement, he became a highly successful businessman as well as a prominent television sports analyst for ESPN. Theismann continues to support such charitable interests as the United Way, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Originally from South River, N.J., Theismann becomes the 40th Notre Dame player to be chosen for the Hall of Fame since inductions began in 1951. Five former Irish coaches also have been selected. No other school has produced more than those 45 enshrinees, the most recent being Ralph Guglielmi in 2001. Theismann also becomes the eighth Notre Dame quarterback selected to the Hall of Fame, joining Frank Carideo in 1954, Harry Stuhldreher in 1958, John Lujack in 1960, Angelo Bertelli in 1972, Paul Hornung in 1985, Bob Williams in 1988 and Guglielmi in 2001.
IRISH FOOTBALL NAMED ONE OF NATION’S TOP 10 MOST POWERFUL PROGRAMS
As part of its 2003 college football preview, SI.com developed its list of the top 10 most powerful programs in the nation and Notre Dame was listed second behind only Miami (Fla.). According to the website, “college football’s most recognizable program saw a return to glory under Lou Holtz, which included landing its own TV deal with NBC, and after a few down years appears to be headed in the right direction under Tyrone Willingham.”
MAKING THE GRADE
The Notre Dame football squad recently has had four of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the past four semesters (2001-03). In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished (at the time) with its second-highest combined grade-point average on record (2.685) since statistics were kept beginning in 1992. A total of 12 players earned Dean’s List recognition and 38 players posted a “B” average or higher last fall. Then, in the spring of 2002, the Irish topped that mark with a record-setting 2.911 combined team GPA, with 13 players making the Dean’s List and another 47 averaging a “B” or better. In the fall of ’02, the Irish logged a 2.835 team GPA, followed by a 2.79 average in the spring of ’03. Eight players made the Dean’s List in both of the last two semesters, while 43 players had a “B” or better during the fall of 2002, and 50 more reached that mark in the spring of 2003.
NOTRE DAME EXCELS IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD
The Notre Dame football team has earned American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award special mention honors announced in August. To earn the award, a team must have a graduation rate of over 70 percent. Duke won the 2003 overall award with a perfect 100 percent graduation rate.
Notre Dame has been recognized 22 of 23 years the award has been presented, the most of any school in the nation. Notre Dame has won the overall award six times with the most recent coming in 2001 as the Irish posted a perfect 100 percent graduation rate, becoming (at the time) the eighth school in history to graduate everyone in the class during the reporting period. Notre Dame also won the overall award in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1991. In 1988, Notre Dame became the only school to win the Academic Achievement Award and the National Championship in the same year.
FORMER IRISH GREAT DAVE DUERSON HEADS UP NATIONAL MONOGRAM CLUB
Former Notre Dame football All-American Dave Duerson is still extremely involved with the University in a number of capacities. A former team captain, Duerson was named to the Notre Dame Board of Trustees in 2001, and was the winner of the 2001 Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. The Sorin Award is presented annually to a graduate who has embodied “the values of Our Lady’s University” in his service to the community. In 2002, Duerson founded his own company, Duerson Foods, after serving as president of Fair Oaks Farms, Inc., a Wisconsin-based international meat supplier that in 1999 was ranked 64th among Black Enterprise 100 companies. In addition, Duerson was a member of the advisory council for the University’s Mendoza College of Business and currently is president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, a post he will hold through June 2005. He also is a member of the athletic department’s student development mentoring program.
“THE SHIRT” NOW ON SALE FOR 2003 SEASON
For the 14th consecutive year, Notre Dame Student Activities and Government are sponsoring a T-shirt that benefits scholarship funds, student groups and service projects. Already, the initial run of 50,000 shirts has sold out, easily topping last year’s early sellout of 44,000. In 2002, a record-setting total of 130,000 shirts were sold, with that initial run of 44,000 selling out within six weeks of its debut (at the time, it was one of the earliest sellouts in the history of the project). As a result, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham began labelling the Shirt-clad crowd as the “sea of green.”
Over the past 13 years, the venture has more than $2 million in net profit for worthy causes and serves the dual purpose of promoting spirit and raising funds. Some of the proceeds supported students and employees who have incurred catastrophic accidents, while others benefitted endowment funds and additional monies were given to support service projects for student organizations on the Notre Dame campus.
In a rare break from tradition, “The Shirt 2003” once again is green and features this year’s motto, “Here Come The Irish.” The short-sleeve shirt is traditionally worn by Notre Dame students and fans at the first home game of each football season. The cost of this year’s shirt is $15 and it is available on campus to the University community and the general public at the Hammes Bookstore, Irish Express, the information desk at the LaFortune Student Center, the Varsity Shop at the Joyce Center and the Alumni Association at the Eck Center. Orders also may be placed by telephone (1-800-647-4641) or on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (www.und.com).
TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR 2003 FOOTBALL KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 Notre Dame Kickoff Luncheons held the Friday prior to each Irish home football game. The luncheons feature Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham, Irish players and assistant coaches, plus special guests and other attractions.
Tickets are $18 each, with a handling fee of $3 (payment may be made with one check for more than one luncheon). There are 10 seats per table < and=”” if=”” you=”” wish=”” to=”” sit=”” as=”” a=”” group=”” at=”” the=”” same=”” table=”” with=”” other=”” guests,=”” please=”” return=”” all=”” reservations=”” in=”” one=”” envelope.=””>
Checks should be made payable to “University of Notre Dame” and mailed to: Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone and credit card reservations are not accepted. A printed reservation form also is available on Notre Dame’s athletics web site at www.und.com.
The luncheons are held in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome) on the Notre Dame campus, with a noon (EST) start. Be aware that advance reservations are required for tickets, and tickets are not routinely available at the door.
Remaining luncheon dates are Oct. 17 (USC), Oct. 31 (Florida State), Nov. 7 (Navy) and Nov. 14 (BYU).
PEP RALLIES All 2003 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome) on Fridays before Saturday home games, beginning at 6 p.m. (EST). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.
“NOTRE DAME EXPERIENCE” RETURNS FOR 2003 SEASON
For years, the Joyce Center Fieldhouse has been the “pregame meeting place” for several thousand Notre Dame alumni. In an effort to add to this tradition, the Notre Dame Athletics Department is providing an interactive fan experience for each of the 2003 home football games. For the second consecutive season, the “Notre Dame Experience” will combine the Notre Dame Alumni Association Hospitality Center with interactive inflatables, photo booths, autograph sessions, Notre Dame football trivia and stage activities. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. Admission is free for all “Notre Dame Experience” events.
ORDER THE 2003 NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL YEARBOOK TODAY
This season marks the 10th edition of the Notre Dame Football Yearbook < an=”” official=”” publication=”” by=”” the=”” university=”” of=”” notre=”” dame=”” athletic=”” department.=”” the=”” 1994,=”” ’95,=”” ’96,=”” ’97=”” and=”” ’98=”” and=”” 2000=”” editions=”” were=”” voted=”” best=”” in=”” the=”” nation=”” in=”” the=”” special=”” publications=”” competition=”” sponsored=”” by=”” the=”” college=”” sports=”” information=”” directors=”” of=”” america.=”” the=”” yearbook,=”” published=”” by=”” ave=”” maria=”” press,=”” numbers=”” nearly=”” 100=”” pages,=”” including=”” game=”” action=”” shots=”” of=”” returning=”” irish=”” players=”” and=”” coaches,=”” position-by-position=”” breakdowns=”” and=”” a=”” feature=”” on=”” head=”” coach=””>Tyrone Willingham. It’s a collectors item perfect for autographs < with=”” an=”” emphasis=”” on=”” outstanding=”” color=”” photography=”” unavailable=”” in=”” any=”” other=”” publication.=”” the=”” yearbook=”” is=”” priced=”” at=”” $8=”” (plus=”” $4=”” for=”” postage=”” and=”” handling)=”” and=”” can=”” be=”” ordered=”” by=”” calling=”” 1-800-647-4641.=””>
TRIO OF BOOKS FEATURING NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL NOW ON SALE
The rich history of Irish football is the focus of three books that recently went on sale to the general public. The first is entitled “Return To Glory” and it was written by Alan Grant, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a former defensive back at Stanford who played for current Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham. Grant received unique behind-the-scenes access to the Irish throughout last season and his book details Notre Dame’s remarkable 10-3 campaign in 2002, including its eight-game winning streak to begin Willingham’s tenure. “Return To Glory” is now available nationwide, including the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.
Also new in bookstores this month is a coffee table book by The Sporting News called “Fighting Irish,” a 224-page work that spotlights the unparalleled history and pageantry of the Notre Dame football program through a variety of photographs and essays. A special section is devoted to the ’02 season and the foreword to the book was written by former Irish quarterback and 2003 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Theismann. In addition to appearing in bookstores across the country, it also is available at the Hammes Bookstore, as well as online through The Sporting News web site (www.tsn.com).
The third new book to debut this month is entitled “Tyrone Willingham: The Meaning of Victory,” a 144-page piece on the coaching career of Irish mentor Tyrone Willingham and what his arrival at Notre Dame has meant to the program. Written by longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter and columnist Fred Mitchell and packed with dozens of full-color photos, this book is available at bookstores nationwide.
NEXT GAME: PITTSBURGH (OCT. 11)
Following the first of two bye weeks this season, Notre Dame will travel to Pittsburgh Saturday, Oct. 11 for a matchup with the Panthers at Heinz Field. The game time and any potential television coverage have yet to be announced.