Aug. 26, 2002
The following is a partial excerpt from the Notre Dame football release. To view the complete release, please see the PDF version.
KICKOFF CLASSIC XX
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0)
vs. (#21 AP/#20 ESPN/USA Today) Maryland Terrapins (0-0)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2002, at 8:07 p.m. EDT (7:07 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Giants Stadium (80,242/Natural Grass) in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 138th sellout in the last 161 games involving Notre Dame. Notre Dame sold its total allotment of 25,414 tickets, exhausting the initial allay of 14,000 tickets before receiving an additional allotment of more than 11,000 tickets.
The TV Plans: ABC Sports national telecast with Brent Musberger (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analysis), Jack Arute (sideline) and Bob Goodrich (producer).
The Radio Plans: For the 35th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on nearly 200 stations nationwide by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), Rick Walker and Boomer Esiason (analysis) behind the microphone for the Kickoff Classic. A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games are heard on WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with on-site pre- and post-game from Notre Dame Stadium featuring Sean Stires, Taylor Richards, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000 (except for the Maryland and Michigan games which will be on AM 1300 WRDZ, and the Purdue game which will be on AM 820 WCSN).
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Maryland (www.umterps.com).
HEAD COACH TYRONE WILLINGHAM
A veteran with 25 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham begins his first season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. He was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford University. 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. Most recently in 2001, he piloted the Cardinal to a 9-3 record, a berth in the Seattle Bowl, and final regular-season rankings of ninth in the Bowl Championship Series poll and 11th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. 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 at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).
The Injury Update (as of Aug. 24)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, out indefinitely
NOTRE DAME-MARYLAND SERIES NOTES
- Saturday’s game marks the first-ever meeting between Notre Dame and Maryland on the gridiron.
- Maryland is the first brand-new opponent on Notre Dame regular-season schedule since Arizona State in 1998. The Irish also are opening the season against an unfamiliar foe for the first time since 1989, when Notre Dame defeated another ACC school, Virginia, by a 36-13 count in Kickoff Classic VII.
IRISH TRAVEL PLANS
While in New Jersey, Notre Dame will be headquartered at the Marriott Glenpointe, 100 Frank W. Burr Blvd., Teaneck, NJ 07666, (201) 836-0600. The Irish are scheduled to depart by charter flight on Thursday at 11:45 a.m. EST with a 2:40 p.m. EDT arrival in Newark. Upon its arrival, the team will participate in Kickoff Classic Media Day activities from 4-5 p.m. EDT at the Continental Airlines Arena Winners Club, located adjacent to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Notre Dame will return to South Bend immediately following Saturday night’s game, arriving on campus at approximately 3 a.m. EST Sunday.
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- Notre Dame would register its 14th season-opening victory in the last 16 seasons.
- The Irish would record their first season-opening win on the road since Sept. 5, 1996 (a 14-7 win at Vanderbilt, also the last night victory for Notre Dame in a season lidlifter).
- Notre Dame would move to 3-0 all-time when playing in the month of August.
- The Irish would improve to 10-0 at Giants Stadium and 13-0 in the state of New Jersey.
- Notre Dame would collect its first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent since Sept. 6, 1997 (17-13 win over Georgia Tech in first game at renovated Notre Dame Stadium).
- The Irish would lift their all-time record against the ACC to 47-11-1 (.805), their second-best winning percentage against a major Division I-A conference, and move to 6-0 all-time against the ACC in season openers.
- Notre Dame’s record would jump to 24-3 (.889) in its first game under a new head coach.
IF MARYLAND WINS …
- Notre Dame would lose back-to-back season openers for the first time since 1985-86; the latter game (a 24-23 loss to Michigan) was Lou Holtz’s first as Irish head coach.
- The Terrapins would be the first new regular-season opponent to defeat Notre Dame since Florida State handed the Irish a 19-13 loss in 1981.
- Notre Dame would lose its first-ever game in the month of August in three career contests.
Although Notre Dame and Maryland never have faced one another on the gridiron, they have squared off before in a football setting. In 1953, the Irish and Terrapins, along with Oklahoma, each claimed at least a share of the national championship. Under head coach Frank Leahy, Notre Dame posted a 9-0-1 record, earning the title from several outlets. Conversely, Maryland logged a 10-1 record and was recognized as the ’53 national champion by the Associated Press and the United Press, the top two polls of the day. However, it should be pointed out that the final AP and UP ballots were cast after the regular season and before the Terrapins lost to Oklahoma, 7-0, in the Orange Bowl. The Irish did not play in a bowl game that season in accordance with University policy, which had prohibited postseason football competition from 1925-69.
- While at Stanford from 1999-2000, Maryland offensive line coach Tom Brattan worked with four members of the current Notre Dame coaching staff: head coach Tyrone Willingham, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick, defensive coordinator Kent Baer and running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston.
- Notre Dame offensive line coach John McDonell worked alongside Maryland wide receivers coach James Franklin on Mike Price’s staff at Washington State in 1998.
- Six players on Notre Dame’s opening night roster will be returning to their home state of New Jersey: sophomore SS Lionel Bolen (Westhampton, N.J./Rancocas Valley), junior DE Kyle Budinscak (Bridgewater, N.J./Raritan), freshman TE Anthony Fasano (Verona, N.J./Verona), sophomore ILB Brandon Hoyte (Parlin, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial), freshman QB Chris Olsen (Wayne, N.J./Wayne Hills) and senior DE Ryan Roberts (Lawnside, N.J./Haddonfield Memorial).
- Two other Irish players are from the New York City metropolitan area: sophomore RB Ryan Grant (Nyack, N.Y./Don Bosco Prep) and sophomore RB Marcus Wilson (Staten Island, N.Y./Poly Prep).
- Irish men’s basketball senior Dan Miller (Mt. Holly, N.J./Rancocas Valley) played three years at Maryland before transferring to Notre Dame prior to the 2001-02 season.
FRIEND OR FOE?
- Irish sophomore WR Carlos Campbell and Terrapin redshirt freshman WR Derrick Fenner were teammates at Hampton (Va.) High School. Campbell and Fenner were two-way standouts, both playing defensive back in 1999 and 2000; the duo also were wide receivers in ’99 before Campbell switched to quarterback in 2000, as HHS went 20-4 in the tandem’s final two seasons.
- Campbell also has ties with another Maryland wideout — redshirt sophomore Maurice Shanks — with whom he played for two seasons (1997-98) at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Va. Campbell transferred to Hampton High School following his sophomore season.
- Notre Dame senior C Jeff Faine (Sanford, Fla.) and Maryland freshman LB D’Qwell Jackson (Largo, Fla.) both are graduates of Seminole High School.
NOTRE DAME VS. ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE TEAMS
- Notre Dame has won more than 80 percent of its games versus Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, with a record of .500 or better against five of the six ACC teams that the Irish have played and an overall mark of 46-11-1 (.802) in 58 games against ACC schools. More than 55 percent of those games (32) have come versus Georgia Tech (26-5-1) while another 16 have come against North Carolina (15-1).
- Notre Dame also has played a handful of games vs. Florida State (1-3), Duke (2-1) and Clemson (1-1), and the Irish are scheduled to renew their rivalry with FSU on Oct. 26 in Tallahassee. Notre Dame and Virginia met for the only time in 1989, with the Irish chalking up a 36-13 win in the Kickoff Classic. Besides Maryland, Notre Dame never has faced ACC members North Carolina State or Wake Forest.
- Georgia Tech is the most recent ACC opponent Notre Dame has played. The Irish defeated the Yellow Jackets, 17-13, in the 1997 season opener, before Georgia Tech returned the favor, 35-28, in the 1999 Gator Bowl.
ABOUT NOTRE DAME’S LAST APPEARANCE IN THE KICKOFF CLASSIC
Tailback Ricky Watters scored once and had two long punt returns to set up Irish touchdowns as second-ranked Notre Dame scored 19 first-quarter points and never looked back in a 36-13 rout of Virginia in Kickoff Classic VII on Aug. 31, 1989, at Giants Stadium. Watters turned in a solid all-around effort, rushing 12 times for 80 yards and a score, catching two passes for 42 yards, and returning three punts for 67 yards. However, the Most Valuable Player Award went to Irish quarterback Tony Rice, who completed seven of 11 passes for 147 yards and ran eight times for 70 yards and one touchdown. The Notre Dame defense also turned in a virtuoso performance, limiting the Cavaliers to just 231 yards of total offense and picking off UVa quarterback Shawn Moore three times.
In their first game after claiming the 1988 national championship, the Irish erupted early and often against a seasoned Virginia squad. Cornerback Todd Lyght intercepted Moore on the Cavaliers’ third play from scrimmage, and Watters got the offensive fireworks going with a two-yard TD run just 4:14 into the contest. Following a 24-yard punt return by Watters, fullback Anthony Johnson scored on a one-yard plunge, upping the Notre Dame lead to 13-0 at the 4:38 mark. Just over three minutes later, Watters returned a punt 33 yards to set up tailback Rodney Culver’s two-yard TD scamper for a 19-0 advantage. Johnson and Rice added second-quarter scores to cap off the impressive offensive display, which resulted in 477 total yards for the Irish (300 rushing, 177 passing) on the afternoon.
BRAND-NEW OPPONENT ON THE SCHEDULE
Notre Dame and Maryland will be meeting for the first time ever when they square off in Kickoff Classic XX. The Terrapins represent the 132nd different opponent in Irish history, and the first new adversary on the regular-season schedule since Arizona State in 1998 (the Irish played Oregon State for the first time in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl). During its 114-year history, Notre Dame has faced 61 of the other 115 teams currently competing at the NCAA Division I-A level.
GETTING A JUMP ON THINGS
Notre Dame will be playing its season opener in the month of August for only the third time in school history when it faces Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX. The Irish are 2-0 all-time in the month of August – they defeated Virginia, 36-13, on Aug. 31, 1989, in Kickoff Classic VII, also at the New Jersey Meadowlands, and dispatched Kansas, 48-13, on Aug. 28, 1999, in the State of Indiana Eddie Robinson Classic at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has compiled a record of 95-13-5 (.863) historically in its season-opening games, including winning 13 of its last 15 games (only losses coming to Northwestern in 1995 and at Nebraska in 2001). The Maryland game marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has opened away from home. The last time that happened was 18 years ago, when the Irish fell to Purdue 23-21 on Sept. 8, 1984, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, after defeating the Boilermakers, 52-6, in West Lafayette, Ind., a year earlier.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Notre Dame will be playing at Giants Stadium for first time since 1995, when the Irish downed Army, 28-27. It also will be Notre Dame’s 10th visit to the East Rutherford, N.J., facility that is home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, as well as Major League Soccer’s New York/New Jersey MetroStars (capacity 80,242). The Irish have never lost at the Meadowlands, thanks to five wins over Navy (1980, 1982, 1984, 1990 and 1992), three over Army (1977, 1983 and 1995) and one over Virginia (1989). Notre Dame is slated to return to Giants Stadium on Oct. 16, 2004, when it faces Navy in the continuation of the nation’s longest intersectional rivalry.
NEW JERSEY AND U(ND): PERFECT TOGETHER
Notre Dame enters the Maryland game with a 12-0 all-time record in the Garden State, including a 9-0 mark at Giants Stadium. Of the other three Irish wins in New Jersey, two came at Princeton’s Palmer Stadium in 1923 (25-2) and 1924 (12-0), and the third was a 45-17 triumph at Rutgers Stadium in 2000.
FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACHES OPEN STRONG
When Notre Dame faces Maryland in its season opener Aug. 31, head coach Tyrone Willingham will be seeking to continue a long trend of success among Irish mentors. Dating back to 1896, Irish skippers are 23-3 (.885) in their debut contests. Only Frank E. Hering in 1896 (4-0 loss to Chicago Physicians & Surgeons), Elmer Layden in 1934 (7-6 loss to Texas) and Lou Holtz in 1986 (24-23 loss to Michigan) failed to win their first game at Notre Dame. This record includes two wins by interim head coaches — Ed McKeever in 1944 (58-0 win at Pittsburgh) and Hugh Devore in 1945 (7-0 win over Illinois) spelled Frank Leahy while he was off serving his country in World War II.
NOTRE DAME CLUB OF NEW JERSEY TO HOST PEP RALLY FESTIVAL AT KICKOFF CLASSIC
The Notre Dame Club of New Jersey has organized a pep rally festival for Irish fans prior to Notre Dame’s battle with Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX on Aug. 31 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The festivities get underway at 1 p.m. EDT at Paddock Park at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Irish-American troubadour Marty McKernan and the group Lenahan will provide the crowd with musical entertainment throughout the afternoon before the pep rally begins at 5:30 p.m. Members of the Notre Dame Alumni Pep Band, as well as cheerleaders and other guest speakers will address fans, before the band leads fans on a march into Giants Stadium at 7 p.m., prior to the 8:07 p.m. kickoff. Following the game, a Midnight Mass will be held under the stars at Racetrack Park.
Tickets for the event are $30 per person at the gate on game day, and prices include an all-you-can-eat buffet meal. Children 16-and-under will be admitted free. For more information on this event, or to purchase tickets, contact Larry Keary or Craig Lombardi with the Notre Dame Club of New Jersey at (201) 934-8844 or (973) 263-7224.
NOTRE DAME GRID ALUMS FROM NEW YORK AREA TO BE RECOGNIZED IN PREGAME EVENTS
No less than 16 former Notre Dame football players currently living in the New York area will be introduced Saturday night prior to the start of Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium. Those Irish gridiron alums who will be recognized include: T Peter Berezney (1943-45), ILB Anthony Brannan (1997-2000), HLD James Caputo (1999), LB John Cloherty (1969-71), T Patrick Dolan (1955-57), DT Ted Fitzgerald (1985, 1987-88), FB Frank Gargiulo (1959-60), HB James Kelly (1964-66), DB Tom Longo (1963-65), E John Murray (1961-62), OL Mike Rosenthal (1995-98), SE Phil Sheridan (1963-65), HB Jim Stone (1977-80), P Michael Viracola (1981-84), DE Anthony Zappala (1973-76) and DT Jay Ziznewski (1968).
FORMER NOTRE DAME GRIDDER AUBREY LEWIS TO BE HONORED AT KICKOFF CLASSIC
Former Notre Dame HB Aubrey Lewis, who passed away on Dec. 10, 2001, will be honored at halftime of Kickoff Classic XX Saturday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Lewis, a native of Montclair, N.J., was a three-year monogram winner for the Irish from 1955-57, leading the team in punt return average (9.2 yards per return) and interceptions (three for 39 yards) in 1956.
In his later years, Lewis served as a Trustee on the Board of the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey from 1992-2002, and was one of the original members of the Board. He was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Hall of Fame by then-Governor Christine Todd Whitman on March 31, 1998, a post he held until his passing last winter. The Hall of Fame was organized as a non-profit corporation of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to recognize persons, teams and sporting events that have made significant and lasting contributions to the Garden State’s sports history.
WILLINGHAM TO BE FEATURED ON ESPN’S “SPORTSCENTURY”
A profile of Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham as part of the ongoing ESPN documentary series “SportsCentury” will debut Friday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT. The half-hour feature will highlight Willingham’s career, from his days growing up in Kinston, N.C., to his playing career at Michigan State, to his coaching tenures at Stanford and Notre Dame. The documentary also will offer an interview with the Irish head coach, as well as many of his players and colleagues. Following its initial broadcasts on Friday evening, the Willingham “SportsCentury” piece will re-air occasionally on ESPN, espn2 and ESPN Classic.
IRISH PLAYERS RANK HIGH IN LINDY’S AND THE SPORTING NEWS
Senior Jeff Faine was tabbed the fifth-best center in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Gerome Sapp was rated the fifth-best strong safety in the land by The Sporting News. Senior cornerback Shane Walton was ranked 12th in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior Nicholas Setta was placed fifth among kickers by Lindy’s and 13th by The Sporting News. Senior Courtney Watson was rated 17th among the nation’s middle linebackers by The Sporting News, while senior Tom Lopienski was charted 18th among fullbacks by the same publication.
JEFF FAINE EARNS QUARTET OF PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior center Jeff Faine was a first-team preseason All-America selection by Street & Smith’s, a second-team preseason All-America choice by Athlon, a third-team preseason All-America designee by Football News and a preseason All-America pick by the Football Writers Association of America (no individual teams were selected by the FWAA). Faine is seeking to become Notre Dame’s first All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993.
SIX EARN PRESEASON HONORABLE MENTION ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Street & Smith’s cited six Irish players as preseason honorable mention All-America selections. Senior Jordan Black was listed among offensive linemen, senior Shane Walton and junior Vontez Duff among defensive backs, senior Courtney Watson among linebackers, senior Joey Hildbold among punters and senior Nicholas Setta among kickers.
JEFF FAINE NAMED TO OUTLAND TROPHY AND LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LISTS
Senior C Jeff Faine has been named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. In addition, for the second consecutive season, Faine has been named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. The Lombardi Award is given annually to the nation’s top lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.
COURTNEY WATSON NAMED TO BUTKUS AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior ILB Courtney Watson has been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best collegiate linebacker. The award is given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.
NICHOLAS SETTA NAMED TO LOU GROZA AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior PK Nicholas Setta has been named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s top placekicker by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Commission.
FAINE, SETTA NAMED TO STREET & SMITH’S AWARD WATCH LISTS
Street & Smith’s tapped senior center Jeff Faine for a spot on its Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. In addition, senior kicker Nicholas Setta earned a place on the publication’s Lou Groza Award watch list.
NINE PLAYERS SELECTED TO FOOTBALL NEWS PRESEASON ALL-INDEPENDENT TEAM
Football News named nine Notre Dame players to its 2002 preseason all-independent team. Sophomore RB Ryan Grant, senior TE Gary Godsey, senior OT Jordan Black and senior C Jeff Faine were chosen from the offensive side of the ball. Senior DT Darrell Campbell, senior LB Courtney Watson, senior CB Shane Walton and junior CB Vontez Duff were tapped on the defensive end. Senior PK Nicholas Setta represented the Irish special teams units on the squad.
BLACK IS A CORNERSTONE ON THE VETERAN IRISH OFFENSIVE LINE
One of Notre Dame’s strengths in 2002 certainly is its offensive line, with four starters back in the fold. Among those returning veterans is senior OT Jordan Black, who comes into the 2002 campaign having started all 31 games he has played in his career. That ties him for 18th in the nation among returning linemen, and is tops on the Notre Dame squad. Black also ranks first among active Irish players in career playing time, having seen action for a total of 754:08 during his tenure. That’s nearly 150 minutes more than his closest challenger, senior C Jeff Faine (604:42), who also ranks second on the Irish with 22 career starts.
SETTA MAKES IRISH SOUND IN THE KICKING GAME
Senior PK Nicholas Setta, who recently was named to the 2002 Lou Groza Award Watch List, has been one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons over the last two seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. Last year, Setta went 38-of-40 on placement kicks (23 PATs, 15 field goals), including a perfect eight of eight on field-goal attempts from 40 yards or more. In addition, Setta has made 55 consecutive extra points dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000, the third-longest PAT streak in school history. In 2001, Setta joined a select group of Irish kickers who did not miss an extra point during the season (1.000 percentage) including: Craig Hentrich (48-of-48, 1991 and 41-of-41, 1990); Bob Thomas (34-of-34, 1972); Ted Gradel (33-of-33, 1987); Stefan Schroffner (30-of-30, 1994); John Carney (25-of-25, 1984) and Setta (23-of-23, 2001).
And, with his 47-yard boot in the ’01 season finale at Purdue, Setta now has a field goal in Notre Dame’s last 13 regular-season games, breaking John Carney’s record for the longest streak in school history. Carney kicked a field goal in 11 straight games during the ’86 season. Setta’s only two misses in ’01 were a 32-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter at Boston College, a kick that came into a stiff 15-25 mph wind, and a 36-yard attempt against Purdue that was just outside of the upright. Setta also narrowly missed Carney’s record for field-goal percentage in a season (.895), by finishing the year at .882. Setta finished ’01 ranked 17th in the final NCAA rankings with 1.36 field goals made per game.
HILDBOLD KICKING UP A STORM
Senior P Joey Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and 2000 finalist, truly came into his own during the ’01 season. Against Michigan State and Texas A&M, Hildbold averaged better than 50 yards per punt, including a career-high 50.5 yards on six punts at Texas A&M. In both cases, Hildbold narrowly missed the school record of 51.6 by Joe Restic against Air Force in 1975. Hildbold’s season average of 42.23 (64 punts, 2,703 yards) was good for 35th in the nation in the final NCAA rankings.
In addition, Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.82 yards per punt (7,266 yards on 178 punts) puts him in fourth place on the Notre Dame career list, just behind Vince Phelan, who averaged 40.9 yards per punt in 1987.
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line — The Irish have an extremely talented and experienced crew up front on the offensive line this season. Four starters — senior tackles Jordan Black and Brennan Curtin, senior guard Sean Mahan and senior center Jeff Faine — all return this season and are legitimate contenders for postseason awards. Black has been a staple on the Notre Dame offensive line, beginning his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 32 games and amassing more than 750 minutes of playing time. Faine, a preseason first-team All-American and candidate for the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy, opens his third season as the everyday Irish center, having started 22 consecutive regular-season games and leading the team in playing time (314:17) a year ago. Mahan and Curtin are in their second season as starters at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Mahan has appeared in 28 games, starting all 11 contests last season, while Curtin made six starts and played over 200 minutes in ’01, alternating between right tackle and right guard. This season, he moves into the right tackle position vacated by the graduation of Kurt Vollers.
With Vollers’ departure and Curtin’s move back to tackle, the primary void on the line comes at the right guard spot, where senior Sean Milligan is expected to return to the starting lineup. Milligan began the 2001 season as the starter, but an injury in the opener at Nebraska limited his effectiveness. Still, he made five starts in nine games and played nearly 150 minutes last season, giving him some much needed experience to gel with the rest of his veteran linemates. Seniors Ryan Scarola, Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also could see playing time in reserve roles at center, guard and tackle, respectively.
Backs — Junior Carlyle Holiday took over as the starting quarterback for the Irish in the third week of the 2001 season and kept a firm grip on his job throughout the campaign. Thriving in Notre Dame’s option offense, Holiday finished second on the team in rushing (666 yards) and completed 73 of 144 passes for 784 yards last season. His numbers are expected to soar in 2002 as he adjusts to the new offensive philosophy installed by head coach Tyrone Willingham and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick. Sophomore Pat Dillingham, a former walk-on, will serve as Holiday’s primary backup in ’02. Dillingham opened some eyes during Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold spring game, connecting on his only pass, a 26-yard strike to Arnaz Battle. Freshman Chris Olsen will start the season as the No. 3 QB, but also could see significant playing time as the year progresses.
Sophomore Ryan Grant leads a youthful corps of Irish running backs who should benefit not only from Notre Dame’s new offensive style, but also from its veteran offensive line. Grant carried 29 times for 110 yards last season, including a season-high 77 yards and a touchdown in the 2001 finale at Purdue. Sophomores Marcus Wilson and Rashon Powers-Neal, as well as senior Chris Yura, also may see plenty of action out of the backfield.
Senior Tom Lopienski returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 17 career starts, serving mainly as a blocking back. However, his role is expected to be expanded in the new Irish offensive scheme. Senior Mike McNair has fought through injuries during his career, but he could be ready to make a major contribution for Notre Dame in 2002.
Receivers — The Irish receiving corps may be the most closely-examined unit on the roster this season, as the new offensive program shifts its focus to a balanced attack. Experience is limited at the position, with only two returning monogram winners from a year ago. Senior Arnaz Battle, who moved to wide receiver last fall after two seasons as a QB, caught five passes for 40 yards in 2001, but he was hampered by a broken fibula that caused him to miss several weeks. Sophomore Omar Jenkins showed flashes of brilliance last season, registering seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Junior Ronnie Rodamer and sophomore Carlos Campbell each played just over 14 minutes last season, but could be ready to step into the starting lineup this season. However, they will be challenged by a pair of speedy freshman wideouts, Rhema McKnight and Maurice Stovall, who are anxious to make their mark at the college level.
Another converted quarterback, senior Gary Godsey, gets the starting nod at tight end. The 6-6, 260-pound Godsey is a formidable target for Irish quarterbacks, and he should improve on his totals of two catches for 50 yards from last season. Godsey also is a talented blocker and gives the Irish a sizeable advantage on the offensive line. Junior Billy Palmer will serve as Godsey’s understudy, although junior Jared Clark, who moved from QB to TE in the spring, could also be heard from as the season moves on.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line — The Irish defensive line will be anchored by senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (26 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks in ’01) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (started last five games of ’01). Both players weigh better than 290 pounds and provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. They will be surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (13 career starts, 20 tackles for loss and three sacks in ’01) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak, who has made two career starts and is the only other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line. Assistance could come in the form of sophomore end Justin Tuck, a pass-rushing specialist and converted linebacker, as well as junior end Jason Sapp and junior defensive tackle Greg Pauly.
Linebackers — Senior ILB Courtney Watson is the lone returning linebacker for the Irish. He ranked second on the team with 76 tackles last season, including 13 for loss, and already is a 2002 Butkus Award candidate. However, Notre Dame is faced with the tall task of replacing honorable mention All-American Tyreo Harrison (97 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Rocky Boiman (41 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks), who were first and sixth on the team in tackles in ’01, respectively. Sophomore Mike Goolsby (four tackles in ’01) and senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (six tackles last year) are the leading contenders to replace Harrison at the other inside linebacker spot, while junior Derek Curry (two tackles in ’01) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. Sophomores Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays also might see time at the inside positions, while junior Jerome Collins will lend support on the outside.
Backs — The Irish secondary will be particularly strong in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton started all 11 games at cornerback in ’01, recording 43 tackles and breaking up a team-high eight passes. Junior Vontez Duff got the starting call at the other cornerback position in the final eight games last season, registering a team-high three interceptions and logging 25 tackles and six pass break-ups. Senior strong safety Gerome Sapp notched 36 tackles and made five starts in nine games last season, while playing better than 115 minutes. Senior Glenn Earl (33 tackles, four for loss, two sacks) started three games at free safety in ’01 and he is expected to get the starting nod this season as well. The reserve secondary unit is headed by junior Preston Jackson and sophomore Dwight Ellick at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety.
SCOUTING THE IRISH KICKING GAME
For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the best kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and a finalist for the award in 2000, ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.82) after placing 35th in the nation last season with an average of 42.33 yards per punt (including two games with averages topping 50 yards per kick). Setta connected on 15 of 17 field-goal attempts, led the team in scoring for the second consecutive year, was eight for eight on field goals from 40 yards or more, has made 55 straight PAT attempts, holds a Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 13 consecutive games, and ranked 17th nationally in field goals in ’01 at 1.36 per game. Setta also could see time as a reserve punter for the Irish after averaging 40 yards on four kicks at Boston College last season. Hildbold and Setta join veteran long snapper John Crowther (22 appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff (12 punt returns for 358 yards, 1 TD, 29.8 average) in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit.
THE 2002 CAPTAINS
For only the second time in the 114-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game — the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championships.
THE 2002 SCHEDULE
Once again, Notre Dame will face one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish will face five teams that are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today preseason polls (No. 3/4 Florida State, No. 12/10 Michigan, No. 18/18 Michigan State, No. 20/19 USC and No. 21/20 Maryland). In addition, four other Notre Dame opponents are receiving votes in one or both preseason polls — Boston College, Purdue, Stanford and Pittsburgh. All nine foes appearing in the national polls went to bowl games last season, highlighted by Maryland’s Orange Bowl berth, Michigan’s spot in the Citrus Bowl and Stanford’s trip to the Seattle Bowl. All of this comes on the heels of the 2001 Irish schedule, which was ranked 22nd most difficult in the nation and featured nine opponents that appeared in bowl games — Notre Dame was the only school in the country to play nine bowl-bound teams last season.
Heading into the 2002 season, Notre Dame has played in front of capacity crowds in 137 of its previous 160 games. Last year, not only were 10 of the 11 Irish games designated sellouts (only Stanford was not), but eight came in front of stadium-record crowds. The Irish played before 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 fans at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big XII Conference and state of Texas record in the process. In fact, since 1998, Notre Dame has played before capacity crowds in 41 of 47 games — the only non-sellouts in that time were the ’98 and 2000 games at USC, the ’99 and 2001 games at Stanford, and neutral site games vs. Georgia Tech (’99 Gator Bowl at Jacksonville) and Navy (2000 at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl).
Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2002 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 55,482 ticket requests for the Nov. 2 game vs. Boston College, making it the third-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Sept. 14 Notre Dame-Michigan game garnered 50,883 requests, placing it fourth on the all-time list. That falls in line with the Wolverines’ last visit to Notre Dame Stadium, which generated 47,233 requests, the eighth-highest total ever.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set last season when the Irish took on West Virginia on Oct. 13. 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.
The Irish have posted 161 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 209 in their last 210 home games dating back to 1966 (only non-sellout was the 1973 Thanksgiving Day game with Air Force, which was changed to the holiday to accomodate television and was played with students absent from campus).
NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With Saturday’s Kickoff Classic slated to be televised nationwide by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 112 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the first three games of 2002, all of which are slated to be televised as well. The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was only shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.
WILLINGHAM NAMED HEAD COACH FOR 2003 EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Notre Dame mentor Tyrone Willingham has been named a head coach for the 78th East-West Shrine Game, to be played Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Willingham will pilot the East squad, while Washington State skipper Mike Price will lead the West team. Both men previously served as assistant coaches at the Shrine Game — Willingham worked with the West squad in 1998, while Price was a West assistant in 1996.
The Shrine Game showcases the talents of many of the nation’s top college senior players, while raising funds for thousands of children who receive medical care, at no cost, from the 22 Shriners’ Hospitals for Children throughout North America. In the 2002 NFL draft, 33 players from the 2002 Shrine Game were selected, including the third overall pick, Joey Harrington of Oregon.
NOTRE DAME LEGENDS ON BALLOT FOR “COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S 10 GREATEST PLAYERS”
No less than a dozen Notre Dame standouts will be under consideration when CBS airs “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” at 1:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 29. Among the nearly 200 former college greats listed on the ballot were all seven of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners — Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987). Other former Irish players being considered for this elite group include a quartet of consensus All-Americans and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductees — DE Ross Browner (1973-77), T George Connor (1946-47), HB George Gipp (1917-20) and DT Alan Page (1964-66) — as well as consensus All-American and current Dallas Cowboys’ wideout Raghib Ismail (1988-90).
Balloting for “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” included only 500 voters representing five groups — the NFF Hall of Fame, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Downtown Athletic Club and prominent members of the college football media. Voting was not limited to the 200 players on the ballot, as voters were able to cast write-in selections as well.
1947 NOTRE DAME TEAM SELECTED FOR “TOSTITOS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS”
In conjunction with ESPN.com, Tostitos will ask fans to vote for the greatest national championship team of all time. A group of 16 teams have been selected by an ESPN and ABC panel of football experts. Among those squads chosen is the 1947 Notre Dame team led by legendary head coach Frank Leahy. That Irish unit went a perfect 9-0 behind the play of consensus All-American and Heisman Trophy winner John Lujack, as well as fellow consensus All-Americans George Connor and Bill (Moose) Fischer. The Irish averaged better than 32 points per game while holding opponents to less than six points per outing that season. However, perhaps the most impressive statistic about the ’47 squad is that it sent 42 players to professional football and six of its members were later inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
Beginning Aug. 23 and continuing through Dec. 6, those 16 teams will be paired head-to-head in a bracket tournament, with the team receiving the largest number of fan votes advancing to the next round. The 1947 Notre Dame club is slated to face the ’48 Michigan crew in the opening round of the tournament on Sept. 20, with the winner of that contest to meet either the ’71 Nebraska squad or the ’45 Army unit in the quarterfinals on Nov. 1. The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 22, with the title contest set for Nov. 29. The announcement of the “greatest national championship team of all-time” is set for Dec. 8 during the Bowl Championship Series selection show on ABC.
DAVE CASPER ENTERS PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
Former Notre Dame tight end Dave Casper — who starred for 11 seasons in the National Football League with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1974-80, 1984), Houston Oilers (1980-83) and Minnesota Vikings (1983) — became the ninth Irish player to be inducted into the National Professional Football Hall of Fame, as a member of the class of 2002. He is the third former Notre Dame player in the last three years to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Earl “Curly” Lambeau, who lettered for the Irish in 1918, was a charter member of the Hall in 1963 as a founder, player and coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1919-49.
The other seven former Notre Dame players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame include: 1964 inductee George Trafton (C, Chicago Bears 1920-22), 1968 inductee Wayne Millner (E, Boston and Washington Redskins, 1936-41, 1945), 1975 inductee George Connor (T/LB, Chicago, 1948-55), 1986 inductee Paul Hornung (QB, Green Bay 1957-62, 1964-66), 1988 inductee Alan Page (DT, Minnesota 1967-78, Chicago 1978-81), 2000 inductee Joe Montana (QB, San Francisco 1979-92, Kansas City 1993-94) and 2001 inductee Nick Buoniconti (LB, Boston Patriots 1962-68, Miami 1969-74, 1976).
The 2002 induction ceremonies were held in Canton on Aug. 3, with the event moved from the steps of the Hall to adjacent Fawcett Stadium, where a stadium-record crowd of 17,700 looked on. Casper was presented into the Hall by his former coach with the Raiders, John Madden. Others inducted into the 2002 Hall of Fame class were George Allen (posthumous), Dan Hampton, Jim Kelly and John Stallworth.
BETTIS NAMED 2002 NFL MAN OF THE YEAR
Former Notre Dame All-American and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was named the winner of the 2002 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in recognition of his playing excellence and off-the-field community service. It marked the second consecutive year a former Notre Dame player won the award, following current San Francisco 49er Jim Flanigan in 2001. Previous winners from Notre Dame are Joe Theismann (1982) and Dave Duerson (1987).
THE 2002 NFL DRAFT
Six former Irish players were selected in the 2002 NFL entry draft, while five other players signed free agent contracts. Anthony Weaver (second round, Baltimore Ravens) was the first Notre Dame player chosen. Rocky Boiman (fourth round, Tennessee Titans) was next, followed by John Owens (fifth round, Detroit Lions), Tyreo Harrison (sixth round, Philadelphia Eagles), Javin Hunter (sixth round, Baltimore Ravens) and David Givens (seventh round, New England Patriots). Tony Fisher (Green Bay Packers), Grant Irons (Buffalo Bills), Ron Israel (Washington Redskins), Jason Murray (Cincinnati Bengals) and Kurt Vollers (Indianapolis Colts) all signed free agent deals.
MAKING THE GRADE
The Notre Dame football squad recently had two of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the 2001 fall semester and the 2002 spring semester. In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished 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.
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. Northwestern won the 2002 overall award with a perfect 100 percent graduation rate. Notre Dame joined distinct company as it was one of eight schools to graduate over 90 percent of its players from the freshman class of 1996-97. The Irish joined Boston College, Duke, Nebraska, Penn State, Rice, Vanderbilt and Western Michigan in the elite group. Sixteen other schools graduated 70 percent of their athletes or better in earning special mention status as well.
Notre Dame has been recognized 21 of 22 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 only 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
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. Earlier this year, 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 first vice president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club (he will serve as president from June 2003-June 2005). He also is a member of the athletic department’s student development mentoring program.
FRIDAY FOOTBALL KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
Tickets are available for the 2002 Notre Dame Football Kickoff Luncheons, beginning at noon (EST) on Sept. 6 in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome). The luncheons will be held the same day and time before every Irish home football game this season. The 2002 Notre Dame Football Luncheons are sponsored by the Notre Dame Athletic Department and the speaking program each week includes a combination of special guests, head coach Tyrone Willingham, members of the coaching staff and members of the Irish squad, in addition to video features. Tickets are $18 each (plus $3 handling charge per order) and are available by calling (574) 272-2870.
All 2002 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome) on Fridays before Saturday home games, with new start times of 6 p.m. (EST). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.
ORDER YOUR MEDIA GUIDES AND FOOTBALL PREVIEW MAGAZINES TODAY
This season marks the ninth edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine — 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 (CoSIDA). The preview magazine, published by Host Communications, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on new 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 1-800-313-4678 or by writing to: Notre Dame Programs, 904 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40505.
Notre Dame’s award-winning football media guide, which was voted best in the nation by CoSIDA for the 10th time in the last 20 years in 2001, features more than 450 pages of information and statistics on the 2002 Irish squad, as well as a complete record book and history of Notre Dame football. The media guide is priced at $10 (plus $6 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-647-4641 or by visiting the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.
IN OTHER NOTRE DAME SPORTS ACTION THIS WEEKEND …
The 25th-ranked Notre Dame volleyball team plays host to Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Friday at 7 p.m. EST), Cincinnati (Saturday at 7 p.m. EST) and Cal Poly (Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST) in the Shamrock Invitational at the Joyce Center. Meanwhile, the No. 7 Irish women’s soccer team visits Providence Friday for a 4 p.m. EDT contest before returning home to battle Virginia Tech Sunday at 1 p.m. EST. The Notre Dame men’s soccer team travels to Omaha, Neb., for the Diadora Challenge, squaring off with Southwest Missouri State (Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CDT) and Creighton (Sunday at 7 p.m. CDT).