Sept. 21, 1999
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In a season where nothing has gone according to planned, it is a surprise that one thing has.
According to Irish head coach Bob Davie, the consistency lies with the receivers.
“We thought our receivers across the board have really shown a lot of improvement, considering that we lost Malcolm Johnson our leading receiver from last year,” Davie said.
Stepping up to replace the vacancy left by Johnson, who now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, initially appeared to be junior Joey Getherall. He turned in some solid efforts in the first two games of the season before separating his shoulder against Michigan.
With the absence of Getherall, senior Raki Nelson has stepped forward to show that he can be the go to guy. Thus far, the receivers have raked in 903 yards of catches. Currently, Nelson leads the team with 19 receptions for 300 yards, showing that he is Jackson’s favored target.
“He is by far playing the best football of his career,” receivers coach Urban Meyer said. “It means something to him, not meaning that the last three years didn’t but he is prepared to play. He has done some good things for us.”
Michigan State provided the stage for Nelson and Co. to show their talents. Nelson made numerous acrobatic and unbelievable grabs. Brown’s physical play showcased itself when he snagged a high pass away from Michigan State’s Amp Campbell, to score Notre Dame’s only touchdown.
“Raki Nelson has stepped up and made some big plays,” Davie said. “Bobby Brown has come back from the incident at Michigan. In fact, he made some big plays against Purdue and again against Michigan State this week . . . I am excited about our receiving corp.”
Davie excitement isn’t unwarranted. Nelson, Brown and Javin Hunter accounted for the majority of Saturday’s yardage, totaling 232 yards between the three of them. Hunter had two catches for 84 yards. Nelson registered his longest catch of the season with a 45-yard reception. He had six catches for 117 yards. Brown had three key catches, including one for a touchdown.
Despite their success, only one thing remains on their mind and that is belief. None of them have lost faith in the team and what they can still accomplish this season.
“I do not think we have a confidence problem, in fact I think we come into the game more confident than people really think we are,” Brown said. “In the game we always feel confident that we are going to win, and that is why it hurts so bad when we don’t.”
Davie and Co. can remain confident that with a talented group of receivers like they have, it is just a matter of time before the team gets back on the winning track.