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Irish Spring Football Practice Report - Day 7

April 6, 2004

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame football team held its second scrimmage of the spring at the end of Tuesday’s two-hour workout at Cartier Field. Working on their red zone execution, the Irish offense was effective, scoring five times in six possessions during the 30-minute scrimmage. The first-string offensive unit worked mainly against their defensive counterparts, although some players did mix in with the second units as well.

The Notre Dame passing game was sharp in the abbreviated scrimmage, as quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Pat Dillingham took turns piloting the Irish offense. Quinn took snaps on four series and wound up completed three of four passes for 22 yards, while Dillingham ran the other two series and completed four of five tosses for 36 yards. As a unit, the Notre Dame offense also looked solid on first down, notching three first downs and one second-and-short opportunity during the afternoon.

On the first series, senior running back Ryan Grant ran for six and two yards on the first two plays, but a fumbled snap led the Irish to call on senior kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick, who easily split the uprights from 34 yards away. The second series went much quicker, as Quinn hooked up with rising junior tight end Marcus Freeman for a 19-yard gain on the first play and senior running back Marcus Wilson slashed off the left side on the next snap for a two-yard touchdown.

The defense appeared miffed by the consecutive scores and rose up on the third series. On first down, Grant was wrestled down by junior defensive end Travis Leitko for an eight-yard loss. After Quinn misfired on second down, senior defensive lineman Matt Hasbrook broke through the line for a seven-yard sack to effectively end the offensive threat.

Dillingham took over the quarterback reins on the next series and promptly flipped a 19-yard pass to senior tight end Jerome Collins to put his unit in business at the two-yard line. Wilson then sliced off left guard and got within an inch of the goal line before being pushed back. That’s when the defense came up with a pair of solid stops, knocking down Dillingham’s pass to sophomore tight end John Carlson and then stacking up Wilson on a dive. Fitzpatrick came on and booted his second field goal of the scrimmage from 20 yards away.

Quinn returned to the gridiron for the fifth series and completed passes to senior tight end Billy Palmer (one yard) and junior wideout Rhema McKnight (four yards), sandwiched around a five-yard sack by senior linebacker Mike Goolsby. Facing fourth-and-12, the Irish called on sophomore kicker Carl Gioia and he connected from 40 yards, pinballing the pigskin off the right upright before it sailed on through.

Dillingham came back for the final series and found Collins again on his first throw – the senior tight end gained 11 yards and appeared to have a clear path to the end zone but lost his footing and tumbled down at the 10-yard line. Dillingham followed with completions to senior wide receiver Carlyle Holiday (two yards) and Carlson (four yards), while Wilson came up empty on a run up the middle. On fourth down, sophomore kicker Bobby Renkes trotted out and converted on a 21-yard field goal try, making Irish kickers perfect on four field goal attempts in the scrimmage.

Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham had mixed reviews about his team’s play in Tuesday’s second scrimmage.

“I thought the defense did some nice things and I thought the offense did some nice things,” he said.

“When you work against yourself, the coach is never satisfied. That’s because when your offense does something well, that usually means the defense didn’t look as good and vice versa. Half of what you see will always be good and half of it will always need improvement.”

With Tuesday’s workout marking the midway point of Notre Dame’s spring season, Willingham was asked to comment on his team’s progress.

“We never want to lose sight of the fundamentals because those will always get you through good times and bad,” he said.

“We’ve tried to build a strong fundamental base with our young men and now we’re adding to it. I’m pleased with the intensity and the effort we’re showing on the field, but we have to continually push ourselves to get better.”

The Irish will not practice on Wednesday, but will suit up once again on Thursday for another controlled scrimmage before breaking for the Easter holiday.

— ND —