April 8, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame football team began the second half of its spring season with a two-hour workout Thursday afternoon, highlighted by several short scrimmages over the final hour of the session. Despite blustery and cold conditions at Cartier Field, and the fact the team is scheduled to break for the weekend to celebrate the Easter holiday, it was apparent that no one’s thoughts were straying to warm-weather vacations and road trips. Irish players and coaches were especially focused on the task at hand and improving their execution on both sides of the ball.
Thursday’s first scrimmage dealt entirely with the running game, as three different backs – Ryan Grant, Marcus Wilson and Travis Thomas – took turns toting the pigskin behind the Irish offensive line. The defense got the better of the matchup early on, as defensive end Chris Frome and defensive back Freddie Parish IV both came up with a pair of tackles for loss. However, the trio of backs responded well and rushed for a combined 49 yards on their last seven carries, capped off by Grant’s 31-yard touchdown scamper on the final snap.
The next scrimmage focused on the two-minute drill, although in the case of Notre Dame, the offense only had 59 seconds to work with. The Irish first-team offense looked sharp on its only sequence, as Grant slashed off the left side for 22 yards and quarterback Brady Quinn followed with a 15-yard pass to wideout Maurice Stovall down to the 15-yard line. After Quinn spiked the ball the stop the clock, a pair of incompletions forced the Irish into a fourth-down scenario, which was quashed when linebacker Mike Goolsby came up with an interception at the 17-yard line.
The third scrimmage was a seven-on-seven passing drill with the Irish offense (receivers, backs and one lineman) going up against the Notre Dame defense (linebackers and secondary). Both quarterbacks – Quinn and Pat Dillingham – had success in this session, driving their squads 80 yards each for touchdowns. Quinn’s charges needed just seven plays to find the end zone, with tight end Jerome Collins popping open for a 25-yard touchdown catch. Dillingham then piloted his crew back downfield in 11 plays and Collins once again found pay dirt, taking a short pass and then bulling down the left sideline for a 20-yard score.
The final scrimmage was a mixture of red-zone and full-field situations with the first teamers on both sides of the ball getting the bulk of the repetitions. Quinn was at his best in this scenario, completing 7-of-11 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns, with a third drive faltering only when Carl Gioia’s 35-yard field goal try drifted wide to the right. The first two series were devoted to the red zone offense – on the first, Stovall went high to pull in a 24-yard TD pass from Quinn on third-and-10. The second drive saw Wilson carry three times for 11 yards before Gioia’s kick misfired.
The last three series all started at the offense’s own 27-yard line. On the first series, Thomas carried five times for 13 yards, but on fourth-and-one at his own 46, Thomas was stacked up by Goolsby and Parish for a two-yard loss. The defense then forced a three-and-out on the next possession, with free safety Jake Carney providing the big play by dragging down Grant for a three-yard loss. However, the offense revved up on the final series of the afternoon, as Quinn marched his unit 73 yards in five plays, flipping passes to tight end Billy Palmer (16 yards), Stovall (42 yards) and wide receiver Carlyle Holiday (15 yards), the last toss going for a touchdown. On that final scoring play, Quinn enjoyed excellent protection and had nearly seven seconds to throw behind his rapidly-improving offensive line.
Notre Dame will return to the gridiron next Tuesday, April 13, as it begins the third week of spring practice this year. The Irish have only six more practices scheduled before the 75th annual Blue-Gold Game, which takes place Saturday, April 24 at 1:30 p.m. (EST/CDT) at Notre Dame Stadium.
— ND —