Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Irish Take On Michigan State

Sept. 15, 2003

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(#23 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-1)
vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-1)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 20, 2003, at 1:30 p.m. EST.

The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.

The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 169th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium (the first 130 coming at the old 59,075 capacity). The Michigan State game marks the 217th home sellout in the last 218 games (dating back to 1964), the 153rd sellout in the last 176 games and the 17th 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 three in ’03.

The TV Plans: NBC Sports national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), Jim Bell (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).

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 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. In addition, ESPN Radio 1000 (and host Dave Wills) will have live remote pre- and post-game analysis from outside Notre Dame Stadium for the Michigan State contest.

Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Michigan State game, via the Notre Dame ( and Michigan State ( athletics web sites.

Web Sites: Notre Dame (, Michigan State (

Following difficult losses last weekend, both Notre Dame and Michigan State are looking to rebound when they match up Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (EST) at Notre Dame Stadium in a game that will be televised nationally by NBC. The Irish and Spartans are set to meet for the 67th time in their series, which has featured nail-biting finishes (and long game-winning touchdown passes) each of the last four years.

Notre Dame (1-1) is coming off a 38-0 loss at No. 5 Michigan last weekend in Ann Arbor before the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726). The Irish were held to 140 yards of total offense and struggled to keep up with the Wolverines, who amassed 439 yards on the day. Senior linebacker Courtney Watson returned to the Notre Dame lineup, logging a team-high 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, but it was not enough to prevent the Irish from being shut out for only the second time in their last 185 games.

While Notre Dame felt the pain of one type of loss, Michigan State (2-1) endured an agonizing defeat from the other end of the spectrum, falling to Louisiana Tech, 20-19, on a touchdown pass with two seconds remaining. The Spartans had a 19-7 edge inside the final two minutes, but Bulldog quarterback Luke McCown tossed a pair of scoring passes in the last 69 seconds to hand MSU a tough home loss.

The Louisiana Tech contest was the last of a three-game season-opening homestand for the Spartans, who began the year with victories over Western Michigan (26-21) and Rutgers (44-28). Under the guidance of first-year head coach John L. Smith, Michigan State has fired up the nation’s 35th-ranked offense, averaging 422.33 yards per game. The Spartans have gotten the majority of their production through the air, ranking 21st in the country in passing offense (289.0 ypg.) behind the play of quarterback Jeff Smoker, who is 14th in the land in passing efficiency (160.11).

Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Michigan State by a 42-23-1 count, including a last-second 21-17 win last season in East Lansing. Reserve quarterback Pat Dillingham connected on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 left to give the Irish their first win at MSU since 1994.


  • Saturday’s game marks the 67th meeting between the Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Irish lead the series 42-23-1 (.644), with a 26-10 record at Notre Dame and a 15-10 mark at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Notre Dame has won 11 of the last 17, and 18 of the last 25 games in the series after snapping MSU’s five-game series winning streak last season. The Spartans still have won the last three games in the series at Notre Dame Stadium, matching their longest run of success on the road in the series (also won three straight in 1956, ’60 and ’62).
  • The first game in the Notre Dame-Michigan State series was played back in 1897, making it one of the oldest rivalries in college football history. The only current Irish series that date earlier than that are Michigan (1887) and Purdue (1896).
  • The Notre Dame-Michigan State rivalry is one of the longest-running series in school history, as the Irish have only played Navy (76 games), Purdue (74) and USC (74) more times than the Spartans.
  • This season’s matchup marks just the second time in the last 17 meetings that Notre Dame has not been ranked in the AP poll at kickoff < the=”” only=”” other=”” time=”” the=”” irish=”” weren’t=”” in=”” the=”” media=”” poll=”” over=”” that=”” stretch=”” was=”” 1997=”” (a=”” 23-7=”” msu=”” win).=””>


  • Notre Dame will record its 44th series win over Michigan State, the third most victories against one opponent behind their 66 wins over Navy and 49 wins over Purdue.
  • The Irish will snap a three-game home losing streak vs. the Spartans, earning their first win over MSU at Notre Dame Stadium since Sept. 18, 1993 (a 36-14 victory).
  • Notre Dame will improve to 36-15-1 (.702) in its last 52 games against Big Ten Conference opposition and chalk up its fifth win in the last six games against that league.
  • The Irish will register their 30th home win in their last 36 outings, dating back to Oct. 8, 1997 (a 20-17 loss to USC).
  • Notre Dame head coach (and 1977 Michigan State graduate) Tyrone Willingham will move to 3-0 all-time against his alma mater as a head coach (2-0 Notre Dame, 1-0 Stanford).


  • Michigan State will log its 24th series win over the Irish, easing past Purdue for the second most wins ever by a Notre Dame opponent (USC has 27 career wins over the Irish).
  • Notre Dame will drop its fourth consecutive home game to Michigan State for the first time in school history.
  • The Irish will lose at home for only the seventh time in their last 36 games at Notre Dame Stadium, dating back to Oct. 8, 1997 (a 20-17 loss to USC).
  • Notre Dame will fall below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001 season (5-6 record).


  • Notre Dame and Michigan State first met on the gridiron in 1897, with the Irish earning a 34-6 victory. The two schools played nine times through 1910, with Notre Dame winning the first eight of those encounters by a combined score of 222-6. Following a six-year layoff, Notre Dame won five of the next six games with the Spartans from 1916-21. The series then went on a 27-year hiatus until it resumed in 1948 when the top-ranked Irish downed Michigan State, 26-7, at Notre Dame Stadium. Since then, the series has been played continuously with the exception of breaks in 1953, ’58, ’95 and ’96. The series is slated to continue indefinitely.
  • Notre Dame and Michigan State will be meeting for the 67th time, making it the fourth-longest series in school history behind Navy (76 games), Purdue (74) and USC (74).
  • The last four games in the series all have been decided in the fourth quarter on touchdown passes of at least 45 yards. Last season, Notre Dame reserve quarterback Pat Dillingham connected with wide receiver Arnaz Battle on a 60-yard TD strike with 1:15 remaining to give the Irish a 21-17 victory and break MSU’s five-game series winning streak.
  • The winner of Saturday’s game will claim the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored by the Detroit alumni clubs of Notre Dame and Michigan State.


  • Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham is a 1977 graduate of Michigan State, where he was a walk-on in both football and baseball and earned three letters in each sport. As a quarterback and flanker in football, he was named the team’s most inspirational player in 1976. In 1977, he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor as the outstanding scholar-athlete in the league. In baseball, he received the 1975 sportsmanship award and was an all-Big Ten selection in 1977. Willingham spent one season (1977) as a graduate assistant coach at MSU under head coach Darryl Rogers, then returned to his alma mater in 1980, serving three seasons from ’80-82 as the Spartans’ secondary/special teams coach under head coach Frank “Muddy” Waters. In his head coaching career, Willingham is 2-0 against his alma mater, leading Notre Dame to a 21-17 win last year and guiding Stanford to a 38-0 win over MSU in the 1996 Sun Bowl.
  • Notre Dame defensive line coach Greg Mattison and Michigan State running backs coach Reggie Mitchell served on the same staff at Western Michigan in 1986.
  • Notre Dame running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston worked alongside MSU defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chris Smeland at Hawaii from 1991-93. The duo were part of the UH staff that paced the Rainbow Warriors to the 1992 Western Athletic Conference title and a win over Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.
  • Irish offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick was on the same staff at Idaho with Michigan State linebackers coach Mike Cox from 1987-88, helping the Vandals to a pair of Big Sky Conference titles, two NCAA Division I-AA playoff berths and a trip to the national semifinals in ’88.
  • Longtime MSU and Detroit Pistons broadcaster George Blaha is a 1966 graduate of Notre Dame, earning a degree in economics.
  • Michigan State assistant athletics director for media relations John Lewandowski is a 1984 graduate of Notre Dame, earning a degree in business administration.
  • ND director of recreational services and fitness Sally Derengoski is a native of East Lansing, Mich.


  • Notre Dame sophomore running back Jeff Jenkins is a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., and was the all-time leading rusher in Ann Arbor history (3,970 yards, 60 TD) while attending Huron High School from 1998-2001.
  • Five players between the two teams have ties to the Tampa-St. Petersburg (Fla.) area. Notre Dame senior tight end Gary Godsey (Tampa/Jesuit HS), senior cornerback Preston Jackson (Tampa/Hillsborough HS) and junior cornerback Dwight Ellick (Tampa/Wharton HS) all are from the Tampa Bay region, as are MSU freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves (Tampa/Plant HS) and sophomore running back Jason Teague (St. Petersburg/Osceola HS).
  • Irish sophomore wide receiver Maurice Stovall and MSU sophomore defensive end Michael Bazemore both are natives of Philadelphia. Stovall graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School, while Bazemore attended West Catholic High School.
  • Notre Dame junior cornerback Carlos Campbell and Michigan State freshman defensive back Delton Ashburn both are Hampton, Va., residents. Campbell was a student-athlete at Hampton High School, while Ashburn is a recent graduate of Fork Union Military Academy.
  • Notre Dame junior defensive tackle Brian Beidatsch and Michigan State senior offensive guard Joe Brooks both graduated from Marquette High School in Milwaukee, Wis.


  • Notre Dame has played more than three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (325) 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 209-101-15 (.666) in 325 games against Big Ten schools, with more than 52 percent of those games (171) coming versus Michigan (12-18-1), Michigan State (42-23-1) 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.

Quarterback Pat Dillingham, subbing for an injured Carlyle Holiday, tossed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 to play, propelling the 12th-ranked Irish to a 21-17 victory over the Spartans before a stunned crowd of 75,182 at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 21, 2002.

With the win, Notre Dame registered its first 4-0 start since 1993 and snapped a five-game losing streak against MSU. It also provided sweet redemption for a group of Irish veterans who had seen the Spartans knock off Notre Dame with similar fourth-quarter heroics in each of the previous three years.

As it did in its first three games, the Irish defense played a pivotal role in the win over Michigan State. Notre Dame held the high-powered MSU offense out of the end zone for the first three quarters and came up with some timely stops in the waning seconds to preserve the heart-stopping triumph.

For the second game in a row, the Irish got on the board quickly, scoring on their opening drive. A 30-yard trick pass from Battle to Holiday set up Ryan Grant’s six-yard touchdown scamper just 4:12 into the game.

MSU chipped away at Notre Dame for much of the first half, but could never land a solid blow. The Spartans had to settle for a pair of Dave Rayner field goal attempts, one of which he converted from 35 yards out with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.

Clinging to a narrow 7-3 lead late in the first half, the Irish defense provided a window of opportunity. Cornerback Shane Walton tipped a Jeff Smoker pass into the arms of strong safety Gerome Sapp, who returned it to the Michigan State 28-yard line. Notre Dame needed just four plays to cash in on the Spartan miscue. After a key pass interference call on third down kept the drive going, Holiday found wide receiver Maurice Stovall on a 15-yard scoring strike with 11 seconds left in the half.

Neither team dented the scoreboard in the third quarter, but Notre Dame still suffered a major loss when Holiday went down with a shoulder injury late in the period. In the fourth quarter, Michigan State finally got on track. Capitalizing on a short Irish punt, the Spartans moved smartly 56 yards in three plays, with Smoker finding Charles Rogers on a 38-yard scoring toss to cut the lead to 14-10 with 13:22 remaining.

The teams then traded punts before MSU came up with a crucial turnover, intercepting Dillingham’s pass at the Spartan three-yard line. Smoker then marched the hosts down to the Notre Dame 21-yard line, where the drive appeared to stall. Faced with fourth-and-11 and 1:52 to play, Smoker found Rogers in the back of the end zone and the MSU wideout managed to get one foot down, giving the Spartans their first lead of the afternoon.

That set the stage for Dillingham, a former walk-on, and Battle, a converted quarterback, to add their names to Irish lore. Their scoring connection put Notre Dame back in front, but not out of difficulty just yet. Michigan State made one last charge, getting to the Irish 42. However, Sapp ended matters by picking off Smoker’s desperation toss as time expired, locking up Notre Dame’s first win in East Lansing since 1994.

Michigan State quarterback Ryan Van Dyke threw two touchdown passes, including a 47-yard strike to Charles Rogers with 7:51 left, as MSU claimed its fifth consecutive victory over the 23rd-ranked Irish, 17-10, before a crowd of 80,795 at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 22, 2001. With the win, Michigan State became the first Notre Dame opponent since USC (1978-82) to take five consecutive games from the Irish. It was also the third year in a row in which the Spartans used a big play in the fourth quarter to edge past Notre Dame.

The loss overshadowed a solid performance by tailback Tony Fisher, who rushed for 103 yards and logged his sixth career 100-yard outing. Backfield mate Julius Jones also had a strong afternoon, turning in 160 all-purpose yards, including 108 yards on five kick returns. In addition, punter Joey Hildbold gave the voters for the Ray Guy Award some more food for thought, recording a career-high 50.1 yard average on eight punts and narrowly missing the school record of 51.6 yards per punt set back in 1975.

The Spartans (2-0) wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard, going 68 yards in 14 plays on their first drive of the game before settling for a 29-yard field goal by David Schaefer. T.J. Duckett carried five times for 36 yards on the march, accounting for more than half of his game total on the first 10 minutes of the contest.

After a 43-yard field goal by Irish kicker Nicholas Setta early in the second quarter, the Michigan State passing game then went to work and produced the Spartans’ first touchdown. Van Dyke completed three of four passes for 57 yards, the last a six-yard connection to Chris Baker which gave MSU a 10-3 edge at the 5:37 mark.

Moments later, the Notre Dame special teams units came up with a pair of key plays to help bring the Irish even. First, Hildbold boomed a 54-yard punt that was downed as the Spartan four-yard line. Then, five plays later, Michigan State was forced to kick back to Notre Dame and Jones capitalized on the short field, going 53 yards to the MSU 6. On the very next play, quarterback Matt LoVecchio and split end Javin Hunter hooked up on a six-yard scoring toss with 38 seconds left in the first half.

Neither side cracked their opponent’s 35-yard line in the third quarter, and the fourth period began much the same way. The turning point came on Michigan State’s second drive of the final quarter, as the Spartans avoided near disaster when Irish cornerback Clifford Jefferson couldn’t corral a potential interception at midfield. On the ensuing play, Van Dyke and Rogers teamed up for the game-winning score, dropping Notre Dame to 0-2 for the first time since 1986.

During Saturday’s game against Michigan State, 1953 Heisman Trophy winner John Lattner will receive the Tradition of Excellence Award from the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame and the Heisman Memorial Trophy Committee. The award is presented annually to those former Heisman winners who have distinguished themselves with a successful career and strong humanitarian efforts. In 1953, Lattner was a unanimous All-America selection after scoring 11 touchdowns and piling up a (then) school-record 1,283 all-purpose yards, a mark that stood for 26 years until Vagas Ferguson broke it in 1979. Lattner was elected to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1979. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Lattner’s Heisman-winning season.

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 free 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.

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.

Notre Dame’s 29-26 overtime win over Washington State continues a trend of remarkable victories that began last season. The Irish now are 7-1 (.875) 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 time the Irish have not won a close ball game under Willingham’s guidance was a 14-7 setback to Boston College last year at Notre Dame Stadium.

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.

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.

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.


  • 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.

Second-year Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham has posted an 11-4 (.733) 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. Here’s a look at how the past 13 Irish head coaches have fared through their first 15 games, as well as their final career totals:

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).

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.=””>

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 five occasions, he has been pressed into a starting role and he has delivered in the clutch, averaging 9.6 tackles per game, including double-digit outings in his last three 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 in four of his five starting assignments (Maryland, Purdue and North Carolina State in ’02; Washington State in ’03), including a career-best 11 stops in the overtime win over Washington State on Sept. 6.

Five true freshmen have played for Notre Dame in their first two 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 saw playing time against Washington State and Michigan < parish=”” has=”” logged=”” two=”” tackles,=”” samardzija=”” has=”” caught=”” two=”” passes=”” for=”” 16=”” yards=”” and=”” quinn=”” is=”” 3-of-10=”” for=”” 36=”” yards=”” with=”” one=”” interception,=”” although=”” he=”” directed=”” the=”” irish=”” on=”” a=”” six-play,=”” 80-yard=”” scoring=”” drive=”” that=”” put=”” notre=”” dame=”” on=”” top=”” in=”” the=”” fourth=”” quarter=”” against=”” washington=”” state.=””>

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.

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 third with 62, while John Carney holds the record of 69 from 1984-86), career field goal made (Setta is second with 42, while Carney is first with 51), and career points by kicking (Setta is third with 227, while Hentrich owns the top mark of 294). In addition, Setta has made 89 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history behind Hentrich’s run of 136 straight PAT conversions from 1989-92. Setta’s last missed PAT kick came on Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford.

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 he and Hentrich share) 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 with 227, edging past Carney (223). Next up for Setta in that category is Dave Reeve, who is second all-time with 247 points from 1974-77.

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 two weeks of the season, averaging 42.8 yards on 12 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).

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 free 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.

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.

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.

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.

Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior free 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 free 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).

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 free 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 55-40-1 (.578) overall record, including an 11-4 (.733) 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).

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, 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.

Junior Mark LeVoir earned the starting nod at left guard in the Washington State and Michigan games (the first starts of his career) after spending the past two seasons 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.

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 five games for the Irish, including four 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 two 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.

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 has 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.

Backs — Senior Carlyle Holiday (26-48-204, 1 TD, 2 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 third-lowest interception percentage in school history (.0312), having thrown just 14 picks in 449 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 (3-10-36, 0 TD, 1 INT) currently is designated as Holiday’s backup. 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 then completed 3-of-10 passes for 36 yards with one interception in a relief role at Michigan. 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 (27-118) 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 (22-114, 1 TD) and junior Marcus Wilson (2-(-3)) 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 ran for a team-high 42 yards on 11 carries at Michigan.

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 registered the first catch of his career vs. Washington State, a seven-yard reception in the second quarter.

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 (7-56) 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. Rangy sophomore Maurice Stovall (3-24) holds the other starting wideout position and began his second season with a career-high tying three receptions for 24 yards. Sophomore Rhema McKnight (6-44, 1 TD), senior Ronnie Rodamer and junior Matt Shelton all can stretch defenses vertically and will see significant time in Notre Dame’s balanced offensive scheme. McKnight showed his potential against Washington State, catching a career-high five passes for 33 yards and his first career touchdown. He subsequently earned his first career start at Michigan and caught one pass for 11 yards against the Wolverines. Freshman receivers Chinedum Ndukwe and Jeff Samardzija (2-16) also could be heard from this season, with the latter recording his first two career catches against Washington State (five yards) and Michigan (11 yards).

Senior Billy Palmer is the starting tight end for the Irish after appearing in all 13 games last year. He has started three times in his career, including both games this season. 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 (1-19) and Marcus Freeman also will contend for playing time this season < fasano=”” registered=”” his=”” first=”” career=”” reception,=”” a=”” 19-yard=”” grab,=”” at=”” michigan.=””>

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 (eight tackles, 0.5 for loss, 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 then returned to the starting lineup at Michigan and carded four tackles (all solo). Sophomore Derek Landri (one tackle) made his first career start vs. WSU in place of Hilliard and logged his first career tackle at Michigan, while senior Greg Pauly (three tackles, 0.5 for loss) had two tackles (0.5 for loss) in a reserve role against the Cougars. 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 latter contest. Senior right end Kyle Budinscak (six tackles, two for loss, two sacks), the other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line, is in his second season as a starter (16 career starts). A two-time Academic All-District selection, Budinscak leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss after chalking up a career-high two sacks in the win over Washington State. Junior end Justin Tuck (nine tackles, one for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one PBU), a pass-rushing specialist with exceptional quickness, moves into the starting lineup this season in place of the departed Ryan Roberts. Tuck had started just one game in his career prior to this season, but cracked the lineup in each of 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 (one tackle) and sophomore Travis Leitko (one tackle) both serve as the top understudies at the defensive end positions.

Linebackers — All three starting linebackers return for the Irish this season, led by senior inside linebackers and Butkus Award candidates Courtney Watson (12 tackles, one 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 at Michigan, logging a team-high 12 tackles (one for loss) and forcing an early Wolverine fumble. Goolsby was third on the squad with 75 tackles last season, but currently is sidelined with a shoulder injury. Junior Brandon Hoyte (team-high 21 tackles, 1.5 for loss, one fumble recovery, two pass breakups) has stepped in for Goolsby this season, carding a career-high 11 tackles vs. Washington State and adding 10 stops at Michigan, his third consecutive double-digit tackles game. Hoyte also had his second career fumble recovery in the Michigan game. Senior Derek Curry (11 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 (six 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 (six tackles, one forced fumble, one PBU) was a third-team All-American last year and has started the last 23 games for the Irish, while hard-hitting senior free safety Glenn Earl (13 tackles, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, 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.=”” senior=””>Garron Bible (14 tackles, one fumble recovery) is filling Sapp’s role at strong safety admirably although he had only two career starts entering this season. He has 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 has been tight between seniors Jason Beckstrom (five tackles) and Preston Jackson (14 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 game. Juniors Quentin Burrell (four tackles) and Lionel Bolen (one tackle), along with freshman Freddie Parish, Jr. (two tackles) head up the reserve secondary unit. Burrell has been used primarily as the Irish dime back in the first two games, while Parish has appeared in both contests mainly in nickel situations.

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 42 career field goals (nine shy of John Carney’s mark) and is third on the Irish career points-by-kicking chart (227, record is 294 by Hentrich). In addition, Setta has made 89 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, and moved past Carney into third place on the Irish career points-by-kicking list.

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, averaging 42.8 yards on 12 punts this season, including a 43.9-yard average on a career-high nine punts at Michigan. Setta also has boomed a pair of 50-yard punts this year, including a career-long 54-yard shot on his first kick of the season.

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 ranks 46th in the nation this season in kickoff return yardage, logging 23 yards per runback. He now has 1,008 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 186 all-purpose yards this season and ranks second in school history in three 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 152 of its previous 175 games, including its last 16 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.=””>

Counting Saturday’s game vs. Michigan State, the Irish now have posted 169 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 217 in their last 218 home games.

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 each Tuesday at 7 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.

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. 3/5 Michigan, No. 4/3 USC, No. 9/11 Pittsburgh, No. 10/9 Florida State and No. 24/25 Washington State). In addition, Purdue is ranked 25th in the latest AP poll, while two other Notre Dame opponents < boston=”” college=”” and=”” byu=””>< 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.=””>

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)

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.

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.

Former Notre Dame and NFL star Paul Hornung will be the focus of the annual Life Treatment Centers celebrity roast on Thursday night (Sept. 18) at the Joyce Center. Numerous members of the Notre Dame and NFL communities will offer a night of humor and entertainment at the expense of the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner, who was nicknamed “The Golden Boy.” The festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. (EST) with a reception, followed by dinner and the roast at 6:30 p.m. (EST). All proceeds from this event will benefit Life Treatment Centers, a non-profit substance abuse treatment agency which treats hundreds of persons in the Michiana area who suffer from alcohol and drug addiction problems.

For more information on “Roastin’ The Golden Boy,” call (574) 233-5433 (extension 215), or visit the Life Treatment Centers web site at

As part of its 2003 college football preview, 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.”

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.

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 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.

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 (

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

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 Sept. 19 (Michigan State), Oct. 17 (USC), Oct. 31 (Florida State), Nov.7 (Navy) and Nov. 14 (BYU).

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.

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.

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.=””>

The rich history of Irish football will be the focus of two 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. Grant will be available to sign copies of his book Saturday from 10 a.m.-noon (EST) at the Hammes Bookstore.

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 (

The current NCAA statistical rankings for Notre Dame and Michigan State in 2003 (top 50 only):

Notre Dame heads to West Lafayette, Ind., on Sept. 27 for the 75th renewal of its series with in-state rival Purdue. The Boilermakers (1-1) are ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press poll following a 16-10 win at (then) No. 21 Wake Forest last weekend. Purdue is slated to play host to Pac-10 member Arizona on Saturday before welcoming the Irish to town.

Last season, Notre Dame downed the Boilermakers, 24-17, thanks to a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Vontez Duff with 5:09 remaining. The Irish are 49-23-2 all-time vs. Purdue (24-12-2 in West Lafayette) and have played more games against the Boilermakers than any other team except Navy (76).