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No. 12 Fighting Irish Open Preparations For Michigan State

Sept. 16, 2002

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(#12 AP/#12 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0)
vs. Michigan State Spartans (2-1)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2002, at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Spartan Stadium (72,027/Natural Grass) in East Lansing, Mich.
The Tickets: They’re all sold – with this marking the 141st sellout in the last 164 games involving Notre Dame.
The TV Plans: ABC Sports regional 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), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at All Notre Dame football games are heard on WNDV-AM (1490) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis for home games 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.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Michigan State game, via the Notre Dame ( and Michigan State ( athletics websites.
Websites: Notre Dame (, Michigan State (

A veteran with 25 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is in his first season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, owning a 3-0 record with the Irish and a 47-36-1 (.565) mark overall. Willingham already has guided Notre Dame to wins over two ranked opponents (No. 7 Michigan and No. 21 Maryland) in his first three games, and he is the first Irish coach to start his debut season with three consecutive victories since Dan Devine in 1975. Willingham also is the first Notre Dame mentor in school history to win his first two games against ranked opponents (Frank Leahy had a win and a tie against his first two ranked foes in 1941).

Willingham was introduced as the new Irish head coach 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 two 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 Sept. 15)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, out indefinitely

While at Michigan State, Notre Dame will be headquartered at the Sheraton Lansing Hotel, 925 South Creyts Road, Lansing, MI 48917, (517) 323-7100. The Irish are scheduled to depart by charter bus on Friday at 2:15 p.m. EST with a 6:15 p.m. EDT arrival in Lansing. Notre Dame will return to South Bend immediately following Saturday’s game, arriving on campus at approximately 10 p.m. EST.


  • Saturday’s game marks the 66th meeting between the Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Irish lead the series 41-23-1 (.638), with a 15-13-1 record at Michigan State and a 13-11-1 mark at Spartan Stadium.
  • Notre Dame has won 10 of the last 16, and 17 of the last 24 games in the series, although Michigan State currently has a five-game winning streak against the Irish.
  • 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 (75 games), Purdue (74) and USC (73) more times than the Spartans.
  • Including this season, Notre Dame has been ranked going into 14 of the last 15 games with Michigan State, and the Irish have been ranked in 16 of their last 18 visits to Spartan Stadium.


  • The Irish will earn their first victory over Michigan State since a 21-20 win at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 17, 1994, snapping a five-game losing streak against MSU.
  • Notre Dame will improve to 209-100-15 (.668) against the Big Ten Conference, extending its record for the most victories against one league. The Irish also will pick up their fourth consecutive win over Big Ten opposition, their longest unbeaten streak over the conference since a 10-game string (9-0-1) from Sept. 5, 1992-Sept. 3, 1994.
  • The Irish will earn a season sweep against the Big Ten for the first time since 1993, when they went 4-0 against the conference (Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue).
  • Notre Dame will record its 43rd series win over Michigan State, the third most victories against one opponent behind their 65 wins over Navy and 49 wins over Purdue.
  • Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham will be just the third mentor in school history to win his first four games at Notre Dame, joining Frank Leahy (1941) and Ara Parseghian (1964).
  • Notre Dame will open its season at 4-0 for the first time since 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games and ascended to No. 1 in the polls.


  • The Spartans will notch their sixth consecutive victory in the series, becoming the first Notre Dame opponent since Michigan State (1955-63) to take six in a row from the Irish.
  • MSU would win its third consecutive game over the Irish at Spartan Stadium, its first three-game home winning streak over Notre Dame since a seven-game run from 1951-63.
  • 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.


  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series by a 41-23-1 (.638) count, including a 15-13-1 mark at Michigan State and a 13-11-1 record at Spartan Stadium.
  • The Irish have won 10 of the last 16, and 17 of the last 24 games in the series, although Michigan State has claimed the last five games between the two teams.
  • 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 66th time, making it the fourth-longest series in school history behind Navy (75 games), Purdue (74) and USC (73).
  • 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 as the Spartans’ secondary/special teams coach under head coach Frank “Muddy” Waters.
  • 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.
  • MSU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Morris Watts and Irish secondary coach Trent Walters worked together on the staffs at Louisville (1972) and Indiana (1973-80).
  • Michigan State receivers coach Don Treadwell served with Notre Dame defensive coordinator Kent Baer on Willingham’s staff at Stanford from 1995-96.
  • Longtime MSU and Detroit Pistons play-by-play broadcaster George Blaha is a 1966 graduate of Notre Dame.
  • Michigan State assistant athletics director for media relations John Lewandowski is a 1984 graduate of Notre Dame.
  • MSU assistant baseball coach Cory Mee was a four-year monogram winner (1989-92) and two-time all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference selection with the Notre Dame baseball team, and later spent six seasons (1993, ’95-99) as an assistant coach with the Irish.
  • ND director of recreational services and fitness Sally Derengoski is a native of East Lansing, Mich.


  • Notre Dame freshman RB 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.
  • Notre Dame senior walk-on RB Tim O’Neill and Michigan State junior C Brian Ottney both are natives of Troy, Mich. – O’Neill graduated from Athens High School, while Ottney attended Troy High School.
  • Irish senior ILB Courtney Watson and junior TE Jared Clark, along with Michigan State senior CB Cedric Henry are all natives of Sarasota, Fla. – Watson attended Riverview High School, Clark graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School, and Henry went to Booker High School.
  • Notre Dame sophomore DT Brian Beidatsch and Michigan State redshirt junior OG Joe Brooks both graduated from Marquette High School in Milwaukee, Wis.

Sometimes all a team needs is one big play to win a game. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, it was Michigan State that got that big play. Spartan 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 record 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.

Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker connected with Herb Haygood on a 68-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10 with 1:48 remaining, propelling the Spartans to a 27-21 victory over Notre Dame on Sept. 23, 2000. The winning score negated what had been a stirring Irish comeback, as the visitors scored twice in the fourth quarter to erase a 20-7 deficit.

Tailback Julius Jones rushed 26 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns for Notre Dame, which dropped its third consecutive game to Michigan State, and its second in a row at Spartan Stadium.

The Irish took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Gary Godsey (now playing tight end for Notre Dame) hooked up with fullback Jason Murray on a six-yard TD pass midway through the first quarter. However, Michigan State came back with 20 unanswered points, highlighted by a six-yard scoring run from T.J. Duckett and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Smoker to Travis Wilson. Duckett finished with 142 yards rushing on the day, while Smoker completed 12 of 24 passes for 181 yards and a score.

Notre Dame came alive in the fourth quarter thanks to its defense, which forced a pair of turnovers – a fumble by Smoker and an interception by defensive end Anthony Weaver while Smoker was under pressure in his own end zone. Following the first takeaway, reserve quarterback Matt LoVecchio, who was making his first career appearance, fired a 43-yard strike to Javin Hunter, setting up Jones’ first touchdown from two yards out.

The Irish drove deep into MSU territory again midway through the final period, but LoVecchio was tripped up on fourth-and-one at the Spartan three-yard line. However, Weaver’s interception gave the ball back to Notre Dame at the Michigan State two-yard line, and Jones scampered into the end zone on the next play, giving the Irish a 21-20 lead with 7:50 to play.

Since 1908, Notre Dame has lost five or more consecutive games versus the same opponent just twice, with Michigan State standing as the only foe ever to put together more than one five-game success string. In fact, the longest series losing streak since 1908 came against Michigan State, as the Spartans won eight straight games versus the Irish from 1955-63. USC is the only other Irish opponent to have won five in a row over Notre Dame, turning the trick from 1978-82.


  • Michigan State is the fourth-most common opponent in Irish football history, trailing three other ’02 foes: Navy (76th meeting in ’02), Purdue (74th meeting in ’02) and USC (74th meeting in ’02).
  • Notre Dame faces its five most common opponents this season (Navy, Purdue, USC, Michigan State and Pittsburgh).
  • The Irish have played 132 different teams in their 113-plus seasons of varsity football.


  • Notre Dame has played more than three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (323) as any other league. The Pacific-10 (107) and BIG EAST (105) 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. The Irish have an overall mark of 208-100-15 (.667) in 323 games against Big Ten schools, with more than 52 percent of those games (169) coming versus Purdue (49-23-2), Michigan State (41-23-1) and Michigan (12-17-1), all of whom are on Notre Dame’s 2002 schedule.
  • The 2002 season marks the first time since 1999 that Notre Dame is facing three Big Ten opponents in one season. That year, the Irish played the same three Big Ten foes they will meet in ’02 – Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State.

For the 45th time in the last 90 seasons (dating back to 1913), Notre Dame has opened a season with three consecutive victories. The last time that happened was 1996, when the Irish parlayed their 3-0 start into an 8-3 record that was marred only by overtime losses to Air Force and USC, as well as a setback at the hands of fourth-ranked Ohio State.

Among the 44 previous 3-0 starts in school history, all but one of them resulted in a winning final record (5-5 in 1961), including 15 undefeated seasons and nine national championships. In addition, 10 quick starts led to bowl game appearances (6-4 record), with the most recent coming in 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games en route to a 24-21 win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham has seen his tenure with the Irish open in strong fashion. In the season opener, Willingham guided the Irish to a 22-0 win over No. 21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. That shutout was the first by a rookie Notre Dame head coach in his first game since 1954, when Terry Brennan piloted the second-ranked Irish to a 21-0 win over No. 4 Texas.

Willingham followed that up with wins over Purdue and No. 7 Michigan, becoming the first Irish head coach to win his first three games at Notre Dame since Dan Devine went 3-0 to open the 1975 season. In addition, Willingham is the first coach in school history to win his first two games against ranked opponents – in his debut season of 1941, Frank Leahy posted a 0-0 tie vs. No. 14 Army and earned a 7-6 win at eighth-ranked Northwestern.

Only three full-time head coaches in school history ever have won four games in a row to open their Irish careers – Leahy, who won his first five in ’41 before the Army game, Jesse Harper, who won his first nine in a row (all seven games in 1913 and the first two in ’14), and Ara Parseghian, who also won his first nine games in 1964 before losing the season finale, 20-17 at USC.

NOTE: Interim head coaches Ed McKeever (1944) and Hugh Devore (1945) each won their first five games at Notre Dame; McKeever finished 8-2, while Devore posted a 7-2-1 record.

The Irish defense has been one of the driving forces behind Notre Dame’s first 3-0 start since 1996. The Irish rank in the top 35 in the nation in each of the major defensive categories – pass efficiency defense (9th, 78.70), scoring defense (15th, 13.33 points/game), total defense (15th, 257.33 yards/game), rushing defense (15th, 84.67 yards/game) and pass defense (32nd, 172.67 yards/game). Notre Dame also shut out its opponents over the first five quarters of the 2002 season, its longest scoreless string on defense since Oct. 2-16, 1993, when it blanked Stanford (fourth quarter), Pittsburgh (all four quarters) and BYU (first quarter).

Notre Dame’s defensive acumen started with a stellar effort against Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, as the Irish held the defending ACC champion Terrapins to no points, eight first downs, 16 yards rushing and 133 yards of total offense. Maryland’s offensive production was the lowest by an Irish opponent since Rutgers managed just six first downs, minus-6 yards rushing and 43 yards of total offense on Nov. 23, 1996.

One of the standouts on the defensive unit was senior CB Shane Walton, who set a Kickoff Classic record and tied the Notre Dame record with three interceptions against Maryland. Walton is the 13th Irish player to register three thefts in one game, and the first to turn the trick since Dave Duerson against Navy on Oct. 30, 1982. Walton currently leads the nation in interceptions with 1.33 per game (4).

Notre Dame has jumped out to a 3-0 start this season, thanks in part to its ability to take care of the ball. The Irish own a +6 turnover margin (2.0/game), which is good enough for 12th in the nation in 2002. All together, Notre Dame has recorded 11 takeaways, while giving the ball away just five times. Those 11 takeaways have led to 43 Irish points (14.3 ppg.), including three turnovers which were turned directly into scores by the defense and special teams. In an interesting twist, all three of those touchdowns were scored by Notre Dame’s defensive backs, and all three came against Purdue – SS Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return, CB Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return on the ensuing kickoff after Sapp’s score, and CB Vontez Duff’s game-winning 33-yard interception return.

This season, Notre Dame has learned that it’s difficult for opponents to score if their offense is not on the field. Case in point – the Irish have dominated the time of possession category in all three of their victories in 2002, holding the ball for an average of 35:36 per game, compared to only 24:24 for their opponents. This trend started in the season opener vs. No. 21 Maryland, when Notre Dame maintained possession for a school-record 41:04, marking just the third time in the last 25 years in which the Irish have cracked the 40-minute barrier. The other 40-minute games were Oct. 27, 2001 at Boston College (40:15), and Nov. 22, 1980 vs. Air Force (40:04).

Notre Dame quickly turned fortunes in its favor against Purdue with a pair of touchdowns just 11 seconds apart in the second quarter. Senior SS Gerome Sapp returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD with 13:47 left in the period. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Boilermakers fumbled and sophomore CB Lionel Bolen returned the loose ball four yards for his first career score at the 13:36 mark. It represented the quickest two-touchdown burst in school history, one second faster than the previous mark. The Irish had scored two TDs in 12 seconds against Vanderbilt in 1995 – Autry Denson had a five-yard touchdown run at 6:39 of the second quarter, and Jarvis Edison had an eight-yard fumble return for a TD on the next kickoff at the 6:27 mark of the second period.

Thanks to its new offensive scheme, Notre Dame already has seen its receivers have success far beyond anything they had amassed in their careers to date.

Among the pass-catching options on the Notre Dame roster this season are three former Irish quarterbacks who elected to change positions. Senior WR Arnaz Battle was Notre Dame’s starting signal-caller in 2000, but a broken wrist in the second game of the season against No. 1 Nebraska sidelined him and led to his eventual move to wideout in time for the 2001 season. This year, Battle has caught five passes for 73 yards, after logging five receptions for 40 yards in ’01.

With Battle’s injury, up stepped senior TE Gary Godsey, who was Battle’s understudy in 2000. Godsey promptly engineered Notre Dame’s last-second 23-21 win over Purdue on Sept. 16, 2000. However, Godsey had played tight end in high school, and his size made his return to the position a natural one. He has six catches for 53 yards this year, including a career-best four receptions vs. Purdue.

The third former Irish quarterback now in the receiving corps is junior TE Jared Clark. The Sarasota, Fla., native is the latest Notre Dame QB to switch positions, electing to do so during spring practice in 2002. He has made two catches for 26 yards this season.

With his game-winning 33-yard interception return against Purdue, junior Vontez Duff joined an elite group, becoming just the fourth player in school history to return an interception, punt and kickoff for a touchdown in his career. In the season opener, Duff returned a Maryland punt 76 yards for a score. That came on the heels of his final game in 2001, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win. Here’s a list of the other players to turn this unique triple play:

  • Allen Rossum (1994-97) – three kickoff returns for TD (1996 vs. Purdue, 1997 at Pittsburgh and vs. Boston College); three interception returns for TD (1995 vs. Texas and at Washington, 1997 at Hawaii); three punt returns for TD (1996 vs. Air Force and Pittsburgh (two)); also had one blocked PAT return (1995 vs. Texas).
  • John Lattner (1951-53) – two kickoff returns for TD (1953 at Purdue and Pennsylvania); one punt return for TD (1952 at Iowa); one interception return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); won Heisman Trophy in 1953.
  • John Petitbon (1949-51) – one kickoff return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); one punt return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); one interception return for TD (1949 vs. USC).

NOTE: Heartley (Hunk) Anderson (1918-21) returned an interception for a TD at Purdue in 1919, and returned a fumble and a blocked punt for a TD at Purdue in 1921.

Junior Vontez Duff has proven to be a multi-dimensional talent for Notre Dame. A preseason honorable mention All-America pick at cornerback by Street & Smith’s, Duff lived up to that billing against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown. His efforts have helped the Irish defense rank among the top 35 in the nation in every major statistical category.

However, the Copperas Cove, Texas, native is not only a defensive threat. He also is a weapon on special teams as a kick returner. He proved that in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21/20 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, returned a Terrapin punt 76 yards for a score. That came on the heels of his final game in 2001, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win.

Duff’s touchdowns in three consecutive games also earned him a place in Notre Dame history. No defensive player had ever recorded touchdowns, whether on defense or special teams, in three straight games prior to Duff’s hat trick.

Senior CB Shane Walton rapidly is transforming into one of the top defensive backs in the country. He currently leads the nation in interceptions with 1.33 thefts per game (four total), including a school-record-tying three interceptions in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over No. 21 Maryland at Kickoff Classic XX. Walton was the first Irish player since Dave Duerson vs. Navy in 1982 to have three interceptions in a single game, and his three picks also tied a Kickoff Classic record. Mike Townsend holds the school record for interceptions in a season with 10 in 1972, but since then, only three Irish players have recorded more than five thefts in one year – Joe Restic (6 in 1977), Duerson (7 in 1982) and Todd Lyght (8 in 1989).

All told, Walton has had a hand in six of Notre Dame’s 11 takeaways this season, adding a fumble recovery and a forced fumble to his four interceptions. The San Diego, Calif., native also ranks fifth on the team with 16 tackles after registering a career-high eight stops (six solo) in last Saturday’s win over No. 7 Michigan. Walton played a key role in defeating the Wolverines, knocking down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass with 2:53 left, and intercepting UM quarterback John Navarre to stop the Wolverines’ final drive with 21 seconds to play.

Senior PK Nicholas Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has been one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons over the last three seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. He has two active streaks which highlight his value to the Irish – he has made 61 consecutive extra points dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000 (the third-longest PAT streak in school history), and he has made a field goal in Notre Dame’s last 16 regular-season games, breaking John Carney’s record for the longest streak in school history.

Both of those streaks continued in a big way in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over No. 21/20 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. Setta set a Classic record by kicking five field goals, tying the school record set by Craig Hentrich against Miami in 1990. One of Setta’s kicks came from 51 yards out, setting a new Kickoff Classic mark and personal high for the Lockport, Ill., native. Along with his one PAT, Setta scored 16 points on the night, good enough to earn him Kickoff Classic MVP honors and recognition as the National Player of the Week.

Setta needs two PAT to pass Bob Thomas for the second-longest streak of consecutive PAT made in school history. Thomas made 62 straight extra points from Nov. 6, 1971 to Oct. 20, 1973. Hentrich holds the school record by converting 136 consecutive PAT from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992.

In addition, Setta’s streak of 16 consecutive regular-season games with at least one field goal is just three shy of the NCAA record. Oklahoma’s Larry Roach (1983-84) and Miami-Ohio’s Gary Gussman (1986-87) each kicked a field goal in 19 consecutive games.

Senior P Joey Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and 2000 finalist, has once again shown his importance to the Notre Dame effort in the first two weeks of the 2002 season. The third-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., is averaging 42.3 yards per punt (18 kicks, 762 yards), good for 24th in the nation, and he has dropped half (nine) of his 18 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.96 yards per punt (8,028 yards on 196 punts) puts him in third place on the Notre Dame career list, just ahead of Vince Phelan, who averaged 40.88 yards per punt in 1987.

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.

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.

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.

Senior C Jeff Faine has been named to a trio of watch lists for top offensive linemen. Faine is under early consideration for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. Faine also has been selected to the watch list for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation’s top center. 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.

Senior ILB Courtney Watson has been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best linebacker. The award is given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.

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.

For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. The Ray Guy Award is given annually to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council.

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.

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.


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, now in his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 34 regular-season games and amassing more than 800 minutes of playing time. Faine, a preseason first-team All-American and candidate for the Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy, is in his third season as the everyday Irish center, having started 25 consecutive regular-season games and leading the team in playing time (314:17) a year ago. Mahan and Curtin are in their second seasons as starters at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Mahan has appeared in 31 games, starting his last 14 games, while Curtin has made nine career starts (including his last seven in a row) after alternating between right tackle and right guard in ’01. 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, senior Sean Milligan returned to the starting lineup at right guard vs. Maryland and Michigan. However, an injury has limited his effectiveness vs. Purdue, and senior Ryan Scarola stepped into the starting right guard spot against the Boilermakers. Seniors Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also saw playing time in reserve roles vs. Purdue and Michigan.

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. Through three games in 2002, Holiday has completed 32 of 66 passes for 430 yards, including a career-high 226 yards in the Kickoff Classic victory over Maryland. Sophomore Pat Dillingham, a former walk-on, serves 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 starts the season as the No. 3 QB, but also could see significant playing time as the year progresses.

Sophomore Ryan Grant (72-294, 2 TD) 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 28 times for a career-high 132 yards and two scores in the Irish win over Michigan. Sophomores Marcus Wilson (3-6) and Rashon Powers-Neal (17-84), as well as senior Chris Yura, also will see action out of the backfield.

Senior Tom Lopienski (8-13) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 21 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. After catching five passes for 40 yards all of 2001, senior Arnaz Battle already has five catches this season for 73 yards, including a career-high 68-yard effort in the Kickoff Classic against Maryland. Sophomore Omar Jenkins (9-179) has shown the ability to be a deep threat for the Irish. He got the starting nod against Maryland in the 2002 opener and didn’t disappoint, leading the team with a career-high five receptions for 87 yards. He added three catches for 83 yards in the Irish win over Michigan. Junior Ronnie Rodamer and sophomore Carlos Campbell (3-26) 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 (2-9) and Maurice Stovall (2-57), who are anxious to make their mark at the college level. Stovall caught a 41-yard pass on the second play of the Michigan game, getting the Irish started on the way to their win over the Wolverines.

Another converted quarterback, senior Gary Godsey gets the starting nod at tight end. The 6-6, 250-pound Godsey is a formidable target for Irish quarterbacks, and he already ranks second on the team with six receptions for 53 yards, including a career-best four-catch day vs. Purdue. Godsey also is a talented blocker and gives the Irish a sizeable advantage on the offensive line. Junior Billy Palmer serves as Godsey’s understudy, along with junior Jared Clark (2-26), who moved from QB to TE in the spring.


Line — The Irish defensive line is anchored by senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (two tackles) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (seven tackles, one for loss, two sacks). Both players weigh better than 290 pounds and provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. Hilliard was a key factor in the win over Michigan, blocking a Wolverine field goal and pressuring UM into throwing a game-ending interception. Campbell and Hilliard are surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (eight tackles, two for loss, two sacks) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak (two tackles, one for loss) who has made five career starts and is the only other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line. Roberts was a key force in Notre Dame’s win over Purdue, registering a pair of sacks. 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. Tuck had a career-high three tackles vs. Michigan and drew a holding penalty in the end zone against the Wolverines which resulted in a safety and the decisive margin in the two-point Irish win.

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. He missed the Maryland and Purdue games with a viral infection, but returned with a vengeance against Michigan, rolling up a team-high nine tackles. Also, Notre Dame has been 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 (team-high 25 tackles, six for loss, one sack) has stepped into the starting lineup at one inside linebacker position, ringing up a career-high 11 tackles, including three for losses, against Purdue. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker spot, while junior Derek Curry (eight tackles, one for loss, one fumble recovery) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. He came up with a critical fourth-quarter fumble recovery vs. Purdue. Sophomore Brandon Hoyte (17 tackles, one for loss, one sack) replaced Watson in the Maryland and Purdue games, recording a career-high nine tackles in the latter contest, one week after notching his first career sack in his first career appearance against Maryland. Sophomore Corey Mays also might see time at the inside position, while junior Jerome Collins lends support on the outside.

Backs — The Irish secondary should be particularly strong in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton (16 tackles, two for loss) has started the last 14 games at cornerback for the Irish, recording 43 tackles and breaking up a team-high eight passes in ’01. The San Diego native set a Kickoff Classic record and tying a school standard with three interceptions against Maryland. He added a career-high eight tackles and provided two critical plays vs. Michigan, batting down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass, and then coming up with an interception in the final minute to quash a Wolverine threat. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff (12 tackles, one fumble recovery) gets the starting call at the other cornerback position, a position he has held for the last 11 games. Duff was the hero against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown with just over five minutes to play. Senior strong safety Gerome Sapp (20 tackles, one for loss) was ranked fifth in the nation among SS by The Sporting News and returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD in the first quarter of Notre Dame’s win over Purdue. Senior Glenn Earl (20 tackles, two for loss) started three games at free safety in ’01 and he tied Goolsby and Hoyte for team-high honors with eight tackles vs. Maryland. The reserve secondary unit is headed by junior Preston Jackson (three tackles) and sophomore Dwight Ellick (two tackles) at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible (five tackles) and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety. Bible registered a career-high four tackles vs. Michigan, while Bolen scored the first touchdown of his career on special teams against Purdue, scooping up a Boilermaker fumble and scurrying four yards for a second-quarter score.

For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the finest kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and a finalist for the award in 2000, ranks third on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.96) and he currently ranks 24th in the nation at 42.3 yards per kick. Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 61 straight PAT attempts and holds a Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 16 consecutive games, just three shy of the NCAA record. He set a Kickoff Classic record and tying the school mark with five field goals, including a Classic-record 51-yard boot, to earn game MVP honors. Setta also could see time as a reserve punter for the Irish after averaging 40 yards on four kicks at Boston College in 2000. Hildbold and Setta join veteran long snapper John Crowther (25 appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit. Duff ranks eighth in the nation in punt return yardage, averaging nearly 20 yards per return, and he already has a 76-yard punt return for a TD vs. Maryland to his credit. Meanwhile, Arnaz Battle rais averaging 23 yards per kickoff return (44th in the nation), while Shane Walton (four punt returns for 46 yards) also is set to help return kicks.

Notre Dame’s freshman practices included 17 scholarship players and four walkons: OL James Bent (6-2, 260, Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) wears No. 59, OL David Fitzgerald (6-4, 270, Godfrey, Ill./Marquette Catholic) shares No. 54 with DL Jason Halvorson, WR Mike O’Hara (5-10, 175, Bellevue, Wash./Newport) sports No. 84, and ILB Anthony Salvador (6-2, 195, Concord, Calif./De La Salle) wears No. 81.

Notre Dame has four athletes who are two-sport standouts with the Irish:

  • Senior CB Shane Walton is less than three years removed from earning all-BIG EAST Conference honors as a freshman forward on the ’98 Irish men’s soccer team. Walton has started 23 of the last 24 regular-season games for the Irish, dating back to the start of the 2000 season, earning preseason honorable mention All-America honors this year from Street & Smith’s. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of ’99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the ’99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second Notre Dame monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
  • Senior SS and special teams player Chad DeBolt has made 174 special teams appearances over the last three seasons and was one of just four walkons on the usual travel list during that time. In 2000, he recovered a blocked punt vs. Rutgers and blocked a punt vs. USC – both of which led to Irish TDs.

DeBolt also was a four-year monogram winner for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team which advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2001. The Waterloo, N.Y., native served as team captain in ’02, handling the majority of the faceoff duties for the Irish. He won better than 56 percent of his draws and scooping up a team-high 51 ground balls in ’02. DeBolt missed just one contest during his 57-game career, scoring four goals and collecting 168 ground balls.

  • Sophomore CB Dwight Ellick earned a monogram last winter while competing for Irish head coach Joe Piane and the Notre Dame track and field team. Ellick garnered all-BIG EAST honors after placing third in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes at the 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track an Field Championships. He was a two-time state champion in the 100 meters in high school, winning the New York crown in 1999, before moving to Florida and winning the Sunshine State title in 2000.
  • Senior PK Nicholas Setta, who finished sixth at the Illinois state track and field meet in the high jump and was the top hurdler in the state, has competed for Piane and the Irish track and field program the last two years. Setta ran middle distance for the Irish and participated in the 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships.
  • Other Notre Dame football players who also ran track for the Irish include senior CB Jason Beckstrom, senior FB Mike McNair and sophomore WR Matt Shelton.

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 captains have been as follows:

Maryland: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, DE Ryan Roberts, CB Shane Walton

Purdue: TE Gary Godsey, NG Cedric Hilliard, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta

Michigan: LT Jordan Black, DT Darrell Campbell, CB Vontez Duff, C Jeff Faine

Once again, Notre Dame faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play three teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 5 Florida State, No. 11 USC and No. 14 Michigan). In addition, four other Notre Dame opponents – Air Force, Boston College, Michigan State and Purdue – are receiving votes in one or both polls. Nine of the 12 foes on this year’s Notre Dame’s schedule 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.

According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Sept. 15), Notre Dame has the 16th toughest schedule in the nation. These rankings take into account the cumulative performance of all Irish opponents during the 2002 season.

With Saturday’s game against Michigan State slated to be televised by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 115 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the first six 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 shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 140 of its previous 163 games, including the first three games this season. In 2001, 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 sellout crowds in 44 of the last 50 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.

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, like this year’s Boston College contest, 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 163 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 211 in their last 212 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 accommodate television and was played with students absent from campus).

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.

In conjunction with, Tostitos is asking 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 are being 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.

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). In addition, 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. Of these 11 players, eight made the final 53-man roster with their respective teams (all six draftees plus Fisher and Irons), while Vollers was re-signed to the Colts’ practice squad.

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.

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 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.

Tickets are available for the 2002 Notre Dame Football Kickoff Luncheons, “ND Football Live,” with the next slated to be held at noon (EST) on Oct. 4 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, with Bob Nagle hosting the television talk-show format. 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.

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 2002 home football games. 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 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 online today!

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.