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No. 23/24 Fighting Irish Host Boilermakers In Home Opener

Sept. 2, 2002

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The following is a partial excerpt from the Notre Dame football release. To view the complete release, please see the PDF version.

(#23 AP/#24 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0)
vs. Purdue Boilermakers (1-0)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002, at Noon EST.
The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: They’re all sold – with this marking the 162nd consecutive sellout in Notre Dame Stadium (the first 130 coming at the old 59,075 capacity). The Purdue game marks the 210th home sellout in the last 211 games (dating back to 1964) and the 139th sellout in the last 162 games involving Notre Dame.
The TV Plans: NBC Sports national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), Ed Feibischoff (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).
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 on-site pre- and post-game analysis from Notre Dame Stadium 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 (except for the Purdue game which will be on AM 820 WCSN, and the Michigan game which will be on AM 1300 WRDZ).
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Purdue game, via the Notre Dame ( and Purdue athletics websites (
Websites: Notre Dame (, Purdue (

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 1-0 record with the Irish and a 45-36-1 (.555) mark overall. He was introduced as the new Irish mentor 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 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 at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

The Injury Update (as of Sept. 1)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, out indefinitely
Senior LB Courtney Watson viral infection, DNP vs. Maryland, probable vs. Purdue


  • Saturday’s game marks the 74th meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue. The Irish lead the series, 48-23-2, with a 25-10 record at Notre Dame and a 21-9 mark at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Notre Dame has won 14 of the last 16 games between the two schools, including the last two (a 23-21 nailbiter in 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium, and a 24-18 thriller last season at Purdue).
  • Last year’s game was originally scheduled for Sept. 15, but was rescheduled to Dec. 1 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.
  • Notre Dame and Purdue have played every season since 1946, with this season marking the 57th consecutive season the teams have met. It matches the USC rivalry as Notre Dame’s second longest current continuous series behind Navy which started in 1927.
  • The Irish have 48 series wins over the Boilers, the second-most against any opponent – 65 against Navy remains the highest.


  • Notre Dame will earn its 15th win over Purdue in their last 17 meetings, and its 13th consecutive win over the Boilers at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • The Irish will win their home opener for the sixth time in the last seven years.
  • Notre Dame will open a season 2-0 for the first time since it won three in a row to start the 1996 campaign (second win in that season also was a conquest of Purdue).
  • The Irish will record their 49th series win over Purdue, the second most victories against one opponent behind their 65 wins over Navy.
  • Notre Dame will claim their third consecutive win over the Boilers for the first time since it put together a series-record 11-game winning streak from 1986-96.


  • Purdue will earn its 24th series win over Notre Dame, the second most by an Irish opponent after USC’s 26 victories, and one more than Michigan State’s 23 triumphs.
  • The Boilers will snap a 12-game losing streak at Notre Dame Stadium, posting their first win there since a 31-20 upset of the second-ranked Irish on Sept. 28, 1974.
  • Notre Dame will lose back-to-back home openers for the first time since 1994-95, when the Irish fell to Michigan (26-24) and Northwestern (17-15).


  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series (48-23-2), including 23-12-2 at Purdue, 25-10 at home and 21-9 at Notre Dame Stadium (Purdue also won the neutral-site 1984 game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis).
  • The Irish have won 14 of the last 16 games in the series, outscoring Purdue 553-248 in those games (just 188-153 over the past six seasons).
  • Notre Dame and Purdue met for the first time in 1896, a 28-22 win for the Boilermakers at Notre Dame. The teams played seven times from 1899-1907 before a 11-year break (the longest hiatus in the history of the series). The teams resumed play in 1918 and met every year until 1923 before a 10-year break in the series. The teams then met in 1933, ’34 and ’39 and the series has been continuous since 1946, tying with the USC rivalry for Notre Dame’s second-longest continuous series (Notre Dame and Navy have played every year since 1927).
  • Notre Dame has had nearly equal success vs. Purdue at home (25-10) and on the road (23-12-2).
  • The winner of the Notre Dame-Purdue series receives the Shillelagh Trophy, a tradition which began in 1957. The trophy was donated by the late Joe McLaughlin (a merchant seaman and Notre Dame fan who brought the club from Ireland).


  • Notre Dame offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Diedrick and Irish offensive line coach John McDonell worked alongside Purdue head coach Joe Tiller when all three were members of Mike Price’s staff at Washington State from 1989-90. In addition, Boiler quarterbacks coach Blaine Bennett and Purdue tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Greg Olson were graduate assistants on the WSU staff with the afore-mentioned trio in 1989.
  • Purdue defensive ends coach Gary Emanuel worked with Notre Dame offensive line coach John McDonell and running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston at Washington State from 1994-96.
  • Notre Dame wide receivers coach Trent Miles served on the same staff with Purdue defensive backs coach Ken Greene at Fresno State from 1997-99.
  • Irish head athletic trainer Jim Russ – now in his 17th season at Notre Dame – served as an assistant athletic trainer at Purdue from 1977-82 (when the Boilers went 2-4 against the Irish).
  • Notre Dame director of golf George Thomas is a 1950 Purdue graduate and was a member of the Boilermaker golf team that finished second at the 1950 NCAA Championship.
  • Fourth-year Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Doug Boersma is a 1997 Purdue graduate and worked with the Boiler football team as an undergraduate.
  • Second-year Notre Dame assistant athletic trainer Tricia Matasyk is a 1999 Purdue graduate.


  • Notre Dame senior PK David Miller, junior SS David Bemenderfer and sophomore DT Jeff Thompson all played at nearby Penn High School in Granger, Ind., as did Purdue junior WR Zach Hill. Hill joined the Boilers this season after attending IU-South Bend.
  • Irish senior TE Gary Godsey was teammates with Purdue senior WR Chris James at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla., from 1995-98. During their senior season, Godsey played QB and threw for more than 1,800 yards and 22 TD – over half of those coming to James (43 catches for 900 yards and 13 TD) – as both players earned all-state honors.


  • The series has produced 46 previous games in which at least one team was ranked in the AP poll, but the higher-ranked team is just 28-18 in those games.
  • Purdue has been the beneficiary in 15 of the series’ 18 upsets of the higher-ranked teams, including four times in which the Boilers knocked off the top-rated Irish: 1950 (28-14) and 1954 (27-14) at Notre Dame Stadium, and 1965 (25-21) and 1967 (28-21) at Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue was unranked in 1950, No. 19 in ’54, No. 6 in ’65 and No. 10 in ’67.
  • Unranked Purdue teams also have beaten ranked Irish teams in 1956, ’59, ’60, ’74 (31-20, when ND was No. 2), ’81, ’84 and ’97 while lower-ranked Purdue teams also have beaten higher-ranked ND teams in ’58, ’69, ’79 and ’99.
  • Lower-ranked Notre Dame teams have upset a higher-ranked Purdue squad three times including the last meeting at Notre Dame Stadium in 2000 when Notre Dame’s Nicholas Setta connected on a 39-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the 23rd-ranked Irish a 23-21 victory over the 13th-ranked Boilers. Other Irish upsets include at Ross-Ade Stadium in 1952, when the unranked Irish knocked off No. 9 Purdue (26-14); and at Notre Dame Stadium in 1980, when the No. 11 Irish topped the ninth-ranked Boilers (31-10).


  • Purdue is tied with USC as the second-most common opponent in Irish football history (both play Notre Dame for the 74th time this season), trailing one other ’01 foe: Navy (76th 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 three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (321) 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 206-100-15 (.665) in 321 games against Big Ten schools, with 52 percent of those games (167) coming versus Purdue (48-23-2), Michigan State (41-23-1) and Michigan (11-17-1), 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.

Notre Dame used a Vontez Duff kickoff return and a Jason Beckstrom interception in the second half, both for touchdowns, as the Irish ended the 2001 season on a positive note by defeating Purdue, 24-18, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.

Freshman TB Ryan Grant rushed for a career-high 77 yards on 19 carries and scored his first career touchdown from 14 yards out earlier in the second quarter to put Notre Dame ahead for good. Still, the Irish held just a slim 10-9 lead after Purdue’s Travis Dorsch kicked the third of his four field goals with 4:24 left in the third quarter. However, Duff quickly stopped the Boilermakers in their tracks by taking the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a score.

Early in the fourth quarter, after a Joey Hildbold punt pinned Purdue deep in its own territory, Beckstrom intercepted Kyle Orton’s third-down pass and scampered 29 yards for the touchdown to give the Irish a 24-9 lead. That would be enough to withstand a late rally by the Boilers, who pulled within six points and drove to the Notre Dame 44-yard line in the waning seconds before senior CB Clifford Jefferson picked off Orton’s Hail Mary pass to preserve the first Irish win at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1995.

No. 21 Notre Dame used a 13-play, 59-yard drive by rookie QB Gary Godsey and a 38-yard field goal by sophomore PK Nicholas Setta as time expired to beat 13th-ranked Purdue for the 12th consecutive time at Notre Dame Stadium, 23-21. For the second consecutive week, the Irish took advantage of strong play from its special teams. Sophomore SS Glenn Earl blocked a Purdue punt on the game’s opening possession as Notre Dame took possession on Purdue’s four-yard line. Godsey then scrambled nine yards on third down for his first career touchdown. Junior CB Shane Walton followed by picking off a pass by Purdue QB Drew Brees and running 60 yards to give the Irish a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Setta’s first field goal of the game was sandwiched between two Boiler touchdowns, as the Irish led 17-14 at halftime. Another Setta field goal gave Notre Dame a 20-14 lead after three quarters, as the Irish defense held Purdue to 34 yards on 16 plays on its first three possessions of the second half. The Boilermakers then went on a 12-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 4:57 as they took a 21-20 lead with 3:39 left in the game. Godsey completed four passes for 37 yards, and sophomore TB Julius Jones gained 18 yards rushing on a pair of third-downs and three to put the Irish on Purdue’s 21-yard line with two seconds left to set up Setta’s field goal. Brees threw for career lows as a starter in completions (22) and attempts (13).

Notre Dame has had tremendous success in home openers during its 113-year history, going 90-17-5 (.826) in its inital on-campus contest of the season (there were no home games in 1929 due to the construction of Notre Dame Stadium). Among Irish head coaches, Jesse Harper (1913-17) and Terry Brennan (1954-58) both won all five of their home openers, while Knute Rockne (1918-30) went 11-0-1 in his first home game of the season (only a 7-7 tie with Great Lakes in 1918 sullied his record). More recently, Notre Dame has won five of its last six and 11 of its last 15 home openers, but is coming off a 17-10 loss to Michigan State in last year’s home lidlifter.

Notre Dame’s 22-0 shutout of No. 21/20 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic was significant for three reasons. It was the first Irish shutout since a 30-0 victory over Navy at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium on Nov. 14, 1998. It also was Notre Dame’s first whitewashing of a ranked opponent since it blanked No. 5 Alabama, 7-0, on Nov. 15, 1980 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. In addition, it was the first season-opening shutout for the Irish since they routed Northwestern, 44-0, to begin the 1973 season.

Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham had a sparkling debut performance, guiding the Irish to a 22-0 win over No. 21/20 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.

Notre Dame took the wraps off its new offensive scheme against Maryland in the 2002 Kickoff Classic, and the results were promising. Junior QB Carlyle Holiday set new career highs by completing 17 of 27 passes for 226 yards against the Terrapins. More importantly, he connected with eight different receivers in the victory, the most since eight Irish players caught passes in Notre Dame’s 23-21 win over Purdue in 2000. Among those on the receiving end of Holiday’s tosses were: sophomore WR Omar Jenkins (career highs of five catches and 87 yards), senior WR Arnaz Battle (career bests of four catches and 68 yards), junior TE Jared Clark (one catch for 17 yards in first game since moving from QB), and freshman wideouts Rhema McKnight (two catches for nine yards) and Maurice Stovall (one catch for 16 yards).

The Notre Dame defense turned in a stellar effort against Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, holding 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 that 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.

One of the keys to Notre Dame’s win over No. 21/20 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic was its special teams play. For the second consecutive game, junior KR Vontez Duff returned a kick for a score, bringing back a Terrapin punt 76 yards for a touchdown, after returning a Purdue kickoff 96 yards for a TD in the 2001 season finale. The last time the first Notre Dame TD of the season came via special teams was Sept. 10, 1988, when Ricky Watters returned a punt 81 yards for a score to ignite a 19-17 win over ninth-ranked Michigan.

In addition, senior PK Nicholas Setta set a Kickoff Classic record and tied a school mark with five field goals and finished with 16 total points to earn game MVP honors. Among Setta’s five treys was a career-long 51-yard field goal, the longest in Kickoff Classic annals and tying for the second-longest kick in school history behind only Dave Reeve’s 53-yard boot against Pittsburgh in 1976.

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 two seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. He has two active streaks which highlight his value to the Irish – he has made 56 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 14 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.

Last year, Setta went 38-of-40 on placement kicks (23 PATs, 15 field goals), including a perfect eight of eight on field-goal attempts from 40 yards or more. In addition, he joined a select group of Irish kickers who did not miss an extra point during the season (1.000 percentage) including: Craig Hentrich (48-of-48, 1991 and 41-of-41, 1990); Bob Thomas (34-of-34, 1972); Ted Gradel (33-of-33, 1987); Stefan Schroffner (30-of-30, 1994); John Carney (25-of-25, 1984) and Setta (23-of-23, 2001).

Setta also narrowly missed Carney’s record for field-goal percentage in a season (.895), by finishing the year at .882. Setta was ranked 17th in the final ’01 NCAA rankings with 1.36 field goals per game.

Senior P Joey Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and 2000 finalist, once again showed his importance to the Notre Dame effort in the Kickoff Classic win over No. 21/20 Maryland. The third-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., boomed a 46-yard punt on his first kick of the season to pin the Terrapins at their own 10-yard line and eventually lead to an Irish field goal. Hildbold also dropped another punt at the Maryland 20-yard line, keeping the defending ACC champions deep in their end of the field.

Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.73 yards per punt (7,413 yards on 182 punts) puts him in fourth place on the Notre Dame career list, just ahead of Bill Shakespeare, who averaged 40.71 yards per punt from 1933-35.

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.

S 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 collegiate 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, beginning his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 33 games and amassing more than 750 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 23 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 29 games, starting all 11 contests last season, while Curtin made six starts and played over 200 minutes in ’01, alternating between right tackle and right guard. 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 has returned to the starting lineup at right guard. Milligan began the 2001 season as the starter, but an injury in the opener at Nebraska limited his effectiveness. Still, he made five starts in nine games and played nearly 150 minutes last season, giving him some much needed experience to gel with the rest of his veteran linemates. Seniors Ryan Scarola, Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also could see playing time in reserve roles at center, guard and tackle, respectively.

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. Case in point – Holiday completed 17 of 27 passes for 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 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 23 times for 66 yards in the season-opening win over Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. Sophomores Marcus Wilson (2-4) and Rashon Powers-Neal (8-33), as well as senior Chris Yura, also may see plenty of action out of the backfield.

Senior Tom Lopienski (3-8) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 18 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 had four catches for 68 yards, including a 29-yard grab in the Kickoff Classic against Maryland. Sophomore Omar Jenkins showed flashes of brilliance last season, registering seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. 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. Junior Ronnie Rodamer and sophomore Carlos Campbell (2-17) 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 (1-16), who are anxious to make their mark at the college level and made their first career catches in the win over Maryland.

Another converted quarterback, senior Gary Godsey (1-7) gets the starting nod at tight end. The 6-6, 250-pound Godsey is a formidable target for Irish quarterbacks, and he should improve on his totals of two catches for 50 yards from last season. 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 (1-17), who moved from QB to TE in the spring.

Line — The Irish defensive line is anchored by senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (26 tackles, seven for loss, three sacks in ’01) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (started last five games of ’01). Both players weigh better than 290 pounds and provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. Hilliard already has made is presence felt, picking up three tackles and a sack in the Kickoff Classic victory over Maryland. They are surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (14 career starts, 20 tackles for loss and three sacks in ’01) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak, who has made three career starts and is the only other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line. 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.

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, although he missed the Maryland game with a viral infection. 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 started against Maryland and immediately made an impact, tying for team-high honors with eight tackles. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker spot, while junior Derek Curry (two tackles in ’01) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. Sophomores Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays also might see time at the inside positions, while junior Jerome Collins lends support on the outside. Against Maryland, Hoyte stepped in to fill the void left by Watson’s illness and promptly recorded a career-high eight tackles and his first career sack in his first career appearance.

Backs — The Irish secondary should be particularly strong in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton started all 11 games at cornerback in ’01, recording 43 tackles and breaking up a team-high eight passes. The San Diego native wasted little time in continuing his strong coverage skills, setting a Kickoff Classic record and tying a school standard with three interceptions against Maryland. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff gets the starting call at the other cornerback position after taking over the position in the final eight games last season, registering a team-high three interceptions and logging 25 tackles and six pass break-ups. Senior strong safety Gerome Sapp was ranked fifth in the nation among SS by The Sporting News and registered six tackles in the season-opening win over Maryland. Senior Glenn Earl (33 tackles, four for loss, two sacks) 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 and sophomore Dwight Ellick at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety.

For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the best kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and a finalist for the award in 2000, ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.73) after placing 35th in the nation last season with an average of 42.33 yards per punt (including two games with averages topping 50 yards per kick). Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 56 straight PAT attempts and holds a Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 14 consecutive games. He continued both of those streaks in the Kickoff Classic win over Maryland, setting a Classic record and tying the school mark with five field goals, including a Kickoff 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 last season. Hildbold and Setta join veteran long snapper John Crowther (23 appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff (76-yard punt return for a TD vs. Maryland) in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit, with Arnaz Battle and Shane Walton also 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 cornerback 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 21 of the last 22 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 linebacker and special teams player Chad DeBolt has made 145 special teams appearances over the last two 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 cornerback 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 kicker 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 cornerback Jason Beckstrom, senior fullback Mike McNair and sophomore wide receiver 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

Once again, Notre Dame faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play four teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 5/5 Florida State, No. 7/7 Michigan, No. 15/15 Michigan State and No. 18/16 USC). In addition, six other Notre Dame opponents – Boston College, Purdue, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Air Force and Maryland – are receiving votes in one or both polls. Nine of the 12 foes on 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.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 138 of its previous 162 games, including the 2002 season opener vs. Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. Last year, 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 capacity crowds in 42 of the last 48 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. That falls in line with the Wolverines’ last visit to Notre Dame Stadium, which generated 47,233 requests, the eighth-highest total ever.

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.

Including Saturday’s game vs. Purdue, the Irish have posted 162 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 210 in their last 211 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.

A profile of Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham as part of the ongoing documentary series “SportsCentury” debuted Aug. 30 on ESPN Classic. The half-hour feature spotlighted Willingham’s career, from his days growing up in Jacksonville, N.C., to his playing career at Michigan State, to his coaching tenures at Stanford and Notre Dame. The documentary also offers an in-depth conversation with the Irish head coach, as well as interviews many of his players and colleagues. The Willingham “SportsCentury” piece will re-air occasionally on ESPN, espn2 and ESPN Classic (check local listings for dates and times).

With Saturday’s home opener vs. Purdue slated to be televised nationally by NBC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 113 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the first three 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.

In conjunction with, Tostitos will ask 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 will be 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). 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.

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, beginning at noon (EST) on Sept. 6 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, in addition to video features. 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 admission is free.

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 by calling 1-800-313-4678 or by writing to: Notre Dame Programs, 904 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40505.

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.

The seventh-ranked Irish women’s soccer team will play host to the Notre Dame Classic (presented by St. Andrew’s Products), taking on 2001 NCAA champion Santa Clara (Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST) and perennial national power Portland (Sunday at 1 p.m. EST). Meanwhile, the Irish cross country teams will compete in the Adidas Invitational Friday at the Notre Dame Golf Course. The women’s race will begin at 5:15 p.m. EST, followed by the men’s race at 6 p.m. EST. The 23rd-ranked Notre Dame men’s soccer team also will be in action, taking on Seton Hall in a BIG EAST Conference match Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST at Alumni Field. Lastly, the 25th-ranked Irish volleyball team travels to Los Angeles for the Loyola Marymount Invitational. Notre Dame will play the host school Friday at 7 p.m. PDT, before facing No. 21 Colorado (10 a.m. PDT) and Saint Louis (5 p.m. PDT) on Saturday.