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No. 6 Notre Dame Preparing For Trip To Florida State

Oct. 21, 2002

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BCS Standings

(#6 AP/#6 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0)
vs. (#11 AP/#13 ESPN/USA Today) Florida State Seminoles (5-2)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002, at Noon EDT (11 a.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Doak Campbell Stadium (82,000/Natural Grass) in Tallahassee, Fla.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this marking the 145th sellout in the last 168 games involving Notre Dame, including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in ?99, the first five in ?00, the first nine in ?01 and the first eight in ?02.
The TV Plans: ABC Sports national telecast with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese (analysis), Lynn Swann (sideline) and Bruce Clark (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 featuring Sean Stires, 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 Florida State game, via the Notre Dame ( and Florida State ( athletics websites.
Websites: Notre Dame (, Florida 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 7-0 record with the Irish and a 51-36-1 (.585) mark overall. Willingham already has guided Notre Dame to wins over three ranked opponents (No. 7 Michigan, No. 18 Air Force and No. 21 Maryland) in his first seven games, and he is the only the third Irish coach to start his debut season with seven consecutive victories (first since Ara Parseghian in 1964). Willingham also is the first Notre Dame mentor to win his first three games against ranked opponents (Frank Leahy had two wins and a tie against his first three 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 Oct. 20)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, probable (has not played in 2002)

While at Florida State, Notre Dame will be headquartered at the Tallahasse Ramada Inn, 2900 North Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32303, (850) 386-1027. The Irish are scheduled to depart by chartered Delta aircraft on Friday at 11:15 a.m. (EST) with a 2:15 p.m. (EDT) arrival in Tallahassee. Notre Dame will return to South Bend immediately following Saturday’s game, arriving on campus at approximately 6:30 p.m. (EST).


  • Saturday’s game marks the fifth meeting between Notre Dame and Florida State, with the Seminoles holding a 3-1 series lead. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, and it will be the 108th different road venue the Irish have played at in their illustrious history (71 campus stadiums, 37 neutral sites).
  • This year’s game is the first of a two-game set between Notre Dame and Florida State over the next two seasons. The Seminoles will visit Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 1, 2003.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State have met twice before in the state of Florida, with the Seminoles winning both times (23-16 in 1994 at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, and 31-26 in the ’96 Orange Bowl).
  • Each of the four previous games in the series have been decided by seven points or less, with the outcome of each game still in doubt until the final minute.
  • Including this year’s meeting, at least one of the two combatants has been ranked in the top 20 in every game between Notre Dame and Florida State. The 2002 matchup marks the third time in five games that both the Irish and Seminoles will be ranked in the top 15 at kickoff, and the second time in which Notre Dame will be the higher-ranked team (the Irish were sixth heading into the ’96 Orange Bowl against No. 8 Florida State).
  • The 1993 game between top-ranked FSU and No. 2 Notre Dame (won by the Irish, 31-24) was voted the third-greatest moment in the last century of Irish football as part of Notre Dame’s Century of Greatness program that ran throughout the 1999 season. That game also represented the last time Notre Dame was involved in a “No. 1 vs. No. 2” contest.
  • Notre Dame ranks as the winningest team in college football history, based on its current .751 winning percentage (788-247-42). Florida State ranks 11th all-time in terms of winning percentage, sporting a .674 success ratio (404-191-17) entering this weekend’s contest. The big difference between the two programs is their longevity — the Irish are in the midst of their 114th season of football, while the Seminoles are only in their 56th year on the gridiron.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State both rank in the top five in terms of all-time No. 1 rankings in the Associated Press poll. The Irish are first with 95 appearances in the top spot, while the Seminoles are fifth with 57 weeks in the No. 1 position since the AP poll first began in 1936.
  • Since 1969 (when Notre Dame began regularly playing in bowl games), the Irish have made 23 bowl appearances, tying them for 10th in the nation during that 33-year span. FSU has made one more bowl trip in that time, good for ninth on the list.
  • FSU has 17 bowl wins since 1969, the third-most in the nation over that span. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has won 12 bowl games in the last 33 years, tying for ninth in the country.
  • Florida State had 39 former players on 2002 opening-day NFL rosters, tying Florida for the most from any school. Notre Dame was right behind the Seminoles and Gators with 38 alums on ’02 opening-day rosters.


  • Notre Dame will open its season at 8-0 for the first time since 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games and ascended to No. 1 in the polls.
  • The Irish will extend their current winning streak to nine games, their longest regular-season success string since another nine-game run from Oct. 7, 1995-Sept. 21, 1996.
  • Notre Dame will earn its fourth win over a ranked opponent this year, the most in one season since ’92.
  • The Irish will collect their third win over a ranked opponent away from home this season. The last time that occurred was 1990, when Notre Dame defeated No. 24 Michigan State (20-19), No. 9 Tennessee (34-29) and No. 18 USC (10-6), all outside the familiar surroundings of Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham will be just the third mentor since 1913 to win his first eight games at Notre Dame, joining Jesse Harper (1913-14 – nine) and Ara Parseghian (1964 – nine).
  • Notre Dame will be just the fourth team to defeat Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in the last 90 Seminole games at the facility, dropping FSU to 84-5-1 at home in that time. The other schools to win at Campbell Stadium since 1989 are Miami (twice), Clemson and North Carolina State.
  • The Irish would register their first win over a Florida school since a 31-24 triumph over top-ranked Florida State on Nov. 13, 1993.
  • Notre Dame will pick up its first road win at a Florida school since a 48-10 win at Miami on Dec. 3, 1977. That victory was the precursor to a 38-10 Irish win over No. 1 Texas in the ’78 Cotton Bowl and Notre Dame’s 10th national championship.
  • The Irish will raise their all-time record against the Atlantic Coast Conference to 48-11-1 (.808), the second-best winning percentage against one conference in school history.
  • Notre Dame will win for the 20th time in its last 21 October games, and will move its record in the month of October to 52-8 (.867) since the 1988 season.


  • The Seminoles will claim their fourth win in five series games with Notre Dame, including three in a row since the famous “No. 1 vs. No. 2” game in 1993, won by the Irish, 31-24.
  • FSU will knock off a higher-ranked Irish squad for the second time in as many meetings. The eighth-ranked Seminoles ousted No. 6 Notre Dame, 31-26, in the 1996 Orange Bowl.
  • Notre Dame will lose an October game for just the second time in the last 21 games, and only the ninth time in the last 13 seasons.
  • The Irish will suffer their first loss of the 2002 season, and see their eight-game winning streak snapped. The last Notre Dame loss came on Nov. 24, 2001 at Stanford, a 17-13 setback orchestrated by current Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham (who was guiding the Cardinal at the time).


  • Florida State leads the all-time series with Notre Dame, 3-1, although this will be the first meeting between the two schools in Tallahassee. The Irish and Seminoles have played twice before at neutral sites in the state of Florida, with FSU winning both times.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State played one another for the first time in 1981, Gerry Faust’s debut season as the Irish head coach. The 20th-ranked Seminoles managed to pull out a 19-13 victory, scoring the winning touchdown with just under eight minutes to play.
  • Notre Dame and Florida State did not face one another again until 1993, when they collided at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish came into the game ranked second in the nation, while the Seminoles were the country’s No. 1 team. However, it would be Notre Dame which would come out on top, leading almost the entire way and then fighting off a last-ditch FSU rally to win 31-24. (For more details on this game, please see page 214 of the ’02 Irish football media guide).
  • Florida State got its revenge against Notre Dame in 1994, squeezing out a 23-16 win over the Irish at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Seminoles actually outgained Notre Dame by more than a two-to-one margin (517 to 221), but the Irish gamely hung with FSU, tying the score at 16-16 with 5:17 to play on an 11-yard TD pass from Ron Powlus to Derrick Mayes. But, the Seminoles drove back down the field and Warrick Dunn scored on a five-yard run at the 2:53 mark to give Florida State the win.
  • Notre Dame met the Seminoles for the third consecutive season at the 1996 Orange Bowl, with FSU once again coming out ahead, 31-26. The Irish played without Powlus and leading rusher Randy Kinder, which seemingly left Notre Dame at a serious disadvantage. However, Powlus’ understudy, Tom Krug, performed admirably, tossing three touchdown passes, two to Mayes, and steering the Irish to a 26-14 fourth-quarter lead. Still, the Seminoles managed to put together a late comeback, scoring 17 points in the final 10 minutes to snatch the victory away from Notre Dame. (For more details on this game, please see page 320 of the ’02 Irish football media guide).


  • Notre Dame has 10 Florida natives on its 2002 roster: junior TE Jared Clark (Sarasota/Cardinal Mooney HS), senior RT Brennan Curtin (Palm Beach/Benjamin HS), sophomore OL Casey Dunn (Miami/Gulliver Prep), sophomore CB Dwight Ellick (Tampa/Wharton HS), senior C Jeff Faine (Sanford/Seminole HS), senior TE Gary Godsey (Tampa/Jesuit HS), junior CB Preston Jackson (Tampa/Tampa Hillsborough HS), junior TE Billy Palmer (Wyntree Heathrow/Lake Highland Prep), sophomore TE Matt Root (Tallahassee/North Florida Christian) and senior ILB Courtney Watson (Sarasota/Riverview HS).
  • Notre Dame sophomore TE Matt Root and Florida State redshirt sophomore rover Claudius Osei were teammates at North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee in 1999. The tandem both played wide receiver — Root had 19 catches for 301 yards, while Osei had 10 catches for 267 yards — and helped lead North Florida Christian to the Florida Class 2A state title. FSU freshman C Matt Heinz also is a graduate of North Florida Christian.
  • Notre Dame freshman DB Mike Richardson and Florida State redshirt freshman RB Willie Reid were teammates in 2000 at Warner Robins (Ga.) High School. The pair helped lead Warner Robins to an 11-1 record that season.
  • Irish freshman OL James Bonelli and Florida State freshman RB Lorenzo Booker were teammates in 2000 and 2001 at St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Calif.
  • Notre Dame senior TE Gary Godsey and Florida State sophomore PK Xavier Beitia both are products of Jesuit High School in Tampa. They are two of the nine Tampa area natives on the two squads this season. The others are: Irish sophomore CB Dwight Ellick (Tampa/Wharton HS) and junior CB Preston Jackson (Tampa/Tampa Hillsborough HS), as well as FSU freshman WR Chris Davis (St. Petersburg/Catholic HS), senior rover Patrick Newton (St. Petersburg/Shorecrest HS), sophomore LB Marcello Church (St. Petersburg/Lakewood HS), junior PK Jesse Stein (St. Petersburg/Shorecrest HS) and freshman DL Broderick Bunkley (Tampa/Chamberlain HS).
  • Notre Dame junior TE Jared Clark and Florida State freshman FB James Buchanan both are graduates of Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, Fla.


  • Notre Dame has won more than 80 percent of its games versus Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, with a record of .500 or better against six of the seven ACC teams that the Irish have played and an overall mark of 47-11-1 (.805) in 59 games against ACC schools. More than half of those games (32) have come versus Georgia Tech (26-5-1) while another 16 have come against North Carolina (15-1).
  • Notre Dame also has played a handful of games vs. Florida State (1-3), Duke (2-1) and Clemson (1-1). The Irish and Virginia met for the only time in 1989, with Notre Dame chalking up a 36-13 win in the Kickoff Classic.
  • The Irish played 2001 ACC champion Maryland for the first time ever back on Aug. 31 at the Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J., blanking the Terrapins, 22-0.
  • Notre Dame never has faced ACC members North Carolina State or Wake Forest on the gridiron.

Notre Dame moved up one spot to sixth in the latest editions of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The No. 6 ranking in the highest for the Irish in the AP poll since Sept. 22, 1996, when they were ranked fifth following a 27-24 win at No. 6 Texas on a 39-yard field goal by Jim Sanson as time expired.

For the fourth time this season, and the second time in as many weeks, Notre Dame will be facing an opponent ranked in the Associated Press poll when it visits No. 11 Florida State. The Irish previously defeated No. 21 Maryland (22-0), No. 7 Michigan (25-23) and No. 18 Air Force (21-14). The last time Notre Dame knocked off four ranked opponents in the same season was 1992, when the Irish ousted No. 9 Boston College (54-7), No. 22 Penn State (17-16), No. 19 USC (31-23) and No. 4 Texas A&M (28-3) in the last four games of that year, with the final win coming in the Cotton Bowl. The school record for wins over ranked opponents in one season is six, set by the 1989 team which capped that year with a 21-6 win over No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. The record for wins over ranked opponents in regular-season games is five, shared by the 1943, 1953, 1989 and 1990 squads.

Notre Dame enters the Florida State game having won 19 of its last 20 games in October, dating back to a 20-17 loss to USC on Oct. 18, 1997. The only blemish on that record was a 21-17 loss at Boston College last year. Since the 1988 season, Notre Dame is 51-8 (.864) in October and was 32-7 (.821) in October in the 1990s. In addition, the Irish have won 15 consecutive October home games, dating back to the 1997 loss to USC.

With a 7-0 record, No. 6/6 Notre Dame is one of only eight Division I-A teams which is still unbeaten this season, all of whom are ranked in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The others are No. 1/1 Miami (7-0), No. 2/2 Oklahoma (7-0), No. 3/3 Virginia Tech (7-0), No. 4/4 Ohio State (8-0), No. 5/5 Georgia (7-0), No. 12/9 North Carolina State (8-0) and No. 24/22 Bowling Green (6-0, coached by former Irish assistant Urban Meyer). Miami and Virginia Tech are the only remaining undefeated teams slated to play one another this season, facing off on Dec. 7 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

Although the Notre Dame football team will be making its first-ever visit to Florida State on Saturday, another Irish team recently went to Tallahassee and came away with much success. Back in June, the Notre Dame baseball team defeated top-ranked Florida State in the 2002 NCAA Tallahassee Super Regional, taking two of three games from the Seminoles, including a stirring 3-1 victory in the third and deciding game. The Super Regional win clinched Notre Dame’s first trip to the College World Series since 1957 — the Irish went 1-2 while in Omaha, pulling out a dramatic 5-3 elimination-game win over Rice on a two-run home run by Brian Stavisky in the bottom of the ninth.

For only the sixth time in the last 30 years, and the 22nd time in the last 90 seasons (dating back to 1913), Notre Dame has opened with seven consecutive victories. The last time that happened was 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games before dropping a last-second 41-39 decision to Boston College. Notre Dame rebounded to defeat Texas A&M, 24-21, in the Cotton Bowl. Among the 21 previous 7-0 starts in school history, all of them resulted in a winning final record, including 15 undefeated seasons, nine national championships and seven bowl berths (6-1 record).

Among Irish head coaches since 1913, Knute Rockne posted six 7-0 starts in his career, followed by Frank Leahy (five), Ara Parseghian (four) and Lou Holtz (three). Jesse Harper, Elmer Layden, Dan Devine and Tyrone Willingham each have one 7-0 start to their credit.

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 six more wins, including victories over No. 7 Michigan and No. 18 Air Force, becoming the first Irish head coach to win his first seven games at Notre Dame since Ara Parseghian went 9-0 to open the 1964 season. In addition, Willingham is the first coach in school history to win his first three games against ranked opponents — in his debut season of 1941, Frank Leahy posted a 0-0 tie vs. No. 14 Army and earned wins over sixth-ranked Navy (20-13) and eighth-ranked Northwestern (7-6).

Only two other full-time Notre Dame head coaches since 1913 have won seven games in a row to open their Irish careers — Jesse Harper, who won his first nine in a row (all seven games in 1913 and the first two in ’14), and 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.

Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s success this season has been its penchant for pulling out close victories. In fact, the Irish have won five games this season by eight points or less, defeating Purdue (24-17), No. 7 Michigan (25-23), Michigan State (21-17), Pittsburgh (14-6) and No. 18 Air Force (21-14). The first four of those games went down to the final seconds, with the Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh contests in doubt until the Irish came up with critical interceptions.

  • The three-game stretch earlier this season (Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State) marked just the fifth time Notre Dame won three consecutive games by eight points or less. The others are the last three games of the 1941 season (Nov. 8-22), the first five games of 1939 (Sept. 30-Oct. 28), the second, third and fourth games of the 1938 season (Oct. 8-22), and the last three games of 1937 (Nov. 13-27).
  • The Notre Dame record for wins by eight points or less in a season is six, set in 1939 when that club had a 6-2 record in games decided by eight or less. The 1937 team was 5-1-1 in games decided by eight or less, while 1974 and 2002 clubs posted 5-0 records in eight-point games. The 1929 (4-0), 1940 (4-1), 1984 (4-3), 1990 (4-3), 1997 (4-2) and 1998 (4-1) teams all had four wins by eight or less over the course of the season.
  • As for winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less, the 1974 team went 5-0 (as has the 2002 squad to this point in the season), while the 1929 unit was 4-0. The 1926, 1928, 1954 and 1989 teams all finished 3-0 in eight-point games.
  • One item of note on the greatness of Knute Rockne: He was 21-4-5 (.783) in games decided by eight points or less over his Notre Dame career, including 16-0-2 (.944) over his last seven years.

The Irish defense has been one of the driving forces behind Notre Dame’s first 7-0 start since 1993. The Irish rank in the top 10 in the nation in several major defensive categories — scoring defense (3rd, 12.0 points/game), rushing defense (6th, 80.14 yards/game), pass efficiency defense (8th, 89.63) and total defense (10th, 275.86 yards/game). Here are some other points of interest on the Notre Dame defense:

  • The Irish have scored five defensive/special teams touchdowns this season by five different players < ss=””>Gerome Sapp (fumble return), CB Lionel Bolen (special teams – fumble return) and CB Vontez Duff (interception return) scored against Purdue, while CB Shane Walton (interception return) and ILB Courtney Watson (interception return) scored against Stanford. The school record for interception returns for TDs in one season is four, set by the 1966 club en route to the national championship.
  • 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.
  • Notre Dame 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).
  • Over the last 11 quarters (three games), the Irish defense has held its opponents to just a single touchdown (a third-quarter score by Air Force, the result of a short field caused by an Irish fumble). Notre Dame shut out Stanford over the final three periods on Oct. 5, then yielded just two field goals to Pittsburgh a week later.
  • Notre Dame’s pass rush against Pittsburgh was its best in nearly six years, registering eight sacks against the Panthers. That was the most by the Irish since they collected nine sacks in a 62-0 win over Rutgers on Nov. 23, 1996.
  • The Notre Dame defense has been especially effective in the first half of games. Through seven contests, the Irish have allowed just one offensive touchdown in the first two quarters (Oct. 5 by Stanford) — the only other opponent TDs in the first half this season came via a punt return (Purdue), an interception return (Michigan) and a fumble return (Air Force). On the strength of its defense, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents, 80-37, in the first half this season, including a 56-10 margin in the second quarter.

Notre Dame’s opponents have found the going extremely difficult this year when it comes to running the football. The Irish defense currently ranks sixth in the nation in rushing defense (80.14 yards per game), despite having faced five opponents that were ranked in the top 50 in the nation in rushing offense when they played Notre Dame. In fact, only two of Notre Dame’s seven opponents have managed to rush for more than 100 yards this season, and no adversary has broken the 150-yard mark. Furthermore, no Irish opponent has come close to matching its season rushing average and only two (Purdue and Pittsburgh) have managed to register even half of their seasonal rushing averages against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has jumped out to a 7-0 start this season, thanks in part to its ability to take care of the ball. The Irish own a +8 turnover margin (+1.14/game), which is good for 17th in the nation in 2002. All together, Notre Dame has recorded 20 takeaways, while giving the ball away just 12 times. Those 20 takeaways have led to 78 Irish points (11.1 ppg.), including five turnovers which were turned directly into scores by the defense and special teams. In an interesting twist, four of those touchdowns were scored by Notre Dame’s defensive backs, with three coming 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. The other defensive scores came against Stanford, when CB Shane Walton brought an interception back 18 yards for a TD, and ILB Courtney Watson had a 34-yard interception return for a score.

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 won the time of possession battle in six of their seven victories in 2002, holding the ball for an average of 32:56 per game, compared to 27:04 for their opponents. Notre Dame twice has cracked the 35-minute mark in time of possession, turning the trick against No. 21 Maryland (school-record 41:04) and No. 18 Air Force (35:33). In addition, the Maryland game marked 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.

For the second time this season, Notre Dame scored two touchdowns less than 30 seconds apart, turning the trick in only 24 seconds against Stanford. Sophomore TB Rashon Powers-Neal found the end zone first, bulling over from three yards out for his first career score with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Four plays after that score, senior CB Shane Walton returned a Cardinal interception 18 yards for another touchdown at the 3:58 mark. Both scores were part of a staggering 28-point outburst by the Irish over a stretch of 6:54 between the third and fourth quarters, turning what had been a 7-3 Stanford lead into a 31-7 Notre Dame victory.

Notre Dame put together its best offensive performance of the season last weekend against Air Force, piling up season highs of 335 rushing yards and 447 yards of total offense. It was the best rushing day by the Irish since they amassed 345 yards on the ground against West Virginia in 2001. In addition, it was the best total offensive production by Notre Dame since it collected 481 yards in a win at Rutgers on Nov. 18, 2000.

With the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings set to be unveiled this week, here are some interesting statistics from the first two months of the college football season (courtesy of Mike Goodman at Pythagoras Sports):

  • Both Notre Dame and Florida State have four wins over Division I-A opponents with winning records, tying them for third in the nation behind USC and Georgia (five each).
  • Florida State has scored at least 27 points six times against I-A opposition (tied for third in the nation), while Notre Dame has given up 13 or fewer points three times to I-A opponents (tied for fifth in the country).
  • Notre Dame has the highest number of I-A wins by opponents it has defeated — the seven teams the Irish have beaten have won a total of 28 games this year. Conversely, the five teams FSU has toppled have accounted for 21 wins over I-A teams, which is sixth-best in the nation.

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 leads the team with 29 receptions for 390 yards and two touchdowns, after he logged five receptions for 40 yards in ’01. Battle’s best two games as a receiver have come in the last two weeks against Pittsburgh and Air Force. Battle caught a career-highs 10 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers, then collected eight receptions for a career-best 112 yards against the Falcons. The 10 catches against Pittsburgh were the most by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown had 12 in a 1999 win at Pittsburgh. Also, the 18 catches in consecutive games are the most by an Irish receiver since Tom Gatewood caught 21 passes (12 vs. Purdue, nine vs. Michigan State) in back-to-back contests on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 1970.

With Battle’s injury in ’00, up stepped senior TE Gary Godsey, who was Battle’s quarterback understudy to begin that season. 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 is third on the squad with 11 catches for 98 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.

Senior WR Arnaz Battle has emerged as Notre Dame’s top receiving weapon this season. The converted quarterback leads the Irish with 29 catches for 390 yards (13.4 yards per catch) and two touchdowns this season. His best performances have come in Notre Dame’s last two wins over Pittsburgh and No. 18 Air Force, where he is averaging nine receptions for 106.5 yards per game. In the first contest, he caught a career-high 10 passes for 101 yards and a TD. His 10 receptions were the most by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown pulled in 12 passes at Pittsburgh on Nov. 13, 1999. Then, Battle topped the 100-yard mark again a week later, registering eight catches for a career-best 112 yards in the victory over Air Force.

Battle’s 18 catches in back-to-back games are the most by an Irish pass catcher since Tom Gatewood hauled in 21 passes in consecutive wins over Purdue and Michigan on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 1970. In addition, Battle’s 213 yards in the last two games are the most since Brown had 269 yards in the same time frame (208 vs. Pittsburgh, 61 vs. Boston College on Nov. 13 & 20, 1999).

Sophomore TB Ryan Grant has given Notre Dame added balance on offense through his dynamic rushing abilities. After getting his first taste of collegiate action late last season, the Nyack, N.Y., native has been a major force for the Irish this season, ranking 29th in the nation in rushing at 102.71 yards per game.

Grant has posted three 100-yard games this season, and has two other games with at least 90 yards rushing. His best outing came in his most recent game against No. 18 Air Force, when he established new career highs with 30 carries for 190 yards and one touchdown. It was the 12th-highest single-game output in school history, and the most since Tony Fisher rolled up 196 yards on the ground on Nov. 11, 2000, against Boston College. Grant’s 30 carries also were the most by an Irish back since Autry Denson toted the pigskin 31 times in a 1998 win over Purdue.

Not to go unnoticed, Grant’s 18-yard TD run in the second quarter against Air Force was his team-high sixth touchdown of the season. It also marked the fifth consecutive game in which the Irish tailback has found the end zone. The last Notre Dame player to collect TDs in five straight games in the same season was Denson, who scored in each of the first 10 games of the 1998 campaign.

Senior ILB Courtney Watson has been named one of 11 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. Watson, a native of Sarasota, Fla., leads Notre Dame with 53 tackles this season, despite missing the first two games of the year due to illness. He also has five tackles for loss, two sacks and returned an interception 34 yards for his second career touchdown on Oct. 5 against Stanford. The three Butkus Award finalists will be named Nov. 14 and the winner will be announced Dec. 13 on the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

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 10 in the nation in several major statistical categories.

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 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, returning a Terrapin punt 76 yards for a score. That followed up his effort in the 2001 season finale, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win.

Duff nearly added a second punt return for a touchdown this season, but his 92-yard scamper against Stanford was wiped out by a penalty. Still, 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.

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.

Senior CB Shane Walton rapidly has developed into one of the top defensive backs in the country. He currently ranks second in the nation in interceptions with 0.86 thefts per game (six total), including a school-record-tying three interceptions in Notre Dame’s 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 tied a Kickoff Classic record. Walton’s six interceptions are the most by an Irish defender since Todd Lyght registered eight thefts in 1989. Mike Townsend holds the school record for interceptions in a season with 10 in 1972.

All told, Walton has had a hand in nine of Notre Dame’s 20 takeaways this season, adding a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a pass deflection for an interception to his six interceptions. The San Diego, Calif., native also ranks fifth on the team with 31 tackles, including a career-high eight stops (six solo) against 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. Walton’s efforts against Michigan earned him recognition as the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, leading to his addition to the Watch List for the Nagurski Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Walton also has been added to the Watch List for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded each year to the country’s top defensive back, and he was chosen as the midseason Thorpe Award winner by CBS

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.

Setta got his season going in a big way in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland at the Kickoff Classic. Setta set a Classic record by kicking five field goals, tying the school record set by Craig Hentrich against Miami (Fla.) 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 currently owns a streak of 73 consecutive made extra points, dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000. That streak is the second-longest in school history behind Hentrich, who converted 136 consecutive PAT from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992.

However, while one of Setta’s streaks continues, another ended at Michigan State. The Irish placekicker did not kick a field goal against the Spartans, snapping his school-record string of three-pointers in 16 consecutive regular-season games. Setta wound up just three games shy of the NCAA record, jointly held by Oklahoma’s Larry Roach (1983-84) and Miami-Ohio’s Gary Gussman (1986-87), who 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 2002 season. The third-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., is averaging 40.11 yards per punt (44 kicks, 1,765 yards), and he has dropped over 40 percent (19) of his 44 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.68 yards per punt (9,031 yards on 222 punts) puts him in fifth place on the Notre Dame career list, just behind 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.

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 CB Shane Walton has been added to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list after being named the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for the weekend of Sept. 14. The Nagurski Trophy is given annually to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club.

Senior SS Gerome Sapp and senior CB Shane Walton have been named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back. It is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association, which is based in Oklahoma City.

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 — returned 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 38 regular-season games and amassing nearly 900 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 29 consecutive regular-season games and leading the team in playing time this year. Mahan and Curtin are in their second seasons as starters at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Mahan has appeared in 35 games, starting his last 18 games, and he ranks second on the team in playing time this season. Curtin has made 13 career starts (including the last 10 games in a row) after alternating between right tackle and right guard in ’01. This season, he moved 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 in six of the seven Irish games this season. An injury limited his effectiveness vs. Purdue, and senior Ryan Scarola stepped into the starting right guard spot against the Boilermakers. Scarola also has spent time as Faine’s understudy at center. Seniors Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also have seen significant minutes in reserve roles this season at 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. In six games this season, Holiday has completed 61 of 123 passes for 771 yards and two TD, including a career-high 226 yards in the Kickoff Classic victory over Maryland. Holiday missed the Stanford game after suffering an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder at Michigan State, but he returned to the lineup against Pittsburgh and Air Force, rushing for a season-high 71 yards and two touchdowns against the Falcons, including a 53-yard TD run in the first quarter. Sophomore Pat Dillingham (17-33, 213 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), a former walk-on, has appeared in four games for the Irish this season. He replaced the injured Holiday against Michigan State and threw the game-winning touchdown pass, a 60-yard strike to WR Arnaz Battle with just 1:15 to play. Dillingham then made his first career start against Stanford, guiding the Irish to a victory over the Cardinal. Freshman Chris Olsen fills the role as Notre Dame’s No. 3 QB.

Sophomore Ryan Grant (156-719, 6 TD) leads a youthful corps of Irish running backs who are benefitting not only from Notre Dame’s new offensive style, but also from its veteran offensive line. Grant ranks 29th in the nation with 102.71 yards per game. He piled up a career-high 190 yards on 30 carries against Air Force last week, the 12th-highest single-game rushing total in school history, and his 30 carries were the most by an Irish back since 1998. Sophomore Rashon Powers-Neal (46-241, 1 TD) has given Notre Dame an alternate, tough-nosed option out of the backfield, after his conversion from linebacker last spring. He rushed for a career-best 108 yards and his first career TD against Stanford, but missed the Air Force game with an injury. Sophomore Marcus Wilson (22-86) and senior Chris Yura (1-7) also will see action out of the backfield. Wilson turned in the best game of his young career against Air Force, rushing 10 times for 44 yards. Yura picked up his first carry of the season vs. Air Force, notching a career-long seven-yard run.

Senior Tom Lopienski (14-31) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 25 career starts, serving mainly as a blocking back. However, his role has been expanded in the new Irish offensive scheme. Senior Mike McNair (1-12) has fought through injuries during his career, but he is ready to make a major contribution for Notre Dame in 2002. Like Yura, McNair got his first carry of the year against Air Force, racing 12 yards.

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 leads the team with 29 catches this season for 390 yards and two TD, including a career-high 10 catches against Pittsburgh and a career-best 112 yards receiving against Air Force. Sophomore Omar Jenkins (17-274) 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. Junior Ronnie Rodamer and sophomore Carlos Campbell (3-26) each played just over 14 minutes last season, but also have seen significant time in the starting lineup this season. However, they have been challenged by a pair of speedy freshman wideouts, Rhema McKnight (2-9) and Maurice Stovall (6-137), who are anxious to make their mark at the college level. Stovall registered two catches for 59 yards at Michigan State, including his first career TD, a 15-yard strike, in the final seconds of the first half.

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 is third on the team with 11 receptions for 98 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 (16 tackles, four for loss, three sacks) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (25 tackles, four for loss, two sacks). Campbell carded a career-high five tackles (two for loss and one sack) vs. Pittsburgh, while Hilliard logged a career-best seven tackles against Air Force and was a key factor in shutting down the Falcons’ top-ranked rushing attack. Campbell and Hilliard are surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (22 tackles, six for loss, team-high six sacks) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak (11 tackles, three for loss, two sacks) who has made nine career starts and is the only other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line. Roberts was a key force in Notre Dame’s wins over Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh, registering a pair of sacks in all three games. Assistance comes in the form of sophomore end Justin Tuck (15 tackles, five for loss, four sacks), a pass-rushing specialist and converted linebacker, as well as junior end Jason Sapp and junior defensive tackle Greg Pauly (four tackles). Tuck turned in back-to-back solid outings against Stanford and Pittsburgh, registering five tackles and a sack vs. the Cardinal, and four tackles and two sacks against the Panthers. Pauly had his best game in an Irish uniform against Air Force, collecting three tackles.

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 semifinalist. He missed the Maryland and Purdue games with a viral infection, but has returned with a vengeance since then, rolling up a team-high 53 tackles (five for loss, two sacks, one INT), including a game-high 15 stops at Michigan State. He also chalked up his second career touchdown against Stanford, returning an interception 34 yards for a score. Sophomore Brandon Hoyte (30 tackles, two for loss, one sack) has proven to be a more than capable understudy for Watson, ranking sixth on the team in tackles. Hoyte stepped in for 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. At the other two positions, Notre Dame was 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 (43 tackles, eight for loss, two sacks) has stepped into the starting lineup at the other inside linebacker spot, ringing up a career-high 11 tackles, including three for losses, against Purdue. He also leads the team with eight tackles for losses. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (three tackles) serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker post, while junior Derek Curry (20 tackles, four for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. He recorded a career-high five tackles at Michigan State and added his first career sack against Stanford. Sophomore Corey Mays (two tackles) also will see time at the inside position, while junior Jerome Collins (one tackle) lends support on the outside.

Backs — The Irish secondary has been a particular source of strength in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton (31 tackles, three for loss, six INT, four pass breakups) has started the last 18 games at cornerback for the Irish, and he currently ranks second in the nation in interceptions (0.86 per game). The San Diego native opened the season by setting a Kickoff Classic record and tying a school standard with three thefts against Maryland. Walton’s six interceptions are the most by an Irish player since Todd Lyght had eight picks in 1989. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff (23 tackles, one INT, one fumble recovery, three pass breakups) gets the starting call at the other cornerback position, a position he has held for the last 15 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 (46 tackles, three for loss, three INT, one fumble return, four pass breakups) ranks 34th in the nation with 0.43 interceptions per game, and he also returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD in the first quarter of Notre Dame’s win over Purdue. Sapp was one of the key reasons for Notre Dame’s success in shutting down Air Force’s top-ranked option offense, recording a career-high 10 tackles, including two for losses. Senior Glenn Earl (41 tackles, three for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries) ranks fourth on the team in tackles and solo stops (26). He also forced and recovered a Pittsburgh fumble midway through the fourth quarter, leading to the clinching Notre Dame touchdown. The reserve secondary unit is headed by junior Preston Jackson (seven tackles, one INT) and sophomore Dwight Ellick (five tackles) at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible (13 tackles) and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety. Jackson preserved the win over Pittsburgh by snaring his first career interception with just over a minute to play. Bible tied his career high with four tackles against Michigan. Bolen also has made an important contribution, scoring his first career touchdown 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 fifth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.68) and he is second in school history with 222 punts and 9,031 yards. Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 73 straight PAT attempts, the second-longest run in school history. He also holds the Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 16 consecutive games, a streak which ended at Michigan State. Setta established 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 (77 special teams appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit. Duff is ranked nationally in both kickoff and punt return yardage, averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return (17th in the nation) and 11.75 yards per punt runback (45th in the nation). He already has a 76-yard punt return for a TD vs. Maryland to his credit and had a 92-yard punt return for a score vs. Stanford called back by a penalty. Meanwhile, Arnaz Battle ranks 49th in the nation in kickoff return yardage, averaging more than 22 yards per kickoff return (10 returns, 224 yards). Shane Walton (five punt returns for 46 yards) also helps return kicks this season.

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.

The Irish made one number change from the 2002 media guide rosters as senior strong safety/special teams player Chad DeBolt has changed from No. 58 to No. 24.

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 27 of the last 28 regular-season games for the Irish (missed 2000 USC game with broken arm), 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 232 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.

DeBolt’s lacrosse talents also have earned him a place at the professional level. He recently was drafted by the Rochester (N.Y.) Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.

  • 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 and 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, RE Ryan Roberts, RCB Shane Walton

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

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

Michigan State: WR Arnaz Battle, FS Glenn Earl, LG Sean Mahan, ILB Courtney Watson

Stanford: C Jeff Faine, WR Omar Jenkins, RE Ryan Roberts, RCB Shane Walton

Pittsburgh: WR Arnaz Battle, LT Jordan Black, P Joey Hildbold, NG Cedric Hilliard

Air Force: LG Sean Mahan, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta, RE Ryan Roberts

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. 8/8 Michigan, No. 11/13 Florida State, No. 15/16 USC and No. 22/19 Air Force). In addition, three other Notre Dame opponents — Boston College, Maryland and Pittsburgh — 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 Oct. 20), Notre Dame has the 44th toughest schedule in the nation. These rankings take into account the cumulative performance of all Irish opponents during the 2002 season.

With the Florida State game slated to be televised nationally by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 119 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the 2002 campaign, as all 12 games this year are slated to be televised. 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.

Four former Notre Dame assistant coaches currently are experiencing walking the sidelines as college head coaches. Most notably, second-year Bowling Green mentor Urban Meyer, who coached the Irish receivers from 1996-2000, has guided the Falcons to a 6-0 record and rankings of 24th in the Associated Press poll and 22nd in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. The other former Irish assistants now in the Division I-A head coaching ranks all were former defensive coordinators at Notre Dame: Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez (1987-89), Western Michigan’s Gary Darnell (1990-91) and Cincinnati’s Rick Minter (1992-93).

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 144 of its previous 167 games, including its first seven games this season. In addition, the Air Force game also attracted a Falcon Stadium-record crowd of 56,409 (nearly 4,000 more than its listed capacity), marking the third time in the last two seasons the Irish have helped set a new stadium attendance record at an opponents’ facility (also Nebraska and Texas A&M last year).

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 48 of the last 54 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 165 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 213 in their last 214 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).

86,000 “Return to glory” t-shirts create “sea of green”
More than 86,000 of the “Return to Glory” T-shirts that have created a “sea of green” in Notre Dame Stadium this year have been sold, according to the university’s Student Activities Office. The initial run of 44,000 shirts sold out within six weeks, making it one of the earliest sellouts in the 13-year history of what is officially known as The Shirt Project. Due to the extraordinary popularity of The Shirt, a second run of 20,000 shirts was produced for the Stanford game, with the complete run selling out within the week. Consequently, a third run of 22,000 was delivered for the Pittsburgh game and that order also sold out within seven days.

As a result of this year’s sales, more than $400,000 has been raised to aid student charities and help fund the cost of operating student clubs and organizations, according to Mary Edgington, assistant director of Student Activities and adviser to the student-run project.

Notre Dame students have been wearing “The Shirt” to home football games since 1990 to show their support of the team. The project started when a graduate student suffered injuries in a car accident and students sold T-shirts to raise money to cover his medical expenses. Over time, other members of the Notre Dame community adopted the tradition, including alumni, faculty, staff and fans.

This year, The Shirt Project attracted national media attention because the slogan on the front of the shirt, “Return to Glory,” has been accompanied by the team’s first 7-0 start since 1993. As the largest student-run fundraiser on campus, The Shirt Project has raised over $2 million in the past 13 years.

The Shirt is kelly green and displays an interlocking ND with the “Return to Glory” slogan on the front. The back features a battle-chipped gold helmet, the Four Horsemen (the backfield made famous by sportswriter Grantland Rice), former Irish coach Knute Rockne, and an excerpt from a well-known Rockne speech – “We’re gonna go, go, go! And we aren’t going to stop until we go over that goal line!” The Shirt sells for $15 at various campus outlets as well as on the Internet.

Notre Dame’s success on the gridiron has resulted in success on the school’s athletics website ( The site, run by the Official College Sports Network (OCSN), attracted more than five million page views during the month of September, tops among the 130 college websites in the OCSN family. In addition, the website tallied more orders for its online store than any other OCSN institution, including Miami and Oklahoma. More than 3,200 orders were processed and approximately $95,000 in sales were registered, with the best-selling item being “The Shirt” — the kelly green T-shirt with the slogan “Return to Glory,” which has been wildly popular among Irish fans this season.

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.

No less than a dozen Notre Dame standouts will be under consideration when CBS airs “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Nov. 29. Among the nearly 200 former college greats listed on the ballot were all seven of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners — Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987). Other former Irish players being considered for this elite group include a quartet of consensus All-Americans and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductees — DE Ross Browner (1973-77), T George Connor (1946-47), HB George Gipp (1917-20) and DT Alan Page (1964-66) — as well as consensus All-American and current Dallas Cowboys’ wideout Raghib Ismail (1988-90).

Balloting for “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” included only 500 voters representing five groups — the NFF Hall of Fame, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Downtown Athletic Club and prominent members of the college football media. Voting was not limited to the 200 players on the ballot, as voters were able to cast write-in selections as well.

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 defeated the ’48 Michigan crew in the opening round of the tournament Sept. 20, and will meet the ’71 Nebraska squad in the quarterfinals on Nov. 1. The semifinals are slated for Nov. 22, with the title contest on 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 for noon (EST) Nov. 1 in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome). The luncheons are held the same day and time before every Irish home football game this year. 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. Among those persons featured in the autograph sessions were former Irish football standouts Derrick Mayes, Allen Pinkett, Tony Rice and Pat Terrell, as well as former Notre Dame women’s basketball All-American and 2001 consensus national player of the year Ruth Riley. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. 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.