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No. 8 Fighting Irish Play Panthers In Notre Dame Stadium

Oct. 7, 2002

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(#8 AP/#8 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-0)
vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (5-1)

The Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 12, 2002, at 1:30 p.m. EST.
The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this being the 165th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium (the first 130 coming at the old 59,075 capacity). The Pittsburgh game marks the 213th home sellout in the last 214 games (dating back to 1964) and the 143rd sellout in the last 166 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 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, with Dave Wills and Ed Farmer providing live pre- and post-game analysis this week from Notre Dame Stadium.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Pittsburgh game, via the Notre Dame ( and Pittsburgh ( athletics websites.
Websites: Notre Dame (, Pittsburgh (

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 5-0 record with the Irish and a 49-36-1 (.576) mark overall. Willingham already has guided Notre Dame to wins over two ranked opponents (No. 7 Michigan and No. 21 Maryland) in his first five games, and he is the only the fourth Irish coach to start his debut season with five consecutive victories (first since Ara Parseghian in 1964). Willingham also is the first Notre Dame mentor to win his first two games against ranked opponents (Frank Leahy had a win and a tie against his first two ranked foes in 1941).

Willingham was introduced as the new Irish head coach on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford University. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. Most recently in 2001, he piloted the Cardinal to a 9-3 record, a berth in the Seattle Bowl, and final regular-season rankings of ninth in the Bowl Championship Series poll and 11th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91. Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win two NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

The Injury Update (as of Oct. 6)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Junior QB Carlyle Holiday Shoulder injury vs. Michigan State, DNP vs. Stanford, week-to-week
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, out indefinitely


  • Saturday’s game marks the 60th meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish holding a 41-17-1 series lead. The Irish also own an 18-8 record against the Panthers at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Notre Dame has won nine of its last 10 games against Pittsburgh, including a 24-7 victory in their last meeting on Oct. 6, 2001 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish also have won 23 of their last 29 contests against the Panthers, dating back to 1964 (Ara Parseghian’s first as Notre Dame’s head coach).
  • This year’s game marks Pittsburgh’s second appearance at Notre Dame Stadium in as many seasons. The last time in the series the Panthers made back-to-back trips to Notre Dame was 1993 and 1996, both Irish victories. The last time the teams met at Notre Dame in consecutive seasons was 1962 and 1963 — the Irish won the ’62 clash by a 43-22 count, while the Panthers won the rematch the next season, 27-7.
  • Recently, Notre Dame has held a decided advantage in the series when the setting is Notre Dame Stadium. In their last five meetings at Notre Dame, the Irish have outscored Pittsburgh, 215-27 (good for an average score of 43-5). A closer look indicates the Panthers have not scored more than seven points in any of their last five visits to Notre Dame Stadium, while the Irish have cracked the 40-point barrier four times during that span.
  • Including its No. 8 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has been ranked heading into 24 of its last 30 games against Pittsburgh, including 19 times when the Irish appeared in the top 10 at kickoff (highlighted by 12 in 14 seasons from 1964-77).


  • Notre Dame will raise its all-time record against the BIG EAST Conference to 75-29-2 (.717), the second-highest win total against one conference in school history.
  • The Irish will register their sixth win in the last seven games against BIG EAST opposition, dating back to the 2000 season.
  • Notre Dame will win for the 18th time in its last 19 October games, and will move its record in the month of October to 50-8 (.862) since the 1988 season.
  • Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham will be just the third mentor since 1913 to win his first six games at Notre Dame, joining Jesse Harper (1913-14 – nine) and Ara Parseghian (1964 – nine).
  • Willingham also will record the 50th win of his head coaching career (44 at Stanford, six at Notre Dame). In his eighth season as a head coach, he will improve his overall record to 50-36-1 (.580).
  • Notre Dame will open its season at 6-0 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 seven games, their longest since another seven-game run at the end of the 2000 season (Oct. 7-Nov. 25).
  • Notre Dame will earn its 27th home victory in its last 32 games at Notre Dame Stadium, dating back to a 20-17 loss to USC on Oct. 18, 1997.
  • The Irish will earn their eighth win in the last nine home games against BIG EAST opponents, a streak which stretches back to the 1995 season.


  • The Panthers will pick up their first victory at Notre Dame Stadium since a last-minute 10-9 win on Oct. 11, 1986.
  • Pittsburgh will be the first BIG EAST Conference opponent to win at Notre Dame Stadium since 25th-ranked Boston College pulled out a 31-29 victory on Nov. 20, 1999. The Panthers also would be the first BIG EAST visitor other than Boston College to win at Notre Dame since the afore-mentioned 10-9 Pittsburgh win in 1986.
  • The Panthers will snap Notre Dame’s 14-game home winning streak in the month of October, becoming the first visiting team to win in October since USC claimed a 20-17 win on Oct. 18, 1997.


  • Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Pittsburgh by a 41-17-1 (.703) count, including an 18-8 (.692) mark in games played at Notre Dame (all at Notre Dame Stadium).
  • The Irish have won nine of their last 10 games, and 23 of their last 29 contests against the Panthers, including a 24-7 win in their last meeting on Oct. 6, 2001 at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Over the last 10 games in the series, Notre Dame has outscored the Panthers, 400-148, topping the 40-point mark six times in that span. Included in that run, the Irish have outscored Pittsburgh, 215-27, in their last five meetings at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Notre Dame is 71-29-3 (.704) all-time against schools from the state of Pennsylvania, with the Pittsburgh series accounting for more than half of the games played (59) and the Irish victories (41).
  • The teams first played in 1909, ’11 and ’12 (all at Pittsburgh’s legendary Forbes Field), with Notre Dame picking up two wins and a tie and shutting out Pittsburgh in all three contests. The series resumed from 1930-37 before taking a five-year break. It picked up again from 1943-54, took 1955 off, and then played every year in a 23-season stretch (1956-78) before taking a four-year hiatus in the series. The Irish and Panthers met in 1982 and ’83, every season from 1986-92, and then 1996, ’97, ’99 and 2001.
  • Notre Dame was the opponent in Pittsburgh’s final game at Pitt Stadium — the Panthers won, 37-27. Pittsburgh now plays its home games at Heinz Field, also home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Beginning in 1943, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have met in 50 of the last 60 seasons (including 2002), with no gaps in the series of more than three years during that 60-year period.
  • Pittsburgh notched its highest point total ever in the series (37) in its 1999 meeting with Notre Dame; conversely, the Irish have topped the 37-point level 20 times against the Panthers, including an eight-game stretch from 1965-72.
  • Four of the 10 biggest victory margins in Notre Dame history have come against Pittsburgh: by 58 in 1944 (58-0), by 56 in both 1945 (56-0) and 1965 (69-13), and by 54 in 1996 (60-6).
  • Including its No. 8 ranking in this week’s Associated Press poll, Notre Dame now has been ranked heading into 24 of its last 30 games against Pittsburgh, including 19 times when the Irish appeared in the top 10 at kickoff (highlighted by a run of 12 in 14 seasons from 1964-77).


  • Notre Dame running backs/special teams coach Buzz Preston and Pittsburgh offensive line coach Tom Freeman worked on the same staff at Hawaii in 1980. Preston was a graduate assistant for the Rainbow Warriors, while Freeman tutored UH’s offensive line.
  • Notre Dame assistant coordinator of strength and conditioning Tony Rolinski worked in the Pittsburgh strength and conditioning department from 1994-96 while attaining his master’s degree in exercise physiology from the school. He then was the head strength coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh before serving as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne in 1997-98.
  • Seventh-year Irish women’s lacrosse coach Tracy Coyne is a Pittsburgh native and a 1978 graduate of Cenevin High School (which also produced Notre Dame All-America QB Tom Clements, who led the Irish to the 1973 national title). In addition, Coyne worked in the Pittsburgh athletic department in 1985 as an administrative assistant to the senior women’s administrator.
  • Notre Dame’s all-time football roster includes more than 2,500 players who have appeared in at least one career game, with 18 hailing from Pittsburgh: RG Frank Winter (1898-1901), QB Clarence Diebold (1900), LG Lee Diebold (1910), HB John McSorley (1926-27), T Joe Papa (Kiski Prep, 1938-40), QB Joe Gasperella (Vandergrift HS, 1944-45), LG Ed Fay (Central Catholic HS, 1944-45), E Ray Jonardi (Baldwin HS, 1949-50), HB Dave Flood (Langley HS, 1950-52), T Bill McCarthy (North Catholic HS, 1951), FB Don Schaefer (Central Catholic HS, 1953-55), HB Tom Mittelhauser (South Hills Catholic HS, 1963), PK Joe Azzaro (Central Catholic HS, 1964-67), OG/LB Dan Dickman (North Catholic, HS, 1967), LB John Cloherty (Churchill Area HS, 1969-71), QB Jim Bulger (Central Catholic HS, 1970-71), FB Ray Zellars (Oliver HS, 1991-94) and OG Rob Mowl (Woodland Hills HS, 1998). Of the players listed, Zellars had the longest stint as a starter (in 1993 and ’94).


  • Notre Dame’s all-time football roster includes 18 quarterbacks from the state of Pennsylvania, highlighted by some of the most noteworthy QBs in the program’s history: Johnny Lujack (Connelsville/Connelsville HS, 1943, ’46-’47), Bob Williams (Wilkes-Barre/G.A.R., 1956-58), Terry Hanratty (Butler/Butler HS, 1966-68), Tom Clements (McKees Rocks/Cenevin HS, 1972-74), Joe Montana (Monongahela/Ringgold HS, 1975, ’77-’78) and Ron Powlus (Berwick/Berwick HS, 1994-97).
  • Lujack played on three national title teams and won the 1947 Heisman Trophy while Williams backed up Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung in 1956 before starting in ’57 and ’58. Williams made some key plays on both sides of the ball in the 7-0 win at Oklahoma in ’57, halting the Sooners’ NCAA-record 47-game winning streak. Hanratty was a three-year starter and helped the Irish win the 1966 national championship. Clements also was a three-year starter and led the Irish to a national title in his junior season (1973). Montana backed up Rick Slager in 1975 and was injured in 1976 before guiding the Irish to the 1977 national title (he also started in ’78 and led Notre Dame to a comeback victory over Houston in the Cotton Bowl).
  • Hanratty completed 58.9 percent of his passes in 1968 (fourth in Irish history) while his 366 passing yards vs. Purdue in 1967 remain second all-time at Notre Dame. He also ranks sixth at Notre Dame for career passing yards (4,152) and TDs (27) and fourth with 304 completions.
  • Clements ranks eighth in Irish history with 490 completions (in three seasons) and ninth in single-season completions (215 in 1974).
  • Montana ranks seventh at Notre Dame with 515 career completions (in three years) while his 141 completions in 1978 rank fourth all-time.
  • Powlus owns the Irish career record for completions (558) while ranking second in season and career completion percentage (.611 in 1997, .575 career). He also owns Irish records for the lowest career interception ratio (.0278, 27 of 969), career passing yards (7,602), TD passes in a season (19 in 1994) and career TD passes (52) while sharing the school record for TD passes in a game (four, three times).
  • Pittsburgh and the surrounding western Pennsylvania area have produced a number of Irish QBs including Lujack, Williams, Hanratty, Montana, Clarence Diebold (Pittsburgh, starter in 1900), Joe Gasperella (Pittsburgh/Vandergrift HS, ’44-’45), Jim Bigelow (Glenshaw/Shaler HS, ’52-’54 reserve), Pat Steenberge (Erie/Cathedral Prep, ’70-’71), Jim Bulger (Pittsburgh/Central Catholic HS, ’70-’71 reserve), Ken Karcher (Glenshaw/Shaler HS, ’81-’82), and Paul Failla (Sewickley/North Allegheny HS, ’91-’93).
  • Other Notre Dame QBs from Pennsylvania have included Philadelphia natives Vince McNally (Roman Catholic HS, ’25-’26), Charles McKinney (’26-’27 reserve) and Bill Whiteside (LaSalle HS, ’49-’50), plus John Mazur (Plymouth/Plymouth HS, backup in ’49-’50, starter in ’51) and Cliff Brown (Middletown/Middletown Area HS, ’71-’73).


  • Notre Dame’s 2002 roster includes seven Pennsylvania natives: freshman DE Brian Mattes (Larksville/Wyoming Valley West HS), senior OT Jim Molinaro (Bethlehem/Catholic HS), sophomore non-scholarship TB Mike Profeta (Cranberry Township/Seneca Valley HS), freshman OT Jamie Ryan (Tamaqua/Marian Catholic HS), senior OG Ryan Scarola (Export/Franklin Regional HS), freshman TB Nate Schiccatano (Coal Township/Southern Columbia HS) and freshman WR Maurice Stovall (Philadelphia/Archbishop Carroll HS).
  • Seven players in Saturday’s game hail from the Tampa-St. Petersburg region — Notre Dame senior TE Gary Godsey (Jesuit HS), junior CB Preston Jackson (Hillsborough HS) and sophomore CB Dwight Ellick (Wharton HS) join Pittsburgh freshman DB Darren McCray (Lakewood Senior HS), freshman LB Charles Sallet (Armwood HS), freshman FB A.J. Schneider (Jesuit HS) and freshman WR Joe Stephens (Armwood HS) as Tampa area natives.

As the calendar turned over to the month of October, so did Notre Dame’s fortunes. “Turned over” might also be a good way of describing how the Irish picked up their first win of the 2001 season, a 24-7 verdict over Pittsburgh at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame forced a season-high five turnovers and held the high-powered Panther offense to just 96 yards in the second half, while the Irish offense rang up 17 unanswered points to preserve the victory.

Quarterback Carlyle Holiday turned in the best performance of his career to date, rushing 19 times for 122 yards and a 67-yard touchdown, the longest scoring run by an Irish quarterback since Arnaz Battle went 74 yards against Kansas in 1999. It was also the most yards rushing by a Notre Dame signal-caller since Tony Rice ran for 141 yards against Penn State in 1989.

Tailback Julius Jones also offered up another solid outing, carrying 25 times for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On defense, strong safety Abram Elam came up with an interception and a fumble recovery, both the first of his Irish career. Defensive end Anthony Weaver added five tackles, three for losses, and had an interception to aid the Notre Dame cause.

The turning point in the game came early in the third quarter with the Irish clinging to a 10-7 lead. Pittsburgh used a series of mid-range passes to move all the way down to the Irish 26-yard line. On the next play, quarterback David Priestley found R.J. English over the middle, but just as the Panther wideout was preparing to race into the end zone, he inexplicably lost fumbled the ball and Elam came up with the pigskin at the one-yard line, keeping the Irish in front.

Notre Dame capitalized on its good fortune on the very next possession. Although they were starting 99 yards from the Pittsburgh goal line, the Irish needed only four plays to find pay dirt. Tailback Tony Fisher broke free on a 28-yard gain that could have gone for much more if he had not stumbled as he cleared the Panther secondary. Two plays later, Holiday provided a mirror image of Fisher’s run, but he managed to wriggle free of the last Pittsburgh defender near midfield and scampered the rest of the way for a back-breaking score with just 1:06 left in the third period.

The Panthers would not cross into Notre Dame territory the rest of the game, as Weaver and cornerback Shane Walton came up with interceptions. Meanwhile, Jones wrapped up the Irish’s first win by burrowing over from a yard out with just over five minutes left.


  • Notre Dame has won more than 71 percent of its games (74-29-2) vs. teams that currently make up the BIG EAST Conference, with 59 of those 105 games coming vs. former independent Pittsburgh.
  • The Irish own a winning series record against all six BIG EAST teams they have faced.
  • Notre Dame owns more victories over BIG EAST opponents (74) than any other conference except the Big Ten (209).
  • Notre Dame is 19-5 (.792) against BIG EAST teams since 1990, including a run of eight consecutive victories from 1995-98.
  • The Irish have won five of their last six games against BIG EAST schools — they defeated two of the three conference members they faced last season, downing Pittsburgh (24-7) and West Virginia (34-24) before losing at Boston College (21-17).
  • Saturday’s game with Pittsburgh is the first of three this season for Notre Dame against BIG EAST opponents, with all three coming at home. The Irish also will play host to Boston College on Nov. 2, and will welcome Rutgers to Notre Dame Stadium Nov. 23.
  • The last Notre Dame-Miami game took place in 1990 and is one of the most memorable games in the series, as Raghib Ismail returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, and Craig Hentrich kicked a school-record five field goals to help the sixth-ranked Irish upset the No. 2 Hurricanes, 29-20, at Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Notre Dame capped its 1988 national championship season with a 34-21 win in the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl over third-ranked West Virginia.
  • Notre Dame’s most recent game versus Syracuse came in 1963, a 14-7 home victory for the Orangemen. That series will be renewed next season when the Irish visit the Carrier Dome on Nov. 22, 2003.
  • The Irish have never faced Temple or Virginia Tech on the gridiron.


  • Pittsburgh is the fifth-most common opponent in Irish football history, trailing four other ’02 foes: Navy (76th meeting in ’02), Purdue (74th meeting in ’02), USC (74th meeting in ’02) and Michigan State (66th meeting in ’02).
  • The Irish have played 132 different teams in their 114 seasons of varsity football.

Notre Dame moved up one spot to eighth in the latest editions of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The No. 8 ranking in the highest for the Irish in the AP poll since Oct. 13, 1996, when they were also ranked eighth following a 54-20 rout of No. 16 Washington at Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame enters the Pittsburgh game having won 17 of its last 18 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 49-8 (.860) in October and was 32-7 (.821) in October in the 1990s. In addition, the Irish have won 14 consecutive October home games, dating back to the 1997 loss to USC.

For only the fifth time in the last 30 years, and the 33rd time in the last 90 seasons (dating back to 1913), Notre Dame has opened with five 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 32 previous 5-0 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).

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

Willingham followed that up with wins over Purdue, No. 7 Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford, becoming the first Irish head coach to win his first five 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 two games against ranked opponents — in his debut season of 1941, Frank Leahy posted a 0-0 tie vs. No. 14 Army and earned a 7-6 win at eighth-ranked Northwestern.

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

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 three games this season by seven points or less, defeating Purdue (24-17), No. 7 Michigan (25-23) and Michigan State (21-17) in consecutive weeks. All three games went down to the final seconds, with the latter two contests in doubt until the Irish came up with critical interceptions.

  • The Notre Dame record for consecutive wins by seven points or less is five, the first five games of the 1939 season (Sept. 30-Oct. 28) under head coach Elmer Layden.
  • This three-game stretch earlier this season marked just the fourth time Notre Dame won three straight games by seven points or less. The others are the last three games of the 1941 season (Nov. 8-22), the aforementioned first five games of 1939 and the last three games of the 1937 season (Nov. 13-27).
  • The Notre Dame record for wins by seven points or less in a season is six, set in 1939 when that club had a 6-1 record in games decided by seven or less. The 1937 team was 5-1-1 in games decided by seven or less, while the 1929 (4-0), 1940 (4-1), 1974 (4-0), 1990 (4-3), 1997 (4-2) and 1998 (4-1) teams all had four wins by seven or less over the course of the season.
  • As for winning percentage in games decided by seven points or less, the 1929 and 1974 teams were both 4-0, while the 1926, 1928, 1954 and 1957 teams have finished 3-0. Of course, the 2002 team is also 3-0.
  • One item of note on the greatness of Knute Rockne: He was 20-3-5 (.804) in games decided by seven 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 5-0 start since 1993. The Irish rank in the top 10 in the nation in several major defensive categories — rushing defense (4th, 73.6 yards/game), scoring defense (4th, 12.8 points/game), total defense (7th, 273.6 yards/game) and pass efficiency defense (8th, 89.65). Here are some other points of interest on the Notre Dame defense:

  • The Irish have scored four defensive touchdowns this season by four different players — SS Gerome Sapp (fumble return) and CB Vontez Duff (interception return) found the end zone 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).
  • The Notre Dame defense has been especially effective in the first half of games. Through five games, the Irish have allowed just one offensive touchdown in the first two quarters (last week by Stanford) — the only other opponent TDs in the first half this season came via a punt return (Purdue) and an interception return (Michigan). On the strength of its defense, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents, 59-24, in the first half this season, including a 42-7 margin in the second quarter.

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 all five of their victories in 2002, holding the ball for an average of 33:28 per game, compared to only 26:32 for their opponents. This trend started in the season opener vs. No. 21 Maryland, when Notre Dame maintained possession for a school-record 41:04, marking just the third time in the last 25 years in which the Irish have cracked the 40-minute barrier. The other 40-minute games were Oct. 27, 2001 at Boston College (40:15), and Nov. 22, 1980 vs. Air Force (40:04).

Notre Dame has jumped out to a 5-0 start this season, thanks in part to its ability to take care of the ball. The Irish own a +9 turnover margin (+1.8/game), which is good for seventh in the nation in 2002. All together, Notre Dame has recorded 16 takeaways, while giving the ball away just seven times. Those 16 takeaways have led to 71 Irish points (14.2 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.

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.

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 is second on the team with 11 receptions for 157 yards and one touchdown, after he logged five receptions for 40 yards in ’01. Battle’s best game as a receiver came earlier this year at Michigan State, when he logged three receptions for a career-high 78 yards, highlighted by his game-winning 60-yard TD catch with 1:15 remaining.

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 10 catches for 86 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.

Thanks to its new offensive scheme, Notre Dame already has seen its receivers have success far beyond anything they had amassed in their careers to date. Here’s a look at how Irish pass catchers fared in their careers prior to this season, and through five games in 2002:

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, returned 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 is transforming into one of the top defensive backs in the country. He currently leads the nation in interceptions with 1.0 thefts per game (five total), including a school-record-tying three interceptions in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over No. 21 Maryland at Kickoff Classic XX. Walton was the first Irish player since Dave Duerson vs. Navy in 1982 to have three interceptions in a single game, and his three picks also tied a Kickoff Classic record. Mike Townsend holds the school record for interceptions in a season with 10 in 1972, but since then, only three Irish players have recorded more than five thefts in one year — Joe Restic (6 in 1977), Duerson (7 in 1982) and Todd Lyght (8 in 1989). All told, Walton has had a hand in eight of Notre Dame’s 16 takeaways this season, adding a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a pass deflection for an interception to his five thefts. The San Diego, Calif., native also ranks sixth on the team with 21 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.

While Notre Dame’s move to a more balanced offense this season is well-known, the Irish have not totally ignored their traditional offensive scheme — the running game. Led by sophomores tailbacks Ryan Grant and Rashon Powers-Neal, the Irish rolled up a season-high 249 yards on the ground against Stanford, with both players reaching the 100-yard plateau (Powers-Neal – 108; Grant – 103). It was the first time two Notre Dame running backs had cracked the century mark since Oct. 11, 1997, when Autry Denson ran for 128 yards and Clement Stokes added 109 yards in a 45-21 Irish win at Pittsburgh.

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 97.4 yards per game. Grant’s last four games have been his best since coming to Notre Dame — he is averaging more than 105 yards per game on the ground with four touchdowns over that time, including a career-high 132 yards and two TDs in a victory over No. 7 Michigan. Prior to this season, Grant’s career best rushing output was 77 yards in the 2001 season finale at Purdue, a game in which he scored the first touchdown of his career.

Meanwhile, Powers-Neal is in his first full season as a tailback, after seeing time as a tailback, linebacker and safety during his freshman year. The St. Paul, Minn., product is averaging a team-high 5.5 yards per carry and ranks second on the team with 233 yards rushing this season. He nearly doubled his season output on the ground with his performance against Stanford, covering those 108 yards on only 13 rushes for an average of 8.3 yards per carry. Powers-Neal also scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard scamper late in the third quarter, helping spark a 28-point Irish uprising as Notre Dame overwhelmed the Cardinal, 31-7.

Senior PK Nicholas Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has been one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons over the last three seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances. He has made 68 consecutive extra points dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000 (the second-longest PAT streak in school history).

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.

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

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 first month of the 2002 season. The third-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., is averaging 40.1 yards per punt (32 kicks, 1,284 yards), and he has dropped over 40 percent (14) of his 32 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.71 yards per punt (8,550 yards on 210 punts) puts him in fourth place on the Notre Dame career list, tied with Bill Shakespeare, who also 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 ILB Courtney Watson has been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best linebacker. The award is given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.

Senior PK Nicholas Setta has been named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s top placekicker by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Commission.

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

Street & Smith’s tapped senior center Jeff Faine for a spot on its Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. In addition, senior kicker Nicholas Setta earned a place on the publication’s Lou Groza Award watch list.

Football News named nine Notre Dame players to its 2002 preseason all-independent team. Sophomore RB Ryan Grant, senior TE Gary Godsey, senior OT Jordan Black and senior C Jeff Faine were chosen from the offensive side of the ball. Senior DT Darrell Campbell, senior LB Courtney Watson, senior CB Shane Walton and junior CB Vontez Duff were tapped on the defensive end. Senior PK Nicholas Setta represented the Irish special teams units on the squad.

Line — The Irish have an extremely talented and experienced crew up front on the offensive line this season. Four starters — senior tackles Jordan Black and Brennan Curtin, senior guard Sean Mahan and senior center Jeff Faine — all return this season and are legitimate contenders for postseason awards. Black has been a staple on the Notre Dame offensive line, now in his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 36 regular-season games and amassing nearly 850 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 27 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 33 games, starting his last 16 games, while Curtin has made 11 career starts (including his last eight 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 four of the five 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. Seniors Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also have seen significant playing time in reserve roles over the last four games.

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. In four games this season, Holiday has completed 37 of 83 passes for 514 yards and one TD, including a career-high 226 yards in the Kickoff Classic victory over Maryland. However, Holiday missed the Stanford game after suffering an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder at Michigan State. Sophomore Pat Dillingham (17-33, 213 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), a former walk-on, 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. He then made his first career start against Stanford, guiding the Irish to a victory over the Cardinal. Freshman Chris Olsen starts the season as the No. 3 QB, but also could see significant playing time as Dillingham’s understudy.

Sophomore Ryan Grant (107-487, 4 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 97.4 yards per game. He has averaged 105.3 yards on the ground in his last four outings, including a career-high 132 yards and two scores in the Irish win over Michigan. Sophomore Rashon Powers-Neal (42-233, 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. Sophomore Marcus Wilson (10-41) and senior Chris Yura also will see action out of the backfield. Wilson ran for a career-high 35 yards vs. Stanford.

Senior Tom Lopienski (10-20) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 23 career starts, serving mainly as a blocking back. However, his role is expected to be expanded in the new Irish offensive scheme. That expanded role was seen in the Stanford game, when he converted twice on third down early in the third quarter, helping the Irish drive for the go-ahead touchdown. Senior Mike McNair has fought through injuries during his career, but he is 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 ranks second on the team with 11 catches this season for 177 yards and one TD, including a career-high 78-yard effort and the game-winning 60-yard TD at Michigan State. Sophomore Omar Jenkins (13-250) 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 10 receptions for 86 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 (six tackles, two for loss, two sacks) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (13 tackles, four for loss, two sacks). Both players registered tackles for losses, with Campbell garnering a sack, in the win over Stanford. Campbell and Hilliard are surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (15 tackles, four for loss, four sacks) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak (six tackles, two for loss, one sack) who has made seven 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 and Michigan State, registering a pair of sacks in both games. Meanwhile, Budinscak notched four tackles and his first career sack against Stanford. Assistance could come in the form of sophomore end Justin Tuck (11 tackles, three for loss, two sacks), a pass-rushing specialist and converted linebacker, as well as junior end Jason Sapp and junior defensive tackle Greg Pauly. Tuck had a career-high five tackles, including two for losses and one sack in the win over Stanford. He also drew a key holding penalty in the end zone against Michigan, resulting in a safety and the decisive two-point margin in the Irish victory over the Wolverines.

Linebackers — Senior ILB Courtney Watson is the lone returning linebacker for the Irish. He ranked second on the team with 76 tackles last season, including 13 for loss, and already is a 2002 Butkus Award candidate. He missed the Maryland and Purdue games with a viral infection, but has returned with a vengeance in his last three outings, rolling up a team-high 35 tackles (four 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 (22 tackles, one for loss, one sack) replaced Watson in the Maryland and Purdue games, recording a career-high nine tackles in the latter contest, one week after notching his first career sack in his first career appearance against Maryland. At the other two positions, 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 (33 tackles, seven for loss, one sack) 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 seven tackles for losses. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker post, while junior Derek Curry (14 tackles, three for loss, one sack, 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 also might see time at the inside position, while junior Jerome Collins lends support on the outside.

Backs — The Irish secondary should be particularly strong in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton (21 tackles, three for loss, five INT, three pass breakups) has started the last 16 games at cornerback for the Irish, and he currently leads the nation in interceptions (1.0 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. He added a career-high eight tackles and provided two critical plays vs. Michigan, batting down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass, and then coming up with an interception in the final minute to quash a Wolverine threat. Last week, he carded his second career touchdown, intercepting a Stanford pass and going 18 yards for the score. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff (20 tackles, one INT, one fumble recovery) gets the starting call at the other cornerback position, a position he has held for the last 13 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 (32 tackles, two for loss, three INT, two pass breakups) ranks 11th in the nation with 0.6 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. Senior Glenn Earl (33 tackles, two for loss, one fumble recovery) 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 (seven tackles) and sophomore Dwight Ellick (four tackles) at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible (eight tackles) and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety. Jackson was credited with a career-best three tackles against Stanford while Bible registered a career-high four tackles vs. Michigan. In addition, Bolen scored the first touchdown of his career on special teams against Purdue, scooping up a Boilermaker fumble and scurrying four yards for a second-quarter score.

For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the finest kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and a finalist for the award in 2000, ranks fourth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.71) and he is second in school history with 210 punts and 8,550 yards. Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 68 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 (63 special teams appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit. Duff ranks 22nd in the nation in punt return yardage, averaging 14.64 yards per return, and he already has a 76-yard punt return for a TD vs. Maryland to his credit. Meanwhile, Arnaz Battle is averaging more than 22 yards per kickoff return (10 returns, 224 yards), and Shane Walton (five punt returns for 46 yards) also is set to help return kicks.

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

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 25 of the last 26 regular-season games for the Irish, dating back to the start of the 2000 season, earning preseason honorable mention All-America honors this year from Street & Smith’s. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of ’99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the ’99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second Notre Dame monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
  • Senior SS and special teams player Chad DeBolt has made 207 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 an Field Championships. He was a two-time state champion in the 100 meters in high school, winning the New York crown in 1999, before moving to Florida and winning the Sunshine State title in 2000.
  • Senior PK Nicholas Setta, who finished sixth at the Illinois state track and field meet in the high jump and was the top hurdler in the state, has competed for Piane and the Irish track and field program the last two years. Setta ran middle distance for the Irish and participated in the 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships.
  • Other Notre Dame football players who also ran track for the Irish include senior CB Jason Beckstrom, senior FB Mike McNair and sophomore WR Matt Shelton.

For only the second time in the 114-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game — the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championships. The 2002 captains have been as follows:
Maryland: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, DE Ryan Roberts, CB Shane Walton
Purdue: TE Gary Godsey, NG Cedric Hilliard, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta
Michigan: OT Jordan Black, DT Darrell Campbell, CB Vontez Duff, C Jeff Faine
Michigan State: WR Arnaz Battle, FS Glenn Earl, OG Sean Mahan, LB Courtney Watson
Stanford: C Jeff Faine, WR Omar Jenkins, 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. 9/12 Florida State, No. 13/10 Michigan, No. 20/24 USC and No. 21/19 Air Force). In addition, four other Notre Dame opponents — Boston College, Maryland, Michigan State 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. 6), Notre Dame has the 25th toughest schedule in the nation. These rankings take into account the cumulative performance of all Irish opponents during the 2002 season.

2002 Notre Dame Opponent UPDATE
Below is a look at Notre Dame opponents’ upcoming games. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995) and has appeared in the top 25 a total of 19 times in the last 25 years. According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Oct. 6), Notre Dame’s 2002 schedule ranks as the 25th toughest in the nation.

With the Pittsburgh game 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 117 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the first six games of 2002, all of which are slated to be televised as well. The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 142 of its previous 165 games, including the first five games this season. In 2001, not only were 10 of the 11 Irish games designated sellouts (only Stanford was not), but eight came in front of stadium-record crowds. The Irish played before 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 fans at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big XII Conference and state of Texas record in the process. In fact, since 1998, Notre Dame has played before sellout crowds in 46 of the last 52 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 164 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 212 in their last 213 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).

44,000 “Return to glory” t-shirts create “sea of green”
All 44,000 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. It’s one of the earliest sellouts in the 13-year history of what is officially known as The Shirt Project. As a result, more than $200,000 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 4-0 start since 1993. As the largest student-run fundraiser on campus, The Shirt Project has raised close to $2 million over 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!”

Due to the extraordinary popularity of The Shirt, an additional run of 20,000 were produced for last weekend’s game against Stanford.The Shirt sells for $15 at various campus outlets as well as on the Internet.

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) Oct. 11 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. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. Admission is free for all “Notre Dame Experience” events.

This season marks the ninth edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine — an official publication by the University of Notre Dame athletic department. The 1994, ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98 and 2000 editions were voted best in the nation in the special publications competition sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The preview magazine, published by Host Communications, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on new head coach Tyrone Willingham. It’s a collectors item perfect for autographs — with an emphasis on outstanding color photography unavailable in any other publication. The yearbook is priced at $8 (plus $4 for postage and handling) and can be ordered 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.