Nov. 18, 2000
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – (AP)–Notre Dame didn’t beat Rutgers with its “A” game. The 11th-ranked Irish beat the state university of New Jersey with something even more upsetting – Jersey kids.
Matt LoVecchio threw two touchdown passes and Terrance Howard ran for two more in their return to the Garden State as Notre Dame posted its sixth straight win, defeating Rutgers 45-17 on Saturday.
The Irish (8-2) also forced five turnovers, including three by New Jersey residents Ron Israel and Ryan Roberts, in moving within a win of potentially qualifying for a Bowl Championship Series bid.
“I’m glad to get out of here with a win and glad to be out of here 8-2,” said Notre Dame coach Bob Davie, who also got two big plays from his special teams. “We certainly didn’t play our best game. Although we had some great individual efforts, it was a sloppy game.”
That was enough to get past Rutgers (3-7) in Terry Shea’s final home game as coach. His resignation will be effective after next week’s game at Syracuse.
The big one for the Irish will also be next Saturday at Southern California. Since it is not in a conference, Notre Dame must win nine games and be ranked in the Top 12 to merit consideration for BCS game. That means the Irish must be the Trojans in a rivalry where the records going in matter little.
“That was our problem today, I think we were looking ahead too much,” Howard of Willingboro said. “Rutgers came out and did some things and we were unfocused and had too many penalties. We better worry about USC and then think about BCS.”
LoVecchio , the first freshman quarterback to start at Notre Dame in more than a decade, treated this latest win like every other since he took over six weeks ago. The Franklin Lakes product was blase.
“I’m trying not to think about that stuff (the BCS),” said LoVecchio, who threw scoring passes covered 43 yards to Joey Getherall and 25 to Javin Hunter. “If you do sit down and think about it, you get over your head and I’m just trying to stay focused week to week.”
Howard added touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards and kicker Nick Setta, who last week ran for a touchdown on a fake field goal, threw a 25-yard scoring pass to fullback Tom Lopienski on another fake. Setta also had a 33-yard field goal and Tony Fisher added a late 2-yard TD run, capping a 135-yard rushing performance.
Dennis Thomas rushed for 127 yards and scored on runs of 1 and 65 yards for Rutgers, which is 11-43 under Shea.
The Scarlet Knights put a scare into Notre Dame early in the third quarter when Thomas went 65 yards on the second play from scrimmage to bring Rutgers within 24-17.
Rutgers nearly tied the game on the next series when cornerback Tony Berry stepped in front of a pass by LoVecchio near the left sideline. But he dropped the ball with no one between him and the goal line 50 yards away.
“If he makes that play it’s a different game,” Davie said.
On Rutgers’ next possession, David Givens blocked a punt by Mike Barr, giving the Irish the ball at the Rutgers 31. Two plays later, LoVecchio and Hunter combined on a catch and run from 25 yards out for a 31-17 lead.
Mike McMahon, whose three interceptions gave him a school-record 51, fumbled on Rutgers’ next snap and Roberts of Lawnside recovered, one of his two in the game, at the Scarlet Knights’ 18. Howard of Willingboro scored from the 2 four plays later, giving the Irish a 38-17 lead with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
Israel, also of Lawnside, had an interception in the third quarter.
“We’ve got some Jersey kids and we’d like to get more,” Davie said.
Rutgers took a 3-0 lead on its first possession on a 30-yard field goal by Steve Barone. LoVecchio, who was 13-of-19 for 161 yards and ran for 79 more, hit a wide-open Getherall on the Irish’s next series. Setta’s TD pass to Lopienski was set up by an interception by defensive tackle B.J. Scott.
Thomas’ short TD run cut the lead to 14-10 but Setta kicked his field goal and Howard increased the lead to 24-10, scoring 19 seconds before the half.
Notre Dame, 12-0 in games in New Jersey, lost starting cornerback Shane Walton with a broken arm in the first quarter.
Irish offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers is being considered for Shea’s job.