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Notre Dame Ends 2003 Season With Visit To Syracuse

Dec. 1, 2003

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THE DATE AND TIME: Saturday, Dec. 6, 2003 at 1:07 p.m. EST.

THE SITE: The Carrier Dome (49,550/AstroTurf) in Syracuse, N.Y.

THE TICKETS: The game is a sellout marking the 161st sellout in the last 185 Irish games and the 25th of the last 26 games involving Notre Dame (last week’s Stanford game was not a sellout), including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in ’99, the first five in ’00, the first nine in ’01, all 13 in ’02 and 11 of 12 in ’03.

THE TV PLANS: ABC Sports national telecast with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese (analysis), Lynn Swann (sidelines) and Bruce Clark (director).

THE RADIO PLANS: For the 36th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 200 stations in all 50 states by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play by play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis), former Irish quarterback and 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis) and Al Smith (producer). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available via the Notre Dame athletics web site at All Notre Dame football games are heard on WDND-AM (1620) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Andy Budzinski, Shawn Lewallen, 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 Syracuse game, via the Syracuse athletics web site.

WEB SITES: Notre Dame (, Syracuse (

NOTRE DAME ENDS 2003 SEASON WITH VISIT TO SYRACUSE Notre Dame tries to end the 2003 season on a positive note as the Irish look for their fourth consecutive win Saturday at Syracuse. After struggling to a 2-6 start, the Irish have rattled off three straight victories by an average of 23.3 points against Navy (27-24), BYU (33-14) and Stanford (57-7).

The Irish have their running attack in full effect coming into the Stanford game, averaging 268 yards a game in the last three contests, led by senior Julius Jones, who is averaging 200 yards a game during that same time. Jones is only 224 yards away from becoming the Notre Dame single-season rushing leader (currently 1,437 set by Vagas Ferguson in 1979) and became the first player in Irish history to rush for over 200 yards in three games during the same season or in a career. Junior Ryan Grant also had his best game of the season against Stanford, rushing 14 times for 84 yards and his first three TDs of the season. True freshman Brady Quinn is continuing to develop as he threw for two TDs against the Cardinal including bombs of 65 and 45 yards, respectively, to junior Matt Shelton and sophomore Maurice Stovall.

The Irish defense also has stepped up in the last three games, holding opponents to 311 total rushing yards, an average of 104 per game (Navy had 238 of those yards as BYU managed only 53 and Stanford 20). The defense also has been putting the pressure on opposing teams in the backfield as the Irish have recorded 27 tackles for loss in the last three games, 13 sacks and caused eight turnovers. Notre Dame had only recorded 16 turnovers in the eight games previous to the Navy game. Junior DE Justin Tuck set the Notre Dame single-season sack record against Stanford, recording four for a season total of 13.5.

Syracuse comes into the contest having lost its last three games and five of its last seven in posting an identical 5-6 record. After a 3-1 Syracuse start, then-No. 4 Virginia Tech beat the Orangemen 51-7. Syracuse then defeated Boston College before falling at Pittsburgh 34-14. After a victory at Temple, the Orange have lost to Miami (10-17), West Virginia (23-34) and Rutgers (7-24). The Orange are led by 1,000-yard rusher Walter Reyes and QB R.J. Anderson (163-289-1,955 yds-10 TDs).


  • Saturday’s game marks the third meeting between Notre Dame and Syracuse, but the first game between the two schools since the 1963 season. The Irish lead the series 2-1 with victories in 1914 and 1961.
  • The first game in the series was played at Syracuse’s Archbold Stadium followed by a matchup at Notre Dame Stadium in 1961.
  • In the first meeting between the two schools, Jesse Harper’s charges blanked the Orangemen 20-0 to finish the season with a 6-2 record.
  • The 1961 game between the two schools ended in controversy as 10th-ranked Syracuse overcame a 14-0 deficit to go ahead 15-14. Notre Dame drove the field and tried to kick a game-winning field goal as time expired but Irish kicker Joe Perkowski missed. Syracuse was called for a roughing penalty allowing Perkowski to try the field goal again – this time making it and giving the Irish a 17-15 victory. After the game, officials said Notre Dame should not have been able to try the second field-goal attempt which cost Syracuse a top-10 ranking and a major bowl bid that season.
  • The 1963 game was played at legendary Yankee Stadium as the Orangemen defeated the Irish 14-7 on Thanksgiving Day. It was the last game of the season for the Irish and the first game played after the tragic death of John F. Kennedy the week before in Dallas. The game also marked the last contest for Notre Dame interim head coach Hugh Devore, who coached the Irish for the 1963 season only and was eventually replaced by Ara Parseghian to start the 1964 campaign.
  • In the ’63 game, despite six Orange turnovers, Syracuse scored the game-winning touchdown on a 35-yard pass from Richard King to Michael Koski and made a two-point conversion with 3:28 left in the contest to win 14-7.


  • The Irish conclude the season with a four-game winning streak. The last time an Irish team closed out the season with four consecutive victories was in 1992 when the Irish finished the year 10-1-1 and went 11-1 the next year falling to Boston College in the final regular-season finale.
  • Notre Dame would improve its record over BIG EAST Conference schools to 78-31-2 overall and will have won nine of its last 12 against the conference with the only losses coming at the hands of Boston College.


  • Notre Dame will suffer its third losing season in the last five years. In the history of the program, Notre Dame has only experienced 11 losing seasons in its entire 116-year history with two of those seasons occuring during the 1887 and 1888 seasons.
  • Syracuse will even the series record to 2-2 and will become the first BIG EAST team (other than Boston College who has defeated the Irish in three consecutive games) in 12 tries to defeat the Irish.


  • Irish linebackers coach Bob Simmons and Syracuse assistant head coach/linebackers coach Steve Dunlap coached together at West Virginia from 1980-87.
  • Notre Dame running backs coach Buzz Preston and Orangeman tight ends/special teams coach Chris White were coaching mates at UNLV in 1988.
  • Current Irish assistant softball coach Charmelle Green served a in similar capacity at Syracuse from 2000-01.


  • Sophomore Jake Carney, who is out for the season, and Syracuse junior K Collin Barber both attended Lexington Catholic High School in Lexington, Ky.
  • The Philadelphia area will be well-represented in the game Saturday as Syracuse freshmen LB Jameel McClain and WR Kyle Bell and Irish sophomore Maurice Stovall are all from the area. McClain went to George Washington, while Bell attended Valley Forge Military Academy and Stovall was a student at Archbishop Carroll.
  • Irish junior running back Marcus Wilson and Syracuse sophomore CB Steve Gregory are both from Staten Island, N.Y. Wilson went to Poly Prep, while Gregory attended Curtis High School.
  • Syracuse redshirt freshman DT Shadeed Harris and Irish junior Carlos Campbell are both from Hampton, Va., as Harris played at Phoebus High School, while Campbell was across town at Hampton.
  • Miami can represent as well in this game as Notre Dame long snapper Casey Dunn and Dwight Stephenson Jr., and Syracuse sophomore WR Rashad Williams, redshirt freshman CB Terrell Lemon and senior DT Louis Gachelin are all from South Florida.


  • Notre Dame has won more than 71 percent of its games (77-31-2) vs. teams that currently make up the BIG EAST Conference.
  • This is the fourth consecutive season the Irish will be playing three BIG EAST teams < notre=”” dame=”” won=”” at=”” pittsburgh=”” (20-14)=”” on=”” oct.=”” 11,=”” lost=”” at=”” boston=”” college=”” (25-27)=”” and=”” plays=”” at=”” syracuse=”” this=”” weekend.=”” this=”” season=”” marks=”” the=”” first=”” time=”” the=”” irish=”” will=”” play=”” three=”” road=”” games=”” against=”” big=”” east=”” schools=”” since=”” the=”” formation=”” of=”” the=”” big=”” east=”” football=”” conference=”” in=”” 1991.=””>
  • 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 (77) than any other conference except the Big Ten (209).
  • The Irish are 35-18-2 (.654) all-time on the road against BIG EAST teams.
  • Notre Dame is 22-7 (.759) against BIG EAST teams since 1990, including a run of eight consecutive victories from 1995-98.
  • The Irish have won eight of their last 11 games against BIG EAST schools, including a 20-14 victory at No. 15 Pittsburgh earlier this season.

For the first time this season, Notre Dame put everything together in all areas of the game as it easily defeated Stanford 57-7 at Stanford Stadium in front of 46,500 fans. The Irish got their running game going quickly as Julius Jones rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, had 170 by the half, and finished with 218 yards on 23 carries. Ryan Grant also found the end zone for the first three times this season, rushing for 84 yards. It was the first three-TD game for Grant in his career. The Irish passing game also was efficient as freshman Brady Quinn spread the field connecting on scoring strikes of 65 and 45 yards, respectively, to Matt Shelton and Maurice Stovall. The Irish signalcaller was eight of 13 on the day for 177 yards and two TDs.

Defensively, Notre Dame held Stanford to only 20 yards rushing and 251 total yards in completely dominating the Cardinal. The Irish recorded seven sacks in the game, including a career-high four for junior Justin Tuck. Notre Dame also forced four turnovers in the contest including returning two fumbles for touchdowns. Junior Quentin Burrell, who also had an interception in the game, took the first fumble back 65 yards, putting the Irish ahead 34-0. Not to be outdone, Garron Bible returned a fumble to the house 48 yards, giving the Irish a 48-7 lead.


  • Notre Dame’s 512 yards of total offense was the most by the Irish since they had 524 yards against Navy in 1999.
  • Notre Dame’s 21 points in the first quarter were the most first-quarter points for an Irish team since scoring 21 against Navy in 2000 in Orlando when Tony Driver returned two fumbles for scores.
  • The 23 points the Irish recorded in the third quarter were the most points Notre Dame has scored in any quarter since tallying 28 against Rutgers in the third quarter in 2000.
  • The 34 points at the half were the most by an Irish team since Notre Dame scored 35 in the first half against Rutgers in 1996.
  • Notre Dame’s 57 points were the most for an Irish team during the Tyrone Willingham era (the previous high was 42 against Rutgers) and the most points for the Irish since scoring 62 against Rutgers in 1996.
  • The 57 points were the most away from Notre Dame Stadium since scoring 58 against Navy at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia in 1993.
  • The 50-point victory by the Irish marks the largest margin of victory since the 62-point win against Rutgers in 1996.

IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham
A veteran with 26 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is now in his second season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after previously serving as the leader at Stanford University. In eight years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a 59-45-1 (.567) overall record, including a 15-9 (.625) mark with the Irish, and has guided his charges to bowl games on five occasions. The Notre Dame mentor reached a personal milestone against USC, coaching the 100th game of his career.

Willingham used his years of service in the coaching business to reverse the tides of the Irish program in ’02, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl. He became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, and he was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he made history in 2002 as the first college football coach ever to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award.

Willingham was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford. 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. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91.

Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served on the coaching staffs at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

Since breaking into the starting lineup on Oct. 11 at No. 15 Pittsburgh, senior running back Julius Jones has been on a mission and has taken the Irish offense with him. He is averaging 151.7 yards per game over his last six games, piling up 1,062 yards and nine touchdowns on 166 carries (an average of 6.4 yards per carry). Here are some highlights from Jones’ recent rushing surge:

  • Oct. 11 at #15 Pittsburgh < jones=”” carries=”” 24=”” times=”” for=”” a=”” school-record=”” 262=”” yards=”” and=”” two=”” touchdowns=”” as=”” the=”” irish=”” topple=”” the=”” panthers,=”” 20-14.=”” jones=”” broke=””>Vagas Ferguson’s 25-year old record of 255 yards (Nov. 18, 1978 at Georgia Tech), became the first 200-yard rusher for the Irish in nearly 11 years (227 by Reggie Brooks at USC in 1992) and his total is the fifth-highest single-game mark in the nation this year. His performance was good enough for the Big Stone Gap, Va., native to be named the national Player of the Week by three media outlets. The Sporting News, and all tabbed him to receive the honor for the week of Oct. 12.
  • Nov. 8 vs. Navy < jones=”” rushes=”” a=”” (then)=”” career-high=”” 33=”” times=”” for=”” 221=”” yards=”” and=”” two=”” touchdowns=”” as=”” the=”” irish=”” rally=”” in=”” fourth=”” quarter=”” and=”” beat=”” the=”” midshipmen=”” on=”” a=”” last-second=”” field=”” goal,=”” 27-24.=”” jones=”” became=”” only=”” the=”” fourth=”” player=”” in=”” school=”” history=”” to=”” post=”” multiple=”” 200-yard=”” games=”” in=”” a=”” season,=”” joining=”” brooks=”” (1992),=”” ferguson=”” (1978)=”” and=”” jim=”” stone=”” (1980)=”” in=”” that=”” elite=”” group.=”” his=”” effort=”” vs.=”” navy=”” is=”” the=”” sixth-best=”” in=”” school=”” history=”” and=”” 26th-best=”” in=”” the=”” country=”” this=”” year.=””>
  • Nov. 15 vs. BYU < jones=”” totes=”” the=”” ball=”” a=”” career-high=”” 35=”” times=”” for=”” 161=”” yards=”” and=”” three=”” touchdowns=”” in=”” his=”” final=”” game=”” at=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium=”” as=”” the=”” irish=”” defeat=”” the=”” cougars,=”” 33-14.=”” his=”” three=”” scores=”” are=”” the=”” most=”” by=”” an=”” irish=”” back=”” in=”” one=”” game=”” since=”” autry=”” denson=”” also=”” had=”” three=”” touchdowns=”” vs.=”” georgia=”” tech=”” in=”” the=”” 1999=”” gator=”” bowl.=””>
  • Nov. 29 vs. Stanford ? Jones had 106 yards on nine carries in the first quarter and 171 yards at the half on his way to 218 yards in only three quarters of action against the Cardinal. Jones became the first Notre Dame player to have three games of 200-plus yards rushing in a single season.

For the season, Jones leads Notre Dame and ranks 15th in the nation with 209 carries for 1,214 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and 10 TDs. He moved from 13th to fifth on the Notre Dame single-season rushing list and is only 224 yards away from becoming the single-season rushing leader (Vagas Ferguson currently holds the record of 1,437 set in 1979.

With his 218-yard effort vs. Stanford, Jones now has 2,964 career rushing yards and will finish his career in fourth place on the Notre Dame career rushing list. Third place is out of reach for Jones as Ferguson ended his career with 3,472 yards.

Julius Jones has three 200-yard games this season and is one of only two players in the country who can boast such a feat. The other is Patrick Cobbs of North Texas who has four 200-yard games in ’03. Jones is also the first player in Notre Dame history to have three 200-yard games in a season or a career.

Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn has opened some eyes with his poise and confidence under center this season. The Dublin, Ohio, native is one of only six true freshmen in the nation to start a game at quarterback this season, having completed 139 of 298 passes for 1,632 yards and eight touchdowns with 13 interceptions. His completions, attempts and passing yards all are the most by an Irish quarterback in his freshman season since 1951, topping the previous marks held by Steve Beuerlein in 1983 (75 of 145 for 1,061 yards). Quinn’s eight passing TDs also are second only to Matt LoVecchio’s 11 scoring tosses in 2000.

Quinn’s strongest performance to date came at Boston College on Oct. 25. The Irish rookie completed 59 percent of his passes (23 of 39) for a career-best 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His 350 yards through the air were the most by a Notre Dame quarterback since Nov. 25, 1978, when Joe Montana threw for 358 yards in a loss at USC.

Quinn made his first career start at Purdue on Sept. 27, completing 29 of 59 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions. His 29 completions were the most by an Irish quarterback since Ron Powlus connected 31 times at Purdue in 1997 and the 59 attempts were the second-most in school history behind Terry Hanratty’s 63 passes at Purdue in 1967. In addition, Quinn’s passing yardage total was the best by a Notre Dame quarterback in his first start since Hanratty threw for 304 yards in that game at Purdue in 1967. Quinn’s yardage total also was the best by an Irish first-time freshman starting QB in the last 53 seasons.

Quinn also had two touchdown strikes against Stanford as he found junior Matt Shelton on a 65-yard bomb and sophomore Maurice Stovall on a 45-yard score. Against the Cardinal, Quinn was an efficient eight of 13 for 177 yards.

Senior wide receiver Omar Jenkins has always had the reputation of being a reliable sure-handed receiver and he has done nothing to dispute that notion this season, ranking second on the team with 35 catches for 334 yards and one touchdown. He also is climbing the Notre Dame career receiving yardage ladder, now ranking 18th with 1,078 yards through the air. He became the 21st Irish player to amass 1,000 career receiving yards on Nov. 1 with 73 yards vs. Florida State. The next five players on the Notre Dame career receiving chart are all packed tightly together and Jenkins needs only 120 yards to pass Lake Dawson (1,197 from 1990-93) and move all the way into 14th place on that all-time list.

Notre Dame had a season-high 10 different players catch passes in its loss at Boston College on Oct. 25. It was the highest number of pass-catchers the Irish have had in a single game since Oct. 16, 1999, when 10 Notre Dame players had a reception in a 25-24 come-from-behind win over USC at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish had eight different players with a reception on Nov. 29 vs. Stanford, marking the sixth time this season that the Irish have had at least eight players catch a pass. All told, 16 different players have at least one reception this season, including senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday (1-10), who recently has been spending some time at wide receiver, and junior right guard Dan Stevenson, who caught a deflected pass for a one-yard gain vs. Michigan State. This is the second consecutive season in which Notre Dame has had 16 players with a reception. The last time the Irish had more than 16 pass-catchers in a season was 1986, when 17 different players caught a pass during Lou Holtz’s first campaign at Notre Dame.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been a menace for opposing quarterbacks this season. For the season, Tuck leads the Irish in sacks (13.5), tackles for loss (19.0) and forced fumbles (three), and he is second on the team with 72 tackles. The Kellyton, Ala., product broke the Notre Dame single-season sack record against Stanford last week and ranks among the national leaders with 1.23 sacks per game, with 12.5 of his 13.5 sacks coming in the last nine games.Tuck broke the previous single-season sack campaign set by both Bert Berry (10 sacks in 1996) and Mike Gann (10 sacks in 1984) as sack records at Notre Dame go back to 1982. Meanwhile, Tuck’s tackles for loss total is the highest since Anthony Weaver had 21 stops behind the line in 2001.

His best performance to date came on Oct. 11 at No. 15 Pittsburgh, when he wound up with a career-high 10 tackles, a then career-best 3.5 sacks (part of an eight-sack night by the Irish) and a forced fumble in Notre Dame’s 20-14 win over the Panthers. He then added a career-high 14 tackles, including two for loss and 1.5 sacks, as well as another forced fumble vs. Navy. Against Stanford, Tuck, surpassed his career-high with 4.0 sacks and led the Irish with seven tackles, including five solos and four for loss.

Notre Dame’s 27-24 win over Navy on Nov. 8 continued a trend of remarkable Irish victories that began last season. The Irish now are 9-3 (.750) in games decided by eight points or less since Tyrone Willingham took over as the Notre Dame head coach prior to last season. The only times the Irish have not won a close ball game under Willingham’s guidance were against Boston College in 2002 (14-7) and 2003 (27-25), as well as this season’s matchup vs. Michigan State (22-16).

Fourth-quarter comebacks also aren’t anything new to Notre Dame in the Willingham era. After rallying from a 24-21 deficit to beat Navy, the Irish now have won six times during the past two seasons when they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter. That includes a 29-26 overtime win over Washington State in the season opener back on Sept. 6. Notre Dame nearly added a third comeback win to that total against Boston College on Oct. 25, rallying from a 24-12 fourth-quarter deficit to take a 25-24 lead before the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal with 38 seconds remaining.

Prior to this season, only seven Notre Dame wins since 1961 had occurred on the game’s final play. That heartstopping feat has happened twice this season, thanks to a 40-yard field goal each time. Senior kicker Nicholas Setta did the honors in the season-opening overtime win over Washington State and junior kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick got his turn in the spotlight with his game-winning boot vs. Navy. The last time the Irish won twice on the last play of the game was 2000, when Setta kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to beat Purdue and Joey Getherall scored on a nine-yard run in overtime to defeat Air Force. Here’s a rundown of the nine “walk-off” wins for Notre Dame since 1961:

  • Joe Perkowski – 41-yard field goal vs. Syracuse (17-15) in 1961
  • Joe Unis – extra point following Joe Montana’s eight-yard TD pass to Kris Haines in Cotton Bowl vs. Houston (35-34) in 1979
  • Harry Oliver – 51-yard field goal vs. Michigan (29-27) in 1980
  • John Carney – 19-yard field goal vs. USC (38-37) in 1986
  • Jim Sanson – 39-yard field goal vs. Texas (27-24) in 1996
  • Nicholas Setta – 38-yard field goal vs. Purdue (23-21) in 2000
  • Joey Getherall – nine-yard run in overtime vs. Air Force (34-31) in 2000
  • Nicholas Setta – 40-yard field goal in overtime vs. Washington State (29-26) in 2003
  • D.J. Fitzpatrick – 40-yard field goal vs. Navy (27-24) in 2003

The return game has been a source of strength for Notre Dame over the past five seasons. The Irish have logged 26 returns (punts, kickoffs, fumbles, interceptions) for touchdowns in that time, a figure that ranks ninth in the country. Here’s a look at the national leaders in touchdown returns since 1999 (research courtesy of the University of Colorado athletic media relations office < bowl=”” games=”” counted=”” separately):=””>


  • During the past 17-plus seasons (’86-’03), Notre Dame has produced 80 TDs via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns ?- including Quentin Burrell’s 65-yard and Garron Bible’s 48-yard fumble returns against Stanford and Carlos Campbell’s 25-yard blocked punt return earlier this season at Boston College and the following returns from 2002: Vontez Duff’s 76-yard punt return vs. Maryland, Duff’s 33-yard interception return, Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return and Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return vs. Purdue, Shane Walton’s 18-yard interception return and Courtney Watson’s 34-yard interception return against Stanford, Duff’s 92-yard kickoff return vs. Navy, Walton’s 45-yard interception return against Rutgers and Carlos Pierre-Antoine’s 27-yard blocked punt return at USC.
  • Irish opponents in the past 17-plus seasons have combined for just 22 total returns for touchdowns.
  • The ’02 Irish joined the ’93 and ’00 teams as the only squads to return at least one punt, kickoff, interception and fumble for TDs.
  • Among current Notre Dame players, senior cornerback Vontez Duff has four touchdown returns (2 KR, 1 PR, 1 INT), senior running back Julius Jones has two TD returns (1 KR, 1 PR) and senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson also has two touchdown runbacks (2 INT). Allen Rossum holds the school and NCAA record for most TDs on runbacks with nine (3 KR, 3 PR, 3 INT) from 1994-97.
  • Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of the Irish return touchdowns since 1986:

Senior kicker Nicholas Setta has been successful on his last nine field goal attempts after a low snap caused him to come up short on his first try of the year (a 47-yarder vs. Washington State). Setta’s current streak is the second-longest of his career, topped only by a run of 10 straight treys spanning the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Mike Johnston holds the record with 13 consecutive field goals made from Sept. 18-Oct. 23, 1982, hitting on his first 13 attempts of the year, including a game-tying kick at Oregon. Johnston saw his streak come to an end the following week on Oct. 30, 1982, when Navy blocked his 34-yard attempt in the first quarter.

The Washington State game was the fifth overtime contest in Notre Dame history and the first since a 34-31 win over Air Force on Oct. 28, 2000. The Irish are 2-3 when they are pushed to an extra session (2-2 at home), and have won both games in which they won the overtime coin toss.

One other OT tidbit: senior safety Glenn Earl has played a key role in each of the last two overtime wins for the Irish. Against Air Force in 2000, Earl blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation, allowing Notre Dame to go on and win on Joey Getherall’s nine-yard TD run in the extra period. Earlier this season against Washington State, Earl broke up a third-down pass intended for WSU’s Scott Lunde, forcing the Cougars to try a 34-yard field goal that missed, opening the door for the Irish to win on Nicholas Setta’s 40-yard field goal.

Notre Dame has recorded 24 takeaways (14 FUM, 10 INT) through 11 games this season, coming up with three turnovers in five outings (Washington State, Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, BYU and Stanford) and averaging more than two takeaways per game. However, that shouldn’t come as any surprise to recent followers of Irish football. Over the past three seasons (2001-03), Notre Dame has forced two or more turnovers in 25 of its last 35 games, including 20 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways. The Irish forced a season-high four turnovers vs. BYU, matching their best performance in Tyrone Willingham’s two seasons at Notre Dame (also achieved last season vs. Purdue, Michigan and Florida State).

Six true freshmen have played for Notre Dame this season. Defensive end Victor Abiamiri, offensive tackle Ryan Harris, wide receiver Chinedum Ndukwe, defensive back Freddie Parish IV, quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija all have made significant contributions in 2003, giving Irish fans good reason to feel optimistic about the future.

Abiamiri has made 18 tackles (three for loss), including a career-high seven tackles in his first start vs. Michigan State, in earning freshman All-America honorable mention honors. He also picked up the first sack of his career at Pittsburgh and with an injury to senior Kyle Budinscak, Abiamiri now has become a mainstay in the starting lineup over the last three games (Florida State, Navy and BYU). Meanwhile, Parish has three tackles in eight games and Samardzija has caught seven passes for 53 yards, including a career-high four receptions at Purdue (the same game that saw Ndukwe catch his first career pass).

Perhaps the most high-profile rookie starter for the Irish has been Quinn, who cracked the lineup for the first time at Purdue, becoming only the seventh freshman starting QB for Notre Dame in the last 53 seasons. Quinn was 29 of 59 for 297 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions against the Boilermakers, posting the most passing yards by any rookie signal-caller since 1951. He then threw for 350 yards and had his first two-TD game on Oct. 25 at Boston College, piling up the most passing yardage by an Irish quarterback in 25 years. For the season, Quinn is 139 of 298 for 1,632 yards with eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His pass completions, attempts and yardage all rank as the most by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback since 1951, and his eight TD passes are second only to Matt LoVecchio’s 11 scoring tosses in 2000.

Harris was the latest Irish freshman to make his debut, but what a debut it was, coming on the scene at No. 15 Pittsburgh. After not appearing in Notre Dame’s first four games, the St. Paul, Minn., native not only saw action against the Panthers, but started at right tackle and was part of the Irish offensive line that helped roll up a season-high 352 yards rushing, the most by Notre Dame in four years. Counting the Pittsburgh game, he has started the last seven games for the Irish and was named a first-team freshman All-American by Harris joined an elite club against Pittsburgh, becoming just the third Irish freshman to start on the offensive line in the last 30 years < mike=”” rosenthal=”” started=”” against=”” ohio=”” state,=”” usc=”” and=”” air=”” force=”” in=”” 1995,=”” while=””>Brad Williams made starts against Navy and Boston College in 1996.

One other freshman note: five of the aforementioned rookies (all but Harris) played against Washington State, marking the first time five freshmen have played for the Irish in a season opener since Aug. 28, 1999. On that afternoon, Jason Beckstrom, Joey Hildbold, Julius Jones, Gerome Sapp and Chris Yura all participated in a 48-13 Irish rout of Kansas in the State of Indiana Eddie Robinson Classic. Beckstrom and Jones now are seniors on the 2003 Irish roster.

Victor Abiamiri has started five times this season (Michigan State, Florida State, Navy, BYU and Stanford), marking the first time a Notre Dame freshman started on the defensive line since Anthony Weaver got the call against Georgia Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl. Abiamiri made the most of his first starting assignment, rolling up seven tackles, including six solo stops against MSU. Prior to Weaver’s start against Georgia Tech, the last Irish freshmen to start on the defensive line were Germaine Holden and John Taliaferro, who both were in the lineup against Tennessee on Nov. 9, 1991.

Weaver made 10 starts during his freshman season and went on to rank second on Notre Dame’s season and career tackles-for-loss charts behind two-time unanimous All-American and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame selection Ross Browner. Weaver now is in his second season as a defensive end for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

Freshman Ryan Harris has made a huge difference in the Notre Dame running attack since entering the lineup against Pittsburgh in the fifth game of the season. Harris, who is only the third freshman to start on the offensive line in Notre Dame history (joining Brad Williams and Mike Rosenthal), created huge openings for Julius Jones against the Panthers as he gained a school-record 262 yards. Jones also has rushing games of 221 against Navy, 161 against BYU and 218 versus Stanford, becoming the first player in Irish history to rush for over 200 yards in three games in both a season and a career.

Ryan Harris and Victor Abiamiri were named freshman All-Americas by Harris was named to the first team after starting the last seven games for the Irish, while Abiamiri was an honorable mention recipient. Harris joined the likes of fellow freshmen Chris Leak (Florida), Channing Chowder (Florida), Laurence Maroney (Minnesota) and Brian Smith (Missouri) on the first-team. Since Harris has entered the starting lineup, Julius Jones has rushed for 1,062 of his 1,214 (87.5%) yards this season.

Senior defensive end Kyle Budinscak and junior linebacker Brandon Hoyte were named CoSIDA first-team Academic All-District V selections on Nov. 13. Both advance to the national ballot for Academic All-America accolades announced later this month.

A native of Bridgewater, N.J., Budinscak is a three-time academic all-district first-team honoree. He started all eight games he played in 2003 before ending his season with a knee injury against Florida State. The senior registered 17 tackles this year, including three sacks and one fumble recovery. He is a mainstay on the Irish defense, which ranks among the top 35 in the nation in rushing and total defense.

Budinscak has a 3.53 overall grade-point average as a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business. He has been on the Dean’s List four times during his career and has been a three-time State Farm/Westwood One Student-Athlete of the Game. Budinscak is also active in the community participating in the Boys and Girls Club of South Bend and the Tackle The Arts program.

Hoyte earned his second academic all-district nod and his initial first-team selection this year after garnering second-team accolades in 2002. The native of Parlin, N.J., Hoyte has a 3.21 grade-point average in psychology and is a two-time State Farm/Westwood One Student-Athlete of the Game. He is also extremely active in the community as he is a primary contributor to Notre Dame’s Tackle the Arts program, volunteers at a local community center and hospital in South Bend, is a student assistant at the Kaneb Center of Teaching and Learning on campus, is a board representative for the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley and runs his own snack bar out of his dorm called Bullwinkles.

On the field, Hoyte is just as talented as he has started nine of 10 games for the Irish in 2003 with 60 tackles, including 37 solos. He has 7.5 tackles for loss and is currently third on the team in stops. He recorded a career-high 11 tackles versus Washington State and four tackles for loss against Purdue.

Before his current injury, senior Nicholas Setta was serving as the starting placekicker and punter for the Irish this season, marking the first time a Notre Dame player regularly filled both roles since Craig Hentrich turned the trick from 1989-92. Hentrich is now an all-pro punter with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and even booted three field goals as the Titans’ emergency kicker in their season-opening win over Oakland on Sept. 7.

Setta is in his fourth year as the Irish placekicker, having twice been named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List. He also has been selected as a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith’s each of the last two seasons. This year, he is aiming to break several Notre Dame records, including career field goal attempts (Setta is second with 66, while John Carney holds the record of 69 from 1984-86), career field goal made (Setta is second with 46, while Carney is first with 51), and career points by kicking (Setta is third with 242, while Hentrich owns the top mark of 294). In addition, Setta has made 92 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history behind Hentrich’s run of 136 straight PATs from 1989-92. Setta’s last missed PAT kick came on Oct. 7, 2000 vs. Stanford.

Setta was one of the primary sources of offense for Notre Dame through the first six games of the 2003 season. He connected on nine of 10 field-goal attempts (making his last nine in a row), including a perfect seven of seven on kicks inside of 40 yards, and is third on the Irish with 32 points this season.

Setta got his final season at Notre Dame off to a flying start against Washington State, matching his career high (and tying the school record) with five field goals in six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yard boot in overtime. He also set a new personal best with 17 points by kicking (five field goals, two PAT), one better than his previous high of 16, set in last year’s season opener vs. Maryland (five field goals, one PAT). Those 17 points vs. WSU helped push the Lockport, Ill., product into third place on the school’s career points-by-kicking list < he=”” now=”” has=”” 242=”” points=”” and=”” is=”” within=”” sight=”” of=”” dave=”” reeve,=”” who=”” is=”” second=”” all-time=”” with=”” 247=”” points=”” from=”” 1974-77.=”” setta=”” added=”” three=”” more=”” field=”” goals=”” on=”” as=”” many=”” attempts=”” against=”” michigan=”” state,=”” marking=”” the=”” fourth=”” time=”” in=”” his=”” career=”” he=”” has=”” kicked=”” three=”” field=”” goals=”” in=”” a=”” single=”” game.=””>

While he has a wealth of experience as a placekicker, Setta comes into this season having only served as a backup punter behind two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. However, while filling in for the injured Hildbold against Boston College in 2000, Setta did punt four times for 160 yards (a 40-yard average), including a career-long 47-yard boot in a 28-16 Irish victory. Setta was one of 32 candidates named to the ’03 Ray Guy Award preseason watch list and has backed up that selection through the first six weeks of the season, averaging 40.9 yards on 26 punts with three kicks dropped inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and six kicks of 50+ yards. He also boomed a career-long 54-yard punt on his first try of the season vs. Washington State and carded a career-high nine punts at Michigan for a 43.9-yard average (including a 51-yard kick).

Senior All-America linebacker Courtney Watson was one of 11 people named Sept. 17 to the 2003 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Football Team. The award recognizes players for their dedication and commitment to community service and all nominees must display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations in which they were involved.

Watson, who joins former defensive end Grant Irons as the only Irish players to win the award, was recognized for his extensive work within the University and South Bend communities. A native of Sarasota, Fla., Watson was responsible for creating and developing the football team’s community service initiative entitled Tackle The Arts. The program, now in its second year, partners with the St. Joseph Country Public Library in South Bend, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and the Notre Dame Marching Band in providing an interactive approach helping inspire children to explore different areas of the arts including reading, creative writing and poetry, drawing and music. In addition to providing scholastic support with area children, Watson also installed a food drive dimension to the event to benefit the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.

In conjunction with the 2003 Tackle the Arts event, Watson along with teammates Brandon Hoyte and Dan Stevenson, also played host to a picnic for at-risk children in the South Bend area. The children, who attended the picnic and later Tackle the Arts, were identified through the NCAA’s National Youth in Sports Program, the South Bend Housing Authority, the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Urban League of South Bend.

Additionally, Watson has made many surprise visits to the pediatric floor at Memorial Hospital in South Bend and has addressed the Jackson Middle School football team at its end of the year banquet. He has participated in the St. Joseph County City Bureau Youth Fest and made hospital visits while the Irish were in Jacksonville, Fla., playing in the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl.

Watson has also been very active in the Notre Dame community as he was nominated and then elected a member of the Notre Dame Student Senate in 2002-03. Meeting every Wednesday night, Watson and his fellow senators would discuss issues pertinent to the University community. He also served as a member of the Residence Life and Academic Council committees.

Watson is also a four-year participant, and two-time champion, in Notre Dame’s student-run basketball tournament called Bookstore Basketball, which is the largest five-on-five outdoor basketball tournament in America.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson was a preseason first-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News. Meanwhile, senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was a preseason first-team All-American according to Street & Smith’s and a second-team choice by Athlon. The latter publication also named senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard to its preseason All-America third team. Senior safety Glenn Earl, junior running back Ryan Grant and senior kicker/punter Nicholas Setta all were awarded preseason honorable mention All-America status by Street & Smith’s.

Athlon named the Irish linebacking corps the fourth-best unit in the country, while The Sporting News labelled them the ninth-best group in the land. In addition, Athlon selected the Notre Dame defensive line as the fifth-best unit in the nation.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson has been named to the preseason watch list for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year, the nation’s fourth-oldest individual accolade which is given annually by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. Through a vote of the 117 Division I-A head coach and sports information directors, the list will be cut to 10 semifinalists in early November, with the winner to be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The official award presentation is slated for Feb. 14, 2004, at the Walter Camp Football Foundation national awards banquet, which will be held in New Haven, Conn., at the Yale University Commons.

Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl have been named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association, based in Oklahoma City. Ten semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3, with the three finalists selected on Nov. 24. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for Feb. 9, 2004, in Oklahoma City.

Senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday has earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback by the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Fort Worth.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end by the Ted Hendricks Foundation in Chicago. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation set for February 2004 in Chicago.

Senior punter/placekicker Nicholas Setta has been named to the preseason watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is presented each year to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council. Ten semifinalists will be announced in early November and the three finalists will be chosen later that month. The winner will be announced Dec. 11 at the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show and will receive his award live during the broadcast.

Street & Smith’s tapped senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson for spots on its Butkus Award and Bednarik/Nagurski Award watch lists (as did Lindy’s). The former honor recognizes the country’s top linebacker, while the latter awards spotlight the nation’s best overall defensive player. In addition, Street & Smith’s placed senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior safety Glenn Earl on its watch list for the Thorpe Award (which goes to the top defensive back in the country), and the publication named senior kicker Nicholas Setta to its watch list for the Lou Groza Award (presented to the nation’s top kicker).

Senior Courtney Watson was tabbed the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Vontez Duff was rated the seventh-best cornerback and ninth-best all-purpose player by Lindy’s, and the nation’s 10th best as both a cornerback and kick returner by The Sporting News. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard was ranked the sixth-best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior safety Glenn Earl placed 14th among free safeties by The Sporting News and 19th by Lindy’s. Senior Mike Goolsby was rated 12th among the nation’s inside linebackers by Lindy’s, while junior Ryan Grant was 18th among running backs and senior Darrell Campbell was charted 19th among defensive linemen by the same publication.

Line –
The offensive line has been largely retooled for the Irish this season. Four of the five starters from last year were selected in the NFL Draft (and all four remain on active ’03 NFL rosters), taking with them more than 80 combined starts and nine combined seasons of starting experience. Senior right guard Sean Milligan (28:57 minutes played) is the lone holdover on the offensive line and he was expected to anchor the rebuilt 2003 crew. Milligan is a three-year monogram winner who played in all 13 games last season, playing a total of 266:27. He has made 19 career starts, including the first two games of 2003, but he has missed the last eight contests with an injury.

Junior Mark LeVoir has started and played every snap at left guard this year (the first 11 starts of his career) after spending the past two campaigns as a backup at both tackle positions. One of the largest linemen on the Irish roster this year (6-7, 320), LeVoir played in four games last season for a total of 10:09. Juniors Jeff Thompson and Darin Mitchell, along with sophomore Jamie Ryan all serve as the primary reserves at the guard spot for Notre Dame. Mitchell made his first career start vs. Michigan State and Ryan started at Purdue, replacing Milligan in the Irish lineup.

Besides Milligan, two other members of the Irish offensive line saw significant playing time last year. Senior tackle Jim Molinaro has started the last 14 games for the Irish, including 13 on the left end. On the other side of the line, junior right guard Dan Stevenson was thrust in the starting lineup at right tackle for last year’s Gator Bowl and played extremely well, cementing his presence on the line in 2003. Stevenson played a total of 82:23 in 11 games last season, seeing time as both a reserve guard and tackle. Stevenson started the first four games of this season at right tackle before shifting to his old postion of right guard in the last four contests, replacing Milligan. However, he suffered an injury vs. Florida State and did not play vs. Navy or BYU, but returned against Stanford. Freshman Ryan Harris has stepped in to fill Stevenson’s shoes at right tackle in the past five games and the new line setup paid off as the Irish rolled up their best rushing performance (352 yards) since 1999 against Pittsburgh and added their best passing total (350) in 24 years at Boston College. Harris also became only the third Notre Dame freshman to start on the offensive line in the last 30 years, joining Mike Rosenthal (1995) and Brad Williams (1996) in that elite group and earned Freshman All-American honors. Sophomore Brian Mattes was penciled in to be a backup tackle this year.

The battle to replace All-America center Jeff Faine was a tight one throughout preseason camp, with sophomore Bob Morton and junior Zachary Giles both competing for the starting spot. Morton earned the starting job in three of the first four games of the season, although Giles saw plenty of action against Washington State. In fact, the two ended up playing alongside one another (Giles at center, Morton at right guard) late in the WSU contest as the Irish were mounting their comeback win over the Cougars. When Morton succumbed to an injury prior to the Michigan State game, Giles stepped in against the Spartans and made his first career start. Morton returned to the lineup in the last five games, anchoring the line that sprung Julius Jones for a school-record 262 yards rushing at Pittsburgh and provided protection for Brady Quinn to throw for 350 yards, the most by an Irish signal-caller since 1978. Morton was injured late in the Florida State game, with Giles taking over to finish out that contest. However, Morton returned to start vs. Navy and helped allow Jones to post his second 200-yard rushing game of the season.

Backs –
Freshman Brady Quinn (139-298-1632, 8 TD, 13 INT) has taken over as the starting quarterback for the Irish, becoming only the seventh true freshman to start at QB for Notre Dame in the last 53 seasons. Quinn made his college debut against Washington State, coming in midway through the fourth quarter when Holiday was shaken up and directing the Irish on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. Quinn was three of 10 for 36 yards at Michigan before completing a season-best seven of 17 throws for 103 yards and his first career touchdown (a 29-yard pass to Rhema McKnight) vs. Michigan State. The Dublin, Ohio, native then made his first-ever start at Purdue, connecting on 29 of 59 passes for 297 yards with one TD and four interceptions. His 297 yards were the most by a Irish freshman QB in his debut since 1951 and his 85-yard second-quarter TD pass to Maurice Stovall was the third-longest strike in school history. At Boston College, Quinn continued his evolution by completing 23 of 39 passes (a .590 completion percentage) for 350 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. It was the first two-TD game of his career and the 350-yard effort was the most by a Notre Dame quarterback in 25 years. Against Navy, Quinn registered the first fourth-quarter comeback of his career, guiding Notre Dame on an 11-play, 62-yard drive in the final two minutes to set up D.J. Fitzpatrick’s game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired. Quinn continued his fine play with two long TD passes against Stanford.

Senior Carlyle Holiday (37-75-304, 1 TD, 4 INT; 1 catch for 10 yards) now serves as Quinn’s understudy after having been the starting quarterback for Notre Dame since the third week of the 2001 season. Last year was Holiday’s first in the new West Coast offense employed by head coach Tyrone Willingham and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, and the veteran signal-caller thrived, setting a school record with 126 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. A 2003 Davey O’Brien Award candidate, Holiday has the fifth-lowest interception percentage in school history (.0338), having thrown just 16 picks in 474 career pass attempts. He opened this season by connecting on a career-high 21 of 34 passes for 149 yards with one TD and one interception in the win over Washington State. In the last three games, Holiday has seen some time at wide receiver, logging his first reception of the season (and second of his career) for 10 yards at Boston College.

Meanwhile, junior Pat Dillingham gives the Irish another experienced option at quarterback behind Quinn and Holiday. Dillingham appeared in seven games last season, completing 41 of 81 passes for 434 yards and one touchdown. He carved a place in Irish history last season at Michigan State, throwing the game-winning 60-yard TD pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 to play. Dillingham also made his first career start vs. Stanford, throwing for 129 yards in a 31-7 victory.

Senior Julius Jones (team-high 209 rushes, team-high 1,214 yards, 10 TD) leads a veteran group of Irish running backs who are the main beneficiaries of Notre Dame’s new offensive style. After sitting out last season, Jones made a triumphant return to the Irish lineup against Washington State, carrying 11 times for 72 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run with 5:03 to play that put Notre Dame ahead for the first time. That was just an appetizer for the main course Jones served at Pittsburgh, rushing for a school-record 262 yards on 24 carries along with two touchdowns. He then added 221 yards on a 33 carries vs. Navy, making Jones the fourth player in school history to have two 200-yard games in one season. He then tacked on 161 yards and three touchdowns vs. BYU, the first three-TD game by an Irish back since Autry Denson also scored three times vs. Georgia Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl.

For his efforts vs. Pittsburgh, the Big Stone Gap, Va., native was named the national Player of the Week by The Sporting News, and Jones has started the past seven games, averaging 151.7 yards per game (6.4 yards per carry), and with his performance vs. BYU, he moved into fourth place on the Irish career rushing list (2,964), passing Jerome Heavens. He also became the eighth player in school history (and second in as many seasons) to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season and had his third 200-yard rushing game of the season and in his career becoming the first player in Irish history to accomplish such a feat.

Junior Ryan Grant (133 carries, 478 yards, 3 TDs) and junior Marcus Wilson (14-29) also have seen action out of the backfield this season. Fresh off a 1,000-yard season in 2002, Grant has started five times this year, picking up right where he left off in ’02 with 17 rushes for 98 yards against Washington State and 27 carries for 84 yards at Pittsburgh. He also posted 84 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford, his first three TDs of the ’03 season and the first three touchdown game of his career. In his career, he now has posted four 100-yard games and four other 90-yard efforts.

Junior Rashon Powers-Neal (4-15) has stepped into the starting lineup at fullback after serving as Grant’s primary understudy at tailback last season. A bruising back who deftly complements the fluid styles of Grant, Jones and Wilson, Powers-Neal carried 77 times for 344 yards and two touchdowns last season. Junior walk-on Josh Schmidt (10 catches for 91 yards) was the surprise of this year’s preseason camp, working his way into the starting lineup against BYU, along with sophomore Nate Schiccatano who opened some eyes with 24 yards rushing and a touchdown in the ’03 Blue-Gold Game. Schmidt has proven to be a dependable receiver out of the backfield, while Schiccatano has been a contributor on special teams, blocking a punt that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown at Boston College.

Receivers –
Junior Omar Jenkins (35-334, 1 TD) takes over as the leader of the unit after pulling in 37 balls for 633 yards and three touchdowns last season. He wasted little time in showing the way for the Irish pass-catchers, tying his career high with five catches for 46 yards vs. WSU. He had five more receptions for 29 yards in the loss at Purdue and added a critical third-down reception late in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh to seal that victory. He then caught four passes for 35 yards and his first TD of the season at Boston College. Jenkins tied his career high with five receptions for 73 yards against Florida State, including a season-long 42-yard grab. Also against FSU, the Dallas native became the 21st Irish player to log 1,000 receiving yards in his career (now standing 18th with 1,078 yards). Sophomore Rhema McKnight (team-high 43-559, 3 TD) has started eight games for the Irish at the other wideout position, scoring touchdowns vs. Michigan, Michigan State and Navy, while logging a career-high eight catches and his first career 100-yard game (104) vs. MSU. He then chalked up four catches for a career-high 121 yards at Boston College and matched his career best with eight receptions for 98 yards vs. BYU. Rangy sophomore Maurice Stovall (20-361, 3 TD), senior Ronnie Rodamer and junior Matt Shelton (2-74, 1 TD) all can stretch defenses vertically and have seen significant time in Notre Dame’s balanced offensive scheme. Stovall, who has made two starts this season, erupted for a career-high nine catches and 171 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown at Purdue. It was the highest receiving yardage total by an Irish wideout since 1999. He also contributed three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown at Boston College. Freshman receivers Chinedum Ndukwe (3-1) and Jeff Samardzija (7-53) also have been heard from this season, with the latter amassing a season-high four catches for 18 yards at Purdue.

Senior Billy Palmer (1-13) has been the starting tight end for the Irish in seven games this season after appearing in all 13 games last year. He has started nine times in his career and caught the second pass of his career for 13 yards against Michigan State. Sophomore Anthony Fasano (15-148, 1 TD) has made exceptional strides in recent weeks and is the fourth-leading receiver on the team this year. Fasano registered his first career reception, a 19-yard grab, at Michigan, added a 15-yard reception against Michigan State, then made his first career start at Pittsburgh and collected two catches for 15 yards. He followed that up against USC with a career-best four receptions for 33 yards and his first career touchdown, a diving two-yard grab in the first quarter. He then returned to the lineup at Boston College as part of a two tight end formation and wound up with a game-high four catches for a career-best 48 yards, before collecting three catches for 18 yards vs. Florida State. However, an injury kept him sidelined for the Navy game and he returned for limited duty vs. BYU. Senior tight end Jared Clark (15-142), a converted quarterback, also has seen significant action this season, starting vs. Purdue and BYU and tying Fasano for fourth on the team in catches and yardage. He tied his personal best with four receptions for 28 yards against Washington State and also had a team-high 39 yards receiving on two catches at Michigan. Sophomore Marcus Freeman also is contending for playing time this season, although his primary action has come on special teams thus far.

Line –
One of the strengths of this year’s Irish squad is its defensive line, where three starters are back in the fold. Senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (24 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two sacks, one PBU) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (26 tackles, 1.5 for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one PBU) both provide a formidable obstacle for opponents in the middle of the line. Campbell had a solid game vs. Florida State, finishing with five tackles and a sack against the Seminoles. Meanwhile, Hilliard was a factor in the season opener vs. Washington State, finishing with four tackles and his first career fumble recovery despite not starting. He has been in the starting lineup for seven games this season, carding a season-high six tackles vs. Navy. Sophomore Derek Landri (nine tackles, 1.5 TFL, one fumble recovery, one PBU) made his first career start vs. WSU in place of Hilliard and logged his first career tackle at Michigan before adding two tackles (0.5 for loss) at Purdue. He also recovered a fumble late in the first half at Pittsburgh, setting up the eventual game-winning field goal. Senior Greg Pauly (15 tackles, two TFL, 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery) also has seen time in the middle of the defensive line, adding two tackles (0.5 TFL) in a reserve role against Washington State. With Hilliard hobbled by injuries vs. Pittsburgh and USC, Pauly started both times (the fourth and fifth starts of his career) and had three tackles at Pittsburgh. He then came off the bench at Boston College, logging a career-high four tackles and a sack before coming up with his first career fumble recovery vs. BYU. Junior Brian Beidatsch (four tackles, one fumble recovery) is the primary backup at the interior line spots and has seen limited action in seven games this year, notching his first career fumble recovery at Michigan. Senior right end Kyle Budinscak (17 tackles, four TFL, three sacks, one fumble recovery), the other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line, is in his second season as a starter (22 career starts). A three-time Academic All-District selection, Budinscak chalked up a career-high two sacks in the win over Washington State. He also added his first career fumble recovery against Michigan State, but saw his season come to an abrupt end with a knee injury midway through the Florida State game. Junior end Justin Tuck (72 tackles, team-high 19 TFL, team-high 13.5 sacks, team-high three forced fumbles, two PBU), a pass-rushing specialist with exceptional quickness, had started just one game in his career prior to this season, but has cracked the lineup in nine games this year, tallying four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble vs. Washington State, adding five tackles at Michigan and seven tackles and 1.5 sacks at Purdue. However, his best performance to date came at Pittsburgh, when he rolled up a career-high 10 tackles, including 3.5 sacks, and added a forced fumble in the win over the Panthers. Tuck then added eight tackles (two for loss) and a sack against USC and piled up a career-high 14 tackles, including two for loss and 1.5 sacks against Navy. He also was credited with eight tackles and two tackles for loss (including one sack) vs. BYU and had a career-high four sacks and seven tackles against Stanford. Tuck currently ranks among the national leaders with1.13 sacks and 1.72 tackles for loss per game and his 13.5 sacks are the most in school history. Highly-touted freshman Victor Abiamiri (18 tackles, three TFL, one sack) and sophomore Travis Leitko (eight tackles, one forced fumble) both serve as the top understudies at the defensive end positions. Abiamiri earned the starting nod against Michigan State and did not disappoint, registering seven tackles (six solo). He added his first career sack at Pittsburgh and has started the last two games vs. Florida State and Navy. Abiamiri is only the second freshman to start on the defensive line for Notre Dame since 1991, joining Anthony Weaver in that elite group. Meanwhile, Leitko saw his first action on defense vs. Navy, logging two tackles, before erupting for a career-high five tackles and a forced fumble vs. BYU.

Linebackers –
All three starting linebackers return for the Irish this season, led by senior inside linebackers and Butkus Award candidates Courtney Watson (team and career-high 107 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one INT, two PBU) and Mike Goolsby. Watson, a 2002 Butkus Award finalist and ’03 Butkus Award semifinalist, led the team with 90 tackles last year despite missing three games due to injury. He sat out the Washington State game, but returned with a vengeance against Michigan and Michigan State, logging a team-high 12 tackles (one for loss) in each game. He also forced an early fumble at Michigan, added a season-best 14 tackles against USC and had 13 tackles (12 solo) at Boston College. He then collected 11 tackles and a season-best three tackles for loss vs. Florida State before chiming in with 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and 0.5 sacks vs. Navy. In his final home game at Notre Dame, Watson went out in style, rolling up 12 tackles, including a career-high five for losses, with 1.5 sacks and a first-quarter interception. Watson leads the Irish in total tackles and solo tackles (62), is second in tackles for loss and has posted double-digit tackle marks in eight of his 10 outings this season. Goolsby was third on the squad with 75 tackles last season, but currently is sidelined with an injury. Junior Brandon Hoyte (career-high 66 tackles, 7.5 for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble, two PBU) has stepped in for Goolsby this season, carding a career-high 11 tackles vs. Washington State, adding 10 stops and his second career fumble recovery at Michigan and logging two tackles for loss at Purdue (he is third on the team in TFL). Senior Derek Curry (career-high 61 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, two INT, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery) mans the outside linebacker post and sparkled in the season opener vs. Washington State, logging seven tackles and his first career interception. He also chalked up a career-high two sacks at Purdue and added another at Pittsburgh before carding eight tackles against USC. He then erupted for a career-high 11 tackles (all solo) at Boston College, added a fumble recovery vs. Navy and plucked his second interception of the year against BYU. Junior Corey Mays (24 tackles, 3.5 TFL, one scak, one forced fumble, one blocked kick) started in place of Watson vs. Washington State and had a four tackles at Michigan and a career-high five tackles versus Stanford. He also has been effective on special teams, blocking a punt vs. USC and tackling the Boston College punter for a heavy loss. Besides Mays, senior Jerome Collins (seven tackles, one TFL) is the other main linebacker reserve.

Backs –
Even with the loss of unanimous All-America cornerback Shane Walton and strong safety Gerome Sapp to the NFL, the Irish secondary is particularly sturdy in 2003. Senior cornerback Vontez Duff (33 tackles, two TFL, one INT, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, team-high three PBU) was a third-team All-American last year who has started the last 32 games for the Irish. He collected a season-high six tackles vs. USC and added a fumble recovery at Boston College before returning an interception 55 yards against Florida State. Meanwhile, hard-hitting senior strong safety Glenn Earl (35 tackles, 1.5 TFL, one sack, one fumble recovery, one INT, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two PBU) wound up tied for second on the team with 81 tackles last year. Both Duff and Earl were preseason candidates for the Jim Thorpe Award and both were key parts of the win over Washington State < duff=”” forced=”” a=”” critical=”” fourth-quarter=”” fumble=”” and=”” earl=”” recovered=”” the=”” loose=”” pigskin=”” to=”” help=”” ignite=”” a=”” 20-point=”” irish=”” rally.=”” earl=”” also=”” registered=”” a=”” season-high=”” 10=”” tackles=”” at=”” michigan=”” before=”” adding=”” six=”” stops=”” and=”” an=”” interception=”” against=”” michigan=”” state.=”” he=”” then=”” shifted=”” over=”” to=”” strong=”” safety=”” for=”” the=”” first=”” time=”” in=”” his=”” career,=”” starting=”” at=”” that=”” position=”” for=”” the=”” purdue,=”” pittsburgh=”” and=”” usc=”” games,=”” logging=”” seven=”” tackles=”” against=”” usc.=”” however,=”” he=”” suffered=”” a=”” knee=”” injury=”” vs.=”” the=”” trojans=”” which=”” will=”” sideline=”” him=”” for=”” the=”” rest=”” of=”” the=”” season.=”” junior=””>Quentin Burrell (career-high 49 tackles ranking fifth, one TFL, 0.5 sacks, three INT, two fumble recoveries including one for a TD against Stanford, two PBU) was used primarily as the Irish dime back in the first three games, picking off a pass against Michigan State. However, he has made the first starts of his career at free safety in the last eigth contests, logging five tackles against Purdue and USC and adding a fumble recovery in the latter game. He then piled up six tackles at Boston College, registered a career-high 10 tackles (six solo) vs. Navy and carded eight tackles with another interception against BYU, moving into fifth among Irish tacklers this season. Against Stanford, Burrell recorded a fumble return for a TD and an interception. Senior Garron Bible (27 tackles, one TFL, two fumble recovery including one for a TD against Stanford, one forced fumble) started the first three games this season at strong safety after having had only two career starts entering 2003. He tied his career high with seven tackles against both Washington State and Michigan and added his second career fumble recovery against the Wolverines. With the injury to Earl, Bible has returned to the lineup vs. Boston College, Navy and BYU, while coming off the bench against Florida State. He had six tackles, including one for loss, and added a forced fumble vs. Navy. Meanwhile, the competition to replace Walton at the other cornerback position was tight between seniors Jason Beckstrom (22 tackles, one TFL, one INT, one PBU) and Preston Jackson (24 tackles, one INT, one TFL), as well as junior Dwight Ellick (19 tackles, two PBU, one QB hurry). Beckstrom missed all of last season with a torn biceps, while Jackson appeared in every game last year (starting once). At the same time, Ellick is a former all-BIG EAST track standout who has played in 31 career games, mostly on special teams. Jackson got the starting call in the first four games this season, picking up a career-high eight tackles at Michigan. All three men saw extensive time in the win over Washington State, but Ellick did not play in the Michigan or Michigan State game. Beckstrom sparkled against MSU, turning in a career-high six tackles and was rewarded with a start at Purdue as the Irish began in a nickel package. Ellick got his turn in the lineup in four games (Pittsburgh, USC, Boston College and Florida State), making the first starts of his career and collecting a career-best nine tackles against USC. Both Beckstrom and Jackson stood out against Florida State, each coming up with an interception. Beckstrom was rewarded with his first start of the season vs. Navy and he came up with four solo tackles, including one for loss. Jackson then joined Beckstrom in another nickel formation to open the BYU game. Junior Lionel Bolen (12 tackles, 0.5 TFL) and freshman Freddie Parish IV (six tackles) head up the reserve secondary unit. Parish has appeared in nine contests, mainly in nickel and dime situations as well as special teams, while Bolen had a career-high four tackles at Boston College and made his first career start vs. Florida State, winding up with three stops vs. the Seminoles.

Senior Nicholas Setta has taken on the dual role of placekicker and punter in 2003, becoming the first person to hold down both positions for the Irish since Craig Hentrich from 1989-92. A two-time Lou Groza Award candidate, Setta is now in his fourth season as Notre Dame’s kicker this year, setting his sights on several school records. He has made 46 career field goals (five shy of John Carney’s mark) and is third on the Irish career points-by-kicking chart (242, record is 294 by Hentrich). In addition, Setta has made 92 consecutive PAT kicks, the second-longest streak in school history (136 by Hentrich from 1989-92). Setta got his final season off to a terrific start against Washington State, tying his career best with five field goals on six attempts, including the game-winning 40-yarder in overtime. He also established a new personal best with 17 points by kicking, one more than his previous high set in the ’02 opener vs. Maryland. The Lockport, Ill., native then made all three of his field goal attempts against Michigan State, marking the fourth time in his career he has made at least three field goals in one game. For the season, Setta is nine for 10 on field goals, including seven of seven inside 40 yards and his nine consecutive field goals stands as the third-longest streak in school history, four away from Mike Johnston’s mark of 13 set back in 1982.

This season marks Setta’s first as the everyday punter following the departure of two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist Joey Hildbold. Setta, a 2003 Ray Guy Award candidate, has easily slipped into his second job, averaging 40.9 yards on 26 punts this season, including a 43.9-yard average on a career-high nine punts at Michigan. Setta also has boomed six 50-yard punts this year, including a career-long 54-yard shot on his first kick of the season in the win over Washington State. However, Setta has been sidelined the past five games with an injury.

Junior walk-on offensive lineman Casey Dunn (70 special teams appearances) and sophomore Scott Raridon (50 special teams appearances) are splitting time as the Irish snappers, taking over for the departed John Crowther. Meanwhile, junior reserve kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick (10-15 FG, 17-18 PAT, 36.4-yard punting average) has assumed Hildbold’s role as the holder on placement kicks, while also backing up Setta at both kicking positions. Fitzpatrick has been called upon to replace Setta in the lineup over the last five games, and the Mishawaka, Ind., native has not wavered, kicking a pair of field goals (19 and 34 yards) and adding a PAT at Pittsburgh, all of which proved to be critical in the six-point Irish win. He then converted both of his field goal attempts (27 and 38 yards) and only PAT try at Boston College. However, his season highlight came against Navy, when he kicked the game-winning 40-yard field goal (the longest of his career) as time expired. Fitzpatrick followed up that outing by nailing a career-high four field goals in four tries vs. BYU and he now is second on the team with 47 points scored this year.

Seniors Vontez Duff and Julius Jones make up a formidable kick return crew for Notre Dame, with both players rankiing among the school’s all-time leaders in four career return categories. Duff rang up 50 yards on two kickoff runbacks at Boston College, pushing him into fourth place on Notre Dame’s career kickoff return yardage list (now with 1,239). In addition, he has 120 career total kick returns (punts and kickoffs), which is first all-time at Notre Dame, and 1,955 career total kick return yards, which is good for third place in the Irish record books. Meanwhile, Jones leads the Irish and ranks 21st in the nation in all-purpose yardage (137.45 ypg.) this season and ranks as the school’s all-time leader in three career return categories. With one kickoff return for 18 yards at Boston College, he supplanted 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown as Notre Dame’s career leader for total kick return yardage (2,104 and counting). Earlier this season, he passed Brown to become the Irish all-time leader in kickoff returns (72) and kickoff returns yardage (1,678).

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 160 of its previous 184 games, including 24 of its last 25 games (last week’s Stanford game was not a sellout). On Sept. 13 at Michigan, the Irish and Wolverines helped bring in the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of that series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represents the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been a part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002).

Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2003 ranked among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 54,244 ticket requests for the Oct. 18 game vs. USC, making it the fourth-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Nov. 1 Notre Dame-Florida State game garnered 51,051 requests, placing it fifth on the all-time list. In fact, Notre Dame set a record by refunding $5.1 million to lottery losers in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni. That total easily exceeded last year’s mark of $2.1 million and outdistanced the old refund record of $3.8 million in 2001.

The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game 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.=””>

With Notre Dame’s 2003 home schedule now complete, the Irish have posted 173 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 221 in their last 222 home games.

The following 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 26 years. This year’s schedule currently is ranked as the second-toughest in the nation by the NCAA (as of Nov. 30).

Once again, Notre Dame is facing one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish played four of their first eight games against teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 2/2 USC, No. 4/4 Michigan, No. 9/9 Florida State, No. 11/12 Purdue, No. 15/14 Washington State). In addition, Pittsburgh, who was ranked all season, and Michigan State are receiving votes in both national polls this week. Seven of the 12 foes on this year’s Notre Dame’s schedule went to bowl games last season, highlighted by three Bowl Championship Series qualifiers (Washington State, USC, Florida State). All of this comes on the heels of the 2002 Irish schedule, which was ranked 28th in the nation.

According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Nov. 30), Notre Dame has the second-toughest schedule in the nation.

In addition, based upon past opposition only, the most recent NCAA and USA Today/Sagarin ratings have ranked Notre Dame’s schedule the toughest in the nation. The first 11 opponents on the Irish schedule have a current combined record of 85-44 (.659), just behind Alabama, whose past opponents have a combined mark of 98-44 (.690).

Furthermore, the latest data compiled by Pythagoras Sports shows that Notre Dame has one of the nation’s most demanding schedule, based both on quality of opposition (nine of the 10 Irish opponents to date have winning records, the second-highest percentage in the nation behind Alabama) and Division I-A wins per opponent (Notre Dame’s first 10 foes have averaged 7.73 wins vs. I-A opposition, leading the nation in that category).

Notre Dame’s penchant for playing the best teams in the country is well known. In fact, over the last 17 seasons (1987-2003), the Irish have played 82 games against ranked opponents, an average of nearly five games per season. Notre Dame has posted a record of 43-37-2 (.537) in these games, including a 22-12-1 (.643) mark against ranked teams at home.

For the second consecutive season and the third time in the 115-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season.

With Saturday’s Syracuse game slated to be televised on a national basis by ABC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 136 straight games, a stretch that spans 10 full seasons (1993-2003). The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was more than 11 years ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.

In addition to continuing its streak of consecutive games played on one of the four major television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN), Notre Dame is being spotlighted on the small screen in several other ways during the 2003 season. Here’s a thumbnail look at each of the individual TV projects which are featuring the Irish this year:


ESPN filmed “The Season: Notre Dame Football” in South Bend throughout the ’03 campaign. Crews from the network attended practice sessions, team meals and other team-related activities and conducted regular interviews with Irish players and coaches.


ESPN College GameDay is celebrating its 10th season of live remotes from college football’s top games. In recognition of its first-ever road trip (a Nov. 13, 1993 journey to South Bend for the game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame) is airing weekly all-access features on the Irish adapted from its feature presentation, “The Season: Notre Dame Football.” Former Irish flanker and two-time All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail lends more of a Notre Dame flavor to “College GameDay” this year as he joins the crew for regular contributions.


College Sports Television (CSTV), the nation’s new 24-hour cable channel devoted exclusively to college sports, highlights Irish athletics on Sunday nights (8-9 p.m. ET) in a show called “Notre Dame Primetime.” The program, which is co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics. In addition to its regular Sunday night broadcast, the show also airs on a delayed basis Mondays at 7 p.m. (ET) on WHME-TV (Channel 46) in South Bend.


Besides these features, Notre Dame is now in the 13th season of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2005. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) recently completed their third full season broadcasting the action for NBC.

Seven former Irish players were selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, the most of any school in the country with the exception of Florida and Ohio State (eight each). Leading the way was center Jeff Faine, who was chosen in the first round (21st overall) by the Cleveland Browns. Notre Dame now has had 58 opening-round selections, which ranks second only to USC (62) in the 67-year history of the NFL Draft.

Joining Faine in Notre Dame’s ’03 draft class were: offensive tackle Jordan Black (fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs), offensive guard Sean Mahan (fifth round by the Tampa Buccaneers), cornerback Shane Walton (fifth round by the St. Louis Rams), strong safety Gerome Sapp (sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens), wide receiver Arnaz Battle (sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers) and offensive tackle Brennan Curtin (sixth round by the Green Bay Packers). All seven Notre Dame players selected in the 2003 NFL Draft made the final cut and were on their teams’ opening-day rosters.

The Notre Dame football squad recently has had four of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the past four semesters (2001-03). In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished (at the time) 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. In the fall of ’02, the Irish logged a 2.835 team GPA, followed by a 2.79 average in the spring of ’03. Eight players made the Dean’s List in both of the last two semesters, while 43 players had a “B” or better during the fall of 2002, and 50 more reached that mark in the spring of 2003.

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. Duke won the 2003 overall award with a 100 percent graduation rate.

Notre Dame has been recognized 22 of 23 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 (at the time) 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. In 2002, 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 president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club, a post he will hold through June 2005. He also is a member of the athletic department’s student development mentoring program.

For the 14th consecutive year, Notre Dame Student Activities and Government are sponsoring a T-shirt that benefits scholarship funds, student groups and service projects. Already, the initial run of 50,000 shirts has sold out, easily topping last year’s early sellout of 44,000. In 2002, a record-setting total of 130,000 shirts were sold, with that initial run of 44,000 selling out within six weeks of its debut (at the time, it was one of the earliest sellouts in the history of the project). As a result, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham began labelling the Shirt-clad crowd as the “sea of green.”

Over the past 13 years, the venture has more than $2 million in net profit for worthy causes and serves the dual purpose of promoting spirit and raising funds. Some of the proceeds supported students and employees who have incurred catastrophic accidents, while others benefitted endowment funds and additional monies were given to support service projects for student organizations on the Notre Dame campus.

In a rare break from tradition, “The Shirt 2003” once again is green and features this year’s motto, “Here Come The Irish.” The short-sleeve shirt is traditionally worn by Notre Dame students and fans at the first home game of each football season. The cost of this year’s shirt is $15 and it is available on campus to the University community and the general public at the Hammes Bookstore, Irish Express, the information desk at the LaFortune Student Center, the Varsity Shop at the Joyce Center and the Alumni Association at the Eck Center. Orders also may be placed by telephone (1-800-647-4641) or on-line through the official Notre Dame athletics web site (

This season marks the 10th edition of the Notre Dame Football Yearbook < 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.=”” the=”” yearbook,=”” published=”” by=”” ave=”” maria=”” press,=”” numbers=”” nearly=”” 100=”” pages,=”” including=”” game=”” action=”” shots=”” of=”” returning=”” irish=”” players=”” and=”” coaches,=”” position-by-position=”” breakdowns=”” and=”” a=”” feature=”” on=”” 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=”” 1-800-647-4641.=””>

The rich history of Irish football is the focus of four books that currently are on sale to the general public nationwide, including at Notre Dame’s Hammes Bookstore. The first is entitled “Return To Glory” and it was written by Alan Grant, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a former defensive back at Stanford who played for current Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham. Grant received unique behind-the-scenes access to the Irish throughout last season and his book details Notre Dame’s remarkable 10-3 campaign in 2002, including its eight-game winning streak to begin Willingham’s tenure.

Also new in bookstores is a coffee table book by The Sporting News called “Fighting Irish,” a 224-page work that spotlights the unparalleled history and pageantry of the Notre Dame football program through a variety of photographs and essays. A special section is devoted to the ’02 season and the foreword was written by former Irish quarterback and 2003 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Joe Theismann.

The third new book featuring Notre Dame to debut is entitled “Tyrone Willingham: The Meaning of Victory,” a 144-page hardcover piece on the coaching career of Irish mentor Tyrone Willingham and what his arrival at Notre Dame has meant to the program. It was written by longtime Chicago Tribune sportswriter and columnist Fred Mitchell and is packed with dozens of full-color photos.

The most recent book on Irish football to hit store shelves in “Connor: The Life Story of George Connor,” written by Jack Connor, the older brother of the legendary Notre Dame All-America tackle. The 272-page work details George Connor’s struggles growing up on the south side of Chicago, through his athletic development at De La Salle Institute and Holy Cross College, his maturation into one of the greatest players in Irish football history, and his Hall of Fame status as the last and best of the two-way players for George Halas’ Chicago Bears.

Former Notre Dame quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana will be the guest speaker for the 83rd University of Notre Dame Football Banquet. The banquet, sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley, will be held Friday, Dec. 12, 2002, in the north dome of the Joyce Center on the Notre Dame campus. A reception on the concourse begins at 5:45 p.m. (ET) and the dinner begins at 7:00 p.m.

The program will include a special tribute to senior members of the 2003 Irish squad, as well as a series of awards honoring members of the Notre Dame team.

Tickets are $40 each and can be ordered at the Joyce Center second-floor ticket window, by phone (VISA, MasterCard or American Express) by calling (574) 631-7356 (fax to 574-631-0854), or by writing to Ticket Office, 113 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Checks should be made payable to University of Notre Dame Football Banquet. Requests must be received by Dec. 1, 2003. Proceeds from this year’s banquet will benefit the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Scholarship Fund.

In addition to the dinner, all senior members of the ’03 Irish team will be available for autographs on the concourse during the reception. There also will be a silent auction of Notre Dame football photographs and memorabilia during the reception.

One or more Irish players will be seated at tables sold to the general public, with those tables available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Montana was a standout quarterback at Notre Dame from 1974-78, missing the ’76 season with a shoulder injury. He took over the starting QB duties for good midway through 1977 and led the Irish to nine consecutive wins, capping off an undefeated season with a 38-10 win over top-ranked Texas in the ’78 Cotton Bowl to give Notre Dame its 10th national championship. One season later, he piloted the Irish to a 9-3 record and a return trip to the Cotton Bowl, where his legendary status as a comeback specialist was born. Despite suffering from hypothermic-like symptoms in the frigid weather of Dallas, Montana recovered with the aid of a bowl of chicken soup and helped the Irish rally from a 34-12 deficit to win 35-34. Montana capped the comeback with a TD pass to Kris Haines on the final play of the game and Joe Unis kicked the winning PAT.

Following his eventful Notre Dame career, Montana went on to even greater glory in the National Football League, winning four Super Bowl titles in four tries with the San Francisco 49ers and becoming the only player ever to be named Super Bowl MVP three times. In 1994, while a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Montana became just the fifth quarterback to pass for more than 40,000 yards in a career. At the time of his retirement, he ranked fourth in career passing yardage (40,551 yards), attempts (5,391), and passing touchdowns (273). His 3,409 completions ranked third all-time, and his career passer rating of 92.3 was second all-time.