The Head Coach
Fourth-year Irish head coach Bob Davie owns a 30-18 (.625) career record at Notre Dame. The University announced on Dec. 5 that Davie has signed a five-year contract to continue coaching the Irish through the 2005 season. Davie was one of three finalists for the Football News 2000 coach-of-the-year award and was one of 10 finalists for the 1998 Walter Camp Foundation/Street and Smith’s Coach of the Year Award. In 2000 he led the Irish to their third best improvement (+4.5 games) from one season to the next in Notre Dame history. Davie coached the Irish to a second season-opening ranked win in 2000 against No. 23 Texas A&M, and the win over 13th-ranked Purdue marked the earliest the Irish have beaten two ranked opponents since 1990. The ’98 opening win over No. 5 and defending national champion Michigan gave him three wins over a ranked teams after his ’97 squad beat No. 11 LSU and No. 22 West Virginia to mark the first time a Notre Dame team beat ranked foes on consecutive weeks since November ’92. The 2000 season marks Davie’s seventh year at Notre Dame overall, after serving as defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach from 1994-96. He coached nine seasons at Texas A&M (’85-’93), two at Tulane (’83-’84), four at Pittsburgh (’77, ’80-’82) and two at Arizona (’78-’79), spending both years at Tulane as defensive coordinator and the last five at Texas A&M in that role.
The Injury Update (as of Dec. 5)
Junior QB Arnaz Battle – Fractured left navicular (wrist) vs. Nebraska (out for season, had surgery Sept. 12)
Senior DE Grant Irons – Dislocated right shoulder vs. Nebraska (out for season, had surgery Sept. 21)
Senior TE Jabari Holloway – Sprained knee vs. Rutgers (DNP vs. USC) Junior CB Shane Walton – Broken right forearm vs. Rutgers (had surgery Nov. 19, DNP vs. USC)
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL NOTES
- Notre Dame will play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl for the third time following previous appearances in 1988 (def. West Virginia 31-24) and 1994 (lost to Colorado 41-24).
- The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl marks the 24th bowl game for the Irish (13-10) and the 12th in 14 years.
- The first bowl game for Notre Dame followed the 1924 season when Knute Rockne led his team to a 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl to claim the national championship.
IRISH SEASON NOTES
- Notre Dame enters the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl having won its final seven games of the regular season, the longest Irish winning streak to end a season since the ’88 championship team and the third longest current winning streak in the country behind Oklahoma (12) and Miami (9).
- The Irish have the fewest turnovers in the country (eight) and boast one of the top specials teams units in the country – ranking third in kickoff returns, 10th in net punting and 12th in punt returns.
- Notre Dame has a 5-1 record vs. bowl teams this season, including a 1-0 record vs. BCS teams (Purdue). The six Irish opponents in bowls are: Texas A&M (vs. Miss. St. in Independence), Nebraska (vs. Northwestern in Alamo), Purdue (vs. Washington in Rose Bowl), West Virginia (vs. Mississippi in Music City), Air Force (vs. Fresno St. in Silicon Valley) and Boston College (vs. Arizona St. in Aloha).
DAVIE NAMED COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST
Head coach Bob Davie was named one of three finalists (along with Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and South Carolina’s Lou Holtz) for the Football News 2000 coach-of-the-year award. Davie has led the Irish to a 9-2 record this season and an Associated Press national ranking of 10th after entering the season unranked following a 5-7 ’99 season. Notre Dame has won seven consecutive games since its loss at Michigan State, earning a spot in a BCS game. Davie also was a finalist for the 1998 Walter Camp Foundation/Street & Smith’s coach-of-the-year award. This year’s FN’s coach of the year will be honored on March 6, 2001, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit at the National Athletic Awards ceremony.
IRISH POST THIRD-BEST TURNAROUND IN SCHOOL HISTORY
After finishing the ’99 season with a 5-7 record, the 2000 Irish have recorded the third-best turnaround in consecutive seasons in the history of Notre Dame football. The 2000 season also stands as the most-improved Irish team in the last 36 years. The 4.5 game improvement trails only the ’64 team (+6.5 at 9-1 after 2-7 in ’63) and the ’57 team (+5 at 7-3 from 2-8 in ’56) that snapped Oklahoma’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak. The 4.5 game improvement currently is third best among the 114 NCAA division I teams this season and the best by a team with at least nine wins.
NOTRE DAME-OREGON STATE NOTES
The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matchup marks the first meeting between the Irish and Beavers (Washington State remains the only Pacific-10 team Notre Dame has never played) and the second consecutive and third Pac-10 opponent of the season for Notre Dame. The Irish defeated Stanford 20-14 on Oct. 7, and closed out the regular season with a 38-21 win at USC on Nov. 25.
Notre Dame twice has played a team coached by Dennis Erickson when he was the head coach at Miami. The top-ranked Irish lost to the seventh-ranked Hurricanes 27-10 in 1989, ending Notre Dame’s school-record 23-game winning streak. In the final game of the Notre Dame-Miami series, the sixth-ranked Irish beat the second-ranked Hurricanes 29-20 in 1990 at Notre Dame Stadium.
The fifth-ranked Beavers are the highest-ranked Pacific-10 opponent for Notre Dame other than games played versus longtime rival Southern California. Of the 32 games played vs. non-USC Pac-10 teams, the Irish have faced four ranked opponents — losing to 19th-ranked Stanford teams in ’92 and ’97 and defeating 15th-ranked Washington in ’95 and the 16th-ranked Huskies in ’96.
Oregon State is the first Pac-10 bowl opponent for the Irish since the first bowl in which Notre Dame ever played — a 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl marks the eighth occasion the Irish will begin a series with an opponent in a bowl game. Notre Dame has a 5-2 record in those games — defeating Stanford (’25 Rose Bowl), Alabama (’73 Sugar Bowl), Houston (’79 Cotton Bowl), West Virginia (’89 Fiesta Bowl) and Florida (’92 Sugar Bowl) and losing to Georgia (’81 Sugar Bowl) and Texas A&M (’88 Cotton Bowl). The bowl games vs. Houston, Georgia and Florida remain the only Irish meetings with those teams.
Notre Dame will be making its second consecutive national appearance on ABC. The 38-21 Irish win at USC on ABC drew a Nielsen rating of 4.5 — the highest rated college football game of the Thanksgiving weekend.
SUN DEVIL STADIUM, ARIZONA NOTES
Notre Dame will make its fourth trip to Sun Devil Stadium and third for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Irish defeated West Virginia 31-24 in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl and lost to Colorado 41-24 in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame’s last trip to Sun Devil Stadium came during the regular season when the Irish defeated host Arizona State 28-9 in 1998.
The trip to Sun Devil Stadium marks a return for first-year Irish athletics director Kevin White, who served as athletics director at Arizona State from 1996-2000.
Seventh-year Irish assistant coach and fourth-year assistant head coach Kirk Doll (linebackers) coached the outside linebackers at Arizona State from 1985-87.
Second-year Irish assistant coach Lou West (safeties) coached the defensive backs at Arizona Western Junior College in 1979 and 1980 was a graduate assistant coach at Arizona in 1977.
Head senior manager Michael Ball lives in Phoenix and graduated from Paradise Valley High School.
LoVecchio’s passing efficiency rating finished at 151.70, a rating which currently would place him seventh in the country if LoVecchio met the NCAA minimum of playing in 75 percent of a team’s game. He has played in eight of 11 games (.73). LoVecchio’s rating edged the 151.3 rating of McDougal in ’93 for the best by an Irish QB since 1990. Other high ratings for Irish QBs in the ’90s are Jarious Jackson’s 149.5 in ’98, Rick Mirer’s 149.2 in ’91, Powlus’ 141.3 in ’96, Powlus’ 140.7 in ’95 and Jackson’s 140.3 in ’99.
IRISH EARN ALL-AMERICA, INDEPENDENT RECOGNITION
Following Notre Dame’s 9-2 finish to the regular season, a number of Irish players have received All-America and independent team accolades.
The Sporting News has named senior LB Anthony Denman to its All-America second team and fifth-year OL Mike Gandy to its All-America third team, while Denman also was a Rivals.com second-team selection.
Senior Joey Getherall is a third-team kick-returner All-America pick of Collegefootballnews.com and fourth team by CBSSportsLine.com.
Denman has been named the Independent Player of the Year by Football News. He also joins senior FS Tony Driver, junior TB Tony Fisher, Gandy, sophomore P Joey Hildbold and junior DE Anthony Weaver among Irish players on the Football News All-Independent team.
Following a freshmen season in which he won all seven starting appearances, QB Matt LoVecchio has been selected by Rivals.com to its True Freshman All-America team. LoVecchio is one of seven first-year QBs on the honorable mention list, while North Carolina State’s Phillip Rivers was the only first-team selection (there were no second or third teams).
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line – The veteran Irish offensive line in ’00 — with the only untested position at the start of the season being center — has remained intact with the same five starters in all 11 games of the season (the first time that has happened at Notre Dame since 1989) and helped Notre Dame average over 270 yards rushing in the last five games of the season. Senior guards Jim Jones (left guard) and Mike Gandy (right guard) combined to start 21 games at their respective positions last year, while Gandy has made 26 consecutive starts in his career. Junior Jordan Black is back at the left tackle position where he started the first nine games in ’99, while senior Kurt Vollers moved into the starting role at right tackle following backup action at left tackle in ’99. Sophomore Jeff Faine is at center after seeing no game action as a freshman. Senior John Teasdale started 10 games in ’99 at mostly right tackle and provides experience as a backup to Vollers. The other reserves are sophomore Brennan Curtin at tackle, juniors Sean Mahan and Ryan Scarola at guard and at center senior JW Jordan.
Backs – Freshman Matt LoVecchio (73-125 for 980 yards, 11 TDs, 300 yards rushing) turned in a memorable season as the starting quarterback — the third starting Irish QB of the season — by winning each of his seven starts. He made his first career start vs. Stanford after first coming off the bench against Michigan State in the second half and threw at least two TD passes in each of his first four starts — the first Irish QB to throw at least 2 TDs in four consecutive games since Rick Mirer in 1992. Junior Arnaz Battle (13-31-173, 2 TDs, 157 yards rushing vs. Texas A&M and Nebraska) suffered a fractured left navicular (wrist) against Nebraska — an injury that required surgery and will keep him out for the season– and will move to flanker next season. Battle’s injury thrust sophomore Gary Godsey into the starting spot against Purdue (14 of 25 for 158 yards in first career game) and Michigan State (4-15 for 20 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Godsey returned to tight end following the Air Force, a move that has afforded him the most playing time. LoVecchio broke the school record for lowest interception percentage (0.80, 1 for 125) and finished with the fourth-best single-season completion percentage in school history (.584). Freshmen Jared Clark and Carlyle Holiday back up LoVecchio but neither has played a down this season.
A trio of tailbacks — sophomore Julius Jones (162-657, 7 TDs, 6-50 receiving) and juniors Tony Fisher (132-607, 6 TDs, 12-106 receiving, 3 TDs) and Terrance Howard (75-424, 4 TDs) — have given the Irish a talented and diversified running attack as each started at least once in the first four games. The trio were at their collective best vs. USC as Jones and Fisher each had 71 yards rushing, while Howard added 47. Each of the three also had one of Notre Dame’s five rushing TDs in the game.
The elusive Jones had three 100-yard rushing games this season (126 vs. Michigan State, 105 vs. Navy and 111 vs. Air Force) before leaving the Boston College game with an injury that also forced him to miss the Rutgers game — the first game he has missed in his brief career. Fisher, who started all 12 games last year and started six games this season, had the best rushing game for an Irish player since 1992 with his 196-yard game against Boston College. He followed up that performance with another 100-yard rushing day vs. Rutgers (27-135). Howard (career-high 7-96 vs. West Virginia) adds a combination of quickness and power and scored two TDs vs. Rutgers. Sophomore Chris Yura (first four carries of his career vs. Navy, four-yard gain on fake punt vs. BC) also helps out at tailback.
Senior Jason Murray (4-14, 2 catches for 12 yards, TD) shares the fullback duties with junior Tom Lopienski (9-19, 5-79 receiving, TD) who was hindered by a shoulder injury during the middle of the season. Lopienski moved into the starting fullback spot for the first four games after carrying the ball 25 times for 76 yards in all 12 games last year. Junior Mike McNair also helps out at fullback after recovering from an injury-plagued ’99 in which he played only in the opener against Kansas.
Receivers – Senior Joey Getherall (17-323, 4 TDs) has been a big-play receiver for the Irish with TD receptions of 68 and 43 yards and had a three TD performance against Air Force, while junior David Givens (25-310) shares time with Getherall at flanker and had career bests for receptions and yards against Purdue (6-86) and touchdowns against Stanford (2). Junior Javin Hunter (13-256, 3 TDs) moved into the starting position at split end after playing in every game last year. Senior Jay Johnson (2-58, TD) played in the final 11 games of ’99 and plays behind Hunter but did not play against West Virginia and Air Force with a hamstring injury. Another strength for the Irish is at tight end where senior All-America candidate Jabari Holloway (6-97) and fifth-year and ’99 honorable mention All-American Dan O’Leary (10-87, TD) give the Irish a pair of talented, experienced tight ends. Holloway missed the USC game with a knee injury. Former converted QB Gary Godsey returned to TE following the Air Force game, a position he played as a freshman in ’99 and saw action there vs. Rutgers and USC.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line – After making a slight adjustment on the defensive line in ’00 ? going from a two end-two tackle alignment to one featuring two ends, a tackle and a nose guard — the Irish were forced to shift one end position after losing senior RE Grant Irons (4 tackles, 1 for loss) for the season with a dislocated shoulder that required surgery following the Nebraska game. Sophomore Ryan Roberts (23 tackles, 5 sacks, two fumble recoveries) moved into Irons starting spot at right end and has been a great addition to the Irish pass rush. All-America candidate junior and two-year starter Anthony Weaver (49 tackles, 13 for loss, 8 sacks, 2 INTs, fumble recovery) has been a force at left end. Fifth-year B.J. Scott (27 tackles, 7 for loss, 4.5 sacks, INT, fumble recovery) made his first career start against Nebraska at defensive tackle and has been one of the surprises for the Irish this season, while senior Andy Wisne (9 tackles, sack) backs up Scott after starting against A&M. Senior Lance Legree (50 tackles, 6 for loss, 2 sacks) entered ’00 the starter at nose guard after starting the final seven games of ’99 there and started every game this season. The reserves are sophomore Darrell Campbell (3 tackles, 2 for loss, fumble recovery) at right end, Cedric Hilliard (2 tackles, 1 for loss) at nose guard and junior John Owens (9 tackles, 3 for loss, sack) at left end.
Linebackers – Led by senior Anthony Denman (team-high 84 tackles, 14 for loss, 5 sacks) and junior Rocky Boiman (58 tackles, 8 for loss, 3.5 sacks, forced fumble), the Irish linebackers have played a large role in Notre Dame’s defensive success. Denman started every game at inside linebacker for the second straight year, while Boiman anchors the outside spot. Junior Tyreo Harrison (46 tackles, 5 for loss, sack, two fumbles forced and one recovered) moved into a starting spot at inside linebacker after playing all 12 games in ’99 with two starts. Fifth-year Anthony Brannan backs up Boiman on the outside, while sophomore Courtney Watson (11 tackles, 1 for loss) plays behind Denman. Junior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (2 tackles) fills in at inside linebacker.
Backs – Old faces and new faces make up the Irish secondary starters. Seniors Tony Driver (65 tackles, sack, two fumble returns for TDs, INT, 7 pass deflections) and Brock Williams (49 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 8 pass deflections) returned to starting roles in the Irish secondary — a unit that held its opponents to 35 fewer passing yards/game than in ’99. Senior Ron Israel (47 tackles, 4 for loss, team-high 3 INT, 3 pass deflections) and junior Shane Walton (40 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 INTs, 60-yard INT TD, 3 pass deflections) moved into starting spots. Driver plays at free safety for the first time since ’98 after playing seven games in ’99 at tailback. Williams is back at left cornerback where he started eight of the last 10 games in ’98. Israel moved from top reserve in ’99 to starter at strong safety in ’00. Walton — who had his first career interception against Nebraska and had a 60-yard INT return against Purdue’s Drew Brees — won the starting spot at right cornerback after playing in nine games in ’99 following a freshman season in which he starred on the Irish men’s soccer team. He started the first 10 games this season before suffering a broken forearm vs. Rutgers. Sophomore Jason Beckstrom (17 tackles, 3 pass deflections) made his first career start vs. USC in replace of Walton. Junior Clifford Jefferson (21 tackles, forced fumble) returned to action at cornerback vs. USC after missing two games. Sophomore Glenn Earl (20 tackles, INT, fumble recovery, blocked punt and FG) has provided a number of big plays as a capable reserve. Freshman Vontez Duff (4 tackles, 1 pass deflection) played a large part of the Rutgers game and had his first career interception. The other reserves are sophomore Gerome Sapp (37 tackles, 2 for loss) at strong safety and junior Donald Dykes (18 tackles) at free safety.
SCOUTING THE IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Fifth-year newcomer Matt McNew — who joined the team in the spring after four years with the Irish men’s soccer team — handles the kickoffs and has allowed an average opponent starting position at the 25.9-yard line following 59 kickoffs in ’00. Nearly half of his KOs resulted in drives starting at or behind the 25-yard line. Sophomore Nick Setta (44-45 PATs, 8-14 FG) has shined as the Irish placekicker — the first kicker to lead the Irish in scoring since Kevin Pendergast in ’93 and just the second in the last 10 years. He nailed the game-winning FG from 38 yards against Purdue as time expired and successfully executed fake FGs for TDs vs. BC and Rutgers. Sophomore and Ray Guy award finalist Joey Hildbold (60-2456-40.9) ranks 39th in the NCAA in punting average, has 15 punts of at least 50 yards (including two over 60 yards) and has allowed opponents an average of just 4.7 yards/return — the lowest opponent season average in Irish history. He missed the BC game with an ankle injury. Setta filled in vs. BC and punted four times for 160 yards, landing two inside the 20 in his first career punting duties. Sophomore Julius Jones finished fourth in the nation in KO returns (15427-28.5, 100-yard TD return against Nebraska), while junior David Givens (11-227) and senior Tony Driver (9-232) also have helped the Irish to rank third in the country in KO returns (24.92). Joey Getherall (24-392-16.3 with 83-yard TD return vs. Nebraska, 73-yard return vs. WVU) finished ninth in the country in punt returns. Dan O’Leary (punts) and John Crowther (PAT and FG) share the snaps. Adam Tibble does the holding.
DRIVER NAMED TO THE SPORTING NEWS MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAM
The Sporting News has selected Irish senior Tony Driver to its midseason All-America list at free safety. Driver is second among the Irish with 65 tackles and has broken up seven passes. He recorded an interception in the Irish opener against Texas A&M — in his first game on defense since the ’98 season — and returned a pair of fumbles for TDs against Navy (see above). Driver added a 43-yard interception return vs. USC to set up an Irish TD.
DRIVER ‘RETURNS’ TO RECORDBOOK
In the first 12:47 of the Navy game, Tony Driver became just the second player in NCAA Division I-A history to return a pair of fumbles for touchdowns — since a 1992 NCAA change permitting defensive players to advance fumbles regardless of where on the field they occur. He joined Minnesota’s Tyrone Carter who returned a pair of fumbles for TDs against Syracuse on Sept. 21, 1996.
Driver also became the first Irish player in a season or a career to return a pair of fumbles for TDs, let alone in one game or one quarter.
The last Irish defensive player to score two touchdowns was Dave Waymer, who ran back two interceptions in a 40-15 win against Miami (Fla.) in the 1979 Mirage Bowl in Toyko.
WEAVER LEADS STRONG DEFENSE
Notre Dame’s defense has been tough on opposing quarterbacks this season with 33 sacks in 11 games, in addition to numerous hurries and knockdowns. The play of junior DE Anthony Weaver has been a significant part of the Irish defensive pressure. Weaver has 13 tackles for losses and a team-high eight sacks — tied for fourth most in a season in Irish history. The Irish surpassed their 18 sacks in ’99 after totalling 20 sacks through the first seven games.
Weaver also has two interceptions (vs. Michigan State to set up go-ahead TD and vs. Boston College on Eagles’ first possession to set up early TD), a fumble recovery (vs. Stanford with the Cardinal threatening to score on ND’s 15-yard line), five deflected passes (including one vs. Air Force on third down with the Falcons having to settle for a field goal after the incomplete pass) and two forced fumbles (vs. USC and Rutgers to set up an Irish TD four plays later).
Junior RE Ryan Roberts had at least one sack in each of the first four games, becoming the first Irish player since Kory Minor in 1996 (vs. Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and USC) to have at least one sack in four consecutive games. He had a fifth sack vs. USC.
Notre Dame’s six sacks against Michigan State stand as the most under head coach Bob Davie and the most since the Irish had nine sacks against Rutgers in 1996.
IRISH DEFENSE GETS OFFENSIVE
Of Notre Dame’s 46 touchdowns — in addition to the three scored from kickoff and punt returns, the five set up by blocked punts, one set up by a botched opponent punt and the two fake field goals — the Irish defense scored or set up short drives on nine other TDs. Shane Walton had a 60-yard interception return against Purdue, while both of Anthony Weaver’s interceptions (vs. Michigan State at the two-yard line and vs. Boston College on the Eagles’ second offensive play) were followed shortly by one-yard TD runs by Julius Jones. Brock Williams had an interception against Stanford before it took Jones three plays (three-yard run, 24-yard shovel pass and seven-yard run) to score on a short 34-yard TD drive. Tony Driver had a record day with two fumble returns for TDs against Navy. Ryan Roberts recovered a fumble forced by Weaver vs. Rutgers four plays before Terrance Howard capped off a short 18-yard drive with a two-yard TD run. Driver picked off a Carson Palmer pass and returned it 43 yards to the USC 19-yard line, setting up a one-yard TD run by Tony Fisher six plays later. Matt LoVecchio had a one-yard TD run five plays after a Glenn Earl INT later in the USC game.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS TRULY SPECIAL
The Irish special teams have played key roles in nearly every Notre Dame game this season. Here is a game-by-game look at the success and impact of Notre Dame’s special teams:
Texas A&M: With the Irish trailing 10-7 in the third quarter and being forced to punt after three plays result in a loss of one yard on its opening series of the second half, sophomore P Joey Hildbold booms a 69-yard punt that is downed at the Aggies’ three-yard line. After Notre Dame’s defense forces A&M to punt from its eight-yard line, Arnaz Battle connects with Javin Hunter for a 46-yard TD pass just two plays later for what would be the game-winning TD.
Nebraska: Trailing the top-ranked Huskers 21-7 in the third quarter, the Irish use a kickoff return for a TD and a punt return for a TD to send the game into overtime. Julius Jones answers a Nebraska TD with a 100-yard KO return in the third quarter, before Joey Getherall takes a Husker punt 83 yards in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 21.
Purdue: In Notre Dame’s 23-21 win over eventual Big 10 champion and Rose Bowl bound Purdue, sophomore Glenn Earl blocks Travis Dorsch’s punt on the Boilers’ first possession as the Irish took over at the Boiler four-yard line — leading to the first Irish touchdown in the victory. Nick Setta seals the win with another special teams’ highlight — the fifth game-winning field goal at 0:00 in Notre Dame history with a 38 yarder in just his third career game.
Stanford: With the Irish leading by a 7-0 score, junior David Givens blocks Mike Biselli’s punt as Notre Dame takes over at the Stanford 10-yard line with just 39 remaining in the first half — leading to Notre Dame’s second touchdown in the 20-14 win.
West Virginia: With the score tied at 14, Courtney Watson tackles punter Mark Fazzolari at the WVU 16-yard line following a high snap to set up the go-ahead TD three plays later. Getherall scores the fifth of five consecutive Irish TDs with a 73-yard punt return and a 42-14 lead in the victory.
Air Force: With the game tied 28-28 and the Falcons lining up for a potential game-winning field goal from 28 yards, Earl comes up with his second blocked kick of the season as time expires in the fourth quarter — sending the game into overtime in the 34-31 Notre Dame victory.
Boston College: With a tenuous 21-10 lead over the Eagles and less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Setta lines up for a FG but instead takes a pitch from holder Adam Tibble — who is tackles just before pitching to Setta –and runs untouched into the end zone for a five-yard TD run and a 28-10 lead.
Rutgers: The Irish convert a fake FG for the second consecutive week, as Setta takes a direct snap from John Crowther and connects with FB Tom Lopienski for a 25-yard TD in the first quarter. Leading 24-17 in the third quarter, Chad DeBolt recovers another Givens blocked punt — followed two plays later by a 25-yard TD pass from Matt LoVecchio to Javin Hunter and a two TD lead.
USC: Notre Dame takes a 14-7 lead 17:35 into the game on the strength of a pair of blocked punts by David Givens and Chad DeBolt — both of which set up short drives of 40 and 50 yards.
IRISH CONTINUE QB’S FIRST-START MAGIC
For the third time in five games in ’00, an Irish quarterback making his first career start led Notre Dame to victory vs. Stanford. Freshman QB Matt LoVecchio began his first start by leading the Irish on a 91-yard drive in 11 plays in the 20-14 win over the Cardinal. Three weeks earlier, sophomore QB Gary Godsey engineered a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal as time expired in the 23-21 win over 13th-ranked Purdue. Two weeks before that game, junior Arnaz Battle — out indefinitely with a broken left navicular suffered against Nebraska — made his first career start in Notre Dame’s 24-10 win over 25th-ranked Texas A&M. Battle became the 10th, Godsey became the 11th and LoVecchio became the 12th of the last 13 Irish quarterbacks to be victorious in their first career starts.
From 1985-98, Notre Dame was victorious in nine straight games in which an Irish quarterback was making his first career start, including four coming in a season opener. Notre Dame’s nine-game, first-start streak ended in the 10-0 loss at USC on Nov. 28, 1998, when Eric Chappell started in place of the injured starter Jackson (then-freshman Arnaz Battle also played a large chunk of that game).
Battle also became the 10th consecutive Irish quarterback making his first start to lead the Irish to victory in a season opener, a streak dating back to 1965: Bill Zloch (vs. Cal, ’65), Terry Hanratty (vs. Purdue, ’66), Pat Steenberge (vs. Northwestern, ’71), Tom Clements (vs. Northwestern, ’72), Rick Slager (vs. Boston College, ’75), Rick Mirer (vs. Michigan, ’90), Kevin McDougal (vs. Northwestern, ’93), Ron Powlus (vs. Northwestern, ’94) and Jarious Jackson (vs. Michigan, ’98).
Last 13 starting debut games by Notre Dame quarterbacks
- Terry Andrysiak, sophomore (vs. Mississippi, 11/9/85, 8th game of season) … win, 37-14
- Tony Rice, sophomore (at Air Force, 10/17/87, 5th game of season) … win, 35-14
- Kent Graham, freshman (Boston College, 11/7/87, 8th game of season) … win, 32-25
- Rick Mirer, sophomore (#4 Michigan, 9/15/90, 1st game of season) … win, 28-24
- Paul Failla, freshman (at Purdue, 9/28/91, 4th game of season) … win, 45-20
- Kevin McDougal, senior (Northwestern, 9/4/93, 1st game of season) … win, 27-12
- Ron Powlus, sophomore (at Northwestern, 9/3/94, 1st game of season) … win, 42-15
- Tom Krug, junior (at Air Force, 11/18/95, 11th game of season) … win, 44-14
- Jarious Jackson, senior (#5 Michigan, 9/5/98, 1st game of season) … win, 36-20
- Eric Chappell, junior (at USC, 11/28/98, 11th game of season) … loss, 10-0
- Arnaz Battle, junior (#25 Texas A&M, 9/2/00, 1st game of season) … win, 24-10
- Gary Godsey, sophomore (#13 Purdue, 9/16/00, 3rd game of season) … win, 23-21
- Matt LoVecchio, freshman (Stanford, 10/7/00, 5th game of season) … win, 20-14
LoVECCHIO 3RD STARTING QB IN FIRST FIVE GAMES, JUST 4TH FROSH QB IN 49 YEARS
Freshman Matt LoVecchio became Notre Dame’s third starting quarterback in five games this season against Stanford, marking the first time since 1987 the Irish have had three starting QBs in one season and have had a significant starting freshman quarterback. After senior starter Terry Andrysiak broke his left collarbone in the fourth game of the ’87 season, sophomore Tony Rice started six of the last seven games of the regular season. Freshman Kent Graham started against Boston College (6-8 for 111 yards, INT in the 32-25 win) in the eighth game of the season. Andrysiak returned as the starting QB in the Cotton Bowl.
Steve Beuerlein started his fourth game as a freshman against Colorado (8-12 for 133 yards in 27-3 win) in 1983. Beuerlein took over for senior Blair Kiel — who, in 1980, became the first Irish freshman to start at quarterback since Ralph Guglielmi in 1951 vs. North Carolina. Kiel made his first start in the fourth game of the season against Miami (4-17 for 35 yards in 32-14 win).
Here’s a comparison of the last four freshman QBs to start at Notre Dame (figures do not include bowl games):
Record as Starter
BOIMAN NAMED TO THE SPORTING NEWS TEAM
The Sporting News has selected Irish junior OLB Rocky Boiman to its list of Great Unknowns — “you probably won’t recognize their faces, but you should recognize their efforts.” Boiman has played a key role in the resurgence of the Notre Dame defense this season. He has 58 tackles — third most on the team — and three-and-a-half sacks, surpassing his 39 tackles and two sacks in ’99.
JULIUS JONES NAMED TO “HALF-AMERICA TEAM”
Sophomore Julius Jones has been named the best kickoff returner in the country, according to CNNSI/com’s “Half-America Team” — a list of the nation’s top players through the first half of the season. He currently is ranked fourth in the country with an average of 28.5 yards per return and is one of just three second-year players on the list, joining redshirt freshman CB Michael Jolivette (Arizona) and sophomore kicker Jonathon Ruffin (Cincinnati). Jones had a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Nebraska and, with 1030 career KO return yards already, has moved into fifth place on all-time Irish KO return yards list.
JULIUS JONES TAPPED FUTURE STAR
Athlon Sports recently projected a National Football League “All-Decade” team for 2000-2009 and current Irish sophomore Julius Jones was one of two running backs named to the squad, joining current Indianapolis Colts star Edgerrin James. The 26-player team included just four other current college players: tackle Michael Munoz (Tennessee), linebacker D.J. Williams (University of Miami), linebacker Saleem Rasheed (Alabama) and punt returner David Allen (Kansas State).
JONES, GETHERALL, GIVENS GO LONG DISTANCE AGAINST HUSKERS
Julius Jones, Joey Getherall and David Givens combined for 317 return yards (4 punts for 113 yards, 4 kickoffs for 204) against Nebraska — including an 83-yard punt return by Getherall and a 100-yard kickoff return by Jones for touchdowns. The 317 return yards were the second most kickoff and punt return yards for the Irish since the start of the 1980 season. Notre Dame had 336 return yards (231 punt, 71 kickoff and 34 interception) against Pittsburgh in ’96.
Notre Dame’s 204 kickoff return yards established a modern Irish record for single-game kickoff returns, eclipsing the 192 by Notre Dame (all by Raghib Ismail) against Michigan in 1989. The Irish had 354 kickoff return yards against Kalamazoo in 1922.
Jones’ 175 return yards were the most for a Notre Dame player since Clint Johnson returned two kickoffs vs. Stanford for 179 yards and one touchdown. Jones’ 100-yard TD return marked the first kickoff touchdown return of his career, the longest since Johnson went 100 yards vs. Stanford and the first for the Irish since Jarious Jackson returned an onside kick for a TD against Pitt in ’97.
Getherall’s 83-yard punt return tied Allen Rossum’s 83-yard punt return against Pittsburgh in 1996 for the eighth-longest in Irish history. The last Irish player to return a punt longer was Ricky Watters who set the record with a 97-yarder vs. SMU in 1989.
Givens started the Nebraska game with a 41-yard kickoff return, the longest of his career.
FOUR RANKED OPPONENTS IN A ROW
After games against 23rd-ranked Texas A&M, top-ranked Nebraska and 13th-ranked Purdue to open the season, the Irish played their fourth consecutive ranked opponent at 23rd-ranked Michigan State, marking the first time since the inception of the Associated Press poll in 1936 that Notre Dame has opened a season with four ranked opponents. The Irish played four consecutive games against ranked opponents during the regular season for the first time since 1957 and for only the third time ever (1943 was the first time).
Here’s here how the 1943 Irish fared against their four consecutive ranked opponents:
Oct. 30 #1 ND def. #3 Navy 33-6
Nov. 6 #1 ND def. #3 Army 26-0
Nov. 13 #1 ND def. #8 Northwestern 25-6
Nov. 20 #1 ND def. #2 Iowa Pre-Flight 14-13
Here’s here how the 1957 Irish fared against their four consecutive ranked opponents:
Nov. 2 #16 Navy def. #5 ND 20-6
Nov. 9 #4 Michigan State def. #15 ND 34-6
Nov. 16 ND def. #2 Oklahoma 7-0 (ending OU’s NCAA record 47-game winning streak)
Nov. 23 #8 Iowa def. #9 ND 21-13
FISHER FILLS IN WITH BACK-TO-BACK 100-YARD GAMES
Junior TB Tony Fisher started vs. Rutgers and played most of the Boston College after sophomore Julius Jones suffered a bruised thigh and has turned in consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career and the first for an Irish player since Autry Denson had three straight 100-yard games in 1998. He gained 135 yards on 27 carries vs. Rutgers and 196 on 26 carries vs. Boston College.
Junior Tony Fisher’s 196-yard rushing day vs. Boston College marked the most proficient day for an Irish runner since Reggie Brooks gained 227 yards vs. USC in 1992 and the third best since 1983.
His performance stands 11th best in the 1,056 games played in 111-plus seasons of Irish football.
Fisher took the majority of the carries after sophomore starter Julius Jones left with an injury and gained the most yards ever in a single game for an Irish backup TB as each of the six runners who account for the top 10 rushing games were starters.
HOWARD’S RUN 15TH LONGEST IN IRISH HISTORY
Junior TB Terrance Howard had an 80-yard touchdown run against West Virginia in the second-quarter to tie the game at 14-14, the first of five consecutive Irish TDs against the Mountaineers.
His 80-yard run stands as the 15th longest in Notre Dame history and the second longest for the Irish in the last 27 years (Robert Farmer had an 81-yard TD run against Boston College in 1996).
The run also set a Mountaineer Field record for the longest by a West Virginia opponent, eclipsing a 74-yard run by Maryland’s Mike Beasley in 1988.
He finished with 96 yards rushing against WVU, the second consecutive week he has rushed for career-high yards after 68 against Navy.
GIVENS HIS ALL
Irish junior FL David Givens put his versatility on full display against West Virginia with a 52-yard halfback pass to Joey Getherall and a five-yard TD run — both firsts for Givens this season. His pass to Getherall was followed two plays later by an Irish TD for a 35-14 lead. He also provided a key block on Terrance Howard’s 80-yard TD run vs. the Mountaineers. Against Stanford, Givens caught a pair of TD passes and blocked a punt with less than a minute remaining in the first half to set up his second TD — giving the Irish a 14-0 lead just before halftime of the 20-14 win. He recorded season-highs for an Irish receiver against Purdue with six catches for 86 yards. Against Air Force, Givens took a handoff from Getherall on a double reserve and scored a 37-yard TD. He blocked another punt vs. Rutgers to help give the Irish a two TD lead vs. Rutgers. Givens has 24 carries for 101 yards and has caught a team-high 25 passes this season for 310 yards.
Junior cornerback Shane Walton — less than two years removed from earning all-BIG EAST honors as a freshman forward on the ’98 Irish men’s soccer team — entered the 2000 season as Notre Dame’s starter at right cornerback and has 29 tackles, one tackle for a loss, two interceptions — including a 60-yard INT return for a touchdown against Purdue’s Drew Brees — and three passes deflected this season. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of ’99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the ’99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second ND monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
While Walton underwent a less traditional soccer-to-football transition, fifth-year Matt McNew made the more natural switch from soccer player to placekicker. After exhausting his four years of eligibility with the Irish men’s soccer team, McNew tried out in the ’00 spring season and was invited to join the team in the fall. In his first collegiate football game, McNew boomed five kickoffs for the Irish against the Aggies, including three kickoffs touchbacks. His 59 kickoffs in ’00 have resulted in average opponent starting position at the Irish 25.9-yard line. Nearly half of his KOs resulted in drives starting at or behind the 25-yard line, while only seven percent (4 of 59) have ended with opponents starting with better field position than Notre Dame’s 35-yard line. These four KOs were a squib kick just before halftime vs. Stanford (43-yard line), a failed onsides kick vs. Air Force (43-yard line), an opponent season-high 36-yard return by Rutgers’ Dennis Thomas (41-yard line) and a 33-yard return by Southern California’s Frank Strong (38-yard line).
Junior walk-on Chad DeBolt has made 72 special teams appearances in ’00 — including a season-high 13 vs. USC — and was one of just four walkons on the usual travel list. In the last two games, he has recovered a blocked punt vs. Rutgers and blocked a punt vs. USC — both of which led to Irish TDs. DeBolt also stars for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team. The Waterloo, N.Y., native played in all 14 games last year as a defensive midfielder and won over 60 percent of the faceoffs he attempted for the men’s lacrosse team – which turned in one of its best seasons ever in ’00 by reaching the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time in its history.
SETTA JOINS IN FIRST-YEAR SUCCESSES
Freshman QB Matt LoVecchio isn’t the only Irish player enjoying a successful first season. Sophomore PK Nick Setta — who did not see varsity action last year — already has written himself into the Notre Dame placekicking recordbook. He attempted every point after this year and was successful in 44 out of 45 tries with the only miss a blocked PAT by Stanford.
Setta’s conversion percentage of .978 (44 for 45) is tied with former Irish kicking great Craig Hentrich’s ’89 season for seventh best behind six perfect PAT seasons –including Hentrich’s ’90 (41 of 41) and ’91 (48 of 48) performances. Setta’s .978 percentage is the best for a Notre Dame kicker since Stefan Schroffner was 30 of 30 in ’94.
Setta’s 44 PATs also stand tied with Hentrich for third most on the Irish single-season PAT list. Hentrich holds the record with 48 extra points in ’91, while Kevin Pendergast is second with 45 in ’93.
Following the blocked PAT vs. Stanford on his unlucky 13th career attempt, Setta has converted 32 consecutive PATs, the fifth longest streak in Irish history and the longest since Hentrich connected on a school-record 136 from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992 — a streak that ended on a low snap in a rainy 48-0 win over Purdue.
To go along with his 44 PATs, Setta also has eight FGs for a total of 68 points by kicking — tied for seventh best for an Irish kicker. Setta’s 68 kicking points are tied with Hentrich, who also had eight FGs and 44 PATs in ’89. Setta also scored a rushing TD for a total of 74 points — the first time a kicker has led the Irish in scoring since Pendergast’s 87 in ’93 and just the second time in the last 10 years.
SETTA SAILS WINNING KICK
Irish sophomore PK Nick Setta — in just the third career game played — nailed the fifth game-winning field goal at 0:00 in Notre Dame history against Purdue and the first since Jim Sanson in 1996. Setta finished the Purdue game 3-4 in field goals attempts, connecting from 47, 32 and 38 and missing from 39 yards. The other Irish game-winning field goals as time expired were:
Sept. 21, 1996 – Jim Sanson 39-yard FG, #9 Notre Dame def. #6 Texas, 27-24
Nov. 29, 1986 – John Carney 19-yard FG, Notre Dame def. #17 USC 38-37
Sept. 20, 1980 – Harry Oliver 51-yard FG, #8 Notre Dame def. #14 Michigan 29-27
Nov. 18, 1961 – Joe Perkowski 41-yard FG, Notre Dame def. #10 Syracuse 17-15
SETTA AND GODSEY SHARE UNLIKELY BOND
Prior to Matt LoVecchio’s two TD runs vs. USC in the final game of the regular season, sophomore PK Nick Setta and sophomore TE Gary Godsey — the Irish starting QB in the third and fourth games of the season before moving to tight end after the Air Force game — were the only Notre Dame players this season to both run for a TD and throw a TD pass. Setta’s came on fake field goals vs. Boston College (a five-yard run) and Rutgers (a 25-yard pass to Tom Lopienski), while Godsey had a nine-yard TD run vs. Purdue and threw TD passes vs. Michigan State (Jason Murray six yards) and Navy (Jay Johnson 46 yards).
BIG CROWDS EVERYWHERE
The Irish have played in front of capacity crowds in 126 of the last 147 games, including the first five games in 2000. Each of the first 10 regular-season games involving Notre Dame during the ’98 season – and the first 11 in ’99 – was played in front of a sellout crowd.
The Irish have made five number changes from the original media guide roster: senior FS Justin Smith will wear No. 4 (instead of 39), junior HLD Adam Tibble is wearing No. 80 (instead of 73), freshman TE Billy Palmer is wearing No. 85 (instead of 96), junior walk-on center John Crowther is wearing 56 (not 64) and junior walk-on TE/DE Jeffrey Campbell is wearing 64 (not 85).
COACHING IN THE CLUTCH
Knute Rockne owns the best career winning percentage among Notre Dame coaches in games decided by seven or fewer points, at 21-1-5 (.870). Among Irish coaches with 14-plus “close games,” the other top winning percentages in tight games belong to Elmer Layden (22-7-3, .734), Frank Leahy (17-5-8, .700), Ara Parseghian (13-6-4, .652), Dan Devine (15-9-1, .620), Bob Davie (14-9, .609) and Lou Holtz (20-18-2, .525).
2000 NOTRE DAME SCHEDULE AMONG TOUGHEST
Notre Dame’s schedule ranked 34th toughest in the country according to the NCAA and 25th toughest in the country according to the finsl Bowl Championship Series schedule rank — a figure that is based on the won/loss record of a team’s past opponents and the won/loss record of a team’s opponents’ opponents.
IRISH OPPONENT UPDATE
Below is a look at Notre Dame opponents’ upcoming games. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times in the last 22 years (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995).
Notre Dame Opponents’ Combined Record in ’00 (not including games vs. ND): 61-50 (.550)
IRISH LIFE SKILLS PROGRAM HONORED AS ONE OF NATION’S BEST The Notre Dame CHAMPS/Life Skills Program has been identified as one of the best in the nation by the NCAA Division I-A Athletic Directors’ Association. Notre Dame received one of four program of excellence awards at the Association’s Sept. 25 awards dinner in Dallas. Honored along with Notre Dame were Arizona State University, the University of Iowa and Michigan State University. Notre Dame’s Life Skills Program currently is under the direction of Bernard Muir, associate athletic director for student-athlete welfare.
In existence since August 1996, Notre Dame’s Life Skills Program is committed to the total development of the University’s student-athletes. It fosters the cultivation of skills that allow for their maximization on and off the playing field. The program develops and implements events and activities which are designed to facilitate learning in five key areas: academic excellence, athletic success, career preparation, community involvement and personal development. By the time a Notre Dame student-athlete graduates, he or she will have participated in approximately 40 hours of required skill building and development workshops in each key area. All freshmen and their parents participate in orientation sessions designed to assist in the transition into the University and to inform them about the Life Skills Program as well as other support services.
Four former Notre Dame football players currently are employees of the University: flanker Mike Favorite (’81-’83), defensive back D’Juan Francisco (’86-’89), quarterback Tony Rice (’87-’89) and offensive tackle Larry Williams (’81-’84). Favorite joined Notre Dame in 1993 as assistant director of the auditing department, recently served as associate director for “Y2K” compliance and currently is a strategic consultant in the office of information technologies. Francisco joined the Notre Dame Alumni Association in 1992 and assumed the role of director of constituency groups, alumni clubs and student programs (he now coordinates 210 domestic and 30 international alumni clubs). Rice was appointed assistant director of regional development for Notre Dame in the Chicago area on Feb. 1, 1999, while Williams was named Notre Dame’s director of licensing in November of 1999.
Notre Dame’s freshman class includes 17 scholarship players and two walk-ons: quarterback Matt Krueger (who will be sharing No. 8 with wide receiver Lorenzo Crawford) and tight end Brendan Hart (who is sharing No. 83 with walk-on kicker Josh Gentile). Hart is the grandson of former Notre Dame end and 1949 Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart and the son of former Irish tight end Kevin Hart. Krueger prepped at South Bend’s Marian High School as did his brother Ryan, a junior walk-on QB.