Oct. 15, 2002
The following is a partial excerpt from the Notre Dame football release. To view the complete release, please see the PDF version.
(#7 AP/#7 ESPN/USA Today) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0)
vs. (#18 AP/#15 ESPN/USA Today) Air Force Falcons (6-0)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002, at 8:00 p.m. MDT (9:00 p.m. EST in South Bend).
The Site: Falcon Stadium (52,480/Natural Grass) in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Tickets: They’re all sold — with this marking the 144th sellout in the last 167 games involving Notre Dame, including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in ’99, the first five in ’00, the first nine in ’01 and the first six in ’02.
The TV Plans: ESPN national telecast with Dave Barnett (play-by-play), Bill Curry and Mike Golic (analysis), Michele Tafoya (sideline), Kim Belton (producer) and John Delvecchio (director).
The Radio Plans: For the 35th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on nearly 200 stations nationwide by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games are heard on WNDV-AM (1490) and WNDV-FM (92.9) in South Bend with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Jack Nolan and Larry Williams. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics are available for the Air Force game, via the Notre Dame (www.und.com) and Air Force (www.airforcesports.com) athletics websites.
Websites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Air Force (www.airforcesports.com).
HEAD COACH TYRONE WILLINGHAM
A veteran with 25 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham is in his first season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, owning a 6-0 record with the Irish and a 50-36-1 (.580) mark overall. Willingham already has guided Notre Dame to wins over two ranked opponents (No. 7 Michigan and No. 21 Maryland) in his first six games, and he is the only the third Irish coach to start his debut season with six consecutive victories (first since Ara Parseghian in 1964). Willingham also is the first Notre Dame mentor to win his first two games against ranked opponents (Frank Leahy had a win and a tie against his first two ranked foes in 1941).
Willingham was introduced as the new Irish head coach on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford University. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. Most recently in 2001, he piloted the Cardinal to a 9-3 record, a berth in the Seattle Bowl, and final regular-season rankings of ninth in the Bowl Championship Series poll and 11th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91. Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win two NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).
The Injury Update (as of Oct. 13)
Senior CB Jason Beckstrom Arm injury, out indefinitely
Sophomore DT Jeff Thompson Ankle injury, out indefinitely
IRISH TRAVEL PLANS
While at Air Force, Notre Dame will be headquartered at the Wyndham Colorado Springs, 5580 Tech Center Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919, (719) 260-1800. The Irish are scheduled to depart by chartered aircraft on Friday at 12:30 p.m. (EST) with a 2:15 p.m. (MDT) arrival in Colorado Springs. Notre Dame will return to South Bend immediately following Saturday’s game, arriving on campus at approximately 5:45 a.m. (EST) Sunday.
NOTRE DAME-AIR FORCE SERIES NOTES
- Saturday’s game marks the 26th meeting between Notre Dame and Air Force, with the Irish holding a 20-5 series lead. The Irish also own an 10-2 record against the Falcons in Colorado Springs.
- Notre Dame has won nine of its last 10 games against Air Force, including a 34-31 overtime victory in their last meeting on Oct. 28, 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium. Except for a four-game losing streak against the Falcons from 1982-85, the Irish have won 20 of the 21 series meetings with Air Force.
- This year’s game marks Notre Dame’s first appearance at Falcon Stadium since Nov. 18, 1995, when the eighth-ranked Irish notched a 44-14 win en route to a berth in the Orange Bowl. The seven-year gap between visits is the second-longest in series history, surpassed only by the eight-year hiatus from 1964-72.
- Notre Dame has scored 30 or more points in eight of its last 10 games against Air Force, averaging 40.6 points per game in those contests.
- Two of the four overtime games in Notre Dame history have come against Air Force. The Falcons won 20-17 in 1996, while the Irish claimed a 34-31 win in 2000. Notre Dame’s other OT contests were a 27-20 loss at USC in 1996 and a 27-24 loss to No. 1 Nebraska in 2000.
- Of the five Air Force wins in the series, four have come under the guidance of longtime Falcon head coach Fisher DeBerry.
- Saturday’s game also is the first of two for Notre Dame this season against a service academy. The Irish also will face Navy on Nov. 9 at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore.
- Notre Dame will be playing its first game in the state of Colorado since its last visit to Air Force on Nov. 18, 1995. The Irish are 11-2 (.846) all-time in the Evergreen State, with all but one of those games coming against Air Force (a 1983 win at Colorado).
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
- Notre Dame will raise its all-time record against the Mountain West Conference to 23-6 (.793), the third-best winning percentage against one conference in school history.
- The Irish will register their eighth consecutive win over a service academy and improve to 29-1 (.967) against the academies since 1986, including a 14-0 mark away from home.
- Notre Dame will win for the 19th time in its last 20 October games, and will move its record in the month of October to 51-8 (.864) since the 1988 season.
- Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham will be just the third mentor since 1913 to win his first seven games at Notre Dame, joining Jesse Harper (1913-14 – nine) and Ara Parseghian (1964 – nine).
- Notre Dame will open its season at 7-0 for the first time since 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games and ascended to No. 1 in the polls.
- The Irish will extend their current winning streak to eight games, their longest since another eight-game run from Sept. 26-Nov. 21, 1998.
- Notre Dame will earn its third win over ranked opponent this year, the most in one season since 1995.
- The Irish will improve to 12-2 (.857) all-time in the state of Colorado.
IF AIR FORCE WINS …
- Air Force will pick up its second victory in the last three meetings with Notre Dame. It also would the Falcons’ first win over the Irish in Colorado Springs since a 21-15 triumph on Oct. 5, 1985.
- Notre Dame will lose to a service academy for only the second time in 30 games since 1986. The other loss also came at the hands of Air Force, a 20-17 overtime setback in 1996.
- The Falcons will defeat a ranked Notre Dame squad for the third time in the history of the series. In addition to the aforementioned ’96 win, Air Force also registered a 30-17 victory in 1982.
NOTRE DAME-AIR FORCE SERIES HISTORY
- Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Air Force, 20-5, including a 10-2 mark when the game is played in Colorado Springs. The previous 25 games have been almost equally split, with 13 games played at Notre Dame and 12 taking place at Air Force.
- Notre Dame and Air Force first met in 1964, a 34-7 Irish win in Colorado Springs, and next played in ’69, a 13-6 Irish win at Notre Dame Stadium. Beginning in ’72, the teams played every year except 1976 for the next 19 seasons. After no games between the teams in ’92 and ’93, the Irish and Falcons met in ’94-96 before the three-year break. They also faced one another in 2000 at Notre Dame Stadium.
- After losing its first 11 games to Notre Dame, Air Force won four straight from 1982-85. The Irish then won the next eight meetings before an overtime loss to the Falcons in 1996. Notre Dame returned the favor in 2000, blocking a potential game-winning field goal in regulation, before winning 34-31 in OT.
- Notre Dame has been ranked in 19 of the previous games of the series (winning 17 of them, losing only in 1982 and 1996), while Air Force has been ranked twice. The 17th-ranked Falcons beat the unranked Irish 21-15 in 1985, while the 17th-ranked Falcons lost 41-27 to top-ranked Notre Dame in 1989 — the only other meeting (prior to this season) in which both teams were ranked. Ironically, all three times Air Force has been ranked in the series (’85, ’89, 2002), the game has been played in Colorado Springs.
- Notre Dame head baseball coach Paul Mainieri was the skipper at Air Force from 1989-94, guiding the Falcons to a 152-158 (.490) record. He remains the second-winningest coach in Air Force history. Since coming to Notre Dame, Mainieri has piloted the Irish to a 354-142-1 (.713) record, including eight straight 40-win seasons. In 2002, he steered Notre Dame to its first College World Series berth in 45 years, with the Irish defeating No. 1 Florida State in the NCAA Super Regional to get to Omaha.
FRIEND OR FOE?
- Three players in Saturday’s game are from San Diego: Notre Dame senior CB Shane Walton (The Bishops’ School), as well as Air Force junior S Larry Duncan (Mira Mesa HS) and junior LT Matt Pontes (Coronado HS).
- Eight players in Saturday’s game hail from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex: Notre Dame senior LT Jordan Black (Rowlett/Dallas Christian HS), senior NG Cedric Hilliard (Arlington/Lamar HS), junior WR Omar Jenkins (Dallas/Jesuit HS) and non-scholarship senior QB Dan Novakov (Dallas/St. Mark’s HS), along with Air Force sophomore FB Adam Cole (Dallas/Richardson HS), junior ILB Trevor Hightower (Plano/Plano HS), sophomore LF Mark Marsh (Fort Worth/Haltom HS) and sophomore ILB Anthony Schlegel (Highland Park/Highland Park HS).
- Six players in Saturday’s game reside in the Houston area: Notre Dame junior OLB Derek Curry (Sealy/Sealy HS), freshman DE Travis Leitko (The Woodlands/The Woodlands HS) and senior SS Gerome Sapp (Houston/Lamar HS), as well as Air Force sophomore RCB Charles Akinyemi (Sugarland/Marine Military Academy), sophomore RG Vance Shaffer (Houston/Alief Harding HS) and sophomore LG Brock Shepard (Sugarland/Kempner HS).
- Irish junior QB Carlyle Holiday (Roosevelt HS), Air Force sophomore NG Brandon Conyers (Macarthur HS) and Falcon sophomore LG John Peel (Smithson Valley HS) all grew up in San Antonio.
- Notre Dame freshman OT James Bonelli (St. Bonaventure HS) and Air Force junior RE Charles Bueker (Adolfo Camarillo HS) both are Camarillo, Calif., natives.
- Irish sophomore CB Quentin Burrell and Air Force sophomore P Robert Barkers both played at Southwest Dekalb High School in Decatur, Ga.
- Notre Dame fifth-year senior LS John Crowther and Air Force senior RT Scott Meyer were teammates at Edina (Minn.) High School in 1998.
- Air Force senior HB Don Clark is a 1999 graduate of Valparaiso (Ind.) High School.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND AIR FORCE MET (OCT. 28, 2000)
Glenn Earl blocked an Air Force field goal as time expired in regulation to force overtime, and Joey Getherall scored his third TD of the game on a nine-yard reverse to lead Notre Dame to a 34-31 overtime win (the first in Irish history after three OT losses) over Air Force — four years after the Falcons won 20-17 in overtime at Notre Dame Stadium in the last meeting between the teams. The Irish built a 28-10 lead with 21 consecutive points in the third quarter (Getherall’s 28-yard TD reception, David Givens 37-yard rushing TD and Getherall’s 68-yard TD reception) following a 10-7 halftime deficit before the Falcons scored 18 points in 9:14 to tie the game at 28 with 1:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. After Notre Dame punted following its third consecutive three-and-out offensive series, Air Force drove 53 yards on three plays to set up a 28-yard field goal attempt with three seconds remaining. Following Earl’s blocked field goal — the first for the Irish since Tyreo Harrison blocked a 26-yard field goal vs. Tennessee in ’99 — Notre Dame won the overtime coin toss and elected to play defense first. After a near fumble lost and interception thrown by Air Force on back-to-back plays, the Falcons settled for a 26-yard field goal on fourth and goal. After an apparent TD pass was ruled incomplete on Notre Dame’s first play, Julius Jones gained 10 yards on two carries and another six on a screen pass to set up Getherall’s reverse on third down and six from the nine.
THE LAST TIME NOTRE DAME AND AIR FORCE MET AT FALCON STADIUM (NOV. 18, 1995)
Randy Kinder and Autry Denson each rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns as No. 8 Notre Dame raced by Air Force, 44-14, in the 1995 regular-season finale at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs. The Irish won largely by beating the Falcons at their own game, rushing for 410 yards against option-based Air Force, and finishing with 514 yards of total offense.
Kinder piled up a game-high 121 yards on the ground and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 17-yard run midway through the first quarter. He later added a third-period score on a five-yard scamper. Meanwhile, Denson ran for 109 yards, scoring on runs of three and 23 yards. Fullback Marc Edwards almost made it three Irish backs to crack the 100-yard barrier, winding up with 84 yards for the game.
Despite playing without injured quarterback Ron Powlus, Notre Dame led from the outset against Air Force, jumping out to a 20-0 halftime lead. Kinder and Denson both found the end zone, while Scott Cengia booted a pair of field goals for the Irish. The Notre Dame defense also was stellar, holding the Falcons’ “flexbone” offense to 57 rushing yards and 69 yards of total offense in the first half. In fact, the only two touchdowns scored by Air Force in the game came through the air, as quarterback Beau Morgan had a pair of scoring tosses in the second half.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
- Notre Dame has won more than 78 percent of its games (22-6) vs. teams that currently make up the Mountain West Conference, with 25 of those 28 games coming against Air Force.
- Notre Dame’s .786 winning percentage against the Mountain West is the third-best against any Division I-A conference in school history, topped only by its marks against the Western Athletic Conference (.850) and the Atlantic Coast Conference (.805). In an interesting twist, all of the current members of the Mountain West were formerly part of the WAC.
- Saturday’s game marks the second for the Irish against a team representing the Mountain West Conference — now in its fourth year of existence.
- Notre Dame also is 2-1 all-time against Mountain West member Brigham Young. After an eight-year hiatus, the Irish and Cougars will renew their series on Nov. 15, 2003 at Notre Dame Stadium.
- The Irish have never faced any of the other six Mountain West schools (Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah, UNLV and Wyoming) on the gridiron.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE SERVICE ACADEMIES
- Notre Dame has won more than 83 percent of its games (121-22-5) vs. teams from the three service academies (Army, Navy and Air Force).
- The Irish have won seven consecutive games against the service academies, and they are 28-1 against these schools since 1986 (including a 13-0 mark away from home). The only defeat in that time was a 1996 overtime loss to Air Force at Notre Dame Stadium.
- More than half (75) of those 148 games, and more than half of those victories (65) have come against Navy, part of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. The Irish and Midshipmen will battle for 76th consecutive year on Nov. 9 in Baltimore. Notre Dame has won 38 consecutive games against Navy, extending its NCAA record for the longest winning streak against one opponent in college football history (previous record: Oklahoma won 32 straight over Kansas State from 1937-68).
- Notre Dame and Army met every season from 1913-47, with the exception of 1918. During an 11-season span from 1937-47, one or both teams were ranked, including six meetings when either side was first or second in the nation, and back-to-back “No. 1 vs. No. 2” matchups in 1945 and 1946. However, the Irish and Cadets have played just 14 times since 1947, with Notre Dame winning 13 of those encounters. Their last meeting came in 1998, with the Irish pulling out a 20-17 win at home.
Notre Dame moved up one spot to seventh in the latest editions of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The No. 7 ranking in the highest for the Irish in the AP poll since Sept. 22, 1996, when they were ranked fifth following a 27-24 win at No. 6 Texas on a 39-yard field goal by Jim Sanson as time expired.
For the third time this season, Notre Dame will be facing an opponent ranked in the Associated Press poll when it visits No. 18 Air Force. The Irish previously defeated No. 21 Maryland (22-0) and No. 7 Michigan (25-23). The last time Notre Dame knocked off three ranked opponents in the same season was 1995, when the Irish ousted No. 13 Texas (55-27), No. 15 Washington (29-21) and No. 5 USC (38-10). The school record for wins over ranked opponents in one season is six, set by the 1989 team which capped that year with a 21-6 win over No. 1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. The record for wins over ranked opponents in regular-season games is five, shared by the 1943, 1953, 1989 and 1990 squads.
IRISH STRONG IN OCTOBER
Notre Dame enters the Air Force game having won 18 of its last 19 games in October, dating back to a 20-17 loss to USC on Oct. 18, 1997. The only blemish on that record was a 21-17 loss at Boston College last year. Since the 1988 season, Notre Dame is 50-8 (.862) in October and was 32-7 (.821) in October in the 1990s. In addition, the Irish have won 15 consecutive October home games, dating back to the 1997 loss to USC.
UNBEATEN AND UNTIED
With identical 6-0 records, No. 7/7 Notre Dame and No. 18/15 Air Force are two of only 10 Division I-A teams which are still unbeaten this season, all of whom are ranked in the latest Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. The others are No. 1/1 Miami (6-0), No. 2/2 Oklahoma (6-0), No. 3/3 Virginia Tech (6-0), No. 4/4 Ohio State (7-0), No. 5/5 Georgia (6-0), No. 6/6 Oregon (6-0), No. 13/10 North Carolina State (7-0) and No. 25/23 Bowling Green (5-0, coached by former Irish assistant Urban Meyer). Besides Saturday’s Notre Dame-Air Force game, Miami and Virginia Tech are the only other undefeated teams slated to play one another this season, facing off on Dec. 7 at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
NOTRE DAME OFF AND RUNNING
For only the sixth time in the last 30 years, and the 27th time in the last 90 seasons (dating back to 1913), Notre Dame has opened with six consecutive victories. The last time that happened was 1993, when the Irish won their first 10 games before dropping a last-second 41-39 decision to Boston College. Notre Dame rebounded to defeat Texas A&M, 24-21, in the Cotton Bowl. Among the 26 previous 6-0 starts in school history, all of them resulted in a winning final record, including 15 undefeated seasons, nine national championships and seven bowl berths (6-1 record).
WILLINGHAM OFF TO A GOOD START
Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham has seen his tenure with the Irish open in strong fashion. In the season opener, Willingham guided the Irish to a 22-0 win over No. 21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic. That shutout was the first by a rookie Notre Dame head coach in his first game since 1954, when Terry Brennan piloted the second-ranked Irish to a 21-0 win over No. 4 Texas.
Willingham followed that up with five more wins, including a 25-23 conquest of No. 7 Michigan, becoming the first Irish head coach to win his first six games at Notre Dame since Ara Parseghian went 9-0 to open the 1964 season. In addition, Willingham is the first coach in school history to win his first two games against ranked opponents — in his debut season of 1941, Frank Leahy posted a 0-0 tie vs. No. 14 Army and earned a 7-6 win at eighth-ranked Northwestern.
Only two other full-time Notre Dame head coaches since 1913 have won six games in a row to open their Irish careers — Jesse Harper, who won his first nine in a row (all seven games in 1913 and the first two in ’14), and Parseghian, who also won his first nine games in 1964 before losing the season finale, 20-17 at USC.
NOTE: Interim head coaches Ed McKeever (1944) and Hugh Devore (1945) each won their first five games at Notre Dame; McKeever finished 8-2, while Devore posted a 7-2-1 record.
Part of the reason for Notre Dame’s success this season has been its penchant for pulling out close victories. In fact, the Irish have won four games this season by eight points or less, defeating Purdue (24-17), No. 7 Michigan (25-23), Michigan State (21-17) and Pittsburgh (14-6). All four games went down to the final seconds, with the latter three in doubt until the Irish came up with critical interceptions.
- The Notre Dame record for consecutive wins by eight points or less is five, the first five games of the 1939 season (Sept. 30-Oct. 28) under head coach Elmer Layden.
- The three-game stretch earlier this season marked just the fifth time Notre Dame won three consecutive games by eight points or less. The others are the last three games of the 1941 season (Nov. 8-22), the aforementioned first five games of 1939, the second, third and fourth games of the 1938 season (Oct. 8-22), and the last three games of 1937 (Nov. 13-27).
- The Notre Dame record for wins by eight points or less in a season is six, set in 1939 when that club had a 6-2 record in games decided by eight or less. The 1937 team was 5-1-1 in games decided by eight or less, while 1974 club was 5-0 in eight-point games. The 1929 (4-0), 1940 (4-1), 1984 (4-3), 1990 (4-3), 1997 (4-2) and 1998 (4-1) teams all had four wins by eight or less over the course of the season.
- As for winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less, the 1974 team was 5-0, while the 1929 unit was 4-0 (as is the 2002 squad to this point in the season). The 1926, 1928, 1954 and 1989 teams all finished 3-0 in eight-point games.
- One item of note on the greatness of Knute Rockne: He was 21-4-5 (.783) in games decided by eight points or less over his Notre Dame career, including 16-0-2 (.944) over his last seven years.
DOING IT WITH DEFENSE
The Irish defense has been one of the driving forces behind Notre Dame’s first 6-0 start since 1993. The Irish rank in the top 20 in the nation in several major defensive categories — scoring defense (3rd, 11.67 points/game), rushing defense (5th, 76.17 yards/game), pass efficiency defense (9th, 91.31) and total defense (17th, 295.0 yards/game). Here are some other points of interest on the Notre Dame defense:
- The Irish have scored five defensive/special teams touchdowns this season by five different players – SS Gerome Sapp (fumble return), CB Lionel Bolen (special teams – fumble return) and CB Vontez Duff (interception return) scored against Purdue, while CB Shane Walton (interception return) and ILB Courtney Watson (interception return) scored against Stanford. The school record for interception returns for TDs in one season is four, set by the 1966 club en route to the national championship.
- Notre Dame’s defensive acumen started with a stellar effort against Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, as the Irish held the defending ACC champion Terrapins to no points, eight first downs, 16 yards rushing and 133 yards of total offense. Maryland’s offensive production was the lowest by an Irish opponent since Rutgers managed just six first downs, minus-6 yards rushing and 43 yards of total offense on Nov. 23, 1996.
- Notre Dame shut out its opponents over the first five quarters of the 2002 season, its longest scoreless string on defense since Oct. 2-16, 1993, when it blanked Stanford (fourth quarter), Pittsburgh (all four quarters) and BYU (first quarter).
- Over the last 12 quarters (three games), the Irish defense has held its opponents without a touchdown in 10 of those periods. The two times Notre Dame’s defense allowed a TD were in back-to-back quarters — the fourth period at Michigan State and the first quarter against Stanford. Since that first-period TD by the Cardinal, the Irish have not given up another touchdown, yielding just two field goals to Pittsburgh.
- Notre Dame’s pass rush against Pittsburgh was its best in nearly six years, registering eight sacks against the Panthers. That was the most by the Irish since they collected nine sacks in a 62-0 win over Rutgers on Nov. 23, 1996.
- The Notre Dame defense has been especially effective in the first half of games. Through six contests, the Irish have allowed just one offensive touchdown in the first two quarters (Oct. 5 by Stanford) — the only other opponent TDs in the first half this season came via a punt return (Purdue) and an interception return (Michigan). On the strength of its defense, Notre Dame has outscored its opponents, 66-30, in the first half this season, including a 49-10 margin in the second quarter.
Notre Dame has jumped out to a 6-0 start this season, thanks in part to its ability to take care of the ball. The Irish own a +10 turnover margin (+1.67/game), which is good for seventh in the nation in 2002. All together, Notre Dame has recorded 19 takeaways, while giving the ball away just nine times. Those 19 takeaways have led to 78 Irish points (13.0 ppg.), including five turnovers which were turned directly into scores by the defense and special teams. In an interesting twist, four of those touchdowns were scored by Notre Dame’s defensive backs, with three coming against Purdue — SS Gerome Sapp’s 54-yard fumble return, CB Lionel Bolen’s four-yard fumble return on the ensuing kickoff after Sapp’s score, and CB Vontez Duff’s game-winning 33-yard interception return. The other defensive scores came against Stanford, when CB Shane Walton brought an interception back 18 yards for a TD, and ILB Courtney Watson had a 34-yard interception return for a score.
POSSESSION IS NINE-TENTHS OF A VICTORY
This season, Notre Dame has learned that it’s difficult for opponents to score if their offense is not on the field. Case in point — the Irish have won the time of possession battle in five of their six victories in 2002, holding the ball for an average of 32:29 per game, compared to 27:31 for their opponents. This trend started in the season opener vs. No. 21 Maryland, when Notre Dame maintained possession for a school-record 41:04, marking just the third time in the last 25 years in which the Irish have cracked the 40-minute barrier. The other 40-minute games were Oct. 27, 2001 at Boston College (40:15), and Nov. 22, 1980 vs. Air Force (40:04).
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART I
Notre Dame quickly turned fortunes in its favor against Purdue with a pair of touchdowns just 11 seconds apart in the second quarter. Senior SS Gerome Sapp returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD with 13:47 left in the period. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Boilermakers fumbled and sophomore CB Lionel Bolen returned the loose ball four yards for his first career score at the 13:36 mark. It represented the quickest two-touchdown burst in school history, one second faster than the previous mark. The Irish had scored two TDs in 12 seconds against Vanderbilt in 1995 — Autry Denson had a five-yard touchdown run at 6:39 of the second quarter, and Jarvis Edison had an eight-yard fumble return for a TD on the next kickoff at the 6:27 mark of the second period.
LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, PART II
For the second time this season, Notre Dame scored two touchdowns less than 30 seconds apart, turning the trick in only 24 seconds against Stanford. Sophomore TB Rashon Powers-Neal found the end zone first, bulling over from three yards out for his first career score with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Four plays after that score, senior CB Shane Walton returned a Cardinal interception 18 yards for another touchdown at the 3:58 mark. Both scores were part of a staggering 28-point outburst by the Irish over a stretch of 6:54 between the third and fourth quarters, turning what had been a 7-3 Stanford lead into a 31-7 Notre Dame victory.
Thanks to its new offensive scheme, Notre Dame already has seen its receivers have success far beyond anything they had amassed in their careers to date.
Among the pass-catching options on the Notre Dame roster this season are three former Irish quarterbacks who elected to change positions. Senior WR Arnaz Battle was Notre Dame’s starting signal-caller in 2000, but a broken wrist in the second game of the season against No. 1 Nebraska sidelined him and led to his eventual move to wideout in time for the 2001 season. This year, Battle leads the team with 21 receptions for 278 yards and two touchdowns, after he logged five receptions for 40 yards in ’01. Battle’s best game as a receiver came last week against Pittsburgh, when he set new career highs with 10 receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown. It was the most catches by an Irish wideout since Bobby Brown had 12 in a 1999 win at Pittsburgh.
With Battle’s injury in ’00, up stepped senior TE Gary Godsey, who was Battle’s quarterback understudy to begin that season. Godsey promptly engineered Notre Dame’s last-second 23-21 win over Purdue on Sept. 16, 2000. However, Godsey had played tight end in high school, and his size made his return to the position a natural one. He is third on the squad with 11 catches for 98 yards this year, including a career-best four receptions vs. Purdue.
The third former Irish quarterback now in the receiving corps is junior TE Jared Clark. The Sarasota, Fla., native is the latest Notre Dame QB to switch positions, electing to do so during spring practice in 2002. He has made two catches for 26 yards this season.
DUFF HAS BEEN THE STUFF FOR NOTRE DAME
Junior Vontez Duff has proven to be a multi-dimensional talent for Notre Dame. A preseason honorable mention All-America pick at cornerback by Street & Smith’s, Duff lived up to that billing against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown. His efforts have helped the Irish defense rank among the top 20 in the nation in several major statistical categories.
However, the Copperas Cove, Texas, native is not only a defensive threat. He also is a weapon on special teams as a kick returner. He proved that in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland in the Kickoff Classic, returned a Terrapin punt 76 yards for a score. That followed up his effort in the 2001 season finale, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win.
Duff nearly added a second punt return for a touchdown this season, but his 92-yard scamper against Stanford was wiped out by a penalty. Still, Duff’s touchdowns in three consecutive games also earned him a place in Notre Dame history. No defensive player had ever recorded touchdowns, whether on defense or special teams, in three straight games prior to Duff’s hat trick.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS FOR DUFF
With his game-winning 33-yard interception return against Purdue, junior Vontez Duff joined an elite group, becoming just the fourth player in school history to return an interception, punt and kickoff for a touchdown in his career. In the season opener, Duff returned a Maryland punt 76 yards for a score. That came on the heels of his final game in 2001, when he returned a kickoff 96 yards for a TD against Purdue, helping the Irish to a 24-18 win. Here’s a list of the other players to turn this unique triple play:
- Allen Rossum (1994-97) – three kickoff returns for TD (1996 vs. Purdue, 1997 at Pittsburgh and vs. Boston College); three interception returns for TD (1995 vs. Texas and at Washington, 1997 at Hawaii); three punt returns for TD (1996 vs. Air Force and Pittsburgh (two)); also had one blocked PAT return (1995 vs. Texas).
- John Lattner (1951-53) – two kickoff returns for TD (1953 at Purdue and Pennsylvania); one punt return for TD (1952 at Iowa); one interception return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); won Heisman Trophy in 1953.
- John Petitbon (1949-51) – one kickoff return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); one punt return for TD (1951 vs. Detroit); one interception return for TD (1949 vs. USC).
NOTE: Heartley (Hunk) Anderson (1918-21) returned an interception for a TD at Purdue in 1919, and returned a fumble and a blocked punt for a TD at Purdue in 1921.
WALTON LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT
Senior CB Shane Walton rapidly has developed into one of the top defensive backs in the country. He currently ranks third in the nation in interceptions with 0.83 thefts per game (five total), including a school-record-tying three interceptions in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over No. 21 Maryland at Kickoff Classic XX. Walton was the first Irish player since Dave Duerson vs. Navy in 1982 to have three interceptions in a single game, and his three picks also tied a Kickoff Classic record. Mike Townsend holds the school record for interceptions in a season with 10 in 1972, but since then, only three Irish players have recorded more than five thefts in one year — Joe Restic (6 in 1977), Duerson (7 in 1982) and Todd Lyght (8 in 1989).
All told, Walton has had a hand in eight of Notre Dame’s 19 takeaways this season, adding a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a pass deflection for an interception to his five thefts. The San Diego, Calif., native also ranks fifth on the team with 27 tackles, including a career-high eight stops (six solo) against No. 7 Michigan. Walton played a key role in defeating the Wolverines, knocking down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass with 2:53 left, and intercepting UM quarterback John Navarre to stop the Wolverines’ final drive with 21 seconds to play. Walton’s efforts against Michigan earned him recognition as the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, leading to his addition to the Watch List for the Nagurski Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s top defensive player. Walton also has been added to the Watch List for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded each year to the country’s top defensive back.
SETTA PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Senior PK Nicholas Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has been one of Notre Dame’s top offensive weapons over the last three seasons, thanks to his accuracy from various distances.
Setta got his season going in a big way in Notre Dame’s win over No. 21 Maryland at the Kickoff Classic. Setta set a Classic record by kicking five field goals, tying the school record set by Craig Hentrich against Miami (Fla.) in 1990. One of Setta’s kicks came from 51 yards out, setting a new Kickoff Classic mark and personal high for the Lockport, Ill., native. Along with his one PAT, Setta scored 16 points on the night, good enough to earn him Kickoff Classic MVP honors and recognition as the USATODAY.com National Player of the Week.
Setta currently owns a streak of 70 consecutive made extra points, dating back to a win over Stanford in 2000. That streak is the second-longest in school history behind Hentrich, who converted 136 consecutive PAT from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992.
However, while one of Setta’s streaks continues, another ended at Michigan State. The Irish placekicker did not kick a field goal against the Spartans, snapping his school-record string of three-pointers in 16 consecutive regular-season games. Setta wound up just three games shy of the NCAA record, jointly held by Oklahoma’s Larry Roach (1983-84) and Miami-Ohio’s Gary Gussman (1986-87), who each kicked a field goal in 19 consecutive games.
HILDBOLD KICKING UP A STORM
Senior P Joey Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and 2000 finalist, has once again shown his importance to the Notre Dame effort in the 2002 season. The third-year mainstay from Centreville, Va., is averaging 39.88 yards per punt (41 kicks, 1,635 yards), and he has dropped over 40 percent (17) of his 41 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Hildbold’s three-year average of 40.64 yards per punt (8,901 yards on 219 punts) puts him in fifth place on the Notre Dame career list, right behind Bill Shakespeare, who averaged 40.71 yards per punt from 1933-35.
IRISH PLAYERS RANK HIGH IN LINDY’S AND THE SPORTING NEWS
Senior Jeff Faine was tabbed the fifth-best center in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Gerome Sapp was rated the fifth-best strong safety in the land by The Sporting News. Senior cornerback Shane Walton was ranked 12th in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior Nicholas Setta was placed fifth among kickers by Lindy’s and 13th by The Sporting News. Senior Courtney Watson was rated 17th among the nation’s middle linebackers by The Sporting News, while senior Tom Lopienski was charted 18th among fullbacks by the same publication.
JEFF FAINE EARNS QUARTET OF PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior center Jeff Faine was a first-team preseason All-America selection by Street & Smith’s, a second-team preseason All-America choice by Athlon, a third-team preseason All-America designee by Football News and a preseason All-America pick by the Football Writers Association of America (no individual teams were selected by the FWAA). Faine is seeking to become Notre Dame’s first All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993.
SIX EARN PRESEASON HONORABLE MENTION ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Street & Smith’s cited six Irish players as preseason honorable mention All-America selections. Senior Jordan Black was listed among offensive linemen, senior Shane Walton and junior Vontez Duff among defensive backs, senior Courtney Watson among linebackers, senior Joey Hildbold among punters and senior Nicholas Setta among kickers.
JEFF FAINE NAMED TO OUTLAND AND RIMINGTON TROPHY, LOMBARDI AWARD WATCH LISTS
Senior C Jeff Faine has been named to a trio of watch lists for top offensive linemen. Faine is under early consideration for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. Faine also has been selected to the watch list for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation’s top center. In addition, for the second consecutive season, Faine has been named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. The Lombardi Award is given annually to the nation’s top lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.
SHANE WALTON ADDED TO BRONKO NAGURSKI TROPHY WATCH LIST
Senior CB Shane Walton has been added to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list after being named the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week for the weekend of Sept. 14. The Nagurski Trophy is given annually to the nation’s top defensive player by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the Charlotte (N.C.) Touchdown Club.
GEROME SAPP, SHANE WALTON NAMED TO JIM THORPE AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior SS Gerome Sapp and senior CB Shane Walton have been named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back. It is presented by the Jim Thorpe Association, which is based in Oklahoma City.
COURTNEY WATSON NAMED TO BUTKUS AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior ILB Courtney Watson has been named to the watch list for the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation’s best linebacker. The award is given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.
NICHOLAS SETTA NAMED TO LOU GROZA AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior PK Nicholas Setta has been named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s top placekicker by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Commission.
JOEY HILDBOLD NAMED TO RAY GUY AWARD WATCH LIST
For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. The Ray Guy Award is given annually to the nation’s top punter by the Greater Augusta (Ga.) Sports Council.
FAINE, SETTA NAMED TO STREET & SMITH’S AWARD WATCH LISTS
Street & Smith’s tapped senior center Jeff Faine for a spot on its Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. In addition, senior kicker Nicholas Setta earned a place on the publication’s Lou Groza Award watch list.
NINE PLAYERS SELECTED TO FOOTBALL NEWS PRESEASON ALL-INDEPENDENT TEAM
Football News named nine Notre Dame players to its 2002 preseason all-independent team. Sophomore RB Ryan Grant, senior TE Gary Godsey, senior OT Jordan Black and senior C Jeff Faine were chosen from the offensive side of the ball. Senior DT Darrell Campbell, senior LB Courtney Watson, senior CB Shane Walton and junior CB Vontez Duff were tapped on the defensive end. Senior PK Nicholas Setta represented the Irish special teams units on the squad.
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line — The Irish have an extremely talented and experienced crew up front on the offensive line this season. Four starters — senior tackles Jordan Black and Brennan Curtin, senior guard Sean Mahan and senior center Jeff Faine — all return this season and are legitimate contenders for postseason awards. Black has been a staple on the Notre Dame offensive line, now in his fourth season as a starter at tackle, playing in 37 regular-season games and amassing nearly 900 minutes of playing time. Faine, a preseason first-team All-American and candidate for the Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Rimington Trophy, is in his third season as the everyday Irish center, having started 28 consecutive regular-season games and leading the team in playing time this year. Mahan and Curtin are in their second seasons as starters at left guard and right tackle, respectively. Mahan has appeared in 34 games, starting his last 17 games, and he ranks second on the team in playing time this season. Curtin has made 12 career starts (including the last nine games in a row) after alternating between right tackle and right guard in ’01. This season, he moved into the right tackle position vacated by the graduation of Kurt Vollers.
With Vollers’ departure and Curtin’s move back to tackle, senior Sean Milligan returned to the starting lineup at right guard in five of the six Irish games this season. An injury limited his effectiveness vs. Purdue, and senior Ryan Scarola stepped into the starting right guard spot against the Boilermakers. Scarola also has spent time as Faine’s understudy at center. Seniors Ryan Gillis and Jim Molinaro also have seen significant minutes in reserve roles this season at guard and tackle, respectively.
Backs — Junior Carlyle Holiday took over as the starting quarterback for the Irish in the third week of the 2001 season and kept a firm grip on his job throughout the campaign. In five games this season, Holiday has completed 53 of 108 passes for 659 yards and two TD, including a career-high 226 yards in the Kickoff Classic victory over Maryland. However, Holiday missed the Stanford game after suffering an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder at Michigan State, but he returned to the lineup against Pittsburgh, completing 16 of 25 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown in the win. Sophomore Pat Dillingham (17-33, 213 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), a former walk-on, replaced the injured Holiday against Michigan State and threw the game-winning touchdown pass, a 60-yard strike to WR Arnaz Battle with just 1:15 to play. He then made his first career start against Stanford, guiding the Irish to a victory over the Cardinal. Freshman Chris Olsen fills the role as Notre Dame’s No. 3 QB.
Sophomore Ryan Grant (126-529, 5 TD) leads a youthful corps of Irish running backs who are benefitting not only from Notre Dame’s new offensive style, but also from its veteran offensive line. Grant ranks 45th in the nation with 88.2 yards per game. His best game came against No. 7 Michigan, when he rushed for a career-high 132 yards and two scores. Sophomore Rashon Powers-Neal (46-241, 1 TD) has given Notre Dame an alternate, tough-nosed option out of the backfield, after his conversion from linebacker last spring. He rushed for a career-best 108 yards and his first career TD against Stanford. Sophomore Marcus Wilson (12-42) and senior Chris Yura also will see action out of the backfield. Wilson ran for a career-high 35 yards vs. Stanford.
Senior Tom Lopienski (11-20) returns as the starting fullback for the Irish. Lopienski has made 24 career starts, serving mainly as a blocking back. However, his role is expected to be expanded in the new Irish offensive scheme. Senior Mike McNair has fought through injuries during his career, but he is ready to make a major contribution for Notre Dame in 2002.
Receivers — The Irish receiving corps may be the most closely-examined unit on the roster this season, as the new offensive program shifts its focus to a balanced attack. Experience is limited at the position, with only two returning monogram winners from a year ago. After catching five passes for 40 yards all of 2001, senior Arnaz Battle leads the team with 21 catches this season for 278 yards and two TD, including a career-high 10-catch, 101-yard effort against Pittsburgh. Sophomore Omar Jenkins (17-274) has shown the ability to be a deep threat for the Irish. He got the starting nod against Maryland in the 2002 opener and didn’t disappoint, leading the team with a career-high five receptions for 87 yards. Junior Ronnie Rodamer and sophomore Carlos Campbell (3-26) each played just over 14 minutes last season, but also have seen significant time in the starting lineup this season. However, they have been challenged by a pair of speedy freshman wideouts, Rhema McKnight (2-9) and Maurice Stovall (6-137), who are anxious to make their mark at the college level. Stovall registered two catches for 59 yards at Michigan State, including his first career TD, a 15-yard strike, in the final seconds of the first half.
Another converted quarterback, senior Gary Godsey gets the starting nod at tight end. The 6-6, 250-pound Godsey is a formidable target for Irish quarterbacks, and he is third on the team with 11 receptions for 98 yards, including a career-best four-catch day vs. Purdue. Godsey also is a talented blocker and gives the Irish a sizeable advantage on the offensive line. Junior Billy Palmer serves as Godsey’s understudy, along with junior Jared Clark (2-26), who moved from QB to TE in the spring.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line — The Irish defensive line is anchored by senior defensive tackle Darrell Campbell (13 tackles, four for loss, three sacks) and senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard (18 tackles, four for loss, two sacks). Both players turned in solid performances against Pittsburgh, with Campbell notching a career-high five tackles (two for loss and one sack), and Hilliard adding five tackles. Campbell and Hilliard are surrounded by fifth-year senior right end Ryan Roberts (22 tackles, six for loss, team-high six sacks) and junior left end Kyle Budinscak (nine tackles, three for loss, two sacks) who has made eight career starts and is the only other veteran returning on the Irish defensive line. Roberts was a key force in Notre Dame’s wins over Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh, registering a pair of sacks in all three games. Assistance comes in the form of sophomore end Justin Tuck (15 tackles, five for loss, four sacks), a pass-rushing specialist and converted linebacker, as well as junior end Jason Sapp and junior defensive tackle Greg Pauly. Tuck turned in back-to-back solid outings against Stanford and Pittsburgh, registering five tackles and a sack vs. the Cardinal, and four tackles and two sacks against the Panthers.
Linebackers — Senior ILB Courtney Watson is the lone returning linebacker for the Irish. He ranked second on the team with 76 tackles last season, including 13 for loss, and already is a 2002 Butkus Award candidate. He missed the Maryland and Purdue games with a viral infection, but has returned with a vengeance since then, rolling up a team-high 44 tackles (five for loss, two sacks, one INT), including a game-high 15 stops at Michigan State. He also chalked up his second career touchdown against Stanford, returning an interception 34 yards for a score. Sophomore Brandon Hoyte (23 tackles, one for loss, one sack) replaced Watson in the Maryland and Purdue games, recording a career-high nine tackles in the latter contest, one week after notching his first career sack in his first career appearance against Maryland. At the other two positions, Notre Dame was faced with the tall task of replacing honorable mention All-American Tyreo Harrison (97 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Rocky Boiman (41 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks), who were first and sixth on the team in tackles in ’01, respectively. Sophomore Mike Goolsby (39 tackles, eight for loss, two sacks) has stepped into the starting lineup at the other inside linebacker spot, ringing up a career-high 11 tackles, including three for losses, against Purdue. He also leads the team with eight tackles for losses. Senior Carlos Pierre-Antoine (three tackles) serves as Goolsby’s understudy at that inside linebacker post, while junior Derek Curry (18 tackles, four for loss, two sacks, one fumble recovery) has the most experience of the outside linebackers. He recorded a career-high five tackles at Michigan State and added his first career sack against Stanford. Sophomore Corey Mays (one tackle) also might see time at the inside position, while junior Jerome Collins (one tackle) lends support on the outside.
Backs — The Irish secondary has been particularly strong in 2002, with three starters back in the fold. Senior Shane Walton (27 tackles, three for loss, five INT, four pass breakups) has started the last 17 games at cornerback for the Irish, and he currently ranks third in the nation in interceptions (0.83 per game). The San Diego native opened the season by setting a Kickoff Classic record and tying a school standard with three thefts against Maryland. He added a career-high eight tackles and provided two critical plays vs. Michigan, batting down a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass, and then coming up with an interception in the final minute to quash a Wolverine threat. He also carded his second career touchdown vs. Stanford, returning a interception 18 yards for the score. Meanwhile, junior Vontez Duff (21 tackles, one INT, one fumble recovery, three pass breakups) gets the starting call at the other cornerback position, a position he has held for the last 14 games. Duff was the hero against Purdue, returning an interception 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown with just over five minutes to play. Senior strong safety Gerome Sapp (36 tackles, one for loss, three INT, four pass breakups) ranks 21st in the nation with 0.5 interceptions per game, and he also returned a fumble 54 yards for a TD in the first quarter of Notre Dame’s win over Purdue. Senior Glenn Earl (38 tackles, two for loss, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries) ranks third on the team in tackles and solo stops (25). He also forced and recovered a Pittsburgh fumble midway through the fourth quarter, leading to the clinching Notre Dame touchdown. The reserve secondary unit is headed by junior Preston Jackson (seven tackles, one INT) and sophomore Dwight Ellick (five tackles) at cornerback, and junior Garron Bible (12 tackles) and sophomore Lionel Bolen at safety. Jackson preserved the win over Pittsburgh by snaring his first career interception with just over a minute to play. Bible tied his career high with four tackles against Michigan. Bolen also has made an important contribution, scoring his first career touchdown on special teams against Purdue, scooping up a Boilermaker fumble and scurrying four yards for a second-quarter score.
SCOUTING THE IRISH KICKING GAME
For the third consecutive season, senior P Joey Hildbold and senior PK Nicholas Setta return, giving the Irish one of the finest kicking tandems in the nation. Hildbold, a three-time Ray Guy Award candidate and a finalist for the award in 2000, ranks fifth on Notre Dame’s career punting average list (40.64) and he is second in school history with 219 punts and 8,901 yards. Setta, a 2001 Lou Groza Award semifinalist and an ’02 Groza Award candidate, has made 70 straight PAT attempts, the second-longest run in school history. He also holds the Notre Dame record with at least one field goal in 16 consecutive games, a streak which ended at Michigan State. Setta established a Kickoff Classic record and tying the school mark with five field goals, including a Classic-record 51-yard boot, to earn game MVP honors. Setta also could see time as a reserve punter for the Irish after averaging 40 yards on four kicks at Boston College in 2000. Hildbold and Setta join veteran long snapper John Crowther (66 special teams appearances) and kick returner Vontez Duff in giving Notre Dame a potent special teams unit. Duff ranks 38th in the nation in punt return yardage, averaging 12.17 yards per return, and he already has a 76-yard punt return for a TD vs. Maryland to his credit. Meanwhile, Arnaz Battle ranks 45th in the nation in kickoff return yardage, averaging more than 22 yards per kickoff return (10 returns, 224 yards). Shane Walton (five punt returns for 46 yards) also is set to help return kicks this season.
Notre Dame’s freshman practices included 17 scholarship players and four walkons: OL James Bent (6-2, 260, Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) wears No. 59, OL David Fitzgerald (6-4, 270, Godfrey, Ill./Marquette Catholic) shares No. 54 with DL Jason Halvorson, WR Mike O’Hara (5-10, 175, Bellevue, Wash./Newport) sports No. 84, and ILB Anthony Salvador (6-2, 195, Concord, Calif./De La Salle) wears No. 81.
The Irish made one number change from the 2002 media guide rosters as senior strong safety/special teams player Chad DeBolt has changed from No. 58 to No. 24.
Notre Dame has four athletes who are two-sport standouts with the Irish:
- Senior CB Shane Walton is less than three years removed from earning all-BIG EAST Conference honors as a freshman forward on the ’98 Irish men’s soccer team. Walton has started 26 of the last 27 regular-season games for the Irish, dating back to the start of the 2000 season, earning preseason honorable mention All-America honors this year from Street & Smith’s. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of ’99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the ’99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second Notre Dame monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
- Senior SS and special teams player Chad DeBolt has made 229 special teams appearances over the last three seasons and was one of just four walkons on the usual travel list during that time. In 2000, he recovered a blocked punt vs. Rutgers and blocked a punt vs. USC — both of which led to Irish TDs.
DeBolt also was a four-year monogram winner for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team which advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2001. The Waterloo, N.Y., native served as team captain in ’02, handling the majority of the faceoff duties for the Irish. He won better than 56 percent of his draws and scooping up a team-high 51 ground balls in ’02. DeBolt missed just one contest during his 57-game career, scoring four goals and collecting 168 ground balls.
DeBolt’s lacrosse talents also have earned him a place at the professional level. He recently was drafted by the Rochester (N.Y.) Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.
- Sophomore CB Dwight Ellick earned a monogram last winter while competing for Irish head coach Joe Piane and the Notre Dame track and field team. Ellick garnered all-BIG EAST honors after placing third in both the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes at the 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships. He was a two-time state champion in the 100 meters in high school, winning the New York crown in 1999, before moving to Florida and winning the Sunshine State title in 2000.
- Senior PK Nicholas Setta, who finished sixth at the Illinois state track and field meet in the high jump and was the top hurdler in the state, has competed for Piane and the Irish track and field program the last two years. Setta ran middle distance for the Irish and participated in the 2001 and 2002 BIG EAST Indoor Track and Field Championships.
- Other Notre Dame football players who also ran track for the Irish include senior CB Jason Beckstrom, senior FB Mike McNair and sophomore WR Matt Shelton.
THE 2002 CAPTAINS
For only the second time in the 114-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game — the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championships. The 2002 captains have been as follows:
Maryland: WR Arnaz Battle, C Jeff Faine, DE Ryan Roberts, CB Shane Walton
Purdue: TE Gary Godsey, NG Cedric Hilliard, SS Gerome Sapp, PK Nicholas Setta
Michigan: OT Jordan Black, DT Darrell Campbell, CB Vontez Duff, C Jeff Faine
Michigan State: WR Arnaz Battle, FS Glenn Earl, OG Sean Mahan, LB Courtney Watson
Stanford: C Jeff Faine, WR Omar Jenkins, DE Ryan Roberts, CB Shane Walton
Pittsburgh: WR Arnaz Battle, LT Jordan Black, P Joey Hildbold, NG Cedric Hilliard
THE 2002 SCHEDULE
Once again, Notre Dame faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish play four teams that currently are ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls (No. 11/9 Michigan, No. 12/14 Florida State, No. 18/15 Air Force and No. 19/20 USC). In addition, three other Notre Dame opponents — Boston College, Maryland and Pittsburgh — are receiving votes in one or both polls. Nine of the 12 foes on this year’s Notre Dame’s schedule went to bowl games last season, highlighted by Maryland’s Orange Bowl berth, Michigan’s spot in the Citrus Bowl and Stanford’s trip to the Seattle Bowl. All of this comes on the heels of the 2001 Irish schedule, which was ranked 22nd most difficult in the nation and featured nine opponents that appeared in bowl games — Notre Dame was the only school in the country to play nine bowl-bound teams last season.
According to the latest NCAA rankings (as of Oct. 13), Notre Dame has the 47th toughest schedule in the nation. These rankings take into account the cumulative performance of all Irish opponents during the 2002 season.
NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With the Air Force game slated to be televised nationally by ESPN, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 118 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue at least through the 2002 campaign, as all 12 games this year are slated to be televised. The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 143 of its previous 166 games, including the first six games this season. In 2001, not only were 10 of the 11 Irish games designated sellouts (only Stanford was not), but eight came in front of stadium-record crowds. The Irish played before 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 fans at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big XII Conference and state of Texas record in the process. In fact, since 1998, Notre Dame has played before sellout crowds in 47 of the last 53 games — the only non-sellouts in that time were the ’98 and 2000 games at USC, the ’99 and 2001 games at Stanford, and neutral site games vs. Georgia Tech (’99 Gator Bowl at Jacksonville) and Navy (2000 at Orlando’s Citrus Bowl).
Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2002 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 55,482 ticket requests for the Nov. 2 game vs. Boston College, making it the third-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Sept. 14 Notre Dame-Michigan game garnered 50,883 requests, placing it fourth on the all-time list.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set last season when the Irish took on West Virginia on Oct. 13. Demand for that game, like this year’s Boston College contest, was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest — plus contributing alumni having the opportunity to apply for four tickets instead of the usual two, based on its designation as an alumni family game.
The Irish have posted 165 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 213 in their last 214 home games dating back to 1966 (only non-sellout was the 1973 Thanksgiving Day game with Air Force, which was changed to the holiday to accommodate television and was played with students absent from campus).
86,000 “Return to glory” t-shirts create “sea of green”
More than 86,000 of the “Return to Glory” T-shirts that have created a “sea of green” in Notre Dame Stadium this year have been sold, according to the university’s Student Activities Office. The initial run of 44,000 shirts sold out within six weeks, making it one of the earliest sellouts in the 13-year history of what is officially known as The Shirt Project. Due to the extraordinary popularity of The Shirt, a second run of 20,000 shirts was produced for the Stanford game, with the complete run selling out within the week. Consequently, a third run of 22,000 was delivered for the Pittsburgh game and that order also sold out within seven days.
As a result of this year’s sales, more than $400,000 has been raised to aid student charities and help fund the cost of operating student clubs and organizations, according to Mary Edgington, assistant director of Student Activities and adviser to the student-run project.
Notre Dame students have been wearing “The Shirt” to home football games since 1990 to show their support of the team. The project started when a graduate student suffered injuries in a car accident and students sold T-shirts to raise money to cover his medical expenses. Over time, other members of the Notre Dame community adopted the tradition, including alumni, faculty, staff and fans.
This year, The Shirt Project attracted national media attention because the slogan on the front of the shirt, “Return to Glory,” has been accompanied by the team’s first 6-0 start since 1993. As the largest student-run fundraiser on campus, The Shirt Project has raised over $2 million in the past 13 years.
The Shirt is kelly green and displays an interlocking ND with the “Return to Glory” slogan on the front. The back features a battle-chipped gold helmet, the Four Horsemen (the backfield made famous by sportswriter Grantland Rice), former Irish coach Knute Rockne, and an excerpt from a well-known Rockne speech – “We’re gonna go, go, go! And we aren’t going to stop until we go over that goal line!” The Shirt sells for $15 at various campus outlets as well as on the Internet.
WILLINGHAM NAMED HEAD COACH FOR 2003 EAST-WEST SHRINE GAME
Notre Dame mentor Tyrone Willingham has been named a head coach for the 78th East-West Shrine Game, to be played Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Willingham will pilot the East squad, while Washington State skipper Mike Price will lead the West team. Both men previously served as assistant coaches at the Shrine Game — Willingham worked with the West squad in 1998, while Price was a West assistant in 1996.
The Shrine Game showcases the talents of many of the nation’s top college senior players, while raising funds for thousands of children who receive medical care, at no cost, from the 22 Shriners’ Hospitals for Children throughout North America. In the 2002 NFL draft, 33 players from the 2002 Shrine Game were selected, including the third overall pick, Joey Harrington of Oregon.
NOTRE DAME LEGENDS ON BALLOT FOR “COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S 10 GREATEST PLAYERS”
No less than a dozen Notre Dame standouts will be under consideration when CBS airs “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Nov. 29. Among the nearly 200 former college greats listed on the ballot were all seven of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners — Angelo Bertelli (1943), John Lujack (1947), Leon Hart (1949), John Lattner (1953), Paul Hornung (1956), John Huarte (1964) and Tim Brown (1987). Other former Irish players being considered for this elite group include a quartet of consensus All-Americans and National Football Foundation Hall of Fame inductees — DE Ross Browner (1973-77), T George Connor (1946-47), HB George Gipp (1917-20) and DT Alan Page (1964-66) — as well as consensus All-American and current Dallas Cowboys’ wideout Raghib Ismail (1988-90).
Balloting for “Dell Presents College Football’s 10 Greatest Players” included only 500 voters representing five groups — the NFF Hall of Fame, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Downtown Athletic Club and prominent members of the college football media. Voting was not limited to the 200 players on the ballot, as voters were able to cast write-in selections as well.
1947 NOTRE DAME TEAM SELECTED FOR “TOSTITOS TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS”
In conjunction with ESPN.com, Tostitos is asking fans to vote for the greatest national championship team of all time. A group of 16 teams have been selected by an ESPN and ABC panel of football experts. Among those squads chosen is the 1947 Notre Dame team led by legendary head coach Frank Leahy. That Irish unit went a perfect 9-0 behind the play of consensus All-American and Heisman Trophy winner John Lujack, as well as fellow consensus All-Americans George Connor and Bill (Moose) Fischer. The Irish averaged better than 32 points per game while holding opponents to less than six points per outing that season. However, perhaps the most impressive statistic about the ’47 squad is that it sent 42 players to professional football and six of its members were later inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
Beginning Aug. 23 and continuing through Dec. 6, those 16 teams are being paired head-to-head in a bracket tournament, with the team receiving the largest number of fan votes advancing to the next round. The 1947 Notre Dame club defeated the ’48 Michigan crew in the opening round of the tournament Sept. 20, and will meet the ’71 Nebraska squad in the quarterfinals on Nov. 1. The semifinals are slated for Nov. 22, with the title contest on Nov. 29. The announcement of the “greatest national championship team of all-time” is set for Dec. 8 during the Bowl Championship Series selection show on ABC.
THE 2002 NFL DRAFT
Six former Irish players were selected in the 2002 NFL entry draft, while five other players signed free agent contracts. Anthony Weaver (second round, Baltimore Ravens) was the first Notre Dame player chosen. Rocky Boiman (fourth round, Tennessee Titans) was next, followed by John Owens (fifth round, Detroit Lions), Tyreo Harrison (sixth round, Philadelphia Eagles), Javin Hunter (sixth round, Baltimore Ravens) and David Givens (seventh round, New England Patriots). In addition, Tony Fisher (Green Bay Packers), Grant Irons (Buffalo Bills), Ron Israel (Washington Redskins), Jason Murray (Cincinnati Bengals) and Kurt Vollers (Indianapolis Colts) all signed free agent deals. Of these 11 players, eight made the final 53-man roster with their respective teams (all six draftees plus Fisher and Irons), while Vollers was re-signed to the Colts’ practice squad.
MAKING THE GRADE
The Notre Dame football squad recently had two of the most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the 2001 fall semester and the 2002 spring semester. In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished with its second-highest combined grade-point average on record (2.685) since statistics were kept beginning in 1992. A total of 12 players earned Dean’s List recognition and 38 players posted a “B” average or higher last fall. Then, in the spring of 2002, the Irish topped that mark with a record-setting 2.911 combined team GPA, with 13 players making the Dean’s List and another 47 averaging a “B” or better.
NOTRE DAME EXCELS IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD
The Notre Dame football team has earned American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award special mention honors announced in August. To earn the award, a team must have a graduation rate of over 70 percent. Northwestern won the 2002 overall award with a perfect 100 percent graduation rate. Notre Dame joined distinct company as it was one of eight schools to graduate over 90 percent of its players from the freshman class of 1996-97. The Irish joined Boston College, Duke, Nebraska, Penn State, Rice, Vanderbilt and Western Michigan in the elite group. Sixteen other schools graduated 70 percent of their athletes or better in earning special mention status as well.
Notre Dame has been recognized 21 of 22 years the award has been presented, the most of any school in the nation. Notre Dame has won the overall award six times with the most recent coming in 2001 as the Irish posted a perfect 100 percent graduation rate, becoming only the eighth school in history to graduate everyone in the class during the reporting period. Notre Dame also won the overall award in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1991. In 1988, Notre Dame became the only school to win the Academic Achievement Award and the National Championship in the same year.
FORMER IRISH GREAT DAVE DUERSON
Former Notre Dame football All-American Dave Duerson is still extremely involved with the University in a number of capacities. A former team captain, Duerson was named to the Notre Dame Board of Trustees in 2001, and was the winner of the 2001 Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. The Sorin Award is presented annually to a graduate who has embodied “the values of Our Lady’s University” in his service to the community. Earlier this year, Duerson founded his own company, Duerson Foods, after serving as president of Fair Oaks Farms, Inc., a Wisconsin-based international meat supplier that in 1999 was ranked 64th among Black Enterprise 100 companies. In addition, Duerson was a member of the advisory council for the University’s Mendoza College of Business and currently is first vice president of the Notre Dame National Monogram Club (he will serve as president from June 2003-June 2005). He also is a member of the athletic department’s student development mentoring program.
FRIDAY FOOTBALL KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
Tickets are available for the 2002 Notre Dame Football Kickoff Luncheons, “ND Football Live,” with the next slated for noon (EST) Nov. 1 in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome). The luncheons are held the same day and time before every Irish home football game this year. The 2002 Notre Dame Football Luncheons are sponsored by the Notre Dame Athletic Department and the speaking program each week includes a combination of special guests, head coach Tyrone Willingham, members of the coaching staff and members of the Irish squad, with Bob Nagle hosting the television talk-show format. Tickets are $18 each (plus $3 handling charge per order) and are available by calling (574) 272-2870.
All 2002 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome) on Fridays before Saturday home games, with new start times of 6 p.m. (EST). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.
“NOTRE DAME EXPERIENCE” MAKES ITS DEBUT IN 2002
For years, the Joyce Center Fieldhouse has been the “pregame meeting place” for several thousand Notre Dame alumni. In an effort to add to this tradition, the Notre Dame Athletics Department is providing an interactive fan experience for each of the 2002 home football games. The “Notre Dame Experience” will combine the Notre Dame Alumni Association Hospitality Center with interactive inflatables, photo booths, autograph sessions, Notre Dame football trivia and stage activities. Among those persons featured in the autograph sessions were former Irish football standouts Derrick Mayes, Allen Pinkett, Tony Rice and Pat Terrell, as well as former Notre Dame women’s basketball All-American and 2001 consensus national player of the year Ruth Riley. Gates open three hours prior to kickoff and will stay open until one hour after the game. Admission is free.
ORDER YOUR MEDIA GUIDES AND FOOTBALL PREVIEW MAGAZINES TODAY
This season marks the ninth edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine — an official publication by the University of Notre Dame athletic department. The 1994, ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98 and 2000 editions were voted best in the nation in the special publications competition sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The preview magazine, published by Host Communications, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on new head coach Tyrone Willingham. It’s a collectors item perfect for autographs — with an emphasis on outstanding color photography unavailable in any other publication. The yearbook is priced at $8 (plus $4 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-313-4678 or by writing to: Notre Dame Programs, 904 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40505.
Notre Dame’s award-winning football media guide, which was voted best in the nation by CoSIDA for the 10th time in the last 20 years in 2001, features more than 450 pages of information and statistics on the 2002 Irish squad, as well as a complete record book and history of Notre Dame football. The media guide is priced at $10 (plus $6 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-647-4641 or by visiting the Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus.