Oct. 30, 2000
By TOM COYNE
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Glenn Earl made a name for himself with Notre Dame fans with one jump.
It was the other 83 plays he was in for that impressed the Fighting Irish coaches.
Earl, making his first start at strong safety in place of injured Ron Israel, made eight tackles – seven solo – and recovered a fumble in No. 15 Notre Dame’s 34-31 overtime victory against Air Force on Saturday.
The play he’ll most be remembered for, though, was one he wasn’t supposed to make.
Earl blocked a 28-yard field goal attempt as time expired in regulation to force Air Force (5-3) into overtime.
“He didn’t get all of it, but he got enough of it,” coach Bob Davie said Sunday.
Enough to give the Irish (6-2) another chance at the victory and enough of it to keep alive their hopes for their first major bowl berth in five years. But Earl was supposed to be watching for the fake and helping the line get a good push on the play, not trying to block the kick.
“I guess I’ll get marked down for a missed assignment for that,” Earl said.
Davie joked that Earl wouldn’t get marked down for missing the assignment, although he might get a few demerits for letting the media know he was only supposed to be the spy.
“Some coaches were trying to take credit for that field goal block. That broke our whole deal,” he said.
Earl said he couldn’t help but jump because “I got a little excited.”
“I just timed off the kicker’s rhythm,” Earl said. “Their kicker took a lot of time. I’d been watching the way he did it the previous field goal attempts. So I thought if I got up there a little bit I could get a hand on it. We really had nothing to lose right there. I guess I got lucky.”
Earl also blocked a punt against Purdue that set up a 4-yard touchdown drive on Notre Dame’s opening drive against the Boilermakers. But Saturday was the most significant playing time he got at safety.
Earl, who entered the game with a total of 11 tackles, made a big play on the Air Force’s third possession. The Falcons ran a reverse and the Irish overpursued, but Earl fought off a block and made a good open field tackle to stop Ricky Amezaga for a 4-yard gain at the Irish 42-yard line.
“He’s playing man coverage and comes off and stops it,” Davie said. “That was a big play.”
Earl also made a key fumble recovery. Trailing 14-10, Air Force was driving in the third quarter when Falcons quarterback Mike Thiessen fumbled after a hard hit by linebacker Anthony Denman. Earl recovered at the Irish 25, and that led to a 37-yard touchdown run by David Givens on a reverse.
Earl also appeared to intercept a pass by Thiessen in the second quarter, but officials called pass interference on Tony Driver on what Davie called a “phantom” call.
Still, Earl showed his leaping ability by jumping high to intercept the pass.
“That was a big-time play,” Davie said.
Davie said Earl, a sophomore, was at the top of his list of players who performed well against Air Force.
“He is going to be a good football player,” he said.