’97 Irish Notes

The Highlights

Here are some of the highlights of Notre Dame’s 1997 football season, the first under head coach Bob Davie: Notre Dame produced the biggest in-season turnaround in Irish football history, becoming the first team to start 1-4 and finish with a winning record. The Irish played in a postseason bowl game for the 10th time in 11 seasons, thanks to their 11th consecutive winning season. The Irish won five straight games to end the regular season (all on a sudden-death basis, since one more loss would have kept the Irish from being bowl eligible), the sixth time that happened in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Notre Dame played a schedule ranked 15th nationally in difficulty, including six games against teams then ranked in the Associated Press top 25 (#17 Michigan State, #6 Michigan, #19 Stanford, #11 LSU, #22 West Virginia and #15 LSU in the Independence Bowl). The Irish played five games vs. teams that ended up in the final AP poll (#1 Michigan, #13 LSU, #15 Purdue, #25 Georgia Tech) and played eight games vs. teams that participated in bowl games (Michigan in Rose, Michigan State in Aloha, Purdue in Alamo, Georgia Tech and West Virginia in Carquest, Pittsburgh in Liberty, LSU in Independence), the most since eight opponents qualified in 1989. The Irish defeated ranked opponents on successive Saturdays (#11 LSU, then #22 West Virginia) for the first time since 1992. Notre Dame set a single-season record by claiming four victories (Georgia Tech, Navy, West Virginia, Hawaii) on fourth-period game-winning drives, coming from behind in three of the games. The Irish attempted (317) and completed (190) more passes than any team in Notre Dame history, with quarterback Ron Powlus also setting individual single-season marks in those categories. Powlus finished his Notre Dame career as the all-time leader in passing yards (7602), attempts, completions and TD passes (52), as well as total offense attempts and yards. Wide receivers Malcolm Johnson (42 catches) and Bobby Brown (45) combined to give Notre Dame its first-ever pair of pass-catchers with 40 or more receptions each to their credit in a season. Notre Dame for the first time in its history played a game (24-6 win vs. #11 LSU in Baton Rouge) without either a turnover or a penalty. Senior Allen Rossum set an NCAA record for career returns for touchdowns with nine (three each on interceptions, punt returns and kickoff returns). He finished as Notre Dame’s all-time leader in kick return average (punts and kickoffs). Junior tailback Autry Denson rushed for 1,268 yards in ’97 to become only the third Irish player to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (also Vagas Ferguson in 1978-79 and Allen Pinkett in 1983-85). Denson had eight 100-yard games in ’97, including a season-high 144 vs. West Virginia and 101 vs. LSU in the Independence Bowl) – and he needs to average 90.0 yards per game in his 11 1998 regular-season games to pass Pinkett and become Notre Dame’s all-time leading groundgainer. His 30 receptions in ’97 marked the most by an Irish running back in 29 seasons. Notre Dame opened the doors in ’97 to an enlarged and refurbished Notre Dame Stadium, with its 80,225 seats (the old capacity was 59,075) enabling Notre Dame to finish eighth nationally in attendance. The Irish saw each of their home games sold out for the 33rd straight year.

The Head Coach

Bob Davie finished 7-6 (.538) in his first season as a collegiate head coach in 1997. His squad’s victories over #11 LSU and #22 West Virginia marked the first time a Notre Dame team had beaten ranked foes on two straight Saturdays since November ’92 (54-7 over #9 Boston College, then 17-16 over #22 Penn State). It marked Davie’s fourth year at Notre Dame overall after serving as the Irish defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach from 1994-96. Davie previously coached nine seasons at Texas A&M (1985-93), two at Tulane (1983-84), four overall at Pittsburgh (1977, 1980-82) and two at Arizona (1978-79). He spent both seasons at Tulane as defensive coordinator and the last five seasons at Texas A&M in that role before coming to Notre Dame. Davie, hired as Irish head coach on Nov. 24, 1996, did gain particular insight into that position in ’95 when he filled in briefly for Lou Holtz after Holtz underwent neck surgery.

The Schedule

Here is a look at ’97 Notre Dame opponents’ results and bowl games. Since 1977 when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995). The ’97 Irish schedule rated 15th in the NCAA’s ratings for toughest schedules.

Opponent        Record   Bowl Game   Georgia Tech    7-5      Carquest (W 35-30  vs. West Virginia)   Purdue          9-3      Alamo (W 33-20 vs. Oklahoma State)   Michigan State  7-5      Aloha (L 23-51 vs. Washington)   Michigan        12-0     Rose (W 21-16 vs. Washington State)   Stanford        5-6   Pittsburgh      6-6      Liberty (L 7-41 vs. Southern Mississippi)   USC             6-5   Boston College  4-7   Navy            7-4   LSU             9-3      Independence (W 27-9 vs. Notre Dame)   West Virginia   7-5      Carquest (L 30-35 vs. Georgia Tech)   Hawaii          3-9   

Notre Dame Opponents’ Season Record: 75-51 (.595)
Season record does not include games played against Notre Dame

Notre Dame played six ranked opponents during the ’97 season, the first time that happened since 1992 (defeated #9 Boston College, #22 Penn State, #19 USC and #4 Texas A&M that year, lost to #19 Stanford, tied #6 Michigan). Here’s the ranked results from ’97:

      #17 Michigan State            L   7-23   at #6 Michigan                   L   14-21   at #19 Stanford                  L   15-33   at #11 LSU                       W   24-6      #22 West Virginia             W   21-14      #15 LSU (Independence Bowl)   L   9-27

The Irish played eight games vs. teams that ended up in bowl games for ’97 and that’s the most opponents to end up in bowls on an Irish schedule since ’89 when eight of Notre Dame’s foes qualified for postseason contests.

The Finish

Notre Dame’s win over Hawaii in its ’97 regular-season finale meant the Irish won five straight games to finish the regular season. It marked the first time that happened since ’95 (six straight to end the year) and only the sixth time that happened in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Last Hurrah for Irish QBs

Ron Powlus’ game-winning touchdown pass to Bobby Brown vs. West Virginia made him the third straight starting Irish QB to throw a touchdown pass on his final pass attempt in Notre Dame Stadium. Here are the details: Rick Mirer – He brought the Irish from behind vs. Penn State in ’92 on a 64-yard drive, culminating in a four-yard TD pass to Jerome Bettis with 20 seconds left. Then, Mirer threw to Reggie Brooks for the two-point conversion to give the Irish a 17-16 win in the final game of the Irish-Nittany Lion series. Kevin McDougal – He brought the Irish from behind vs. Boston College in ’93 on a 66-yard drive, culminating in a four-yard TD pass to Lake Dawson with 1:09 left for a 39-38 Irish lead. The Eagles came back with a late field goal as time ran out to defeat the top-ranked Irish 41-39. Ron Powlus – He gave the Irish their first lead vs. West Virginia in ’97 on a 78-yard drive, culminating in an 11-yard TD pass to Bobby Brown with 4:56 left for a 21-14 victory.

Injuries Caused Games Missed

The Irish had to deal with a glut of injuries in 1997, especially early in the year. Starters and other key reserves missed a cumulative total of 59 games. Here’s a list of the key Notre Dame players with number of missed games:

   Starting OT Chris Clevenger   11   Starting FB Joey Goodspeed    10   ILB Ronnie Nicks               9   Starting TE Dan O'Leary        6   DE Jason Ching                 6   FL Joey Getherall              5   Starting ILB Bobbie Howard     5   Starting NG Corey Bennett      4   Starting FS Jarvis Edison      3

On offense, the Irish were hurt early by the extended losses of starters Dan O’Leary at TE (he missed six straight games after the Georgia Tech opener) and Joey Goodspeed at FB (he was hurt vs. Michigan State and missed the final 10 games), at positions where they were working to replace graduated starters Pete Chryplewicz and Marc Edwards, respectively, both of whom played in he NFL in ’97. On defense, Notre Dame benefitted tremendously from the return of ILB Bobbie Howard and NG Corey Bennett, both of whom were lost early and missed most of the first half of the season. In fact, the Irish were 6-2 with Howard in the starting lineup, 1-4 without him.

The Last Game

The ’97 season marked the third straight year the Irish came into a must-win situation in their final regular-season contest, with postseason bowl hopes hanging in the balance: 1995 – The Irish took an 8-2 record into their regular-season finale at Air Force, needing a victory to reach the nine-win mark that guaranteed them an Alliance Bowl position, eventually against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame accomplished that by defeating Air Force 44-14. 1996 – The Irish took an 8-2 record into their regular-season finale at USC, apparently needing a victory to have a chance for an Alliance Bowl invitation. Their 27-20 overtime loss to the Trojans, combined with the Lou Holtz-to-Bob Davie coaching change, ended up leaving them entirely out of the bowl scene. 1997 – Rebounding from a 1-4 start, the Irish took a 6-5 record into their regular-season finale at Hawaii, needing a victory to make them bowl eligible. NCAA rules stipulate that bowl games are played between “deserving winning teams” that are required to have more wins than losses. Thus, a 7-5 record earned the Irish a chance to play in a bowl game, and the 23-22 victory over Hawaii provided that opportunity.

The Big Comeback

The 1997 season qualified as the biggest in-season turnaround in the history of Notre Dame football. Never before had a Notre Dame team been 1-4 and finished with a winning season. Here’s a look at what happened to other Irish teams that opened at 1-4:

1933 – started 1-4-1, finished 3-5-1 1956 – started 1-4, finished 2-8 1960 – started 1-4, finished 2-8 1962 – started 1-4, finished 5-5 1986 – started 1-4, finished 5-6

There were 43 Division I-A teams that started the ’97 season either 0-4, 1-4 or 2-4, only two of those finished above the .500 mark and only two (Notre Dame and Utah State in Humanitarian Bowl) played in bowl games:

Notre Dame (7-6 after a 1-4 start; won five straight to finish regular season) SMU (6-5 after a 1-4 start; won five straight before a 21-18 loss to TCU in its finale)

Utah State (6-6 after a 2-4 start; won five straight to finish regular season; lost 35-19 to Cincinnati in Humanitarian Bowl)

The season most similar to ’97 in Notre Dame annals probably was the 1962 campaign in which the Irish won their opener against Oklahoma, then dropped four straight (exactly as in ’97). Then, the ’62 Irish won four straight games before falling to USC in the finale to end up 5-5.

The NCAA Stats

Here were final NCAA statistical rankings for the Irish team and individuals:

   Team Rankings          Rushing Offense           36th at 174.92      Passing Offense           75th at 185.33            Total Offense             63rd at 36025            Scoring Offense           67th at 22.75            Rushing Defense           83rd at 184.75            Pass Efficiency Defense   24th at 107.77          Total Defense             60th at 365.0            Scoring Defense           31st at 19.83   Punt Returns              75th at 7.95            Kickoff Returns           24th at 22.23            Net Punting               53rd at 36.27      Turnover Margin           40th at Plus-5                           Individual Rankings              Rushing   Autry Denson              19th at 105.67      Kickoff Returns   Allen Rossum              6th at 28.5   Punting   Hunter Smith              32nd at 42.64   All-Purpose Runners   Autry Denson              37th at 133.67   

The Rossum Records

Irish CB Allen Rossum averaged 20.4 yards every time he touched the football in 1997 (34 for 695) and 23.3 in his career (63 for 1471). His 37-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Hawaii marked his ninth career return for a touchdown (three punts, three kickoffs, three interceptions), breaking the NCAA career record held by Erroll Tucker of Utah in 1984-85 (with 3 IR, 3 PR, 2 KR).

Rossum finished sixth nationally in kickoff returns at 28.5 yards each for ’97, as one of only five players to return two kickoffs for TDs in ’97 (among those listed in NCAA top 50 ratings). He finished with the best punt return average in Notre Dame history on a career basis (15.8) and was second (30.7) in career kickoff return average – and he tied a Notre Dame single-season record with his two kickoff returns for TDs in ’97, the same as Raghib Ismail in ’88 and ’89, Tim Brown in ’86, Nick Eddy in ’66, Johnny Lattner in ’53, Willie Maher in ’23, Paul Castner in ’22.

Rossum’s career average on all kick returns (punts and kickoffs) set an all-time Irish record of 23.5 (56 for 1318), breaking Raghib Ismail’s 22.6 mark from 1988-90 (71 for 1607).

Rossum returned punts for TDs for 83 and 55 yards vs. Pittsburgh in ’96 and those two, combined with Autry Denson’s 74-yard punt return for a TD, helped set a handful of Notre Dame and NCAA records a year ago:

– Rossum’s two returns vs. Pittsburgh in ’96 combined with his 57-yard punt return for a TD vs. Air Force and his 99-yard kickoff return for a TD vs. Purdue to give him four total kick returns for TDs in 1996. That broke the Notre Dame single-season record of three set by Heisman Trophy runnerup Raghib Ismail (1 PR, 2 KR in 1989), Heisman winner Tim Brown (3 PR in 1987) and Nick Rassas (3 PR in 1965). The NCAA single-season record is five by Robert Woods of Grambling (3 PR, 2 KR) in 1977 and Pinky Rohm (3 PR, 2 KR) of LSU in 1937. – Rossum’s two punt returns for TDs vs. Pitt in ’96 tied a Notre Dame single-game mark also held by Tim Brown vs. Michigan State in 1987 and Vince McNally vs. Beloit in 1926. It also tied an NCAA mark held by many players. – Rossum had three punt returns for TDs in ’96, tying Brown and Rassas for the single-season Notre Dame mark and leaving him one short of the NCAA single-season mark of four held by three different players. – Notre Dame’s 231 punt-return yards vs. Pittsburgh in ’96 set a Notre Dame record, breaking the old mark of 225 vs. Beloit in 1926. The three returns for TDs in one game tied an NCAA team record also set by Holy Cross vs. Brown in ’74, LSU vs. Ole Miss in ’70, Wichita State vs. Northern State in ’49 and Wisconsin vs. Iowa in ’47. – Notre Dame as a team had four punt returns (plus a fifth vs. Rutgers that came on a blocked punt) for TDs in ’96, breaking the Irish season mark of three from 1926, 1965 and 1987.

Career Punt Return Average                           No.  Yds.  Avg.   TD1. Allen Rossum, '94-'97   27   427   15.81  32. Nick Rassas, '63-'65    39   612   15.69  33. Raghib Ismail, '88-'90  25   336   13.4   14. Ricky Watters, '88-'89  34   454   13.35  35. Tim Brown, '86-'87      36   476   13.2   3

The Denson List

With his 1,268 rushing yards in 1997, junior TB Autry Denson ranked as the sixth player in Notre Dame history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in a season – and he now ranks third on the Irish all-time groundgaining list. He’s the third Irish player to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (joining Vagas Ferguson in 1978-79 and Allen Pinkett in 1983-85). His ’97 total marked the fourth-highest single-season total in Irish annals (he was voted MVP of the ’97 Irish squad by his teammates) – and his ’96 total ranked sixth.

Denson has 11 regular-season games remaining in his Notre Dame career and he needs to average 90.0 yards per game in those contests to surpass all-time Irish rushing leader Allen Pinkett (4131 yards).

His 143 yards vs. Hawaii marked his seventh overall 100-yard effort in ’97 (he also had seven in ’96) and the 17th of his career (Pinkett holds the career mark with 21). Those figures don’t include his 101 yards vs. LSU in the ’97 Independence Bowl since bowl games aren’t included in NCAA season or career statistics.

Denson’s 30 receptions in ’97 marked the most by an Irish running back since Bob Gladieux caught 37 in 1968.

Career Rushing Yards      Name                     No.   Yds.   Avg.  TD   1. Allen Pinkett, '82-'85   889   4131   4.6   49   2. Vagas Ferguson, '76-'79  673   3472   5.2   32   3. Autry Denson, '95-'97    603   3142   5.2   28   4. Jerome Heavens, '75-'78  590   2682   4.5   15   5. Phil Carter, '79-'82     557   2409   4.3   14   6. George Gipp, '17-'20     369   2341   6.3   21Single-Season Rushing Yards      Name, Yr.               Att.  Yards   1. Vagas Ferguson, 1979    301   1437   2. Allen Pinkett, 1983     252   1394   3. Reggie Brooks, 1992     167   1343   4. Autry Denson, 1997      260   1268   5. Vagas Ferguson, 1978    211   1192   6. Autry Denson, 1996      202   1179   7. Allen Pinkett, 1984     275   1105   8. Allen Pinkett, 1985     255   1100   9. Al Hunter, 1976         233   1058  10. Lee Becton, 1993        164   1044

The LSU Win

Notre Dame’s victory in Baton Rouge vs. 11th-rated LSU proved significant for several reasons. It marked the first time in Notre Dame history that the Irish played a game without either a penalty or a turnover. It also marked only the fourth time in history the Irish were not penalized in a game (others were vs. Ohio State in ’35 and vs. USC and Miami in ’81).

The Comeback Wins

1997 marked the first season in Notre Dame history that the Irish had four game-winning drives in a single campaign, enabling the Irish to post home wins vs. Georgia Tech, Navy, West Virginia and Hawaii. Here are details:

Georgia Tech – Trailing 13-10, the Irish took over on their own 30 with 7:42 left after a 47-yard missed field goal by Tech. Ron Powlus led them 70 yards in 11 plays, with Autry Denson scoring the gamewinner on a one-yard run with 2:37 remaining. Navy – Trailing 17-14, the Irish took over on their own seven at the 13:29 mark after a Benny Guilbeaux interception. Powlus led them 93 yards in 11 plays, with Denson scoring from the five at the 5:48 mark. West Virginia – With the score tied at 14, the Irish took over at their own 22 at the 7:32 mark after an Ivory Covington interception. Powlus led them 78 yards in six plays, throwing an 11-yard TD pass to Bobby Brown at the 4:56 mark for the winning points.

Hawaii – Trailing 22-14 with 13:34 left in the game, the Irish pulled within 22-20 on a four-yard Autry Denson TD run at the 11:36 mark. Then, the Irish took over at the Hawaii 49 at the 1:50 mark after a Rainbow punt. Powlus led Notre Dame 40 yards in seven plays (including a 47-yard completion to Raki Nelson on third and 17), with Scott Cengia kicking the game-winning 20-yard field goal at the :05 mark.

Against The Top 25

Notre Dame has gone 16-9-1 in Notre Dame Stadium in games played against Associated Press top 25 opponents during the past 11 years (compared to 19-15-1 away – including 5-5 in bowls – for 35-24-2 overall from ’86 through ’97). The ’97 season marked the third straight year the Irish played a streak of three consecutive ranked opponents – with Notre Dame going 2-1 in both ’95 and ’96 against the run of Texas, Ohio State and Washington. Last year it was consecutive Saturday dates against #17 Michigan State, #6 Michigan and #19 Stanford.

In The Red Zone

Here’s what Notre Dame and its ’97 opponents did in terms of scoring after traveling inside the opponent 20-yard line:

Notre DameGeorgia Tech     3 of 5 (TD, missed FG, FG, TD, lost on downs)Purdue           3 of 4 (FG, TD, lost on downs, TD)Michigan State   1 of 1 (TD)Michigan         2 of 3 (TD, TD, int.)Stanford         1 of 1 (TD)Pittsburgh       3 of 4 (lost on downs, FG, TD, TD)USC              3 of 5 (TD, TD, missed FG, FG, missed FG)Boston College   7 of 7 (TD, TD, TD, TD, FG, TD, TD)Navy             2 of 3 (TD, TD, lost on downs)LSU              4 of 4 (TD, FG, TD, TD)West Virginia    3 of 3 (TD, TD, TD)Hawaii           3 of 3 (TD, TD, FG)LSU              3 of 3 (FG, FG, FG)Total:          38 of 46 (.826)  - 28 TDs, 10 FGs, 3 missed FGs, 4 loston downs, 1 interception

The Irish scored on each of their last 13 trips into the red zone in ’97. Their .826 percentage compared to an .804 figure (41 of 51) in ’96.

OpponentGeorgia Tech      3 of 4 (TD, FG, FG, interception)Purdue            3 of 5 (TD, TD, punt, interception, TD)Michigan State    5 of 6 (TD, TD, FG, FG, FG, lost on downs)Michigan          2 of 2 (TD, TD)Stanford          3 of 3 (TD, TD, TD)Pittsburgh        3 of 5 (missed FG, TD, lost fumble, TD, TD)USC               2 of 2 (TD, TD)Boston College    3 of 4 (FG, TD, FG, lost on downs)Navy              3 of 5 (TD, FG, missed FG, TD, int.)LSU               1 of 1 (TD)West Virginia     2 of 2 (TD, TD)Hawaii            4 of 4 (TD, FG, FG, TD)LSU               4 of 5 (missed FG, FG, TD, TD, TD)Total:            27 TDs, 11 FGs, 3 ints., 1 punt, 2 lost on downs,3 missed FGs, 1 lost fumble

That .791 percentage in ’97 compared to a .793 mark (23 of 29) permitted by the Irish defense in 1996.

The Offensive Numbers

Notre Dame’s offense and defense proved as productive in the last eight games of 1997 as they were all season:

                  First 5 Games (1-4)      Last 8 Games (6-2)Rushing Offense      129.8                   197.2   Passing Offense      214.6                   156.8      Total Offense        344.4                   354.0Scoring Offense       14.0                    26.5Rushing Defense      204.4                   182.4Passing Defense      194.0                   156.8Total Defense        398.4                   339.2Scoring Defense       23.6                    18.3

The Irish had a tough time punching the ball into the end zone, especially early in ’97, with 28 drives of seven or more plays that did not produce any points: Georgia Tech (10 for 59, 9 for 79)

Purdue (10 for 41, 10 for 50, 7 for 37, 9 for 30) Michigan State (8 for 31, 16 for 67) Michigan (7 for 31, 10 for 42) Stanford (7 for 32, 7 for 49) Pittsburgh (10 for 51, 9 for 79) USC (9 for 44, 17 for 64, 8 for 23) Boston College (9 for 27, 10 for 43) Navy (7 for 21, 8 for 45, 8 for 35, 7 for 4) LSU (9 for 38, 7 for 21) West Virginia (7 for 36, 7 for 21) Hawaii (none)

LSU (9 for 48)

It was difficult to produce much confidence on that side of the ball early, since in the first five full games (300 minutes) the Irish were ahead only 24:08 (12:29 vs. Georgia Tech, 5:18 vs. Michigan, 6:21 vs. Stanford). Notre Dame doubled that in the Pittsburgh game alone, leading wire to wire after Allen Rossum ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown (the Irish led 292:39 out of 780 minutes for the full season).

The Irish five-game point total of 70 prior to the Pittsburgh game ranked as the lowest for five consecutive Saturdays since a five-game stretch in 1971 produced 69, though Notre Dame went 4-1 during that period (8-7 vs. Purdue, 14-2 vs. Michigan State, 17-0 vs. Miami, 16-0 vs. North Carolina, 14-28 vs. USC).

Big plays were hard to come by in ’97 as well. The Irish had only 13 rushing gains of 20 yards or more in ’97 (among 505 rushes) – 50-, 48-, 43-, 36-, 35-, 34-, 27- and 21-yarders by TB Autry Denson, a 23-yarder by FB Jamie Spencer, 26- and 22-yarders by QB Ron Powlus, a 20-yarder by TB Clement Stokes and 22- and 23-yarders by FB Ken Barry. In the passing department, the longest gain of 48 yards came on a pass to TE Jabari Holloway – and the second-longest (47 yards) came on a swing pass to Denson. There were only 16 other pass plays of 25 or more yards – with four of those coming vs. Boston College and three coming by Malcolm Johnson vs. West Virginia. Leading receiver Bobby Brown’s biggest gain came on a 39-yarder vs. Pittsburgh. All that comes after running 890 combined plays in 13 games.

Brown Sparkles

Junior Bobby Brown proved impressive at flanker as the starter throughout ’97, catching seven passes in each of his first three games in 1997 and leading the Irish with 45 receptions overall. Brown’s feat of catching seven passes in three consecutive contests marked the first time that happened since Tom Gatewood opened the ’70 season by catching seven or more in his first five games (7 vs. Northwestern, 12 vs. Purdue, 9 vs. Michigan State, 8 vs. Army, 8 vs. Missouri). Brown joined Malcolm Johnson to give the Irish two 40-catch receivers in ’97 for the first time in Notre Dame history.Smith Moving Up

Here’s where junior punter Hunter Smith stands on the Irish career punting chart following the ’97 season:

Rk. Name, Yr.                  No.   Yards   Avg.1.  Craig Hentrich, 1989-92    118   5204    44.12.  Hunter Smith, 1995-97      132   5420    41.0   3.  Vince Phelan, 1987         50    2044    40.94.  Bill Shakespeare, 1933-35  91    3705    40.715.  Blair Kiel, 1980-83        259   10534   40.676.  Joe Restic, 1975-78        209   8409    40.2

Irish Items

– Notre Dame has played in front of capacity crowds in 97 of its last 113 games. The crowd at Independence Stadium in ’97 for the Independence Bowl between Notre Dame and LSU marked a record for that facility. – Notre Dame has held 25 of its last 65 opponents to 100 or less rushing yards, including Boston College (83 yards) in ’97 – and Vanderbilt (2), Purdue (44), Rutgers (minus-6) and USC (92) in 1996. – Notre Dame’s rushing attack has ranked 20th or better nationally 10 of the last 11 years:

Year   Rushing Avg.   NCAA Rank   Rushing TDs1986   189.4          33rd        181987   252.1          14th        331988   258.0          11th        301989   287.7          8th         421990   250.3          12th        331991   268.0          5th         311992   280.9          3rd         341993   260.7          6th         361994   215.6          20th        181995   233.5          6th         291996   269.5          8th         341997   174.9          36th        22

– Since 1986, Notre Dame has returned 15 kickoffs, 16 punts (two blocked), 15 interceptions and five fumbles for touchdowns (total of 51) – compared to only one punt (in ’86), one fumble and three interceptions for opponents.

Powlus and Single Season Marks

Notre Dame completed more passes in 1997 than any team in Irish history – with QB Ron Powlus setting Irish single-season marks for pass completions and pass attempts. He needed only three completions vs. Navy to set the single-season record in that category (he was two behind Joe Theismann’s record 155 from 1970 coming into that game and finished the season with 182). Powlus needed six attempts vs. West Virginia to pass Theismann in that single-season category. Here are the comparisons:

Powlus’ Final ’97 Numbers (12 games):
182 completions 298 attempts 2078 yards

The Previous Season Highs (all held by Joe Theismann from 1970):
155 completions 268 attempts 2429 yards

Powlus finished with a .611 completion percentage in ’97 (his best figure of the four seasons he started), not far off the Notre Dame single-season record for completion percentage of .622 by Kevin McDougal in 1993 (112 of 180). Powlus holds virtually all the Notre Dame career passing records, with one of the last falling vs. USC. His third pass attempt vs. USC enabled him to pass Steve Beuerlein’s all-time career high of 850.

The Pass Defense

Notre Dame’s pass defense in 1997 allowed only five combined touchdown receptions by opponents all season long (regular-season games only), the best by a Notre Dame defense since the 1973 team gave up four.

Sellouts For 33 Years

The University of Notre Dame finished eighth nationally in attendance among all NCAA Division I-A football-playing institutions in 1997.

The Irish averaged 80,225 fans – the full capacity of the expanded Notre Dame Stadium – for its six 1997 home games. The ’97 season marked the 33rd consecutive season that every seat has been sold for every Irish home game.

Notre Dame’s average increase of 21,150 fans per game in ’97 compared to 1996 marked the second highest increase nationally, behind only Stanford’s increase of 21,154 that was helped by the crowd of 75,651 (compared to the average of 56,937) when the Irish in October played the Cardinal in Palo Alto.

Here’s the top 10 in attendance in 1997:

    School        Gms.   Att.      Avg.     Change1.  Tennessee     6      639,227   106,538  up 1,1202.  Michigan      7      745,139   106,448  up 5163.  Penn State    6      582,517   97,086   up 9194.  Ohio State    8      731,884   91,486   down 2,5425.  Florida       6      512,775   85,463   up 596.  Auburn        6      501,267   83,545   up 1,0777.  Georgia       6      494,375   82,396   up 3,1248.  Notre Dame    6      481,350   80,225   up 21,1509.  LSU           7      561,016   80,145   up 62610. So. Carolina  6      480,041   80,007   up 472

Irish in All-Star Games

Three Notre Dame football players – offensive tackle Mike Doughty, quarterback Ron Powlus and cornerback Allen Rossum – participated in postseason all-star football games.

Both Doughty and Powlus played in the Hula Bowl January 18 in Maui, Hawaii. Rossum played in the Senior Bowl January 17 in Mobile, Ala.

The Monograms

Fifty-nine members of the 1997 Notre Dame football team received monograms December 5 at the 1997 Notre Dame Football Banquet:

SENIORS (24) – FB Ken Barry (168:53, played 12 games, started 9 games), DE Kurt Belisle (106:36, played 12, started 3), NG Corey Bennett (181:38, started 8), K Scott Cengia (29 special-team appearances), OT Chris Clevenger (47:19, started 2), CB Ivory Covington (276:42, played 12, started 11), DE Melvin Dansby (298:52, started 12), TE Mike Denvir (62:40, played 12, started 1), OT Mike Doughty (337:33, started 12), FS Jarvis Edison (93:13, played 9, started 3), CB Ty Goode (101:18, played 12, started 1), CB Paul Grimm (DNP in ’97), SE Malcolm Johnson (202:57, played 12, started 11), C Rick Kaczenski (333:17, started 12), LB Matt Kunz (1:17, played 3), FS Tim Lynch (1 special team appearance), K Chris McCarthy (DNP in ’97), LB Bill Mitoulas (1:27, played 12), OT Luke Petitgout (289:05, played 12, started 10), CB Robert Phelps (1:27, played 5), QB Ron Powlus (308:52, started 12), CB Allen Rossum (275:39, started 12), C Jon Spickelmier (99 special team appearances, played 12) and TB Clement Stokes (57:29, played 11).

JUNIORS (16) – FL Bobby Brown (234:29, played 12, started 9), OLB Lamont Bryant (273:50, started 12), TB Autry Denson (333:59, played 12, started 11), ILB Jimmy Friday (281:44, started 12), FS Benny Guilbeaux (194:05, played 12, started 10), ILB Bobbie Howard (184:12, started 7), QB Jarious Jackson (28:41, played 9), DE Antwon Jones (46:49, played 10, started 1), OLB Kory Minor (322:06, started 12), LB Bryan Mulvena (:27, played 8), TE Tim Ridder (94:51, played 12, started 3), OG Mike Rosenthal (337:32, started 12), SS A’Jani Sanders (185:43, played 12, started 2), P Hunter Smith (102 special team appearances, played 12), FB Jamie Spencer (91:19, played 12) and OG Jerry Wisne (330:54, started 12).

SOPHOMORES (13) – FS Deke Cooper (85:49, played 12, started 2), OLB Joey Ferrer (58:21, played 12), FB Joey Goodspeed (54:56, started 3), FS Deveron Harper (193:20, played 12, started 7), FL Jay Johnson (27:24, played 7), CB Lee Lafayette (85 special team appearances, played 12), NG Lance Legree (133:10, played 10, started 4), C John Merandi (4:17, played 6), FL Raki Nelson (135:36, played 12, started 2), ILB Ronnie Nicks (32:43, played 5, started 2), TE Dan O’Leary (60:38, played 6, started 3), K Jim Sanson (74 special team appearances, played 12) and DE Brad Williams (170:04, played 11, started 8).

FRESHMEN (6) – OLB Anthony Denman (16:27, played 11), TB Tony Driver (32:15, played 12), FL Joey Getherall (48:37, played 7 started 1), TE Jabari Holloway (160:10, played 11, started 5), ILB Grant Irons (117:27, played 12, started 3) and CB Brock Williams (2:34, played 7).

Earning monograms for the fourth season were Bennett, Clevenger, Covington, Dansby, Doughty, Mitoulas, Powlus and Rossum.

The Playing Time

Here is the final regular-season playing time for members of the 1997 Notre Dame football team (sp. indicates special team appearances which are not included in official playing time):

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Mike Doughty 337:33 (started 12), Mike Rosenthal 337:32 (started 12), Rick Kaczenski 333:17 (started 12), Jerry Wisne 330:54 (started 12), Luke Petitgout 289:05 (played 12, started 10), Chris Clevenger 47:19 (started 2), John Merandi 4:17 (played 6), Matt Brennan 2:06 (played 6)

RECEIVERS: Bobby Brown 234:29 (played 12, started 9), Malcolm Johnson 202:57 (played 12, started 11), Jabari Holloway 160:10 (played 11, started 5), Raki Nelson 135:36 (played 12, started 2), Tim Ridder 94:51 (played 12, started 3), Mike Denvir 62:40 (played 12, started 1), Dan O’Leary 60:38 (played 6, started 3), Joey Getherall 48:37 (played 7, started 1), Jay Johnson 27:24 (played 7), Lewis Dawson :33 (played 1), Shannon Stephens (played 1, 1 sp.)

OFFENSIVE BACKS: Autry Denson 333:59 (played 12, started 11), Ron Powlus 308:52 (started 12), Ken Barry 168:53 (played 12, started 9), Jamie Spencer 91:19 (played 12), Clement Stokes 57:29 (played 11), Joey Goodspeed 54:56 (started 3), Tony Driver 32:15 (played 12), Jarious Jackson 28:41 (played 9), Eric Chappell (played 4, 14 sp.), Jay Vickers (played 2, 6 sp.)

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Melvin Dansby 298:52 (started 12), Corey Bennett 181:38 (started 8), Brad Williams 170:04 (played 11, started 8), Lance Legree 133:10 (played 10, started 4), Kurt Belisle 106:36 (played 12, started 3), Antwon Jones 46:49 (played 10, started 1), Jason Ching 9:12 (played 6), Jim Jones :27 (played 1)

LINEBACKERS: Kory Minor 322:06 (started 12), Jimmy Friday 281:44 (started 12), Lamont Bryant 273:50 (started 12), Bobbie Howard 184:12 (started 7), Grant Irons 117:27 (played 12, started 3), Joe Ferrer 58:21 (played 12), Ronnie Nicks 32:43 (played 5, started 2), Anthony Denman 16:27 (played 11), Shelton Jordan 15:40 (played 4), Anthony Brannan 11:31 (played 6), Bill Mitoulas 1:27 (played 12), Matt Kunz 1:17 (played 3), Bryan Mulvena :27 (played 8), Antwoine Wellington (played 3, 36 sp.)

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Ivory Covington 276:42 (played 12, started 11), Allen Rossum 275:39 (started 12), Benny Guilbeaux 194:05 (played 12, started 10), Deveron Harper 193:20 (played 12, started 7), A’Jani Sanders 185:43 (played 12, started 2), Ty Goode 101:14 (played 12, started 1), Jarvis Edison 93:13 (played 9, started 3), Deke Cooper 85:49 (played 12, started 2), Brock Williams 2:34 (played 7), Rob Phelps 1:27 (played 5), Lee Lafayette (played 12, 85 sp.), Tim Lynch (played 1, 1 sp.)

SPECIALISTS: Hunter Smith (played 12, 102 sp.), Jon Spickelmier (played 12, 99 sp.), Jim Sanson (played 12, 74 sp.), Scott Cengia (played 7, 29 sp.)

The Special Teams

Here’s a list of special team appearances made by members of the 1997 Notre Dame football squad:

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Mike Rosenthal 52, Jerry Wisne 52, Mike Doughty 51, Luke Petitgout 51, Tim Ridder 49, John Merandi 35, Matt Brennan 9, Chris Clevenger 6, Rick Kaczenski 3

RECEIVERS: Jabari Holloway 53, Mike Denvir 52, Dan O’Leary 17, Raki Nelson 14, Bobby Brown 7, Malcolm Johnson 5, Joey Getherall 2, Shannon Stephens 1

OFFENSIVE BACKS: Tony Driver 134, Ken Barry 122, Clement Stokes 104, Jamie Spencer 83, Autry Denson 28, Joey Goodspeed 22, Eric Chappell 14, Jarious Jackson 13, Jay Vickers 6, Ron Powlus 3

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Melvin Dansby 60, Lance Legree 35, Corey Bennett 31, Brad Williams 26, Antwon Jones 5, Jason Ching 1

LINEBACKERS: Kory Minor 117, Bill Mitoulas 106, Lamont Bryant 99, Jimmy Friday 98, Joe Ferrer 91, Bryan Mulvena 81, Bobbie Howard 60, Anthony Denman 57, Grant Irons 41, Antwoine Wellington 36, Kurt Belisle 30, Anthony Brannan 20, Matt Kunz 6, Shelton Jordan 5, Ronnie Nicks 3

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Deke Cooper 192, Deveron Harper 185, A’Jani Sanders 168, Ty Goode 149, Allen Rossum 128, Lee Lafayette 85, Brock Williams 78, Benny Guilbeaux 71, Ivory Covington 58, Jarvis Edison 47, Robert Phelps 23, Tim Lynch 1

SPECIALISTS: Hunter Smith 102, Jon Spickelmier 99, Jim Sanson 74, Scott Cengia 29