Oct. 14, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Maurice Stovall wants to set the record straight.
“I am 100 percent healthy,” promises the Notre Dame wide receiver, who has recently battled a nagging injury.
Stovall, who has 181 receiving yards on the season, got off to a promising start only to be sidelined with an ankle sprain for the Washington and Purdue games.
“It was frustrating, not being able to physically help my team,” he says.
But just because he wasn’t playing didn’t mean he wasn’t working.
“Even when I wasn’t in the game, I kept preparing mentally,” Stovall says. “I would go over the plays in my head and read the defense, pretending I was on the field.”
When he returned last week to take on Stanford, it was clear that this constant mental preparation had paid off. The Irish, after playing a sluggish first half and down 6-3, needed a spark – Stovall gave it to them. Midway through the third quarter, he hauled in a 43-yard pass to set up a touchdown on the next play. This gave the Irish the momentum to eventually pull out the win, 23-15.
“We had had a disappointing start and knew we had to score early in the second half,” says the 6-5 junior, who led the team in receiving on Saturday. “The long pass gave us the yardage that we needed to get something started.”
According to Stovall, the Irish need to take this “score early” mentality to the Meadowlands, N.J. where they will take on Navy. The Midshipmen use an option offense that can control possession of the ball for long periods of time. Stovall, along with his teammates, does not intend to fall victim to this.
“We need to put the ball in the end zone quickly and then keep doing it, from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” he says.
Though there is a 40-year winning streak at stake this weekend, the Irish are focusing on other things.
“We don’t succumb to the hype,” Stovall says. “We’re concentrating on the playbook.”
And nothing is going to break this concentration. Not even the cousins, parents, and siblings that are traveling to New Jersey to cheer on Stovall, a native Philadelphian.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them … but after the game,” Stovall says. “Until then, I’m completely focused on preparing for Navy.”
With this game, Notre Dame heads into the toughest remaining schedule in the country. They have yet to face Boston College, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and USC, but the Irish are taking it one game at a time.
“Our ultimate goal is to get to a BCS bowl,” says Stovall. “Until then, we are going to work on finishing strong and winning each game.”
By Bridget Veihmeyer