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Willingham Hopes First Win Sets Tone For Season

Sept 1, 2002

AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Tyrone Willingham hopes his first win at Notre Dame becomes a lasting trend.

Notre Dame unveiled its new offense and defeated No. 21 Maryland 22-0 Saturday night at the Kickoff Classic Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J.

“I hope this was a sign that we’re getting back to the business of being Notre Dame,” Willingham said.

The victory was Notre Dame’s first over a ranked opponent away from Notre Dame Stadium since a 24-6 win at LSU in 1997. The win also was the first Irish shutout of a ranked opponent since a 7-0 victory over No. 5 Alabama in 1980.

Notre Dame shut out a Terrapins team that scored at least 20 points in every game last season.

“Any time that you can get a shutout against a balanced and talented team like that, it’s almost unbelievable,” Willingham said.

The Irish held Maryland, which averaged 220.7 yards rushing per game last season, to 16 yards rushing.

Not everything ran smoothly, however. The Irish settled for a school-record five field goals from Nicholas Setta, and their only touchdown came on Vontez Duff’s 76-yard punt return.

“Coach Willingham said that great teams win games, even when they don’t play well. Well, this was ugly, but we still won the game,” said senior receiver Arnaz Battle, who had four catches for 68 yards.

Battle, a quarterback his first two seasons, had five catches for 40 yards all of last season.

Setta said the Irish needed to win Willingham’s first game.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It’s set a great foundation for what could become a great year. But we have to play better.”

That was the message from Willingham and all the players. The victory was a great start, but nothing more.

“We’re trying to move things in the right direction and coming here, beating a good team, a ranked team is a good start,” center Jeff Faine said. “We just can’t get it done all at once.”