Nov 23, 2002
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The Notre Dame offense finally put together a performance to match its dominating defense.
Carlyle Holiday tied a school record with four touchdown passes and threw for 270 yards as the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish beat Rutgers 42-0 on Saturday.
"Our offense did a great job of playing the way I think they can," coach Tyrone Willingham said after Notre Dame totaled a season high 478 yards.
The victory gave Notre Dame (10-1) its first 10-win season since going 11-1 in 1993. It also gave Tyrone Willingham the most wins by a first-year Irish coach, passing the marks of 9-1 by Ara Parseghian in 1964 and Terry Brennan in 1954.
"That is about our team, our assistant coaches and our team," Willingham said of the 10 wins. "They are the ones who deserve the credit."
Willingham took over a 5-6 team and has the Irish on the brink of a BCS bowl berth. A win at No. 7 USC on Saturday would clinch a spot for the Irish, who could wind up in either the Orange or Sugar Bowl after the final BCS standings are released Dec. 8.
The Irish have struggled at times with Willingham's complex West Coast offense. But against the weak Scarlet Knights (1-10), the offense had no problems.
"We believed that at some point this season our offense would show its true potential," Willingham said. "Today our offense did exactly that."
Holiday threw touchdown passes of 38 and 63 yards to Arnaz Battle, who had three catches for 108 yards, and added a 37-yarder to Omar Jenkins and a 26-yarder to Maurice Stovall for his first career four-touchdown game - tying a school record shared by five others.
"We went out with a bang and did what we wanted to accomplish today," he said. "It's a big momentum builder. It shows we can put points on the board and throw the ball."
Holiday, who threw three TD passes all of last season and one through four games this season, has nine TD passes in the last six games. He completed 6-of-7 passes in the third quarter for 163 yards and three TDs.
"If Holiday can throw like that and they can run routes like that, they're going to be tough to beat," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.
The 42 points are the most for the Fighting Irish since they scored 45 against Rutgers two years ago. It was Notre Dame's second shutout this season. The Irish opened with 22-0 win over Maryland.
The Irish didn't score in the first quarter but had two TDs in the second and four in the third. Holiday was 13-of-25 passing and fell 2 yards shy of the career best he set against Navy two weeks ago.
Ryan Grant scored the other TD for the Irish and rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries, giving him 1,001 yards for the season. He is just the seventh Irish running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Autry Denson was the last to do it with 1,176 yards in 1998.
Grant alone has rushed for nearly twice as many yards this season as the entire Rutgers team. The Scarlet Knights rushed for 18 yards on 27 carries Saturday, giving them 544 for the season. Rutgers is on pace to have its worst season rushing since running for 620 yards in 1946.
Shane Walton returned an interception 45 yards, his seventh this season, the most by an Irish player since Todd Lyght had eight in 1989. The pass by Ryan Hart, under heavy pressure from linebacker Mike Goolsby, bounced off the back of center Marty Pyszczymuka. Replays showed that Walton trapped the ball after it hit the ground, but officials never blew a whistle and he raced untouched to the end zone.
Schiano argued the call.
"Everybody makes errors. I made plenty of them today. Everybody on the field made a few errors, that was just a very costly one," Schiano said.
It was Notre Dame's fourth interception return for a TD this season, tying a school record set in 1966.