Sept. 3, 2000
By TOM COYNE
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame's defense passed its first test. A much bigger test awaits this week against top-ranked Nebraska.
The 23rd-ranked Irish held Texas A&M to 255 yards, including 24 rushing yards in the second half, in a 24-10 victory Saturday.
Notre Dame faces a stiffer challenge against the Cornhuskers, who opened with a 49-13 victory over San Jose State.
The Cornhuskers' Eric Crouch, who rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another Saturday, has the attention of Notre Dame coach Bob Davie.
"He is extremely fast. He is legitimately fast. I really enjoy watching him play," Davie said. "I don't think that I'm going to enjoy playing against him."
Davie said the Irish need to play better against Nebraska, but the Texas A&M victory should help.
"It's a lot more fun to play the No. 1 ranked team in the country (being) 1-0 rather than 0-1, I promise you that," Davie said.
Notre Dame's defensive performance included holding the Aggies to a field goal after they had a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line midway through the third quarter, and stopping quarterback Mark Farris on a keeper on third-and-1.
"At the beginning of the game, a lot of players had the jitters. They were still thinking about last year," safety Tony Driver said. "But we got out there, we made a couple of stops, and we said, 'We can do this.' After that, the confidence just took over."
After the goal-line stand, the Irish held the Aggies to three-and-out and a total of nine yards on their next three possessions.
"It wasn't that we went into the game not being confident. It's just the fact that we hadn't had a whole lot of success, and when things start going poorly you're never sure how you're going to react," Davie said Sunday.
Things started going poorly for the Irish at the start of the second half. Texas A&M appeared ready to take control during a 15-play, 74-yard drive that chewed more than seven minutes off the clock. Aided by two pass interference calls, the Aggies had a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
Irish defensive end Grant Irons tackled Aggies tailback Joe Weber in the backfield for a 2-yard loss and Texas A&M settled for a field goal and a 10-7 lead.
"Any time you have a chance to get more points it changes how you see things throughout the game - the way you see it and the way they see it," A&M coach R.C. Slocum said. "We let some opportunities slip away."
Notre Dame quarterback Arnaz Battle had a successful debut.
After completing 6 of 11 passes for 54 yards in the first half, Battle completed 4 of 5 passes in the second half for 79 yards.
Battle threw for one score and Julius Jones rushed for another to put the Irish ahead to stay.
Battle also carried 12 times for 50 yards. He sprained his ankle in the
second quarter and will likely sit out Monday's practice and resume action
Tuesday, Davie said.