The Date and Time: Saturday, Nov. 18, 2000, at 3:30 EST.
The Site: Rutgers Stadium (41,500/natural grass) in Piscataway, N.J.
The Tickets: They're all soldd with this game marking the 127th sellout in the last 147 games involving Notre Dame, including the first 10 games of 1998, the first 11 in '99 and the first five in '00.
The TV Plans: CBS Sports regional telecast with with Craig Bolerjack (play-by-play) and Dean Blevins (analysis).
The Radio Plans: For the 33rd consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast nationally on radio by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play by play) and Tom Pagna (game analysis) and Paul Hornung (pregame/halftime analysis). The Westwood One network includes nearly 200 stations. A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student radio station, WVFI, is available through the Notre Dame athletic department web site at www.und.com.
The Head Coach
Fourth-year Irish head coach Bob Davie owns a 28-18 (.609) career record at Notre Dame. Davie is one of 10 semifinalists for the Football News 2000 coach-of-the-year award and was one of 10 finalists for the 1998 Walter Camp Foundation/Street and Smith’s Coach of the Year Award. His 1997 squad beat No. 11 LSU and No. 22 West Virginia to mark the first time a Notre Dame team beat ranked foes on consecutive weeks since November '92, while the '98 opening win over No. 5 and defending national champion Michigan gave him three wins over a ranked teams. He led the Irish to another season-opening ranked win this year against No. 23 Texas A&M, and the win over 13th-ranked Purdue marked the earliest the Irish have beaten two ranked opponents since 1990. The 2000 season marks Davie's seventh year at Notre Dame overall, after serving as defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach from 1994-96. He coached nine seasons at Texas A&M ('85-'93), two at Tulane ('83-'84), four at Pittsburgh ('77, '80-'82) and two at Arizona ('78-'79), spending both years at Tulane as defensive coordinator and the last five at Texas A&M in that role.
The Injury Update (as of Nov. 12)
Junior QB Arnaz Battle Fractured left navicular (wrist) vs. Nebraska
(out for season, had surgery Sept. 12)
Sophomore P Joey Hildbold Sprained right ankle in practice Nov. 9 (DNP vs. Boston College)
Senior DE Grant Irons Dislocated right shoulder vs. Nebraska
(out for season, had surgery Sept. 21)
Doubtful Senior FB Jason Murray Hamstring vs. Boston College
Sophomore TB Julius Jones Bruised thigh vs. Boston College
Probable Junior CB Clifford Jefferson Sprained ankle vs. Air Force (DNP vs. Boston College)
Junior FB Tom Lopienski Shoulder vs. Boston College
NOTRE DAME-RUTGERS GAME NOTES
The game marks the third meeting between the Irish and Scarlet Knights with Notre Dame having won each of the previous two meetings in 1921 and 1996.
The trip to Rutgers will mark the return home for seven New Jersey natives on the Irish roster.
Rutgers is the third and second consecutive BIG EAST opponent for Notre Dame this season.
For more Notre Dame-Rutgers series notes, see pages 2-3.
THE IRISH TRAVEL PLANS
Notre Dame will be headquartered at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 121 Centennial Avenue, Piscataway, NJ 08854, (732) 980-0500. The Irish are scheduled to depart by TWA charter flight Friday morning. A brief walk-through at the Rutgers Stadium will be held at 11:00 a.m.
IF NOTRE DAME WINS ...
Notre Dame will improve to 12-0 in games played in New Jersey.
The Irish will improve to 15-4 vs. BIG EAST teams since the formation of the BIG EAST football conference in 1991.
IF RUTGERS WINS ...
The Scarlet Knights will defeat the Irish for the first time in three meetings.
Rutgers will hand Notre Dame just its fifth loss to a BIG EAST team since 1991.
After waiting 75 years for a rematch with Rutgers after the teams' first meeting in 1921, Notre Dame plays the Scarlet Knights for the second time in five years this weekend.
The 75-year gap between meetings (from '21-96) stands as the longest series break in Irish history.
Notre Dame has won its two games against Rutgers by a combined score of 110-0.
In the first meeting in front of 12,000 fans at the old Polo Grounds in New York City, All-American Paul Castner scored on two TD runs (55 and two yards) and kicked two field goals as Notre Dame built a 27-0 lead at halftime on its way to a 48-0 win in Knute Rockne's fourth year as head coach.
Tenth-ranked Notre Dame used a 648-43 advantage in total offense and scored its most points in 19 years as the Irish beat the Scarlet Knights 62-0 in the final game at Notre Dame Stadium in front of 59,075 before the expansion of the stadium. Ron Powlus tied his own school record for TD passes with four and Autry Denson became the sixth Irish player to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season. The Irish defense allowed RU minus-six rushing yards and only 3-16 passing for 49 yards.
NEW JERSEY AND U(ND): PERFECT TOGETHER
The Irish enter the Rutgers game with an 11-0 all-time record in the Garden State.
Rutgers Stadium will mark the second campus stadium in which Notre Dame has played in New Jersey and the second consecutive road game in which the Irish have played in a stadium for the first time (West Virginia's Mountaineer Field). The Irish won a pair of games over Princeton at Palmer Stadium in 1923 (25-2) and '24 (12-0).
Notre Dame has five victories against Navy at the Meadowlands (33-0 in '80, 27-10 in '82, 18-17 in '84, 52-31 in '90 and 38-0 in '92), three wins over Army at the Meadowlands (24-0 in '77, 42-0 in '83 and 28-27 in '95) and a victory over Virginia 36-13 at the Meadowlands in the 1989 Kickoff Classic.
Second-year Notre Dame assistant coach Lou West (safeties) and Rutgers associate head coach Rod Sharpless (defensive line) both were assistants at Virginia Tech in 1995.
Third-year Irish offensive line coach Dave Borbely and RU assistant coach Mike Gibson (special teams/safeties) were on the same staffs at Temple from '89-'91 and at Rice in '88.
Irish second-year offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers attended Sparta (N.J.) High School.
Rogers and RU assistant coach Charlie West (secondary) both were assistants at Syracuse during the '95 and '96 seasons.
FRIEND OR FOE?
Seven Irish players hail from the state of New Jersey: senior LB Anthony Brannan (Cedar Grove/Seton Hall Prep), freshman DL Kyle Budinscak (Bridgewater/Raritan HS), freshman WR Lorenzo Crawford (Prospect Park/Paterson Catholic), junior TB Terrance Howard (Willingboro/Rancocas Valley HS), senior SS Ron Israel (Lawnside/Haddon Heights HS), freshman QB Matt LoVecchio (Franklin Lakes/Bergen Catholic) and junior RE Ryan Roberts (Lawnside/Haddonfield HS).
LoVecchio and Rutgers junior DB Ben Martin and sophomore WR Aaron Martin were teammates at Bergen Catholic.
LoVECCHIO FIRST STARTING QB FROM NEW JERSEY SINCE THEISMANN
Hailing from Franklin Lakes, N.J., freshman Matt LoVecchio is Notre Dame's first starting quarterback from the Garden State since Joe Theismann (South River, N.J.) in 1968-70. Frank Tripucka (Bloomfield, N.J.) also started for Notre Dame during his career from 1945-48. Theismann, a 1970 All-American, and Tripucka are believed to be the only New Jersey quarterbacks to start for the Irish prior to LoVecchio. The other QBs from the Garden State who played at Notre Dame but did not start are: Gus Ornstein (Tenafly, 1994), Pete Graham (Rumson, 1986-89), Frank Allocco (New Providence, 1972-75), Bill Bruno (Asbury Park, 1934-36), Hardy Bush (Newark, 1913-14) and Charles Daly (Patterson, 1899).
FISHER HAS RECORD RUSHING DAY
Junior Tony Fisher's 196-yard rushing day vs. Boston College marked the most proficient day for an Irish runner since Reggie Brooks gained 227 yards vs. USC in 1992 and the third best since 1983.
His performance stands 11th best in the 1,056 games played in 111-plus seasons of Irish football.
Fisher took the majority of the carries after sophomore starter Julius Jones left with an injury and gained the most yards ever in a single game for an Irish backup TB as each of the six runners who account for the top 10 rushing games were starters.
DAVIE NAMED COACH OF THE YEAR SEMIFINALIST
Head coach Bob Davie has been named one of 10 semifinalists for the Football News 2000 coach-of-the-year award. The list will be trimmed to three finalists on Mon., Nov. 20. The official announcement of FN’s coach of the year will be made Wed., Dec. 6. Davie has led the Irish to a 6-2 record this season and an Associated Press national ranking of 11th after entering the season unranked following a 5-7 ’99 season. Notre Dame has won five consecutive games since its loss at Michigan State, remaining eligible for a potential major bowl appearance. Davie also was a finalist for the 1998 Walter Camp Foundation/Street & Smith’s coach-of-the-year award. This year’s FN’s coach of the year will be honored on Tues., March 6, 2001, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit at the National Athletic Awards ceremony.
IRISH REMAIN ON SCHOOL RECORD TURNOVER PACE
Despite its two fumbles lost vs. Boston College, Notre Dame continues to lead the country in fewest turnovers (seven) in its nine games, while its four INTs thrown by three different QBs stands tied for third best. Notre Dame also is tied for third with three fumbles lost this season. The school record for fewest fumbles lost in a season is five by the 1993 Irish.
The NCAA record for fewest season turnovers is eight, held by Clemson in 1940 and Miami (Ohio) in 1966. Notre Dame's record for fewest turnovers is 10 in '93 with the '97 team second best with 13.
The seven consecutive games without a lost fumble to start the season marked the longest streak for Notre Dame since a seven-game streak during the last six games in '93 (BYU, USC, Navy, Florida St., Boston Coll., Texas A&M in Cotton Bowl) and the first game of the '94 season vs. Northwestern.
IRISH WIN 10TH STRAIGHT FOLLOWING AN OFF WEEK
Since 1984, Notre Dame is 19-2 in regular-season games following a bye week, including seven wins over ranked teams: 24-10 over #19 Army in 1985, 24-19 at #1 Michigan in '89, 31-23 at #19 USC in '92, 31-24 over #1 Florida State in '93, 54-20 over #16 Washington in '96, 24-6 at #11 LSU in '97 and 34-30 over #23 Oklahoma in 1999.
Notre Dame has a 7-0 record under head coach Bob Davie following a bye week. Here’s how the Irish have fared in those games:
RED ZONE REPORT
The Irish have capitalized on 24 of their 25 trips inside the red zone this season with the only missed opportunity coming on a loss on downs against Michigan State. Notre Dame has come away with 13 rushing touchdowns, seven passing touchdowns and four field goals from Nick Setta, while its opponents have five field goals in addition to the 18 TDs (nine passing and nine rushing). The red zone chances include two each for the Irish and their opponents in overtime.
THE BOSTON COLLEGE REVIEW
The Irish had their best rushing day under fourth-year head coach Bob Davie -- including 196 by junior TB Tony Fisher -- as Notre Dame improved to 7-2 with a 28-16 win over visiting Boston College. After sophomore Julius Jones left the game with a first-quarter injury, Fisher proceeded to produce the best running game for an Irish player since Reggie Brooks gained 227 yards against USC in 1992 and the 11th best single-game individual rushing total in Notre Dame history. Junior Terrance Howard also added 84 yards to the Irish total of 380 net rushing yards -- the most since 426 vs. Boston College in 1996. Junior LE Anthony Weaver's second INT of the season on BC's second play following the opening KO was followed three plays later by a one-yard TD run by Jones. After a BC field goal, Fisher capped off a 98-yard drive with a 37-yard run TD to give the Irish a 14-3 lead at halftime. The Irish drove the opening KO of the second half 65 yards before Fisher scored his second TD from one yard for a 21-3 lead. The Eagles replied with a TD drive of the their own to pull within 21-10. After the Irish drove to the BC five-yard line, sophomore K Nick Setta and junior HLD Adam Tibble successfully faked a FG attempt as Tibble ran the option with a pitch to Setta, who darted untouched into the end zone. Boston College scored a TD with 5:04 left but failed on its two-point conversion, and senior SS Ron Israel's interception with 48 seconds left sealed the Irish win.
SCOUTING THE IRISH OFFENSE
Line -- The veteran Irish offensive line in '00 -- with the only untested position at the start of the season being center -- has remained intact with the same five starters in the first nine games of the season and helped Notre Dame gain 380 net rushing yards against Boston College. Senior guards Jim Jones (left guard) and Mike Gandy (right guard) combined to start 21 games at their respective positions last year, while Gandy has made 24 consecutive starts in his career. Junior Jordan Black is back at the left tackle position where he started the first nine games in '99, while senior Kurt Vollers moved into the starting role at right tackle following backup action at left tackle in '99. Sophomore Jeff Faine is at center after seeing no game action as a freshman. Senior John Teasdale started 10 games in '99 at mostly right tackle and provides experience as a backup to Vollers. The other reserves are sophomore Brennan Curtin at tackle, juniors Sean Mahan and Ryan Scarola at guard and at center senior JW Jordan.
Backs -- Freshman Matt LoVecchio (51-92 for 677 yards, 9 TDs, 176 yards rushing) has settled into the starting quarterback position -- the third starting Irish QB this season -- and has won each of his first five starts. He made his first career start against Stanford after first coming off the bench against Michigan State in the second half and threw at least two TD passes in each of his first four starts -- the first Irish QB to throw at least 2 TDs in four consecutive games since Rick Mirer in 1992. Junior Arnaz Battle (13-31-173, 2 TDs, 157 yards rushing vs. Texas A&M and Nebraska) suffered a fractured left navicular (wrist) against Nebraska -- an injury that required surgery and will keep him out for the season-- thrusting sophomore Gary Godsey into the starting spot against Purdue (14 of 25 for 158 yards in first career game) and Michigan State (4-15 for 20 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Godsey returned to tight end following the Air Force, a move that will afford him the best chance to see playing time. Freshmen Jared Clark and Carlyle Holiday will back up LoVecchio. Neither Clark nor Holiday has played a down this season.
A trio of tailbacks -- sophomore Julius Jones (142-586, 6 TDs, 5-48 receiving) and juniors Tony Fisher (90-401, 4 TDs, 9-87 receiving, 3 TDs) and Terrance Howard (50-308, TD) -- gives the Irish a talented and diversified running attack as each started at least once in the first four games. The elusive Jones has had three 100-yard rushing games this season (126 vs. Michigan State, 105 vs. Navy and 111 vs. Air Force) before leaving the Boston College game with an injury. Fisher, who started all 12 games last year and has started four games this season, had the best rushing game for an Irish player since 1992 with his 196-yard game against Boston College. Howard (career-high 7-96 vs. West Virginia) adds a combination of quickness and power. Sophomore Chris Yura (first four carries of his career vs. Navy, four-yard gain on fake punt vs. BC) also helps out at tailback.
Senior Jason Murray (3-9, 2 catches for 12 yards, TD) shares the fullback duties with junior Tom Lopienski (7-13, 4-54 receiving) who missed the Stanford game with a shoulder injury. Lopienski moved into the starting fullback spot for the first four games after carrying the ball 25 times for 76 yards in all 12 games last year. Junior Mike McNair also helps out at fullback after recovering from an injury-plagued '99 in which he played only in the opener against Kansas.
Receivers -- Senior Joey Getherall (14-252, 3 TDs) continues to be a steady performer for the Irish and had a three TD performance against Air Force, while junior David Givens (21-250) shares time with Getherall at flanker and had career bests for receptions and yards against Purdue (6-86) and touchdowns against Stanford (2). Junior Javin Hunter (8-156, TD) moved into the starting position at split end after playing in every game last year. Senior Jay Johnson (2-58, TD) played in the final 11 games of '99 and plays behind Hunter but did not play against West Virginia and Air Force with a hamstring injury. Freshman Omar Jenkins also has been in the rotations. Another strength for the Irish is at tight end where senior All-America candidate Jabari Holloway (6-97) and fifth-year and '99 honorable mention All-American Dan O'Leary (8-66, TD) give the Irish a pair of talented, experienced tight ends. Former converted QB sophomore Gary Godsey returned to TE following the Air Force game, a position he played as a freshman in '99 but did not see action.
SCOUTING THE IRISH DEFENSE
Line -- After making a slight adjustment on the defensive line in ’00 — going from a two end-two tackle alignment to one featuring two ends, a tackle and a nose guard -- the Irish were forced to shift one end position after losing senior RE Grant Irons (4 tackles, 1 for loss) for the season with a dislocated shoulder against Nebraska that required surgery. Sophomore Ryan Roberts (17 tackles, four sacks) moved into Irons starting spot at right end and has been a great addition to the Irish pass rush. All-America candidate junior and two-year starter Anthony Weaver (44 tackles, 9 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery) has starred at left end. Fifth-year B.J. Scott (21 tackles, 4 for loss, 2.5 sacks) made his first career against Nebraska at defensive tackle, while senior Andy Wisne (8 tackles, sack) backs up Scott after starting against A&M. Senior Lance Legree (45 tackles, 5 for loss) entered '00 the starter at nose guard after starting the final seven games of '99 there. The reserves are sophomore Darrell Campbell (2 tackles for loss, fumble recovery) at right end, Cedric Hilliard (2 tackles, 1 for loss) at nose guard and junior John Owens (8 tackles, 3 for loss, sack) at left end.
Linebackers -- Led by senior Anthony Denman (team-high 76 tackles, 13 for loss, 5 sacks) and junior Rocky Boiman (54 tackles, 8 for loss, 3.5 sacks, forced fumble), the Irish linebackers have played a large role in Notre Dame's improved defense. Denman starts at inside linebacker for the second straight year and had five tackles for loss and forced two fumbles against Air Force, while Boiman anchors the outside spot. Junior Tyreo Harrison (43 tackles, 4 for loss, sack, two fumbles forced and one recovered) moved into a starting spot at inside linebacker after playing all 12 games in '99 with two starts. Junior Carlos Pierre-Antoine fills in at inside linebacker. Fifth-year Anthony Brannan backs up Boiman on the outside, while sophomore Courtney Watson (9 tackles, 1 for loss) plays behind Denman.
Backs -- Old faces and new faces make up the Irish secondary starters. Seniors Tony Driver (56 tackles, sack, two fumble returns for TDs, INT, 4 pass deflections) and Brock Williams (42 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 3 pass deflections) returned to starting roles, while senior Ron Israel (35 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 INT, 2 pass deflections) and junior Shane Walton (40 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 INTs, 60-yard INT TD, 3 pass deflections) moved into starting spots. Driver plays at free safety for the first time since '98 after playing seven games in '99 at tailback. Williams is back at left cornerback where he started eight of the last 10 games in '98. Israel moved from top reserve in '99 to starter at strong safety in '00. Walton -- who had his first career interception against Nebraska and had a 60-yard INT return against Purdue's Drew Brees -- won the starting spot at right cornerback after playing in nine games in '99 following a freshman season in which he starred on the Irish men's soccer team. Sophomore Glenn Earl (19 tackles, fumble recovery, blocked punt and FG) played significant minutes against Air Force in replace of Israel. The other reserves are sophomore Jason Beckstrom (12 tackles, 3 pass deflections) at left cornerback, junior Clifford Jefferson (18 tackles, forced fumble) at right cornerback, sophomore Gerome Sapp (37 tackles, 2 for loss) at strong safety and junior Donald Dykes (15 tackles) at free safety.
SCOUTING THE IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Fifth-year newcomer Matt McNew -- who joined the team in the spring after four years with the Irish men's soccer team -- handles the kickoffs and has allowed an average opponent starting position of 25-yard line through 46 kickoffs in '00. Sophomore Nick Setta (33-34 PATs, 6-11 FG) has shined as the Irish placekicker. He nailed the game-winning FG from 38 yards against Purdue as time expired and successfully executed a fake FG for a TD vs. BC. Sophomore and Ray Guy award finalist Joey Hildbold (52-2171-41.8) ranks 30th in the NCAA in punting average, has 15 punts of at least 50 yards (including two over 60 yards) and has allowed an average return of 2.3 yards per punt. He missed the BC game with an ankle injury. Setta filled in vs. BC and punted four times for 160 yards, landing two inside the 20 in his first career punting duties. Sophomore Julius Jones is fourth in the nation in KO return (15427-28.5, 100-yard TD return against Nebraska), while junior David Givens (8-177) and senior Tony Driver (6-177) also have helped the Irish to rank first in the country in KO returns. Joey Getherall (21-377-18.0 with 83-yard TD return vs. Nebraska, 73-yard return vs. WVU) returns punts and is fourth in the country. Dan O'Leary (punts) and John Crowther (PAT and FG) share the snaps. Adam Tibble does the holding.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS TRULY SPECIAL
Along with Notre Dame's success with returns (see below), the Irish special teams have helped set up three key touchdowns following two blocked punts and another botched punt, forced overtime in the win over Air Force and scored a key TD vs. BC.
Against Purdue, sophomore Glenn Earl blocked Travis Dorsch's punt as the Irish took over at the Boiler four-yard line -- leading to the first Irish touchdown in the 23-21 win.
Against Stanford, junior David Givens blocked Mike Biselli's punt as the Irish took over at the Stanford 10-yard line -- leading to Notre Dame's second touchdown in the 20-14 win.
Against West Virginia with the score tied at 14, Courtney Watson tackled punter Mark Fazzolari at the WVU 16-yard line following a high snap to set up the go-ahead TD three plays later.
Nick Setta and Adam Tibble combined for a perfectly executed fake field goal vs. BC. Tibble ran the option from the snap and pitched to Setta, who ran untouched into the end zone for a five-yard TD run to give the Irish a 28-10 lead.
Other special team highlights for the Irish this season include Nick Setta's 38-yard, game-winning field goal against Purdue and Earl's blocked field goal against Air Force -- both as time expired in the fourth quarter --with the scored tied 28-28 in the eventual Irish overtime victory.
Here's a comparison between the '99 and '00 Irish special teams in the NCAA statistics:
DENMAN, DRIVER, FISHER, HILDBOLD, JONES EARN TROPHY CONSIDERATION
Four Irish players have been selected for considerations for the annual position-specific trophies. Senior linebacker Anthony Denman joins the preliminary list of 70 candidates for the Butkus Award -- presented annually to the best linebacker in college football by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando. Senior free safety Tony Driver has been picked one of 40 players on the "watch list" for the Jim Thorpe Award -- presented annually to the best defensive back in college football by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City, Okla. Junior tailback Tony Fisher was selected one of 35 initial candidates for the Doak Walker Award presented by Vectrix -- given annually to the nation's top college running back by the Southwestern Bell-SMU Athletic Forum in Dallas, before Julius Jones became an additional Irish nominee. Sophomore punter Joey Hildbold has been named one of 10 finalists for the Ray Guy Award -- presented to the best punter in college football as determined by an executive committee comprised of sports writers, college football coaches, former punters and members of the Greater Augusta Sports Council. Hildbold is one of only two sophomores on the list. The winner will be announced on Dec. 7, at the ESPN College Football Awards Show.
DRIVER 'RETURNS' TO RECORDBOOK
In the first 12:47 of the Navy game, Tony Driver became just the second player in NCAA Division I-A history to return a pair of fumbles for touchdowns -- since a 1992 NCAA change permitting defensive players to advance fumbles regardless of where on the field they occur. He joined Minnesota's Tyrone Carter who returned a pair of fumbles for TDs against Syracuse on Sept. 21, 1996.
Driver also became the first Irish player in a season or a career to return a pair of fumbles for TDs, let alone in one game or one quarter.
The last Irish defensive player to score two touchdowns was Dave Waymer, who ran back two interceptions in a 40-15 win against Miami (Fla.) in the 1979 Mirage Bowl in Toyko.
DRIVER NAMED TO THE SPORTING NEWS MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICA TEAM
The Sporting News has selected Irish senior Tony Driver to its midseason All-America list at free safety. Driver is second among the Irish with 45 tackles and has broken up three passes. He recorded an interception in the Irish opener against Texas A&M -- in his first game on defense since the '98 season -- and returned a pair of fumbles for TDs against Navy (see above).
WEAVER LEADS STRONG DEFENSE
Notre Dame's defense has been tough on opposing quarterbacks this season with 27 sacks in nine games, in addition to numerous hurries and knockdowns. The play of junior DE Anthony Weaver has been a significant part of the Irish defensive pressure. Weaver has nine tackles for losses and four sacks. The Irish surpassed their 18 sacks in '99 after totalling 20 sacks through the first seven games.
Weaver also has two interceptions (vs. Michigan State to set up go-ahead TD and vs. Boston College on Eagles' first possession to set up early TD), a fumble recovery (vs. Stanford with the Cardinal threatening to score on ND's 15-yard line) and a deflected third-down pass (vs. Air Force with the Falcons having to settle for a field goal after the incomplete pass).
Junior RE Ryan Roberts had at least one sack in each of the first four games, becoming the first Irish player since Kory Minor in 1996 (vs. Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and USC) to have at least one sack in four consecutive games.
Notre Dame's six sacks against Michigan State stand as the most under head coach Bob Davie and the most since the Irish had nine sacks against Rutgers in 1996.
IRISH DEFENSE GETS OFFENSIVE
Of Notre Dame's 35 touchdowns -- in addition to the three scored from kickoff and punt returns, the two set up by blocked punts and one set up by a botched opponent punt and a fake field goal -- the Irish defense has scored or set up short drives on six other TDs. Shane Walton had a 60-yard interception return against Purdue, while both of Anthony Weaver's interceptions (vs. Michigan State at the two-yard line and vs. Boston College on the Eagles' second offensive play) were followed shortly by one-yard TD runs by Julius Jones. Brock Williams had an interception against Stanford before it took Jones three plays (three-yard run, 24-yard shovel pass and seven-yard run) to score on a short 34-yard TD drive. Tony Driver had a record day with two fumble returns for TDs against Navy.
DEFENSIVE BACKS SHARE INTERCEPTIONS
Irish senior SS Ron Israel helped seal the West Virginia win with a late, fourth-quarter interception, the first of his career and added another later INT vs. BC. He joined seniors Tony Driver and Brock Williams and junior Shane Walton with INTs in '00 as all four of the starting Irish DBs in the secondary now have at least one INT each: Driver (Texas A&M), Williams (Stanford), Walton (Nebraska and Purdue).
IRISH CONTINUE QB'S FIRST-START MAGIC
For the third time in five games in '00, an Irish quarterback making his first career start led Notre Dame to victory vs. Stanford. Freshman QB Matt LoVecchio began his first start by leading the Irish on a 91-yard drive in 11 plays in the 20-14 win over the Cardinal. Three weeks earlier, sophomore QB Gary Godsey engineered a game-winning drive that ended with a field goal as time expired in the 23-21 win over 13th-ranked Purdue. Two weeks before that game, junior Arnaz Battle -- out indefinitely with a broken left navicular suffered against Nebraska -- made his first career start in Notre Dame's 24-10 win over 25th-ranked Texas A&M. Battle became the 10th, Godsey became the 11th and LoVecchio became the 12th of the last 13 Irish quarterbacks to be victorious in their first career starts.
From 1985-98, Notre Dame was victorious in nine straight games in which an Irish quarterback was making his first career start, including four coming in a season opener. Notre Dame’s nine-game, first-start streak ended in the 10-0 loss at USC on Nov. 28, 1998, when Eric Chappell started in place of the injured starter Jackson (then-freshman Arnaz Battle also played a large chunk of that game).
Battle also became the 10th consecutive Irish quarterback making his first start to lead the Irish to victory in a season opener, a streak dating back to 1965: Bill Zloch (vs. Cal, '65), Terry Hanratty (vs. Purdue, '66), Pat Steenberge (vs. Northwestern, '71), Tom Clements (vs. Northwestern, '72), Rick Slager (vs. Boston College, '75), Rick Mirer (vs. Michigan, '90), Kevin McDougal (vs. Northwestern, '93), Ron Powlus (vs. Northwestern, '94) and Jarious Jackson (vs. Michigan, '98).
LoVECCHIO 3RD STARTING QB IN FIRST FIVE GAMES, JUST 4TH FROSH QB IN 49 YEARS
Freshman Matt LoVecchio became Notre Dame's third starting quarterback in five games this season against Stanford, marking the first time since 1987 the Irish have had three starting QBs in one season and have had a significant starting freshman quarterback. After senior starter Terry Andrysiak broke his left collarbone in the fourth game of the '87 season, sophomore Tony Rice started six of the last seven games of the regular season. Freshman Kent Graham started against Boston College (6-8 for 111 yards, INT in the 32-25 win) in the eighth game of the season. Andrysiak returned as the starting QB in the Cotton Bowl.
Steve Beuerlein started his fourth game as a freshman against Colorado (8-12 for 133 yards in 27-3 win) in 1983. Beuerlein took over for senior Blair Kiel -- who, in 1980, became the first Irish freshman to start at quarterback since Ralph Guglielmi in 1951 vs. North Carolina. Kiel made his first start in the fourth game of the season against Miami (4-17 for 35 yards in 32-14 win).
Here's a comparison of the last four freshman QBs to start at Notre Dame (figures do not include bowl games):
BOIMAN NAMED TO THE SPORTING NEWS TEAM
The Sporting News has selected Irish junior OLB Rocky Boiman to its list of Great Unknowns -- "you probably won't recognize their faces, but you should recognize their efforts." Boiman has played a key role in the resurgence of the Notre Dame defense this season. He already has 54 tackles -- third most on the team -- and four-and-a-half sacks, surpassing his 39 tackles and two sacks in '99.
JULIUS JONES NAMED TO "HALF-AMERICA TEAM"
Sophomore Julius Jones has been named the best kickoff returner in the country, according to CNNSI/com's "Half-America Team" -- a list of the nation's top players through the first half of the season. He currently is ranked fourth in the country with an average of 28.5 yards per return and is one of just three second-year players on the list, joining redshirt freshman CB Michael Jolivette (Arizona) and sophomore kicker Jonathon Ruffin (Cincinnati). Jones had a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Nebraska and, with 1030 career KO return yards already, has moved into fourth place on all-time Irish KO return yards list.
JULIUS JONES TAPPED FUTURE STAR
Athlon Sports recently projected a National Football League “All-Decade” team for 2000-2009 and current Irish sophomore Julius Jones was one of two running backs named to the squad, joining current Indianapolis Colts star Edgerrin James. The 26-player team included just four other current college players: tackle Michael Munoz (Tennessee), linebacker D.J. Williams (University of Miami), linebacker Saleem Rasheed (Alabama) and punt returner David Allen (Kansas State).
THEY SHALL RETURN
During the past 15 seasons ('86-'00), Notre Dame has produced 53 TDs via kickoff, punt and interception returns –- including Shane Walton's 60-yard interception return vs. Purdue, Julius Jones' 100-yard kickoff return and Joey Getherall's 83-yard punt return vs. Nebraska and 73-yard punt return vs. West Virginia in '00. Other recent returns for the Irish are Jones' 67-yard punt return vs. Boston College ('99), A'Jani Sanders' pair of INTs vs. ASU ('98 and '99), Bobbie Howard's INT vs. LSU ('98) and Deveron Harper's INT in the '99 opener vs. Kansas. (Those numbers don't include several fumble returns for TDs, with Tony Driver's pair against Navy the most recent and others coming from Anthony Denman vs. Kansas in '99, Deke Cooper at Michigan State in '98, Malcolm Johnson vs. Army in '98 and Lamont Bryant vs. LSU in '98).
The 2000 Irish join the 1993 team as the only squads to return at least one punt, kickoff, interception and fumble for touchdowns and have six returns for touchdowns, the most since the '96 Irish had seven TD returns.
Irish opponents in the past 15 seasons have combined for just 11 total returns for touchdowns (on kicks, punts or interceptions).
The 53 returns have come from 30 players, including nine by Allen Rossum (an NCAA record), six by Raghib Ismail, five by Tim Brown, three by Ricky Watters and two by Joey Getherall -- with current sophomore Julius Jones already having returned two kicks in his brief Irish career.
Getherall joins Joe Heap (1951-54) and Ricky Watters (1987-90) as the only Irish players to return two punts of at least 73 yards each for touchdowns in a career and the only Irish player to accomplish that in one season. His 73-yard punt return vs. West Virginia stands tied for the 16th longest in Notre Dame history.
The returns also do not include a blocked punt returned for TD in '96 and two by Irish opponents in '97 and '99. Notre Dame recovered a fumble in its opponent's end zone twice in '92. The Irish returned PATs for two points in '89 (Andre Jones vs. SMU) and '95 (Allen Rossum vs. Texas). Rice was the first team to return a PAT following the NCAA's implementation of the rule in a game against the Irish in '88.
Here's a year-by-year breakdown of the Irish return touchdowns since 1986:
JONES, GETHERALL, GIVENS GO LONG DISTANCE AGAINST HUSKERS
Julius Jones, Joey Getherall and David Givens combined for 317 return yards (4 punts for 113 yards, 4 kickoffs for 204) against Nebraska -- including an 83-yard punt return by Getherall and a 100-yard kickoff return by Jones for touchdowns. The 317 return yards were the second most kickoff and punt return yards for the Irish since the start of the 1980 season. Notre Dame had 336 return yards (231 punt, 71 kickoff and 34 interception) against Pittsburgh in '96.
Notre Dame's 204 kickoff return yards established a modern Irish record for single-game kickoff returns, eclipsing the 192 by Notre Dame (all by Raghib Ismail) against Michigan in 1989. The Irish had 354 kickoff return yards against Kalamazoo in 1922.
Jones' 175 return yards were the most for a Notre Dame player since Clint Johnson returned two kickoffs vs. Stanford for 179 yards and one touchdown. Jones' 100-yard TD return marked the first kickoff touchdown return of his career, the longest since Johnson went 100 yards vs. Stanford and the first for the Irish since Jarious Jackson returned an onside kick for a TD against Pitt in '97.
Getherall's 83-yard punt return tied Allen Rossum's 83-yard punt return against Pittsburgh in 1996 for the eighth-longest in Irish history. The last Irish player to return a punt longer was Ricky Watters who set the record with a 97-yarder vs. SMU in 1989.
Givens started the Nebraska game with a 41-yard kickoff return, the longest of his career.
GIVENS HIS ALL
Irish junior FL David Givens put his versatility on full display against West Virginia with a 52-yard halfback pass to Joey Getherall and a five-yard TD run -- both firsts for Givens this season. His pass to Getherall was followed two plays later by an Irish TD for a 35-14 lead. He also provided a key block on Terrance Howard's 80-yard TD run vs. the Mountaineers. Against Stanford, Givens caught a pair of TD passes and blocked a punt with less than a minute remaining in the first half to set up his second TD -- giving the Irish a 14-0 lead just before halftime of the 20-14 win. He recorded season-highs for an Irish receiver against Purdue with six catches for 86 yards. Against Air Force, Givens took a handoff from Getherall on a double reserve and scored a 37-yard TD. Givens has 21 carries for 105 yards and has caught a team-high 21 passes this season for 250 yards.
Junior cornerback Shane Walton -- less than two years removed from earning all-BIG EAST honors as a freshman forward on the '98 Irish men's soccer team -- entered the 2000 season as Notre Dame's starter at right cornerback and has 29 tackles, one tackle for a loss, two interceptions -- including a 60-yard INT return for a touchdown against Purdue's Drew Brees -- and three passes deflected this season. Walton joined the Irish football squad in the spring of '99 and saw action in three games in the secondary during the '99 season. He played in nine games overall with 61 appearances on special teams, earning his second ND monogram in as many years and in as many sports.
While Walton underwent a less traditional soccer-to-football transition, fifth-year Matt McNew made the more natural switch from soccer player to placekicker. After exhausting his four years of eligibility with the Irish men's soccer team, McNew tried out in the '00 spring season and was invited to join the team in the fall. In his first collegiate football game, McNew boomed five kickoffs for the Irish against the Aggies, including three kickoffs touchbacks. His 46 kickoffs in '00 have resulted in average opponent starting position at the Irish 25-yard line.
Junior walk-on Chad DeBolt - who has made nearly 50 special teams appearances in '00 and was one of just four walkons on the West Virginia trip -- also stars for the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team. The Waterloo, N.Y., native played in all 14 games last year as a defensive midfielder and won over 60 percent of the faceoffs he attempted for the men's lacrosse team - which turned in one of its best seasons ever in '00 by reaching the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time in its history.
FOUR RANKED OPPONENTS IN A ROW
After games against 23rd-ranked Texas A&M, top-ranked Nebraska and 13th-ranked Purdue to open the season, the Irish played their fourth consecutive ranked opponent at 23rd-ranked Michigan State, marking the first time since the inception of the Associated Press poll in 1936 that Notre Dame has opened a season with four ranked opponents. The Irish played four consecutive games against ranked opponents during the regular season for the first time since 1957 and for only the third time ever (1943 was the first time).
ere's here how the 1943 Irish fared against their four consecutive ranked opponents:
Here's here how the 1957 Irish fared against their four consecutive ranked opponents:
Nov. 2 #16 Navy def. #5 ND 20-6
Nov. 9 #4 Michigan State def. #15 ND 34-6
Nov. 16 ND def. #2 Oklahoma 7-0 (ending the OU's NCAA record 57-game winning streak)
Nov. 23 #8 Iowa def. #9 ND 21-13
THREE FORMER IRISH PLAYERS NAMED TO ABC SPORTS ALL-TIME ALL-AMERICA TEAM
Three former Notre Dame football greats have been selected to the ABC Sports College Football All-Time All-America Team, as featured in a recently-published book by Hyperion. Receiver Tim Brown was named to the second team, as was defensive lineman Alan Page, while tight end Dave Casper was chosen to the third team.
Brown, from Dallas, Texas, won the 1987 Heisman Trophy and finished his Notre Dame career as the all-time Irish leader in reception yardage (2,493). He keynoted his Heisman bid in ’87 by returning two punts for 66 and 71 yards for TDs against Michigan State. Brown continues to star as a receiver for the NFL Oakland Raiders.
Page, from Canton, Ohio, earned consensus All-America honors as a senior in 1966 while helping the Irish to the national championship. A three-year starter at defensive end, he made 63 tackles as a senior in ’66 and finished with 134 career tackles. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in '93 — and was an NCAA Silver Anniversary award winner in '92. A former NFL MVP during his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Page now serves as a Minnesota Supreme Court judge.
Casper, from Chilton, Wis., was a consensus All-America selection as a senior in 1973 on Notre Dame’s national championship team. A three-year starter from 1971-73, he opened at offensive tackle for two seasons, then switched to tight end as a senior. His career totals included 21 catches for 335 yards and four TDs. He served as co-captain of Notre Dame’s ’73 national title squad. After 11 years in the NFL, Casper was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame in 1993 and was an NCAA Silver Anniversary award winner in 1999.
COACHING IN THE CLUTCH
Knute Rockne owns the best career winning percentage among Notre Dame coaches in games decided by seven or fewer points, at 21-1-5 (.870). Among Irish coaches with 14-plus "close games," the other top winning percentages in tight games belong to Elmer Layden (22-7-3, .734), Frank Leahy (17-5-8, .700), Ara Parseghian (13-6-4, .652), Dan Devine (15-9-1, .620), Bob Davie (14-9, .609) and Lou Holtz (20-18-2, .525).
HOWARD'S RUN 15TH LONGEST IN IRISH HISTORY
Junior TB Terrance Howard had an 80-yard touchdown run against West Virginia in the second-quarter to tie the game at 14-14, the first of five consecutive Irish TDs against the Mountaineers.
His 80-yard run stands as the 15th longest in Notre Dame history and the second longest for the Irish in the last 27 years (Robert Farmer had an 81-yard TD run against Boston College in 1996).
The run also set a Mountaineer Field record for the longest by a West Virginia opponent, eclipsing a 74-yard run by Maryland's Mike Beasley in 1988.
He finished with 96 yards rushing against WVU, the second consecutive week he has rushed for career-high yards after 68 against Navy.
The Irish have made five number changes from the original media guide roster: senior FS Justin Smith will wear No. 4 (instead of 39), junior HLD Adam Tibble is wearing No. 80 (instead of 73), freshman TE Billy Palmer is wearing No. 85 (instead of 96), junior walk-on center John Crowther is wearing 56 (not 64) and junior walk-on TE/DE Jeffrey Campbell is wearing 64 (not 85).
THEISMANN TO SERVE AS GUEST SPEAKER AT 81ST ANNUAL FOOTBALL BANQUET
Former Notre Dame All-America quarterback and current ESPN analyst Joe Theismann will serve as guest speaker for the 81st annual University of Notre Dame Football Banquet. The banquet, sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley, will be held Friday, Dec. 1, 2000, in the north dome of the Joyce Center on the Notre Dame campus. A reception on the concourse begins at 5:45 p.m. EST and the dinner begins at 7:00 p.m. The program will include video highlights of the 2000 season and a special tribute to senior members of the 2000 Irish squad. Ticket information will be announced within the next few weeks. In addition to the dinner, all senior members of the 2000 Irish team will be available for autographs on the concourse during the reception. There also will be a silent auction of Notre Dame football photographs and memorabilia during the reception.