Monday, April 29, 2002

Irish spring game - Gold 3, Blue 0

AP Sports Writer

        SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Fans got a glimpse of Notre Dame's new-look West Coast offense under coach Tyrone Willingham on Saturday. But it wasn't much more than a glimpse as the Irish kept to the basics in their spring game.

        “I'm sure that people want to see what we're going to do, but we'd just as soon wait until we're playing Maryland, Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State,” offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said.

        The only scoring in the 48-minute game, played in the rain with a running clock, was a 37-yard field goal by Nicholas Setta for the Gold team, quarterbacked by Carlyle Holiday. David Miller missed field goals of 23 and 37 yards for the Blue team, which had Matt LoVecchio at quarterback. The starters were divided between the two teams.

        Willingham said he will wait until the fall before deciding whether his No. 1 quarterback will be Holiday, last season's starter, or LoVecchio, the starter two years ago.

        “Today had very little impact in terms of the evaluation,” Willingham said.

        Holiday was 3-for-7 passing for 27 yards with no interceptions, while LoVecchio was 6-for-14 for 58 yards with three interceptions. Notre Dame had the nation's second-worst passing offense last year at 101.5 yards a game.

        Diedrick said he was pleased overall with the offense's performance, although he was disappointed in the quarterbacks.

        “I would have liked to have seen a little better decision-making,” he said.

        Holiday said it has been difficult trying to learn so many new plays in such a short period.

        “I'm steadily progressing. It started off a little shaky, but as spring went on I became more comfortable with the system,” he said. “I felt comfortable out there.”

        LoVecchio said he feels as if he's been given a second chance.

        “Coming off of last season, I feel like it's a breath of fresh air,” he said.

        The two most effective players on offense both played for the Blue team. Arnaz Battle had five catches for 73 yards and Ryan Grant rushed for 45 yards on seven carries. For the Gold team, Julius Jones had five carries, losing 3 yards.

        Defensively, Gerome Sapp had five tackles and an interception for the Gold team.

        Sapp said the defense had an advantage because of the weather and the new offense. But he predicts the offense will be potent in the fall.

        “You're going to have to be on your toes for the run or the pass. I think we've balanced it out a little more now. We have a lot of weapons. It's going to be a lot more dangerous because we can hurt you with a lot more things,” Sapp said.

        While the game may not have impressed fans, Willingham said he's only worried about impressing former Irish players.

        “When our football team walks off the field, if they have played with such an attitude that the former players can say, 'We're proud of what you've done today, the effort that you've given today,' that is the attitude we want to carry on this football team,” he said.

        The Irish, once one of the dominant teams in college football, haven't won a bowl game since 1993. Last year they finished 5-6.

        Coach Bob Davie was fired at the end of the season. His first replacement, George O'Leary, resigned within five days after admitting he had lied about his academic and athletic credentials.

        That's when Willingham, who posted a 44-36-1 record in seven seasons at Stanford, stepped in, bringing a new offense with him.


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