Mistakes doom Irish
September 9, 2001
BY JOHN JACKSON STAFF REPORTER
LINCOLN, Neb.--Losses like Notre Dame's 27-10 trouncing at the hands of No. 5 Nebraska before a record crowd of 78,118 at Memorial Stadium have sparked many tirades by the losing coach.
But seldom has a coach gone on a postgame tirade against himself like Irish coach Bob Davie did Saturday night.
''Obviously, we weren't a very well-prepared football team. I take responsibility for that,'' Davie said. ''I don't care how many games Nebraska's played, I don't care how many people are in the stands, I don't care what the crowd noise was, there was no excuse, no excuse.
''I take responsibility.''
This one was out of control quickly as Nebraska (3-0) scored a pair of touchdowns less than five minutes into the game and led 27-3 at halftime.
The Cornhuskers took the opening kickoff and steadily moved the ball for a touchdown. The Irish took the ensuing kickoff and ran their first play from scrimmage from their own 21-yard line. Tailback Terrance Howard, a surprise starter, took a handoff and fumbled on a simple run up the middle.
Nebraska recovered at the 22. On the first play, quarterback Eric Crouch (6-for-9 for 88 yards) found wingback John Gibson in the end zone for a touchdown.
''First play of the game, first play of the 2001 season, we put the football on the ground,'' Davie said. ''Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? A team that turned the ball over eight times all last year, the first play of the 2001 season we're going to put the ball on the ground?
''That's my fault. We didn't do a good enough job.''
The nightmare start was finished just yet.
The Irish, still seemingly shell-shocked at the speed of the game, went three-and-out on their next possession. Then Notre Dame received its first break when Crouch fumbled after a hit by defensive tackle Anthony Weaver. Linebacker Rocky Boiman recovered on the Nebraska 34.
Notre Dame, though, couldn't get untracked offensively and had to punt after losing five yards on the possession. Even that didn't go smoothly. The snap from John Crowther sailed high over punter Joey Hildbold and bounced farther back. Hildbold tried to fall on the ball, but knocked it even farther back.
Nebraska's Justin Smith picked up the ball at the 15 and returned it to the eight. The Notre Dame defense, though, was able to hold Nebraska to a field goal, the closest thing resembling a moral victory for the Irish in the early going.
There was nothing positive on the offensive side of the ball. Notre Dame had minus-45 yards rushing in the first quarter and had minus-23 yards of total offense in the first quarter.
''I was disappointed in our offense,'' Davie said. ''Just too many mistakes. Too much of that deer-in-the headlights look, just like the Fiesta Bowl.''
This was the second straight prime-time meltdown for the Irish on national television following the 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl.
On their first possession of the second quarter, Davie made a switch at quarterback, inserting sophomore Carlyle Holiday. The Irish took over at their 24 and the possession got off to a positive start as tailback Tony Fisher busted loose for a 35-yard run.
Two plays later, Holiday completed the first pass of his college career and then showed his running ability by picking up 17 yards down to the 12-yard line.
The Irish had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Nicholas Setta to make it 17-3. LoVecchio returned on the next possession and the Irish went three-and-out.
Holiday (5-for-8 for 41 yards, one interception) and LoVecchio (11-for-24 for 78 yards, one interception) each played in the second half, meaning much of this week will be dominated by who will start Saturday at Purdue.
''As far as a quarterback controversy or anything like that, I don't really care,'' LoVecchio said.
''I consider Matt the starter,'' Holiday said.
The Irish scored their only touchdown when Fisher scored on 1-yard run to make it 27-10. The drive was set up by a blocked punt by Shane Walton.