With few turnovers -- on the field and on the roster -- the Irish may not need much luck
By Mark Bechtel
The game against the Cardinal would be the first started by quarterback Matt LoVecchio, a true freshman who hadn't distinguished himself in one brief appearance. However, after junior Arnaz Battle went down with a broken left wrist in the second game and sophomore Gary Godsey was ineffective as his replacement, Davie had to decide which of his three freshmen should start: LoVecchio, cannon-armed Jared Clark or athletic scrambler Carlyle Holiday? "Matt was a combination [of the other two]," says Davie.
LoVecchio also won out because of his extraordinary calmness. His father, Larry, says that if a tornado were to hit the LoVecchio house while Matt was home alone, Matt wouldn't even mention it when the rest of the family returned. "I might have to check his pulse once in a while," says Davie. "He can handle the big stage at Notre Dame. You've got to have thick skin and keep things in perspective."
If anyone knows about that, it's Davie, who began hearing calls for his job after the Irish split their first four games. Things began to improve after LoVecchio moved under center. He didn't do anything fancy -- the Irish ranked 76th in the country in total offense (345.7 yards per game) -- but Notre Dame turned the ball over only eight times during the regular season. Indeed, the Irish won their last seven games of the season before losing 41-9 to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl.
LoVecchio will guide an offense rich in returning talent, including the team's leading rusher (junior Julius Jones) and receiver (senior David Givens). LoVecchio also has a new target: Battle, who has made a smooth transition to wide receiver. The defense will get a boost with the return of senior end Grant Irons, who dislocated his right shoulder in the second game and missed the rest of last season. The secondary, though, has a few questions, especially after being torched for 319 passing yards by Oregon State.
LoVecchio didn't have a stellar day against the Beavers, either, completing 13 of 33 passes with two interceptions and a fumble. Nonetheless, Davie gave Clark and Holiday virtually no chance of unseating LoVecchio in the spring, primarily because the Irish open with a brutal stretch of road games in which experience will be important. LoVecchio's first test will be on Sept. 8 at Nebraska. Davie's will be 13 days later. That's when the first pep rally is scheduled.
Issue date: August 13, 2001