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Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2002 5:15 PM EDT
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Notre Dame 22, (20) Maryland 0

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Kickoff Classic finale was an impressive opening act for Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame.

Vontez Duff returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown and Nicholas Setta tied a school record with five field goals as Notre Dame won the first game under its new coach, routing No. 20 Maryland, 22-0.

Carlyle Holiday threw for 226 yards and cornerback Shane Walton intercepted three passes for Notre Dame, which improved to 10-0 all-time at Giants Stadium and won its opening game for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.

Saturday marked the 20th and final Kickoff Classic, the first of the so-called "preseason" games that are being eliminated by the NCAA after this season.

The fifth sellout in Kickoff Classic history - 72,903 - watched the debut of Willingham, who was hired as coach to restore the tarnished image at Notre Dame and had an enjoyable opening night.

"You are excited about every game but you have to remember this was just a football game," Willingham said. "You can't get too emotionally involved. We played a good ball game but it was not quite perfect. I'm only satisfied by one thing, which is winning, so if we won by half a point, I'd be satisfied."

The 48-year-old Willingham left Stanford and came to South Bend following a bizarre sequence of events in which George O'Leary was forced to step down over discrepancies on his resume. That came after Bob Davie was fired following a 5-6 season.

Willingham brought the West Coast offense to Notre Dame and Holiday showed he has quickly adjusted to the new system, completing 17-of-27 passes without an interception.

"Tonight was special because we knew there was a lot of pressure on coach to win this game," Holiday said. "He wanted us to go out there, be aggressive and play."

Eight different receivers caught passes for Notre Dame (1-0), with Omar Jenkins catching five for 87 yards.

Most of the scores were by Setta, who connected on field goals of 51, 32, 18, 46 and 24 yards to tie the school record of Craig Hentrich set against Miami in 1990.

"It's a new era here and it's great to be part of it," said Setta, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player. "I did the least amount of work. The offense set me up and gave me plenty of time to kick."

Maryland (0-1), by contrast, never was able to get its offense in gear and looked nothing like the team that went 10-2 last season and played in the Orange Bowl, collecting just 133 yards overall compared to 356 for Notre Dame.

The Terps played without star running back Bruce Perry, who is expected to be sidelined up to eight weeks with a groin injury suffered last week. Maryland gained 16 yards on the ground on 21 carries.

"When you're dead, you're dead," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "Everyone needs to be evaluated again, players and coaches. We're a lot better team than we showed tonight."

Friedgen kept his choice at quarterback a secret until just before game time and went with Scott McBrien, a transfer from West Virginia. Chris Kelley won the job in a close competition during spring drills, but spent the summer recovering from a torn ACL.

McBrien completed just 9-of-23 passes for 84 yards and was picked off twice. Kelley played briefly in the second half and was 3-of-9 33 yards.

Notre Dame posted is first shutout since blanking Navy, 30-0, on November 14, 1998. Willingham became the first Irish coach to record a shutout in his opening game since Terry Brennan won, 21-0, over Texas in 1975.

Maryland was held without a point for the first time since October 10, 1998 against Clemson.

"It's hard anytime you lose, especially a game as big as this, national TV and all, and everyone watches us lose, 22-0," linebacker EJ Henderson said. "We have to go back to the drawing board."

Duff gave Notre Dame a 16-0 lead with 10:26 left in the third quarter. Duff, who had a kickoff return for a score in the final game of last season, became the first player to return a punt against Maryland for a TD since Darnell Stephens of Clemson in 1991.

"There was just great blocking in front of me," Duff said. 'We work on that a lot in camp. (Kick returning) will be a big weapon for us this year. It's a big part of our game."

Maryland had a chance to get back in the game on its next possession, but Madieu Williams was stopped for a three-yard loss on 4th-and-4 at the Fighting Irish 26.

Walton tied a school record with three interceptions, done 12 times previously, most recently by Dave Duerson against Navy in 1982.

"Our coaches were prepared," Walton said. "We seemed to know where they were throwing the ball."

Notre Dame dominated the first half, doing everything but put the ball in the end zone and settling for three field goals.

Holiday found Arnaz Battle on a quick slant over the middle for 29 yards to the Maryland 38, leading to the 51-yarder by Setta with 5:01 left in the opening quarter.

It was the second longest field goal in Notre Dame history, topped only by a 53-yarder by Dave Reeve against Pittsburgh in 1976.

The West Coast offense employs plenty of quick drops and short passes and Holiday did that for most of the first half. A strike from Holiday to Omar Jenkins netted 24 yards, leading to Setta's second field goal early in the second quarter.

Setta kicked an 18-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the first half, capping an 11-play, 61-yard drive that included a 14-yard scramble by Holiday to the Maryland 1.

Setta kicked a 46-yard field goal late in the third quarter and added a 24-yarder 10 seconds into the final period.

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