Defense prevails 74-40 in Blue-Gold game
By ANDREW SOUKUP
Associate Sports Editor
He said he was only 85 percent.
Saturday afternoon, David Givens played like he was 100 percent.
Givens, who has been suffering from a hamstring injury for most of the spring, caught a pair of touchdown passes as the defense beat the offense 74-40 in the annual Blue-Gold scrimmage.
"I came out under the impression I wasn't going to play too much today, but I got warmed up," said Givens, who was voted the offensive MVP. "I was able to go out there and work on my route techniques today and do some things that kind of surprised myself."
"The guy's legitimately a warrior," said offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.
"I didn't know he was going to play today, I swear to God. I guess seeing the people in the stands inspired him a little."
Although Davie seemed pleased by the team's performance, he said it was hard to tell anything from the spring game.
"It's hard to draw any conclusions," he said. "It's obvious that it was very vanilla from a scheme standpoint. That's by intention."
Entering the game, one of the biggest questions was how the three quarterbacks — Jared Clark, Carlyle Holiday and Matt LoVecchio — would play. They rotated every series — LoVecchio played the first, Clark the second, and Holiday the third. While LoVecchio looked the most poised, Clark and Holiday had their moments as well.
However, Clark got off to a slow start. He threw an interception that cornerback Shane Walton returned 44 yards for a touchdown and fumbled a snap, which nose guard Andy Wisne recovered.
But in the second half, Clark settled down. He threw a 47-yard strike to Givens and finished the scrimmage with 3-of-8 passing for 78 yards.
"I was really pleased Jared Clark came back in the second half," Davie said.
"I think that's a great experience for him, to be in the tank the first half and come back in the second half and make some plays."
Holiday also showed off his athletic ability. He gained 31 yards on the ground — his net yardage was three because he was sacked four times — and threw for 66 more. But he was hampered by the red jersey worn by the quarterbacks — anytime he was touched, it was instantly ruled a tackle.
"Those offensive coaches kept whining, `He would have broken that tackle,'" Davie said. "Carlyle's gonna make you miss. I think that was missing today a little bit. To be honest, he would have had some big runs and might have scored a touchdown."
"The spring game is a great opportunity to learn," Holiday said. "I felt me and Jared really took advantage of that."
LoVecchio looked the experienced quarterback he was right out of the gate, leading the offense on an 11 play, 62 yard drive that ended in a Nick Setta field goal on the first possession of the game. LoVecchio, who finished 3-of-10 passing for 48 yards, threw a strike to Givens late in the fourth quarter for the second and final touchdown of the game.
"He's the starter going into the Nebraska game," Davie said.
However, the number of turnovers worried Davie. There were three interceptions and the defense recovered two fumbles.
"When you turn the ball over there is going to be a bunch of points for the other team," he said. "We had some turnovers in the first half, and we gave up some big plays on defense.
Davie was also concerned with an offensive line that gave up 12 sacks.
"I'm a little concerned about our pass protection," he said. "There's not much continuity on the offensive line."
Based on his spring performance, Davie said Sean Mahan would earn a starting spot at guard. However, the other spot was still open, and Davie isn't sure how the Irish will rotate their trio of tackles.
Arnaz Battle made an impressive debut at wide receiver. He caught three passes for 38 yards and rushed twice for 13 yards. Battle showed his athleticism on one 17-yard run, where he outsprinted the defense and hurdled a defender.
"You can see now what we saw this spring," Davie said.
Rising sophomore Kyle Budinscak turned in an impressive defensive performance. The defensive tackle recorded seven tackles and five sacks. In fact, before the spring starter, Budinscak was listed as an end, not a tackle.
"When you watch him on film you can see he plays with a high motor," said Mattison said. "He has very, very explosive movement and has been playing with a lot of toughness."
Mike McNair and Terrance Howard shared most of the tailback duties. Howard led all rushers with 58 yards on 13 carries, but McNair — who has been shiftedbetween fullback and tailback this spring — rushed nine times for 50 yards.
Fullback Chris Yura added 35 yards on six carries.
The game was tied 7-7 before Walton jump-started the defense's scoring spurt.
Walton, who was named defensive MVP, started the scoring deluge with his interception return, worth 12 points under the modified scoring system used for Saturday's scrimmage.
"Obviously, on defense, we don't get our hands on the ball much," he said. "When we do, we try to take it to the house."
Clifford Jefferson also intercepted a Holiday pass in the fourth quarter.
"It was my first interception in a game like this, so I was pretty happy," he said. "It made me feel good."
Mattison was only concerned with the defensive line, especially on the two long touchdown passes.
"That wasn't the secondary's fault, nobody could have covered them that long," he said. "We didn't gain one inch when we were rushing. I pointed up to the crowd and I said, `I could have picked anyone up there who could have completed that pass.'"
Overall, Davie seemed pleased by the team's performance.
"I like this football team. I like this football team a lot," he said. "All we've talked about all spring, really since the bowl game, is to take this thing to another level."
"This is a group of kids that you're going to really like because they're going to try to do what you're asking them to do," added Mattison. "We have enough good things going on that I think we have a chance to be outstanding if we can continue to develop over the summer," Davie said.
"Things look pretty good and I think we have a good chance to be successful."
u Fourteen scholarship players, including nine starters, did not compete Saturday because of various injuries. Among those who didn't compete were cornerback Jason Beckstrom, linebacker Rocky Boiman, tailback Tony Fisher, defensive end Grant Irons, safeties Ron Israel and Gerome Sapp and offensive linemen Ryan Scarola and John Teasdale.
u Davie said that if the season started today, McNair would earn the starting fullback job over Yura. Also, Courtney Watson was listed ahead of Mike Goolsby for a linebacker slot.
u Although he badly missed a 45-yard field goal during the scrimmage, Davie said Nick Setta would be the starting field goal kicker. Setta hit 4-of-4 field goals in a kicking exhibition before the scrimmage started. Setta also hit a 29-yard attempt during the scrimmage.
David Miller also connected on a 45-yard field goal before the game started, and he drilled a 37-yarder during the game.
However, Davie was concerned about who would handle kickoff duties. "I'm concerned about kickoffs because neither one has the advantage," he said. "There's going to be a lot of competition kicking off."
u The announced attendance was 20,694 — nearly 6,000 more than attended last season's game. Included in that were most of the incoming freshman class of recruits — most notably, tight end Mark LeVoir, the highest rated Irish recruit — as well a number of high profile high school juniors who are considering playing football at Notre Dame.
All Sports Stories for Monday, April 30, 2001