Davie breaks 4-game losing streak with win over old friend
By TIM CASEY
Assistant Sports Editor
His shoulders straightened, elbows tucked, open palms pointed towards the royal blue sky and arms flung above his head.
Bob Davie "raised the roof."
On a warm, humid afternoon, Davie's postgame signal to the student section may have been the most recognizable gesture for the Irish since Bobby Brown's "excessive celebration" taunt last year against Michigan.
But the uncharacteristic gesture was far from the only highlight of Notre Dame's 24-10 victory over then-No. 25 Texas A&M.
For quarterback Arnaz Battle, his memorable weekend began with a phone call from Jarious Jackson, the starter for the past two years. Jackson had one simple message for the junior from Shreveport, La.
"He said `just go out there and ball'," Battle said.
Battle heeded his predecessor's advice, completing 10-of-16 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 50 yards on 12 carries.
Maybe even more impressive than individual statistics, the Battle-led offense committed no turnovers.
And, instead of listening to Lil' Troy's "Wanna be a baller", Battle and the rest of his Irish teammates sang a sweeter tune in the locker room after the win.
The Victory March.
"I had to pass out a sheet before the game," Davie said. "It's been a long time since we sang that song."
The last time the Irish sang the customary verses, reserved only for victories, was following a 28-24 defeat of Navy on Oct. 30.
Yet, on Saturday, the Irish looked like a different team than the squad that lost all four November games last season.
Whether it was because of its health, maturity or lesser quality opponent, Notre Dame revived some confidence in a program beset by constant criticism the past few years.
"I'm sick of hearing all of that [criticism]," Battle said. "I want to bring back Notre Dame to where it's supposed to be."
The Irish relived some memories of the past early on, throwing on only two of their first 18 offensive plays. For the game, Notre Dame gained 216 yards on the ground and ran the ball on over three-quarters (49 of 65) of their plays.
The tailback-by-committee of Tony Fisher, Julius Jones and Terrance Howard gave the Irish relief in the high temperatures.
Jones, who missed several practices last week because of a hamstring injury, led the team with 60 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Fisher, the game's starter, and Howard, who was also coming off a slight hamstring injury, gained 31 yards a piece.
"I think you will continue to see us do that [the rotation]," Davie said. "I feel comfortable with all three of them. That was evidenced by the fact that Terrance Howard was in there late in the football game when you are obviously concerned about protecting the football."
Davie also plans to utilize the same aggressive defensive schemes. The defense was the biggest surprise in the Irish's fifth-straight season-opening victory.
The defensive unit yielded 255 total yards to the Aggies, including only 90 on the ground. Aggie quarterback Mark Farris completed 16-of-28 passes for 165 yards but was sacked twice and lost 15 yards rushing in his starting debut.
"There's no question Bob Davie is an excellent defensive coach," Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum said. "And so are [defensive coordinator] Greg Mattison and [linebackers coach] Kirk Doll. I think they'll have a good defense."
Though still premature to forecast their future success, the first series of the second half may have set the tone for an improved defense.
After a 7-7 halftime tie, the Aggies marched down to the Notre Dame 2-yard line.
Three plays, one timeout and a penalty later, Texas A&M had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Terence Kitchens.
The Irish took advantage of the stand. With 3:24 remaining in the third quarter, Battle found Javin Hunter along the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown in the north end zone.
Hunter's first career touchdown gave the Irish their first lead of the afternoon at 14-10.
"When I was running with him, I thought I was pushing him, then I let off a little bit," said Jay Brooks, who was covering Hunter. "When I turned around I didn't see the ball. I let my team down."
The Irish extended the lead early in the fourth. After David Givens rushed for seven yards on a crucial fourth-and-one, Jones ran through the Aggie defense, broke three tackles and scored from 17-yards out with 11:38 left.
On its next possession, Notre Dame scored again, this time on a 32-yard field goal by Nick Setta.
All Sports Stories for Monday, September 4, 2000