Quarterbacks face uncertainty in off-week
By TIM CASEY
Jarious Jackson and Arnaz Battle headed off Cartier field side by side Monday night after a long practice, showing no hints of a quarterback controversy.
Jackson, in his blue Notre Dame warmup suit, and Battle, sporting a red No. 3 jersey, are the only two experienced quarterbacks on the Irish roster. They were engaged in conversation with fellow quarterback freshman Gary Godsey.
Whether they were talking about football or what they would have for dinner, it was apparent that their relationship goes beyond football.
"He's helped me a lot," Battle said about Jackson. "Any questions I've had, I've gone up to him and he's helped me out with them."
This has never been more important than now. After suffering their third loss in a row, the Irish face questions about the quarterback position.
Heading into the season, Jackson was the clear-cut No. 1 starter. The senior captain was coming off a season where he led Notre Dame to eight straight victories and a berth in the Gator Bowl.
Now that has changed.
The Irish stand at 1-3, with a Bowl Championship Series appearance an impossibility and postseason possibilities looking slim. Jackson suffered turf toe in the Sept. 4 Michigan game. His performance since has fallen with the team's misfortunes.
He's thrown twice as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns. So far this season, he has gained less than two yards per carry in 48 rushing attempts.
And he's lost more games in Notre Dame's first four games this year as he did all of last year as a starter.
Jackson, who missed Monday's practice due to swelling in his toe, will most likely return later in the week. With an open date before the Oklahoma game, Jackson has a few days to rest his injury.
"Having the open date is the best thing for me and the team, as far as for me to be 100 percent," Jackson said. "I haven't been 100 percent the last couple games. I haven't been able to do a lot of the things I wanted to do because of my toe."
Despite Jackson's injury and inconsistent play, head coach Bob Davie insists there is no quarterback controversy.
"It's too early now [to make a switch]," Davie said. "I've got too much respect for Jarious. I know how much Jarious means to this football team."
Ever since Jackson suffered an MCL injury in last season's LSU game, Davie vowed to give his backup a chance to play.
True to his word, Davie inserted Battle into the opening game against Kansas early in the second quarter. Battle proceeded to struggle throwing the ball but has shown a knack for gaining yards on the ground, highlighted by a 76-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter.
After being sidelined the following two weeks against Michigan and Purdue, Battle got a chance to showcase his talents again Saturday against Michigan State. In his only appearance of the game, on the third Irish series, Battle overthrew Tom Lopienski, who was open on second down. He then scampered for five yards after a heavy rush.
"I definitely have to improve in the passing game," Battle said. "But working with Coach [Kevin] Rogers, Jarious, the receivers and coach [Urban] Meyer will help me. It will come together."
Battle will have time to work on his passing game. Although he may see some time later this season, Davie refuses to substitute Battle for Jackson.
"There are too many kids who have invested too much," Davie said. "I'm not going to go up to Lamont Bryant and Bobby Brown and some of those seniors and say I'm going to play Arnaz for next year."
"That's not going to happen," Davie said. "Arnaz Battle is going to be a good player but Jarious gives us the best chance to win."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 21, 1999