Football: Dillingham is in the spotlight — for now
By: ANDREW SOUKUP
Staring into the lenses of ABC cameras following Notre Dame's 21-17 win against Michigan State Saturday, Pat Dillingham grinned like a country boy seeing big-city lights for the first time.
Those lights could get a whole lot brighter if Carlyle Holiday's left shoulder doesn't heal in time for the Oct. 5 Notre Dame-Stanford game.
Irish coach Tyrone Willingham, who described Holiday's status as "week-to-week" Sunday, said until Holiday recovers from the injury to his non-throwing shoulder Dillingham will work as the first-string quarterback in practice and will start against The Cardinal if Holiday can't play.
"There's no way of estimating [when Holiday will be back]," Willingham said. "Hopefully by the time of our next ballgame he'll be in position to play. If not, Pat Dillingham will be our starter, and he'll be that until Carlyle is ready to resume his duties as our quarterback."
Willingham refused to elaborate on the exact nature of Holiday's injury, which the Irish quarterback sustained in the third quarter Saturday when Michigan State linebacker Mike Labinjo landed awkwardly on Holiday's shoulder. But the Irish coach was grateful that his team has an open date Saturday, as he expects Holiday to spend most of the week in the training room.
"I doubt he'll be practicing before the end of the week," Willingham said. "… It couldn't be a better week to have a bye."
While Holiday is injured, Dillingham will handle the majority of the snaps in practice. Dillingham took over for Holiday and finished 3-of-6 passing for 84 yards, including a 60-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle with 1:15 remaining.
Behind Dillingham, freshman Chris Olsen and walk-on Matt Krueger will serve as the backup and third-string, respectively, while Holiday is sidelined. Willingham said neither quarterback has seen significant action in practice, but hinted that Olsen's command of the offense was better than Krueger's.
Regardless, Willingham said neither is at the point where they could significantly challenge Dillingham. And when Holiday does recover, Willingham made it very clear the junior would remain the starter.
"Pat is ahead, and we will begin to work Chris in based on Carlyle's situation," Willingham said. "When [Holiday] is ready to go, that means Pat gets fewer snaps."
In the meantime, Dillingham will have to adjust to being in the spotlight — a situation Willingham is intimately familiar with. When Willingham played at Michigan State in the 1970s, he stepped in at quarterback when regular starter Charlie Baggett was sidelined with an injury.
"You would always say to a guy in this situation, the most difficult times are getting ready to arrive for him," Willingham said. "When you're thrust into the lineup, emotions of the moment take over. Now he gets all the calls from his relatives. Old girlfriends that haven't paid attention to him will pay attention to him now. Media will find him.
"He's got to be able to put all that aside and focus on what he does. His discipline and focus are critical as he prepares himself to play a football game."
All Sports Stories for Monday, September 23, 2002