FOOTBALL:Holiday to start against A&M
By ANDREW SOUKUP
Associate Sports Editor
Irish head coach Bob Davie named sophomore quarterback Carlyle Holiday the starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Texas A&M.
"We need a spark and we need some points," Davie said. "Carlyle is a guy who I think deserves the opportunity to provide that spark."
In Notre Dame's two losses to Nebraska and Michigan State, the Irish have been noticibly missing the capability to make big plays on offense.
Davie hinted Sunday he was considering a change in quarterbacks.
"Did we generate enough offense? No," he said. "Did we generate enough big plays? No. Was that Matt [LoVecchio's] fault? That's a tough question to answer."
Early Monday morning, Davie and the rest of the Irish coaches tried to answer that question. They ultimately decided that it would be better to start Holiday in place of LoVecchio to try to shake things up. And Holiday felt the effects immediately.
Normally after practice, Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie is surrounded by about 10 reporters. While the rest of the football team files into the locker room, Davie patiently waits outside as he fields question after question about the Irish football team.
But Monday afternoon, things were different.
Only one reporter stood in front of Davie, who minutes before had announced that Holiday would start against Texas A&M. The rest were all crowded around Holiday, who shifted his weight from foot to foot as he stood with his hands clasped behind his back and answered every question hurled his way.
"There's a new sheriff in town," Davie said, laughing at the media attention surrounding Notre Dame's newest starting quarterback.
But Notre Dame's offensive woes are no laughing matter for Davie. He spent a sleepless Saturday night watching game film of Notre Dame's 17-10 loss to Michigan State. And after studying that film for hour after hour, he and the rest of the Irish coaches, believed it was time for Holiday to have a chance to control the Irish offense.
"There's a lot more pressure, but that's what I've come here for," Holiday said. "I like pressure. I like competing and hopefully I can get some points on the board."
In Notre Dame's two losses, the Irish have only managed to score two touchdowns. Each touchdown was set up not by prolonged offensive drives, but by solid special teams play. Against Nebraska, Shane Walton's blocked punt gave the Irish the ball on the Husker four-yard line. And against Michigan State, Julius Jones returned a punt 56 yards to the Spartan six-yard line.
"The bottom line — and it is a bottom line — is we're just not scoring enough points," Davie said. "I thought Matt LoVecchio played good at times Saturday. In some ways, it may not be the most fair thing, but the bottom line is we're not scoring enough points."
Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers broke the news to LoVecchio and Holiday just before Monday's practice. The coaches didn't tell the team until after practice.
"Like anything else, the quarterback gets too much blame and too much credit," Rogers said. "[Matt's] first comment to me was, `Coach we're not scoring points, something has to be done.'"
"It's the coaches' decision," LoVecchio said. "I'm just going to go with it and work as hard as I can to do what I have to do to help this team and get better ... I think the responsibility of being the quarterback at Notre Dame, you've got to move the ball down the field and you've got to score points. We didn't do that Saturday and that's the bottom line."
The Irish feel more confident starting Holiday now as opposed to the beginning of the season because he has some game experience. While he only played two series against Michigan State, Holiday played several series against Nebraska, leading Notre Dame on a 64-yard game — its longest of the game — that culminated in a Nick Setta field goal.
But Holiday was promoted because Notre Dame hasn't made any big offensive plays. Notre Dame's longest passing play was a 19-yard completion to David Givens in the season opener, while Tony Fisher's 35-yard run against the Huskers is still Notre Dame's longest play from scrimmage.
And against Michigan State, Rogers was conservative in his play calling the Irish attempted only one pass over 20 yards and rushed on first down 15 of 18 times.
"It's our whole mentality right now," Rogers said after Saturday's loss. "I just think we're a little fragile right now as far as [the passing game] is concerned. I just think there's a lack of confidence until you start having some success ... You try to take care of the football, you try to run the ball, you try to keep the defense out of bad situations and all of a sudden, you're in a shell and you're not a very exciting offense."
"We've got to try to get some more explosions, some more big plays," said Davie. "We need to take the next step, and hopefully this will work."
The Irish hope Holiday can add that excitement. While Rogers said the offense will not have to make many changes, he did say that Holiday would probably be the only quarterback to play Saturday.
Both Davie and Rogers stressed that LoVecchio still has the possibility to earn his starting job back. And while Davie said Jared Clark is still in the quarterback mix, Rogers was a little more blunt about what it would take to see Clark in the game.
"Hopefully, we're ahead by a lot of points," he said.
But for now, the spotlight is on Holiday, not the other two quarterbacks. He took his turn on the sideline last year while LoVecchio ran the offense and he watched from afar as LoVecchio answered the media's questions. Now, it's his turn.
"I waited, my opportunity has come, and now I have to take advantage of it," he said.
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, September 25, 2001