Fisher deserves more
With 1:42 remaining in the first quarter against Michigan State, Notre Dame's offense finally came to life at its own 20 yard line.
Tony Fisher ran for 49 yards on six carries to bring the Irish to the Michigan State 26-yard line nearly single handedly.
Nick Setta kicked a field goal to tie the game at 3 and the very next offensive series, Fisher was back on the bench.
"It's going to be frustrating to any running back," Fisher said about rotating with Julius Jones. "Once you feel like you are in a groove, you feel like you should be getting the ball more and more ... I feel I deserve to run the ball. But Julius deserves to run the ball too. I've made some big plays for this team but he's made some big plays for this team too."
Fisher is too modest, too humble and too much of a team player to come right out and say it. So I'll say it for him:
Give him the damn ball.
Not to take anything away from Jones, but Fisher is just flat out a better back. He runs harder, hits the hole faster and shakes more tackles than Jones. Jones is great in the open field but in Kevin Rogers' run straight up the middle offense, Fisher is much more effective.
Fisher hits the hole like he was shot out of a cannon, Jones dances up to the hole always looking for a big gain. While Jones has better big play potential, Fisher will make a gain out of a loss.
"I am more of a power runner," said Fisher, who ran for 103 yards against Michigan State and scored a touchdown against Nebraska. "If I don't see a hole I might just hit it up in there and get a few yards because I feel I am just a stronger back than Julius or Terrance [Howard] is."
But no matter how much better Fisher looks than Jones or how many more yards he runs for, Fisher never complains to the media.
He won't demand more carries when he is having a good game or challenge the coaches to give him the ball more. He has public confidence in his coaches.
"They are going to put the one in that they feel is going to contribute the most to the team at that point," he said. "The offensive coordinators know more about this offense than I do."
Fisher may have confidence in his coaches' choices, but his hard running is certainly influencing their decisions. He will still split time with Jones this week but if he is clearly the better back, Bob Davie won't give him the quick hook again.
"I thought Tony Fisher ran the ball well last week," Davie said. "I start he started ripping it ... Both of them are going to play but I am going to go with the hot hand."
Fisher brings more than just a hard running style to the Irish. He is also a great receiver out of the backfield. But since his sophomore year when he caught 18 passes for 287 yards — including two catches for 51 yards against Michigan — he has been used less and less as a receiver. He caught just 12 passes in 2000 and has caught just one pass for minus one yards this year.
"I've been telling the coaches that I want to be more involved in the passing game because I feel I can contribute something to it," Fisher said. "Hopefully this week, I will be more involved in the passing game."
With injuries to Arnaz Battle and David Givens depleting the Irish receivers, Davie expects to use Fisher more as a receiver out of the backfield.
"With the injuries the way they are, you may see a little more of that, where those tailbacks become receivers a little bit more," Davie said. "That's something we were really good at here a couple of years ago, of getting that ball in his hands in the passing game."
No matter how they do it, the Irish need to get Fisher the ball. Because when Fisher has the ball, the offense runs smoothest and the Irish have the best chance to win — which is all that really matters in the end.
"I am just out there to win the game," Fisher said. "I am going to make the most of my opportunities."
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Observer. Contact Mike Connolly at email@example.com.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, September 27, 2001