Irish look to stay turnover-free against Sun Devils
By TED FOX
Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie stressed the need of playing error-free football at Tuesday afternoon's press conference.
Reflecting on the team's 2-3 start this year, Davie said he, the coaches and the players realize "what a fine line there is between winning and losing."
Coming off a 34-30 win over Oklahoma, the Irish will look to make it two in a row with a win over Arizona State this weekend. The Irish have set three goals heading into each game —gaining momentum early, eliminating turnovers and making bigger plays than the opponent.
To varying degrees, Davie noted, the Irish accomplished all three of these goals and walked out of Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday with a large momentum-building win.
While the team did not gain the momentum as early as hoped against Oklahoma, trailing 30-14 with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Davie said "to our players' credit, from that point on, they executed, they made plays and we won."
The next point on the agenda was turnovers, something Notre Dame had struggled with through the first four games, giving up possessions prematurely 14 times. Against Oklahoma, the Irish had no turnovers.
"You can't turn the football over and win," Davie said. "The reason we did win was we didn't turn the ball over in the second half and Oklahoma did."
The touchdown that brought Notre Dame to within two at 30-28 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter was set up by a Lee Lafayette interception four minutes earlier, the only turnover of the game.
The third objective, recording more big plays than your opponent (which Davie defines as runs over 12 yards, passes over 14), was also accomplished, as the Irish recorded 11 to the Sooners six (including three kickoff returns).
"If Jarious Jackson didn't make some unbelievable effort plays and Joey Getherall doesn't make some plays, we don't win," Davie said.
Getherall finished the game with six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson completed 15-of-21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first Notre Dame quarterback to pass for at least 240 yards in four straight games. He also rushed for 107 yards, and got the Irish on the board less than two minutes into the game with a 10-yard touchdown run.
"The challenge is still the same whether we're 1-3, 2-3, 4-0," Davie said. "We have to play as well as we can play every week to win. It's week-to-week, it's keeping your eye on that target and just going back to those things that either keep you or lead you to winning football games. If we control it [the game] as good as we can, we can have a bright future here."
Despite some execution problems with the option, Davie said "We're going to continue to run it because it makes people continue to defend it."
Don't look for sophomore backup quarterback Arnaz Battle to be inserted for individual series as in the last couple of games. The coaching staff felt this was putting too much pressure on Battle to make something big happen in just three plays. However, should the offense have serious problems, Battle could be inserted as the playcaller. While no one running back has completely emerged as the "go-to-guy," look for Terrance Howard, Julius Jones, and Tony Driver all to split time with last week's leading rusher Tony Fisher in the Irish backfield.
Center John Merandi injured his calf in Saturday's win over Oklahoma. He is expected to play Saturday.
Raki Nelson is out at least four weeks with a torn ACL suffered against Oklahoma.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, October 6, 1999