LoVecchio, Givens set offensive tone with score on opening drive
By KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
Associate Sports Editor
Notre Dame cashed in on a Stanford interception, lost fumble and blocked punt to win 20-14 Saturday behind the offense of freshman quarterback Matt LoVecchio and multi-talented David Givens.
LoVecchio, starting for the first time in his young career, engineered Notre Dame's longest scoring drive of the season on the opening series, an 11-play, 91-yard push downfield capped off by a 17-yard touchdown pass to Givens.
"We really set the tone for the offense on that first drive," LoVecchio said. "All 11 guys really hung together and stuck it out."
LoVecchio kicked the offense off with an 11-yard pass to tight end Dan O'Leary. He followed it up with a fake handoff to tailback Julius Jones that LoVecchio kept for a 10-yard gain and another first down. LoVecchio was 4-for-4 passing on the drive, and added three rushes for 17 yards.
"LoVecchio did a good job with the execution," Irish head coach Bob Davie said. "He is one cool customer."
Straying from the recent game plan of giving tailback Julius Jones the ball on every play, seven Irish players got in on the action on the first drive.
"In the opening drive, they did a good job of keeping us off-balance, and kept us back on our heels a little bit," Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham said.
The Irish (3-2) won despite gaining only 266 yards total offense, compared to 384 by the Cardinal (2-3). The turnover differential determined the victor, as Stanford struggled to hang onto the pigskin.
Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis fumbled a snap midway through the quarter, and Irish defensive lineman Anthony Weaver recovered at the Notre Dame 16.
"They're a pretty solid defense, but at the same time, we made a lot of mistakes," Stanford wide receiver DeRonnie Pitts said. "We beat ourselves."
The Cardinal got another chance to score late in the first half when Notre Dame kicker Nick Setta missed a 38-yard field goal. But the Irish defense held the Cardinal on three straight plays, and Givens broke through to block Mike Biselli's punt.
"I think they made a mistake in coverage," Givens said. "Special teams is one of those things that can win or lose a game."
Following the blocked punt, the Irish took over on the Cardinal 10-yard line with 39 seconds to go in the second period, and LoVecchio hit Givens with an 8-yard touchdown pass 12 seconds later. Givens, a junior, became the first Notre Dame wide receiver to make two touchdown catches in a game since Derrick Mayes in the 1996 Orange Bowl. It was just the third scoring reception of his career.
"That meant we were two touchdowns down instead of just one going into the locker room," Willingham said. "That changed the complexion of how we had to approach things in the second half."
After being down 13-0 at half time, Stanford got onto the board with a 13-yard pass from Lewis to Pitts. The touchdown reception came on the heels of a 71-yard run by Brian Allen.
But Stanford turned the ball over again in the third quarter when Irish linebacker Tyreo Harrison tipped a Lewis pass into the hands of Notre Dame cornerback Brock Williams. Jones scampered into the end zone three plays later, and Setta hit the point after attempt to put the Irish up 20-7.
Notre Dame did not turn the ball over once.
"The main thing is that we did not turn the football over," Davie said. "That has been a key for us all year. We have not committed very many turnovers."
Turnover-prone a year ago when they gave the ball up 30 times, the Irish have committed just three turnovers in their first five games.
Stanford missed an opportunity in the fourth quarter when Biselli shanked a 29-yard field goal. The Cardinal wrapped up the scoring with 1:07 to play. Lewis, who went 19-of-31 for 242 yards on the day, threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Darin Naatjes.
Stanford attempted an onside kick but Notre Dame tight end Jabari Holloway recovered at the Stanford 45.
All Sports Stories for Monday, October 9, 2000