Notre Dame runs for 380 yards in 28-16 victory
By TIM CASEY
Assistant Sports Editor
He played defensive back at the University of Richmond, graduated in 1983 and then signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys. After a brief stint with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL, Mike London's playing career ended in 1985.
But in Saturday's late afternoon hours, the current Boston College defensive line coach envisioned a return to the field.
"I was getting ready to suit up myself," London said.
And why not? His unit's best player (Antonio Garay) injured his knee on the first play of the year, two others (Sean Guthrie and Steve Martin) suffered that same injury during the second quarter on Saturday and two main contributors (freshmen Justin Hinds and Doug Goodwin) combined for 29 tackles in the first nine games.
Not quite Chris Hovan and company, who limited Notre Dame to 95 yards on the ground in 1999.
The Irish seized the opportunity and rushed for a season-high 380 yards en route to a 28-16 victory. Notre Dame ran on 61 of its 73 plays from scrimmage. Junior tailback Tony Fisher carried 26 times for a career-best 196 yards.
The last time an Irish player ran for more yards, a Bush resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Their big guys just beat our little guys up front," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "That was the bottom line."
All week, talk centered on two topics: whether the only two Division 1-A football Catholic schools were "rivals" and what the Notre Dame players remember from last season, when Hovan ripped up the Stadium turf and brought several chunks back to Chestnut Hill.
As usual, coach Bob Davie claimed to ignore the pre-game hype.
"I just let that dog eat," Davie said. "I stayed away from any discussions of what happened last year. I wasn't going to make it any bigger than it needed to be."
Yet a picture of the incident appeared on the front page of each player's scouting report.
"It really leaves a sour feeling in your stomach when you see something like that," guard Jim Jones said. "But we're a totally different team this year."
That became more apparent on Saturday. Whereas Jarious Jackson set Notre Dame single season records for passing yards, completions and attempts and also ranked second in rushing yards last season, this year's squad relies on a more balanced attack.
And an attack that has not included Fisher as a key contributor. Prior to Saturday's game, the Irish's leading rusher in 1999 had gained just 225 yards. When starter Julius Jones suffered a bruised thigh in the first half, Fisher became the featured back. His performance against Boston College marked the highest total since Reggie Brooks ran for 227 yards against USC in 1992.
"It was just Tony's day to show what he can do," said tailback Terrance Howard, who contributed 84 yards on 16 carries. "This guy deserves 20 carries a game."
Another difference lies in the defense. Last season, the Irish allowed 442 yards to the Eagles in the middle of a November to forget.
On Saturday, a Boston College offense ranked 13th in the country prior to the game, gained 296 yards (including 124 on the ground) and trailed the entire game. In the first three quarters, the Eagles managed just 179 yards of offense.
"That's how we played out there man," cornerback Brock Williams said. "With emotion."
Credit the special teams as well for leading the Irish to their fifth straight victory since Matt LoVecchio (who threw for 86 yards and ran for 80 more on Saturday) took over. Chris Yura gained four yards (after a fake punt) for a first down in the first quarter and a kickoff return unit ranked first in the country averaged nearly 25 yards on four runs. But it was the field goal kicker (Nick Setta) and holder (Adam Tibble) who gave the Irish a comfortable 28-10 lead.
Setta lined up for a 22-yard attempt late in the third quarter. Tibble received the snap from John Crowther and instead of placing the ball on the grass, ran to his left and pitched to Setta for the touchdown.
"Adam saw they thought we were going to kick it so he called it," Setta said. "I had the easiest job."
The 12th meeting between the schools had less suspense than David Gordon, Deke Cooper and the squirrel provided in the past eight years. But regardless,the Irish are two wins away from a probable Bowl Championship Series berth.
"A lot of people were doomsday predictors for this team early in the season," Davie said. "But I think everyone felt internally that we had an opportunity to be pretty good."
All Sports Stories for Monday, November 13, 2000