Team play garners Irish BCS bid
By ANDREW SOUKUP
The designers of the "Bob Davie Farewell Tour" shirts forgot to add one game.
The Fiesta Bowl.
Davie, who many so-called experts predicted would be out of a job by New Year's Day, is instead leading No. 10 Notre Dame into a Jan. 1 game against No. 5 Oregon State.
"We've glowed in the glory of going to the Fiesta Bowl," said Davie. "Now, all the fun part is about winning."
The reason the Irish are playing Jan. 1 is because they truly play as a team. Davie has forged his players into a selfless group that wins games.
"We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to win football games," said quarterback Matt LoVecchio. "The reason I think we are doing that is because we are playing as a team."
Perhaps the most obvious example of this selfless attitude can be seen among Notre Dame's three tailbacks.
This season Julius Jones, Tony Fisher, and Terrance Howard have carried the ball for a combined 1,751 yards.
"At the beginning of the season, there were some selfish thoughts," Fisher said. "But right now, I'm not even worried about it. I think all three of us deserve playing time and all three of us will be productive."
These three tailbacks will be called upon to carry the Irish to victory, as Notre Dame has had the greatest success when it runs the ball.
In their nine wins, the Irish averaged 224 yards rushing per game, but in losses to Nebraska and Michigan State, they rushed for only 184 yards and 149 yards, respectively.
"I think our football team has really bought into `We have to run the football to win'," Davie said. "We can beat a lot of people in this country if we can successfully run the ball."
LoVecchio has been the focal point of the Irish offense since he took over as the starting quarterback. The freshman is 7-0 as a starter and has thrown 11 touchdowns and only one interception. LoVecchio has also run for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.
"What the kid ended up doing for us was really amazing," said offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.
Defensively, Notre Dame will face a stiff challenge. While the Irish have played top offensive teams — Nebraska, Purdue and Air Force all finished in the nation's top 10 in total offense — they haven't seen an offensive attack like the Beavers'.
"They have tremendous big play potential on offense because of their scheme," Davie said. "They spread you out and they're able to run the ball."
It will be important for the Irish defensive line and linebackers to contain Beavers' tailback Ken Simonton early, and then pressure quarterback Jonathan Smith to disrupt the pass. The Irish enter the Fiesta Bowl excited and hungry for a victory.
"I am going to end my career on a high note by going to a big-time bowl," wide receiver Joey Getherall said. "It's always been a big dream of mine."
A win is doable in Irish eyes.
"The biggest point is I think we can win here," said Davie. "We don't have to have a Heisman Trophy winner. We don't have to have a First Team All-American. We don't have to have the guy on the cover of The Sporting News or Sports Illustrated. We can win here with a bunch of unselfish guys that play as a team."
All Sports Stories for Tuesday, December 12, 2000