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Original Issue


One day last spring Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz decided
to take a peek at the renovations in Notre Dame Stadium. It was
the first time since the end of last season that Holtz had been
in the 67-year-old facility, which is being enlarged to raise
seating capacity from 59,075 to 80,990 by the start of the '97
campaign. The coach wanted to see the view from the last row. "I
sat down in the top corner of the end zone," he says with a
chuckle, "and I immediately started hollering, 'Throw it to the
tight end! Throw it to the tight end!'"

The 59-year-old Holtz usually finds a way to laugh off the
pressure that comes from coaching the college football program
with the highest profile in the nation. Now in his 11th season
in South Bend, Holtz was reminded just how fickle the Irish
faithful can be when some fans called for his removal after last
year's season-opening loss to Northwestern. The criticism waned
as the Irish won their final six regular-season games and played
well in a 31-26 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl, but
the smoke from the sniping still lingers over the Golden Dome.

The good news for Holtz is that this year's squad might be good
enough to return him to "Saint Lou" status. Quarterback Ron
Powlus returns along with senior fullback Marc Edwards and the
usual assortment of speedy tailbacks. Equally important, the
Irish defensive line is deep, something it has not been the past
two seasons. Says defensive coordinator Bob Davie, "We've got
the personnel now to be an attack-style defense."

Even so, much of the focus will be on Powlus, who hasn't quite
lived up to the expectations that greeted him when he arrived in
South Bend three years ago. Powlus hasn't put up bad numbers (he
needs only 11 touchdown passes to break Rick Mirer's school
career record of 41), but he has been inconsistent and hampered
by injuries. Last year he broke his left (nonthrowing) arm in
the penultimate regular-season game, against Navy, and was still
out for this year's spring drills.

Though Powlus could gain another year of eligibility because he
missed all of his freshman year with a broken collarbone, he is
on course to graduate in December and seems intent on testing
NFL waters. Some Irish fans say this would be good for Holtz,
because Powlus's drop-back passing skills don't suit the coach's
smash-mouth offense. Holtz tried to open things up this spring
with a four- and five-receiver spread formation, but a lack of
good receivers undermined the plan. Holtz has another option,
however. Sophomore quarterback Jarious Jackson, an option
specialist, was impressive in running the first team during
spring drills.

No matter who's calling the signals, Holtz surely feels the
urgency to win. His '96 team is senior-laden, so after this
season it might be a while before Notre Dame can talk about a
national title again. If the Irish don't win now--and win
big--Holtz can count on hearing about it from the fans in the top

--Marty Burns

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Powlus hasn't yet lived up to expectations, but he isn't throwing in the towel. [Ron Powlus in game]