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18 Notre Dame With few turnovers--on the field and on the roster--the Irish may not need much luck

At a pep rally on the day before the Irish were to play Stanford
last October, coach Bob Davie told the crowd that his team, which
was a disappointing 2-2, was capable of running the table. "You
say a lot of things at pep rallies, but I felt pretty good about
it," he says now. "Though we weren't sure how the freshman
quarterback would play."

The game against the Cardinal would be the first started by
quarterback Matt LoVecchio, a true freshman who hadn't
distinguished himself in one brief appearance. However, after
junior Arnaz Battle went down with a broken left wrist in the
second game and sophomore Gary Godsey was ineffective as his
replacement, Davie had to decide which of his three freshmen
should start: LoVecchio, cannon-armed Jared Clark or athletic
scrambler Carlyle Holiday? "Matt was a combination [of the other
two]," says Davie.

LoVecchio also won out because of his extraordinary calmness. His
father, Larry, says that if a tornado were to hit the LoVecchio
house while Matt was home alone, Matt wouldn't even mention it
when the rest of the family returned. "I might have to check his
pulse once in a while," says Davie. "He can handle the big stage
at Notre Dame. You've got to have thick skin and keep things in

If anyone knows about that, it's Davie, who began hearing calls
for his job after the Irish split their first four games. Things
began to improve after LoVecchio moved under center. He didn't do
anything fancy--the Irish ranked 76th in the country in total
offense (345.7 yards per game)--but Notre Dame turned the ball
over only eight times during the regular season. Indeed, the
Irish won their last seven games of the season before losing 41-9
to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl.

LoVecchio will guide an offense rich in returning talent,
including the team's leading rusher (junior Julius Jones) and
receiver (senior David Givens). LoVecchio also has a new target:
Battle, who has made a smooth transition to wide receiver. The
defense will get a boost with the return of senior end Grant
Irons, who dislocated his right shoulder in the second game and
missed the rest of last season. The secondary, though, has a few
questions, especially after being torched for 319 passing yards
by Oregon State.

LoVecchio didn't have a stellar day against the Beavers, either,
completing 13 of 33 passes with two interceptions and a fumble.
Nonetheless, Davie gave Clark and Holiday virtually no chance of
unseating LoVecchio in the spring, primarily because the Irish
open with a brutal stretch of road games in which experience will
be important. LoVecchio's first test will be on Sept. 8 at
Nebraska. Davie's will be 13 days later. That's when the first
pep rally is scheduled.




2000 record: 9-3
Final ranking: No. 15 AP, No. 16 coaches' poll


Fumbles lost in 2000, the fewest in school history and the third
fewest in Division I-A last fall.

An opposing team's coach sizes up the Irish

"Their quarterback, Matt LoVecchio, makes good decisions, but he
has average arm strength and average speed....What concerns me
is what they'll do with [quarterback turned flanker] Arnaz
Battle. He could be dangerous on the [outside]....The defensive
linemen may not run well, but we had a hard time moving them.
Most colleges play with rush ends who weigh 250. Their ends
[6'5", 275-pound Grant Irons and 6'3", 276-pound Anthony Weaver]
are strong, physical rushers."

Strength: 6th of 117

Sept. 8 at Nebraska
15 at Purdue
29 at Texas A&M
20 USC
27 at Boston College
24 at Stanford

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN CORDES/ICON Notre Dame's leading rusher and receiver return, giving sophomore LoVecchio plenty of options.