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Passing the big test

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The experience Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday gained from his first year in a new offense, combined with spring and summer practice this year, has made the quarterback more comfortable and confident than any time during his three years in South Bend.

“My level [of understanding the offense] is way different. This year I know what my roles are more in this offense,” Holiday said. “I’ve realized that when my play trickles down, then the offense’s trickles down.”

Holiday’s play will be one of the keys for Notre Dame success this season. Last year, in the first season under offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick, the Irish offense ranked 108th in the nation, averaging 313.54 yards per game. That was an improvement from 2001, when the Irish were ranked 110th nationally in the total offense.

Diedrick’s offenses have historically improved in the second year. For the Irish offense to improve significantly this season, Holiday will need to elevate his play. He threw for 1788 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2002 after throwing for 784 yards and three touchdowns during his first season as Irish quarterback.

One major criticism of Holiday’s play has been his inconsistency. Last season, he threw for 226 yards in the opener against Maryland, then threw for a mere 50 the next week against Purdue. He fired for 270 yards and four touchdowns versus Rutgers, but only three interceptions and 70 yards against USC.

Diedrick said, however, that his starter has showed a vast improvement in his consistency, among other areas, throughout the spring and summer.

“He’s throwing the ball a lot more consistent, a lot more accurate,” Diedrick said. “As a quarterback, he’s a lot more comfortable and confident within the system. He has a great understanding of the things we’re trying to get done.”

Diedrick also said Holiday’s improvements allow the Irish to expand the offense by adding more packages and sets to beat opposing defenses.

Coach Tyrone Willingham said Holiday’s improvement has been a steady process.

“It’s been a progress that he’s made all year,” Willingham said. ” It started after having a season under his belt. It started in the spring and started by him getting a better grasp of the information in this system. It started when he’s had a hands-on opportunity to repeat things.”

With the Washington State game less than a week away, Holiday is anxious to get into the season. The Cougar defense shut out Idaho 25-0 in their opener Saturday.

“Practice has been great. We’ve been able to execute and move the ball against our defense, which has given us a lot of confidence,” Holiday said.