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Freshman Harris gets his first start

Chris Federico | Monday, October 13, 2003

Another true freshman saw playing time for the Irish Saturday as offensive tackle Ryan Harris was moved into the starting lineup at right tackle.

Harris, who became the sixth Irish freshman to see the field this year, learned he would start Friday.

“[Friday] Coach [Tyrone Willingham] asked me if I called my parents, and I told them, ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to play this week.’ He said, ‘Well, you should call them again and tell them you’re going to start,” said Harris after the game. “I was preparing all week in case of that. Someone went down in practice, so it seemed kind of inevitable that no one else was there.”

The rookie was part of a re-vamped Irish offensive line that helped running back Julius Jones to a 262-yard, record-setting day.

“I just looked at it like I want to help my team any way I can,” Harris said. “I just work hard everyday and pick up the system and game schemes more and that ended up happening, so it worked great.”

Harris was just one part of a different-looking right side, as tackle Dan Stevenson moved to right guard for the game. The switch paid off, as the Irish amassed 352 yards rushing.

“I thought the combination of Ryan Harris and Dan Stevenson worked very well,” Willingham said. “That was a very difficult transition, because one is a freshman getting his first start, and the other is a tackle moving over to guard. I thought it was a great move by our coaches, and it worked out very well for us.”

Air attack grounded

As the Irish rushing attack shined Saturday, the passing game struggled. Freshman quarterback Brady Quinn was only 5-of-17 passing for 33 yards, with one interception. The young signal caller struggled to connect with his receivers, but still led his team to victory, and that is what’s important, according to Willingham.

“The measuring stick that I have for our quarterback is simply to win, and Brady [Quinn] did that tonight,” he said. “He made throws when we needed big throws. He led our football team with a calm and a presence that we expect from our quarterback.”

The disparity in the Irish offensive production – Notre Dame had 352 yards rushing and 33 passing – was almost a complete reversal from the squad’s last time on the field. Two weeks ago against Purdue, the Irish had 297 yards passing and only 49 rushing.

“I will label that part of the growth process that we’re going through,” Willingham said. “Some things are good one night and not so good the other night. Eventually, we’ll be able to put all of our areas in the right place.”

Where was Setta?

After converting the first point after touchdown and sending off the ensuing kickoff, Irish place kicker Nicholas Setta was absent from the field Saturday, as junior D. J. Fitzpatrick replaced him both punting and place kicking.

“Nicholas [Setta] suffered an injury on the first kickoff, and after that point he was ruled out,” Willingham said of the senior’s injury.

In Setta’s place, Fitzpatrick – who started the year as Setta’s backup and holder on place kicks – was 2-for-4 on field goals, hitting from 19 and 34 yards and missing from 52 and 32 yards. He also had five punts for an average of 37.4 yards a kick.

“Holding this year broke the ice for me, and I wasn’t that nervous, but kicking and punting is a little different,” Fitzpatrick said.

Game day captains

Serving as captains for the Irish were safety Glenn Earl, Setta, offensive tackle Jim Molinaro and linebacker Courtney Watson.