Going out the right away
Justin Schuver | Monday, November 17, 2003
On Senior Day, it was fitting that a senior would help lead the Irish to victory.Julius Jones continued to help pace the team’s offense with 161 yards and three touchdowns, and the Irish finally managed their first winning streak of the season with a 33-14 win over BYU Saturday.”It’s always nicer to not have to win on a last-second field goal,” said Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham, alluding to Notre Dame’s previous two wins at home this year – against Washington State and Navy – which both came down to last-second field goals.As in the other Irish wins this season, Jones played a big part in helping the team to victory.”Julius Jones is a tremendous dancer,” said BYU head coach Gary Crowton, whose defense had a difficult time taking down the elusive back. “When you’re down on the field up close you can really see his second effort.”He’s patient and an outstanding player.”The score Saturday was as close to a blowout win as the Irish have seen this year, their previous three wins all coming by a margin of six points or less. Despite the final score, this one really wasn’t all that close as Notre Dame took advantage of some prime field position and one of their most balanced offenses this season to take care of the Cougars.In addition to Jones’ rushing, quarterback Brady Quinn added 156 yards through the air on 15 of 30 passing with one interception. It was the first time this year the Irish have both rushed and passed for over 150 yards.”I was pleased,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “I thought we did a very good job running the ball. I would have liked to have maybe had a couple more big runs, but all in all I think I was pleased.”The balance was okay, but we’d like to complete a few more of our shorter throws.”It was perhaps a long throw that really got the offense moving for the Irish, however. Coming out of halftime with a 16-7 lead – their largest at the half this year – the Irish offense was sputtering until Quinn found wide receiver Rhema McKnight open on a 33-yard passing play to bring Notre Dame to the BYU 23-yard line.On the very next play, Jones took the ball and broke the tackles of three Cougar defenders for a touchdown, making the score 23-7 and perhaps putting the game out of reach for BYU.McKnight, who has been Notre Dame’s most reliable receiver so far this year, led the team with eight catches for 98 yards, but perhaps none more important than that one in the third quarter.”Whether offense or defense, anytime you have a big play your team peaks out there, and that’s what we need,” McKnight said.The Irish offense stalled several times in the first half, as Notre Dame was forced to settle for field goals in three straight trips to the red zone en route to an early 9-7 lead. With 25 seconds left in the half, Jones broke through on third-and-goal for a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Irish some momentum going into halftime.After going ahead 23-7 on Jones’ second touchdown on the game, the Notre Dame defense would stand tall, not allowing a single offensive yard to the Cougars in the third quarter and helping take advantage of four BYU turnovers in the game – the largest number of turnovers the Irish have caused since their win against Florida State last season.D.J. Fitzpatrick, who set a new career high with four field goals, kicked a late field goal and Jones added a 13-yard touchdown run with just 47 seconds left in the game to give Notre Dame its highest points total since a 42-0 shutout of Rutgers last year. BYU had added a touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late against the Irish defense.Part of the reason for the Cougars’ difficulty in stopping the Irish offense was a distinct advantage for the Irish in both field position and time of possession. Notre Dame ran 24 more offensive plays than BYU and had the ball for 36:56, compared to the Cougars’ 23:04.”The number of plays Notre Dame had on offense just wore us down,” Crowton said.