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Jones now only 4 yards from 1,000

Justin Schuver | Monday, November 17, 2003

With his 161 yards rushing Saturday, Julius Jones now has 996 yards for the season and moved past Jerome Heavens and into fourth place on Notre Dame’s all-time rushing list with 2,764 yards.Since returning from a missed year due to academic ineligibility, Jones has fit right in with the Irish offense, becoming the first back since Autry Denson in 1998 to have three games in a single year with two or more rushing touchdowns.”This is what I hoped for,” Jones said. “I hoped for more wins than we have now, but it just didn’t go that way.”To have this team come together like this at the end of the year is just remarkable and hopefully we can finish it out with some more wins.”Clearing the wayNotre Dame’s offensive line, considered a weak link earlier in the season, has gelled nicely over the past few games. Running behind a line that only has one senior – offensive tackle Jim Molinaro – the Irish have still managed two games with 200 yards rushing or more.”They are going to be outstanding,” running back Julius Jones said of the line’s potential for next season. “They are young this year, a lot of them have never played before, but they got a lot of experience this year and have done well.”Despite allowing two sacks to the blitz-oriented BYU defense, pass blocking has greatly improved over the last several games, as Notre Dame allowed zero sacks in the last three games before BYU.Kicking back and enjoying himselfD.J. Fitzpatrick certainly doesn’t look like a walk-on anymore. The junior from local Marian High School has replaced injured starting kicker Nicholas Setta since the Pittsburgh game and has stepped right into the pressure-packed kicker’s role nicely.Fitzpatrick has hit six straight field goals since his last two against Navy, including that game’s last-second game-winner, and has helped provide the Irish with points when drives stall in the end zone.”Those last two I hit in the Navy game, especially the last one, really gave me some confidence,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just got that thought in my head and now I’m hitting it great.”With Setta possibly returning for Notre Dame’s next game against Stanford in two weeks, Fitzpatrick isn’t fretting about losing his job.”Nick’s a great kicker,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s taught me a lot, and if he comes back, it’ll be up to the coaches. I know we’ll both keep trying.”CaptainsGameday captains on Senior Day were three seniors: offensive tackle Jim Molinaro, cornerback Vontez Duff and running back Julius Jones.