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Grant, Stovall belong on the field

Anne Loughery | Monday, October 11, 2004

There’s no room for Ryan Grant and Maurice Stovall on the sidelines.Due to nagging injuries, Grant and Stovall were restricted to the bench for much of this season. But after Saturday’s game, it goes without saying the two belong on the field. Grant chipped away at Stanford’s first-half 6-3 lead, rushing for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to spur the Irish on to a 23-15 victory. Coach Tyrone Willingham was quick to emphasize Grant’s impact both on and off the field in Saturday’s game. “To have him there, it just multiplies your experience,” Willingham said. “The things that young players haven’t seen, he’s seen. Having him back was a plus from a leadership standpoint and a performance standpoint.”After trailing the Cardinal late in the third quarter 15-10, Grant gave the Irish the lead for good. Quinn handed the ball off to Grant six times in seven plays before the senior snuck into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Some might measure the team’s success based on individual yardage and touchdowns, but not Grant. He said Saturday’s game didn’t tell the story of an injury-plagued-player-turned hero, but the story of a tenacious team.”I like scoring, you know,” Grant said. “But really, I’m just glad for the team. I think we dug deep today, and we’ve got a lot of heart on this team.”While Grant demonstrated his abilities as the linchpin of Saturday’s running game, Stovall jumpstarted the Irish passing game. The wide receiver revitalized the Notre Dame offense after a lethargic first half, grabbing a 43-yard pass from Quinn to put the Irish in scoring position at first-and-goal from the Stanford 5-yard line. Grant rushed for one yard into the end zone to put the Irish ahead 10-9.Willingham praised Stovall for completing a play that gave the offense much-needed momentum.”You’re looking for that play that gets you over the hump, that gets all the energy going,” Willingham said. “It was nice to have [Stovall] back because I think he stepped up and helped us – not just with that reception. I think his attitude makes a difference when he’s on the field with our football team.”Stovall caught three passes for 59 yards to lead the team. Grant said Saturday’s game served as a sneak peak for what Stovall is capable of accomplishing this season after his injury.”Maurice is getting better every day,” Grant said. “I see him working hard and that’s what it takes. Football is a sport where you’re going to get hurt; that kind of stuff happens. I think he’s doing a really good job of putting himself in the best position to get better.”Despite Saturday’s individual and team successes, Grant and Stovall seemed unsettled and unhappy – as some reporters described their demeanor – following the game. “It’s not that we’re not happy,” Grant said. “But I don’t think we’re satisfied as a team because we didn’t perform the way that we wanted to all the way. We pulled out a win, and that’s great, but we understand what we can do as a team and we haven’t showed that yet.”