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Football Notebook:Coach Yonto honored before kickoff

Chris Hine and Laura Myers | Monday, September 8, 2008

Before the game, Notre Dame honored the memory of Joe Yonto, who died Monday, August 4. Yonto served as an assistant defensive coach under Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz from 1964-1980 and 1986-1987. He was 83.

Toss-up

Notre Dame won the toss but chose to defer to the second half, a rare occurrence during the Weis era. Weis explained that when Brady Quinn was quarterback, he wanted the ball in the hands of the offense as much as possible. No more. “I think you have to make a statement to the defense, to let them know, ‘I’m counting on you,'” Weis said.

What can Brown do for you?

For Notre Dame safety Sergio Brown, San Diego State’s pass-heavy offense was a chance to get a lot of playing time – something for which he’s waited a long time.

“It was tough to wait,” Brown said. “I was itching to get in, and we had a bad season last year, and I was down in the dumps but stuck it out. I took good advice from good people.”

Brown made the most of his opportunity on Saturday, recording six tackles and blocking a punt that led to Notre Dame’s first score.

“I’d been getting off on the ball really good all week and my man gave me a soft shoulder, and I took it, left my feet, and was just hoping I got the ball when I did,” Brown said of the block.

Fresh start

Kyle Rudolph became the first freshman in Notre Dame’s history to start a season-opener at tight end. Rudolph had one reception for five yards.

Handing over the reigns

After last season, Weis announced that he was handing over play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Haywood. At the post-game press conference, he denied suggestions that he started calling plays in the fourth quarter during his hurry-up offense. He did admit, however, that he “got involved.”

Best of the worst?

At the post-game press conference, SDSU coach Chuck Long was asked who was better, Cal-Poly or Notre Dame. Long hemmed and hawed for a few moments before declaring, “It doesn’t matter. They both beat us.”

Three’s a crowd

Coming into the season, Weis said he planned on using three running backs – junior James Aldridge and sophomores Armando Allen and Robert Hughes. Allen finished with 17 carries for 64 yards and Hughes had 16 carries for 58 yards. Aldridge, however, didn’t touch the ball, not part of Weis’ original plan.

“The problem is we were off the field so much in the first half, you know, the intent was for all three of those guys to get into the mix in the first half…” Weis said. “In the second half, what minimized his opportunity to get on the field that is when we go two-minute, Armando is our guy and Robert is our other guy in two-minute.”

Feverish halftime show

During halftime, former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps emulated Christopher Walken in his classic 2000 Saturday Night Live skit, asking the band for “more cowbell” during its performance of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. Phelps, along with nine band members, played cowbell and danced during the song.

Full house

Saturday’s game marked the 200th consecutive sellout of Notre Dame Stadium, as well as the 400th game played in it.