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McKnight’s play provides silver lining

Sam Davis | Monday, September 22, 2003

One of the few bright lights for the Notre Dame offense Saturday was the play of sophomore receiver Rhema McKnight, who caught eight passes for 104 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.

But McKnight, like the rest of the Irish, didn’t want to talk about his positive play Saturday.

“I’m just worried about the negatives right now and not thinking about the positives,” he said. “We have to correct the negatives first before we worry about that.”

Still, the sophomore receiver developed a rhythm with quarterback Brady Quinn on the game’s final drive, catching four of the five complete passes on that drive.

“He stepped up and made plays, and everybody else has to follow suit across the board,” offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “He stepped up and made plays today.”

Fresh impact

In just his third game of his college career, freshman defensive end Victor Abiamiri recorded seven tackles as he filled in for Justin Tuck.

But the freshman didn’t take much pride in his strong play.

“We wanted to win today and we didn’t do that, so any individual play didn’t matter,” he said.

Abiamiri was one of the few defensive linemen to record a significant amount of tackles. Cedric Hilliard tallied five, but no other lineman had more than two.

Spartan success

Michigan State’s victory Saturday came in part because of two players who had recently fallen on hard times.

Greg Taplin, who picked off a Carlyle Holiday pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, had a rocky relationship with coach John Smith that has improved so much recently that Smith called the lineman “his son.”

And backup quarterback Drew Staton, who dropped an onside kick last week that allowed Louisiana Tech to rally to beat the Spartans, recovered Nicholas Setta’s onside kick attempt to help seal the Spartan victory.

Irish injuries

Bob Morton, who had started at center in Notre Dame’s last two games, sat out Saturday with an injury Diedrick said was suffered in practice last week. Diedrick did not elaborate on the injury.

Meanwhile, Ryan Grant left the field in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury but said he expected to play this weekend.

Morton’s replacement, Zach Giles, struggled snapping the ball in the shotgun formation.

“When you’re concerned about making reads and you have to jump up to catch the ball, it is a little distracting and you lose fractions of seconds,” Diedrick said.

Gameday captains

Notre Dame’s captains for Saturday’s game were Grant, Hilliard, linebacker Courtney Watson and tight end Billy Palmer.