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Injuries plague Irish starters Earl, Budinsack

Andrew Soukup | Wednesday, November 5, 2003

A glance at Notre Dame’s injury list shows just how many players are banged up.

Safety Glenn Earl, who hobbled off the field against USC and hasn’t played since, isn’t likely to return to the Irish this season. Secondary coach Trent Walters said Earl is back home in Lisle, Ill., recovering from knee surgery.

“He’s home now, because he had his knee operated on Friday,” Walters said. “I expect him back next week helping, but he should not be here for the game on Saturday.”

Then there’s defensive end Kyle Budinscak, who went down against Florida State and is out this week and maybe longer, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Dan Stevenson is questionable and Jim Molinaro is probable. Center Bob Morton’s status will be determined as the week progresses, Willingham said. All three offensive linemen were helped off the field Saturday.

The injuries, coupled with a wealth of inexperienced players and a well-disciplined opponent in Navy, means the Irish are seeing much more individual attention in practice.

“We had more individual time than we ever had,” Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. “It’s just a lot of reps. You have to go over it again and again.”

And the fact that the Irish are having to plug in inexperienced players is no excuse for their current struggles, Willingham said.

“You have to make sure you simplify to a degree, to make sure that you give them every opportunity to see those looks and practice against those looks as many times as possible so they are comfortable with what they hope they will see,” the Irish head coach said.

Setta still out

On Notre Dame’s second kickoff of the game against Pittsburgh, Nicholas Setta did something that prevented him from kicking or punting since.

While he wouldn’t say exactly what the nature of his injury is, Setta did say that it prevents him from going through the full range of his kicking motion.

“It’s one of those things you don’t understand and try to get through,” he said. “I’d just hurt the team right now if I tried to [play] right now.”

Setta estimated that he would be ready to return by the Stanford game Nov. 29 at the latest, which means he would miss the Navy and BYU games but have a bye week to help him continue to rest. The injury, he said, isn’t healing as fast as it was expected to.

“I thought last week that this week was going to be the week,” Setta said. “You just have to shut your mouth and not try to cry wolf too many times.”

Quarterback switch

In the late minutes of Notre Dame’s 37-0 blowout loss to Florida State Saturday, and after considering the fact that starting quarterback Brady Quinn had struggled all game long, Willingham said he contemplated putting Carlyle Holiday back under center briefly.

But Willingham’s thought stayed as thoughts and never turned into action.

“It was the timing of the game,” Willingham said. “I didn’t think it was right.”

Holiday hasn’t taken a snap in a game since he was replaced by Quinn before the Purdue game. The Irish are ranked last in the nation in passing efficiency.

No success after close calls

As if their 39-game losing streak against the Irish wasn’t enough to tip the history books against the Midshipmen, Navy hasn’t had much success against Notre Dame the year after a close loss.

Since 1976, Navy has lost to Notre Dame by a touchdown or less four times – five including last year’s narrow 30-23 loss. In those years of close-but-no-cigar (1976, ’84, ’97 and ’99), the Midshipmen lost by an average of 3.75 points. The year after a close victory, Notre Dame won by an average of 29.5 points.