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Thorpe has record-setting afternoon

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, November 3, 2003

The Irish had some “firsts” on Saturday against Florida State. They lost for the first time ever on November 1 and for the first time ever, they failed to score against Florida State in the first half of a game.

But, these were insignificant compared to the day had by Craphonso Thorpe and the Florida State receivers.

Thorpe finished with 217 yards receiving on seven catches, the most ever by a Notre Dame opponent. USC’s John Jackson held the previous record, with 200 yards on 14 catches in 1989.

“Thank goodness we can throw and catch,” Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden said.

For the Irish secondary, it came down to making the big play – or not making it. The Seminoles’ Chris Rix finished with 327 yards passing and three touchdowns, completing 17 of 31 attempts. This included a 51-yard completion to Thorpe, the longest completion against the Irish this season.

Thorpe caught two touchdown passes, one for 38 yards and the other for 35 yards. The Irish couldn’t stop the deep ball, as Rix continually threw it up for his receivers, letting them make the plays over the smaller Irish defensive backs.

“We were concerned coming into the ball game,” head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “One, with their vertical passing game, and that, more I think than anything else, hurt us with their ability of receivers to make plays.”

But despite the concerns of Willingham, the Irish found themselves outplayed by Seminole receivers the entire first half. Rix threw for 187 yards in the first quarter alone.

“We just didn’t make the right plays at the right time,” Irish defensive back Preston Jackson said. “We forced them to throw the ball, which we wanted to do. We wanted Chris Rix to put the ball in the air and match up against the wide receivers. We didn’t play the ball well. The defense as a whole did not make plays.”

However, the Irish have played against good wide receivers all year long and have contained them, including the likes of Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald.

“They’re a very talented receiving corps, just as any other team has that we’ve played all year,” cornerback Jason Beckstrom said.

Then, what was the difference against Thorpe and the Seminoles?

“They are probably the fastest receivers we played all year,” defensive back Dwight Ellick said. “We were in position to make plays, it was just a matter of us making them, and we weren’t making them, so that was probably the biggest factor.”

Though Saturday’s game leaves the secondary searching for answers, the Irish have not lost confidence in their abilities.

“We still feel that we are one of the best secondaries in the nation,” Ellick said. “It is just a matter of going out and proving it.”

But, when it came down to it, the Irish didn’t make the plays they needed to Saturday, and they knew it, as they let the Seminole receivers get the best of them.

“Today, we didn’t get the job done,” Jackson said.