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Win over Navy provides step for Irish

Joe Hettler | Tuesday, November 11, 2003

After losing three straight games earlier this season, Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh and many believed the team had turned the corner.

They were wrong, as the Irish dropped their next three games to fall to 2-6.

Now Notre Dame will try to end the season with three more victories and finish 6-6 after beating Navy 27-24 last Saturday. Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said he believes his team may have finally started turning the corner after the win over the Midshipmen.

“We are starting [to mature],” Willingham said. “I still think that we still have some growth and need for improvement in so many areas … but I like the direction.”

Willingham was pleased with the way his team responded to the adversity of starting the season winning just two of eight games.

“You have to be a good football team to be a winner,” Willingham said. “[We had to] issue a statement that we are here to say and that we aren’t going away and we aren’t going to fade and that was very encouraging to see that.”

Notre Dame moved the ball better, gaining 417 yards and 280 rushing yards. Julius Jones led the rushing attack with 221 yards and two touchdowns.

Irish quarterback Brady Quinn had a solid day against Navy, completing 14 of 27 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. He feels the team will use its momentum from the win and head into Saturday’s BYU game more confident.

“We have a little bit more swagger in our step, but we are still going to go and do the same things we have been doing the past couple of weeks and go and work hard and practice hard and make sure that we are prepared for BYU,” Quinn said.

While Willingham cannot say for certain that his team has turned the page, he does believe there’s a good chance more wins could come soon if they can continue to play like last weekend.

“As a coach you are never sure when that moment arrives, but I have faith in my football team that they work hard, they haven’t given up days at a practice,” Willingham said. “They will come out and try to be a good football team and they haven’t changes.”

BYU is 4-6 in 2003 and lost to Boise State 50-12 last weekend. They lost to USC 35-18 on Sept. 6, while the Irish fell to the Trojans 45-14 Oct. 18.

Notre Dame goes on the road for its last two games against Stanford (4-4) and Syracuse (5-3), two teams that are playing much better of late. The Cardinal have won two straight and beat Arizona State 38-27 last weekend, while the Orangemen have taken two of its last three after defeating Temple 41-17.