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Irish Know They Must Cut Down on Mistakes

September 7, 2003

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Notre Dame committed its share of mistakes against Washington State.

Six sacks, four turnovers and three quarters of ineffective offensive play nearly cost the Irish a victory. But they rallied, erased a 19-point deficit and won 29-26 in overtime.

Coach Tyrone Willingham knows the No. 15 Irish cannot have a similar performance next week against No. 5 Michigan (2-0).

``It’s the type of thing that coaches have nightmares about,″ Willingham said. ``Mistakes in special teams, mistakes on defense, mistakes on offense, unnecessary penalties. We have to clean that up, because next week we play one heck of a football team.″

A loss against Washington State would have been Notre Dame’s fourth in six games dating to 2002, and would have made last season’s surprising 8-0 start a distant memory.

Instead, the Irish head to Ann Arbor, Mich., next week hoping to repeat what happened last year. They upset then-No. 7 Michigan 25-23, vaulting them back into national prominence.

But that game was full of mistakes for both teams. Each three lost fumbles and had an interception, just as the Irish did Saturday against Washington State.

Willingham hopes, though, to cut down on the miscues.

``We eliminated some of the mistakes in the second half,″ Willingham said. ``That means there’s something we have to do as coaches to help our team and some things our players have to do.″

Giving Carlyle Holiday some time to pass would be a start. The quarterback was sacked on Notre Dame’s first play and rarely got more than a second or two to pass as the line struggled with four new starters.

``Some of the younger guys were shocked a little bit since it has been so long since they’ve seen a real game,″ Holiday said.

It wasn’t just the line. Several times, holes were open and the backs cut back into the crowd. There also were some overthrown and dropped passes.

``We could not get everything working together at the same time,″ Willingham said. ``Our offensive line struggled in the first half of play, but we made some needed adjustments at the half that helped us correct the problem.″

But even in the third quarter, the Irish could not muster much offense. Things turned quickly in the fourth quarter after Ryan Grant broke off a 32-yard run and Josh Shavies was called for a late hit to set up a field goal.

The Irish started overpowering the Cougars, opening up some big runs. Julius Jones, who was academically ineligible last season and fumbled in the first half, carried the ball seven times for 63 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 19-yard TD run.

The fourth-quarter performance gave the Irish offense some hope and much-needed confidence. The Irish had not scored an offensive touchdown for 12 straight quarters heading into the fourth.

``In the second half we eliminated our mistakes, that helped us turn the game around,″ Willingham said.

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