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Beavers' Defense Unimpressed by Irish
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Oregon State defense made Notre Dame quarterback Matt LoVecchio look like a vulnerable freshman.

Unimpressed with the mystique of the Golden Dome, the Beavers (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 Associated Press) manhandled LoVecchio and the No. 10 Fighting Irish, finishing off the finest season in school history with a 41-9 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory Monday night.

"When you step on the field, you respect Notre Dame, but when you're on the field, it's not about tradition, it's about making plays," said Darnell Robinson, who had an interception and a forced fumble. "So as a defense we just wanted to go out and play our game, and dominate."

LoVecchio, who led the Irish to seven consecutive victories after taking over as the starter in the fifth game, completed just 13 of 33 passes for 138 yards. He also was sacked five times.

Two of LoVecchio's third-quarter turnovers led to touchdowns—a fumble on a crushing blindside hit by Robinson, then the interception by Robinson, that helped the Beavers break open the game at 34-3.

"We rattled him a little bit, and when we forced him to pass—I don't want to boast about it—but being the secondary that we are, we took advantage of it," Oregon State cornerback Keith Heyward-Johnson said.

Oregon State's quickness up front and in the middle made it one of the best defensive teams in the country all season, but the way the Beavers dominated Notre Dame, on big play after big play, was simply stunning.

Notre Dame, which kept the ball on the ground its last 24 plays in a November 25 victory over Southern California, ran six consecutive times to open the game Monday, but gained just 8 yards.

"We felt pretty confident we could defend their passing game, because it's not too fancy; nothing tricky to it," said linebacker James Allen. "Our secondary can cover anybody, so once we shut the running game down, from then on it was a walk in the park."

After Oregon State jumped to a 12-0 lead, LoVecchio was forced to pass more, and the Beavers came after him relentlessly. On one play, defensive end DeLawrence Grant ran all the way across the field to drag him down from behind.

On his fumble, LoVecchio didn't have a chance. Robinson drilled the 18-year-old quarterback in the back, jarring the ball loose. Eric Manning recovered at the Notre Dame 26.

"To me, that was the turning point of the game," Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson said.

The Beavers (11-1) were so thoroughly in control they could get away with some silly mental errors. They were penalized 18 times for 174 yards, both records for the school and the 30-year-old Fiesta Bowl.

"Our secondary can cover anybody, so once we shut the running game down, from then on it was a walk in the park."
—Oregon State linebacker James Allen on the importance of stopping the Irish ground game

While many of the Irish fans filed out into the cool night, thousands of orange-clad "Beaver Believers" stayed until the end. Their team had never won even 10 games in a season, and had not won a major postseason game since the 1942 Rose Bowl against Duke—played in Durham, North Carolina, because of the threat to Pasadena by the Japanese in World War II.

Their large numbers helped give the Fiesta Bowl an attendance of 75,428, the third-largest in the game's history and largest for a non-national title game.

Quarterback Jonathan Smith was precise all game, completing 16 of 24 passes. His three touchdown passes gave him 20 for the season, breaking the record of 18 set by Erik Wilhelm in 1988.

"I think my confidence grew when I got some wide receivers making plays for me," Smith said. "They were running wide open half the time. If some of the balls were thrown a little bit better, they could have gotten up and run with them."

Tailback Ken Simonton also had a record-setting performance, even though he gained only 85 yards, his third-lowest total of the season and 49 below his average. His 1,559 yards broke his own school record of 1,486, set last season.

Oregon State even had it going on special teams, which was supposed to be Notre Dame's area of expertise. During OSU's 3rd-quarter onslaught, T.J. Houshmandzadeh returned a punt 16 yards, then fumbled the ball at midfield. The ball was picked up by Terrell Roberts and returned 45 yards for a touchdown that made it 27-3.

Beavers Simply Blow Notre Dame Away
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — Oregon State University's unbelievable journey from pitiful to powerhouse was celebrated in a sea of Beaver orange in the stands and a convincing rout on the field.

Of Notre Dame, no less.

"When you step on the field, you respect Notre Dame," said Oregon State linebacker Darnell Robinson, the defensive player of the game. "But when you're on the field, it's not about tradition, it's about making plays."

The brash, belligerent Beavers (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 Associated Press) backed up their pregame boasts and then some Monday night in a 41-9 rout of the Irish in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

"We got our butts kicked," Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. "We got outcoached, we got outplayed."

Oregon State, college football's laughingstock for more than a quarter-century, handed the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish their worst bowl defeat since a 40-6 loss to Nebraska in the 1973 Orange Bowl.

The crowd of 75,428 was the third-largest at the Fiesta Bowl, and the biggest when the national title wasn't on the line. Most of them were dressed in orange, celebrating the resurrection of a program that just two years ago set an NCAA record with its 28th consecutive losing season.

"What can you say?" Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson said. "We came out and played in all three phases about as well as we can play."

Jonathan Smith, the 5-foot-10 former walk-on who was mistaken for the team manager when Erickson first saw him, completed 16 of 24 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, then sat out the final quarter. "Nerves played no part in it," Smith said. "We were more excited than nervous, and we were clicking from the start."

It was one of the most humiliating nights ever for college football's most storied program. Only a late touchdown against the Beavers' reserves prevented it from being the worst Notre Dame defeat in 24 bowl appearances.

Had Oregon State (11-1) not committed a Fiesta Bowl and school record 18 penalties for 174 yards, it would have been even more one-sided as the plodding Irish (9-3) were no match for the speed of the hard-hitting Beavers. "We had some dumb penalties," Erickson said, "but we're a very aggressive football team. That's just how we play and just how we are."

The Beavers had a 446-155 advantage in total yards and held Notre Dame to 17 yards rushing. "If we can't run the football any more effectively than we did tonight, we have no chance," Davie said.

Robinson forced a fumble and intercepted a pass to set up two touchdowns in the Beavers' 29-point third quarter.

"We just couldn't execute," said Notre Dame tailback Julius Jones, who ran for 30 yards on 13 carries. "Their defense was on top of everything."

Speedy Chad Johnson caught touchdown passes of 74 and 4 yards, but he got away with a big mistake on the first one when officials didn't see him drop the ball 2 yards short of the goal line.

Ken Simonton, Oregon State's big-talking 5-foot-8 tailback, gained 85 yards on 18 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown run. In the process, he broke his own single-season school rushing record.

Notre Dame's 18-year-old freshman quarterback Matt LoVecchio, under extreme pressure most of the night, threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away—all in the third quarter. LoVecchio completed 13 of 33 passes for 138 yards. He was sacked six times.

"We had some dumb penalties, but we're a very aggressive football team. That's just how we play and just how we are."
—OSU head coach Dennis Erickson on his team being flagged for a Fiesta Bowl and school record 18 penalties totaling 174 yards

LoVecchio, who was 7-0 as a starter entering the game, had thrown just one interception and Notre Dame had just eight turnovers—tying an NCAA record—through the regular season.

The Irish, criticized for getting a Bowl Championship Series bid over teams ahead of them in the BCS standings, lost their fifth consecutive bowl game.

The Beavers had a 278-98 advantage in yardage at halftime, but led just 12-3. Any doubts ended, though, with four touchdowns in a span of 7:10 in the third quarter.

Notre Dame forced the Beavers to punt for the first time, but LoVecchio fumbled on a blindside hit by Robinson. Eric Manning recovered for the Beavers at the Irish 26.

Two plays later, Smith lofted a perfect 23-yard scoring pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh to make it 19-3 with 12:04 to play in the quarter. Notre Dame punted on its next possession.

Houshmandzadeh returned it to midfield, then fumbled. Teammate Terrell Roberts picked the ball up at the 45 and ran to the end zone. The two-point conversion pass from Smith to Robert Prescott put Oregon State up 27-3 with 9:08 to go in the third.

It got worse for LoVecchio, who threw a pass right into the hands of Robinson to give Oregon State the ball on the Irish 22. The Beavers scored in four plays, on Smith's 4-yard pass to Johnson that made it 34-3 with 7:02 left in the quarter.

The final touchdown came on Simonton's 4-yard run at the end of a five-play, 55-yard drive to put the Beavers up 41-3 with 4:54 to go in the third.

The most interesting play was Johnson's long touchdown catch. He raced down the sidelines and casually dropped the ball as if he had crossed the goal line. But replays clearly showed he was 2 yards short of the end zone.

No official saw it, though, and the touchdown put Oregon State up 12-0 with 4:18 to play in the half. "I slowed down, not paying attention, and it's my fault," Johnson said. "I should've been focused on the game and not my celebration."

Consecutive sacks of LoVecchio pinned the Irish at third-and-31 on their own 2, but Oregon State free safety Calvin Carlyle was called for a personal foul for shoving a player after the play. Notre Dame got a first down, LoVecchio threw 40 yards to Javin Hunter and the Irish ended the half with Nick Setta's 29-yard field goal.

The Beavers drove to the Irish 15, 10 and 1 on their first three possessions but had to settle for field goals of 32 and 29 yards by Ryan Cesca to go up 6-0.

"I'm obviously embarrassed by the way we played, but I'll never be embarrassed of this football team," Davie said.

Irish Slow to the Punch
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — The only thing beaten more often than Notre Dame's offensive line Monday night was its defensive secondary.

"Their team speed was definitely a factor," Irish coach Bob Davie said. "Based on tonight, we've got a long way to go. A long, long way to go."

Instead of re-establishing themselves among college football's elite, the 10th-ranked Irish were exposed by Oregon State's lightning quick defense and the Beavers' speedy receivers in a 41-9 defeat in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

"A win tonight would have really put us in the driver's seat to get back in the college elite," linebacker Rocky Boiman said. "A loss tonight makes it that much tougher."

The Irish (9-3) finished with a defeat for the seventh consecutive season—the fourth consecutive time under Davie—and will finish out of the top 10 for the seventh time in a row. That matches the longest such streak in school history from 1981-1987.

"We have a lot of work to do," Davie said. "We need to improve in a lot of areas."

It was Notre Dame's second worst bowl defeat. Their worst was a 40-6 defeat by Nebraska in the 1973 Orange Bowl. A late touchdown by Tony Fisher against Oregon State's reserves allowed the Irish to avert their eighth-worst defeat ever.

"It's kind of hard to execute when they're calling out the plays we're going to run."
—Notre Dame tailback Julius Jones on the frustration of running against a solid Oregon State defense

The worst quarter was the third. The Irish, who tied an NCAA record by turning the ball over only eight times during the regular season, had three in the quarter leading to two touchdowns.

"The linebackers were real fast-flow guys and their defensive ends were tremendously fast," Irish tight end Dan O'Leary. "It was just a matter of us getting bodies on bodies. We were unable to do that tonight."

Matt LoVecchio, who threw one interception all season, threw two as the Beavers scored 29 points in the quarter.

"We just got pounded," said LoVecchio, who was sacked six times. "We fell off the game plan. We had penalties and second-and-long situations and downs where they knew we were passing. It just made it tougher for the whole offense.

The speed discrepancy was seen early as the Beavers picked on cornerback Clifford Jefferson, before he pulled his left hamstring on a 74-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson.

Jefferson had so much trouble covering Oregon State's three receivers that he started to run back before the ball was snapped.

The Beavers went at Jefferson on the game's first play, an 8-yard pass to Johnson. Jefferson was called for pass interference on the third play of Oregon State's third possession.

"I don't know they picked on Clifford any more than our other two guys," Davie said. "I think they picked on everyone."

It wasn't only on offense that the Beavers were too fast. The Irish, who said establishing a running game was a priority, had zero yards rushing at the end of the third quarter and finished with 17 yards. The Irish went three-and-out on their first three possessions and six of the first nine.

"Their defense was on top of everything we were doing," Notre Dame running back Julius Jones said. "It's kind of hard to execute when they're calling out the plays we're going to run."

The Beavers scored on seven of their first nine possessions.

On their only prolonged drive of the first half, the Irish lost 19 yards on the first two plays and appeared to be trapped on their own 2-yard line, but Oregon State safety Calvin Carlyle was called for a personal foul.

Instead of having a third-and-31, the Irish had a first down on the 17 and eventually kicked a 29-yard field goal.

Even on special teams, which provided the margin of victory in three games for the Irish, Notre Dame gave up a touchdown on a bizarre punt return. Returner T.J. Houshmandzadeh returned the kick 28 yards, fumbled it to the Notre Dame 45-yard line and Terrell Roberts picked it up and ran the distance for a touchdown.

"They were legit," Notre Dame guard Mike Gandy said. "Their linebackers swarmed to the ball and shut down our offensive game. We just couldn't get things going the way we wanted to."


 2001 Fiesta Bowl Box Score 1st 2nd 3rd 4th TOTAL

Oregon State -- Ryan Cesca 32-yd FG
Oregon State -- Cesca 29-yd FG
Oregon State -- Chad Johnson 74-yd pass from Jonathan Smith (two-pt conversion failed)
Notre Dame   -- Nick Setta 29-yd FG
Oregon State -- T.J. Houshmandzadeh 23-yd pass from Smith (Cesca kick)
Oregon State -- Terrell Roberts 45-yd punt return (Robert Prescott reception for two-pt conversion)
Oregon State -- Chad Johnson 4-yd pass from Smith (Cesca kick)
Oregon State -- Ken Simonton 4-yd run (Cesca kick)
Notre Dame   -- Tony Fisher 1-yd run (two-pt conversion failed)

First downs
Passing yards
Sacks-yards lost
Time of possession

Notre Dame -- Jones 13-30, Howard 8-28, Fisher 5-9, Lopienski 1-0, Getherall 1-(-1), Lovecchio 9-(-49).
Oregon State -- Simonton 18-85, Battle 8-32, McCall 10-25, Stremick 1-(-2), Smith 2-(-13).
Notre Dame -- Lovecchio 13-33-2-138.
Oregon State -- Smith 16-24-0-305, Stremick 1-1-0-14.
Notre Dame -- Givens 4-23, Hunter 3-57, Oleary 2-36, Fisher 2-2, Getherall 1-10, Jones 1-10.
Oregon State -- Houshmandzadeh 6-74, Johnson 4-93, Maurer 3-82, Prescott 2-41, McCall 1-15, Moala 1-14.

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