4B - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, September 29, 1997
E . E
As Irish reach new level of futility,
questions, doubts continue to mount
C. Williams 4
C. Williams 3
4 163 4
By Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Daily Sports Editor
Cameras clicked and tapes rolled as the
paparazzi pursued Ron Powlus out of the
Michigan Stadium gates. There was no escape. As
Notre Dame's quarterback, once heralded as a
can't-miss-kid, Powlus now often carries a burden
for his entire team. Questions dog him like defen-
Powlus had already given his take on the game,
saying only that it "started the way we wanted it to
start, but it didn't end the way we wanted it to
end." And then, as he hugged family members, his
Irish eyes crying, Powlus snapped at the reporters
still watching him.
"Can't a guy just issue a statement and let that
be the end of it?" asked Powlus, a fifth-year senior
who had been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy
hopeful as soon as his first season.
Apparently not. Everyone wants him to explain
why the Fighting Irish (1-3) have fallen so low.
They gave their most inspired performance of the
season under new coach Bob Davie on Saturday
but were left only with a 21-14 loss to No. 6
Michigan, their third straight.
Not since 1987, when the Irish lost their final
two regular-season games and the Cotton Bowl,
have they endured a three-game losing streak. Not
since 1985, the final year of the Gerry Faust era,
have they lost three-straight games in the regular
And if they lose this week at No. 20 Stanford,
their first four-game losing streak since 1963
undoubtedly would test fans' faith in Notre Dame.
The Irish's only victory came in an unsightly
season-opener against Georgia Tech that they
nearly gave away - when Powlus threw two
fourth-quarter interceptions - and the optimism
that opened the Davie era has become quite cau-
"This is going to be a good football team, but
we've got some things we need to take care of,"
Davie said. "Let's be honest when we look at why
we lost (Saturday). Did Michigan really beat us, or
did we beat ourselves?"
In all of its games, Notre Dame has had oppor-
tunities but not enough firepower - or ability to
perform in the clutch - to make much happen.
The Irish's entire season was symbolized by
Saturday's fourth quarter, when the Wolverines
turned over the ball three times and the Irish
couldn't convert on any opportunity. They didn't
score in the half.
Perhaps Notre Dame's best chance came when
Michigan fumbled on its own 47 on the quarter's
first play. Powlus then hit Raki Nelson for 16
yards and Malcolm Johnson for seven, and the
Irish drove to the four. Penalties and miscues set
up a third-and-nine situation that culminated in
Powlus took a snap and rolled out to his right.
Instead of running through open field into the end
zone, he forced a pass to Jabari Holloway, who
was stuck in triple coverage. Interception.
"Ron may have had an opportunity to run it in,"
Davie said. "He obviously didn't think he did,
because he threw it. There's a point where players
have to line up and play against other players.
That's what it comes down to."
Many have criticized the Irish for being too
fancy and refusing to play hard-nosed football.
With a sluggish receiving corps, the passing game
hasn't won games for them, even though Powlus
has posted good numbers. He was 20-for-27 for
205 yards and a touchdown, but his first-quarter,
34-yard completion to Johnson was his longest of
But the running game hasn't been punishing,
either, making it difficult to roll up the sleeves and
pound it out. Running back Autry Denson can
shine behind an experienced line, but a good
defense can neutralize him. After Powlus's error,
Davie decided to run after Michigan's next fourth-
Denson, who rushed 25 times for 72 yards, got
the ball four straight times. He gained seven yards,
then one, then none - then none again on a
fourth-down play. "I really think we need to get a
yard and a half there to win the football game,"
"They tried to get their bread-and-butter going
on us," Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson
said. "They tried. But that's all they could do --
try. You've got to get it done in those situations if
you want to win."
There are other problems, too. Defensively, the
Irish replaced five of their front seven this season
and are plagued by inexperience. The secondary
left many Michigan players snickering on the side-
line for its lack of toughness.
Michigan fullback Chris Floyd scored a touch-
down in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run, bar-
reling straight at cornerback Ivory Covington.
Floyd smashed through him into the end zone,
while the Wolverines dubbed Covington
"Highway 14" for his number.
"We were watching him on film," one player
said. "It was just like that. Highway 14. Roll over
him all day."
Injuries are also a concern. Four starters are
down - linebacker Bobbie Howard (left knee),
tackle Chris Clevenger (back), noseguard Corey
Bennett (right knee) and fullback Joey Goodspeed
(right shoulder) - and the normally deep Irish are
But the greatest concern to Irish fans has been
coaching. Faust, who was a high school coach
before he was hired at Notre Dame, went 30-26-1
in five seasons, and his woes are a common con-
versation topic now.
Lou Holtz went 5-6 in 1986, his first season, but
past successes sustained him. Davie, a rookie like
Faust was, has no laurels on which to rest. And
when Notre Dame was stung by penalties Saturday
(10 for 92 yards), some questioned Davie's disci-
"We felt we played better, and in all honesty, we
came here planning to win," Davie responded. But
the Irish, who began the season ranked 11th
andquickly dropped from the polls, are in trouble.
And questions continue to hound them, following
them as they fade.
Irish quarterback Ran Powlus quieted h
which held Michigan without a sack for t
Younger Irons juM
Offensive line bullies young Irish defensiv
Punts/Avg 4/40.8 7/45.9
Fumbles/Lost 3/3 0/0
Penalties/Yards 6/37 10/92
Time of Poss 24:16 35:44
Sept. 13 COLORADO W 27-3
Sept. 20 BAYLOR W 38-3
Sept. 27 NOTRE DAME W 21-14
Oct. 4 Indiana 12:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 NORTHWESTERN TBA
Oct. 18 IOWA - TBA
Oct. 25 Michigan St. 12:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 MINNESOTA TBA
Nov. 8 Penn State TBA
Nov. 15 Wisconsin TBA
Nov. 22 OHIO STATE Noon
HOME GAMES IN CAPS
ND - Brown 15-yard pass
from Powlus (Sanson kick),
Mich - C. Williams, four-yard run
ND - Driver two-yard run
Mich - Streets, 41-yard pass from
Griese (Baker kick),
Mich - Floyd, 17-yard run
By NIcholas .Cotasnika
Daily Sports Editor
Two seconds still remained on the
clock Saturday when Jarrett Irons darted
from the Michigan sideline, searching
amid the fracas for his brother, Notre
Dame freshman linebacker Grant Irons.
He wove through the crowd, and when he
spotted him, he made the tackle with a
Wrapping his arms around Grant,
Jarrett couldn't hide his pride. He was an
All-America linebacker and captain at
Michigan (1993-96) and said he was
ecstatic that the Wolverines beat the
Fighting Irish, but seeing his brother start
in the Big House was thrilling, too.
"Good game," Jarrett told Grant,
thumping his back and inquiring about
his health. "You all right?"
"Yeah, man," Grant said with a grin.
"I'm just fine."
Many Michigan supporters had hoped
Grant Irons would become a Wolverine.
A high-school star last year in The
Woodlands, Texas, he had narrowed his
college choices to Michigan, Notre
Dame and Nebraska, where the oldest of
the three Irons brothers, Gerald, played.
And when he chose Notre Dame,
many of those same supporters blamed it
on Greg Mattison, who recruited him as
Michigan's defensive coordinator but
landed him for the Irish, to whom he
jumped for the same job late last season.
Regardless of how Grant Irons ended
up with the Irish, he has made a quick
contribution. He has played in all of the
Irish's games thus far, and when junior
Bobbie Howard went down with a torn
ligament in his left knee last week in a
loss to Michigan State, he stepped up to
"Obviously he did pretty good,"
Mattison said. "Because (the Wolverines)
didn't run the ball as much as I think they
had" in previous games. Grant Irons
made four tackles, three solo.
"I've been here many times - three or
four games a year" Grant Irons d.
"My brothers and parents always tol e
to be prepared. I think I got myself ready,
My brothers and my dad (Gerald Sr., who
played six NFL seasons) got me ready.
"It was kind of funny looking on the
and seeing my older
brother, but I knew
* 0 -that he was support-
ing me in the heart.
Zte654dtk It was kind of funny
D at first."
Jarrett Irons, io
watched the game
in at T-shirt and
jeans, signed as a
free agent with the Arizona Cardinals this
summer but was cut in training camp. He
is now in graduate school at Michigan,
studying facilities management, and
remains a die-hard Wolverines fan.
LINE IMPROVING: Though running
back Clarence Williams didn't say d
"never seen holes so big," as he did last
week after the Baylor game, Michigan's
young offensive line showed promise
against the relatively formidable.-
though also young - Irish defensive
The line, which replaced its entire right
side to start the season, opened enough
holes for the Wolverines to gain 168
yards rushing and didn't allow the Irish tc
sack quarterback Brian Griese. Penals
were not as large a problem as the.1
"We're coming together real well,'
Michigan right tackle and captain Jon
Jansen said. "It was nice to see us do well
against a good defense like Notre
Although Michigan allowed its first two touchdowns of the season, the Wolverines' defense cracked down in the second half,
holding the Irish scoreless. With 11 tackles, Marcus Ray (above) was one of three Wolverines with 10 or more.
Continued from Page 11B
Notre Dame didn't look like a 1-2
team that was pummeled by Michigan
State and Purdue in the two preceding
weeks. Instead, the Irish proved to be the
first real test this season for the
Wolverines - 10-0 in non-conference
games under coach Lloyd Carr -- after
Anminat nar , atnipa. vrt. n'ln".,.An and
No. 1 ranking would indicate. Notre
Dame rolled up scoring drives of 78 and
98 yards to take a 14-7 halftime lead.
Powlus was nearly flawless, completing
i of 14 passes for 138 yards, including
two beauties to flanker Bobby Brown,
one that set up the Irish's first touchdown
and the other that was good for the score.
The 98-yard drive came after a Jason
Vinson punt was downed at the Notre
rl m, t-tun-arA 4lino u..,4.4.121 eft in+the
after four plays. The Wolverines gained
just 39 yards rushing and 71 passing.
But the Wolverines came out firing in
the second half. After Williams took the
second-half kickoff 28 yards to the
Michigan 44-yard line, Griese hit Tai
Streets in the left flat for 15 yards to
move into Notre Dame territory. On the
next play Streets got a step on his man on
a quick slant and outraced everyone to
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