2003 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team
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2003 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team

2003 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo.svg
2003 record5-7
Head coach
Offensive coordinatorBill Diedrick
Offensive schemeWest Coast
Defensive coordinatorKent Baer
Base defense4-3
Home stadiumNotre Dame Stadium (c. 80,795, grass)
← 2002
2004 →
2003 NCAA Division I-A independents football records
Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
Connecticut           9 3  
Navy           8 5  
Troy State           6 6  
Notre Dame           5 7  
Rankings from AP Poll

The 2003 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team represented the University of Notre Dame in the 2003 NCAA Division I-A football season. The team was coached by Tyrone Willingham and played its home games at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Irish finished the season at 5-7 and failed to become bowl eligible. The season was punctuated by a pair of three-game losing streaks and ugly blowout losses against Michigan, USC and Florida State.

Season overview

The 2003 season began with the Irish losing a number of key players to graduation, including Arnaz Battle and center Jeff Faine. They were boosted, however, by the return of running back, Julius Jones, who was reinstated to the team after a year of academic ineligibility.[1][2] In Willingham's first full year of recruiting, he signed a top-5 class.[3] Of the 20 recruits signed, 12 were four-star recruits (high school recruits are rated on a star scale, with one star indicating a low-quality recruit and five stars indicating the highest-quality recruit). These new recruits included future stars Victor Abiamiri, Chinedum Ndukwe, Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, and Tom Zbikowski[4]

Carlyle Holiday and Ryan Grant in the back field versus Washington State

The Irish began their season ranked 19th and facing the hardest schedule in the nation.[5][6] They opened against the Washington State Cougars, playing the team for the first time in the history of the program.[7] The Irish came back from being down by 19 points to win in overtime, but Carlyle Holiday struggled as quarterback.[8] In the next game against rival Michigan, the Wolverines avenged their 2002 loss by beating the Irish by a score of 38-0 in the first shutout in the series in 100 years and the largest margin of victory ever between the two teams.[9] After another loss to Michigan State,[10] many Irish fans were calling for Holiday to be taken out of the game in favor of freshman Brady Quinn, who saw his first collegiate action in the fourth quarter of the Michigan rout.[11] Holiday was replaced as starter for the next game against Purdue.[12]

In Quinn's first start, the Irish were bolstered with Quinn's 297 passing yards on 59 attempts. However, Purdue's defense intercepted four of Quinn's passes and sacked him five times en route to a 23-10 Boilermaker victory.[12] Quinn remained as the starter and, with Willingham's acknowledgment that the running game needed to take more of a role in the next game,[13] got his first win against Pittsburgh. He was helped by Julius Jones' school-record 262 rushing yards.[14] Notre Dame lost their next three games, including Willingham's second straight 31 point loss to USC,[15] a last minute loss to Boston College,[16] and their first home shutout since 1978 to Florida State.[17] The Irish players began to call the season disappointing, as the team needed to win their last four games to make a bowl game.[18] They looked to have a chance of becoming bowl eligible, as their next three games were a last minute win that improved their streak to 40 games over Navy,[19] a win on senior day over the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars,[20] and a win over Stanford that saw the Irish offense finally connect in the season.[21] Notre Dame lost their final game to Syracuse, however.[22] With a 5-7 record, the Irish finished with the twelfth losing season in the history of the Notre Dame football program.[23]


September 62:30 p.m.Washington StateNo. 20NBCW 29-26 OT80,795
September 133:30 p.m.at No. 5 MichiganNo. 19ABCL 0-38111,726
September 202:30 p.m.Michigan State
NBCL 16-2280,795
September 272:30 p.m.at No. 22 PurdueABCL 10-2364,614
October 116:00 p.m.at No. 15 PittsburghESPNW 20-1466,421
October 182:30 p.m.No. 5 USC
NBCL 14-4580,795
October 2512:00 p.m.at Boston CollegeABCL 25-2744,500
November 12:30 p.m..No. 5 Florida State
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
NBCL 0-3780,795
November 82:30 p.m.Navy
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (rivalry)
NBCW 27-2480,795
November 152:30 p.m.BYU
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
NBCW 33-1480,795
November 298:00 p.m.at StanfordABCW 57-746,500
December 61:00 p.m.at SyracuseABCL 12-3848,170

Game summaries

Washington State

1 234OTTotal
Washington St 12 7070 26
• Notre Dame 0 33203 29




  1. ^ Soukup, Andrew (November 14, 2003). "After a year away from Notre Dame, Jones came back to finish what he started". The Observer. UK. Archived from the original on July 22, 2009. Retrieved 2007.
  2. ^ Haugh, David (August 25, 2003). "Golden Opportunity: Julius Jones a Legend?". The Sporting News. Retrieved 2007.
  3. ^ "Scout.com Team Recruiting Rankings". Scout.com. Retrieved 2007.
  4. ^ "Scout.com Football Recruiting:Notre Dame". Scout.com. Retrieved 2007.
  5. ^ "2003 NCAA Football Rankings - Week 2 (Aug. 31)". ESPN. August 31, 2003. Retrieved 2008.
  6. ^ "2003 Irish Schedule Ranked As Most Difficult In The Country". UND.cstv.com. December 8, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  7. ^ "Irish Take The Stage With Cougars For First Time". UND.cstv.com. September 4, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  8. ^ "No. 19 Irish Triumph Over Washington St. In OT, 29-26". UND.cstv.com. September 6, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  9. ^ "Irish Fall To No. 5 Michigan". UND.cstv.com. September 13, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  10. ^ "Fighting Irish Fall To Michigan State, 22-16". UND.cstv.com. September 20, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  11. ^ Hettler, Joe (November 12, 2004). "Carlyle Holiday: Taking one for the team". The Observer. UK. Archived from the original on August 7, 2011. Retrieved 2007.
  12. ^ a b "Irish Fall To No. 22 Purdue, 23-10". UND.cstv.com. September 27, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  13. ^ Federico, Chris (October 8, 2003). "Runaway problem". The Observer. UK. Archived from the original on October 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  14. ^ "Fighting Irish Run To Victory, 20-14". UND.cstv.com. October 11, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  15. ^ "Irish Fall To No. 5 USC". UND.cstv.com. October 18, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  16. ^ "Irish Fall To Boston College, 27-25". UND.cstv.com. October 25, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  17. ^ "Irish Fall To No. 5 Florida State". UND.cstv.com. November 1, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  18. ^ Coyne, Tom (October 26, 2003). "Clock Ticking for Struggling Irish". CSTV.com. Retrieved 2007.
  19. ^ "Fitzpatrick Field Goal Sinks Midshipmen, 27-24". UND.cstv.com. November 8, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  20. ^ "Notre Dame Defeats BYU In Home Finale, 33-14". UND.cstv.com. November 15, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  21. ^ "Notre Dame 57, Stanford 7". ESPN. November 29, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  22. ^ "Football Falls To Syracuse, 38-12". UND.cstv.com. December 6, 2003. Retrieved 2007.
  23. ^ Rovell, Darren (December 19, 2003). "Independent's stay? Irish renew NBC deal". ESPN. Retrieved 2007.
  24. ^ ESPN

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