Future Is Bright For Notre Dame

Posted: January 03, 1989

TEMPE, Ariz. — It was one of the final postgame questions, and it made Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz turn away from the microphone.

The question was about next season and a probable preseason No. 1 ranking for the Irish.

The team that wiped out previously undefeated West Virginia, 34-21, in Fiesta Bowl XVIII to wrap up a 12-0 season and the mythical national championship was supposed to be a year away from greatness, remember?

"We've really got some real problems on this team," Holtz deadpanned, bringing down the house. "I really don't know how we're going to replace that senior leadership. Right now, we're just gonna let it ride until we get back to South Bend."

A study of last night's Fiesta depth chart shows that the Irish return six starters on defense and six on offense, including quarterback Tony Rice.

Fifteen of the 22 offensive players listed on the first two units are back, and 15 of the first 22 defensive regulars. Included among them on defense are six sophomores and two freshmen (end Arnold Ale, tackle Mirko Jurkovic), and five sophomores and four freshmen on offense. Freshmen split end Raghib Ismail and tight end Derek Brown are just two of the first-year players destined for stardom.

"It's satisfying to know we're leaving them on top, and in great shape to continue where we leave off," said senior defensive end Frank Stams. "I wish I was coming back for a shot at another one next year, because they're going to be up there. The future looks real bright. No question about it."

Said Rice: "I don't even want to think about next year. I'm glad this year's over. I'm going to relax for a couple months before I start thinking of next year."

HOLTZ'S REQUEST

Holtz had just one request of his players in the locker room immediately following the postgame team prayer.

"I asked our whole football team to do one favor for me," he said. "To get back on the bus together and go back and have one Mass together, a Mass of Thanksgiving."

JERSEY TALK

Did you notice the home blue jerseys the Irish were wearing last night? It was the first time in its storied bowl history that Notre Dame was given the chance to wear its home blue. The Irish also opted not to attach the Fiesta Bowl logos on the shoulders.

"We wanted everything as it was all season," Holtz said.

BANNERS

Best: A play on the TV initials NBC:

Notre Dame

Better

Cover

The sign was made by a couple guys from Las Vegas. Where else?

Worst: Major has no major. That fan obviously didn't know Harris is a 3.4 student planning on going to law school.

ODDS 'N ENDS

Notre Dame was ranked No. 1 since after the weekend of Oct. 29, when the Irish beat Navy, 22-7, and top-ranked UCLA lost to Washington State. Notre Dame was ranked 12th (United Press International) and 13th (Associated Press) in preseason . . . Notre Dame and West Virginia each recieved 12,023 tickets for the game. Scalpers were getting as high as $600 apiece before the game, $100 at game time.

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