American Football Database
2002 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football
Gator Bowl, L 6–28 vs. NC State
CoachesNo. 17
APNo. 17
2002 record10–3
Head coachTyrone Willingham (1st season)
Offensive coordinatorBill Diedrick
Offensive schemeWest Coast
Defensive coordinatorKent Baer
Base defense4–3
Home stadiumNotre Dame Stadium (c. 80,795, grass)
← 2001
2003 →
2002 Division I-A independents football records
v · d · e Conf     Overall
Team   W   L         W   L  
South Florida           9 2  
No. 17 Notre Dame           10 3  
Connecticut           6 6  
Utah State           4 7  
Troy State           4 8  
Navy           2 10  
Rankings from AP Poll

The 2002 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team represented the University of Notre Dame in the 2002 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.

Season overview

The 2002 season became known as a "Return to Glory" for the Irish.[1] This phrase appeared on a student shirt that created a "Sea of Green" in the Irish stands.[2] It was picked up by many in the media and was used on the front cover of Sports Illustrated.[3] Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown in their first two games,[4] the Irish won both, and in the process made Willingham the 24th Notre Dame head coach to win his opener in his first season.[5] The team went on to win its next six games, including wins over Willingham's alma mater, Michigan State, and Stanford, his former team.[6][7]

The team was initially led throughout the season by quarterback Carlyle Holiday, former quarterback and wide receiver Arnaz Battle, and on defense, Shane Walton. Running back Ryan Grant, who had to replace Julius Jones who was out for academic reasons, also played an important role. During the Michigan State game, however, Holiday was injured and replaced by backup Pat Dillingham. Dillingham led the Irish to a comeback win on a screen pass to Battle in that game,[6] and he continued the winning streak until Holiday returned for the Florida State game. In that game, Holiday threw a 65-yard touchdown on his first play to Battle that helped the Irish win the game.[8]

The first Irish loss of the season came against the Boston College Eagles, mirroring the 1993 season when Notre Dame narrowly lost a chance to participate in the national championship game due to a loss to Boston College. Willingham, wanting the team to be a part of the "Sea of Green" in the stands,[9] decided that the team should wear green for the game. In 1985, the last time the Irish wore green at home, they came out after halftime against USC and won the game 37–3. The ploy, however, did not work this time, as, after an injured Holiday was replaced by Dillingham, and the Eagles defense returned an interception that sealed the loss for the Irish.[10]

The Fighting Irish won their next two games, including their 39th straight victory over Navy and a 42–0 blowout victory over struggling Rutgers.[11][12] This gave Notre Dame a legitimate shot at a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowl game if they could win against perennial rival USC. The Irish were ranked higher than the Trojans, but USC quarterback Carson Palmer, who cited the game as the reason he went on to win the Heisman Trophy,[13] threw for 425 yards in the Trojans' 31 point win.[14] The Irish won 10 games but were not invited to a BCS bowl game, and they accepted a bid to play North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl instead. With both an offense and defense that outmatched the Irish, the Wolfpack won the game 28–6, giving the Irish their sixth consecutive bowl loss.[15] Despite the loss, the Irish ended the season ranked in both the Associated Press (AP) and Coaches Polls.[16]

After the season, some Irish were honored with post-season awards. Battle was named by one foundation as their sportsman of the year,[17] while Walton was named as a Consensus All-American.[18] Finally, Willingham was honored with two Coach of the Year awards,[19][20] was named by Sporting News as "Sportsman of the Year",[21] and was the only coach listed by Sporting News as one of their "Most Powerful People in Sports".[22]


August 318:00 p.m.vs. No. 21 MarylandABCW 22–072,903[23]
September 712:00 p.m.PurdueNo. 23NBCW 24–1780,795[23]
September 141:30 p.m.No. 7 MichiganNo. 20
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (rivalry)
NBCW 25–2380,795[23]
September 213:30 Michigan StateNo. 12ABCW 21–1775,182[23]
October 51:30 p.m.StanfordNo. 9
NBCW 31–780,795[23]
October 121:30 p.m.PittsburghNo. 8
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (rivalry)
NBCW 14–680,795[23]
October 1910:00 No. 18 Air ForceNo. 7ESPNW 21–1456,409[23]
October 2612:00 No. 11 Florida StateNo. 6ABCW 34–2484,106[23]
November 22:30 p.m.Boston CollegeNo. 4
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN (Holy War)
NBCL 7–1480,935[23]
November 912:00 NavyNo. 9CBSW 30–2370,260[23]
November 231:00 p.m.RutgersNo. 8
  • Notre Dame Stadium
  • South Bend, IN
NBCW 42–080,795[23]
November 308:00 No. 6 USCNo. 7ABCL 13–4491,432[23]
January 1, 200312:30 p.m.vs. No. 17 NC StateNo. 11NBCL 6–2873,491[23]


2002 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team roster
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Class
WR 3 Battle, ArnazArnaz Battle Sr
T 78 Black, JordanJordan Black Sr
TE 48 Collins, JeromeJerome Collins So
T 63 Curtin, BrennanBrennan Curtin Sr
QB 9 Dillingham, PatPat Dillingham So
C 52 Faine, JeffJeff Faine Sr
TE 88 Fasano, AnthonyAnthony Fasano Fr
TE 14 Godsey, GaryGary Godsey Jr
RB 4 Grant, RyanRyan Grant So
QB 7 Holiday, CarlyleCarlyle Holiday So
WR 80 Jenkins, OmarOmar Jenkins Jr
RB 22 Jones, JuliusJulius Jones (S) Jr
G 73 LeVoir, MarkMark LeVoir So
FB 39 Lopienski, TomTom Lopienski Sr
G 79 Mahan, SeanSean Mahan Sr
T 70 Molinaro, JimJim Molinaro Jr
QB 2 Novakov, DanDan Novakov Sr
RB 35 O'Neill, TimTim O'Neill Sr
RB 23 Yura, ChrisChris Yura Sr
Pos. # Name Class
CB 9 Beckstrom, JasonJason Beckstrom Sr
DE 90 Beidatsch, BrianBrian Beidatsch So
S 27 Bolen, LionelLionel Bolen So
DE 92 Budinscak, KyleKyle Budinscak So
S 29 Burrell, QuentinQuentin Burrell So
CB 6 Campbell, CarlosCarlos Campbell So
DT 60 Campbell, DarrellDarrell Campbell Jr
S 31 Carney, JakeJake Carney Fr
DB 5 Earl, GlennGlenn Earl Jr
LB 41 Goolsby, MikeMike Goolsby Jr
DE 95 Roberts, RyanRyan Roberts Sr
LB 56 Ryan, PatPat Ryan Sr
S 20 Sapp, GeromeGerome Sapp Sr
DE 99 Sapp, JasonJason Sapp So
LB 57 Thomas, JustinJustin Thomas Jr
DE 44 Tuck, JustinJustin Tuck So
CB 42 Walton, ShaneShane Walton Sr
LB 33 Watson, CourtneyCourtney Watson Sr
Special teams
Pos. # Name Class
P 17 Hildbold, JoeyJoey Hildbold Sr
K 13 Setta, NickNick Setta Jr
Head coach
Coordinators/assistant coaches

  • (C) Team captain
  • (S) Suspended
  • (I) Ineligible
  • Injured Injured
  • Redshirt Redshirt

Last update: 2002-08-02

Team players in the NFL

Player Position Round Pick NFL club
Jeff Faine Center 1 21 Cleveland Browns
Jordan Black Tackle 5 153 Kansas City Chiefs
Sean Mahan Center 5 168 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Shane Walton Safety 5 170 St. Louis Rams
Gerome Sapp Safety 6 182 Baltimore Ravens
Arnaz Battle Wide Receiver 6 197 San Francisco 49ers
Brennan Curtin Tackle 6 212 Green Bay Packers


  1. Barra, Allen (September 27, 2002). "Notre Dame's return to glory! (Part 23)". Salon. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  2. Krivickas, Justin (October 2, 2002). ""The Shirt" makes a return to glory". The Observer (UK). Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  3. "SI Covers". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on June 12, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  4. "Irish defense scoring all the touchdowns". ESPN. September 7, 2002. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
  5. "Notre Dame 22, Maryland 0". August 31, 2002. Retrieved August 23, 2007.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Irish Rally To Stop Spartans, 21–17". September 21, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  7. "Fighting Irish Crush Cardinal, 31–7". October 5, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  8. "No. 6 Notre Dame Rolls Past No. 11 FSU, 34–24". October 26, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  9. "Post Game Notes". November 2, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  10. "No. 4 Irish Fall To Boston College, 14–7". November 2, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  11. "No. 9 Irish Come From Behind To Beat Navy". November 9, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  12. "No. 8 Irish Rough Up Rutgers, 42–0". November 23, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  13. "Palmer wins every region except Midwest". ESPN. December 16, 2002. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
  14. "No. 7 Irish Fall To Trojans". November 30, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  15. "No. 11 Irish Fall To No. 17 NC State In Gator Bowl, 28–6". January 1, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  16. "2002 NCAA Football Rankings – Postseason Week 3 (Jan. 5)". ESPN. January 5, 2003. Retrieved February 18, 2008.
  17. "Arnaz Battle Named Independence Bowl Foundation Sportsman of the Year". December 18, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  18. "Shane Walton Named Consensus All-American". January 3, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  19. "Tyrone Willingham Named Home Depot National Coach Of The Year". December 9, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  20. "Tyrone Willingham Wins George Munger Award for College Coach of the Year". December 13, 2002. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  21. Bock, Hal (December 11, 2002). "Willingham named Sporting News Sportsman of the Year". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  22. "Willingham Listed As One Of The Most Powerful People In Sports". January 13, 2003. Retrieved August 24, 2007.
  23. 23.00 23.01 23.02 23.03 23.04 23.05 23.06 23.07 23.08 23.09 23.10 23.11 23.12 2002 Notre Dame football schedule