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Holiday: A Leader In The Making
By Matt Tognarelli
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) –Four weeks ago after the Irish lost ignominiously to Michigan State, Carlyle Holiday stood in back of the interview room furtively answering questions bout whether he was thinking about transferring from Notre Dame.
After Holiday led the Irish Saturday to their third straight and after his fourth straight start, Holiday stepped to the podium in the same room and easily handled questions about his leadership, poise and newly found pocket-passing ability.
Holiday, the onetime prized recruit who disappointed Nebraska and Texas A&M by leaving his native longhorn state for the Irish, was the picture of supreme confidence Saturday—not only on the field, but off it as well.
He was 9 of 12 for 133 yards, including a 42-yard strike to Javin Hunter down to the one and rushed for 98 net yards, including a 35-yard touchdown jaunt that gave the Irish the lead for good in the third quarter. After the game, in tan pants, a blue shirt and necktie, Holiday handled the queries from his media inquisitors with equal aplomb and ease.
The young sophomore, who has three full years of playing eligibility left after this season, said he is not afraid to kick "butt" of upperclassmen who lose focus and make foolish penalties like the ones that foiled the Irish even though they had gotten down to the one yard line on the long toss to Hunter. He's not afraid to look his teammates in the eye in the huddle; and he is composed enough not to let three costly fumbles deter him from the task at hand: getting the Irish to 3-3 and in position, he and teammates say, to run the table the rest of the way and save their head coach's job.
In short, Holiday is becoming quite comfortable in his role as an emergent talent at quarterback and in the Irish offense.
"I'm more talkative in the huddle and they're listening now," Holiday said of his teammates. "Their heads aren't down when I'm talking to them and it feels much better.
"I am the general out there running the troops. The offense has begun to listen to me more attentively in the huddle now, and I have no problem with stepping in a guy's face when he messes up. In return I expect them to do the same. To be focused we all need to be on the same page, and in the last few weeks that has come together."
There's also a streak of humility in Holiday. He knows his three fumbles were costly, resulting in nine USC points and stopping a Notre Dame drive at the USC two yard line. Yet, listening to him, there is little doubt that he will correct the mistakes.
" I am far away from that perfect game.": he said. " I feel. I have a lot of things that I need to improve on before I reach my level of a perfect game."
He and his receivers are becoming more and more comfortable with each other. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers even threw on a few first down plays Saturday and Holiday comfortably completed several more passes on big third down plays from the dropback position.
"I think I've gotten better (as a passer)," he said. "I get more confidence as the weeks go on. I feel more comfortable with my receivers and the coaches are having that confidence and letting me throw down the field more.
"Teams come in thinking that I cannot throw, and coach Rogers has taken advantage of that whenever possible. Teams think that I throw up the big rushing numbers so I am a running quarterback; but they learn quickly that I have the ability to throw the ball."
Holiday said he believes the team is aware that Bob Davie's future hangs in the balance of how the Irish do the rest of the way.
"We are playing for him, because we know his situation and that motivates us to play the best game we possibly can," Holiday said. "I feel we can run the table as long as we execute and play hard, and run the ball and pass the ball."
Rogers, too, is gaining more confidence with Holiday. Rogers developed Donovan McNabb at Syracuse and Holiday is cut of the same mold.
"You guys can see it," Rogers told reporters. "The guy can make plays and that's why he's playing."
Holiday's confidence carries over to the rest of the team, as well. Rogers said that's why the Irish have executed better in the second halves of their recent games.
"They're starting to feel comfortable with the quarterback," Rogers said. "They feel with him in the huddle, the other 10 guys are better."
So, for Holiday, Davie and the entire Irish, the future is now, starting Saturday night at Boston College.
POOCH PUNTS: Nicholas Setta has connected on his last nine regular season field goal attempts, including all eight he has had this season. The school record for consecutive field goals is 13, by Mike Johnston in 1982. Setta also has kicked field goals in his last eight games, the second best in school history behind John Carney, who kicked a field goal in 11 straight games in 1986. Setta also extended his streak of consecutive PATs to 44. The strike is the fourth longest in Notre Dame history. -