Sept 4, 2003
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Indiana's Matt LoVecchio tosses footballs around his college apartment.
The broken windows and mangled furniture tell the story.
He has a strong arm, understanding friends and a love for the game - no matter the consequences.
"He's broken so many windows and things," roommate and Indiana safety Joe Gonzalez said, laughing. "We have garbage bags on the windows. Everything with him is football."
LoVecchio hasn't changed much since escaping the glare of Notre Dame.
Although he's no longer the prized recruit from Bergen Catholic (N.J.) High School - the one some hoped would bring Notre Dame another national championship - he still finds himself in the spotlight.
He's trying to jump-start his career by throwing passes for the Hoosiers.
"Being there was such an honor," LoVecchio said of his days in South Bend, Ind. "But I love football so much that I was willing to give up all that exposure to keep playing."
Three years ago, few imagined LoVecchio would be in this position.
Back then, he was living out every kid's fantasy as the starting quarterback at the nation's most storied program. He seemed infallible.
LoVecchio won his first seven starts as a freshman, threw only one interception in 125 passes, had a passer rating of 151.7 and led the Irish to their biggest bowl, the Fiesta, in five years.
Then came a 41-9 loss to Oregon State, and everything soured.
LoVecchio returned the next season as the incumbent. But as some fans discussed fast starts, strong finishes and plans for another big bowl game, others questioned LoVecchio's skills.
With the offense sputtering and Notre Dame facing the possibility of an 0-3 start for the first time in school history, LoVecchio was benched in favor of another sophomore, Carlyle Holiday.
"It's everything someone thinks it would be," he said. "When you win football games, it's a place you want to be. But it's a place you don't want to be when you're losing games."
When new coach Tyrone Willingham opted to keep Holiday as the starter in spring 2002, LoVecchio announced he was transferring.
A month later, he joined the Hoosiers.
LoVecchio has never spoken ill of Notre Dame and still says he has no regrets about going there or leaving.
If anyone can relate to LoVecchio's transition, it's Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, who played on Notre Dame's 1973 national championship team.
"Any transfer situation is difficult, but the way you portrayed it, maybe intensifies it," DiNardo said. "I see an experienced guy with a lot of poise, with a good arm, who's aware and who's highly motivated."
Now LoVecchio has started anew.
He's back in the high-profile position of starting quarterback, albeit at a very different kind of school.
LoVecchio is the only player at Indiana with bowl experience.
He is the leader of a team that has not had a winning season since 1993, hasn't won a conference title since 1967, has never produced a Heisman Trophy winner and has only finished in the Big Ten's top three seven times since 1900.
LoVecchio intends to change the Hoosiers' fortunes and lead them to their first bowl since 1993.
Getting there will be difficult. Indiana opened its season last weekend with a 34-10 loss to Connecticut, a day LoVecchio would rather forget. He completed 13-of-29 for 211 yards and was sacked five times.
This week, the Hoosiers visit No. 22 Washington.
"I came out rusty and had no rhythm against UConn," he said. "It's time to bounce back. It's a new week and a new start."
LoVecchio has grown used to the struggles.
Last fall, for the first time since fourth grade, LoVecchio did not suit up for a game. Instead, he watched from the stands sometimes. He sat in on meetings and primarily worked with the scout team.
The only passes he threw came in practice - or the apartment.
It didn't take long for receivers to notice a difference. Courtney Roby remembers the first ball that came his way as one of LoVecchio's windowpane breaking lasers.
"He threw it about 80 mph," Roby said. "I was like 'Man, you've got to calm that down.' "
Gonzalez found out later just how much zip LoVecchio puts on his passes. When LoVecchio tossed one his way inside their apartment, Gonzalez missed and glass broke.
"I'd say he's broken five or six window panes in a year's period, but that's just Matt. He's always about football," Gonzalez said.
Matt LoVecchio led Notre Dame to the Fiesta Bowl as a freshman quarterback.