Nov. 7, 2006
Two-Minute Drill No. 9/8 Notre Dame hits the road this week for its first true road game since Michigan State in late September. The Irish travel to the Air Force Academy for the 27th all-time meeting with the Falcons. Air Force (4-4) is the second of three service academy opponents for Notre Dame in 2006. The Irish defeated Navy, 38-14, back on Oct. 28 and will close the 2006 home schedule with Army on Nov. 18. Notre Dame enters the contest following its 45-26 rout of North Carolina last weekend. The Falcons drilled Army, 43-7, a week ago. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Air Force, 21-5, including an 11-2 mark when the game is played at Falcon Stadium. The previous 26 games have been equally split, with 13 games played at Notre Dame and 13 taking place at Air Force. (see pages 2-5 for more information on the series). Streaks on the line this weekend: consecutive victories on the road (7) … consecutive games started (Brady Quinn, 42) … consecutive games with a completion (Brady Quinn, 45) … consecutive passes without an interception (Brady Quinn, 204) … consecutive games with multiple touchdown passes (Brady Quinn, 8) … consecutive games with a reception (Darius Walker, 24; Jeff Samardzjia, 22). This weekend’s game with Air Force will end Notre Dame’s streak of 169 consecutive games that have been televised nationally or regionally by NBC, CBS, ABC or ESPN. The last game that did not appear on one of those four networks was the Oct. 31, 1992 meeting with Navy in Giants Stadium.
A Win This Weekend Would… … make Notre Dame 9-1 for the first time since 2002. … give the Irish nine victories in a season for the second straight year (first time in consecutive years since 1992, 1993) and 35th time in school history. … be Notre Dame’s seventh straight victory (longest overall winning streak since eight straight in 2002). … be the third consecutive victory over Air Force and sixth straight victory in Falcon Stadium. … improve Notre Dame to 22-5-0 in the all-time series with Air Force. … improve the Irish to 12-2-0 in the all-time series with the Falcons in Falcon Stadium. … improve a ranked Irish squad to 19-2-0 all-time against Air Force. … improve Notre Dame to 20-4-0 all-time against an unranked Falcon squad. … improve Weis’ record to 18-4 overall, 1-0 against Air Force and 3-0 against service academies. … improve Weis’ road record to a perfect 8-0 (longest road winning streak since nine straight from 1991-94). … improve Weis’ record to 6-0 in November games. … improve Weis’ record to 12-4 in afternoon games. … improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 820-267-42. … improve Notre Dame’s all-time record against the military academies to 128-22-5.
A Loss This Weekend Would… … make Notre Dame 8-2 for the second consecutive season. … snap the Irish’s winning streak at six games. … snap Notre Dame’s winning streak over Air Force at two games overall and five games in Falcon Stadium. … be the first for the Irish in Falcon Stadium since 1985. … drop the Irish to 21-6-0 in the all-time series with Air Force. … drop Notre Dame to 11-3-0 in the all-time series with the Falcons in Falcon Stadium. … drop a ranked Irish squad to 18-3-0 all-time against Air Force (would be the first loss for a ranked Notre Dame team against Air Force since 1996). … drop the Irish to 19-5-0 all-time against an unranked Falcon squad (would be the first win for an unranked Air Force team over Notre Dame since 1996). … drop Weis’ record to 17-5 overall, 0-1 against Air Force and 2-1 against service academies. … drop Weis’ road record to 7-1. … snap the Irish’s seven-game road winning streak (longest since 1991-94 and longest to open a Notre Dame coaching career since Frank Leahy). … drop Weis’ record to 5-1 in November games. … drop Weis’ record to 11-5 in afternoon games. … drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 819-268-42. … drop Notre Dame’s all-time record against the military academies to 127-23-5.
A Quick Look at Air Force The Falcons enter the matchup with Notre Dame following their most dominating victory of the season. Air Force raced out to a 43-0 halftime victory and never looked back in a 43-7 triumph over Army last Friday night. The Falcons scored a school record 36 points in the second quarter. Air Force has already played one common opponent of the Irish, losing 24-17 to Navy earlier this season. The Falcons also nearly pulled off a major upset at Tennessee back on Sept. 9. Air Force drew within a point, 31-30, with just under two minutes remaining and chose to go for two points, but were denied. The Falcons took advantage of six turnovers, including four on successive offensive plays, in the victory over Army. Chad Hall rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown as Air Force rumbled for 267 yards on 63 carries. Quarterback Shaun Carney added 35 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown. Carney went 2-for-4 for 44 yards, including a 36-yard strike to Spencer Armstrong. The Falcons limited Army to only 247 total yards and the Black Knights’ vaunted rushing attack managed just 131 yards. Air Force enters Saturday’s game with the nation’s third-ranked rushing offense, 58th-ranked scoring offense, 66th-ranked total offense and 118th-ranked passing offense. The Falcons are averaging 266.88 yards per game on the ground, 67.13 yards in the air, 334.00 total yards and 24.38 points per game. Hall leads the Air Force ground game with 594 yards (74.2/game) and five touchdowns. He is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Carney has added 521 yards rushing (65.1/game) and a team-high six touchdowns. Ryan Williams and Jacob Kendrick have each chipped in with 332 yards (41.5/game) and 295 yards (42.1/game). Williams has scored four touchdowns, while Kendrick has totaled two. Hall ranks 53rd in the NCAA in rushing yards per game and Carney is 68th. Carney has completed just 54.3 percent of his passes (38-for-70) for 514 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Victor Thompson has been the favorite target of Carney with 12 catches and 122 yards. Armstrong also has 122 receiving yards, but on eight receptions. The Falcons’ defense has been relatively solid this season. They rank 51st in scoring defense (20.75/game), 54th in rush defense (131.88/game) and 55th in total defense (323.25/game). The Falcons’ pass efficiency defense has been victimized in 2006, ranking 106th (149.18). Drew Fowler leads the team in tackles with 74. He ranks 23rd in the NCAA in tackles (9.25/game). The Falcons’ kicking game has been a positive in 2006. Zach Sasser is 7-for-9 on field goal attempts and also doubles as the punter. He is averaging 42.1 yards per punt, including a 68-yard boot.
Notre Dame – Air Force Series Notes Saturday’s game marks the 27th meeting between Notre Dame and Air Force, with the Irish holding a 21-5 series lead. The Irish also own an 11-2 record against the Falcons in Falcon Stadium. Notre Dame has won 10 of its last 11 games against Air Force, including a 21-14 meeting in their last meeting on Oct. 19, 2002 at Falcon Stadium. Except for a four-game losing streak against Air Force from 1982-85, the Irish have won 21 of the 22 series meetings with the Falcons. This year’s game marks Notre Dame’s second appearance at Falcon Stadium since Nov. 18, 1995, when the eighth-ranked Irish notched a 44-14 win en route to a berth in the Orange Bowl. Notre Dame has scored 30 or more points in eight of its last 11 games against Air Force, averaging 38.8 points per game in those contests. Two of the six overtime games in Notre Dame history have come against Air Force. The Falcons won 20-17 in 1996, while the Irish claimed a 34-31 win in 2000. Notre Dame’s other OT contests were a 27-20 loss at USC in 1996, a 27-24 loss to No. 1 Nebraska in 2000, a 29-26 victory over Washington State in 2003 and last season’s 44-41 loss to Michigan State. Of the five Air Force wins in the series, four have come under the guidance of longtime Falcon head coach Fisher DeBerry. Saturday’s game also is the second of three for Notre Dame this season against a service academy. The Irish already defeated Navy, 38-14, on Oct. 28 in Baltimore and will face Amy on Nov. 18 in Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame will be playing its first game in the state of Colorado since its last visit to Air Force on Oct. 19, 2002. The Irish are 12-2-0 (.857) all-time in the Evergreen State, with all but one of those games coming against Air Force (a 1983 win at Colorado).
Notre Dame vs. Service Academies Notre Dame has won 84 percent of its games (126-22-5) vs. teams from the three service academies (Army, Navy and Air Force). The Irish have won 13 consecutive games against the service academies and are 34-1-0 (.971) against the schools since 1986 (including a 17-1 mark at home). The only defeat in that time was a 20-17 overtime loss to Air Force in 1996 at Notre Dame Stadium. More than half (80) of Notre Dame’s 153 games against service academies, and more than half of its victories (70) have come against Navy, part of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. Notre Dame and Army met every season from 1913-47 with the exception of 1918. During an 11-season span from 1937-47, one or both teams were ranked, including six meetings when either side was first or second in the nation, and back-to-back “No. 1 vs. No. 2” matchups in 1945 and 1946. However, the Irish and Black Knights have played just 14 times since 1947, with Notre Dame winning 13 of those encounters. Their last meeting came in 1998, with the Irish pulling out a 20-17 win at home. Notre Dame leads the all-time series with Army, 36-8-4 (.792). The series with Army will be renewed for at least one game on Nov. 18 in Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame vs. The Mountain West Conference Notre Dame has a 26-7 (.788) all-time record against current members of the Mountain West Conference, with the vast majority of those games (26) coming against Air Force. The .788 Irish winning percentage vs. the Mountain West Conference is the second best in school history against a major Division I-A conference, topped only by the .884 mark (23-3) Notre Dame has posted against Conference USA. Today’s game is just the sixth for the Irish against a team representing the Mountain West since that league began play in 1999. The other five meetings for Notre Dame against an MWC opponent came against Air Force in 2000 (a 34-31 overtime win) and 2002 (a 21-14 win) along with the 2003, 2004 and 2005 meetings with BYU. The only other Mountain West Conference team the Irish have faced is TCU (a 21-0 win in 1972). Other Mountain West Conference teams: Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming.
Notre Dame-Air Force Connections Irish defensive line coach Jappy Oliver coached at Air Force for eight years from 1995-2002 under current Falcons’ head coach Fisher DeBerry. He was on the opposite sideline in four meetings of the all-time series, including the last time the teams played in 2002. Air Force and Notre Dame will honor Gregg Lewis, the son of Notre Dame secondary coach Bill Lewis, at this week’s game by wearing a helmet decal during the game. Gregg is a 1992 graduate of the Air Force Academy and walk-on football player in 1988. He was killed on a training mission in the fall of 1998 while flying helicopters for the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The idea came from Lewis’ brother, Geoff, who coordinated with both head coaches to honor his brother’s squadron, the “Jolly 38” unit.
On This Date Notre Dame has played 15 games in its history on Nov. 11. The Irish are 10-4-1 all-time on this date. The Irish have won their last seven games played on Nov. 11 and have not lost on this date since the 1944 season. Notre Dame has faced Air Force once previously on Nov. 11.
Nov. 11, 1978: Linebacker Bob Golic registered 18 tackles (tied for 10th most in single-game history) in a 31-14 victory over Tennessee.
Nov. 11, 1989: Running back/wide receiver Ricky Watters returned a punt 97 yards in a 59-6 victory over SMU. The 97-yard punt return is the longest punt return in school history and fourth longest return (punt, kickoff, interception) of any kind.
Nov. 11, 1939: Irish punter Billy Barrett was forced to punt 11 times in a 7-6 loss against Iowa. The 11 punts are tied for sixth-most in single-game school history.
The Last Meeting No. 7 Notre Dame 21, No. 18 Air Force 14 Oct. 19, 2002
(AP) – The Notre Dame offense finally produced an effort worthy of a top-10 team. That doesn’t mean the Fighting Irish defense took the night off. Ryan Grant ran for 190 yards and a touchdown, and the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish stuffed the nation’s top rushing team, beating Air Force 21-14 Saturday night to remain unbeaten. Notre Dame (7-0) won its first six games. The Irish won this battle between two of college football’s biggest surprises by taking advantage of their size up front – up to 60 pounds heavier than Air Force’s line – to produce a season-high 447 total yards. “I think our offensive line, our backs, our entire offensive team did an excellent job of execution,” said Tyrone Willingham, who joined Jesse Harper (1913-14) and Ara Parseghian (1964) as the only Notre Dame coaches to win their first seven games. Air Force (6-1), playing in front of a record crowd of 56,409, couldn’t keep Notre Dame’s defenders out of the backfield and wasn’t able to get around the speedy Irish on the outside. The 18th-ranked Falcons finished with just 104 yards rushing, 235 below their average. “They didn’t surprise with anything particularly they did. They just executed very well,” Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. The Irish did it by focusing on Chance Harridge. The diminutive Air Force quarterback had been elusive during Air Force’s first six games, running for 615 yards and 15 touchdowns – tied for most in the nation. Notre Dame consistently had two players in Harridge’s face immediately after he made the first fake on the option. The Irish also kept the running backs from reaching the corner on the outside. Harridge finished with just 31 yards on 13 carries. He also was just 6-of-14 passing for 57 yards, and he had a pass intercepted by Shane Walton in the third quarter. It was Walton’s sixth pick of the season. “I thought they had a good plan and I thought they executed that plan,” DeBerry said. “We didn’t block them very well.” Notre Dame dominated most of the way, totaling 199 more yards than Air Force in the first half. But the Irish allowed the Falcons to stay in it with three fumbles and two missed field goals by Nicholas Setta. Carlyle Holiday fumbled on Notre Dame’s first drive when he was sacked by Cameron Hodge, then he put the ball on the ground again when he was blindsided by Jon Hicks on a run up the middle. Air Force didn’t capitalize on the first fumble, but Marchello Graddy returned the second one 21 yards for the game’s first score. Notre Dame led 14-7 at halftime on touchdown runs by Holiday and Grant, but Air Force quickly tied it after Sean Rodgers stripped Vontez Duff on the second-half kickoff. Kenny Smith recovered at the Notre Dame 16, and Harridge scored six plays later on a 1-yard sneak. Setta pushed a 41-yard attempt wide right in the second quarter, and he missed to the left on a 36-yarder in the third. Still, Willingham said he didn’t think the turnovers had much of an effect. “The mistakes that cause turnovers, I don’t think they bothered our guys one bit,” said Willingham, whose team is off to its best start since opening the 1993 season with 10 straight wins. Notre Dame took a 21-14 lead midway through the third on a 1-yard sneak by Holiday, his second touchdown of the game. He also scored on a 53-yard run after being flushed from the pocket. Air Force had just 57 yards rushing on 23 carries in the first half. Offensively, the Irish easily sealed off the smaller Falcons at the line of scrimmage, giving Grant up to 4 and 5 yards of cushion before he reached any tacklers. Grant had 129 yards on 15 carries in the first half, and he scored on an 18-yard run late in the second quarter through a huge hole up the middle.
Last Week Against North Carolina With Notre Dame’s touchdown on the game’s opening drive, the Irish recorded a touchdown on their opening drive of the game for the third time in 2006 and 11th time in head coach Charlie Weis’ 21st career game on the sidelines. The Irish touchdown drive (six plays, 65 yards) following the opening kickoff took just 2:03 off the game clock. The touchdown was the earliest TD of the season for Notre Dame – besting the previous mark of 3:14 (seven plays, 70 yards) into the game against Purdue earlier this year. Notre Dame scored 31 points in the first half. The 31 points were the most for the Irish in a first half since they ripped off 35 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 3 of last season. It also marked the sixth time this season that Notre Dame eclipsed 20 points in a half and 19th time in the Weis era. The 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Brandon Tate was the first by a Notre Dame opponent since DeAndra Cobb of Michigan State went 89 yards on Sept. 18, 2004. North Carolina marched 80 yards on eight plays on its first quarter touchdown drive. Notre Dame proceeded to limit the Tar Heels to minus-14 yards of total offense the rest of the first half. UNC managed just 62 total yards (23 rushing and 39 passing) on 23 plays over the first 30 minutes – just 2.7 yards per play. Meanwhile, Notre Dame totaled 284 yards on 41 plays – good for 6.9 yards per play. North Carolina place kicker Connor Barth entered the game perfect on the season on point-after attempts (14-for-14). Derek Landri blocked two extra-point attempts. Sophomore WR David Grimes returned a third quarter kickoff 50 yards. The 50-yard kickoff return was the longest for the Irish this season and longest since Julius Jones had a 51-yard return against USC on Oct. 18, 2003. Notre Dame had allowed just one touchdown in the third quarter all season before the game. Michigan State had been the only Irish opponent to score in the third quarter. The Tar Heels recorded a pair of touchdowns. The Irish scored a season-high 45 points and it was the most points for Notre Dame since totaling 49 against BYU on Oct. 22 of last season. The Irish have now eclipsed 40 points twice in 2006 and nine times under Weis. Freshman WR George West fumbled a fourth quarter punt for Notre Dame’s only turnover of the afternoon. The turnover was just the second for the Irish over the last five games (Purdue, Stanford, UCLA, Navy, North Carolina). Notre Dame has committed only nine turnovers on the season and five of those came in one game (Michigan).
Senior QB Brady Quinn Notre Dame Single-Season History moved into sixth place for total yards (passed Steve Beuerlein, 2,246, in 1986) … moved into fourth place for pass attempts (passed Jarious Jackson, 316, in 1999) … owns the top four spots for single-season pass attempts … moved into third place for points responsible (passed Jarious Jackson, 146, in 1999) … moved into third place for pass attempts (passed his total of 332 in 2003) … moved into fourth place for passing yards (passed Joe Theismann, 2,529, 1970) … moved into fifth place for total yards (passed Rick Mirer, 2,423, in 1991).
Notre Dame Career History recorded his 23rd career game with at least 250 yards passing (already a school record) … recorded his 11th career game with at least 300 yards passing (already a school record) … recorded his 14th career game with at least three touchdown passes (already a school record) … recorded his sixth career game with at least four touchdown passes (already a school record) … tossed his 80th, 81st, 82nd and 83rd career touchdown pass (already a school record).
NCAA History moved past Derek Anderson (Oregon State, 2001-04), Drew Brees (Purdue, 1997-00) and Ryan Schneider (UCF, 2000-03) into 16th place all-time in NCAA Division I-A history for career touchdown passes … moved past David Greene (Georgia, 2001-04), Byron Leftwich (Marshall, 1998-02) and Alex Van Pelt (Pittsburgh, 1989-92) into 15th place all-time in NCAA Division I-A history for career pass attempts … moved past Steve Stenstrom (Stanford, 1991-94), Eric Zeier (Georgia, 1991-94), Ryan Schneider (UCF, 2000-03), Alex Van Pelt (Pittsburgh, 1989-92), David Greene (Georgia, 2001-04) and Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio, 2001-03) into 18th place all-time in NCAA Division I-A career history for pass completions … moved past Doug Flutie (Boston College 1981-84), Brett Basanez (Northwestern, 2002-05), Andrew Walter (Arizona State, 2001-04), Kevin Sweeney (Fresno State, 1982-86), Matt Leinart (USC, 2002-05), Chad Pennington (Marshall, 1997-99), Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio, 2001-03), Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1993-96), David Neill (Nevada, 1998-01), Drew Brees (Purdue, 1997-00) and Alex Van Pelt (Pittsburgh, 1989-92) into 20th place all-time in NCAA Division I-A career history for passing yards.
Miscellaneous set a season-high with 346 passing yards
Junior RB Darius Walker moved past Jerome Heavens (1975-78) for fifth on the Irish all-time career rushing yards list … recorded his 100th career reception (already a school record for a Notre Dame running back) … registered his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and 20th for his career (23 total career touchdowns).
Senior TE John Carlson moved past Anthony Fasano (576, 2005) for second in Notre Dame single-season receiving yards by a tight end … his first quarter touchdown reception was his third of the season and fourth of his career … the reception also moved him into a tie with Tony Hunter (1982, 42) for the third most receptions in a single-season by a Notre Dame tight end … set a career-high with eight receptions.
Senior WR Jeff Samardzjia moved past Maurice Stovall (2002-05) for fourth in career receiving yards in Notre Dame history … earlier in the game he moved past Jim Seymour (1966-68) for fifth in career receiving yards in Notre Dame history … his 46-yard reception in the second quarter was his longest grab of the season – besting his previous season-high 45-yard touchdown grab against UCLA … eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the third time in 2006 and eight time in his career (only Derrick Mayes, 9, and Tom Gatewood, 13, have more career 100-yard receiving games) … moved past Maurice Stovall (2002-05) for fourth in career receiving yards in Irish history … his third quarter touchdown reception was his eighth of 2006 and 23rd of his career … became the Notre Dame career touchdown receptions leader (previous school record for career TD catches was 22 held by Derrick Mayes, 1992-95) … set a season-high with 177 yards receiving.
Senior WR Rhema McKnight his touchdown reception on the game’s opening drive was his 10th of the season and 17th of his career … became the fourth Irish receiver to ever register 10 or more touchdown catches in a single-season (ranks fourth on the single-season list passing Jack Snow’s total of nine in 1964) … the first quarter touchdown reception was his 150th career catch … added his 11th touchdown reception of the season and 18th of his career in the second quarter … recorded his fourth game of 2006 with at least two touchdown receptions (ties the Irish school record for career multiple touchdown games held by Samardzjia, 2005, and Derrick Mayes, 1994).
Senior DE Victor Abiamiri recorded his ninth sack of the season (personal season-high) in the first quarter … gives him 20 for his career which moved him into fourth all-time past Renaldo Wynn (19.5, 1993-96) and Ryan Roberts (19.0, 1999-02) … the tackle for loss also moved him into sixth all-time past Scott Zettek (1976-80, 38.0) … added his 10th sack of the season and How Do They Stack Up? Average weight of the offensive and defensive lines: ND OL 294.0 lbs. vs. AF DL 247.5 lbs. ND DL 277.0 lbs. vs. AF OL 286.0 lbs.
Average height of the receivers and the secondaries: ND WR/TE 6′ 4″ vs. AF DB 6′ 1″ ND DB 6′ 0″ vs. AF WR/TE 6′ 2″
Irish Road Warriors Notre Dame extended its road winning streak to seven games with its victory over Michigan State in East Lansing on Sept. 23. The seven-game road winning streak is the longest since a nine-game streak that spanned four seasons (1991-94). The school record for consecutive wins on the road is 11, set twice by Frank Leahy coached teams. Notre Dame won 11 straight dating from Sept. 28, 1946 to Nov. 6, 1948. Ironically enough, that streak ended with a 14-14 tie against USC. The Irish went on to win five consecutive after the tie before finally losing a road contest at Indiana. In all, Notre Dame was unbeaten in 17 straight road games. The Irish put together another 11-game victory stretch from Nov. 22, 1952 to Oct. 7, 1955. The seven-game road winning streak also happens to be the first seven road games for second year Irish head coach Charlie Weis. It is the longest road unbeaten streak to open a Notre Dame coaching career since Leahy went 9-0-1 over his first 10 road games.
A Look Back at Past Notre Dame Teams That Opened 8-1 With the victory last weekend over North Carolina, the Irish opened a season 8-1 for the first time since 1998 and 17th time in school history. Notre Dame opened the 1977 season 8-1 following its victory over Clemson. The Irish closed the season at 11-1, including a 38-10 rout of Texas in the Cotton Bowl to secure the program’s 10th National Championship.
In The Red Zone Notre Dame was 5-of-5 in the red zone, with four touchdowns, in the victory over North Carolina last weekend. The Irish are now 32-of-35 (.914) in the red zone this season. Notre Dame has only settled for field goals on six of those trips. The Irish are 77-of-90 (.856) in the red zone during the Charlie Weis era. Notre Dame has recorded 65 touchdowns compared to just 12 field goals goals. In other words, the Irish register seven points almost 72 percent of the time they enter the red zone over the past two seasons. Conversely, Notre Dame’s opponents have scored a touchdown on just 12-of-22 trips into the red zone in 2006 (.545).
On Third & Fourth Down Notre Dame improved on third down last weekend against North Carolina going 8-of-14 (.571) and is now 46-for-126 (.365) on the season. While that was the best effort for the Irish on third down since the Purdue game on Sept. 30, the statistic is way down from a year ago. The Irish converted 90-of-184 (.489) on third downs in 2005, which ranked seventh in the NCAA. While Notre Dame has struggled on third down, fourth down to this point of the season is a completely different story. The Irish are 17-for-23 on fourth down this season and rank eighth in the NCAA with a .739 conversion rate. In fact, only two teams in the country have more fourth down conversions than Notre Dame.
Clock Watching Notre Dame has held the time of possession advantage in seven of its nine games this season (all victories), including besting North Carolina last weekend 32:13-27:47. Since Weis arrived at Notre Dame, the Irish are 14-2 when winning the time of possession battle. Notre Dame has won just three times since the start of 2005 when it did not have the ball longer than its opponent (3-2). The Irish held a decisive advantage in time of possession in their win against Purdue earlier this season. Notre Dame held the ball for 38:21. It was the longest the Irish held possession since controlling the ball for 38:40 against USC in 2005.
Football Definitely a Game of Adjustments The Notre Dame defense has shown its prowess in 2006 when it comes to making adjustments at halftime. The Irish have twice blanked opponents (Georgia Tech and Navy) after halftime and allowed four other foes (Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford and UCLA) to seven points or less after intermission. Notre Dame has yielded just 66 points in the second half over its nine games in 2006 (14 of those came in the waning minutes against Penn State with the Irish leading 41-3). Here is an analytical look at the numbers before and after the midway point:
First Downs Rushing Yards Passing Yards Total Yards Points First Half 80 (8.9 avg.) 701 (77.9 avg.) 920 (102.2 avg.) 1,621 (180.1 avg.) 133 (14.8 avg.) Second Half 73 (8.1 avg.) 436 (48.4 avg.) 830 (92.2 avg.) 1,266 (140.7 avg.) 66 (7.3 avg.)
Defense Puts Together Most Dominant First Half of 2006 Against North Carolina While the above note is a positive, it forced the Notre Dame defensive coaching staff to drive home the importance of opening the game in similar fashion to the way they have finished games. After North Carolina scored on its second drive of the game (80 yards, eight plays), the Irish limited the Tar Heels to minus-14 yards the rest of the half (12 plays). Notre Dame forced North Carolina into three plays and out on five of its six first half offensive drives. The Irish limited the Tar Heels to just four first downs, 23 rushing yards, 39 passing yards and 62 total yards. Irish Defense Much Improved From 2005 The much maligned Notre Dame defense has improved in nearly every statistical category from last season. In addition to the improvement in scoring defense, the Irish have improved in pass defense, rush defense and total defense. Here is a closer look at each of those categories:
Category 2005 2006 Improvement Scoring Defense 24.5 22.1 2.4 points per game Passing Defense 264.6 194.4 70.2 yards per game Rushing Defense 132.3 126.3 6.0 yards per game Total Defense 396.9 320.8 76.1 yards per game
Category 2005 NCAA Rank Category 2006 NCAA Rank Passing Defense 264.6 103rd Passing Defense 194.4 55th Total Defense 396.9 75th Total Defense 320.8 53rd
Quinn Near Perfect Last Six Games; Possibly Best Six Game Stretch of Career Senior QB Brady Quinn has been nearly flawless the past six games — all Irish victories. Quinn is completing near 67-percent (144-for-216) of his passes for 1,812 yards, 19 touchdowns and just one interception. He currently owns the nation’s longest streak of consecutive passes without an interception at 204 (besting his own Notre Dame school record). Quinn has a 165.24 passing efficiency rating over the stretch of games. Quinn had a similar stretch of games in 2005 that helped him move into Heisman consideration. Over the final six games of 2005 (BYU, Tennessee, Navy, Syracuse, Stanford and Ohio State), Quinn completed 66.2 percent (149-for-225) of his passes for 2,034 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Att. Cmp. Pct. Yds TD Int. Brady Quinn (2006) 216 144 66.7 1,812 19 1 Brady Quinn (2005) 225 149 66.2 2,034 18 3
Upon Further Review, Landri Ties an NCAA Record Senior DT Derek Landri recorded his second blocked PAT of the season last weekend against North Carolina. Landri blocked the Tar Heels point after attempt in the second quarter. The Irish blocked another extra-point in the third quarter. Initially, senior DT Trevor Laws was credited with the block, but turns out that Landri actually deflected the football. Landri became just the second player in NCAA history to ever block a pair of point after attempts in the same game. Nigel Codrington of Rice blocked two point-after attempts on Nov. 5, 1988 against, of all teams, Notre Dame, and in, of all places, Notre Dame Stadium.
Charlie And The Irish Offensive Factory Second year head coach Charlie Weis came to Notre Dame with a tremendous reputation as one of the premier offensive minds in all of the NFL. The Irish saw immediate results in 2005, setting 11 school records, including passing yards (3,963), touchdown passes (32), total offense yards (5,728) and total points (440). After Notre Dame scored 45 points against North Carolina last weekend, the Irish have surpassed the 40-point barrier on nine different occasions in Weis’ 21 games as head coach. Prior to Weis’ arrival, Notre Dame had eclipsed 40 points just nine times in its previous 97 contests. In addition, the Irish had 83 separate 100-yard receiving games over its first 116 seasons of football, but Notre Dame has had 17 the past two years under Weis. To put those numbers in perspective, Notre Dame averaged a 100-yard receiving effort every 13 games. Under Weis, the Irish is almost recording a 100-yard receiving effort every game.
Victor Violating Opposing Offenses Senior DE Victor Abiamiri has been in Notre Dame’s opposing backfield so often over the last four weeks (Stanford, UCLA, Navy, North Carolina) that teams might start asking him to pay rent. Abiamiri, who leads the Irish with 10.0 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries, has been almost unblockable. Abiamiri has 9.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and five QB hurries in that span. He ranks fourth in the NCAA in sacks and eighth in tackles for loss this season. Abiamiri is tied for third on the all-time Irish list for career sacks (21.0) and ranks fifth with 39.5 career TFLs.
|——-TACKLES——-| |-FUMBLE-| S A T TFL Sacks FF FR QBH Stanford 4 1 5 3.5 3.0 0 0 2 UCLA 1 3 4 1.5 1.0 0 0 2 Navy 4 2 6 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 North Carolina 4 0 4 2.0 2.0 0 0 1 Totals 13 6 19 9.0 8.0 0 0 5
John Carlson reaches over North Carolina safety Durell Mapp to score a first quarter touchdown.
John Carlson Turning In All-American Type Season; Leads TE Nationwide in Receiving YPG Notre Dame senior TE John Carlson has exploded onto the college football scene in 2006. He has 45 receptions for 620 yards — good for an average of 68.9 yards a game. Carlson’s season already ranks as one of the best ever by an Irish tight end. His 620 yards receiving ranks second best in single-season tight end history, while his 45 catches is third best. Carlson’s 13.8 yards per catch is second among all Irish receivers. He is 41st, nationally, in receiving yards per game and tops among tight ends. In fact, Carlson’s closest competition among tight ends are some seven yards per game behind. He also ranks 39th overall in receptions per game and third in the category among tight ends. With Carlson’s 121-yard effort on four grabs against Michigan State (also tied an ND record for average yards per reception in a single-game), he became the first Irish tight end to eclipse 100 yards receiving in a game since Anthony Fasano had 155 yards against Purdue on Oct. 2, 2004. He has proven to be one of the top tight ends in 2006 and his numbers, when projected for the end of the regular season, compare quite favorably with the last six John Mackey Award winners.
Year Player No. Yds TD 2006 John Carlson (projected) 60 827 4 2005 Marcedes Lewis (UCLA) 58 741 10 2004 Heath Miller (Virginia) 36 475 5 2003 Kellen Winslow (Miami) 55 557 1 2002 Dallas Clark (Iowa) 39 645 4 2001 Daniel Graham (Colo) 51 753 6 2000 Tim Stratton (Purdue) 56 579 2
Zbikowski’s Rapid Returns Senior SS Tom Zbikowski has made a name for himself in the Notre Dame record books. He became the fifth player in Irish history to ever return three punts for touchdowns in a career. Zbikowski has seven career TD returns (two interceptions, three punts, two fumbles). Earlier this season, Zbikowski scooped up a fumble and raced 25 yards for a touchdown against Penn State. With the return, Zbikowski became the Irish all-time leader in fumble return yards (100) and joined Tony Driver (1997-00) as the only Notre Dame players to ever return a pair of fumbles for touchdowns. In a three-game stretch against USC, BYU and Tennessee in 2005, he returned a punt or interception for a touchdown four times – the first Irish defensive player to accomplish such a feat. Zbikowski also returned a fumble 75 yards for a TD against Michigan State in 2004. With his interception and punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee in 2005, Zbikowski became the first Irish player to accomplish that feat (interception return and punt return in the same game) since Nick Rassas against Northwestern in 1965. Rassas returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown and a punt 72 yards for a score in Notre Dame’s 38-7 rout.
Tom Zbikowski heads to the end zone on a 52-yard punt return.
Career Punt Returns For TD Tom Zbikowski 3 2003-06 Allen Rossum 3 1994-96 Ricky Watters 3 1987-90 Tim Brown 3 1984-87 Nick Rassas 3 1963-65
McKnight & Samardzjia Neck & Neck Down The Stretch The senior WR tandem of Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzjia each rank among the top 10 in ND history for career receiving yards and receptions. McKnight and Samardzjia are second and third, respectively, in school history with 155 and 150 career catches. Tom Gatewood (1969-71) holds the school record with 157 career receptions. McKnight is seventh in school history with 2,043 yards receiving, while Samardzjia’s 2,262 yards receiving is fourth best in ND history. Samardzjia also set a new school record for career touchdowns receptions (breaking the previous record of 22 held by Derrick Mayes). McKnight ranks 17th in the NCAA among active receivers in catches and 20th in touchdown receptions. Samardzjia is also among the top 20 in the NCAA among active receivers in yards (16th) and TD catches (8th). Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett, USC, are the only other teammates to be ranked among the top 20 in the NCAA among active players in any of those three categories.
Jeff Samardzija is tackled from behind by North Carolina cornerback Jacoby Watkins.
Samardzjia On The Brink Senior All-American WR Jeff Samardzjia will close his career as one of the most decorated Irish wide receivers of all time. Samardzjia’s already owns the school record of 23 career touchdown catches and ranks fourth all-time with 2,262 receiving yards. Last weekend against North Carolina, Samardzjia had 177 yards on six receptions. He eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the third time in 2006 and eight time in his career (only Derrick Mayes, 9, and Tom Gatewood, 13, have more career 100-yard receiving games). The most impressive thing about Samardzjia’s numbers are the fact that they have been recorded basically the past two seasons.
Player, Years Yards Games with a reception Derrick Mayes, 1992-95 2,512 40 Tim Brown, 1984-87 2,493 39 Tom Gatewood, 1969-71 2,283 30 Jeff Samardzjia, 2004-06 2,262 31 Maurice Stovall, 2002-05 2,195 38 Jim Seymour, 1966-68 2,113 28
The Firm of Laws & Landri Yields Immediate Results The senior defensive tackle duo of Trevor Laws and Derek Landri spearheaded an Irish rush defense that has dominated the line of scrimmage for the better part of the last five games (Purdue, Stanford, UCLA , second half of Navy, North Carolina). Last weekend against North Carolina, Landri followed up his career-best performance against Navy (11 tackles) with four tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 0.5 sacks. The duo helped the Notre Dame defense limit North Carolina to 31 yards on the ground on 25 carries. Add in the second half against Navy, Notre Dame has allowed just 91 yards on 45 carries over the last 90 minutes of football. Landri and Laws rank fourth (44) and fifth (42), respectively, in tackles for Notre Dame. The interior tackle duo has combined for 17.0 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries. Laws and Landri were also instrumental in neutralizing the vaunted, power running attack of Michigan. The Wolverines needed 41 carries to reach 120 yards — just 2.9 yards per carry. In fact, 18 of Mike Hart’s carries were for two yards or less, including nine for zero or negative yardage. Laws’ 10 tackles were a career-high.
Irish Rush Defense Complete Turnaround Following Michigan State Notre Dame allowed 100 yards rushing in each of the first four games of the season, including 248 yards against the Spartans on Sept. 23. Over the last five games (including Navy’s effort of 271 yards), the Irish are allowing just 98.4 yards on the ground per game and just 3.1 yards per carry. If you take away the game with the Midshipmen (a team that basically runs the ball on every play), Notre Dame limited Purdue, Stanford, UCLA and North Carolina to 55.3 yards per game and 2.2 per rush.
Team No. Yds TD Lg Purdue 18 92 1 11 Stanford 31 72 0 13 UCLA 28 26 0 11 North Carolina 25 31 0 35
Cover Me Notre Dame hasn’t let the opposition generate good field position on kickoff’s this season … The Irish are allowing just 18.7 yards per kick return versus its foes in 2006 … Senior Bobby Renkes and freshman Ryan Burkhart are two of the main reasons why … Renkes has five touchbacks on his 21 kickoffs and Burkhart has five touchbacks on 29 kickoffs this season … Notre Dame ranks 27th nationally in kickoff return defense … The Irish has also stepped up its punt return defense in their last five games … Notre Dame has allowed just 44 total return yards on five punts versus Purdue, Stanford, UCLA, Navy and North Carolina … Senior punter and Ray Guy candidate Geoff Price, who is seventh in the NCAA with a 45.4 per punt average, has only had 15 of his 39 punts returned this season.
Clock Winding Down, Brady At His Best Notre Dame senior QB Brady Quinn has conducted scoring drives to close the first half in six of the Irish’s nine games this season. Against Navy, he went 5-for-6 for 64 yards and a 33-yard touchdown pass to senior Rhema McKnight. Over the six scoring drives (Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Stanford, UCLA and Navy) in the waning minutes of the first half in 2006, Quinn is a remarkable 34-for-40 for 341 yards passing, four touchdown passes and a touchdown run. Quinn registered one against Stanford and then led Notre Dame to a field goal drive last weekend against UCLA. He was 7-for-8 for 62 yards and added 14 yards rushing along the way against the Bruins. Against Stanford, he was 5-of-6 for 47 yards and a 15-yard touchdown to senior WR Rhema McKnight on the 68-yard scoring drive. With Notre Dame trailing Georgia Tech, 10-0, and just under five minutes to go in the first half in the season opener, Quinn led the Irish on a 14 play, 80-yard scoring drive. He went 5-of-8 for 39 yards and also added 23 yards rushing on the drive, capped off by his five-yard touchdown scamper. Quinn was even more impressive in his two scoring drives against Penn State and Michigan. Both within the no-huddle, two-minute offense, he spearheaded Notre Dame’s seven play, 69-yard and 1:17 march just before halftime against the Nittany Lions. Quinn was 5-of-5 for 58 yards and a touchdown strike on the drive. He was equally impressive running the two-minute drill late in the second quarter against the Wolverines. Quinn went 7-of-7 for 71 yards and a touchdown during the Irish’s eight play, 72-yard and 2:10 drive.
In Front of a Full House Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 190 of its previous 216 games, including 65 of its last 70 contests dating back to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the 2001, 2003 and 2005 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands and the 2005 game at Washington were not sellouts). At Michigan in 2003, the Irish and Wolverines attracted the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of the series that an NCAA attendance record was set. It also represented the seventh time in the last four seasons that Notre Dame has been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002, vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl in 2004 – the game set a Bank One Ballpark record for football configuration). Notre Dame and Michigan played before an over-capacity 111,386 at Michigan Stadium in September of 2005. The 2005 Washington game was played before less than a capacity crowd as 71,473 witnessed the Irish defeat the Huskies, 36-17, at Husky Stadium (capacity: 72,500) in Seattle. At Purdue, the Irish and Boilermakers played before 65,491 football fans, a Ross-Ade Stadium record (since the renovation of the facility in 2003).
Irish Rushing Defense Holds Navy Well Below Its Average Navy came into the game with Notre Dame ranked second in the NCAA in rushing averaging 316.6 yards per game. The Midshipmen were also averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Irish did allow Navy 271 yards on the ground, but only 60 came after halftime. Notre Dame also limited the Midshipmen to 4.8 yards per carry, including 3.0 ypa after halftime.
Quinn Approaching Rarified Air Senior QB Brady Quinn has tossed 83 career touchdown passes over his brilliant four-year Irish career. Quinn has tossed 57 TD passes over his last 21 games — an average of 2.65 per game. At his current pace, Quinn would finish his career with 12,062 yards passing and 94 touchdown passes. He would become just the ninth player in NCAA Division I history to surpass 12,000 yards passing and ninth to ever pass for 90 or more career TD passes. Quinn would be just the sixth player to ever accomplish both feats.
Brady Quinn Surpasses 10,000 Career Yards Senior QB Brady Quinn eclipsed another milestone against UCLA earlier this season. Quinn became the 32nd quarterback in the history of NCAA Division IA football to eclipse 10,000 career passing yards. Here is an interesting comparison of Quinn and some of the other notable members of the exclusive club (players that eclipsed 10,000 career yards and won the Heisman Trophy).
Att. Cmp. Int. Pct. Yds TD Brady Quinn 1,473 856 36 58.1 10,915 83 Ty Detmer 1,530 958 65 62.6 15,031 121 Carson Palmer 1,515 895 49 59.1 11,388 71 Danny Wuerffel 1,170 708 42 60.5 10,875 114 Matt Leinart 1,245 807 23 64.8 10,693 99 Doug Flutie 1,270 677 54 53.3 10,579 67
Brady Stacks Up With The Most Recent Heisman Trophy Winners Notre Dame senior QB Brady Quinn finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season. Brady is on pace for 3,726 yards passing and 36 touchdown passes. Here is an interesting comparison between Quinn and the previous five QBs to capture the Heisman Trophy (a QB has taken home the award five of the last six years):
Yds TD INT Pct Brady Quinn, Notre Dame (projected) 3,726 36 6 63.9 Matt Leinart, USC (2004) 3,322 33 6 65.3 Jason White, Oklahoma (2003) 3,846 40 10 61.6 Carson Palmer, USC (2002) 3,942 33 10 63.2 Eric Crouch, Nebraska (2001) *2,625 *26 10 55.5 Chris Weinke, Florida State (2000) 4,167 33 11 61.7 total yards (passing/rushing) and total touchdowns
Quinn Ranks High Among Active QBs Quarterback Brady Quinn currently ranks in the top five among all active Division I-A quarterbacks in 10 categories ranging from passing charts to total offense lists. The following lists the categories he currently ranks in the top five:
CATEGORY RANK TOTAL CURRENT LEADER Pass Touchdowns 1st 83 — Pass Attempts 1st 1,473 — Pass Completions2nd 856 Kevin Kolb, Houston (888) Pass Yards 2nd 10,915 Kevin Kolb, Houston (12,007) Total Off.-Yards2nd 10,989 Kevin Kolb, Houston (12,725) Total Off.-Plays3rd 1,704 Kevin Kolb, Houston (1,883) Total Off.-TDs 3rd 89 Kevin Kolb, Houston (96) Total Off.-Yds/Gm 3rd 244.6 Colt Brennan, Hawaii (381.3) Pass Attempts/Gm 4th 32.7 Colt Brennan, Hawaii (40.7) Pass Yards/Game 5th 242.6 Colt Brennan, Hawaii (364.2)
One of Nation’s Best Not Needed Against Navy Senior P Geoff Price ranks seventh in the NCAA in punting at 45.4 yards per punt. That average would break Notre Dame’s previous school record for average yards per punt (44.9) set by Craig Hentrich in 1990. While Price has proven to be a weapon for the Irish this season, anytime Notre Dame can get through an entire game without his services is a definite positive. The Irish were not forced to punt against Navy. It marked the first time Notre Dame failed to punt in a game since Nov. 12, 2005 against the Midshipmen. Notre Dame ran 62 plays over its 10 drives and ran 70 plays over nine drives in last season’s meeting. The Irish have gone 140 plays against Navy without being forced to punt – dating back to a D.J. Fitzpatrick punt in the fourth quarter of a 27-9 Irish victory in 2004.
Brockington Making The Most of Senior Season Senior LB Joe Brockington entered the 2006 season with 12 career total tackles in 22 games over the previous two seasons. When an injury sidelined starting LB Travis Thomas earlier this year, Brockington moved into the starting lineup for the first time of his career against Purdue. He has started each of the past five Notre Dame games. Brockington has amassed 25 tackles in his five starts, including a career-high of seven against UCLA.
Crum, Jr. Making Crumbs Of Ball Carriers Junior LB Maurice Crum, Jr. has been a vital asset to Notre Dame’s defensive effort the past few weeks. He has led the Irish in tackles each of the past two weeks (recorded 9.0 tackles, one for loss and a sack against North Carolina/11.0 tackles, four solo, versus Navy). Crum, Jr. has amassed over 10 tackles in a game on two occasions. He recorded a team-best eight tackles and added a pass breakup and sack against UCLA as well. Crum, Jr. leads Notre Dame with 71 tackles and 34 solo stops. He is fourth on the Irish defense with 8.0 tackles for loss, including 3.0 sacks. Crum has also added a forced fumble, two pass break-ups and two quarterback hurries. He registered a career-high 14 tackles earlier this season against Penn State.
Maurice Crum Jr. in action during 2005 season
Auditions For Notre Dame’s Third Wideout No Longer Needed Sophomore WR David Grimes was instrumental in Notre Dame’s come-from-behind victory over UCLA and added three catches for 72 yards, including a 36-yard TD grab against Navy. Grimes posted career-highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (79) against the Bruins. He came up with a huge 14-yard reception for a first down on Notre Dame’s three play, 80-yard game-winning drive. Grimes, who missed the Purdue game, has 16 catches this season for 206 yards. His previous career-high for catches and yards came against Michigan (4 for 48).
Price is Right Despite the fact he entered this season with only two career punts, Geoff Price has made his presence known across the country for Notre Dame. Price is seventh in the NCAA in punting with a per kick average of 45.4. That average would break Notre Dame’s previous school record for average yards per punt (44.9) set by Craig Hentrich in 1990. He not only has dropped 12 punts inside the 20-yard line, including two against North Carolina, but also has nine punts of 50 or more yards. Price has averaged 50+ yards in punts in two separate games, including a school-record 51.9 yards per kick (7-for-363) against Michigan.
Ndukwe Making Plays All Over The Field Notre Dame senior FS Chinedum Ndukwe, who played his freshman year with the Irish as a wide receiver, has taken his game to another level in 2006. Ndukwe started all 12 games last season and made 52 tackles. He is third on Notre Dame with 57 tackles, 28 solo stops, this season. Ndukwe, who came up with a huge forced fumble and fumble recovery late in the fourth quarter to help the Irish rally past Michigan State earlier this year, has added two interceptions, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
Quinn’s TD Passes Streak Brady Quinn tossed at least one touchdown pass in 16 games in a row for the Irish before the skid ended in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, breaking John Huarte’s record of 10 set in 1964. The Dublin, Ohio, native totaled 40 scoring tosses during the run. He is on a similar roll in 2006. Quinn has not only tossed a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games, but he has recorded multiple touchdown passes in each of those games. It is the second streak of at least eight consecutive games with two or more touchdown passes in his career.
24 and Counting Junior RB Darius Walker extended his streak to 24 straight games with at least one catch following his two-reception effort against North Carolina on Nov. 4. His current streak is the longest on the team. Walker has hauled in at least one pass dating back to the Tennessee game on Nov. 13, 2004. He has caught 96 passes for 729 yards and three TDs over the 24 games. He is averaging just over four catches per game, and 7.7 yards per reception.
Thomas Pulling Double Duty Travis Thomas made the switch over to defense in the spring to add some speed and quickness to that side of the football for the Irish. Thomas had three carries, a season-high 44 yards and a touchdown earlier this season against Penn State. He added another rushing touchdown against Navy. Thomas is the first Notre Dame player rush for a touchdown in a game in which he started on defense since Jeff Burris on Nov. 20, 1993 against Boston College. Burris, an All-American safety, rushed 16 times for 92 yards and six touchdowns that season.
Terrail Lambert Derails Opposition Junior CB Terrail Lambert undoubtedly etched his name along side some of the all-time Notre Dame legends following his performance against Michigan State. His 27-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter capped the Irish’s thrilling 40-37 come-from-behind victory over the Spartans. The pick was not only his first career interception, but was Notre Dame’s first interception return for a touchdown since junior CB Leo Ferrine had a 16-yard “pick six” against Syracuse last year. Lambert was also the first Irish defender with two interceptions in the same game since Sept. 21, 2002, when Gerome Sapp had two picks at Michigan State in a 21-17 Notre Dame victory. Lambert is eighth on the team with 31 tackles, including a career-best 11 stops earlier in the season against Purdue. He also chipped in with a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play. Lambert also leads the squad with three interceptions.
Darius Walker The Runner vs. Darius Walker The Receiver Junior RB Darius Walker set a new single-game, career-high with nine receptions against Purdue earlier this season. He had registered seven catches in a game on three different occasions, including twice in 2006. Walker is third on the team with 47 receptions in 2006. He also leads the NCAA in receptions by a running back. Already the Notre Dame career leader in catches by a running back (100), Walker will shatter his previous single-season school record (43) for receptions by a running back.
Need A First Down, Dial Darius Walker Junior RB Darius Walker has touched the football 140 times the past four games. Of those 140 touches, 36 resulted in a first down for the Irish. In fact, Walker leads Notre Dame with 58 first down plays. Against Purdue earlier this season, Walker touched the ball 27 different times in the first-half against the Boilermakers. Of those 27 touches, nine resulted in a first down for the Irish. Walker finished the afternoon with 12.
McKnight & Carlson Moving The Chains Senior WR Rhema McKnight and senior TE John Carlson have combined to earn 69 first downs this season. McKnight has 52 receptions and 37 of them have resulted in a first down, while Carlson has registered a first down on 32 of his 45 catches.
Darius Walker Running Into Irish History Junior RB Darius Walker has led the Irish in rushing each of the past two seasons and will most likely do it again in 2006. Walker has rushed for 768 yards this season, including 543 over the last five games. He would be the sixth running back in school history to lead the Irish in rushing three consecutive seasons and the first since Autry Denson (1995-98). Walker would be the first running back to lead Notre Dame in rushing over his first three seasons since Emil Sitko (1946-49). Sitko actually led Notre Dame in rushing each of his four seasons.
Abiamiri Named to Mid-Season Hendricks Award Watch List Senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri was named to the 2006 Mid-Season Hendricks Award Watch List announced Oct. 24 by the Hendricks Foundation. He has 36 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks in 2006. Abiamiri now has 21.0 sacks for his career. He has been a key member of Notre Dame’s defensive line since his freshman season in 2003 when he became just the fourth freshman to start on the defensive line for Notre Dame since 1991. Abiamiri enjoyed a great season in 2005 totaling 48 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, a team-high eight sacks and seven quarterback hurries helping him earn the team’s Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, left, is sacked by Notre Dame lineman Victor Abiamiri, right, during the first half. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Irish Triple Option Passing Attack The Notre Dame offense has its own version of the triple option in the passing game. The Irish have three players, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and John Carlson, each rank among the top 41 in the NCAA in receiving yards per game. Notre Dame and New Mexico State are the only two schools that have three student-athletes in the top 50. Notre Dame also has four receivers, including junior RB Darius Walker, among the top 38 in catches per game. McKnight leads the team with 52 catches, Samardzjia is second on the Irish with 49 catches, Walker is third with 47 and Carlson is fourth with 45 grabs. McKnight ranks 16th, Samardzjia is 22nd, Walker is 29th and Carlson is 38th in the NCAA in receptions per game.
Instant Classic The UCLA game certainly qualifies among the most “fantastic Irish finishes” ever at Notre Dame Stadium. Four times now, in the 75-year history of Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish have scored the winning touchdown in the final minute of regulation:
Oct. 27, 1979: Rusty Lisch’s 14-yard TD pass to Dean Masztak and two-point conversion pass to Pete Holohan with 42 seconds to play beat South Carolina, 18-17.
Nov. 14, 1992: Rick Mirer’s three-yard TD pass to Jerome Bettis and ensuing two-point conversion (pass from Mirer to Reggie Brooks) give the Irish a 17-16 victory over Penn State with 0:20 on the clock.
Oct. 30, 1999: Jarious Jackson’s 16-yard TD pass to Jay Johnson with 0:36 left gives Notre Dame a 28-24 win over Navy.
Oct. 22, 2006: Brady Quinn’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija produces the game-winning points with just 27 seconds left in a 20-17 win over UCLA.
Irish Rush Defense Bottles Up UCLA UCLA entered the game with Notre Dame averaging over 143.67 yards a game rushing. In fact, the Bruins leading rusher, Chris Markey, ranked 18th in the NCAA at 98.7 yards per game. UCLA found life quite difficult against the Irish defense. The Bruins managed only 26 yards on the ground on 28 carries, just under a yard per tote. And, Markey had 19 carries for 32 yards and 11 of those yards came on one carry. Notre Dame was even more impressive in the second half. The Irish limited the Bruins to minus-17 yards on the ground.
Irish Legends Are Made In The 4th Quarter, Brady Definitely Among The Greats Senior QB Brady Quinn has turned the fourth quarter into his own personal sanctuary. Quinn has been at his best in the fourth quarter this season. He is 43-of-66, just shy of 65 percent, for 588 yards and seven TD passes. He has also tossed just one interception in the final quarter over the entire season.
Quinn Not Afraid of the Late Game Dramatics This season marks the 76th year of Notre Dame Stadium. There have been only nine games in the history of the “Stadium That Rockne Built” where the Irish trailed in the final minute and won (four by TD and five by FG). Jarious Jackson (1998 vs. Purdue and 1999 vs. Navy) and senior QB Brady Quinn (2003 vs. Navy, 2006 vs. UCLA) are the only two Irish quarterbacks to lead multiple game-winning drives when ND trailed at home in the final minute. But, Jackson’s drive against Purdue in 1998 does really approach either of Quinn’s, as Tony Driver’s interception of Drew Brees put the ball at the 5-yard line (Jackson handed off to Autry Denson three times which got it down to the 1-yard line before the winning chip shot). Here is a look at both of Quinn’s game-winning drives.
Opponent C-A-Yards TD UCLA (2006) 3-3-80 1 Navy (2003) 4-6-35 0 Totals 7-9-115 1
Notre Dame Defense Dominates UCLA on First Down The Irish defense had struggled for most of the season on first down. Entering the matchup with UCLA, Notre Dame was allowing its opponents 6.79 yards on first down. The Irish limited the Bruins to a total of 24 yards on first down — an average of only 1.0 yard on first down.
Going Down To The Wire In the two seasons since Charlie Weis arrived at Notre Dame (21 games), seven games have been decided by seven points or less and five have been decided by three points or less. Notre Dame has won its fair share. The Irish are 5-2 in games decided by a seven points or less since Weis arrived in 2005. Notre Dame has captured its last four games decided by a touchdown or less.
Not Too Bad A Drive Notre Dame had three scoring drives of 75 yards or longer last weekend against Navy. The Irish had a pair of 80 yard marches and a 76 yard drive. Notre Dame had two of its longest drives of the season against Stanford and UCLA as well. The Irish closed the first half against the Bruins with a 19-play, 77-yard drive that took 7:18 off the clock. The drive is the longest of the season for Notre Dame in terms of plays and time of possession. Ironically, it was the longest scoring drive that failed to result in a touchdown since Oct. 11, 2003 against Pittsburgh — when the Irish used 9:14 off the clock and did not score (that 16-play, 68-yard drive ran out the clock to end the game). Notre Dame followed that drive with another scoring drive that almost exceeded seven minutes, again resulting in just a field goal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Irish game-winning three play, 80-yard drive against UCLA took 35 seconds.
Brady Quinn Boiling Hot Against Purdue Purdue must think the Notre Dame senior signal caller wore an Irish uniform for 10 years. Quinn put together a remarkable career in four games against the Boilermakers. He blitzed the Purdue defense for 1,485 yards passing and seven touchdowns. In Quinn’s last three games against the Boilermakers, he has thrown for 432 yards (2004), 440 (2005) and 316 (2006) — the outings in 2004 and 2005 rank fourth and fifth respectively on the ND single-game list. Quinn went 29-for-38 with two touchdowns against Purdue earlier this season. Combined with last year’s game in West Lafayette, Quinn completed 58-for-74 (78.4) and five touchdowns.
Walker Early & Often Junior RB Darius Walker had 20 carries and seven receptions in the first-half against Purdue. He finished with a season-high 31 carries and career-high nine catches. The 40 touches in a single-game tied his previous career-high. Walker recorded 40 touches (35 rushes, 5 receptions) against Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005.
Five Straight Undefeated Opponents To Open The Season Notre Dame always plays one of the top schedules in all of college football, but the Irish took that to the ultimate extreme this season. Notre Dame faced an undefeated opponent each of its first five games this season. The 1999 Notre Dame squad was the last Irish team to face five consecutive undefeated foes to open the season.
Irish Comeback For The Ages From the 7-0 victory over Oklahoma in 1957 snapping the Sooners 47-game winning streak, to Harry Oliver’s 51-yd field goal as time expired to defeat Michigan in 1980, to the 31-30 victory over top-ranked Miami in 1988 en route to the school’s 11th national championship, Notre Dame has been part of some unbelievable football games over its 118 years of football. The comeback victory over Michigan State earlier this year will sit along side those previously mentioned games. The Irish overcame a 16-point fourth quarter deficit against the Spartans (actually trailed 37-21 with just under nine minutes remaining), the largest deficit entering the fourth quarter the Irish have overcome since the 1979 Cotton Bowl (Jan. 1, 1979) when Notre Dame trailed Houston, 34-12, with just under eight minutes to go in the game and came back to win, 35-34. Joe Montana threw the winning touchdown pass to Kris Haines as time expired (Joe Unis kicked the deciding PAT) in what was later termed “The Chicken Soup Game.”
Secondary Stands Tall Against Some of the Nation’s Best WR Over Notre Dame’s first five games, the Irish secondary has been dealt the difficult task of guarding some of the countries top wide receivers. Notre Dame faced Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech, Derrick Williams of Penn State, Steve Breaston of Michigan, Matt Trannon of Michigan State and Dorien Bryant of Purdue (all of who entered the game as their teams top receiver). With the exception of Johnson’s first half in the season opener, Notre Dame has clearly taken away these premier playmakers. Here is a quick synopsis of the Irish against those dangerous wideouts:
1st Half 2nd Half Rec. Yds. Avg. Rec. Yds. Avg. Calvin Johnson 5 95 19.0 2 16 8.0 Derrick Williams 1 3 3.0 2 9 4.5 Steve Breaston 3 29 9.7 3 13 4.3 Matt Trannon 0 0 0.0 2 23 11.5 Dorien Bryant 1 13 13.0 2 28 14.0
Notre Dame Little Too Unselfish Ervin Baldwin of Michigan State was the third Notre Dame opponent to register a defensive touchdown in consecutive weeks against Michigan and the Spartans. The Wolverines had a pair of defensive scores in their victory over the Irish. Prior to the Sept. 16 against Michigan, the Irish had allowed just three defensive touchdowns total in their previous 34 games.
Notre Dame Defense Comes Through Late After the Irish defense surrendered 31 points in the first half to Michigan State, it would have been hard to imagine that the same defensive group could possibly turn the game into Notre Dame’s favor, but that is exactly what happened. The Irish allowed just six points after halftime and limited the Spartans to 128 total yards on their 33 second half plays. Drew Stanton was just 2-for-9 (both completions coming on Michigan State’s final drive) for 23 yards. Notre Dame also forced three takeaways, two interceptions and one fumble. In fact, the Irish turned over the Spartans on their final three possessions.
Spartans Seeing Brady After senior QB Brady Quinn threw for 487 yards and five TD passes in the 2005 meeting with Michigan State, many figured it would be near impossible to repeat that type of performance in 2006. Well, let’s just say that Quinn met the task. He threw for 319 yards and five touchdowns. Quinn has thrown for five or more TD passes in one game on three separate occasions and two have come against the Spartans. For his career, he was 71-of-137 for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns against the Spartans.
Quinn Threw 21 TDs in Notre Dame Stadium in 2005; 17 in 2006 Brady Quinn shattered the Notre Dame record for touchdown passes at Notre Dame Stadium in a season, exploding for 21 in 2005 (5 vs. Michigan State, 1 vs. USC, 6 vs. BYU, 3 vs. Tennessee, 4 vs. Navy, 2 vs. Syracuse). He has a chance of equalling his own school record in 2006. Quinn has 17 TD passes in Notre Dame’s first six games at home in 2006. That total would have eclipsed the previous school record (excluding Quinn’s 2005 season) for touchdown passes in Notre Dame Stadium in a single-season of 11 by Ron Powlus (1994) and Jarious Jackson (1999). Quinn was so dominant that his total home field touchdown passes would have broken the previous single-season record, regardless of venue, of 19 held by Ron Powlus (1994). Quinn threw 11 touchdown passes away from Notre Dame Stadium (32 total).
Weis Guys a Resilient Bunch Notre Dame is 17-4 under head coach Charlie Weis. Even more impressive than his .810 winning percentage, is the Irish’s perfect 4-0 record under Weis following a loss. Notre Dame’s average margin of victory in those four games is 13 points.
Brady’s Bunch Notre Dame senior QB Brady Quinn has spread his pass completions around in 2006. Quinn has completed passes to nine different receivers, a breakdown of five wide receivers, two tight ends and two running backs. Quinn has thrown touchdown passes to a total of six different players this season: John Carlson, Rhema McKnight, Darius Walker, Jeff Samardzjia, Ashley McConnell and David Grimes.
Rhema has McKnight to Remember After missing almost all of 2005 following a knee injury suffered during the second game last year, fifth-year senior WR Rhema McKnight returned to the gridiron with a vengeance at Georgia Tech. McKnight led the Irish with eight catches for 108 yards against the Yellow Jackets. After pacing Notre Dame in catches in 2003 and 2004, McKnight picked up a key 19-yard catch on 3rd and 9 on the final possession of the game, prohibiting Georgia Tech from getting the ball one last time.
Irish Lead the Way in National Graduate Rate The graduation rate for student-athletes at Notre Dame is the highest in the nation among Division I-A colleges and universities in an annual federal report for the Department of Education, and is the second highest in a new survey developed by the NCAA. Notre Dame’s federal graduation rate is 90.4 percent, according to statistics released in January by the NCAA, slightly ahead of Duke University at 89.6 percent as the best among the major football-playing schools of Division I-A. The federal rate is based on the raw percentage of student-athletes who entered an institution and graduated with six years. Students who leave or transfer, regardless of academic standing, are considered non-graduates. Notre Dame ranks second among Division I-A schools on another scale, called the Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which was developed last year by the NCAA. The 98 percent GSR is second only to the 99 percent of the U.S. Naval Academy, which, like all the military academies, is exempt from the federal survey because it does not offer grants-in-aid to student-athletes. The data for both surveys is based upon the entering classes from 1995 to 1998. The two graduation rate reports should not be confused with the Academic Progress Rate, which uses formulas related to student-athlete retention and eligibility to measure the academic performance of all participants who receive a grant-in-aid at every NCAA Division I college and university.
Abiamiri Awarded Fanning Scholarship Senior DE Victor Abiamiri, a senior finance major from Baltimore, Md., and Franklin Lakes, N.J., has been named a 2006 recipient of Eugene D. Fanning Scholarships at the University of Notre Dame. Abiamiri was selected by faculty of Notre Dame’s Fanning Center for Business Communication for their excellence in communication skills and exemplary personal characteristics. The scholarships include a $3,500 credit to each student’s tuition account and a commemorative pewter plate. Established in 1995 in honor of the late Gene Fanning, the scholarships are funded by donations from members of the University’s advisory council for the Mendoza College of Business. Fanning, a 1953 Notre Dame graduate, was a Chicago businessman and investor who taught business communication courses as a guest instructor in the college from 1989 to 1995.
Harris Named to Outland Trophy Watch List Senior offensive tackle Ryan Harris was named to the 2006 Outland Trophy Watch List in June by the Football Writers Association of America. The award has been given annually to the nation’s top offensive or defensive interior lineman since 1946. Harris has started 41 career games at tackle, including the last 33 at left tackle protecting quarterback Brady Quinn’s blind side. Harris played a key role in 2005 as the team averaged 36.7 points per game and 477.3 yards of total offense. In 2004, he was named the team’s Westwood One/Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year. Harris earned freshman All-America accolades from Rivals.com in 2003 and second-team freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News after becoming just the third true freshman lineman to start on the offensive line.
Ryan Harris in action vs. Michigan State in 2005 season
Another Weis, Rockne Comparison Second year Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis has avoided any comparisons to any of the great all-time Irish head coaches, especially legendary head man Knute Rockne. However, Weis accomplished something after the victory over Penn State that only Rockne and himself can claim. With Notre Dame’s 41-17 rout of the Nittany Lions, Weis became just the second coach in Irish history to open his first two seasons in South Bend at 2-0. Rockne opened the 1918 and 1919 seasons with consecutive victories.
Defense More Than Carried Its Weight Against Georgia Tech, Penn State Notre Dame held Georgia Tech and Penn State scoreless over for a total of nearly five quarters before the Nittany Lions kicked a field goal at the 11:29 mark of the third quarter on Sept. 9. The scoreless streak spanned 68:16 and was the longest such streak since the 2002 season. Notre Dame went 94:28 without allowing any points over a three-game stretch that included Navy, Rutgers and USC.
Quinn and the Notre Dame Record Book Quarterback Brady Quinn is in his fourth season as the starter. He has already made a lasting mark on the Irish football record book owning 35 school records. Since 1950, a Notre Dame quarterback has thrown for 300 yards or more 20 times. Quinn is responsible for 11 of those performances – the most for any single Notre Dame quarterback. Quinn has thrown for 350 (vs. Boston College, 2003), 432 (vs. Purdue, 2004), 487 (vs. Michigan State, 2005), 327 (at Washington, 2005), 440 (at Purdue, 2005), 467 (vs. BYU, 2005), 432 (at Stanford, 2005), 319 (at Michigan State, 2006), 316 (vs. Purdue), 304 (vs. UCLA, 2006) and 346 (vs. North Carolina). Quinn is the only Notre Dame quarterback to throw for over 400 yards five times in a career (in fact, he is the only one to do it twice) – and in Notre Dame’s road game at Purdue in 2005 he became the first to throw for more than 300 yards in three consecutive games. He also is the first Irish quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards four times in a season (he has done it twice, 2005 and 2006).
Morton Selected to the 2006 American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team Senior OL Bob Morton was one of 11 players in NCAA Division I-A chosen to the 2006 American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. The two 11-man teams, a Division I-A team and a combined team from Divisions I-AA, II, III and the NAIA, honor players for their dedication and commitment to community service. Nominees have to be actively involved and committed to working with a charitable organization, service group or involved in other community service activities. Candidates have to display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations with which they are involved. On the field success is not a criteria.
Young Makes ND History Still listed as the starter at right tackle entering this weekend, Sam Young made Notre Dame history at Georgia Tech becoming the first true freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line since freshmen became eligible in 1972. Young is just the fourth Irish freshman to start on the offensive line joining an elite club that includes teammate Ryan Harris as well as Brad Williams and Mike Rosenthal. Harris started the final eight games of the 2003 season, Williams made starts against Navy and Boston College in 1996 and Rosenthal started against Ohio State, USC and Air Force in 1995.
Defense Shines at Georgia Tech Notre Dame’s much-maligned defense rose to the occasion against a quick Georgia Tech team with very talented players at the skill positions. After hearing the cries of “617 yards” all summer, the defense responded by allowing just 259 yards of offense to the Yellow Jackets, the second-fewest total at the time during the Charlie Weis era. The defense was at its best late in the game as they allowed just 71 yards of offense in the second half on 21 plays. Included in the second half effort was limiting Tech’s All-American WR Calvin Johnson to just 16 yards on two receptions. A key reason for the success was its effectiveness on third down where Georgia Tech converted on just 2-of-10 chances for the game and was 0-for-4 in the third and fourth quarters.
Samardzija’s Record Season Earned All-America Honors Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija returns for his senior season in 2006 after earning consensus first-team All-America honors in 2005 when he led the team with 77 catches for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns. He became Notre Dame’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 1970 on an 80-yard touchdown pass against Stanford on Nov. 26 of last season. Samardzija eventually broke Tom Gatewood’s single-season receiving yardage record against Stanford, pushing his season total to 1,190 yards and tied Gatewood’s single-season receptions mark. He also surpassed the single-season touchdown total as his 15 scoring receptions led the nation and bested Derrick Mayes’ previous record of 11 from 1994.
Samardzija Opened 2005 with TD Catches in Eight Straight Games Jeff Samardzija entered the 2005 campaign without a touchdown catch in his career, then proceeded to catch a touchdown pass in each of Notre Dame’s first eight games of last season. The two-sport athlete (also a top-line pitching prospect for the Chicago Cubs after he was drafted in the fifth round in this year’s Major League Baseball draft) became the first Irish receiver to begin the season with eight consecutive games with a touchdown catch – which made him the Notre Dame record holder for consecutive games with a touchdown reception. He surpassed Malcolm Johnson’s six-game run from 1998 against BYU. Samardzija, who also serves as the team’s holder on field-goal attempts, tied a Notre Dame record with three touchdown receptions versus Michigan State (later broken by Maurice Stovall, who posted four touchdown receptions against BYU). Samardzija was the seventh player to catch three touchdown passes in a game and the first since Tom Gatewood versus Purdue in 1970.
Walker Rushed 1,000 Yards in Dramatic Fashion Running back Darius Walker became the ninth Irish player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season with 1,196 yards on 253 carries and seven touchdowns last year. Walker surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier during a career-best 35-carry, 186-yard outing at Stanford during which he scored the winning touchdown and added a two-point conversion for the final score. Walker also set an Irish mark for receptions by a back with 43 for 351 yards and two scores. Walker’s ever against Stanford pushed him into the top-10 all-time on the single-season rushing yardage list as well.
Notre Dame running back Darius Walker rushes away from Navy tacklers Tyler Tidwell, left, and Irv Spencer, right, during the second half. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)
Walker’s 100-Yard Games Darius Walker rushed for 100 yards seven times last season, marking the first time since 1993 that an Irish player posted seven or more 100-yard rushing performances in a season. Lee Becton ended the 1993 campaign with seven consecutive 100-yard performances.
Older and Wiser The 2006 Notre Dame offensive line is one of the most experienced units in school history. The Irish offense boasts over 100 combined career starts on the line. Senior tackle Ryan Harris has started 41 Notre Dame games and led the veteran group in starting assignments. Seniors Bob Morton and John Sullivan were second and third with 37 starts and 27 career starts, respectfully, while senior Dan Santucci has 22 starts to his credit.
Quinn, Samardzija and Walker Named to Maxwell Award Watch List Senior quarterback Brady Quinn, senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija and junior running back Darius Walker have been named to the 2006 Maxwell Award Watch List. The Maxwell Award is presented annually by the Maxwell Football Club to the top collegiate football player. Notre Dame’s three players on the Maxwell Award Watch List matches USC, Ohio State, Michigan and Miami (FL) for the most nominees. The list will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists in October before three finalists are named in November.
Sullivan Named to Rimington Watch List Senior center John Sullivan has been named to the Rimington Trophy Spring Watch List. He joins 38 other centers on the list for the Dave Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding center in college football. The Boomer Esiason Foundation presents the award to the center who receives the most first team All-America votes determined by the AFCA, Walter Camp Foundation, Sporting News and FWAA. Sullivan started the last seven games at center for the Irish in 2005, while making appearances in all 12 games. As a junior in 2004, he started all 12 games and called out all blocking assignments for the offensive line. He has started all eight games in 2006.
Quinn, Samardzija Named to Walter Camp Watch List Senior quarterback Brady Quinn and senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija were two of 35 “players to watch” chosen by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The nation’s fourth-oldest individual college football award will have its watch list narrowed to 10 semi-finalists in early November before the winner is chosen based on voting conducted by the 119 Division I-A head coaches and sports information directors.
Zbikowski Named to Nagurski and Bednarik Watch Lists Senior defensive back Tom Zbikowski has been named to both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List and Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List for 2006. The Nagurski Trophy is given to the nation’s top defensive player at the Charlotte Touchdown Club annual awards banquet. The Bednarik Award is given annually to the nation’s top defensive player as voted on by head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club and various sports writers throughout the country. Zbikowski was named third-team All-America by the Associated Press after the 2005 season when he made 62 tackles and led the team with five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. He also added two touchdowns on punt returns. Zbikowski has started 26 straight games and has scored touchdowns via interception return, punt return and fumble return during his Notre Dame career.
Notre Dame at Air Force on CSTV Saturday, November 11 CSTV: College Sports Television will broadcast the Notre Dame at Air Force game on Saturday, Nov. 11 (4:00 PM, ET). This game marks the only time this season that a cable network will broadcast a Notre Dame football game. CSTV is currently available through cable operators across the country and also on satellite via DISH NETWORK and DIRECTV. CSTV is offering a special Sneak Peek programming offer to its affiliates beginning Friday, Nov. 10 and will continue throughout the weekend, which will ensure that CSTV, and the Notre Dame @ Air Force game, will be seen in 22 million incremental households. DIRECTV, DISH NETWORK, Comcast, Brighthouse, Time Warner Cable, Suddenlink Communications, and numerous other smaller MSO’s have agreed to carry CSTV in their most widely distributed packages the weekend of November 10th. A final list of participating systems will be published as game day nears. CSTV is also offering the game through a special broadband Pay Per View package, which can be purchased online at CSTV.com. The cost is $14.95 advance order and $19.95 day of game. If you purchase the package, you can also watch it afterward on-demand. Tom Hart will be joined by analyst Trev Alberts to call the action, along with Anne Marie Anderson reporting from the sideline.
Former All-American Jerome Bettis Named 2006 Most Caring Athlete By Dennis McCafferty Jerome Bettis came to South Bend, Ind., in 1990, ready to play football and get a good education. Almost immediately, Bettis remembers, he was transformed by Notre Dame in ways that went far beyond the Fighting Irish’s storied sporting traditions of “Touchdown Jesus,” Knute Rockne and 11 national titles. In fact, it was the Catholic university’s culture of community service that sparked the young man’s passion for helping others. “Notre Dame is about a lot more than football and tradition,” says Bettis, taking a break during a photo shoot for this weekend’s magazine cover. “You’re in the national spotlight all the time, and they stress community and character there. Man, I was never exposed to anything like that. Shortly after I got there, I understood that Notre Dame could be used as a platform to try to influence other young people’s lives and hopefully do some good.” So the freshman Bettis returned to his Detroit home on breaks, determined to reach out to other inner-city young people at churches and rec centers about making the right choices in life. Since then, Bettis has continued to take advantage of his place on the public stage when it comes to making a difference. His Detroit- and Pittsburgh-based Jerome Bettis The Bus Stops Here Foundation, among other efforts, has sent more than 5,000 inner-city kids from ages 8 to 18 to the JB Football Camp in Detroit, has awarded no fewer than 30 college scholarships, has built or renovated playgrounds in struggling areas and has attempted to bridge the digital divide by teaching computer literacy to more than 200 children. The latter effort is called the Cyber Bus program, and Bettis is especially gratified when he gets a sense of the impact it makes. “We not only teach kids how to use a computer,” he says, “but we teach them how to tear one down and build it back up. I had one little girl who amazed me, building a computer from its parts and adding stuff like extra memory. I used to get my haircut in Pittsburgh where her mom went, and one day she told me, ‘Cyber Bus helped my daughter get to college.’ That’s something you always remember.” The running back has just finished a future Hall of Fame career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. His punishing profile earned him the nickname “the Bus,” thus the name of his charitable foundation. And Bettis’ profile has grown in other ways this year, as he joined NBC as a studio analyst for “Football Night in America,” part of the network’s much-anticipated prime-time Sunday package. Anyone who knows football realizes that Bettis capped off his playing career in storybook fashion, winning the Super Bowl in his last game, in his hometown of Detroit. When it comes to raising foundation support, a good story like that never hurts. “People always want to come up to you and shake your hand and talk to you and get their picture taken with you,” he says. “But even more so after the Super Bowl. They come up to me saying they’re so happy I finally got my championship ring. And, sure, that builds up the kind of energy and interest that helps me bring more attention to my foundation.” And these days, there’s another change that’s increasing his zeal for The Bus Stops Here: his 20-month-old daughter, Jada Bettis, with wife Trameka. Having Jada in his life has added to his perspective when he works on a new foundation project. “Anytime I see a place that needs a playground now, I think about her,” Bettis says. “As a parent, I know how important playgrounds are for children when it comes to developing physically and having a safe outlet for activities. And it helps them work on their social skills, too. So when I see a place without one, it makes me all the more determined to do something about it.”
Notre Dame Makes First Offer Of Football Season Tickets In Three decades; Revenue To Fund Repairs To Stadium To fund repairs to historic Notre Dame Stadium, the University of Notre Dame announced today the sale of 5,000 football season tickets beginning in 2007 – the first such offering in more than three decades. The University also announced that, in response to unprecedented demand, it is instituting changes to several policies that will increase ticket access for alumni in the general football ticket lottery. The 5,000 season tickets will be sold first to people directly affiliated with Notre Dame and then to the general public. In addition to the face value of the tickets, the cost will include an annual ticket rights fee based on seat location: $2,000 per ticket for sideline seats, $1,500 for corner seats, and $1,250 for end zone seats. The revenue generated through the ticket plan will be used to assist in paying for repairs and ongoing preservation of the 76-year-old Notre Dame Stadium’s original seating bowl. The exact cost of the project is yet to be finalized, but is expected to exceed $40 million. University officials studied other revenue-generating options – including the addition of luxury boxes – before deciding on the ticket rights fees. “Notre Dame Stadium is a legendary landmark in American athletics, and we are committed to preserving and maintaining both its structural integrity and its historic look and feel,” said John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president of the University. “By providing a rare opportunity to purchase Notre Dame football season tickets, we are developing revenue for this important project, giving fans a chance to invest in the future of `The House that Rockne Built,’ and protecting current and future resources necessary for our primary mission of teaching and research excellence.” Engineering studies have indicated that the structural supporting frame of the stadium remains in good condition. However, freeze/thaw damage over three-quarters of a century has led to deterioration of the seating bowl concrete. Stadiums of the same vintage as Notre Dame’s facility at the University of Michigan and Ohio State and Purdue Universities have faced similar maintenance issues in recent years. The repair project was to begin last spring, but the University put it on hold to conduct further engineering analysis. Fans interested in purchasing season tickets can find information on the process on the Web at http://stadiumpreservation.nd.edu. A waiting list for the potential future sale of season tickets will be established after all of the current allotment has been sold. Affleck-Graves emphasized that none of the new season tickets will be drawn from tickets currently available in the general alumni lottery. The 5,000 tickets will come from season tickets that have been returned over the past several years, as well as a reduction in internal University ticket allocations, he said. Though unrelated to the season ticket offering, the University also has responded to the high demand for Irish football tickets in the 2006 general alumni ticket lottery by revising policies that will reallocate tickets among several groups in order to increase opportunities in the general lottery. “Notre Dame has the most inclusive alumni ticketing process of any high-demand program in the nation, and we remain committed to continuing that access,” Affleck-Graves said.
Notre Dame Stadium Gate A Now “All-America Gate” The University of Notre Dame’s 79 consensus All-America football players are now honored inside Gate A of Notre Dame Stadium, as part of a multi-year plan to theme the five entrance gates to Notre Dame’s home football facility. Each display inside Gate A at the stadium is a 10-by-16-foot Notre Dame blue powder-coated aluminum plate with the ND logo in gold at the top. The displays are entitled “Consensus All-Americans” in Notre Dame gold letters eight inches high across the top of the blue panel. Featured on the panels are authentic Notre Dame helmets with name plates representing the consensus All-Americans from Notre Dame, plus room for four future consensus All-Americans. The name plates are made of bronze, with black etched letters identifying each player’s name, year(s) he was named a consensus All-American, and hometown. A bronze plaque is also mounted on one of the two displays to explain how a consensus All-American is selected. Players accorded the majority of votes at their positions by selectors are designated consensus All-Americans. Current teams utilized in designation of consensus selections are those chosen by the Associated Press, the American Football Coaches Association, the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Foundation and The Sporting News. Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija in 2005 was Notre Dame’s most recent consensus pick – with the first coming in 1913 (quarterback Gus Dorais). Two-time consensus selections include Frank Carideo (1929-30), Marchy Schwartz (1930-31), Bob Dove (1941-42), George Connor (1946-47), John Lujack (1946-47), Bill Fischer (1947-48), Leon Hart (1948-49), Emil Sitko (1948-49), John Lattner (1952-53), Ross Browner (1976-77), Ken MacAfee (1976-77), Bob Crable (1980-81), Michael Stonebreaker (1988, 1990), Todd Lyght (1989-90), Chris Zorich (1989-90) and Aaron Taylor (1992-93). The displays were designed by Rockwell Group of New York and fabricated by Show Motion Inc., of Connecticut. The Notre Dame Monogram Club funded the project. There are plans to theme the other three entry gates at the Stadium — with the intention of creating specific recognition of Notre Dame’s national championships and its national championship coaches. Prior to the 2005 season, three-by-eight foot replica Heisman Trophies were added to the Gate B display, where pictures of all seven Irish Heisman winners were placed earlier. The honoring of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners took the form of seven individual panels installed within existing brick niches of the old stadium wall just inside Gate B. There is one display each for Angelo Bertelli, John Lujack, Leon Hart, John Lattner, Paul Hornung, John Huarte and Tim Brown
Notre Dame Athletics in Print Four new books either about Notre Dame athletics or written by past or current Irish coaches will be available in bookstores this fall. Head coach Charlie Weis is scheduled to release his autobiography, NO EXCUSES, Oct. 10. With the help of NFL.com national editor and author, Vic Carucci, the book will tell the remarkable story of his journey from being a student of Notre Dame to becoming head coach of his alma mater. Stories from his professional career of working in the NFL to personal events involving himself and his family will also be chronicled. Former head coach Lou Holtz’ autobiography, Wins, Losses, and Lessons hit bookshelves Aug. 15. Detailing stories from his youth to his days as a football head coach, this book is said to be a “reflective, inspiring and candid look back at an extraordinary life and career from a coaching legend.” Fighting Irish Legends, Lists and Lore is the latest book by Karen Heisler, wife of Notre Dame Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler, and “captures the history, tradition, and spirit of one of the nation’s most storied and revered athletic programs.” The book recounts stories of Notre Dame’s most famous athletes and coaches in every sport. Longtime writer and editor for Blue & Gold Illustrated Tim Priste released his latest book entitled, The New Gold Standard Aug. 16. The book takes readers inside head coach Charlie Weis’ first season at Notre Dame and how he “returned the program to its rightful (and historic) place among college football’s elite.”
Notre Dame Leads the Way in National Graduate Rate The graduation rate for student-athletes at the University of Notre Dame is the highest in the nation among Division I-A colleges and universities in an annual federal report for the Department of Education, and is the second highest in a new survey developed by the NCAA. Notre Dame’s federal graduation rate is 90.4 percent, according to statistics released in January by the NCAA, slightly ahead of Duke University at 89.6 percent as the best among the major football-playing schools of Division I-A. The federal rate is based on the raw percentage of student-athletes who entered an institution and graduated with six years. Students who leave or transfer, regardless of academic standing, are considered non-graduates. Notre Dame ranks second among Division I-A schools on another scale, called the Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which was developed last year by the NCAA. The 98 percent GSR is second only to the 99 percent of the U.S. Naval Academy, which, like all the military academies, is exempt from the federal survey because it does not offer grants-in-aid to student-athletes. The data for both surveys is based upon the entering classes from 1995 to 1998. The two graduation rate reports should not be confused with another new NCAA initiative, the Academic Progress Rate, which uses a series of formulas related to student-athlete retention and eligibility to measure the academic performance of all participants who receive a grant-in-aid on every team at every NCAA Division I college and university.
Football Ticket Demand Hits a Record High How much interest is there in University of Notre Dame football games for 2006? There’s enough that the Sept. 9 Notre Dame-Penn State game and the Sept. 16 Notre Dame-Michigan game qualify as the two highest-requested games in the history of Notre Dame’s ticket lottery. There’s enough that four ’06 home games rank in the all-time top 10 for requests — and all seven games rank in the top 30. There’s enough that the Nov. 25 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles qualified as the most-requested road game in Irish ticket history. And there’s enough that the Notre Dame ticket office expects to mail refunds worth more than a record $11.7 million (compared to refunds of $5.2 million a year ago) to unsuccessful lottery participants in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni, monogram winners, undergraduate parents and benefactors. There was a 37 percent increase in applications submitted to the ’06 lottery compared to a year ago. Notre Dame alumni making an annual contribution of $100 or more to the University are eligible to apply for two tickets to as many home and away football games as they choose. In excess of 30,000 tickets per game are available for each home contest for contributing alumni. Any time the number of applications exceeds the supply, a lottery is held – and lotteries were required for all seven 2006 home games (meaning every home game automatically sold out). Demand was highest for the Sept. 9 home game vs. Penn State (66,670 tickets requested) and the Sept. 16 home game vs. Michigan (61,631), making those games the two highest-demanded home games in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The previous all-time high was 59,368 requests for the 2001 home game against West Virginia. The high in 2005 was 54,211 for the USC game at Notre Dame Stadium. Other high-demand home games in ’06 are contests against North Carolina (54,838 requests for sixth all-time), UCLA (51,933 for 10th all-time), Stanford (50,491 for 13th all-time) and Purdue (47,655 for 17th all-time). The high demand for road games came for the regular-season finale at USC (an all-time record 33,251 requests). Notre Dame receives 15,000 tickets as the visiting team in that contest.
New Fighting Irish All-Access Package Launched on Aug. 4 The University of Notre Dame official athletic website, und.com, entered a new era on Friday, Aug. 4. The Fighting Irish All-Access package underwent a complete overhaul and und.com will bring Notre Dame alumni and fans full coverage free of charge for the 2006-07 season. Irish fans will no longer be required to subscribe or sign up for audio/video coverage on und.com. It features a new media player, which includes a bigger display screen and easier access to und.com’s multimedia offerings. As part of the new Fighting Irish All-Access launch, the und.com crew will post a bevy of video offerings from a variety of Irish sports and the University archives – just the first step toward developing und.com into the top source for Fighting Irish fans on the world wide web. Check und.com for more details.
Former Heisman Winners to be Honored at Notre Dame Home Games All former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winners will be featured on home game tickets as well as the corresponding game programs and schedule cards this season. The seven winners or family members of the winners have been invited back to Notre Dame to be honored during the weekend their likeness is featured on the game ticket and program. Angelo Bertelli graces the cover of the Penn State game, Johnny Lujack is on the Michigan game cover, John Lattner is featured during the Purdue weekend, Leon Hart will be honored at the Stanford game, Paul Hornung will be on the cover of the UCLA game, the North Carolina game ticket and program will honor John Huarte, while Tim Brown will be featured at the Army game.