Sept. 6, 2006
(T-4 AP/T-5 USA Today) Notre Dame (1-0) vs. (#19 AP/#19 USA Today) Penn State (1-0)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006, at 3:42 p.m. EDT
The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795, grass surface) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: The game is officially sold out making it the 186th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Saturday’s game will be the 183rd sellout in Notre Dame’s last 209 games and 58th in the last 63 involving the Irish (the `01, `03 and `05 games at Stanford, the `04 game vs. Navy at The Meadowlands and last year’s game at Washington were not sellouts).
The TV Plans: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis), Lewis Johnson (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director). NBC will stream a live 30 min. pre-game show (3-3:30 pm) and post-game show on NBCSports.com
The Radio Plans: For the 39th consecutive season all Notre Dame football games are to be broadcast on approximately 300 stations in 50 states by Westwood One with Don Criqui (play-by-play) and former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) with Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, halftime and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 107 for the Penn State game) and it will be streaming live on the Notre Dame official athletics website at www.und.com.
All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on U93-FM (92.9) and WDND-AM (1490) with pre-game analysis featuring Sean Stires and Vince DeDario. The post-game show is hosted by Jack Nolan and features former Notre Dame players Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic. See page 3 of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics will be provided through College Sports Online’s Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Penn State (www.gopsusports.com).
Two-Minute Drill (what you need to know about this weekend’s Notre Dame – Penn State matchup) –
â€¢ Saturday’s game is the home opener for the Irish and the 76th time Notre Dame Stadium has served as the venue. The Stadium opened for Knute Rockne’s final season in 1930 and the Irish have compiled a 291-89-5 (.762) record in “The House that Rockne Built.”
â€¢ The Irish are 93-18-5 in their home openers. There were no home games in 1929 due to construction of Notre Dame Stadium.
â€¢ Notre Dame and Penn State are meeting for the 18th time with the series deadlocked at 8-8-1. The Irish and Nittany Lions played every year from 1981-92 but this is the first meeting between the two schools since Penn State dropped its Independent status and joined the Big Ten in 1993. (see pages 3-4 for more information on the Notre Dame – Penn State series).
â€¢ Saturday’s rivalry renewal between the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions is the most requested ticket in Notre Dame history as almost 67,000 ticket requests were placed for the game during the Notre Dame ticket lottery.
â€¢ As per Notre Dame’s home opener tradition, all former Irish players have been invited back to campus this weekend to form a ceremonial tunnel on the field as the 2006 team take the field before kickoff Saturday.
â€¢ Friday evening’s pep rally has been moved from the Joyce Center to Notre Dame Stadium, weather permitting, to accommodate the increased interest in Saturday’s game.
2006: Year Two of the Charlie Weis Era
The 118th season of Notre Dame football is the second in the tenure of head coach Charlie Weis, who started his career with a 9-3 record in 2005, including wins over three ranked opponents, and a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Notre Dame’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance since 2000).
The winner of the 2005 FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, Weis turned around Notre Dame’s football fortunes in astonishing fashion. He took most of the same talent of a 6-6 team in `04, installed his offensive system, and produced a team that came within six points of a perfect regular season record. One of the Fighting Irish losses was a last-second defeat to defending national champion USC. There was a little doubt from the beginning of the 2005 season things would be different under Weis. With victories at Pittsburgh and Michigan to open the season, Weis became the first Irish head coach to win his first two career games on opponents’ home fields since Knute Rockne in 1918. Weis made the Fighting Irish the most prolific scoring team in modern school history (36.7 ppg) and qualified the Irish as the most improved offensive team in the country.
Weis was named the 28th head football coach in Notre Dame history on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004. A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis took the reins of the Irish program after a highly successful career as an assistant coach in the National Football League. The owner of four Super Bowl champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as an NFL assistant, Weis is a widely respected disciple of professional coaching standouts Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He came to Notre Dame after excelling as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, where he played an integral role in New England’s victories in three Super Bowls.
Weis is the first Notre Dame graduate to hold the football head coaching position at his alma mater since Hugh Devore (a ’34 graduate) served as interim coach in 1963 and is the first Notre Dame graduate to serve as the Irish football coach on a full-fledged basis since Joe Kuharich (a ’38 graduate who coached at Notre Dame from 1959 through ’62). Entering his 28th season in coaching in 2006, Weis coached nine seasons with the Patriots, including five as offensive coordinator. He helped produce four Super Bowl championships (New York Giants following the 1990 season, Patriots following ’01, ’03 and ’04 seasons), five conference titles and seven division crowns.
Last Week at Georgia Tech
â€¢Notre Dame improved to 100-14-5 in season openers, including wins in 18 of the past 21 seasons.
â€¢The Irish are now 31-7-2 in season openers on the road, including victories each of the past two seasons.
â€¢Notre Dame improved to 27-5-1 (.833) all-time vs. Georgia Tech and 12-2-1 at Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field. The season-opening win was the first for the Irish at the facility since Nov. 18, 1978 when No. 10 Notre Dame knocked off the 20th-ranked Yellow Jackets, 38-21.
â€¢ND is now 73-27-2 (.725) all-time against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference including a 29-18-1 (.615) mark vs. ACC opponents on the road.
â€¢Notre Dame is 6-0 on opponent’s home fields in the Charlie Weis era and are 4-0 in night games (kickoff after 5 p.m. local) during the last two years.
â€¢The 10-point comeback was the largest of the 13-game Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame. The old mark was a seven-point rally in Weis’ debut as Irish head coach last year at Pittsburgh, when the Panthers struck for an early touchdown before Notre Dame scored 42 of the next 48 points to pull clear for the victory. The last time the Irish won after trailing by more than 10 points was Sept. 6, 2003, when Notre Dame fell behind 19-0 vs. Washington State before coming back to win, 29-26, in overtime at Notre Dame Stadium.
â€¢A total of 10 freshmen made their college debuts at Georgia Tech for Notre Dame: Sergio Brown, Jashaad Gaines, Richard Jackson, Raeshon McNeil, Munir Prince, Morrice Richardson, Darrin Walls, George West, Will Yeatman and Sam Young. Sophomore Kyle McCarthy also saw his first college action tonight as a member of the Irish kick return unit.
â€¢After converting only one of its first four third-down attempts in the first quarter, Notre Dame successfully cashed in on 6-of-8 third-down opportunities in the second and third quarters (five in a row starting late in the second period).
â€¢Despite totaling just 53 net yards through its first 12:16 of possession time, Notre Dame bounced back with a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive to close the first half. The Irish started the second half by marching 64 yards on 14 plays and tallied their second TD to take the lead for good.
â€¢Notre Dame’s defense was especially stout in the second half, limiting Georgia Tech to 71 yards of total offense in the third and fourth quarters. Tech failed to convert on third down in the second 30 minutes and All-American WR Calvin Johnson was held to just 16 yards on two receptions.
Notre Dame – Penn State Series Notes
â€¢This year’s home opener for Notre Dame is the 18th meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Nittany Lions with the series deadlocked at 8-8-1.
â€¢ The team’s first met in 1913 where Notre Dame picked up a 14-7 victory and met again in 1925 and the two teams played to the only tie in the series history.
â€¢ The last game played between the schools occurred Nov. 14, 1992 (see page 5 for more) and became affectionately known as the “Snow Bowl.” Notre Dame rallied in the fourth quarter and scored a two-point conversion to take the lead 17-16 with just 20 seconds remaining in the contest.
â€¢The two schools met as independents every year from 1981-1992 prior to Penn State joining the Big Ten Conference in 1993. This is the first meeting of the two institutions since the Nittany Lions moved to the Big Ten.
â€¢This is Penn State head coach Joe Paterno’s 41st season and he owns a 8-5 record against Notre Dame in 13 previous meetings.
â€¢ This is the fifth-straight meeting between the schools in which both teams have been ranked in top-25. Notre Dame has been the higher ranked squad in three of those four meetings but both schools won twice during the four-year stretch from 1989-92.
Notre Dame vs. The Big Ten
â€¢Notre Dame has played almost three times as many games against Big Ten Conference opponents (XXX) than any other league. The Pac-10 (114) is the only other conference against whom the Irish have played at least 100 games.
â€¢Notre Dame has won more than 66 percent of its games versus Big Ten Conference institutions, with a record of .500 or better against 9 of the 11 Big Ten teams (Michigan and Ohio State are the lone exceptions). The Irish have an overall mark of 213-106-15 (.660) in 334 games against Big Ten schools, with more than 53 percent of those games (179) coming versus Michigan (14-18-1), Michigan State (43-25-1) and Purdue (50-25-2), all of whom are on Notre Dame’s 2006 schedule.
â€¢Notre Dame faces four Big Ten schools this year in the regular season for the first time since the 1994 season when the Irish posted a 3-1 record against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue to open the campaign.
â€¢The Irish square off for the fifth straight season against Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.
THE LAST TIME – NOTRE DAME VS. PENN STATE
#8 Notre Dame – 17
#22 Penn State – 16
Notre Dame Stadium – Notre Dame, Ind.
Nov., 14, 1992
by Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Hollywood producers already may be scrambling for the rights to the script that was written in the Notre Dame-Penn State game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame’s 17-16 football win over Penn State was that good.
The Title: “Reggie”
The Theme: In his last home game, Irish tailback Reggie Brooks overcomes injury, slick turf from a first-half snow and a punishing Nittany Lion defense to catch a game-winning two-point conversion while fully extended in the corner of the end zone with 20 seconds left in the game.
The Plot: Notre Dame hadn’t scored a touchdown the entire game. Three field goals had been enough until Penn State’s offense finally found some footing and began to wear down the Irish defense.
Richie Anderson and the rest of the Nittany Lion ballcarriers began to make some inroads in the Irish defense on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter. That success on the ground yielded a field goal that tied the score 9-9, and a 13-yard touchdown run by Brian O’Neal that put Penn State, now 6-4, ahead 16-9 with 4:25 left in the game.
Notre Dame, 8-1-1, got the ball on the Penn State 36-yard line and went to work. A 21-yard pass from Rick Mirer to Jerome Bettis, a 14-yard run by Mirer to the 34 and a 17-yard pass from Mirer to Ray Griggs got the ball into the “red zone,” inside the Penn State 20.
Notre Dame’s running game of Brooks and Bettis chipped away at the Penn State defense. With 25 seconds left in the game and the Irish facing a fourth-and-goal at the 3, the game came down to one play.
That play sent Bettis across the middle for a pass. Mirer found him and set the stage for Brooks to provide the final drama.
“It was a two-point play,” Bettis said of the six-pointer. “In practice, it was supposed to go to the tight end. I was just trying to get open.”
Ironically, this wasn’t the first such scenario the Irish have faced against Penn State.
However, it was the first time it worked in their favor.
“In 1987, against Penn State, we scored with 30 seconds left and went for the two-point conversion and did notmake it, and lost 21-20,” Irish coach Lou Holtz said. “We showed tremendous courage.”
Brooks, who had already left the game with shoulder and knee injuries, lined up on the far left end for the conversion. When the ball was snapped, he drifted across the middle.
“I was drifting, then I made a burst,” Brooks said. “When I saw Rick scramble, my job was to get open.”
He did, just in time. Brooks was fully extended when he caught the pass in the right corner of the end zone, getting his feet inbounds just in time to make it count.
“I thought I was running out of field,” Brooks said. “I had to get down in a hurry.”
He also had to brace himself for the celebration that followed. He was mobbed by teammates and fans alike, making that the toughest hit he took all day.
The TD and conversion clinched the outcome, but a lot went into getting to that point.
The Notre Dame defense rose to the occasion, allowing a dangerous Penn State offense 238 total yards, 107 yards of which came via the running game.
Penn State, however, returned the favor. Notre Dame, with the most potent offfense in the country, was limited to 365 yards. Mirer had a good day, hitting 12-of-23 passes for 164 yards. The Nittany Lions kept the Irish out of the end zone untiil the fateful final seconds.
Bettis and Brooks rushed for 68 and 78 yards, respectively.
Three Craig Hentrich field goals – 26, 31 and 37 yards – kept Notre Dame in the game.
Notre Dame led 3-0 late in the first quarter when Penn State took advantage of an interception by Lee Rupin. Coach Joe Paterno’s club used a 46-yard pass from Kerry Collins to Tisen Thomas to set up a 1-ard TD run by Anderson.
Notre Dame’s freshman safety Bobby Taylor blocked the PAT kick – a point that later came back to haunt Penn State.
Hentrich tied it up in the second quarter, and gave Notre Dame a 9-6 lead after three periods, setting the stage for that storybook ending.
Our national colors will be presented prior to the game by Julie Doyle, a former volleyball player from the class of 1985 and the first woman to serve as president of Notre Dame’s National Monogram Club, and, in celebration of the 35th year of women’s athletics at Notre Dame, the first five women to earn monograms in a varsity sport: tennis players Jane Lammers, ’77, from Fallbrook, Calif., and Mary Shukis Behler, ’79, from Rosemont, Pa.; and fencers Catherine Buzard Sazdanoff, ’78, from Lake Forest, Ill., Kathleen Valdiserri, ’78, from Chicago, and Dr. Christina Marciniak, ’77, from Oak Park, Ill.
Quinn Ranks High Among Active QBs
Quarterback Brady Quinn currently ranks in the top five among all active Division I-A quarterbacks in 13 categories ranging from passing charts to total offense lists. The following lists the categories he currently ranks in the top five:
|Pass Attempts||1||1,173||Quinn, ND|
|Pass Yards||2||8,582||Kevin Kolb, Houston (9,388)|
|Pass Completions||3||663||Kolb (694)|
|Pass Yards/Game||3||231.9v||Omar Jacobs, Bowling Green (277.5)|
|Pass Attempts/Gm||3||31.7||Jacobs (32.4)|
|Pass Interceptions||3||32||Jordan Palmer, UTEP (54)|
|Pass Touchdowns||4||58||Jacobs (71)|
|Pass Comp./Gm||5||17.9||Jacobs (20.9)|
|Total Off.-Yards||2||8,702||Kolb (9,974)|
|Total Off.-Yds/Gm||3||235.2||Jacobs (295.5)|
|Total Off.-Yds/Play||3||6.44||Kolb (6.49)|
|Total Off.-Plays||4||1,352||Kolb (1,537)|
|Total Off.-TDs Responsible for||5||63||Jacobs, Chris Leak, Florida (78)|
Quinn and the Notre Dame Record Book
Quarterback Brady Quinn returns for his fourth season as the starter in 2006, but he already has made a lasting mark on the Irish football record book owning 30 school records. Since 1950, a Notre Dame quarterback has thrown for 300 yards or more 16 times. Quinn is responsible for seven 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) and 432 (at Stanford, 2005).
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 `05 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.
Quinn’s TD Passes Streak
Brady Quinn tossed at least one touchdown pass in 16 games in a row for the Irish before the skein ended in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, breaking John Huarte’s record of 10 set in 1964. The Dublin, Ohio, native totaled 40 scoring tosses during the run (2.5 per game).
Quinn’s touchdown passes over the 16-game streak:
2005: 3 at Stanford, 2 vs. Syracuse, 4 vs. Navy 3 vs. Tennessee, 6 vs. BYU, 1 vs. USC, 3 at Purdue, 1 at Washington, 5 vs. Michigan State, 2 at Michigan, 2 at Pittsburgh
2004: 2 vs. Oregon State (Insight Bowl), 1 at USC, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 at Tennessee, 1 vs. Boston College
Quinn: A Touchdown Machine
Brady Quinn accounted for two or more touchdowns in 10 of Notre Dame’s 12 games last season and had an eight-game streak of multiple touchdown performances snapped in the Fiesta Bowl – three (passing) at Purdue, two (one run, one pass) vs. USC, six (passing) vs. BYU, three (passing) vs. Tennessee, four (passing) vs. Navy, two (passing) vs. Syracuse and three (passing) at Stanford.
Quinn Threw 21 TDs in Notre Dame Stadium in `05
Brady Quinn shattered the Notre Dame record for touchdown passes at Notre Dame Stadium in a season, exploding for 21 scoring tosses in `05 (5 vs. Michigan State, 1 vs. USC, 6 vs. BYU, 3 vs. Tennessee, 4 vs. Navy, 2 vs. Syracuse). The previous record for touchdown passes in Notre Dame Stadium in a single-season was 11 by Ron Powlus (1994) and Jarious Jackson (1999). Quinn’s performance 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).
Samardzija’s Record Season Earned All-America Honors
Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija returns for his senior season in ’06 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. 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 8 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. The two-sport athlete (also a top-line pitching propect 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 teammate 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.
Samardzija Climbing Active WR Charts
With 15 career receiving touchdowns and 1,650 receiving yards, senior Jeff Samardzija is climbing the charts among active wide receivers. Samardzija currently ranks eighth in yards per catch, 10th in receiving touchdowns and 17th in receiving yards.
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, who ranks eighth all-time at Notre Dame in receptions (111) and 11th in career receiving yards (1,478), led the Irish with 8 catches for 108 yards against the Yellow Jackets. After pacing Notre Dame in catches in 2003 and 2004, McKnight was the primary target of QB Brady Quinn recording receptions of 44 yards and 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.
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 cemented his status as an every down back in ’05, setting an Irish mark for receptions by a back with 43 for 351 yards and two scores. Walker’s big day against Stanford pushed him into the top-10 all-time on the single-season rushing yardage list as well.
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 `93 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. With four studen-athletes that started at least five games last year, the Irish offense boasts almost 100 combined career starts on the line. Entering the `06 campaign, senior tackle Ryan Harris started the last 32 Notre Dame games and led the veteran group in starting assignments. Seniors Bob Morton and John Sullivan were second and third with 26 starts and 20 starts, respectfully, while senior Dan Santucci has 13 starts to his credit.
Young Makes ND History
Still listed as the starter at right tackle entering the Penn State game, 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.
Nine Veteran Starters Return to Lead Irish Defense
A solid group of returning veterans returns to lead the Irish defense in ’06, led by nine starters from last season including four players entering their third season on the starting unit. A full offseason with the defensive coaching staff combined with a second season in defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s scheme as well as a talented crop of freshmen should alone make the Notre Dame defense better. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden (74 tackles in ’05) and safety Tom Zbikowski (71 stops in ’05) are the leading returning tacklers of the unit. While both figure to provide valuable leadership, other key returnees figure to be just as vital to the unit’s continued improvement. Chief among those returnees are senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri (eight sacks in ’05), senior tackles Derek Landri (eight tackles for loss in ’05) and Trevor Laws (33 tackles and two blocked field goals last season) and linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr. (57 tackles in ’05).
Defense Shines Under Lights 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 during the Charlie Weis era. The defense was at its best later 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 defense’s 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.
Zbikowski’s Rapid Returns
Safety Tom Zbikowski, a senior in ’06 who has seen action the last two seasons for the Irish, has already made a name for himself in the Notre Dame record books. In a three-game stretch against USC, BYU and Tennessee last year, he returned a punt or interception for a touchdown four times – the first Irish defensive player to accomplish such a feat. Zbikowski has scored five touchdowns in his career overall, having returned a fumble 75 yards for a TD against Michigan State in 2004.
With his interception and punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee on Nov. 5, 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 victory. With his five career TD returns (two interceptions, two punts, one fumble), Zbikowski already has established himself among the best big-play return specialists in Notre Dame history.
Price is Right in Atlanta
Despite the fact he entered the season with only two career punts, Geoff Price made his presence known against Georgia Tech as he averaged 50.4 yards on five punts. Price boomed punts of 61 and 59 yards, respectively, to help get the Irish out of trouble in the first half. Because of his great performance, Price found himself as the top-ranked punter in Division I-A football after Labor Day Weekend. Also as important was the fact that Price averaged 41.6 net yards per punt, a testament to the strong cover unit on the field against Georgia Tech.
Grimes and West Kick Start Special Teams Unit
A focal point in the offseason of Head Coach Charlie Weis and Special Teams Coach Brian Polian was to get better field position for the offense off of kickoff returns. One game into 2006, it looks as if the efforts put in by the coaches and players in the offseason has paid off as the 39.5 yards per kickoff return is the third-best in Division I-A. Freshman George West fielded the opening kickoff of the season, and in his first collegiate touch he sprinted out 33 yards to set up the Irish offense. Not to be outdone was sophomore WR David Grimes who sprinted out almost to midfield on his only kick return of the game for 46 yards.
Abiamiri Named to Hendricks Watch List
Senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri was named to the 2006 Hendricks Award Preseason Watch List announced in June by the Hendricks Foundation. Abiamiri 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 his best season last year 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. Abiamiri begins the 2006 campaign needing just half a sack and five tackles for loss to enter Notre Dame’s all-time top 10 in both categories.
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 the last 32 games of his Notre Dame career at tackle, including the last two seasons 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.
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.
Quinn enters his senior season owning every major Notre Dame passing record and fluorished in his first season with head coach Charlie Weis last year. Quinn received third-team All-America praise by the Associated Press after setting single-season school records for attempts (450), completions (292), yards (3,919) and touchdowns (32).
Samardzija was on the receiving end of many of Quinn’s passes. His 2005 postseason accolades included being named first-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America and ESPN.com. He was also a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for college football’s top receiver after setting single-season records for receiving yards (1,249) and touchdown catches (15).
Walker already ranks 13th in career rushing yards at Notre Dame having carved up 1,982 yards in his two seasons for the Irish. Last year, Walker gained 1,196 yards and scored nine touchdowns while eclipsing the 100 yard mark in seven games. Against a stout Ohio State defense in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he set a Notre Dame bowl record by tallying three rushing touchdowns. Walker also owns the school’s freshman rushing record with 786 yards in 2004.
Quinn and Samardzija Named to Walter Camp Player of the Year 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.
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.
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 all 24 games in which he has played over the last two seasons and has scored touchdowns via interception return, punt return and fumble return during his Notre Dame career.
Notre Dame Student-Athletes Lead 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 University’s 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 Graduation Success Rate was created to more accurately reflect actual graduation rates by including transfer data in the calculation. College and university presidents asked the NCAA to develop a new methodology that takes into account the mobility among students in today’s higher education environment. Research indicates that approximately 60 percent of all new bachelor’s degree recipients are attending more than one undergraduate institution during their collegiate careers.
The remainder of the top five after Notre Dame and Duke among I-A universities in the federal survey are Stanford at 88 percent, Northwestern at 86 percent, and Rice at 83 percent. On the GSR, the rest of the top five I-A schools following Navy and Notre Dame are Clemson and Northwestern, both at 97 percent, and Duke at 93 percent.
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.
Historic Notre Dame Stadium
The 2006 football season marks the 76th year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 386 games in the facility to date and own a 291-90-5 (.760) record in the “House that Rockne Built.” The Irish were 3-3 in Notre Dame Stadium in `04, but rebounded to finish 4-2 at home in `05 and push the team’s record at home to 95-32 (.748) over the last 21 years. The most wins in a season by the Irish at home is seven by the `88 national championship team and the longest home winning streak in Notre Dame football history is 28 games (from 11/21/42 through 9/30/50).
In Front of a Full House
Notre Dame will enter the ’06 season having played in front of sellout crowds in 181 of its previous 207 games, including 56 of its last 61 contests dating back to the end of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the `01, `03 and `05 games at Stanford, the `04 game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands and the `05 game at Washington were not sellouts). At Michigan in `03, 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 `01; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in `02, vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl in `04 – 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 `05. The `05 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).
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 all seven home games automatically reached sellout status).
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 Notre Dame-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 has undergone 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. By September 1, und.com also will unveil a new media player, which will feature 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 wil 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.
Bertelli’s son, Michael, and daughter, Joy, will represent the family on the field with the team captains for the coin toss and Bertelli will be recognized at events throughout the weekend around Notre Dame’s campus.
Easter Heathman to Receive Honorary Monogram
The University of Notre Dame Monogram Club will present Easter Heathman with an honorary monogram prior to the Penn State pep rally on Friday, Sept. 8. Heathman grew up near the Knute Rockne crash site in Bazaar, Kan., and has served as the unofficial caretaker of the Rockne crash site for the past 75 years.
1966 National Championship Team to be Honored During Purdue Weekend
This season marks the 40th anniversary of the 1966 Notre Dame football team that won the national championship and the team will be honored during its reunion on the Purdue game weekend. The `66 squad averaged over 36 points per game while permitting just five touchdowns on defense. That Irish squad posted a 9-0-1 record including three wins over top-10 teams with an average margin of victory in those contests of 33.7 points. Head coach Ara Parseghian won his first of two titles and tied Frank Leahy (later matched by Dan Devine) in the process as the quickest Notre Dame head coach to win a national championship, doing so in his third campaign.
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.”