Oct. 1, 2007
GAME 6: NOTRE DAME (0-5) AT RV/25 UCLA (4-1)
Saturday, October 6, 2007
TIME: 5:12 p.m. PT
SITE (CAPACITY): The Rose Bowl (91,136); Pasadena, Calif.
TICKETS: The game between Notre Dame and UCLA is officially sold out, making it the 66th in the last 72 road games for the Irish that were sellouts. The 2001, 2003 and 2005 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy (The Meadowlands), the 2005 game at Washington and the 2006 game at Air Force were not sellouts.
TV: ABC national telecast with Dan Fouts (play-by-play) and Tim Brant (analysis), Todd Harris (sideline), Chris Pfeiffer (producer).
RADIO: For the 40th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are to be broadcast on approximately 200 stations in 50 states by Westwood One with Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, halftime and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159) and will be streamed live on the Irish 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 11 (PDF version) of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), UCLA (uclabruins.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CSTV Online’s Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.
POLLS: Notre Dame failed to receive any votes in either the Associated Press or USA Today coaches polls. UCLA received 49 top 25 votes from the AP (ranked 30th) and 79 votes from the USA Today coaches (ranked 25th).
SERIES INFO: This meeting will be the fourth all-time between the two schools. Notre Dame has won each of the three previous meetings, including last season’s stunning 20-17 come-from-behind victory in Notre Dame Stadium. Brady Quinn orchestrated an 80-yard drive on just three plays — capped off by a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija with only 27 seconds remaining. Each of the three earlier meetings took place in South Bend. The Irish will make their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1925. (see All-Time Series Results on page 2 of the PDF version of these notes).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame will make its first appearance in the Rose Bowl since Knute Rockne brought the Four Horsemen into Pasadena to face Ernie Nevers and Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: Charlie Weis (Notre Dame, 1978) is in his third season as the Notre Dame head coach. The Irish finished his inaugural season with a 9-3 mark and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame followed that campaign with a 10-3 record last season and another BCS Bowl berth (Sugar). With 19 wins over his first two seasons, Weis has captured more games than any other previous Irish coach through his first two years on the Notre Dame sidelines. In addition to leading one of three schools to consecutive BCS bowl games, Weis guided the Irish to their most wins over any two-year span since 1993-94. Weis is 1-0 vs. UCLA.
UCLA HEAD COACH KARL DORRELL: Karl Dorrell (UCLA `87), one of the top wide receivers in UCLA history, is in his fifth season as head coach of his alma mater. Last season, he led a young team with just two full-time senior starters to a record of 7-6, an upset of No. 2-ranked USC and a berth in the Emerald Bowl against Florida State. It was UCLA’s fourth straight bowl appearance under Dorrell and his career record is now 29-21, including 17-8 in the last two seasons.
In 2006, the Bruins won four of their first five games and three of their final four contests. UCLA played very well on defense, ranking ninth (tie) in the NCAA in rushing defense and 33rd in total defense, and was opportunistic on offense. Three Bruins earned first-team All-America honors — defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis, who tied for fourth nationally in quarterback sacks, and place kicker Justin Medlock, who led the country in field goals.
Two years ago, UCLA won 10 games for only the seventh time in school history, opened the season 8-0 and finished in third place in the Pac-10. With its 50-38 victory over Northwestern in the Vitalis Sun Bowl, UCLA finished with a record of 10-2 and was ranked No. 13 on the USA Today coaches’ poll and No. 16 on the Associated Press poll, its highest finishes since 1998.
Dorrell, who was named 2005 Pac-10 co-Coach of the Year by his peers, was also a finalist for several National Coach of the Year awards. The Bruins ranked No. 5 nationally in scoring offense (39.1) and No. 23 in both passing offense (270.3) and total offense (431.0). The special teams units also ranked highly, with the Bruins leading the nation in punt returns (25.0).
Dorrell was hired as UCLA’s 15th head coach on December 18, 2002 — his 39th birthday — and was introduced as the Bruins’ new head coach the following day. Dorrell came to UCLA from the Denver Broncos, where he was in his third year as the coach of the wide receivers. His record-setting receivers played very well during his time with the club.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make Notre Dame 1-5 for the first time since 1960 and just the third time in school history (1960, 1956).
- Snap a seven-game losing streak for the Irish dating back to the 2006 season (second-longest in school history).
- Be the second straight over UCLA in the all-time series.
- Improve Notre Dame to 4-0 (1.000) in the all-time series with the Bruins.
- Improve the Irish to 1-0 (1.000) in the all-time series with UCLA in Pasadena.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 20-11 overall, 2-0 against UCLA and 5-2 against Pac-10 foes.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame road record to 9-4 (.692).
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 6-2 (.750) in October games.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 5-6 (.455) following a loss.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 2-0 (1.000) all-time against UCLA.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 1-0 (1.000) all-time against the Bruins in Pasadena.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 1-0 (1.000) all-time against a ranked UCLA team.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 1-0 (1.000) all-time against a ranked Bruins team in Pasadena.
- Improve Weis’ record to 14-8 (.636) in afternoon games.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 822-274-42 (.741).
- Improve the Irish all-time road record to 288-137-22 (.669).
- Improves Notre Dame’s all-time record against the Pac-10 Conference to 77-40-6 (.650).
- Improves Notre Dame’s all-time road record against the Pac-10 Conference to 30-24-5 (.551).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make Notre Dame 0-6 for the first time in school history.
- Be the eighth straight for the Irish dating back to the 2006 season (tied for the longest in school history).
- Snap a three-game winning streak against UCLA in the all-time series.
- Drop Notre Dame to 3-1 (.750) in the all-time series with the Bruins.
- Drop the Irish to 0-1 (.000) in the all-time series with UCLA in Pasadena.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 19-12 overall, 1-1 against UCLA and 4-3 against Pac 10 foes.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame road record to 8-5 (.615).
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 5-3 (.625) in October games.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 4-7 (.364) following a loss.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 1-1 (.500) all-time against UCLA.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 0-1 (.000) all-time against the Bruins in Pasadena.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 0-1 (.000) all-time against a ranked UCLA team.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 0-1 (.000) all-time against a ranked Bruins team in Pasadena.
- Drop Weis’ record to 13-9 (.591) in afternoon games.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 821-275-42 (.740).
- Drop the Irish all-time road record to 287-138-22 (.667).
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record against the Pac-10 Conference to 76-41-6 (.642).
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time road record against the Pac-10 Conference to 29-25-5 (.534).
NOTRE DAME VS. PAC-10
- Notre Dame is 76-40-6 (.648) all-time against teams from the Pac-10 Conference. UCLA represents the first Pac-10 opponent for the Irish this season. Notre Dame will also play USC (Oct. 20) and Stanford (Nov. 24) later in the year.
- The 122 games against Pac-10 teams is the second-most for the Irish against any conference. The Big Ten Conference (340) represents the most games played against Notre Dame. The ACC ranks third (104).
- Notre Dame has a winning series record against nine of the Pac-10 schools. Most of those games (78) have come versus USC (42-31-5), while the Irish have faced UCLA three times (3-0).
- Notre Dame has played a handful of games against California (4-0), Washington (6-0), Arizona (2-1), Oregon (1-0-1) and Oregon State (0-2). Notre Dame and Arizona State met for the first time in 1998, while the Irish met Oregon State for the second time in the 2004 Insight Bowl. Notre Dame played its first-ever game against Washington State in 2003, downing the Cougars, 29-26, in overtime.
- Notre Dame has posted a 29-24-5 (.543) record against Pac-10 opponents on the road.
NOTRE DAME – UCLA SERIES NOTES
- Notre Dame and UCLA will meet for the fourth time in series history on Saturday. The Irish captured each of the previous three meetings (1963, 1964 and 2006) and all of those games were contested in South Bend. Notre Dame won 27-12 in 1963 and 24-0 in 1964.
- The 24-0 victory for the Irish on Oct. 17, 1964 was the fourth victory of the season. Notre Dame opened the year with nine consecutive victories under then first-year head coach Ara Parseghian.
- This year’s matchup will be the first ever played with UCLA as the home team. Notre Dame will make its first appearance in the Rose Bowl since Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen participated in the 1925 Rose Bowl against Ernie Nevers and Stanford.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 14 previous games in its history on Oct. 6. The Irish are 9-5 all-time on this date, but interestingly enough only two of those games were on the road.
- Oct. 6, 1947: The Associated Press releases its first rankings of the year, and Notre Dame is voted No. 1 after posting a 40-6 victory over Pittsburgh two days earlier. Frank Leahy’s Fighting Irish would win their remaining eight games and be voted national champions for the second straight year.
- Oct. 6, 1979: Notre Dame running back Vagas Ferguson rushed for 177 yards on 39 carries in a 21-13 victory over Georgia Tech. The 39 carries are the third-most in single-season Irish school history. Ferguson added a pair of rushing touchdowns (three and 17 yards).
- Oct. 6, 1990: Top-ranked Notre Dame squandered a 24-7 second quarter lead over Stanford as the Cardinal raced back for a 36-31 upset of the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame was victimized by three second-half fumbles.
NOTRE DAME-UCLA CONNECTIONS
- Notre Dame’s roster features eight players from the state of California. UCLA’s roster does not have a player from Indiana.
- UCLA running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Dino Babers and Notre Dame wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello were on the same staff under Dick Tomey at Arizona from 1995-00.
- UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker worked on the same staff as Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis in 2000 with the New England Patriots.
- Notre Dame recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Rob Ianello and UCLA offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jay Norvell were on the same staff at Wisconsin from 1990-93.
- A number of players from UCLA and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown. (see chart in PDF of these notes)
NOTRE DAME-UCLA OFF THE GRIDIRON
While Notre Dame and UCLA have only met twice on the football field, the Irish and Bruins have matched up in two classic meetings in men’s basketball and women’s soccer.
- Jan. 19, 1974 – Dwight Clay’s jumper provides the winning points as the Notre Dame men’s basketball team halts UCLA’s 88-game win streak (still an NCAA record) in a 71-70 thriller.
- Dec. 5, 2004 – Erika Bohn not only saved a penalty kick in regular time, but also stopped three more penalty kicks in the shootout as Notre Dame captured the 2004 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship over UCLA.
NOTING THE PURDUE GAME
- The game (65,250) was officially sold out, making it the 65th in the last 71 road games for the Irish that were sellouts. The 2001, 2003 and 2005 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy (The Meadowlands), the 2005 game at Washington and the 2006 game at Air Force were not sellouts.
- Purdue grabbed an early 10-0 first quarter lead. Notre Dame has been outscored 47-14 in the opening period over its first five games of 2007.
- Notre Dame entered the game converting 66.7% of the time on fourth down (4-of-6), but the Irish were unable to convert a 4th-and-1 at the Purdue 35-yard line late in the first quarter. However, the Irish then converted four of its next five fourth downs to finish the game 4-of-6.
- Prior to Saturday’s game, Notre Dame had limited its opponent to 30.8% (4-for-13) conversion rate on third down. Purdue converted 2-of-3 on third down in the opening quarter, including a 3rd and 29. The Boilermakers were 4-of-8 on third down in the first half. The Irish limited Purdue to 2-of-7 on third down in the second half.
- Purdue grabbed a 13-0 lead thanks in part to a Jimmy Clausen interception early in the second quarter. The Boilermakers’ drive started on the Irish 25-yard line and culminated with a 34-yard field goal. Purdue added a five-yard drive for another field goal late in the second quarter to make it 16-0. The scoring drives were the ninth and 10th of the season for an Irish opponent that failed to cover 25 yards. In comparison, Notre Dame’s 13 opponents only recorded six such drives over the entire season in 2006 (four were defensive touchdowns and one was a special teams touchdown).
- The Boilermakers used a pair of second-quarter turnovers for points. Opponents of the Irish have taken supreme advantage of their 12 turnovers in 2007. Notre Dame’s foes (Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue) have turned those turnovers into 43 points. The Irish have been outscored 43-21 this season on turnovers.
- Purdue totalled 262 yards (189 yards in the air and 73 on the ground), 16 first downs and 23 points in the first half. The Boilermakers averaged 6.0 yards per play in the opening 30 minutes, but Notre Dame limited Purdue to a total of 109 yards (63 in the air and 46 on the ground), 11 first downs and just 10 points in the second half. The Boilermakers averaged just 3.1 yards per play after halftime.
- Notre Dame managed just 132 total yards (106 in the air and 26 on the ground), seven first downs and no points in the first half. However, the Irish recorded 294 yards (271 in the air and 23 on the ground) and 14 first downs in the second half.
- Notre Dame’s 11 play, 81 yard touchdown scoring drive was the longest scoring drive of the season. The 81-yard march surpassed the 80 yard scoring drive last week against Michigan State.
- Notre Dame followed the 81-yard scoring drive with a 79-yard touchdown march. The Irish went 14 plays (its longest drive in terms of plays this season).
- Notre Dame entered the game with just two passing plays of 20 yards or longer over its first four games. The Irish had five such passing plays against Purdue on Saturday. Sophomore Robby Parris had receptions of 24 yards and 21 yards. Freshman Golden Tate had catches of 25, 36 and 43 yards.
- Notre Dame’s offense recorded season-highs in the following categories: points (19), touchdowns (3), passing yards (377), total yards (426), total yards per play (5.5), passing yards per completion (11.1), passing yards per attempt (7.2) and sacks allowed (2).
- The 377 yards passing is not only a season-high, but is the most for a Notre Dame team since the Irish totaled 432 against Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005.
- Freshman kicker Brandon Walker recorded his first career kickoff on Saturday. Walker, the Irish place kicker, blooped the ball just inside the Purdue 30-yard line. The Boilermakers entered the game leading the nation in kickoff return yards (33.94).
- Junior wide receiver David Grimes’ 17-yard catch early in the second quarter from the Notre Dame two-yard line was his longest reception of the season. His previous season-high was a 14-yard grab at Penn State on Sept. 8. Grimes finished the game with three catches for 34 yards.
- Sophomore punter Eric Maust recorded a career-long 48 yard punt in the second quarter. Maust, whose previous career-long was a 46-yarder earlier in the game, booted three punts for a total of 132 yards (44.0 per kick).
- Sophomore outside linebacker John Ryan recorded his first career unassisted sack on a third down play deep in Irish territory. The sack forced an intentional grounding from Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter and thus limited the Boilermakers to a field goal. Ryan finished the day with six tackles, all solo, including two for loss (12 yards).
- Freshman wide receiver Golden Tate picked up his first reception on the Notre Dame drive late in the second quarter. The 36-yard grab was the longest for the Irish this season (at the time). The previous long pass play was a 35-yard completion from Jimmy Clausen to Robby Parris against Penn State on Sept. 8. Tate added a 43-yard catch on a 4th-and-1 play early in the fourth quarter. He closed his breakthrough game with a spectacular 25-yard diving touchdown catch to bring Notre Dame within a touchdown, 26-19. Tate finished the game with career-highs in both receptions (3) and receiving yards (104). Tate is the first Irish receiver to eclipse 100 yards this season and first since Rhema McKnight last season against USC.
- Tate is the first freshman Notre Dame wideout to surpass 100 yards receiving since Derrick Mayes had two catches for 100 yards against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992.
- Junior free safety Kyle McCarthy recorded up his first career interception preventing another possible Purdue touchdown just before halftime.
- Freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen registered the longest completion of his career when he found fellow freshman wide receiver Golden Tate for a 36-yard reception late in the second quarter. For Clausen, it was his third pass play of 20 yards or more this season.
- Clausen guided the Irish on a 37-yard scoring drive to bring Notre Dame within, 23-6. Not only did he throw his first career touchdown pass, but the freshman completed 4-of-4 passes on the drive.
- Clausen finished the day 18-of-26 for 169 yards and one touchdown. The 18 completions are tied for the fourth most ever by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback (most since Brady Quinn completed 20 against Florida State on Nov. 1, 2003.
- Freshman wide receiver Duval Kamara picked up a pair of receptions (15 and 12 yards) on the first scoring drive of the second half. The 15-yard reception was the longest of Kamara’s career. Kamara added his first career touchdown and finished the day with a career-high in both receptions (6) and receiving yards (68).
- Junior fullback Asaph Schwapp picked up his first reception of the season (a five-yard grab on the opening drive of the third quarter). Schwapp, primarily a lead blocker, now has four career catches.
- Freshman outside linebacker Brian Smith’s quarterback pressure forced an interception from Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter. Smith finished the afternoon with two tackles.
- Senior All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski recorded his seventh career interception and first since Nov. 12, 2005 against Navy. Zbikowski has caused three turnovers this season, including two forced fumbles against Penn State on Sept. 8. Over his brilliant four-year career, Zbikowski has been involved in a total of 15 turnovers (seven INTs, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries). He recorded seven tackles on the afternoon.
- Senior All-American tight end John Carlson registered his first touchdown reception of 2007 following a leaping five-yard grab cutting the Purdue lead to 23-6. The touchdown grab was the sixth of his career and first since Nov. 11, 2006 at Air Force. Carlson finished the day with a season-high six catches for 30 yards.
- Junior quarterback Evan Sharpley came off the bench to lead the Irish to a pair of second half touchdowns. Sharpley was 16-of-26 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Sharpley is the first Irish quarterback other than Brady Quinn to toss multiple touchdowns in a game since Carlyle Holiday had four against Rutgers on Nov. 23, 2002 in a 42-0 victory.
- Sharpley is also the first Notre Dame quarterback to eclipse 200 yards (other than Quinn) since Holiday in the same game.
HOW DO THEY STACK UP?
Average weight of the offensive and defensive lines:
ND OL 301.8 lbs. vs. UCLA DL 269.5 lbs.
ND DL 284.3 lbs. vs. UCLA OL 298.2 lbs.
Average height of the receivers and the secondaries:
ND WR/TE 6′ 1″ vs. UCLA DB 5′ 11 Â½”
ND DB 6′ 0″ vs. UCLA WR/TE 6′ 2 1/3″
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
- Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 197 of its previous 224 games, including 72 of its last 78 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, the 2005 game at Washington and the 2006 game at USC 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. Including last year’s game at Georgia Tech, the Irish have been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record seven times since 2001. The list also includes: at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001, at Air Force and Florida State in 2002, 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. At Purdue in `05, the Irish and Boilermakers played before 65,491 football fans, a Ross-Ade Stadium record (since the renovation of the facility in 2003). Penn State drew the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history for the meeting with the Irish earlier this season.
- Notre Dame could also become the first school in NCAA history to ever play three regular season road games before crowds of 100,000. Both Penn State and Michigan exceeded that mark, but UCLA could as well. The Rose Bowl lists its current capacity at 91,136, though crowds eclipsing 100,000 routinely fill the stadium.
100,000 FANS (OR MORE) AWAIT THE IRISH
Notre Dame is quite accustomed to playing in front of huge crowds, but the Irish have taken it to another level in 2007. Notre Dame travelled to Penn State and Michigan in consecutive weeks. The Irish played in front of the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history (110,078) and 111,178 at Michigan Stadium the following week. Notre Dame became the second school to play consecutive road games before crowds exceeding 100,000. Minnesota is the only other school to ever play consecutive road games before 100,000 (Penn State and Michigan during the 2005 season).
- Notre Dame returns 10 letterwinners on offense, including three starters. The returnees include Freshman All-American lineman Sam Young and second team All-America tight end John Carlson as well as Rimington and Outland Trophy candidate John Sullivan.
- The Irish offensive line has two of five starters back from last year in sophomore Sam Young and senior John Sullivan. Among the departed were tackle Ryan Harris, who finished his career with 45 consecutive starts, and guard Dan Santucci, who closed his with 25 straight.
- Senior TE John Carlson, a Mackey Award finalist in 2006 and Maxwell Award candidate in 2007, exploded onto the scene last season becoming Notre Dame’s third-leading receiver in terms of yardage and worked his way into the Fighting Irish record books. The 6-6, 256-pound student-athlete from Litchfield, Minn., caught 47 passes for 634 yards and four touchdowns despite missing almost three entire games. Carlson recorded the second-most receiving yards in a single season ever by a Notre Dame tight end and ranked third for most receptions in a single season by a tight end. He ranked second in the NCAA Division I in receptions per game by a tight end and third for most receiving yards per game by a tight end in 2006.
BABY IRISH GROWIN’ UP
Notre Dame’s offense broke through against Purdue on Sept. 29. The Irish set season-highs in points (19), touchdowns (3), passing yards (377), total yards (426), total yards per play (5.5), passing yards per completion (11.1) and passing yards per attempt (7.2). Notre Dame had nine different receivers make catches, including 21 from either freshmen or sophomores. In fact, of the 377 yards in the air, 293 were recorded by first or second year players.
QUITE THE FRESHMAN DUO
The Notre Dame wide receiver duo of Golden Tate and Duval Kamara each had breakout games at Purdue on Sept. 29. Tate had three receptions for 104 and a touchdown, while Kamara hauled in six passes for 68 yards with a touchdown. Tate not only became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass since Maurice Stovall (2002 against Rutgers), but also became the first Notre Dame freshman to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game since Derrick Mayes (100 yards on two catches) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992. Tate and Kamara also became the first freshman tandem to register touchdown receptions in the same game since Sept. 24, 1988. Derrick Brown and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail each had touchdown grabs in a 52-7 victory over Purdue.
CLAUSEN FINDS WAY
Freshman signal caller Jimmy Clausen had his best game to date at Purdue on Sept. 29. Clausen, who missed most of the fourth quarter after suffering a hip injury, was 18-of-26 for 169 yards and one touchdown. The 18 completions, 169 yards and touchdown were all career-highs. Clausen recorded a completion percentage of 69.2% against Purdue — second-highest ever by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback (only Steve Beuerlein (.700, 14-for-20) at Penn State on Nov. 12, 1983 completed a higher percentage). His 18 completions also rank as the fourth most ever by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback.
SHARP(LEY) OFF THE BENCH
Junior quarterback Evan Sharpley, who served as the Irish backup to departed All-American Brady Quinn last year, replaced an injured Jimmy Clausen last week against Purdue and promptly led the Irish on a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives. Sharpley was 11-of-18 over the two scoring drives for 139 yards. He went 5-of-7 for 69 yards capped off with a seven-yard strike to freshman Duval Kamara to make it 26-12. On the ensuing Notre Dame drive, Sharpley went 6-of-11 for 70 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to freshman Golden Tate to make it 26-19. He was 16-of-26 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Sharpley is the first quarterback, other than Quinn, to not only eclipse 200 yards passing in a game, but also to throw for two touchdowns since Carlyle Holliday did both against Rutgers on Nov. 23, 2002.
AWAKEN THE IRISH PASSING GAME
Notre Dame entered the game with Purdue ranked 117th in the NCAA in passing (111.25 yards per game). The Irish attempted 52 passes and threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The 52 pass attempts were the most since Sept. 17, 2005 against Michigan State, while the 377 yards passing were the most since Nov. 26, 2005 at Stanford. Freshman Jimmy Clausen completed 18-of-26 passes for 169 yards and one touchdown, while junior Evan Sharpley went 16-of-26 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. The 34 total completions were a single-game school record. The previous mark of 33 completions was set against Michigan State (2005) and USC (1970).
PARRIS LIGHTS UP PURDUE
Notre Dame sophomore wide receiver Robby Parris led the Irish with a career-high seven receptions and 93 yards against Purdue on Sept. 29. Parris, who entered the 2007 season with just one career catch, hauled in each of those seven passes in the second half and three resulted in first downs. Parris also had two catches for over 20 yards (Notre Dame had just two entering last Saturday).
TATE GOLDEN UNDER THE DOME
Freshman wide receiver Golden Tate exploded onto the scene in the second half of last week’s 33-19 loss at Purdue. Tate, who spent the first four weeks predominantly handling kickoff return duties, caught three passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. Tate not only became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass since Maurice Stovall (Nov. 23, 2002 against Rutgers), but also became the first Notre Dame freshman to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game since Derrick Mayes (100 yards on two catches) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992. All three of his receptions were for over 20 yards. The Irish entered the contest with the Boilermakers with just two completions of 20 or more yards the entire season. Tate hauled in passes for 25, 36 and 43 yards.
DUVAL DOES MORE AGAINST PURDUE
Freshman wide receiver Duval Kamara entered the game with Purdue on Sept. 29 with a total of five receptions for 58 yards over his first four career games. He bested both totals in the second half alone against the Boilermakers. Kamara finished the game with six catches for 68 yards and one touchdown. Five of Kamara’s six receptions went for first downs, while the other was a seven-yard TD catch.
IRISH MADE STRIDES AGAINST MICHIGAN STATE
- Notre Dame spent all of the week following the Michigan loss in training camp mode. The Irish not only practiced Sunday after the game with the Wolverines, but did so in full pads and full contact. Notre Dame also lined up its No. 1 offense vs. its No. 1 defense, No. 2 offense vs. No. 2 defense. The idea was to become more physical and develop an identity leading into Michigan State.
- The Irish did show improvement in many areas. Notre Dame was penalized 24 times for 173 yards over its first three games — an average of eight penalties and 57.7 yards per game. Against Michigan State, the Irish were whistled for just four penalties (35 yards).
- The Notre Dame rushing attack awoke for the first time this season. The Irish entered the game with the Spartans with a season total of minus-14 yards. Notre Dame finished the afternoon with 117 yards (take away the sack yardage and the effort would have been 127). The Irish had just six rushes of 10 or more yards over their first three games, but they recorded four such runs against Michigan State (43, 17, 18, 14).
- Sophomore running back James Aldridge surpassed the 100-yard mark in his first career start. He became the first Irish running back to rush for 100 yards in his first career start since Tony Fisher, then a sophomore, had 110 yards on 13 carries in a 48-13 victory over Kansas on Aug. 28, 1999. Aldridge also became the first Notre Dame running back, other than departed Darius Walker, to eclipse 100 yards on the ground since Ryan Grant on Oct. 16, 2004.
- Freshman running back Robert Hughes made his debut in the Notre Dame rushing offense. Hughes finished the afternoon with 33 yards on six carries and his first career touchdown.
- Notre Dame failed to score an offensive touchdown over its first three games. The Irish, however, hit pay dirt twice in the first half against Michigan State, including an 80-yard drive. The Irish finished the day with season-highs in rushing yards (117) and total yards (203). Notre Dame also registered touchdowns on its two trips into the red zone. The Irish came into the game 2-of-3 in red zone chances, but both resulted in Notre Dame field goals.
CLAUSEN GOT THE BALL IN HAPPY VALLEY
Jimmy Clausen became the first freshman quarterback to start for Notre Dame since Brady Quinn got the call against Purdue on Sept. 27, 2003. His start against Penn State on Sept. 8, just the second game of the year, was the earliest start into a season for an Irish freshman quarterback. Clausen also is just the eighth freshman quarterback to start for the Irish in the last 57 seasons (1951-present), joining Ralph Guglielmi (1951), Blair Kiel (1980), Steve Beuerlein (1983), Kent Graham (1987), Paul Failla (1991), Matt LoVecchio (2000) and Quinn (2003) in that elite club. Notre Dame is 6-2 since 1951 when a freshman quarterback makes his first-ever start for the Irish.
QUARTERBACKS EFFICIENT, DESPITE CONSTANT DURESS
Despite constant pressure from the Georgia Tech defense that led to nine sacks, the Notre Dame quarterback trio of sophomore Demetrius Jones, junior Evan Sharpley and freshman Jimmy Clausen still managed to complete 15-for-22 passes — good for 68.2%. The completion percentage ranked 10th best in the Charlie Weis era. Sharpley finished 10-for-13 on the day for 92 yards. His 76.9% completion percentage is third best since Weis arrived at Notre Dame.
AR(MAN)DO TO BE RECKONED WITH
Freshman HB Armando Allen has totaled 298 all-purpose yards over the first four games this season. He led Notre Dame with six receptions against Penn State and returned three kicks for 67 yards (including a long of 25 yards). Allen registered 110 all-purpose yards in his first career game with Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech. Allen recorded 84 kick return yards on five tries and 25 yards rushing on three carries. He also added a reception for one yard.
NO TURNOVERS = VICTORY (USUALLY)
Notre Dame did not commit a turnover in six of its 13 games last season — and to the surprise of nobody — the Irish were 6-0 in those contests. Excluding the 2006 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State and the 2004 regular season finale at USC, the Irish had not lost a game in which it failed to commit a turnover since 1985. That USC defeat snapped an amazing 41-game unbeaten streak (40-0-1) for the Irish when they didn’t commit a turnover. Prior to the `04 game with the Trojans, the last time a Notre Dame team lost a game without committing a turnover was in a 34-30 loss at Penn State on Nov. 12, 1983. In all, Notre Dame is 48-2-1 since 1983 when not turning over the football.
CHARLIE AND THE IRISH OFFENSIVE FACTORY
Third 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, bested in 2007), total offense yards (5,728) and total points (440). Notre Dame has surpassed the 40-point barrier on 10 different occasions in Weis’ 30 games as head coach. Prior to his arrival, the Irish 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 20 the past three 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.
MORE ON WEIS’ OFFENSE
Notre Dame has registered its top two passing seasons in school history each of the last two years. The Irish averaged 330.3 yards in the air in 2005 and 264.7 in 2006. Notre Dame has also eclipsed 400 points each of the last two seasons. The Irish had only topped 400 points in a season on five previous occasions (1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996). In fact, the 843 total points scored over `05 and `06 are the most points ever scored in consecutive years — besting the previous school record of 835 (1991 and 1992).
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Junior Evan Sharpley and freshman Jimmy Clausen completed passes to nine different receivers in the game at Purdue on Sept. 29. The trio of Demetrius Jones, Sharpley and Clausen completed passes to nine different Irish receivers against Georgia Tech as well (five of those receptions were the first career grabs for the respective player). Clausen, who made his first career start at Penn State, also completed passes to seven different receivers against the Nittany Lions.
The Notre Dame offense boasts an experienced pass-catcher at the tight end position, but at running back and wide receiver, the Irish will be utilizing some young talent in 2007. The current group of wideouts boasts a grand total of 124 career catches (90 this year) and 43 of those come from the hands of junior David Grimes (served as Notre Dame’s #3 receiver a year ago). Sophomore George West has just 15 career catches (four last week), but played in all 13 games in 2006 and registered one touchdown rush and 16 returns (12 on kickoff and four on punt). Sophomore Robby Parris, who was the only other wideout on the Irish roster with a reception entering the year, grabbed seven balls for 98 yards against Purdue and added a career-long 35-yard grab at Penn State. Junior D.J. Hord, who missed all of last season with a torn achilles, did see action in six games during the 2005 season. He picked up his first career catch against the Yellow Jackets. Freshman WR Duval Kamara (11 catches for 116 yards), sophomore TE Will Yeatman (two grabs for 16 yards), senior RB Junior Jabbie (six for 20 yards) and freshman RB Armando Allen (11 for 42 yards) all recorded their first career catch in the season opener. Golden Tate picked up his first career catch against Purdue. He finished the game with three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore WR Richard Jackson played in 12 games last year, mostly on special teams, but did not see action last week.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
The Irish offense had a 89.9 percent success rate in the “red zone” last fall. Notre Dame converted 44-of-49 chances inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, including 37 touchdowns. The Irish registered a touchdown 75.5 percent of the time entering the “red zone.” In 2007, Notre Dame is 6-of-9 inside the red zone, but two of the scores were field goals. The Irish was 2-of-4 in their red zone opportunities against Purdue on Sept. 29.
John Carlson TURNED IN ALL-AMERICAN TYPE SEASON IN 2006
Despite an injury that sidelined him for nearly three full games, Notre Dame senior TE John Carlson exploded onto the college football scene in 2006. He had 47 receptions for 634 yards — good for an average of 57.6 yards a game and 13.5 per reception. Carlson’s season ranked as one of the best ever by an Irish tight end. His 634 yards receiving ranks second best in single-season tight end history, while his 47 catches was tied for second best. Carlson’s 13.5 yards per catch was second among all Irish receivers in 2006. He was 81st, nationally, in receiving yards per game and fourth among tight ends. He also ranked 78th overall in receptions per game and sixth 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.
Carlson, who became the 49th Irish football player to be named ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-American, is the only 2006 Mackey Award finalist to return in 2007. He is one of three tight ends on the Maxwell Award watch list. Carlson ranks third all-time for receptions (63) in Notre Dame tight-end history and needs just 30 grabs this season to move into second. He proved to be one of the top tight ends in 2006 and his numbers compared quite favorably with the last seven John Mackey Award winners.
- The Irish return 18 letterwinners and five starters on defense. Heading the list of returnees is two-time All-America strong safety Tom Zbikowski.
- With the addition of new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, Notre Dame switched from its previous 4-3 base defense to a 3-4. The change was due in large part to head coach Charlie Weis’ familiarity with the scheme from his time in the NFL.
- Fifth-year senior LB Joe Brockington broke onto the scene in 2006 starting the final nine games. Brockington finished the season with 59 tackles, good for fifth on the team. He recorded a career-best 15 stops at Air Force.
- Notre Dame is replacing three of its four starters on the defensive line with the graduation of tackle Derek Landri and ends Victor Abiamiri and Chris Frome. Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws is the lone returning starter. Laws registered 62 tackles, 40 solo, and 11 for loss, including four sacks.
- While Penn State scored 31 points and totaled 164 yards on the ground, the stats are a little misleading. The Irish limited the Nittany Lion ground game to just 57 yards through the opening three quarters. Notre Dame’s first team defense held Penn State to 126 yards on 42 carries — just 3.0 yards per rush.
- The Irish first team defense also denied the Nittany Lions a single rush beyond 12 yards.
- Penn State starting running back Austin Scott finished the night with 116 yards, but 53 came on just nine carries in the fourth quarter against a tied Irish defense.
- Notre Dame’s secondary held Penn State and senior quarterback Anthony Morelli to just 131 yards on 12-of-22 passing (51 yards came on one reception). The Irish limited senior Derrick Williams to just two receptions for 14 yards. Penn State managed just five catches for 10 yards or longer and only one reception topped 16 yards.
TALE OF TWO HALVES
The Notre Dame defense struggled with the spread and versatility of the Purdue offense in the first half on Sept. 29. The Boilermakers scored 23 points, recorded 262 total yards, passed for 189 and rushed for 73 — all before halftime. Purdue also registered 16 first downs over the first 30 minutes. The Irish, however, made the necessary adjustments in the second half and slowed down the Boilermaker attack. Purdue managed just 109 total yards (63 in the air and 46 on the ground) and 10 points after halftime. The Boilermakers averaged just 3.1 yards per play in the second half, way down from the 6.0 yards per play before intermission.
TREVOR LAYING DOWN THE LAWS
Senior DE Trevor Laws has been quite active in his new role as DE in the Notre Dame 3-4 defense. Laws, who finished fifth on the Irish in tackles last year, totaled nine stops in the season opener against Georgia Tech, followed with a career-high 10 stops at Penn State, seven more tackles against Michigan and six stops (three for loss) at Purdue. He also added a quarterback hurry and blocked field goal against the Yellow Jackets. The field goal block was the fourth of his Irish career.
- Laws is no longer listed in the NCAA in tackles, but averaging 8.20 per game, he now leads Greg Hardy of Mississippi for first in the country for tackles among defensive lineman.
- Laws’ effort against the Wolverines is even more impressive when you consider he moved to right defensive end and lined up against Michigan All-American left tackle Jake Long. Laws not only had seven tackles, but he added 1.5 for loss.
- Laws put together his fourth consecutive tremendous effort in the loss against Michigan State. He totaled nine tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass break-up and two quarterback hurries.
- Laws continued to fight through double and sometimes triple teams at Purdue. He finished the game with six tackles, including a career-high 3.0 for loss, and one sack.
ZIBBY NOW ALL-TIME LEADER IN TACKLES BY A DEFENSIVE BACK
After picking up six tackles against Penn State, two-time All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski became the Notre Dame career leader for tackles by a defensive back. With 250 career stops, Zbikowski ranks ahead of Jim Browner (228, 1976-78) for the top spot. He ranks 17th all-time in Notre Dame tackles history regardless of position. Zbikowski recently passed for All-American linebacker Wes Pritchett (1985-88). He is just four more tackles away from 16th (Drew Mahalic, 253, 1972-74).
ZIBBY HAS A KNACK FOR THE FOOTBALL
Senior All-American SS Tom Zbikowski forced the fifth and sixth fumbles of his career against Penn State on Sept. 8. He became the first Irish player to record two forced fumbles in the same game, since, well, himself against Michigan State in 2004. For his career, Zbikowski has six career interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and two fumble recoveries (both returned for TDs).
- Last week against Purdue, Zbikowski recorded his seventh career interception and first since Nov. 12, 2005 against Navy. He has caused three turnovers this season, including two forced fumbles against Penn State on Sept. 8. Over his brilliant four-year career, Zbikowski has been involved in a total of 15 turnovers (seven INTs, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries). He recorded seven tackles on the afternoon.
CRUMBLING THE COMPETITION
- Senior LB Maurice Crum, Jr., totaled 100 tackles in 2006 to lead Notre Dame. Crum was the first Irish player to eclipse the 100 tackle mark since Courtney Watson had 117 in 2003.
- Crum, Jr., was all over the field in the loss to Michigan State on Sept. 22. The senior linebacker registered a career-best 16 tackles, including six solo stops. His previous career-high for tackles in a game was 14 against Penn State in 2006.
- Crum, Jr., as well as senior DT Trevor Laws and junior FS David Bruton, led the Irish with nine tackles against Georgia Tech. For Crum, it was the fifth time in his career he led Notre Dame in tackles. He led the Irish in tackles four times in 2006 (Penn State, 14; UCLA, 8; UNC, 9; USC, 9). Crum, Jr., added a tackle for loss versus the Jackets.
- Crum, Jr. is just three tackles away from 200 for his career.
IRISH SECONDARY BLANKET STAR WIDEOUTS
Over its first five games, Notre Dame faced the likes of Greg Smith (3 rec., 31 yards; Georgia Tech), Demaryius Thomas (1 rec., 9 yards; Georgia Tech), Jordan Norwood (3 rec., 20 yards; Penn State), Adrian Arrington (2 rec., 15 yards; Michigan) and Dorien Bryant (8 rec., 82 yards; Purdue). That group of five receivers managed just 17 receptions for 157 yards (only 9.2 yards per catch). That same group of wideouts is averaging 13.8 yards per reception against everyone else.
IRISH SECONDARY ONE OF THE MOST IMPROVED IN THE COUNTRY
With the return of experienced defensive backs, including senior SS Tom Zbikowski, senior DB Terrail Lambert, senior DB Ambrose Wooden, sophomore DB Darrin Walls and the emergence of junior FS David Bruton, the Irish figured to have a vastly improved secondary in 2007. Well, the improvements are significant and looks as though Notre Dame could have one of its best units in years. The Irish are allowing almost 60 fewer yards per game in the air this season and almost 110 fewer yards when compared to 2005. The 145.80 yards passing per game would rank as the best for a Notre Dame defense since 1980 (when the Irish limited their opponents to 103.0 ypg).
WATCH OUT FOR WALLS
Sophomore DB Darrin Walls not only registered his first career interception, but the Pittsburgh, Pa., native returned it 73 yards for a touchdown against Penn State. The interception return was the first for the Irish since senior DB Terrail Lambert turned the task against Michigan State in 2006. The 73-yard INT return was the longest interception return since senior SS Tom Zbikowski returned a pick 83 yards against BYU on Oct. 22, 2005.
BROCKINGTON MAKES HAPPY RETURN TO HAPPY VALLEY
Senior ILB Joe Brockington, a native of Palmya, Pa., finished with a game-high tying 10 tackles, including six solo stops, at Penn State on Sept. 8. He added 1.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Brockington is fourth on the Irish with 29 tackles.
KUNTZ HAS CAREER NIGHT AGAINST PENN STATE
Junior NT Pat Kuntz entered the 2007 season without a single start and just 11 tackles in 21 career games. Kuntz has excelled in Notre Dame’s new 3-4 defensive scheme. He has registered 19 tackles, almost double his entire total from the previous two seasons, over the first four games. Kuntz picked up a career-high eight stops and a half-tackle for loss against Penn State on Sept. 8.
SOMETHING BRUTON IN THE NOTRE DAME SECONDARY
- Junior FS David Bruton picked up first first career interception in the loss to Michigan State on Sept. 22. Bruton also added a career-best 15 tackles, including seven solo.
- Bruton made quite an impression in his first career start for the Irish in the season opener against Georgia Tech. He finished with a game-high tying nine tackles, two for loss, and a sack. Bruton also managed to pick up a special teams tackle on senior Geoff Price’s 55-yard long punt — denying the Georgia Tech returner to gain a single yard. He once again led Notre Dame in tackles against Michigan. Bruton recorded nine stops and one for loss.
NO LOADING IN THE RED ZONE FOR GEORGIA TECH
Notre Dame limited Georgia Tech on Sept. 1 to a pair of field goals (another field goal attempt was blocked) on the Jackets’ three first half red zone opportunities. In fact, the Jackets drove inside the Irish 26-yard line on six different occasions in the opening 30 minutes and came away with just 16 points (three FGs, one TD).
MORE FROM THE IRISH DEFENSE AGAINST THE YELLOW JACKETS
- Of Georgia Tech’s four scoring drives before intermission, three began in Irish territory (two after fumbles) and another opened at the Yellow Jacket 47-yard line. In fact, four scoring drives that resulted in 16 of their 33 points came off drives of 18, 36, 21 and 17 yards.
- While Tashard Choice did gain 196 yards on 26 carries, the Irish actually bottled up the Georgia Tech star for most of the afternoon. Choice collected 106 of those 196 yards on just four carries. Take away those runs, Notre Dame limited Choice to 90 yards on 22 totes.
- The Irish did not allow Georgia Tech a single third down conversion in the first half. The Yellow Jackets were 0-for-6 on third down and did not register a third down conversion until their seventh drive of the afternoon.
- Notre Dame allowed just over 200 yards (203.4) per game passing in 2006. The Irish also allowed their opponents to complete just over 55% of its passes a year ago. Georgia Tech completed, though, on just 45% (11-for-24) of its throws for a mere 121 yards.
With a pair of seniors, Notre Dame enjoys an abundance of experience in the secondary. Fifth-year senior, two year captain and two-time All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski leads the Irish secondary. Zbikowski, who entered the 2007 preseason camp at a trim 207 pounds (down 10 pounds from 2006), looks to close his Irish career on a high note. After a 2005 season that saw Zbikowski register five interceptions, two for touchdowns, and return a pair of punts for scores, he failed to pick off a single pass in 2006. Zbikowski has started 41 of Notre Dame’s last 42 games — missing only the Stanford game of 2006 due to injury.
Fellow fifth-year senior CB Ambrose Wooden has made 16 career starts at right cornerback, including all 12 games in 2005 before an injury forced a set-back in 2006. He finished third on the 2005 Irish in tackles (74) and tied for second in pass breakups (5). Senior Terrail Lambert returns to the fray at left cornerback. Lambert started the final 10 games of 2006 and was second on the Irish with three interceptions, including a 27-yard gamewinning INT return against Michigan State.
The lone new face in the secondary is junior David Bruton at free safety. Bruton replaces two-year starter Chinedum Ndukwe (now with the Cincinnati Bengals). Bruton, who was a special teams stalwart for Notre Dame in 2006, captured defensive MVP honors at the 2007 Blue-Gold game after returning an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and recording four tackles. Sophomore Darrin Walls, who picked up his first career interception and INT return for touchdown against Penn State on Sept. 8, has made six career starts at corner, while senior Leo Ferrine has started a pair and junior Ray Herring started the Stanford game in 2006 (replaced an injured Zbikowski). Junior Kyle McCarthy and sophomores Raeshon McNeil and Munir Price (converted from running back) also play into the mix in the secondary.
- Notre Dame opened the season with a new kicker for the third consecutive season. D.J. Fitzpatrick (`05), Carl Gioia (`06) and now freshman Brandon Walker. Walker is the first freshman kicker for Notre Dame since Nicholas Setta in 2000.
- Walker, a freshman from Findlay, Ohio, became the first left-footed Irish kicker since the recently-deceased Harry Oliver held the duties during the 1980-81 seasons. The drought dates back to Oliver’s 35-yard boot against Miami on Nov. 27, 1981. Since that kick, a total of 21 different Irish kickers have attempted 430 field goal attempts — all coming from the right side.
ZBIKOWSKI’S RAPID RETURNS
- Senior SS Tom Zbikowski recorded a 47-yard punt return to set up a field goal bringing the Irish within a touchdown, 17-10, in the third quarter against Penn State. The punt return was the fourth of his career that exceeded 45 yards.
- 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). Zbikowski scooped up a fumble and raced 25 yards for a touchdown against Penn State in 2006. 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 and a punt 72 yards for scores in Notre Dame’s 38-7 rout.
THEY SHALL RETURN
- During the past 21 seasons (1987-07), Notre Dame has produced 91 touchdowns via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns — with the most recent touchdown runback coming Sept. 8 on sophomore Darrin Walls’ 73-yard interception return at Penn State.
- Notre Dame scored four touchdowns via returns last season, two by the defense (INT return by Lambert at Michigan State and fumble return by Tom Zbikowski vs. Penn State) and two by special teams (punt return by Zbikowski against North Carolina and blocked field goal return by Lambert at Air Force).
- In contrast, opponents in the past 21 seasons have combined for 32 total touchdown returns vs. the Irish.
PRICE IS RIGHT
- Senior P Geoff Price regained his 2006 All-American form against Penn State. Price recorded a career-high nine punts. His previous career-high, who averaged 44.8 yards per punt, was seven (set on three previous occasions), including in last week’s season opener. The 403 yards on the nine punts was also a career best for the Ray Guy Award candidate.
- After entering last season with only two career punts, Price made his presence known across the country for Notre Dame. Price finished last season ranked sixth in the NCAA with a average boot of 45.4 yards (50 punts for 2,272 yards). He bested the previous Irish single-season school record of 44.9 held by Craig Hentrich (1990). Price also owns the Notre Dame career record (45.4). He not only boomed 14 kicks last year over 50+ yards, but also managed to drop 14 inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Price averaged 50+ yards in punts in two separate games in 2006, including a school-record average of 51.9 yards per kick (7-for-363) against Michigan. He was an `06 semifinalist for the Ray Guy award and has already received numerous preseason All-American honors this year. Price was named second-team All-American by Lindy’s and honorable mention by Street & Smith’s.
YOUTH ON SERVE
Notre Dame used a total of 61 players in the season opener against Georgia Tech. An incredible 31 of those players were either freshmen or sophomores, including five that started. Just over 50% of the players on the field were in their first or second year with the Irish. On the other hand, Georgia Tech started just one freshmen or sophomore and played only 19 first or second year players. The 31 freshmen and sophomores playing in a season opener stands as the most in Irish history. The previous high for first and second year players in a Notre Dame season opener came during the 1983 and 1989 seasons (29).
NEWCOMERS THROWN INTO ACTION
In the season opening loss against Georgia Tech, nine members of the 2007 signing class saw their first action. Armando Allen (Fr., HB), Jimmy Clausen (Fr., QB), Robert Hughes (Fr., HB), Duval Kamara (Fr., WR), Kerry Neal (Fr., LB), Matt Romine (Fr., OT), Golden Tate (Fr., KR), Brandon Walker (Fr., PK) and Ian Williams (Fr., NT) each played in their first season with the Irish. In addition to those nine players from the 2007 signing class making their Notre Dame debuts versus Georgia Tech, the following players saw action in an Irish uniform for the first time: Thomas Bemenderfer (Jr., OC), Dan Wenger (So., OG), Demetrius Jones (So., QB), Leonard Gordan (So., DS/DC), Luke Schmidt (So., FB), Paddy Mullen (So., DT) and Kallen Wade (So., DE). In all, 16 of the 61 players that played against Georgia Tech for Notre Dame were making their first ever appearance in an Irish uniform.
MORE ON THE FRESHMEN
Notre Dame used nine freshmen in its season opening loss to Georgia Tech. It was tied for the fourth most used in an opener since the freshman eligibility rule became enacted in 1972. The Irish used 11 freshmen in the 2006 opener against the Jackets. A total of 14 frosh played in the 36-13 win over Virginia in the 1989 Kickoff Classic and 12 saw action in the 52-6 blowout of Purdue in 1983.
Five offensive players and four players on the defensive side of the ball picked up their first career starts in the loss against Georgia Tech. George West (X), Paul Duncan (LT), Michael Turkovich (LG), Dan Wenger (RG) and Demetrius Jones (QB) each started the game for the first time for the Irish offense, while Pat Kuntz (NT), John Ryan (OLB), Anthony Vernaglia (OLB) and David Bruton (FS) hit the field the first play for the Notre Dame defense.