Sept. 17, 2007
GAME 4: MICHIGAN STATE (3-0) AT NOTRE DAME (0-3)
DATE: Saturday, September 22, 2007
TIME: 3:43 p.m. ET
SITE: Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
TICKETS: The game is officially sold out making it the 194th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every Notre Dame home football game has been a sellout except one — a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force. The Irish have now played in front of sellouts in 242 of their last 243 home games.
TV: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director). NBC will stream a live 30-minute pre-game show (3-3:30 p.m.) and post-game show on NBCSports.com.
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 in the PDF version 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 CSTV Online’s Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), Michigan State (msuspartans.com).
POLLS: Notre Dame failed to receive any votes in either the Associated Press or USA Today coaches’ polls. Michigan State received one top 25 vote from the AP and 21 votes from the USA Today coaches.
SERIES INFO: This meeting will be the 71st all-time between the rivals. It is the Irish’s fourth-most played series (trailing only Navy, USC and Purdue) and the second-most frequent with any school in the Big Ten. Notre Dame holds a 44-25-1 lead in the series and took last year’s meeting, 40-37, in Spartan Stadium. Michigan State has won seven of the past 10 games in the series, including five consecutive wins in Notre Dame Stadium (23-7 in 1997, 23-13 in 1999, 17-10 in 2001, 22-16 in 2002 and 44-41 in overtime in 2005). Only Purdue (1954-62) has won five consecutive games in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have not defeated the Spartans at home since 1993. (see All-Time Series Results on page 2 in the PDF version of this notes package).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Michigan State has defeated the Irish five straight times in Notre Dame Stadium … the Spartans could become the first team to ever win six consecutive in South Bend … Purdue also won five times in a row at Notre Dame Stadium (1954-62).
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 1-1 vs. Michigan State, picking up a 40-37 victory over the Spartans in East Lansing in 2006.
MICHIGAN STATE HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Mark Dantonio (South Carolina, 1979) established himself as one of the nation’s up-and-coming coaches during his three-year tenure at Cincinnati. In 2006, Dantonio led the Bearcats to a 7-5 overall record and a 4-3 BIG EAST mark, making Cincinnati bowl eligible for the second time in three years. Dantonio accomplished the feat against the second-toughest schedule in the country, as UC’s opponents compiled a 69-42 record. His Bearcats upset then-No. 7 Rutgers, 30-11, on Nov. 18, handing the Scarlet Knights their first loss of the season and marking the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by UC.
Highly respected as one of the top defensive coaches in the country, Dantonio’s Bearcats finished the 2006 regular season ranked among the NCAA leaders in six statistical categories: No. 21 in tackles for loss (6.8 per game), No. 23 in pass efficiency defense (109.3 rating), No. 27 in rushing defense (107.5 yards per game), No. 31 in total defense (304.3 ypg.), No. 34 in scoring defense (19.3 points per game) and No. 34 in sacks (2.4 per game).
Dantonio compiled an 18-17 overall record in his three years at Cincinnati and led the program in its transition to the BIG EAST Conference. He became the first head coach in 23 years to direct a team to a winning season in his first year at UC. The Bearcats’ went 7-5 in 2004, including a 5-3 mark in Conference USA to finish second in the league standings, and defeated Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl.
Prior to his appointment at Cincinnati, Dantonio served as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State for three seasons, where his defensive unit became known as one of the stingiest in the country. During the Buckeyes’ 2002 National Championship season, OSU ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in rushing defense, and the following year, his unit ranked No. 1 in the country in rushing defense and ninth in total defense, sparking the Buckeyes to an 11-2 mark and a No. 4 national ranking.
Dantonio is familiar with East Lansing, as he spent six seasons (1995-2000) as Michigan State’s secondary coach, including associate head coach duties in 2000. He contributed to Michigan State’s successful 1999 season, during which the Spartans went 10-2, won the Florida Citrus Bowl, led the Big Ten in total defense and ranked No. 7 in the final polls.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make Notre Dame 1-3 for the first time since 2001 and just the second time in school history.
- Snap Michigan State’s five-game winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium.
- Be the first for the Irish over the Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium since 1993.
- Improve Notre Dame to 45-25-1 (.641) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
- Improve the Irish to 27-12-0 (.692) in the all-time series with the Spartans in Notre Dame.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 20-9 overall, 2-1 against Michigan State and 6-5 against Big Ten foes.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame home record to 11-4.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 8-5 in September games.
- Improve Weis’ Notre Dame record to 5-4 following a loss.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 8-8-0 all-time against Michigan State.
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 5-7-0 (.417) all-time against Michigan State in Notre Dame.
- Improve Weis’ record to 14-6 (.700) in afternoon games.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 822-272-42 (.743).
- Improve the Irish all-time record in Notre Dame Stadium to 298-91-5 (.764).
- Improves Notre Dame’s all-time record against the Big 10 Conference to 217-109-15 (.660).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make the Irish 0-4 for the first time in school history.
- Extend Michigan State’s winning streak at Notre Dame Stadium to six games (Spartans would become the first school to ever win six straight).
- Drop Notre Dame to 44-26-1 (.627) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
- Drop the Irish to 26-13-0 (.667) in the all-time series with the Spartans in Notre Dame.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 19-10 overall, 1-2 against Michigan State and 5-6 against Big Ten foes.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame home record to 10-5.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 7-6 in September games.
- Drop Weis’ Notre Dame record to 4-5 following a loss.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 7-9-0 all-time against Michigan State.
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 4-8-0 all-time against Michigan State in Notre Dame.
- Drop Weis’ record to 13-7 (.700) in afternoon games.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 821-273-42 (.743).
- Drop the Irish all-time record in Notre Dame Stadium to 297-92-5 (.764).
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record against the Big 10 Conference to 216-108-15 (.660).
NOTRE DAME VS. BIG 10
- Notre Dame has faced no other conference as often as the Big Ten. The Irish have played 339 all-time games against the 11 current members of the league. Notre Dame is 216-108-15 in those meetings. The Irish have played almost three times as many games against the Big Ten as any other conference. The Pac-10 (122) and ACC (104) are the only other conferences against whom Notre Dame has played at least 100 games.
- Notre Dame has faced Michigan State 70 times (44-25-1), second most of any Big Ten program. Purdue leads the Big Ten with 78 all-time games against Notre Dame (51-25-2) followed by the Spartans and Northwestern (37-8-2).
- Last week’s matchup with Penn State, the 19th all-time meeting, was the second with the Nittany Lions as a member of the conference.
- Notre Dame played four members of the Big 10 in 2006 and will do the same in 2007. In addition to Penn State and Michigan, the Irish will face Michigan State and Purdue. Notre Dame has played a member of the Big Ten every single season since 1915. The Irish face Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue for the sixth consecutive season.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES NOTES
- Notre Dame and Michigan State first met on the gridiron in 1897, with the Irish earning a 34-6 victory.
- The two schools played nine times through 1910, with Notre Dame winning the first eight encounters by a combined score of 222-6. Following a six-year layoff, Notre Dame won five of the next six games with the Spartans from 1916-21.
- Notre Dame leads the series with Michigan State by a 44-25-1 count, including a 26-12-0 record in South Bend. With a victory Saturday, the Irish will have defeated the Spartans more times in Notre Dame Stadium than any other opponent (Notre Dame has upended both Navy and Purdue 26 times).
- Michigan State has won seven of the last 10 games in the series, including five straight in Notre Dame Stadium, but the Irish have captured each of the last three meetings and 15 of the last 18 in Spartan Stadium.
- The Michigan State rivalry is the fourth-most frequent in Notre Dame history. Only Navy (80), Purdue (78) and USC (78) have faced the Irish more times than the Spartans.
- Notre Dame’s 44 victories in the series against the Spartans is tied for the third-highest total against an opponent in school history behind Navy (70), Purdue (51) and Pittsburgh (44).
- Since 1949, the winner of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game has been presented the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored jointly by the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools. The megaphone is printed half blue, with a gold ND monogram, and half white, with a green MSC. All previous game scores are listed on the trophy. Michigan State and Notre Dame played 36 consecutive seasons from 1959-94 until the two-year interruption of the series in 1995-96. The current series contract runs through the 2011 season.
- Over the last seven meetings (dating back to 2000), the Notre Dame-Michigan State game has been decided by a touchdown or less, with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or overtime in six of the seven meetings. Here’s a breakdown of the nail-biting heroics:
- 2000: Herb Haygood 68-yard TD pass from Jeff Smoker with 1:48 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 27-21).
- 2001: Charles Rogers 47-yard TD pass from Ryan Van Dyke with 7:51 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 17-10).
- 2002: Arnaz Battle 60-yard TD pass from Pat Dillingham with 1:15 left in the 4th quarter (ND 21-17).
- 2003: Greg Taplin 40-yard interception return with 6:55 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 22-16).
- 2004: Notre Dame builds a 28-7 third quarter lead before MSU rallies with 17 points in 31-24 ND win.
- 2005: Jason Teague’s 19-yd TD run in the first overtime gave the Spartans a 44-41 victory in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish had rallied from a 21-point deficit to force overtime.
- 2006: Notre Dame defensive back Terrail Lambert intercepts Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton and returns it 27 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:53 remaining as the Irish rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 40-37 victory. Lambert added another interception on the Spartans’ final drive to ultimately secure the triumph.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played six previous games in its history on Sept. 22. The Irish are 3-3 all-time on this date, including a pair of meetings with Michigan State.
- Sept. 22, 1956: After a remarkable run of 28 games over 69 years, Notre Dame loses its first game ever in September — 19-13 at SMU. Previously, the Fighting Irish had gone 25-0-3 in games played in this month. Paul Hornung rushed for 101 yards on 11 carries in the defeat.
- Sept. 22, 1984: Quarterback Steve Beuerlein completed 10-of-11 passes for 122 yards and one touchdown to lead the Irish past Colorado, 55-14. The 90.9 completion percentage is the highest single-game percentage in school history.
- Sept. 22, 1990: Irish overcome 19-7 fourth-quarter deficit before a then-Spartan Stadium record crowd (80,401). Rick Mirer’s 23-yard pass deflects off the pads of CB Todd Murray, into the hands of Adrian Jarrell at the two. Two plays later, Rodney Culver scores the winning TD from the one-yard line with 0:34 to play (the Irish missed the 2-point try).
IRISH RECORD SETTERS IN THE NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES
- 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown returned two punts for touchdowns against Michigan State on Sept. 19, 1987.
- Phil Carter set a school record for rushes in a single-game (40) against the Spartans on Oct. 4, 1980. He also rushed for 254 yards that game, third-most ever by an Irish running back.
- John Petitbon had a remarkable game against Michigan State on Oct. 28, 1950. Petitbon rushed for 170 yards on just 10 carries. The 17.0 yard per rush average is the second-highest in school history.
- Former QB Brady Quinn attempted 60 passes, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns in the 2005 game against Michigan State. The 60 pass attempts, 467 yards and five touchdowns are the second-most in school history. In the same game, Quinn tied the school record for completions in a single-game with 33.
- Irish quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus completed a school-record tying 14 straight passes against Michigan State on Sept. 20, 1997.
- Former WR Jeff Samardzjia (Sept. 17, 2005) and former Irish WR Jim Mutscheller (Oct. 28, 1950) each registered three touchdown receptions in a single-game against Michigan State. The three touchdown catches is the second most in single-game school history.
- In last year’s meeting, Notre Dame overcame a 16-point fourth quarter deficit. It marked the largest fourth quarter deficit ever overcome by the Irish since the Nov. 29, 1986 meeting at USC when Notre Dame trailed the Trojans, 37-20, with just under 12 minutes to go in the game and came back to win, 38-37. Steve Beuerlein tossed a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and John Carney booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired to secure the victory.
NOTRE DAME-MSU CONNECTIONS
- Notre Dame special teams and inside linebackers coach Brian Polian began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1997, working for former Spartan head coach Nick Saban.
- Michigan State’s veteran play-by-play radio announcer George Blaha graduated from Notre Dame in 1966 with a degree in economics. Blaha is in his 30th season as the Spartans’ radio voice.
- Michigan State third-year baseball coach David Grewe spent three years as an assistant coach at Notre Dame (2003-05) where he served as recruiting coordinator, hitting and catching instructor under former Irish head coach Paul Mainieri.
- Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio each attended the University of South Carolina. Weis earned a master’s degree in education in 1989, while Dantonio was a three-year letterwinner for the Gamecocks before graduating in 1978.
- Dan Roushar (offensive line coach) and Mike Haywood (offensive coordinator/running backs coach) each served on the Ball State coaching staff in 1994. Roushar was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, while Haywood was the running backs/co-special teams coordinator.
- Notre Dame senior SS Tom Zbikowski and Michigan State senior tight end Eric Andino were teammates at Buffalo Grove (Ill.) High School in Arlington Heights, Ill.
- Notre Dame junior WR David Grimes will face his older brother, Carl, for the third time. Carl Grimes is a senior WR for the Spartans.
- The 2007 Notre Dame roster features two players from the state of Michigan, including junior WR David Grimes and junior QB Evan Sharpley. Grimes is a native of Detroit and graduated from DePorres High School. Sharpley graduated from Marshall High School in Marshall, Michigan.
- The 2007 Michigan State roster features three players from the state of Indiana, including senior C John Masters, senior OG Kenny Shane and senior NT Chris Smith.
- A number of players from Michigan State and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown. (see PDF of this notes package for complete chart)
LAST WEEK AGAINST MICHIGAN
- The game between Notre Dame and Michigan was officially sold out, making it the 64th in the last 70 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.
- The final attendance was 111,178 — the fourth consecutive meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan at Michigan Stadium to draw over 111,000 fans.
- The game was the 18th time in school history Notre Dame played before a crowd of at least 100,000 people, and the second consecutive week. The Irish and Penn State played before the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history last week. The Irish now are 9-9 in such games.
- Notre Dame became the second school in NCAA history to play consecutive road games before crowds of over 100,000. Minnesota had been the only school to accomplish the feat prior to the Irish. The total attendance of 221,256 (110,078 last week and 111,178 this week) is a new NCAA record for combined road attendance in consecutive weeks (the Golden Gophers played in front of 217,721 in back-to-back weeks against Penn State and Michigan in 2005.)
- The following Notre Dame players extended streaks for consecutive starts: senior ILB Maurice Crum, Jr. (28), senior DE Trevor Laws (28), senior C John Sullivan (16), sophomore OT Sam Young (16), senior DB Terrail Lambert (13), senior SS Tom Zbikowski (10) and junior David Grimes (8).
- The Irish defense has faced quite an uphill battle in terms of field position over its first three games. Of the 102 points Notre Dame has surrendered in 2007, 43, just over 42%, have come on drives of less than 38 yards. Georgia Tech had scoring drives of 16, 17, 21 and 36 yards (for a total of 16 points), Penn State used a punt return for touchdown and a drive of seven yards (following a 63-yard kickoff return to open the second half) to record 10 points and Michigan used a pair of 21-yard drives and a 38-yard drive to grab a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter.
- Notre Dame fumbled 13 times, losing seven, over the entire 2006 season. The Irish fumbled six different times (losing two) on Saturday, including five in the game’s opening quarter. Notre Dame has fumbled 12 times (losing five) over the first three games of 2007. The Irish only lost six fumbles over the entire 2005 season as well.
- The six fumbles were the most fumbles since Notre Dame fumbled seven times against Boston College on Nov. 2, 2002.
- Notre Dame limited the potent Michigan passing game to just 90 yards in the air Saturday. The Irish are allowing just 114.0 yards per game in the air, over 80 fewer yards per game in the air this season and almost 160 fewer yards when compared to the previous two years. The 114.0 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). The Irish had allowed 281.2, 264.6 and 203.4 yards passing each of the last three seasons.
- The Irish passing defense has also limited the opposing quarterback trio of Georgia Tech’s Taylor Bennett (11-of-23), Penn State’s Anthony Morelli (12-of-22) and Michigan’s Ryan Mallett (7-of-15) to a combined completion percentage of 48.3% (29-of-60).
- The 31 points in the first half were the most points surrendered in a half by Notre Dame since Michigan totaled 34 in the opening half of the 2006 meeting.
- The 31-0 halftime deficit was the largest deficit for Notre Dame since Sept. 12, 1998 when it trailed Michigan State, 42-3, at intermission.
- Notre Dame allowed a total of 31 sacks the entire 2006 season (13 games) and just 21 in 2005. The Irish have already allowed 23 sacks in 2007.
- Michigan finished the afternoon with 289 yards rushing. The rushing yards for the Wolverines were the most by an Irish opponent since Stanford had 309 on Oct. 3, 1998.
- Freshman Golden Tate recorded a new career-long 40 yard kickoff return. Tate returned five kicks for 133 yards on the afternoon (good for an average of 26.6). For the season, Tate is averaging 26.7 per return (seven returns for 187 total yards).
- Senior Geoff Price recorded his 17th and 18th career punts of over 50 yards. Price averaged 44.2 yards on his six punts on the day. Price is averaging 42.5 yards per boot this season.
- Despite constant pressure (resulting in seven Michigan sacks) freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen managed to complete 11-of-17 for 74 yards. In his first two career starts, Clausen has completed 57.1% percent of his passes (28-of-49). By comparison, former Notre Dame All-American Brady Quinn completed just 44.7% (34-of-76) and tossed four interceptions over his first two starts as a freshman.
- Junior free safety David Bruton led the Irish with nine total tackles. Bruton has led Notre Dame in tackles in two of their three games this season.
- Senior defensive end Justin Brown registered a career-high eight tackles, including one for loss.
- Junior safety Ray Herring picked up his first two career fumble recoveries. His is the first Irish player to have two fumble recoveries in one game since Gerome Sapp against Navy on Nov. 17, 2001.
- Senior defensive tackle Dwight Stephenson, Jr., recorded a career-high seven tackles.
- Freshman linebacker Brian Smith picked up his first career forced fumble and first career tackle for loss.
HOW DO THEY STACK UP?
Average weight of the offensive and defensive lines:
ND OL 301.8 lbs. vs. MSU DL 268.3 lbs.
ND DL 284.3 lbs. vs. MSU OL 314.4 lbs.
Average height of the receivers and the secondaries:
ND WR/TE 6′ 1″ vs. MSU DB 6′ 0 Â¾”
ND DB 6′ 0″ vs. MSU WR/TE 6′ 3 1/3″
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 last 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).
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
- Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 195 of its previous 222 games, including 70 of its last 76 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 already 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.
- 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 tired 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.
IRISH SECONDARY BLANKET STAR WIDEOUTS
Over its first three games, Notre Dame has faced the like of James Johnson (2 rec., 42 yards; Georgia Tech), Derrick Williams (2 rec., 14 yards; Penn State), Jordan Norwood (3 rec., 20 yards; Penn State), Mario Manningham (2 rec., 35 yards; Michigan) and Adrian Arrington (2 rec., 15 yards; Michigan). That quintet of receivers has managed just 11 receptions for 126 yards (only 11.5 yards per catch). That same group of wideouts is averaging 13.3 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 it looks as though Notre Dame could have one of its best units in years. The Irish are allowing just under 90 fewer yards per game in the air this season and 150 fewer yards when compared to 2005. The 114.0 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).
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 and seven more tackles last week against Michigan. 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 ranks tied for 79th in the NCAA in tackles, averaging 8.67 per game. Laws ranks third in the country in tackles among defensive lineman. He trails only Greg Hardy of Mississippi (9.0 tckls/g) and Patrick Bailey of Duke (9.0 tckls/g).
- 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.
ZIBBY BECOMES 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 238 career stops, Zbikowski ranks ahead of Jim Browner (228, 1976-78) for the top spot.
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 the night with a game-high tying 10 tackles, including six solo stops. He added 1.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Brockington is third on the Irish with 22.
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. 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).
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 16 tackles, almost his entire total from the previous two seasons, over the first three games. Kuntz picked up a career-high eight stops and a half-tackle for loss against Penn State.
CRUMBLING THE COMPETITION
- Senior LB Maurice Crum 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, 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 added a tackle for loss versus the Jackets.
SOMETHING BRUTON IN THE NOTRE DAME SECONDARY
Junior FS David 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 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 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 39 of Notre Dame’s last 40 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). Junior 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 game-winning 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 last week against Penn State, has made five 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 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.
CLAUSEN GETS 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, 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 257 all-purpose yards over the first three 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. 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’ 28 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 19 the past two years under Weis. To put those numbers in perspective, Notre Dame averaged a 100-yard receiving effort every 13 games. Under Weis, the Irish is almost recording a 100-yard receiving effort every game.
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
The trio of Jones, Sharpley and Clausen completed passes to a total of nine different Irish receivers against Georgia Tech (five of those receptions were the first career grabs for the respective player). It was the first most different Notre Dame receivers to register a catch in a single-game since nine logged receptions at USC on Nov. 27, 2004. Clausen, who made his first career start at Penn State, then 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 79 career catches and 37 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 eight career catches (two 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 three balls for 30 yards against Georgia Tech 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 (four catches for 39 yards), sophomore TE Will Yeatman (two grab for 16 yards), senior RB Junior Jabbie (one for three yards) and Armando Allen (eight for 53 yards) all recorded their first career catch in the season opener. Sophomore 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 2-of-3 inside the red zone, but both scores were field goals.
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.
YOUTH ON SERVE
Notre Dame used a total of 61 players 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.
IRISH ALL-STARS ON WATCH LISTS
Notre Dame senior strong safety Tom Zbikowski is a candidate for nearly every defensive award this season. The two-time All-American has been named to preseason watchlists for the Bednarik Award, Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy and Thorpe Award. In addition, senior tight end John Carlson, a Mackey Award finalist in 2006, was distinguished as one of 50 preseason candidates for the Maxwell Award. Senior linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr. is on the watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski and Lott, while senior center John Sullivan is on the Outland and Rimington lists. Sullivan, senior defensive end Trevor Laws and Crum are also on the Lombardi watch list.
SIX IRISH PLAYERS EARN PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA HONORS
Senior strong safety Tom Zbikowski was a preseason first-team All-America selection by ESPN.com, Athlon, The Sporting News and Phil Steele. He also earned preseason second-team honors from Lindy’s and honorable mention accolades from Street & Smith’s. Senior tight end John Carlson also earned multiple preseason first-team All-America selections. Athlon and Phil Steele each named Carlson a preseason first-team All-American. He also garnered second-team accolades from Lindy’s and Street & Smith’s. Senior center John Sullivan was the third and final Irish player to receive preseason first-team All-American honors. Sullivan was chosen by Street & Smith’s. He also earned second-team honors from Phil Steele and third-team from Lindy’s. Senior cornerback Ambrose Wooden, senior punter Geoff Price and sophomore offensive tackles Sam Young all earned honorable mention preseason All-American from Street & Smith’s. Price was also tabbed a second-team All-American by Lindy’s.
- Notre Dame will face eight teams that went to bowl games last year: Georgia Tech (Gator), Penn State (Capital One), Michigan (Rose), Purdue (Champs), UCLA (Emerald), Boston College (Meineke Car Care), USC (Rose) and Navy (Meineke Car Care).
- Notre Dame is the only school in the country to face a school from a BCS conference over the first eight weeks of 2007. The next longest streak to open this season is four (Florida Atlantic). The Irish also play a total of 10 BCS affiliated schools (which is tied for second most in the NCAA).
- The Irish take on Duke for the first time since 1966. Notre Dame leads the brief all-time series, 2-1. The Irish blanked the Blue Devils, 64-0, in the last meeting.
- Notre Dame will make travel to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Knute Rockne brought his eventual national champion 1924 squad to Pasadena to face Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The `24 team featured the Shock Troops, Seven Mules and the famous Four Horsemen.
ONLY THE BIG BOYS
Notre Dame is one of just five NCAA Division I-A programs that has never faced a non-Division I-A opponent since the current division setup was established in 1978 (the division’s names have undergone a change this year, but the setup is still the same). The four remaining schools that have yet to play a non-Division I-A opponent since the advent of the current format are Michigan State, USC, UCLA and Washington. The list stood at seven entering this season, but Michigan and Ohio State each opened its respective seasons with Appalachian State and Youngstown State on Sept. 1.
NOTRE DAME IN SEPTEMBER
- Notre Dame is 120-45-4 (.731) all-time during the month of September.
- The Irish are 75-17-2 (.809) in September home games.
- Notre Dame has an all-time mark of 40-26-2 (.621) in road games during September.
- The Irish went 4-1 (first time in school history ND ever played five games in the month) in September last season (at Georgia Tech, W, 14-10; Penn State, W, 41-17; Michigan, L, 47-21; at Michigan State, W, 40-37; Purdue, W, 35-21).
LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE ’07
Every spring after spring drills, the Irish coaching staff votes on the Leadership Committee, which head coach Charlie Weis brought to Notre Dame in 2004. The Leadership Committee consists of players who serve in an advisory role.
Much change has been happening with and around the Notre Dame football team since the final second ticked off the scoreboard against LSU in the Sugar Bowl. Here are some of the more notable changes:
- Shift to 3-4: The Irish scrapped the 4-3 defense in favor of the 3-4 scheme in an effort to get more speed on the field.
- New Face, New Title: Head coach Charlie Weis brought in two new coaches, including defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. Brown joined the Irish coaching staff after spending the previous three years with the New York Jets of the NFL. Weis also moved former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus into the role of quarterbacks coach. Powlus spent the previous two seasons with the program as the director of personnel development.
- 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.
- Sophomore PK Nate Whitaker seemed unfazed by the new NCAA rule. Despite the ball moved back five yards (and now kicked from the 30 instead of 35), Whitaker has averaged 61.0 yards on his six kicks this season.
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. He added his 16th career punt of over 50 yards (57) at Penn State.
- 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.
Sophomore kicker Nate Whitaker changed uniform number from #33 to #35. Whitaker and freshman Robert Hughes had previously shared the jersey.
The following Notre Dame players have birthdays coming up in the near future:
Sept. 20, 1985 – Anthony Vernaglia, OLB, Sr.
Sept. 21, 1987 – Jimmy Clausen, QB, Fr.
Sept. 22, 1986 – Leo Ferrine, DB, Sr.
Notre Dame opened the season earlier in the calendar year (Sept. 1) than they have since Aug. 31, 2002 against Maryland (Giants Stadium).
Notre Dame is 2-4 all-time in overtime games. The last time the Irish played an OT game was a 44-41 loss to Michigan State on Sept. 17, 2005.
EIGHTH-BEST IN THE NCAA SINCE 1988
Notre Dame has the nation’s eighth best record over the last 20 seasons, or since the start of 1988. The Irish have posted a 162-68-2 record.
Notre Dame has 10 players with double digit career starts. Leading the way is two-time All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski with 38 career starts.
HISTORIC NOTRE DAME STADIUM
The 2007 football season marks the 77th year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 393 games in the facility to date and own a 297-91-5 (.762) record in the “House that Rockne Built.” The Irish were 4-2 at home in 2005 and 6-1 in 2006 to push the team’s record at home to 101-34 (.754) over the last 23 years. The most wins in a season by the Irish at home is seven by the 1988 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).
SULLIVAN NAMED FIFTH TEAM CAPTAIN; FOUR WALK-ONS AWARDED FOOTBALL SCHOLARSHIPS FOR 2007 SEASON
Five Notre Dame football players were pleasantly surprised by head coach Charlie Weis at the beginning of practice on Aug. 23. In an impromptu announcement given in front of the team, fifth-year senior center John Sullivan was named a team captain and junior center Thomas Bemenderfer, senior cornerback Wade Iams, senior long snapper J.J. Jansen and senior cornerback William David Williams all were awarded scholarships for the 2007-08 school year.
The coaching staff unanimously decided to name Sullivan the fifth team captain for 2007 based on the leadership role he demonstrated throughout the summer and training camp. He joins fellow fifth-year seniors John Carlson, Travis Thomas and Tom Zbikowski along with fourth-year senior Maurice Crum Jr. as team captains. Sullivan is the most experienced returning offensive player, having started 21 consecutive games at center and 33 games at that position in his Notre Dame career. He was named to the 2007 watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Rimington Award and was tabbed a first-team preseason All-American by Street & Smith’s.
Bemenderfer began his college career as a scholarship athlete at Northwestern University before transferring to Notre Dame for the 2006-07 school year. The Mishawaka, Ind., native and Penn High School graduate walked onto the football team last year and is currently listed as a backup center.
Iams is also a local product as he hails from Mishawaka, Ind., and is a graduate of Penn High School. The four-year walk-on earned a 4.0 grade-point average during the 2006-07 school year and currently holds a 3.921 cumulative GPA.
Jansen earned a scholarship for the second-consecutive season and serves as the team’s long snapper. The Phoenix, Ariz., product became the team’s long snapper in the middle of the 2005 season and has held that position ever since.
Williams is in his third year with the Notre Dame football team. A Raleigh, N.C., native, he earned a 3.933 GPA during the 2007 spring semester and his cumulative GPA for the 2006-07 school year was 3.893.
IRISH CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL COACHES HONORED WITH NOTRE DAME STADIUM GATE DISPLAY
The five coaches who have produced national championships in football at the University of Notre Dame — Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz — are now honored as part of the third Notre Dame Stadium gate to feature the history and tradition of the Irish football program.
Mixed media wall relief portraits and action montages of the five Notre Dame national championship coaches this week were positioned at Gate D of Notre Dame Stadium, as part of a multi-year plan to theme the five entrance gates to Notre Dame’s home football facility. They were created by Lou Cella, senior sculptor of Timeless Creations, Inc., a division of the Rotblatt-Amrany Fine Art Studio in Highland Park, Ill.
Cella created the statue of former Detroit Tiger broadcaster Ernie Harwell at Comerica Park in Detroit, and he also did the sculpture of Father Theodore Hesburgh and Father Edmund Joyce (former Notre Dame president and executive vice president) just south of the Hesburgh Library on the Notre Dame campus. Rotblatt-Amrany is responsible for the Michael Jordan statue in front of the United Center in Chicago, as well as various statues of sports figures Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire and George Halas.
The national championship coach display at Gate D is the third of the Notre Dame Stadium gates to be finished, following the Heisman Trophy display at Gate B that opened in 2005 and the All-America display at Gate A that opened in 2006. Funding for all the themed gates has been provided by the Notre Dame Monogram Club.
Notre Dame’s 79 consensus All-America football players are honored inside Gate A with panels containing authentic Notre Dame helmets with nameplates. Those displays were designed by Rockwell Group of New York and fabricated by Show Motion Inc., of Connecticut.
Prior to the 2005 season, three-by-eight foot replica Heisman Trophies were added to the Gate B display, where pictures of all seven Irish Heisman winners were placed earlier. The honoring of Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy winners took the form of seven individual panels installed within existing brick niches of the old stadium wall just inside Gate B – with one display each for Angelo Bertelli, John Lujack, Leon Hart, John Lattner, Paul Hornung, John Huarte and Tim Brown.
Each display consists of a three-by-eight-foot aluminum panel, powder-coated in Notre Dame blue and serving as a background for holding an oversized, three-foot-tall replica of the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman replicas are finished in bronze, cantilevered off of the blue aluminum panels and sculpted from an original Heisman Trophy.
IRISH WILL WEAR THROWBACK UNIFORMS AGAINST USC
Notre Dame and adidas will honor the 30th anniversary of the 1977 National Championship team by wearing the authentic green jerseys and gold pants for the USC game on October 20th. The throwback uniforms will be designed to replicate those worn by the 1977 team.
NEXT WEEK: PURDUE
Notre Dame hits the road for the third time in four weeks as the Irish pay a visit to Purdue on Sept. 29. The Boilermakers, who enter the week with a perfect 3-0 record, face Minnesota. Last year, Notre Dame knocked off Purdue, 35-21, in Notre Dame Stadium.