Senior halfback Travis Thomas and the Irish will open their 2007 season Saturday against Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Stadium.

Irish Set To Kick Off 2007 Against Georgia Tech

Aug. 27, 2007

Full Notes Package in PDF Format (recommended for easy reading and enhanced statistical data)
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Saturday, September 1, 2007
TIME: 3:43 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): Notre Dame Stadium (80,795); Notre Dame, Ind.

TICKETS: The game is officially sold out making it the 193rd 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 241 of their last 242 home games.

TV: NBC national telecast with Bob Papa (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director). NBC will stream a live 30 min. pre-game show (3-3:30 pm) and post-game show on

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) and former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) with Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, halftime and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159 for the Georgia Tech game) and it will be streaming live on the Notre Dame official athletics website at
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.

REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through College Sports Television’s Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.

WEB SITES: Notre Dame (, Georgia Tech (

POLLS: Notre Dame received 11 votes in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 and 90 votes in the USA Today Coaches poll. Georgia Tech received 94 votes in the AP poll and 150 in the USA Today poll.

SERIES INFO: This meeting will be the 34th all-time between the rivals. It is the Irish’s ninth-most played series and most frequent with any school in the ACC. Notre Dame holds a 27-5-1 lead in the series and took last year’s season opener, 14-10 in Atlanta. The Irish have won three of the last four meetings and 12 of the last 15 dating back to 1967. Notre Dame is 15-2 against the Yellow Jackets inside Notre Dame Stadium. Georgia Tech has not defeated the Irish in South Bend since 1959.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: This game will mark the kickoff of the 119th season of football at Notre Dame and the third under head coach Charlie Weis … Notre Dame has won four of its last five season openers, including last year’s 14-10 victory at Georgia Tech … The Irish have matched up with the Yellow Jackets in its season opener on three previous occasions (all Notre Dame victories).

NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: Charlie Weis (Notre Dame, 1978) is entering 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. Georgia Tech.

GEORGIA TECH HEAD COACH CHAN GAILEY: Chan Gailey (Florida, 1974) is in his sixth season as head coach. He has a 37-27 (.578) record at Georgia Tech and has a career ledger of 61-38 (.616) in eight seasons as a collegiate head coach. Last year, Gailey led the Jackets to nine victories, capped by the ACC Coastal Division title and a berth in the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Gailey has also made head coaching stops at Troy State and Samford. He went 19-5, including a NCAA Division II National Championship, in two years at Troy State (1983-84) and 5-6 in one season with Samford (1993). Gailey also spent 16 seasons on an NFL sideline, including two as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He finished with a career mark of 18-14; making the NFC playoffs in each campaign. Gailey is 0-1 against the Irish.

GEORGIA TECH SCOUTING REPORT: The Jackets return seven starters from an offense that averaged 24.9 points and 332.1 yards of offense per game last season. However, gone is two-time All-American WR Calvin Johnson, who finished his career as the school record holder in career receiving yards (2.927). Four-year starting QB Reggie Ball is gone as well, but returnee Taylor Bennett replaced Ball in the Gator Bowl and three for 348 yards and three touchdowns. Also back is senior RB Tashard Choice, who led the entire ACC in rushing with 1,473 yards. Junior WR James Johnson, who hauled in 39 passes for 608 yards and seven touchdowns, will lead the young receiving core. Defensively, Georgia Tech returns eight starters from a unit that yielded an average of 18.4 points and 300.6 yards of offense per game. Senior LB Philip Wheeler is the top returning tackler for the Jackets. He led Georgia Tech in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (9.0), while totalling 89 stops.


  • This game will mark the start of the 119th football season at the University of Notre Dame dating back to 1887 … The Irish did not field teams in 1890 or 1891.
  • Notre Dame enters the 2007 season with an all-time record of 821-269-42 (.744 winning percentage).
  • The Irish return 30 lettermen and nine starters from last year’s squad.
  • Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are meeting in each other’s season-opening game for the fourth time overall, third time since 1997 and second consecutive year. The Irish came away with a 17-13 victory over the Yellow Jackets in the rededication of Notre Dame Stadium in 1997 and survived a 14-10 decision before a hostile record-crowd last year in Atlanta. In 1974, No. 2 Notre Dame opened the year with a 31-7 win at Georgia Tech.
  • The Irish are 69-7-3 (.892) in season openers inside Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame will open a season at home for the first time since 2003 — snapping a streak of three straight road season openers. The Irish kicked off the 2003 season with a trilling, come-from-behind 29-26 overtime victory over Washington State.
  • The Irish are 6-2 in their last eight season openers that followed a bowl game loss from the previous season.
  • Current Notre Dame assistant head coach (defense)/defensive backs coach Bill Lewis served as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach from 1992-94.
  • Notre Dame is 74-27-2 (.728) against current Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The 27 wins against Georgia Tech and 33 meetings with the Yellow Jackets are the most by the Irish against any ACC school.
  • Notre Dame’s 27 victories against Georgia Tech ranks as the eighth-most wins against any opponent and fifth-most of any non-Big Ten institution.


  • Give Notre Dame a victory in its season opener for the third consecutive season.
  • Make the Irish 101-14-5 (.863) all-time in season openers and 95-18-5 (.841) in home openers.
  • Be the 19th victory in the last 22 season openers and 10th win in the last 12 home openers.
  • Improve Notre Dame to 71-9-3 (.873) when opening a season at home.
  • Be its sixth straight triumph when opening at season in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Improve the Irish to 9-0 all-time in season openers against the ACC and 4-0 against the Yellow Jackets.
  • Be the second consecutive victory over Georgia Tech and eighth straight victory over the Jackets in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Improve Notre Dame to 28-5-1 in the all-time series with Georgia Tech.
  • Improve the Irish to 16-2-0 in the all-time series with the Yellow Jackets in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Improve Notre Dame to 25-3-1 all-time against an unranked Georgia Tech squad.
  • Improve Weis’ record to 20-6 overall and 3-0 against the Atlantic Coast Conference.
  • Improve Weis’ home record to 11-3.
  • Improve Weis’ record to 8-2 in September games.
  • Improve Weis’ record to 14-4 in afternoon games.
  • Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 822-269-42 (.744).
  • Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record against the Atlantic Coast Conference to 75-27-2 (.731).


  • Be the first to open a season since 2004 — when the Irish lost at BYU, 20-17.
  • Make Notre Dame 100-15-5 (.854) all-time in season openers and 94-19-5 (.818) in home openers.
  • Drop the Irish to 70-10-3 (.861) when opening a season at home.
  • Snap Notre Dame’s five-match winning streak when opening a season in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Snap the Irish eight-game winning streak in season openers against the ACC and four-game winning streak in season openers against Georgia Tech.
  • Snap Notre Dame’s seven-match winning streak against the Yellow Jackets in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Drop the Irish to 27-6-1 (.809) in the all-time series with Georgia Tech.
  • Drop Notre Dame to 15-3 in the all-time series with the Jackets in Notre Dame Stadium.
  • Drop the Irish to 24-4-1 all-time against an unranked Georgia Tech squad.
  • Drop Weis’ record to 19-7 overall and 2-1 against the Atlantic Coast Conference.
  • Drop Weis’ home record to 10-4.
  • Drop Weis’ record to 7-3 in September games.
  • Drop Weis’ record to 13-5 in afternoon games.
  • Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 821-270-42 (.743)
  • Drop the Irish all-time record against the Atlantic Coast Conference to 74-28-2 (.721).


  • Notre Dame is 74-27-2 (.728) against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Irish have had more success against the ACC than any other major conference. The Irish have a .500 or better record against eight of ten conference schools (in which they have played).
  • Notre Dame’s 103 games against the ACC ranks as the third-most contests against a conference trailing only the Big Ten (338) and Pac-10 (116).
  • The Irish are playing three ACC schools in the same season for the first time since 2002 (Maryland, Florida State and North Carolina State) and only the third time since 1982.
  • Notre Dame has faced Georgia Tech 33 times (27-5-1), more than any other ACC school. The 27 victories are the most victories for Notre Dame over an ACC foe. Miami has collided with the Irish 23 times (15-7-1), while Notre Dame has faced North Carolina 17 times (16-1). Boston College (9-7) has also played Notre Dame 16 times. It should be noted that all of Notre Dame’s previous meetings with Miami and Boston College occurred prior to their moves to the ACC.
  • Notre Dame has played a handful of games versus Florida State (2-4), Duke (2-1) and Clemson (1-1). Additionally, the Irish have met three ACC foes just once. They beat Virginia in the `89 Kickoff Classic and Maryland in the `02 Kickoff Classic, but lost to NC State in the `03 Gator Bowl.
  • Notre Dame has posted a 42-9-0 (.824) record against ACC opponents in Notre Dame Stadium.


  • The Irish are 100-14-5 (.861) in season openers and have taken 18 of the last 21.
  • Notre Dame is 94-18-5 (.825) in home openers and have won eight of its last 10 … Michigan State has been the Irish opponent in those home opening losses … There were no home games in 1929 due to construction of Notre Dame Stadium.
  • When playing their season opener in Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish are 69-7-3 (.892).
  • When Notre Dame’s season and home openers are one in the same, the Irish are 70-9-3 (.872) … Notre Dame has captured their last five such openers … The Irish last lost a season opener at home on Sept. 2, 1995 when Northwestern (whom eventually captured the Big Ten title and appeared in the Rose Bowl) knocked off Notre Dame, 17-15.
  • Notre Dame is 8-0 all-time when opening a season against an ACC school (including the season-opening victory over Boston College in 1959).


  • Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis (15 years) and Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey (16 years) each spent much of their career in the NFL ranks. Weis coached with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets, while Gailey worked with the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.
  • The two did face one another on a total of 12 occasions through their respective tenures in the NFL. Interestingly enough, the games were split right down the middle as each man was part of six victories against the other.
  • Current Notre Dame assistant head coach (defense)/defensive backs coach Bill Lewis served as the Georgia Tech head coach from 1992-94.
  • The 2007 Notre Dame roster features four players from the state of Georgia, including junior offensive tackle Paul Duncan, sophomore inside linebacker Toryan Smith, sophomore outside linebacker Morrice Richardson and sophomore punter Eric Maust. Duncan is a native of Dallas, Ga., and graduated from East Paulding High School. Smith graduated from Rome High School in Rome, Ga., while Richardson is a native of College Park, Ga. and alum of Westlake High School. Maust, who also pitches for the Irish baseball team, hails from Atlanta and attended Blessed Trinity.
  • The 2007 Georgia Tech roster does not feature a player from the state of Indiana, but a number of players from the Yellow Jackets and Irish attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown.
  • Notre Dame and Georgia Tech both enter the season opener without high profile players from a season ago. The Irish are without first-round NFL draft pick Brady Quinn, who was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick, while the Yellow Jackets lost the services of wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson was the second overall pick by the Detroit Lions.
  • Notre Dame and Georgia Tech will each debut a new coordinator, but each will do so on opposite sides of the ball. The Irish added Corwin Brown as their new defensive coordinator, while the Yellow Jackets hired John Bond to directs their offense.

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 watch lists 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.


  • Notre Dame is 120-42-4 (.735) all-time during the month of September.
  • The Irish are 75-16-2 (.817) in September home games.
  • Notre Dame has an all-time mark of 40-24-2 (.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).

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 has 18 players with at least one career start to their credit, including eight with double digit starts. Leading the way is two-time All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski with 36 career starts.

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.

Senior strong safety Tom Zbikowski was a preseason first-team All-America selection by, 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 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.

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.

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’ 25 games as head coach. Prior to his arrival, Notre Dame had eclipsed 40 points just nine times in its previous 97 contests. In addition, the Irish had 83 separate 100-yard receiving games over its first 116 seasons of football, but Notre Dame has had 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.

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).


  • Notre Dame will open the 2007 season with a new starting quarterback, whether it be true freshman Jimmy Clausen, sophomore Demetrius Jones or junior Evan Sharpley. Each of the three will be making his first career start on the collegiate level, but history will be on the side of that young signal caller. From 1985-98, Notre Dame was victorious in nine straight games in which an Irish quarterback was making his first career start, including four coming in a season opener. Those openers were won by Rick Mirer (#1 Notre Dame def. #4 Michigan 28-24 in ’90), Kevin McDougal (#7 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 27-12 in ’93), Ron Powlus (#3 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 42-12 in ’95) and Jarious Jackson (#22 Notre Dame def. #5 Michigan 36-20 in ’98).
  • Notre Dame’s nine-game, first-start streak ended in the 10-0 loss at USC on Nov. 28, 1998, when Eric Chappell started in place of the injured starter Jackson (then-freshman Arnaz Battle also played a large chunk of that game).

Clausen, Jones or Sharpley will be looking to become the 11th consecutive QB making his first start in a season opener to lead the Irish to victory. Dating back to 1965, Notre Dame has won 10 straight season-opening games with a new quarterback: Bill Zloch (vs. Cal, ’65), Terry Hanratty (vs. Purdue, ’66), Pat Steenberge (vs. Northwestern, ’71), Tom Clements (vs. Northwestern, ’72), Rick Slager (vs. Boston College, ’75), Rick Mirer (vs. Michigan, ’90), Kevin McDougal (vs. Northwestern, ’93), Ron Powlus (vs. Northwestern, ’94), Jarious Jackson (vs. Michigan, ’98) and Arnaz Battle (vs. Texas A&M, `00).

The Notre Dame offense boasts experienced pass-catchers 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 31 career catches and 28 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 two career catches, 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 is the only other wideout on the Irish roster with a reception. Junior D.J. Hord missed all of last season with a torn achilles, but saw action in six games in 2005. Sophomore Richard Jackson played in 12 games last year, mostly on special teams. Others expected to leap into the mix this year are true freshmen Duval Kamara and Golden Tate, as well as sophomore Barry Gallup, Jr.

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.”

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 fifth all-time for receptions (60) in Notre Dame tight-end history and needs just 33 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • With the switch from the 4-3 to 3-4 and the loss of six starters from 2006, the Irish will field a handful of young players against Georgia Tech in the season opener. Sophomores John Ryan (OLB), Toryan Smith (ILB) and Kallen Wade (DE) as well as freshmen Kerry Neal (OLB), Brian Smith (OLB) and Ian Williams (NT) could all see playing time.
  • Two-time All-American strong safety Tom Zbikowski enters his final season with 220 career tackles. He is tied with former All-American linebacker Michael Stonebreaker (`90) for 10th on the Irish all-time tackles list.

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 36 of Notre Dame’s last 37 games — missing only the Stanford game of 2006 due to injury.
Fellow fifth-year senior CB Ambrose Wooden has made 15 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 cornerback Terrail Lambert returns to the fray at left corner back. 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. Senior Leo Ferrine and sophomore Darrin Walls have each made a pair of starts at corner 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.

Senior strong safety Tom Zbikowski has made a name for himself in the Notre Dame record books. He became the fifth player in Irish history to ever return three punts for touchdowns in a career. Zbikowski has seven career TD returns (two interceptions, three punts, two fumbles). 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 for a touchdown and a punt 72 yards for a score in Notre Dame’s 38-7 rout.


  • Notre Dame will open the season with a new kicker for the third consecutive season. D.J. Fitzpatrick (`05) and Carl Gioia (`06) opened each of the last two years. The job will go to either sophomore Ryan Burkhart, sophomore Nate Whitaker or freshman Brandon Walker — none of whom have ever attempted a field goal at Notre Dame. Burkhart handled most of the kickoff duties a season ago. He registered six touchbacks on his 50 kicks. Whitaker attempted one kickoff on the year.
  • Walker, a freshman from Findlay, Ohio, could become the first left-footed Irish kicker since the recently-deceased Harry Oliver held the duties during the 1980-81 seasons.


  • During the past 21 seasons (1987-07), Notre Dame has produced 90 touchdowns via kickoff, punt, interception and fumble returns — with the most recent touchdown runback coming Nov. 11 on junior Terrail Lambert’s 76-yard blocked field goal return at Air Force.
  • 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.

After entering last season with only two career punts, senior Geoff 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 to the second-team All-American squad by Lindy’s and the honorable mention team for Street & Smith’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).
  • 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.

Sophomore kicker Nate Whitaker has changed from #33 to #35. Whitaker and freshman Robert Hughes had previously shared the uniform number.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 193 of its previous 220 games, including 68 of its last 74 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. It also represented the seventh time in the last four seasons that Notre Dame has been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002, vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl in 2004 – the game set a Bank One Ballpark record for football configuration). Notre Dame and Michigan played before an over-capacity 111,386 at Michigan Stadium in September of 2005. 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).

Notre Dame is quite accustomed to playing in front of huge crowds, but the Irish could take that feat to another level in 2007. Notre Dame will travel to Michigan and Penn State in consecutive weeks. The Irish will most likely draw crowds well over 100,000 at each venue. The two venues list their respective capacities at 107,501 (Michigan Stadium) and 107,282 (Beaver Stadium). Notre Dame will become the first school to ever play consecutive road games against ranked opponents before crowds exceeding 100,000 fans. Minnesota is the only school to ever play consecutive road games before 100,000 (Penn State and Michigan during the 2005 season), but the Nittany Lions were unranked at the time of the game. The combined attendance for those two road games for the Gophers was an NCAA record 217,721 (106,604 at PSU and 111,117 at UM).
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 will definitely exceed 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.

Notre Dame will open 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.

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 162-66-2 (.709) record.

The 2007 football season marks the 77th year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 392 games in the facility to date and own a 297-90-5 (.764) 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 101-33 (.754) over the last 22 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).

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 and assembled media following running and stretching, 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 annualized GPA for the 2006-07 school year was 3.893.

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.

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.

Notre Dame hits the road for the first time this season as it pays a visit to No. 17/18 Penn State on Sept. 8 for a 6:00 p.m. ET contest that will be televised nationally on ESPN. The Nittany Lions host Florida International in their season opener. Last year, the Irish routed Penn State, 41-17, at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish lost their last meeting with the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium, 35-13, in 1991. Notre Dame has lost five of its last six trips to Penn State.

For 70 fanatical fans of Notre Dame and Penn State football, the highlight of the anticipated clash between the Irish and Nittany Lions will not be the game taking place at Beaver Stadium on September 8. One night earlier, Penn State’s Bigler East Field will play host to Fantasy Bowl I — a unique challenge football game between two teams of college football diehards.
Before they cheer on the current generation of gridiron greats, two rosters of 35 players averaging 40+ years in age will proudly wear the colors of the Irish and Nittany Lions themselves. They will do battle at 7 p.m. (ET) in an 11-on-11 semi-contact flag football game with school pride and bragging rights at stake.
“This is the perfect way to kick off a very special weekend of football and show some competitive spirit on the field,” said Fantasy Bowl organizer Patrick Steenberge, a former Notre Dame quarterback (1970-71) and President of Global Football. “These are truly fanatical fans of the two teams who might not have had an opportunity to play on the ultimate stage when in college, but are enjoying the next best thing later in life.”
Both rosters comprise of participants from the annual Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp, which has run since 2003, and the 2006 and 2007 Nittany Lion Football Fantasy Camps. The campers experienced a true insider’s view of the respective schools, being coached by current coaches and former college stars, while using the stadium locker rooms and finally playing an intrasquad game inside Notre Dame Stadium and Beaver Stadium.
“The camps were about realizing a dream of playing on the same field and being in the locker room where football greats had gone before them and meeting some of the athletes they have watched for years,” added Steenberge. “The Fantasy Bowl is born out of competitive desire to line up on the football field against the rivals fans of another school. It will certainly be a unique experience and produce some pretty entertaining football.”
Coaches for each team will be legendary former players from the Irish and Nittany Lions, and will be announced at a later date.
The Fantasy Bowl I players will enjoy an action-packed weekend that will include two on-campus practices, a Friday post-game party, a tailgate party on Saturday, and of course, Fantasy Bowl I to be played at Bigler East Field. The teams will wear authentic Notre Dame and Penn State uniforms and fans in town for Saturday’s game from both schools are encouraged to attend and cheer on 70 men who believe you are never too old to try.

In the first of a series of “off-site” Fighting Irish football games, the University of Notre Dame and Washington State University will square off on Oct. 31, 2009, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Notre Dame officials expect to play one “home” game per season beginning in ’09 at locations in Texas, Florida and in other cities.
The Irish and Cougars will be meeting for the first time since 2003, their only previous meeting. Notre Dame won that one 29-26 in overtime to open the season in Notre Dame Stadium. The 2009 game will be played at the 65,000-seat Alamodome, with the Valero Alamo Bowl serving as the host.
The Alamodome played host to a Texas A&M-Army regular-season matchup in 2006, served as temporary home to the NFL New Orleans Saints for part of the 2005 season in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – and is the home of the 2007 NFL Dallas Cowboys preseason training camp and the ’07 Big 12 Conference Football Championship. The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four was played at the Alamodome in 2003 and will be again in 2008.
“On behalf of the Valero Alamo Bowl and the Alamodome, we look forward to welcoming the history and tradition of Notre Dame to San Antonio and showing the team and their loyal fans our Texas hospitality,” said Derrick Fox, Valero Alamo Bowl president.
Notre Dame expects to make tickets available to its contributing alumni and fans through its alumni lottery as it does with all other football games. Washington State will receive an allotment of tickets as the visiting team.
Notre Dame has more than 4,600 alumni in the state of Texas, most as part of alumni clubs in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas/Eastern New Mexico.
NBC Sports will have the live television rights to the game, as with other Notre Dame home games.
“Notre Dame has never played in San Antonio, so this will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase our program in a new city, and in a state in which we have a strong emphasis in recruiting,” said Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White.
“San Antonio has become a consistent stop on the men’s basketball NCAA Final Four rotation, and the Riverwalk and other areas make it a great venue in terms of hospitality — so this will be an extremely attractive option for fans in general.”
The off-site home game concept, as originated by White, came about once the NCAA opted for a 12-game regular season.
“We already had plans to play seven home games per year in Notre Dame Stadium,” said White. “We considered the prospect of playing eight times in South Bend, but we determined we could make more effective use of that extra game by moving it around the country and playing not only in some areas very important to us in terms of recruiting, but also in some locales in which our fans and alumni might not otherwise see us as part of any future schedules.
“It’s a little bit like the barnstorming approach that Knute Rockne took back in the 1920s. We believe these events will provide great opportunities for fans to see our team play when they may be otherwise challenged to travel or obtain tickets for games in South Bend.”
Notre Dame’s two most recent trips to the state of Texas produced a 27-24 win over Texas in 1996 in Austin — followed by a 24-3 loss to Texas A&M in College Station in 2003.
The Irish have played in the Cotton Bowl Classic in Dallas on seven occasions — following the 1969, 1970, 1977, 1978, 1987, 1992 and 1993 seasons. A victory in the Cotton Bowl facility in 1977 earned a national championship for Notre Dame after the Irish defeated top-ranked and unbeaten Texas. Notre Dame also faced unbeaten and top-ranked Texas teams in Cotton Bowls following both the ’69 and ’70 seasons (winning in the second of those games to end a 30-game Texas win streak). The Irish are 5-2 in Cotton Bowl appearances, also winning 35-34 over Houston to close out the 1978 season in Joe Montana’s final collegiate appearance.
Notre Dame also has played in Dallas against SMU in 1949 (a 27-20 win for the top-rated Irish), 1954 (a 26-14 Notre Dame victory), 1956 (a 19-13 SMU win), 1957 (a 54-21 Notre Dame win) and 1958 (a 14-6 Irish triumph) — giving the Irish a 9-3 overall mark in Dallas. Other Notre Dame appearances in Texas came in Houston for games against Rice in 1915 (a 55-2 Notre Dame win) and 1973 (a 28-0 Irish victory). All those contests combine to give the Irish a 12-4 mark in games played in Texas.
Notre Dame’s Alamodome appearance will be a homecoming of sorts for a number of Irish players who were invited to the Alamodome as high school seniors to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl prep high school all-star game. Among those who presumably would be on the ’09 Irish roster are current Notre Dame sophomores James Aldridge, Matt Carufel, Barry Gallup Jr., Demetrius Jones, Raeshon McNeil, Konrad Reuland, Chris Stewart, Darrin Walls, Bartley Webb, Dan Wenger and Sam Young, plus incoming freshmen Armando Allen, Jimmy Clausen, Gary Gray, Robert Hughes, Duval Kamara, Aaron Nagel, Mike Ragone and Matt Romine.
Among former Irish players from San Antonio are quarterback/wide receiver Carlyle Holiday (2001-04).

Chris Zorich, two-time All-American defensive tackle at the University of Notre Dame, was one of 12 former college players and two coaches named to the National Football Foundation’s 2007 College Football Hall of Fame Class for the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A). Zorich will be recognized for his honor at halftime.
The 2007 College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted at the 50th Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 4, 2007, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The players and coaches were enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend in August 2007.
Zorich becomes the 42nd former Notre Dame player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The Irish also have five former coaches in the Hall and the 47 total enshrinees are the most of any NCAA institution.
A three-year starter at defensive tackle for the Irish, Zorich left Notre Dame as one of the most decorated defensive players in school history. He was a two-time All-American, earning unanimous first-team All-America accolades as a senior in 1990. Zorich was named United Press International Lineman of Year for 1989 and was chosen CBS Sports/Chevrolet Defensive Player of the Year for 1990. He was selected as the 1990 Lombardi Award recipient, given annually to the outstanding lineman in college football, and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy that year, too. Zorich started at nose tackle on the 1988 national championship team and finished his Notre Dame career with 219 tackles, including 21 tackles for loss.
Zorich graduated from Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies in 1991 and from the Notre Dame Law School in 2002.
A native of Chicago’s South Side, Zorich is president of the Christopher Zorich Foundation and is a past recipient of USA Weekend’s “Most Caring Athlete Award” and the Jesse Owens Foundation Humanitarian Award. The Foundation assists disadvantaged families through a variety of diverse activities and have affected over 100,000 individuals.
Zorich currently lives in Chicago where he works for the law firm of Schuyler, Roche & Zwirner, P.C.

This preseason, Notre Dame has welcomed another outstanding recruiting class under third-year head coach Charlie Weis. The Irish signing class has been ranked as high as fifth (tied) in college football.

Another Notre Dame tradition will continue with the game versus arch-rival USC, as prior to the game the 2007 team will run through a tunnel comprised of former Irish football players (several hundred are expected to return). Former head coach Bob Davie wrote a letter to every former Notre Dame football player during the summer of 1997, with the University providing them with the opportunity to buy two tickets to the season opener and inviting them to be part of the tunnel ceremony. Nearly 250 Irish football alumni formed the tunnel prior to the 1997 opener versus Georgia Tech and approximately 300 former players formed the tunnel prior to the 1998 opener versus Michigan before returning again for the ’99 opener vs. Kansas. Another such group is expected versus the Trojans.

The FWAA and Charlotte Touchdown Club will present the first annual Bronko Nagurski Legends Award in conjunction with the Bronko Nagurski Trophy this coming December in Charlotte.
The FWAA began selecting separate defensive and offensive All-America squads during the 1966 season. And, the first annual award will go to the players at Michigan State and Notre Dame who played in one of the greatest defensive games of the 20th Century. The teams were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the country when they met in East Lansing that season. The historic game ended in a 10-10 tie.
For the only time in history, two players from two teams made the 1966 FWAA All-America team on the defensive side of the ball: Notre Dame’s Jim Lynch and Alan Page and Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and George Webster. One of those players or a representative from each school is expected to be in Charlotte on Dec. 3 for the presentation when the 2007 Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded to the best defensive player in college football.

Tickets are now on sale for the 2007 Notre Dame Kickoff Luncheons held the Friday prior to each Irish home football game. The luncheons feature Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, Irish players and assistant coaches, plus special guests and other attractions.
Tickets are $18 each, with a handling fee of $3 (payment may be made with one check for more than one luncheon). There are 10 seats per table — and if you wish to sit as a group at the same table with other guests, please return all reservations in one envelope.
Checks should be made payable to “University of Notre Dame” and mailed to: Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone and credit card reservations are not accepted.
A printed reservation form also is available on Notre Dame’s athletics web site at
The luncheons are held in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome) on the Notre Dame campus, with a noon (ET) start. Be aware that advance reservations are required for tickets, and tickets are not routinely available at the door.

All 2007 pep rallies will be held in the Joyce Center Arena (south dome), unless moved inside Notre Dame Stadium, on Fridays before Saturday home games, beginning at 6 p.m. (ET). The Irish squad enters the arena at 6:30 p.m.

— ND —