Sept. 29, 2008
GAME 5: NOTRE DAME (3-1) vs. STANFORD (3-2)
Saturday, October 4, 2008
TIME: 2:43 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): Notre Dame Stadium (80,795); Notre Dame, Ind.
TICKETS: The game is officially sold out making it the 203rd 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 251 of their last 252 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 min. pre-game show (2-2:30 p.m.) and post-game show on NBCSports.com.
RADIO: ISP Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. The Notre Dame-ISP relationship begins with the 2008 season and extends through the 2017 season — with ISP managing, producing and syndicating the Irish national football radio network. Notre Dame games will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish great Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, sideline and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159). All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on Sunny 101.5 FM and NewsTalk 960 WSBT-AM. See page 12 of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), Stanford (gostanford.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.
POLLS: Notre Dame did receive votes in the USA Today coaches poll, but did not in the Associated Press poll, while Stanford failed to receive votes in either poll.
SERIES INFO: Notre Dame and Stanford will play one another for the 23rd time in series history on Saturday. The Irish hold a 16-6 (.727) edge in the series, including a 21-14 victory in the last season’s meeting in Palo Alto. The Irish have captured each of the last six meetings overall and six straight in Notre Dame Stadium. (see All-Time Series Results on page 2 of PDF version of notes).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame has captured its first three games this season inside Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish will look for their fifth straight victory at home this weekend. Notre Dame will also look to open a season 4-0 at home for the first time since 2002.
STANFORD HEAD COACH JIM HARBAUGH: Jim Harbaugh, who was appointed the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football on December 19, 2006, wasted little time in making a big impression in the college football circles in his first season as Stanford’s head coach.
Stanford was one of the most improved teams in the Pacific-10 Conference last season under Harbaugh, whose infectious energy and enthusiasm immediately took hold of the program. The Cardinal finished with a 4-8 overall record and a 3-6 mark in conference play last season following a 2006 campaign which saw the team win just one game in 12 outings. Included in last year’s win total was an epic, 24-23 upset win over USC, ranked first in the USA Today Coaches poll and second by the Associated Press at the time, and a convincing win over defending Pac-10 Conference co-champion California, breaking the Bears’ five-game winning streak in the Big Game.
While a pair of signature victories served notice Stanford’s program was again on the rise, Harbaugh is more than ready to push the envelope a little further this season as the Cardinal continue its journey to the upper echelon of a talent-rich conference in its quest to become perennial bowl participants.
Harbaugh came to Stanford from the University of San Diego, where he guided the Toreros to an impressive three-year overall record of 29-6 (.829), including back-to-back 11-1 seasons that netted a pair of Division I-AA Mid Major national titles in 2005 and ’06.
NOTRE DAME – STANFORD SERIES HISTORY
- Notre Dame leads the all-time series versus Stanford (16-6), including a 9-2 edge when the scene shifts to Notre Dame Stadium.
- The series began on Jan. 1, 1925 (the end of the 1924 season) when Notre Dame’s famed Four Horsemen and head coach Knute Rockne travelled across the country to meet Stanford’s Pop Warner and Ernie Nevers. Notre Dame’s 27-10 victory earned the Irish their first-ever national championship and the first of four national crowns to come via bowl wins.
- The series then included one game in the 1940s and two in the 1960s. This year’s game will represent the 19th meeting between the schools in the last 21 years (no games in 1995 or 1996).
- This year’s contest marks only the fifth time in the last 20 series games that neither of the teams will have been ranked in the Associated Press poll. The 1999 matchup (a 40-37 Stanford win), 2003 game (a 57-7 Irish victory), 2004 meeting (a 23-15 Notre Dame triumph) and 2007 matchup (a 21-14 Irish victory) were the only other times since 1963 that both teams were unranked at kickoff.
- The winner of the Notre Dame-Stanford series receives the Legends Trophy, a combination of Irish crystal and California redwood. The trophy was presented for the first time in 1989 by the Notre Dame Club of the San Francisco Bay Area. Notre Dame has won 12 of 17 games since the Legends Trophy was first introduced.
NOTRE DAME – STANFORD SERIES NOTES
- Saturday’s game marks the 23rd meeting between Notre Dame and Stanford. The Irish lead the series 16-6, including a 9-2 advantage when playing host to the Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium.
- The two teams have met every year since 1988, with the exception of the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
- This year’s matchup will mark only the fifth time in the last 20 series meetings that neither Notre Dame nor Stanford is ranked at kickoff.
- After a five-game stretch from 1989-93 in which the visiting team won every game, the home team won each of the next seven games (1994-2002) before the Irish put a stop to that trend with a 57-7 victory last year at Stanford Stadium.
- Notre Dame has won 10 of the last 13 games in the series by an average margin of 12.5 points per game. The Irish are averaging 31 points per game in those meetings, while surrendering just 18.5.
- The Irish defense has played a pivotal role in the series, holding the Cardinal to an average of 18.4 points per game, including 10 games where Stanford scored 14 points or less (each of the last two meetings). Meanwhile, Notre Dame has averaged 29.9 points per game and has topped the 30-point mark 11 times in the series (including 11 of the last 17 meetings).
- Notre Dame has won the previous six meetings with Stanford, which is the longest winning streak for either school in the all-time series.
NOTRE DAME VS. PAC-10
- Notre Dame is 78-41-6 (.648) all-time against teams from the Pac-10 Conference. Stanford represents the first of three Pac-10 opponent for the Irish this season. Notre Dame also faces Washington (Oct. 25) and USC (Nov. 29).
- The 125 games against Pac-10 teams is the second-most for the Irish against any conference. The Big Ten Conference (344) represents the most games played against Notre Dame and the ACC ranks third (106).
- Notre Dame has a winning series record against nine of the Pac-10 teams. Most of those games (79) have come versus USC (42-32-5), while 22 other matchups have come against Stanford.
- Notre Dame has played a handful of games versus California (4-0), Washington (6-0), UCLA (4-0), Arizona (2-1), Arizona State (2-1), Oregon (1-0-1) and Oregon State (0-2). Notre Dame played its first-ever game against Washington State in 2003, downing the Cougars, 29-26, in overtime.
- Notre Dame has posted a 44-15-1 (.742) record against Pac-10 opponents at home.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 14 previous games in its history on Oct. 4. The Irish are 10-4 all-time on this date. The Irish have recorded three shutouts on Oct. 4 (1913, 1919, 1924).
Oct. 4, 1930: The Irish opened Notre Dame Stadium. With a crowd on hand far less than the 54,000 capacity, the Irish opened the facility by defeating SMU, 20-14. Official dedication ceremonies came a week later against traditional foe Navy.
The Osborn Engineering Company, which had designed more than 50 stadia in the country – including Comiskey Park in Chicago, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds in New York City, and facilities at Michigan, Indiana, Purdue and Minnesota – was awarded the contract and excavation began that summer.
Actual labor on the foundations of the Stadium did not commence until April, 1930, but four months later Notre Dame Stadium opened its 18 gates for its first use.
The Stadium measured a half-mile in circumference, stood 45 feet high and featured a glass-enclosed press box rising 60 feet above ground level and originally accommodating 264 writers plus facilities for photographers and radio and television broadcasters. There were more than 2,000,000 bricks in the original edifice, 400 tons of steel and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete. The total cost of construction exceeded $750,000, and architecturally the Notre Dame Stadium was patterned, on a smaller scale, after the University of Michigan’s mammoth stadium.
Though Rockne had a chance to coach in the new facility only in its initial season of use, he took a personal hand in its design. The sod from Cartier Field was transplanted into the new Stadium, but Rockne insisted on its use for football only. He kept the area between the field and the stands small to keep sideline guests, as he called them, to a minimum – and he personally supervised the parking and traffic system that remained much the same until the 21,150-seat addition in 1997.
Oct. 4, 1940: The movie “Knute Rockne: All-American,” opens in South Bend.
Oct. 4, 1980: Halfback Phil Carter becomes the first Notre Dame running back ever to lug the pigskin forty times in a game, as he picks up 254 rushing yards on exactly forty carries in a 26-21 victory over Michigan State.
NOTRE DAME – STANFORD CONNECTIONS
- Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh played at the University of Michigan (1984-86). He helped the Wolverines to a pair of victories over the Irish (1985, 20-12; 1986, 24-23).
- Stanford special teams/defensive ends coach D.J. Durkin spent two years at Notre Dame (2003-04) as a graduate assistant.
- Longtime NFL assistant and current Stanford co-defensive coordinator Ron Lynn spent three years on the New England Patriots staff from 1997-99 (under current USC head coach Pete Carroll). Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis spent nine years in New England, over two different stints, but never worked alongside Lynn.
- Eighth-year Irish men’s soccer coach Bobby Clark, the 2001 and 2003 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, was the head coach at Stanford for five seasons (1996-2000) before taking over the Notre Dame program in 2001. At Stanford, Clark took the Cardinal to the NCAA championship game in 1998, while making four NCAA appearances. The charismatic and affable Irish leader has guided his teams to seven consecutive NCAA Championship appearances (a program first), a BIG EAST tournament title in 2003 and two BIG EAST regular-season crowns (2004 & 2007). Notre Dame has reached new heights within the program over the past two seasons by reaching the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals for the first time ever in 2006 and a repeat appearance in 2007.
- Notre Dame’s roster features 11 players from the state of California. The roster of Stanford does not have a player from the state of Indiana.
- Stanford sophomore TE Konrad Reuland previously played for Notre Dame in 2006-07. He saw action in 10 games, including three in 2007, before transferring to Saddleback College (where he did not play football). Reuland sat out the first four games of the 2008 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but was eligible for game competition last week against Washington.
- A number of players from Stanford and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make Notre Dame 4-1 for the first time since 2006 and fourth time in the past five years (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008).
- Give the Irish their fifth straight victory inside Notre Dame Stadium.
- Give Notre Dame four straight victories at Notre Dame Stadium to open the season for the first time since 2002.
- Give the Irish a victory over Stanford for the seventh consecutive year and eighth time in the previous nine meetings.
- Improve the all-time record for Notre Dame to 9-2 (.818) against Stanford the week after facing Purdue.
- Improve the all-time record for the Irish to 8-2 (.800) against Stanford the week after beating Purdue and 5-2 (.714) in such meetings in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Improve Notre Dame to 17-3 (.850) under Weis coming off a victory.
- Improve the Irish to 17-6 (.739) in the all-time series with Stanford.
- Improve Notre Dame to 10-2 (.833) in the all-time series with the Cardinal in South Bend with all the meetings taking place in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Give Notre Dame its seventh consecutive victory over Stanford in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Improve an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 4-3 (.571) all-time against Stanford (extending their winning streak to four in such meetings).
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 3-0 (1.000) all-time against the Cardinal in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Improve Notre Dame to 5-2 (.714) all-time against Stanford when both teams are unranked.
- Improve Notre Dame to 3-0 (1.000) all-time against the Cardinal in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
- Improve Notre Dame to 79-41-6 (.651) all-time against the Pac-10 Conference.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time home record against the Pac-10 to 45-15-1 (.746).
- Improve Weis’ record to 26-16 overall (.619), 4-0 (1.000) against Stanford and 7-3 (.700) against the Pac-10 Conference.
- Improve Weis’ overall home record to 15-9 (.625) and his home record against the Pac-10 Conference to 3-2 (.600).
- Improve Weis’ record to 8-4 (.667) in October games.
- Improve Weis’ record to 19-13 (.594) in afternoon games.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 828-279-42 (.739).
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 302-96-5 (.756).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Make Notre Dame 3-2 for the first time since 2004.
- Deny the Irish their fifth straight victory inside Notre Dame Stadium.
- Deny Notre Dame four straight victories at Notre Dame Stadium to open the season for the first time since 2002.
- Snap the six-game winning streak for the Irish over Stanford.
- Drop the all-time record for Notre Dame to 8-3 (.818) against Stanford the week after facing Purdue.
- Drop the all-time record for the Irish to 7-3 (.700) against Stanford the week after beating Purdue and 4-3 (.571) in such meetings in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Drop Notre Dame to 16-4 (.800) under Weis coming off a victory.
- Drop the Irish to 16-7 (.696) in the all-time series with Stanford.
- Drop Notre Dame to 9-3 (.750) in the all-time series with the Cardinal in South Bend with all the meetings taking place in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Deny Notre Dame its seventh consecutive victory over Stanford in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Drop an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 3-4 (.429) all-time against Stanford (snapping their winning streak at three in such meetings).
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 2-1 (.667) all-time against the Cardinal in Notre Dame Stadium.
- Drop Notre Dame to 4-3 (.571) all-time against Stanford when both teams are unranked.
- Drop Notre Dame to 2-1 (.667) all-time against the Cardinal in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
- Drop Notre Dame to 78-42-6 (.643) all-time against the Pac-10 Conference.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time home record against the Pac-10 to 44-16-1 (.730).
- Drop Weis’ record to 25-17 overall (.595), 3-1 (.750) against Stanford and 6-4 (.600) against the Pac-10 Conference.
- Drop Weis’ overall home record to 14-10 (.583) and his home record against the Pac-10 Conference to 2-3 (.400).
- Drop Weis’ record to 7-5 (.583) in October games.
- Drop Weis’ record to 18-14 (.563) in afternoon games.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 827-280-42 (.738).
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 301-97-5 (.753).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: A record combined win total for the first two seasons of any Notre Dame head football coach, consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances for the first time in Irish history, and the two most accomplished passing seasons in Notre Dame football annals – those are the most notable by-products of the first three seasons of the Charlie Weis era in South Bend.
Weis, a 1978 Notre Dame graduate and owner of four Super Bowl-champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as a National Football League assistant coach, wasted no time putting his signature stamp on his alma mater’s program in his first two years as Irish head coach in 2005 and 2006.
Weis and his Irish followed up a 9-3 record in ’05 and BCS appearance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with a 10-3 overall mark in ’06 and a second consecutive BCS invitation, this time to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Those 19 combined wins (including eight straight in the middle of the ’06 regular season) qualified as most in a two-year period by the Irish since they collected 21 in 1992-93. It was also the first time Notre Dame played in BCS games in successive years and the most prominent two-season bowl qualification since the Irish played in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls after the 1994 and ’95 campaigns. The only schools to play in BCS games after both the ’05 and ’06 seasons were Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
Notre Dame’s 10 regular-season wins in ’06 marked the ninth time that figure had been achieved in Irish history. Weis’ 19 combined wins in his first two seasons were the most by a ND head coach in his first two years (the previous high was 17 by both Terry Brennan in 1954-55 and Dan Devine in 1975-76). For the second straight year in ’06 Weis was one of three finalists for the George Munger Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club (of Philadelphia) to the college coach of the year.
The architect in ’05 and ’06 of the two most prolific passing seasons in Irish football history, Weis effectively transformed the ND offense into one of the most productive in the nation, as the Irish scored more points in `05 (440) than in any previous season in school history – and also qualified as the most improved offensive attack in the nation, jumping its total offense production (477.33 yards per game) a national-best 131.8 yards per game better than in ’04. The Irish followed that up with another strong passing attack in ’06, with Notre Dame’s average of 264.1 passing yards per contest ranking 13th nationally and second all-time in the Notre Dame record book (behind only the 330.3 mark from ’05). The Irish protected the football nearly as well as any team in the country in ’06, with their 14 overall turnovers in 13 games ranking tied for fourth of the 119 NCAA I-A teams.
On a combined basis in 2005 and ’06 under Weis, Notre Dame led the nation in interception avoidance with only 1.6 percent of Irish passes picked off over those two years. The Irish, thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Brady Quinn, finished third in TD passes with 69 and sixth in passing yards per game (295.8) and passing rating (151.7). In ’05 and ’06 combined, compared to the previous two seasons, the Irish improved their points per game by 11.5, and their total yards per game by 90.9.
IRISH TEAM NOTES
OPENERS AN INDICATOR?
Notre Dame is now 100-15-5 in season openers, but have they been foretelling of the season ahead? Take a look:
- The 99 previous seasons Notre Dame has won its opener, the Irish went on to post winning records 91 times (91.9%), with four losing seasons and four .500 records.
- The 15 seasons Notre Dame lost its opener, the Irish posted winning records six times and a losing mark eight times (with one .500 season).
- The five seasons Notre Dame registered a tie in its opener, the Irish had four winning records and one losing record.
FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Notre Dame has historically recruited from all across the country and 2008 is no different. A total of 29 different states are represented on the Irish roster. Among Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division IA), only Army has more states represented on its 2008 roster.
COACHING IN THE CLUTCH
Knute Rockne owns the best career winning percentage among Notre Dame coaches in games decided by seven or fewer points, at 21-1-5 (.870). Among Irish coaches with 14-plus “close games”, the other top winning percentages in tight games belong to Elmer Layden (22-7-3, .734), Frank Leahy (17-5-8, .700), Tyrone Willingham (10-5, .667), Ara Parseghian (13-6-4, .652), Dan Devine (15-9-1, .620), Bob Davie (14-12, .611) and Lou Holtz (20-18-2, .525). Current head coach Charlie Weis owns a .667 winning percentage in such games (6-3).
NOT SO MANY NEW FACES
- Notre Dame had 28 different players (13 on defense, 15 on offense) register their first career start in 2007 (a total of 16 players made their first career starts the two previous seasons combined). The Irish have had just six players (RG Chris Stewart, FS Sergio Brown, FS Harrison Smith, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Michael Floyd) make their first start in 2008.
- Notre Dame started eight true freshmen in 2007, including HB Robert Hughes, QB Jimmy Clausen, HB Armando Allen, WR Golden Tate, WR Duval Kamara, OLB Kerry Neal, OLB Brian Smith and NT Ian Williams. In comparison, the Irish have started three freshmen in 2008 (DE Ethan Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph and WR Michael Floyd).
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
- Notre Dame lost both meetings with Big Ten rivals Michigan and Purdue in 2007. The Irish were outscored 71-19 in those games, including a 38-0 shutout at the hands of the Wolverines.
- Notre Dame upended both Michigan and the Boilermakers this season. They outscored the two longtime rivals, 73-38, in the meetings.
- The 35-17 rebound victory over the Wolverines is the fifth-greatest turnaround from one season to the next against the same opponent.
LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE ’08
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.
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 205 of its previous 236 games, including 80 of its last 88 contests dating back to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands, the 2005 game at Washington and the 2007 game at UCLA 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 the 2006 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 last season.
- Notre Dame’s 2007 recruiting class, which was widely considered one of the top classes in the country, experienced serious growing pains a year ago, but from the early returns from 2008 the experience was rewarding.
- The Irish have scored 14 touchdowns in 2008 and eight have come from sophomores. WR Golden Tate leads Notre Dame with three touchdowns, while RB Robert Hughes has a pair. WR Duval Kamara, LB Brian Smith and RB Armando Allen each have one touchdown. If you toss in freshman WR Michael Floyd, freshman TE Kyle Rudolph and freshman DB Robert Blanton, a first or second year player has scored 12 of Notre Dame’s 14 touchdowns.
- Sophomore Jimmy Clausen has thrown nine touchdown passes.
- The top two running backs are both sophomores.
- Tate leads the Irish in receiving yards (367), receptions (20) and touchdowns (3).
- The top three players in scoring and six of the top 10 are all sophomores (three others are freshman).
- Five of the top 15 tacklers on the Irish squad are sophomores (and two others are freshman).
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.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Junior Eric Maust recorded an average of 42.1 per punt in 2007. Maust landed nine of his 21 punts inside the 20-yard line and recorded a long punt of 53 yards. A starting pitcher on the baseball team, Maust has punted 18 times in 2008 and averages 42.2 per boot. He already has four punts of 50+ yards and seven have been pinned inside the 20-yard line. Maust is ranked 11th in the NCAA in net punting. Notre Dame had not had a left-footed kicker since Harry Oliver in 1981 until sophomore Brandon Walker entered the picture in 2007. Walker served as the primary placekicker throughout the season and converted six of 12 field-goal attempts with a long of 48 yards. He also serves as the backup punter. Walker connected on his first field goal of the season with a 41-yard kick against Purdue (now 1-for-3). Junior Ryan Burkhart is the kickoff specialist for the Irish after spending much of his freshman season in the same capacity. Burkhart has averaged 62.2 yards per kick and Notre Dame opponents are averaging just 13.94 per return (tops in the NCAA FBS).
NOTRE DAME KICKOFF COVERAGE EXCELS ONCE AGAIN
The Irish kickoff coverage entered the contest with Purdue ranked third in the NCAA FBS allowing just 14.0 yards per return. The Boilermakers entered the game averaging 31.8 yards per return – second best in the country. Notre Dame limited Purdue to 13.9 yards per return. In fact, the Irish kept the nation’s top kick returner, Desmond Tardy (who averaged 40.3 coming into the game), completely out of the mix. He failed to register a single kick return, while Kory Sheets, who was 20th in the NCAA FBS at 30.5 yards per return, managed just 13.9 per return on seven kickoffs.
SPECIAL TEAMS SHOW MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS
- In the final 2007 NCAA stats, Notre Dame ranked 40th in punt return defense (7.44), 89th (out of 119) in kickoff return defense (22.75) and 94th in kickoff returns (19.69).
- Over the season’s first four games, the Irish have seen major improvements in all four categories.
- Notre Dame ranking first in the NCAA FBS in kickoff return coverage is even more impressive when you consider they have yet to register a touchback on the season and rarely have a kick ever each the endzone. On the other hand, Kansas State, which ranks just behind of the Irish has benefitted from nine touchbacks.
- Notre Dame has punted 18 times over its first three games, 11 have not been returned a single yard, including one touchback, two out of bounds, four downed and four fair catches. Five other punts have been returned for three yards or less.
- Senior CB Mike Anello, who was awarded a scholarship during fall practice, has made quite a name for himself over the past two seasons. Anello joined the squad a walk-on in 2007 and spent the entire fall camp as well as the first two weeks of the season on the scout team. After making one play after another against the Irish first team special teams unit, head coach Charlie Weis moved Anello into the starting lineup against Michigan in 2007 as a gunner opposite senior FS David Bruton.
- In that first career game against the Wolverines, Anello proceeded to make a solo tackle on his second ever play in a Notre Dame uniform. He finished last season with six tackles in eight games.
- Notre Dame has a total of 37 punts (18) or kickoffs (19) in 2008. Anello has registered a tackle on 10 of those 37 opportunities.
- Anello finished the afternoon against Purdue with three more tackles on special teams, including a solo stop on the game’s opening kickoff against the nation’s second-best kick return squad.
- Anello was incredible in the season opener against San Diego State. He registered four solo tackles on special teams (two on punt return coverage and two on kickoff return coverage).
- Anello continued his tear on the opposition on punt and kickoff coverage against Michigan. He registered three more tackles, two solo, as well as forced a fumble and recovered another. Anello also nearly recovered a second Wolverine fumble on a punt.
- The fumble recovery set up another Irish score to make it 14-0 early in the first quarter.
NOT TO BE OVERSHADOWED
While senior CB Mike Anello certainly deserves much of the credit with his play on special teams, fellow senior FS David Bruton (the other gunner) has played a significant role. Bruton, widely considered one of the top gunners in all of college football the past two seasons, led the Irish in special teams stops the past two seasons and only Anello’s 10 outdistances Bruton’s five.
Armando Allen AWAKENS IRISH RETURN GAME
- Sophomore Armando Allen finally broke through in the Irish kick return game against Michigan State. Allen had five kick returns for 147 yards, including a career-best 53 yard burst in the fourth quarter.
- The 53-yard return was the longest for an Irish player since Vontez Duff returned a kick 92 yards for a touchdown against Navy on Nov. 9, 2002.
- The 147 kickoff return yards are the second-most in the Charlie Weis era and most for any Notre Dame player since David Grimes had 145 yards against Michigan on Sept. 16, 2006.
- The 29.3 per kickoff return average was the third-best by an Irish player under Weis and highest average since Grimes averaged 33.7 per return against North Carolina on Nov. 4, 2006.
- Allen continued to take advantage of kick return opportunities (as the Irish opponents choose to not kick at sophomore WR Golden Tate).
- He had four kickoff returns for 105 yards, including a 36-yard return in the second half against Purdue.
- Over the last two games for the Irish, Allen is averaging 28.0 per return (nine kickoff returns for 252 yards).
- Allen now ranks 37th in the NCAA FBS in kickoff returns with a 24.83 average.
- Allen set single-season school records for kickoff returns (33) and kickoff return yards (704) in 2007. He broke the previous school record for kickoff returns in a single-season of 26 held by Julius Jones (1999) and Tim Brown’s previous school record of 698 kickoff return yards in 1986. In fact, his 45 kickoff returns and 1,002 kickoff return yards each already rank seventh in Notre Dame career history.
MAKING THE MAUST OF THE SITUATION
- Junior P Eric Maust had the unenviable task of replacing one of the top punters in Irish history, but the dual sport athlete has picked up right where Geoff Price left off.
- Maust has punted 18 times in 2008 for 759 yards, good for a 42.2 average. His 39.83 net punting ranks 11th best in the NCAA FBS.
- Maust punted just twice in the 38-21 victory over Purdue, but the junior recorded a career-best 54 yarder in the first half.
- Maust had gone six consecutive games with a pair of punts that were downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line before failing to do so against Purdue (managed just one) on two punts.
- Maust also extended his streak of games with a punt pinned inside the 20-yard line to eight in which he has punted.
- Maust has already bombed four punts of over 50 yards, including two against Michigan (despite horrendous weather conditions).
- Maust has also dropped seven inside the opponents 20-yard line. In fact, he has dropped 16 inside the 20-yard line already in his career (on just 39 punts).
- Maust’s hang time and directional punting has helped the Irish punt coverage team rank 10th best in the NCAA FBS with a 3.14 per return average.
IRISH OFFENSIVE NOTES
Notre Dame started one of its most inexperienced offensive lines in years last season (as four different players registered their first career starts), but a benefit from last season’s struggles is that the 2008 offensive line now is full of experienced hands. Three returning players started all 12 games last season — and two more started six and five games, respectively. Two of the three best rushing games for the Irish last year came in the final two contests, and all five starters from those two games return in 2008. Junior Sam Young has started all 29 games in his career at tackle and is the most experienced returning player on the Irish offensive line. He opened the first 15 games at right tackle before sliding over to left tackle following the second game of his sophomore season, but returned to RT this season. Young is the only Notre Dame offensive lineman to start every game through his first two seasons since freshmen regained eligibility in 1972. Seniors Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich had not earned meaningful minutes prior to starting all 12 games last year. Duncan started the first two games at left tackle, then switched with Young and played the final 10 contests at right tackle. Turkovich had only played in 16 games prior to 2007, but he started every game at left guard for the Irish. Juniors Eric Olsen and Dan Wenger both saw valuable playing time in 2007, but they did it at different points of the season and in different ways. Olsen did not start until midway through last year, but once he opened at right guard against UCLA, Olsen never relinquished his opportunity. He started the final six games of the campaign. Wenger opened the season as the starting right guard and played three games there before an injury forced him to the sidelines. After missing the middle portion of the schedule, he returned to start the final two contests at center. Wenger’s natural position is center. Fellow junior Chris Stewart worked his way up the depth chart and has started each of the first three games in 2008. In fact, the entire quintet of Turkovich, Stewart, Wenger, Olsen and Young have started every game this season.
The quintet has already seen major improvements from a year ago. Here a just a few noticeable upgrades:
- Notre Dame surrendered an NCAA record 58 sacks in 2007, but the Irish did not allow a single sack over their first two games of 2008 (first time since 2003 Notre Dame has gone consecutive games without allowing a sack).
- The Irish have allowed just four sacks over their first four games. Notre Dame ranks tied for 22nd in the NCAA FBS in fewest sacks allowed. The ranking is even more impressive when you consider that the four Irish opponents (San Diego State, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue) have totaled 31 sacks in their other games. The Wolverines rank tied for seventh in the NCAA FBS in sacks (13.0) despite getting shutout by the Notre Dame offensive line.
- In last season’s 38-0 defeat at Michigan, the Irish allowed eight sacks and was limited minus-six yards rushing on the afternoon. In the 35-17 Irish victory earlier this season, Notre Dame did not allow the Wolverines a single sack (even though they averaged 4.0 sacks per game — tops in the NCAA entering the contest) and rushed for 113 yards. The Wolverines had allowed 83 yards on the ground over their first two games combined.
- The Irish entered last week’s game against Purdue with 234 yards rushing over their first three games of the season combined (ranked 111th in the nation at 78.00 per game). In fact, Notre Dame managed just 16 yards on the ground in the 23-7 loss at Michigan State the week prior, but the Irish racked up 201 yards on 40 carries last week against Purdue. The 201 yards rushing were the most for the Irish since they picked up 220 against Duke on November 17, 2007 at Notre Dame Stadium.
No Notre Dame freshman quarterback had ever started his first game for the Irish prior to the fourth week of the season until sophomore Jimmy Clausen opened under center in the second game of the 2007 season at Penn State. He completed 17 of 32 passes that day for 144 yards and displayed the poise and resiliency often in that game which would help carry him through a challenging and, at times, frustrating rookie season. Clausen (138-245, .563, 1,254 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs) started nine games for the Irish and etched his name throughout the Notre Dame record books. He equaled the school record for starts by an Irish freshman quarterback and finished second on the following freshman quarterback single-season lists: passing yards, completions and completion percentage. Clausen missed two games at midseason to help heal some lingering injuries, but he returned to start the last three games where he completed 57 of 104 passes for 636 yards with six TDs and one interception.
Senior Evan Sharpley (77-140, .550, 736 yards, 5 TDs 3 INTs) epitomized the role of a quality backup in 2007. Called upon in eight games, Sharpley never skipped a beat as the Irish signal caller. He entered when Clausen was injured at Purdue and passed for 208 yards with two TDs and one interception — and then started against USC and Navy. A member of the Irish baseball team, Sharpley missed most of spring practices due to his baseball commitment where he led the team in home runs. Freshman Dayne Crist, a 6-4, 230-pounder from California who was a Parade All-American last year and one of six finalists for the U.S. Army Player of the Year Award, as well as Nate Montana (son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Irish legend Joe) also join the mix this fall.
CLAUSEN CONTINUES TO DEVELOP
- Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen missed on his first three pass attempts to open the game against Purdue, but connected on the next five straight passes to close the first quarter (extended streak to six early in the second quarter before an incompletion in the Purdue end zone).
- After Purdue grabbed a 14-7 lead, Clausen led Notre Dame on a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped off by a touchdown pass to sophomore WR Golden Tate.
- Completed 3-of-4 passes on the drive for 61 yards, including a 38-yard pass to freshman WR Michael Floyd.
- The touchdown pass was his seventh of the season and 14th of his career (extended streak to four consecutive games with a touchdown pass).
- Added two more touchdown passes in the third quarter, one to freshman TE Kyle Rudolph and another to senior WR David Grimes.
- The three touchdown passes against Purdue give him nine for the season and 16 for his career.
- Has registered three touchdown passes in a single game on four different occasions (all in the last seven games for Notre Dame).
- Eclipsed his career-high for passing yards in a game with 275 (previous career-best was 246 against Air Force on Nov. 10, 2007).
- Clausen has now seen action in 14 career games for Notre Dame.
- Clausen has thrown at least three touchdowns passes in four of his last seven games and posted multiple TD pass games five times over the stretch.
- Battling an injury in 2007, Clausen connected on just four passes over 35 yards last season, but the second-year signal caller has already registered five such passes over the first four games.
- Clausen posted career-highs against Michigan State in both completions (24) and attempts (41). He also threw for 242 yards, third-most in his Irish career.
- With nine touchdown passes over his first four games, Clausen has surpassed his entire total from 2007 (7).
- Clausen struggled in the first-half against Michigan State (just 7-of-14 for 79 yards and two INTs), but rebounded with a stellar second-half in which he started 17-of-21 for 163 yards and a touchdown before missing his final six attempts.
- Clausen tossed his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season in the 35-17 victory over Michigan. Clausen hooked up with fellow sophomores WR Duval Kamara and WR Golden Tate.
- The 48-yard touchdown pass to Tate against Michigan was Clausen’s longest of his career, but stood for only eight minutes on the game clock.
- Clausen again connected with Tate for 60 yards to set up another Notre Dame touchdown against the Wolverines.
- The 60-yard passing play from Clausen to Tate was the fourth-longest passing play under Weis.
- The 60-yard passing play was the longest for the Irish since Brady Quinn connected with John Carlson for a 62-yard TD reception against Michigan State on Sept. 23, 2006.
- With Notre Dame trailing 13-7 and 11:55 to go in the fourth quarter in the season opener against San Diego State, Clausen proceeded to complete 8-of-his-final-9 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns (led Notre Dame on scoring drives of 80 and 55 yards) to secure the come-from-behind victory.
- Recorded at least three touchdown passes in the same game for the third time in his career.
- Over the final three games of 2007 and the contest with San Diego State, Clausen tossed nine touchdown passes and three interceptions. He completed 78-for-138 (.565) and 873 yards over those four games.
- Clausen’s previous best passing afternoon came against Air Force on Nov. 10, 2007. He completed 22-of-40 for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
- Clausen was even better in the second-half against the Falcons. He was 17-of-29 for 192 yards and two scores. Clausen was also victimized by at least five dropped passes.
- Including his second-half effort against Air Force (17-of-29 for 192 yards and two touchdowns) and opening half against Duke, Clausen went 30-of-52 for 361 yards and four TDs in that four-quarter span against the Falcons and Blue Devils.
- Clausen finished the Air Force and Duke games with three touchdown passes each, tying career-high and the Irish freshman quarterback record.
- Prior to the Air Force contest, Clausen’s best game of 2007 came at Purdue on Sept. 29, 2007. Despite missing most of the fourth quarter after suffering a hip injury, he went 18-of-26 for 169 yards and one touchdown. Clausen recorded a completion percentage of 69.2% against Purdue — second-highest ever by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback (only Steve Beuerlein (.700, 14-for-20) at Penn State on Nov. 12, 1983 completed a higher percentage).
One of the deepest positions on the team in terms of talent and versatility is the running back spot. The top three rushers from 2007 all return, featuring styles that complement one another. Those three combined to start 10 games last year and rushed for 1,105 yards and four TDs. Junior James Aldridge (21 car., 75 yards, 3.6 avg.) started five games in 2007 and led the Irish with 463 yards on 121 carries. The former prep All-American displayed both the power to run through arm tackles as well as speed in the open field as he recorded the second-longest run from scrimmage last year – a 43-yard gallop vs. Michigan State. Aldridge eclipsed 100 yards in two games and paced the Irish in rushing in six contests. Aldridge did not play in the season opener, but returned to the lineup against Michigan and rushed for 28 yards on nine carries against the Wolverines. He added four carries for 13 yards against Michigan State. Aldridge rushed for a season-high 34 yards and registered a season-high 17 yard carry against Purdue.
Sophomore Armando Allen (41 car., 205 yards, 5.0 avg., one TD) showed flashes of his game-breaking speed last year, but he was seldom able to rip off big gains in 2007. Allen’s longest run was 15 yards and his longest reception went for 16 yards, however the dual-threat option he presents as a rusher and receiver combined with his elite speed adds another dimension to the Irish backfield. Allen only had two carries for four yards against Michigan in limited duty, but rushed 16 times for 59 yards in the season-opening victory over San Diego State. He also added three receptions for 18 yards and totaled 158 all-purpose yards against the Aztecs. Allen again struggled on the ground, as did the entire Irish backfield, against the Spartans. Allen managed just eight yards on six carries, but did register five receptions (20 yards), 147 kickoff return yards and 198 all-purpose yards. He, and the entire Irish rushing attack, exploded last week against Purdue. Allen rushed for 134 yards on 17 carries, including his first career rushing touchdown. He not only recorded a career-long rush of 21 yards (three times), but he actually registered the four longest carries of his career last week alone. Allen added 105 yards in kick returns and totaled 248 all-purpose yards (a career-high and most by any player in the Weis era).
Fellow sophomore Robert Hughes (50 car., 168 yards, 3.4 avg., two TDs) burst onto the scene in the final two games last year, featuring a power running game not seen by a Notre Dame player in a number of years. With just 18 carries through the first 10 games, Hughes became the workhorse versus Duke and Stanford by rushing a combined 35 times for 246 yards (7.0 avg.) and two TDs. Hughes became the first freshman running back at Notre Dame to surpass 100 rushing yards in consecutive games since Allen Pinkett in 1982. Hughes is second on Notre Dame in 2008 with 168 yards and two touchdowns — both in the victory over Michigan.
Returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2006 season, senior Asaph Schwapp started seven games a year ago and served as the lead fullback in every game. Schwapp was the lead blocker for the aforementioned three running backs and also rushed 12 times in 2007, gaining 14 yards. Junior Luke Schmidt, an Indiana native, appeared in 11 games last season and splits time at tight end.
NOTRE DAME RUNNING ATTACK AWAKENS
The Irish entered today’s game with 234 yards rushing over their first three games of the season combined (ranked 111th in the nation at 78.00 per game). Notre Dame racked up 201 yards on 40 carries against the Boilermakers. The 201 yards rushing are the most for the Irish since the rushing attack picked up 220 against Duke on November 17, 2007 at Notre Dame Stadium.
AR(MAN)DO TO BE RECKONED WITH
- Sophomore HB Armando Allen recorded his second start of the season and sixth of his career last week against Purdue.
- Ripped off a 16-yard rush early in the second quarter against the Boilermakers.
- Added a career-best 21-yard burst up the middle on the scoring drive to open the second half.
- Capped the five play, 81 yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run (the first of his career).
- Rushed for 45 yards on the drive alone (entered the game with just 71 yards rushing the entire season).
- Equaled his career-best run with two more 21 yard gallops on Notre Dame’s second drive of the second half.
- Prior to last week against Purdue, Allen’s longest run was 15 yards, but he had four runs of longer than 15 yards against the Boilermakers.
- Eclipsed 100 yards for the first time in his career (previous career-high was 91 yards against Navy on Nov. 3, 2008).
- Finished with a career-best 134 yards rushing, good for a 7.9 per carry average (the 7.9 per carry average is the highest for a Notre Dame player since Darius Walker averaged 10.2 against Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006).
- Totaled 247 all-purpose yards (-1 on punt returns, 105 on kick returns, 134 in rushing and nine in receiving).
- Allen eclipsed the 150 all-purpose yards for the fifth time in his career and third time in 2008 against Purdue.
- The 247 all-purpose yards were the most by an Irish player since Julius Jones had 255 against Pittsburgh in 2003 (rushed for 262 yards).
- He had 198 all-purpose yards, including eight on the ground, 20 in the air, 147 on kickoff returns, including a career-best 53-yard return, and 23 on punt returns in the loss at Michigan State. Allen recorded 158 in the season opener against San Diego State. He registered 59 yards on the ground, 18 in the air, 46 in kickoff returns and another 35 on punt returns.
- Allen totaled 1,176 all-purpose yards in 2007. He led Notre Dame with six receptions against Penn State and returned three kicks for 67 yards. Allen registered 110 all-purpose yards in his first career game with Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech. Allen recorded 84 kick return yards on five tries and 25 yards rushing on three carries. He also added a reception for one yard.
THOSE AREN’T BOOS, THEY’RE HUGHES
- Sophomore HB Robert Hughes finished 2007 with 294 yards rushing on 53 carries and four touchdowns. He totaled 246 of those yards on 35 carries over the season’s final two games. Hughes became the first Notre Dame freshman tailback to eclipse 100 yards rushing in consecutive weeks since Allen Pinkett during the 1982 season. Pinkett rushed for 129 yards against Navy (Oct. 30) and 112 yards against Pittsburgh (Nov. 6).
- Hughes opened the season against San Diego State with 54 yards on 17 carries.
- Hughes registered a well-earned 79 yards on 19 carries in the 35-17 victory over Michigan.
- The Wolverines were allowing just 1.1 yards on the ground per rush and just over 30 total yards per game, but Hughes averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
- Hughes registered his fifth career touchdown giving the Irish a 7-0 lead over the Wolverines at 11:52 of the first quarter.
- Hughes added his second rushing touchdown of 2007 and sixth of his career to give Notre Dame a 28-10 lead with 8:47 to go in second quarter.
- Hughes leads the Irish in carries (41) and rushing touchdowns (2).
Hughes totaled 26 yards rushing on nine carries in the 38-21 rout of Purdue last weekend.
The entire wide receiver group returns in 2008 as the Irish look to return to the aerial assault applied in 2005 and 2006. Six receivers combined to catch 117 passes for 1,252 yards with eight TDs in 2007 — and the two leading receivers were a sophomore and a freshman. Senior tri-captain David Grimes (10 rec., 103 yards, 10.3 avg., two TDs) is the veteran leader of the bunch. He is coming off an 2007 campaign that saw him record a career-high 27 receptions, despite missing two games in the middle of the season. Grimes, who did not see the field against Michigan State, has 10 catches for 103 yards this season and two touchdowns. He returned to the lineup last week against Purdue with four receptions for 65 yards, including a 30-yard score.
Junior Robby Parris (5 rec., 22 yards, 4.4 avg.) tallied the most receiving yards by an Irish wide receiver last year (361) and had the highest average yards per reception total (12.4) among receivers with at least 10 receptions. Parris started four games in 2007 and flashed his big-play potential as he led the team with eight receptions of at least 20 yards and recorded over 90 yards receiving in two games (93 yards at Purdue, 94 yards vs. Boston College), but battled an injury through the pre-season is still looking to regain top form.
Following a strong freshman season that saw him named an honorable mention freshman All-American by The Sporting News, sophomore Duval Kamara (3 rec., 43 yards, 14.3 avg., 1 TD) looks to grow the connection forged with quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Kamara set the Irish freshman record for most receptions (32) by a first-year wide receiver (breaking Tim Brown’s school record of 28) and also set the Notre Dame record for most TD receptions by a freshman (4). Kamara registered a catch in each of the first two games for Notre Dame, including a 10-yard touchdown against Michigan to give the Irish a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Notre Dame has also seen the emergence of sophomore Golden Tate (20 rec., 367 yards, 18.4 avg., 3 TDs). The Hendersonville, Tenn., native showed flashes of brilliance in 2007 (four of his six receptions exceeded 20 yards), highlighted by his three catches, 104 yards and one touchdown performance against Purdue. Tate has already exceeded his entire reception output from a year ago and leads the Irish in receptions and receiving yards. He has hauled in passes of 30, 30, 38, 38, 45 and 60 yards over the first four games. Tate is 23rd in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (91.75) and only two other WR in the nation (with at least 5.0 receptions per game) have a higher average per catch than Tate’s 18.4.
Freshman Michael Floyd was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a junior and a senior and was a USA Today first-team All-American. The rookie picked up his first career start against Michigan and not only became the first Irish freshman to register a TD catch in a season opener, but also became the first freshman to register Notre Dame’s first points of a season by touchdown. Floyd has 16 receptions for 218 yards on the season. He set a new freshman record with seven receptions against Michigan State. Floyd led Notre Dame with 86 receiving yards, including a 26-yard touchdown. He recorded his first career 100 yard receiving game last week against Purdue. He hauled in six passes for 100 yards, including a 38-yard pass play from sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen.
Michael Floyd: ANOTHER BRICK IN IRISH RECEIVING WALL
- Freshman WR Michael Floyd has already made a name for himself for the Irish.
- Floyd is the fourth different freshmen in the last 20 years whose first career catch was a touchdown. The others were Raghib “Rocket” Ismail and Derek Brown in 1988, and Derrick Mayes in 1992 – mighty impressive company for Floyd to join.
- Registered a 38-yard reception (longest of career) on Notre Dame’s six-play, 65-yard scoring drive that tied the score, 14-14, late in the first half against Purdue.
- Had five catches for 93 yards in the first half alone against the Boilermakers.
- Finished the contest with six catches for career-high 100 yards, making him only the second Irish freshman to have at least 100 receiving yards since Derrick Mayes in 1992 against Pittsburgh.
- The Boilermakers were the victims the most recent time it happened when sophomore WR Golden Tate had 104 yards on three catches with one touchdown in West Lafayette in 2007.
- Floyd’s seven receptions for 86 yards in the loss at Michigan State were are a single-game record by a Notre Dame freshman, breaking the six Duval Kamara had last year at Purdue (68 yards) and Stanford (93 yards), and the six running back Armando Allen had (for 38 yards) in 2007 at Penn State.
- Floyd is having one of the top receiving seasons by any freshman across the country in NCAA FBS.
- Freshman WR Michael Floyd is on pace to shatter rookie receiving marks in receptions and touchdowns. He also has a chance to eclipse Tony Hunter’s freshman record for receiving yards.
- Floyd recorded a career-high seven receptions at Michigan State.
- Added his second career touchdown reception (a 26-yard pass play from Clausen with 14:51 to go in the fourth quarter) against the Spartans.
- Registered four catches that gave the Irish a first down.
- The seven receptions were the most by an Irish receiver since Jeff Samardzija had eight against LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
- The seven receptions are also the most ever by a Notre Dame freshman receiver (most by a freshman at any position as well). The previous school record by an Irish rookie was six set last season on two different occasions by sophomore WR Duval Kamara.
FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE
- Sophomore WR Golden Tate has blossomed into one of the most improved wide receivers in the country.
- Tate ranks 23rd in the NCAA FBS in receiving yards per game (91.75).
- Among players with at least 5.0 receptions per game, Tate ranks third in the NCAA FBS with a 18.35 per reception average.
- Tate has recorded five receptions of 30 yards or longer through the first four games for Notre Dame. That number exceeds the total by the entire Irish receiving corp in 2007 (three).
- Tate hauled in his third touchdown reception of the season last weekend against Purdue.
- Finished with five receptions for 64 yards (12.8 yards per catch), including a 38-yard grab.
- Tate has 367 yards receiving on 20 catches through four games.
- Tate is on pace to not only eclipse 1,000 receiving yards, but could challenge Jeff Samardzija’s school record 1,249 yards in 2005.
- Recorded Notre Dame’s longest rush of the season with his 24-yard scamper on a reverse midway through the first quarter (also gave the Irish their initial first down of the afternoon) against Michigan State.
- Finished the afternoon against the Spartans with five receptions for 83 yards – marking the third straight game with at least 80 yards receiving.
- Registered four catches that gave the Irish a first down.
- Tate flashed glimpses of his athletic ability in 2007. Tate had three receptions for 104 and a touchdown against Purdue and not only became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass since Maurice Stovall (2002 against Rutgers), but also became the first Notre Dame freshman to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game since Derrick Mayes (100 yards on two catches) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992.
- Tate only managed three receptions the rest of the season, but exploded onto the scene in the season-opener against San Diego State. He hauled in six catches for 93 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to give the Irish a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead. The TD reception was the longest by an Irish player since Jeff Samardzija recorded a 51-yard scoring strike from Brady Quinn against Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006.
- Tate continued his development in the victory over Michigan. The speedster hauled in four passes for 127 yards, including a 48-yard TD strike from fellow sophomore Jimmy Clausen.
- The touchdown was his second of the season and third of his career.
- Tate recorded two touchdown receptions over the first two weeks of the season (38 and 48 yards respectively).
- The 48-yard reception against the Wolverines was Tate’s longest of his career, but for only eight minutes on the game clock.
- Tate hauled in a slant pattern and raced 60 yards to set up another Notre Dame touchdown.
- The 60-yard reception was the longest for the Irish since John Carlson hauled in a 62-yard TD grab against Michigan State on Sept. 23, 2006.
- Tate eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the second time in his career against the Wolverines.
- Tate registered 116 yards on three catches in the first half, besting his previous career high of 104 yards against Purdue on Sept. 29, 2007.
- Tate’s 31.8 per catch average (minimum three receptions) is the second-highest single-game average by a receiver in the Weis era.
- Tate has the best single-game average of 34.7 (3-104) set against Purdue last season.
CHECK OUT THAT SHINY KAMARA
- Sophomore WR Duval Kamara finished 2007 with 32 receptions for 357 yards and four touchdowns. He set a pair of Notre Dame rookie receiving single-season records in 2007. Kamara’s 32 receptions are the most ever by an Irish receiver, breaking the previous mark of 28 held by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown in 1984. His four receiving touchdowns are also the most ever by a Notre Dame freshman.
- After struggling in the season opener against San Diego State (one INT slipped through his hands), Kamara recorded his first TD reception of the season and fifth of his career to give Notre Dame a 14-0 lead at 11:00 of the first quarter against Michigan.
The Irish will struggle to find an immediate replacement for John Carlson, one of the most prolific tight ends in school history. Carlson started each of the last 23 games in which he appeared and recorded the second-most receptions (100) and third-most receiving yards (1,093) for a career by a Notre Dame tight end. Sophomore Mike Ragone, a former high school All-American, was the initial odds on favorite to replace Carlson after playing in 11 games as a freshman in 2007, but was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Junior Will Yeatman has played in 28 games in his career, starting six contests as a second tight end (including each of the first three in 2008). He has eight career receptions for 39 yards (six of which came in 2007).
RUDOLPH THE PASS CATCHING TIGHT END
Freshman Kyle Rudolph was a USA Today first-team All-American and considered by most recruiting sites as the top tight end in the nation. He has started all four games this season and became the first Notre Dame rookie tight end to ever start a season opener. Rudolph hauled in two catches for 29 yards, including an 18-yard reception against Michigan State. He recorded single-game highs in both receptions (3) and receiving yards (32) last weekend against Purdue. Rudolph also added his first career touchdown reception and a career-best 19-yard grab.
Rudolph became the first Irish tight end to record a touchdown reception in 11 years. Jabari Holloway was the last Notre Dame tight end to do so in a 33-15 loss at Stanford in 1997. He broke the drought with his five-yard grab of a Jimmy Clausen pass in the third quarter as the Irish extended their lead to 28-14 over Purdue.
It will be nearly impossible to replace the 2007 production of Trevor Laws. Not only did he lead the entire nation for tackles by a defensive lineman (112 tackles, 9.3 tackles/game), but he also recorded the second-most tackles ever by an Irish defensive lineman. No one individual on the Irish roster will come close to duplicating the performance by the 2007 Notre Dame MVP, but the vacancy he created at the position could be filled by a combination of players.
Senior Justin Brown returns for his fifth year at Notre Dame after setting individual career highs in almost every statistical category last year. Brown started five of the 10 games in which he appeared at defensive end opposite Laws and tallied 30 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. The senior member of the defensive line, Brown has started three games in 2008 with six tackles and two for loss (both coming in the victory over Michigan).
Senior Pat Kuntz started the first 10 games of 2007 at nose tackle and recorded 42 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss. He also tied for team-high honors with nine passes broken up, the most by any defensive lineman in the nation a year ago. After failing to register a tackle in the season opener, Kuntz came back with three solo stops, including one for loss against Michigan. He recorded a season-high six stops last weekend against Purdue.
Sophomore Ian Williams started the final two games of the season at nose tackle, but he was a valuable reserve in the first 10 contests as he totaled 45 tackles, sixth-most on the team. It was the third-most tackles by an Irish freshman defensive lineman in school history and he earned freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America. Williams had one solo tackle over the first two games of the season, but regained his form with six stops against Michigan State.
WHO SAYS KUNTZ IS UNDERSIZED?
- Senior NT Pat Kuntz entered the 2007 season without a single start and just 11 tackles in 21 career games. Kuntz excelled in Notre Dame’s new 3-4 defensive scheme last season.
- Despite missing the final two games to injury, Kuntz started 10 games, totaled 53 career tackles with three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, nine pass break-ups and one fumble recovery.
- Kuntz has moved to defensive end after starting at nose tackle in 2007.
- Kuntz possesses a tremendous motor and work ethic and displayed an uncanny ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.
- Kuntz did not record a tackle in the season-opening victory over San Diego State, but finished with three solo tackles against Michigan, including one for loss.
- Kuntz totaled a season-high six tackles, including three solo stops, last weekend in the victory over Purdue.
- Kuntz led all defensive linemen in the NCAA FBS in 2007 with nine pass break-ups last year and tied for the team-high honors.
- Kuntz has played in 34 career games with 13 career starts (10 in 2007).
- Kuntz was on pace to surpass the school record for pass break-ups in a single-season a year ago. Of those players that have broken up 10 or more passes in a single season, he would have been just the second non-defensive back on the list (David Martin, 1966).
- Kuntz ranked 58th in the nation in passes broken up and just outside the top 100 in the nation in passes defended a year ago.
Three starters return while two other linebackers have starting experience, as the linebackers group possesses the leader of the defense as well as upstart talent which helped make the Irish defense so improved last year. A staple of Notre Dame’s linebacker corps the last three seasons, tri-captain Maurice Crum Jr. returns for a fifth year and is the indisputable leader of the defense. He has started all 41 games that Notre Dame has played the past four years. Crum notched 84 of those stops in 2007 and enters this weekend with 266 career tackles, needing 30 more tackles to enter Notre Dame’s top-10 list for career stops. Crum ranks third on the Irish with 25 tackles in 2008. He has 2.5 TFLs and the only sack of the season for the Irish.
Junior John Ryan is one of the more versatile members of the Irish defense, as he posted eight starts as an outside linebacker in 2007 and two starts at defensive end last year. Ryan ranked ninth on the team with 39 tackles including 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. He has just four tackles this season, but has added a pair of pass break-ups, two quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
Two freshmen burst onto the scene in 2007 and made significant contributions to Notre Dame’s defense. Kerry Neal and Brian Smith each started as outside linebackers during their rookie seasons and both now server as sophomore starters. Neal played in every game and started five contests, while totaling 20 tackles with two sacks, two tackles for loss, two recovered fumbles and three pass breakups. He has picked up eight tackles (three each against San Diego State and Michigan), 2.0 for loss and his first career interception against the Aztecs. Smith started three of the 11 games in which he appeared and made a great impact when he was on the field. He recorded 25 tackles with 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, forced one fumble and intercepted one pass (which he returned for a TD). Smith is tied for third on the squad with 25 tackles, 2.0 for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. He ranks tied for eighth in the nation in fumble recoveries.
CRUMBLING THE COMPETITION
- Senior LB Maurice Crum Jr., totaled 100 tackles in 2006 to lead Notre Dame. Crum was the first Irish player to eclipse the 100 tackle mark since Courtney Watson had 117 in 2003.
- Crum, Jr. picked up his 41st consecutive start last weekend in the victory over Purdue.
- His 41 consecutive starts are the longest streak on the team and seventh-longest among current NCAA FBS players.
- Has started every game of his career and all 41 games for the Irish over the past four seasons.
- Only six players enter this weekend with a longer active starting streak than Crum, Jr.’s 41.
- Crum, Jr. finished the game against Purdue with six tackles.
- Crum, Jr. had six tackles, one for loss, including a sack in the season opening victory over San Diego State.
- Crum, Jr. registered five tackles with another 0.5 tackle for loss in the rout of Michigan.
- Crum, Jr. had eight tackles, four solo, including a tackle for loss last week against Michigan State.
- Crum, Jr. finished his career with 36 tackles in four games against the Spartans.
- Crum, Jr. followed up that effort with a 84 tackle season in 2007 despite battling injuries throughout much of the season.
- Crum, Jr. is the 17th player in Notre Dame football history to be named captain consecutive years.
- Crum, Jr. has 266 career stops, needing just 30 tackles to enter Notre Dame’s top-10 list for career stops.
- Crum, Jr. holds Notre Dame’s longest active streak in consecutive games played and started (both 41).
- Crum, Jr. started at outside linebacker as a sophomore, middle linebacker as a junior (both in a 4-3 scheme) and inside linebacker as a senior (in a 3-4 scheme).
- Crum, Jr. named an honorable mention `08 preseason All-American by The Sporting News.
- Crum, Jr. selected to the `08 Nagurski Trophy Watch List (defensive player of the year) and Lott Award Watch List.
- Crum, Jr. rated the No. 11 inside linebacker by Phil Steele for `08 and the 11th-best outside linebacker by Lindy’s.
- Crum, Jr. named to `08 Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List.
- Crum, Jr. ranked tied for 28th in the NCAA in 2007 with the three forced fumbles.
- In 2007, Crum, Jr. added 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, four passes broken up, and two fumble recoveries.
- Crum, Jr. was responsible for five turnovers as he intercepted two passes, forced a fumble (that was recovered by a teammate) and recovered two fumbles that he forced.
- Crum, Jr. received national Defensive Player of the Week award from the Walter Camp Foundation following his performance at UCLA.
- Crum, Jr. scored first career touchdown when he returned a fumble he forced and returned 35 yards for a score at UCLA.
- Crum, Jr. became the first Irish player to ever record a pair of forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in the same game.
- Crum, Jr. also set a single-game school record with four turnovers forced at UCLA.
SMITH, Brian Smith … INSIDE LINEBACKER
- Notre Dame sophomore LB Brian Smith ranks tied for third on the Irish with 25 tackles.
- Smith has also registered 2.0 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
- Smith ranks tied for eighth in the nation in fumble recoveries.
- Smith registered a career-best 10 tackles, including one for loss, and a forced fumble against Michigan State.
- Smith has started all four games for the Irish, but just once at inside linebacker (Michigan State) as Notre Dame failed to open in nickel for the first time in 2008.
- Smith is the first sophomore LB to post 10 or more tackles in a single game since Maurice Crum Jr. had 11 against Navy on Oct. 28, 2006.
The most improved area on the entire team last year was the play by the Irish secondary. Two of the four starters return from the group that recorded the second-best pass defense in the nation. Notre Dame allowed almost 42 fewer passing yards per game and the passing efficiency of opposing quarterbacks improved from 90th in 2006 to 22nd last year.
Senior David Bruton was a major contributor to the success of the Irish secondary in his first season as starter at free safety. The 6-2, 207-pounder proved to be a tremendous addition as he ranked third on the team with 85 tackles and added three interceptions. Bruton recorded at least nine tackles in five games and is the top returning tackler from 2007. Bruton had a spectacular game against Michigan State. He registered a game-high tying 10 tackles. Bruton has posted double-digit tackle games in two of the last three games for the Irish. He had a remarkable game against Michigan. Bruton totaled a career-high tying 15 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, a forced fumble, quarterback hurry and interception. Both of Bruton’s forced turnovers occurred either at the Irish five-yard line or just inside. In fact, Bruton forced a third turnover inside the Notre Dame five-yard line when he forced a fumble against San Diego State at the goaline.
Senior Terrail Lambert returns for his fifth season and is the most veteran member of the defensive backs. Lambert has started 26 consecutive games at cornerback and has intercepted four passes while totaling 94 tackles over the last three campaigns. Only Crum has started more games on the Irish defense, and no player has played in more games than Lambert over the past three years. Lambert has 20 tackles (13 solo stops) and two pass breakups so far in 2008.
Junior Raeshon McNeil has secured the other starting cornerback spot. McNeil has played in 24 games for the Irish and has been used as an extra cornerback and also as an extra safety. He made his fifth career start last week against Purdue and leads Notre Dame with four pass breakups, including two in the victory over Michigan.
Sophomore Gary Gray has seen prominent playing time in 2008. Gray missed the entire 2007 season with an injury after enrolling in January 2007 but was highly touted coming out of high school. Gray picked up his first career interception against Michigan and returned it 40 yards. Gray picked up a career-high four tackles last week against Purdue and also added his first career pass breakup.
Freshman Robert Blanton made his Irish debut against Michigan and registered two tackles and one for loss. Blanton continued to make a major impact with a stellar afternoon against Purdue. He recorded five solo tackles, a pass breakup and a 47-yard interception return for touchdown.
Sophomore Harrison Smith is listed as the backup to Bruton at free safety, but also has seen significant action at Sam linebacker, including making his first career start against Michigan State. Smith was a highly recruited player from Tennessee who was named the state’s player of the year by Gatorade. The former state decathlon champion did not play in his first year with the Irish, but has picked up 12 tackles with 2.0 for loss over the first four games of 2008.
Junior Sergio Brown has played in 23 games over the last two seasons primarily on special teams, recording 11 tackles, but has exploded onto the scene in 2008. Brown has started three games for the Irish, as the extra safety in nickel packages, and has registered 10 tackles, six solo, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, one fumble recovery, one TFL and a blocked punt.
Replacing All-American Tom Zbikowski is a tall order, but senior Kyle McCarthy has done so and then some over his first four games of 2008. McCarthy had played in 25 games and started one (against Navy in 2007), but has taken his game to another level. McCarthy recorded a career-best 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops, in the season opener against San Diego State and came back with 10 tackles against Michigan and nine more against Michigan State. McCarthy ranks tied for 27th in the NCAA in total tackles and 29th in solo stops.
SOMETHING BRUTON IN THE NOTRE DAME SECONDARY
- Senior FS David Bruton will serve as one of three captains of 2008 Irish squad, joining Maurice Crum Jr. and David Grimes.
- After recording five tackles in the season opener against San Diego State, Bruton exploded for a career-high tying 15 stops against Michigan.
- Bruton also forced a fumble against the Wolverines inside the Notre Dame five-yard line.
- Bruton added an interception midway through the fourth quarter, once again at the five-yard line.
- Bruton has forced three turnovers this year inside the Irish 6-yard line.
- Bruton made 10 tackles against Michigan State, eclipsing 10 or more tackles in a single game for the second time in 2008 and fourth time in his career.
- Bruton ranks tied for 27th in the NCAA in total tackles and 29th in solo stops.
- Bruton has recorded the second-most career tackles (153) on the team (behind Maurice Crum Jr., 266 tackles).
- Bruton has appeared in 39 career games and started 15 contests while making 479 special teams appearances.
- Bruton is still one of the top gunners on the punt coverage unit, as he was during his sophomore and junior seasons.
- Bruton is the top returning tackler on 2008 roster after ranking third on the team and pacing the secondary in 2007 with 85 tackles.
- Bruton recorded one sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three passes broken up, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery a year ago.
- Bruton was primarily a special teams player in his first two seasons before starting at free safety throughout his junior year in 2007.
- Bruton is one of two returning starters in the Notre Dame secondary.
- Bruton was named to the Nagurski Watch List (defensive player of the year) for 2008.
- Bruton was rated the 12th-best safety in the nation by Lindy’s and the No. 19 free safety by Phil Steele in the `08 preseason.
- Bruton was named to `08 Jim Thorpe and Nagurski Award Watch List.
KYLE USHERS IN MCCARTHYISM ERA IN SECONDARY
- Senior SS Kyle McCarthy has definitely instilled intense fear amongst Irish opponents through the first three games this season.
- McCarthy made just his second career start in the season-opening victory over San Diego State, but the Youngstown, Ohio native recorded a career-high 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
- McCarthy backed up the performance with another stingy double-digit tackle effort against Michigan. He totaled 10 stops.
- McCarthy nearly reached the double-digit tackle plateau for the third straight game last week against Michigan State (finishing the game nine stops).
- McCarthy ranks 29th in the NCAA FBS in solo tackles (22).
- McCarthy is tied for 27th in the NCAA FBS in total tackles (38).
WHAT DOES BROWN DO FOR YOU?
- Junior S Sergio Brown made his first career start in the season opener against San Diego State. The safety, who saw extensive playing time in the nickel package, set career-highs in tackles (six), tackles for loss (1.0), quarterback hurries (1), pass breakups (2) and even managed a blocked punt.
- Brown, again, found himself around the football in the victory over Michigan recording two tackles and one fumble recovery.
- Freshman DB Robert Blanton became the fifth Irish freshman to ever return a interception for a touchdown last week against Purdue.
- Blanton not only recorded his first career interception, but also returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. He became the fifth Notre Dame freshman to ever return an interception for a touchdown.
- First Notre Dame player to return an interception for a touchdown since Brian Smith on Oct. 13, 2007 against Boston College.
— ND —