Sept. 16, 2008
GAME 3: NOTRE DAME (2-0) vs. MICHIGAN STATE (2-1)
Saturday, September 20, 2008
TIME: 3:37 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): Spartan Stadium (72,027); East Lansing, Mich.
TICKETS: The game is sold out. It is the 66th sellout in the last 73 road games for the Irish. The only non-sellouts include the 2001-07 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy (The Meadowlands), the 2005 game at Washington and the 2006 game at Air Force.
TV: ABC regional telecast with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Bob Griese (analysis), Paul Maguire (analysis), Stacey Dales (sideline), Bob Goodrich (producer) and John Delvecchio (director).
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), Michigan State (msuspartans.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 received votes in both the USA Today coaches poll and Associated Press poll, while Michigan State received votes in the coaches poll.
SERIES INFO: This meeting will be the 72nd all-time between the rivals. It is Notre Dame’s third-most played series overall and the second-most frequent with any school in the Big Ten. The Irish hold a 44-26-1 lead in the series, but dropped last year’s meeting, 31-14, in Notre Dame. The Irish have captured each of the last three meetings in East Lansing, including a remarkable 40-37 come-from-behind victory in Notre Dame’s last trip to Spartan Stadium. The Irish are 18-13-1 against Michigan State in East Lansing, including wins in 15 of their last 18 trips. (see All-Time Series Results on page 2 of PDF notes package).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Saturday’s game will mark the 19th time in Notre Dame history the Irish have faced off with Michigan State the week following the Michigan game. The Irish are 8-2 against the Spartans following a victory over the Wolverines. Notre Dame has knocked off Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks eight different times (1980, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 2002 and 2004).
MICHIGAN STATE HEAD COACH MARK DANTONIO: Mark Dantonio became Michigan State University’s 24th head football coach on Nov. 27, 2006. A Zanesville, Ohio, native with Midwest ties, Dantonio has 25 years of collegiate coaching experience, and has coached in 11 bowl games. He has worked for some of the top coaches in the game, including Nick Saban, Jim Tressel and Earle Bruce.
In his first season, the Spartans finished the 2007 regular season with a 7-5 record, securing the program’s first bowl bid in four years with a berth against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Dantonio became just the third first-year coach in Michigan State history to earn a postseason bowl bid, joining Nick Saban (1995 Independence Bowl vs. LSU) and John L. Smith (2003 Alamo Bowl vs. Nebraska).
Michigan State (7-6) produced seven victories despite playing one of the nation’s most demanding schedules, as the Spartans’ 2007 opponents had a combined record of 75-57 (.568) during the regular season. The Spartans went 4-3 in games played against bowl-bound teams in 2007. Michigan State lost six games by a combined total of 31 points, including two in overtime. All six games were decided by seven points or less.
Michigan State finished the year strong, winning its final two games of the regular season for the first time since 1999 with victories at Purdue and over Penn State, both bowl-bound teams. Dantonio became the first coach in Spartan history to begin his initial season 4-0, as Michigan State opened the 2007 campaign with wins over UAB, Bowling Green, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. With the 31-14 victory over the Irish, the Spartans became the first opponent to win six-straight games in the 77-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES NOTES
- Notre Dame and Michigan State first met in 1897, with the Irish earning a 34-6 victory.
- The two schools played nine times through 1910, with Notre Dame winning the first eight encounters by a combined score of 222-6. Following a six-year layoff, Notre Dame won five of the next six games with the Spartans from 1916-21.
- Notre Dame leads the series with Michigan State by a 44-26-1 count, including a 18-13-1 record in East Lansing.
- Michigan State has won eight of the last 11 games in the series, including six straight in Notre Dame Stadium, but the Irish have captured each of the last three meetings and 15 of the last 18 in Spartan Stadium.
- The Michigan State rivalry is the fourth-most frequent in Notre Dame history. Only Navy (81), Purdue (79) and USC (79) have faced the Irish more times than the Spartans.
- Notre Dame’s 44 victories in the series against the Spartans is tied for the third-highest total against an opponent in school history behind Navy (70), Purdue (51) and Pittsburgh (44).
- Since 1949, the winner of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game has been presented the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored jointly by the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools. The megaphone is printed half blue, with a gold ND monogram, and half white, with a green MSC. All previous game scores are listed on the trophy. Michigan State and Notre Dame played 36 consecutive seasons from 1959-94 until the two-year interruption of the series in 1995-96. The current series contract runs through the 2011 season.
- Over the last eight meetings (dating back to 2000), the Notre Dame-Michigan State game has been decided by a touchdown or less on seven different occasions, with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or overtime in six of the eight meetings. Here’s a breakdown of the nail-biting heroics:
2000: Herb Haygood 68-yard TD pass from Jeff Smoker with 1:48 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 27-21).
2001: Charles Rogers 47-yard TD pass from Ryan Van Dyke with 7:51 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 17-10).
2002: Arnaz Battle 60-yard TD pass from Pat Dillingham with 1:15 left in the 4th quarter (ND 21-17).
2003: Greg Taplin 40-yard INT return with 6:55 left in the 4th quarter (MSU 22-16).
2004: Notre Dame builds a 28-7 third quarter lead before MSU rallies with 17 points in 31-24 ND win.
2005: Jason Teague’s 19-yd TD run in the first overtime gave the Spartans a 44-41 victory in Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish had rallied from a 21-point deficit to force overtime.
2006: Notre Dame CB Terrail Lambert intercepts Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton and returns it 27 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:53 remaining as the Irish rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 40-37 victory. Lambert added another interception on the Spartans’ final drive to ultimately secure the triumph.
SPARTANS OWN MOST OF THE BIG UPSETS
- Since the series resumed in 1948, the higher-ranked team (in the AP poll) has gone 43-10. In games when the higher-ranked team was in the AP top 10, the lower-ranked team is just 6-25-1.
- Notre Dame has been ranked higher than Michigan State 33 times, with the Spartans pulling off the upset 12 times. Those upsets include eight games when the Spartans were unranked: 21-17 at home in 1968 over the No. 5 Irish, 10-3 at Notre Dame in 1975 (the Irish were No. 8), 28-23 at Notre Dame in 1983 (the Irish were No. 4), 20-15 at home over the No. 20 Irish in 1986, 45-23 at home in 1998 over the No. 10 Irish, 23-13 at Notre Dame in 1999 (the Irish were No. 24), 17-10 at Notre Dame in 2001 (the Irish were No. 23), 27-21 and 44-41 in OT at Notre Dame in 2005 (the Irish were No. 10).
- Michigan State’s other two upsets came when the No. 13 Spartans won at home over the No. 4 Irish in 1955 (21-7) and the No. 23 Spartans won at home over the No. 16 Irish in 2000 (27-21).
- Neither team enters this weekend’s game ranked. It marks just the 11th time in series history that both Notre Dame and Michigan State enter the matchup unranked.
IRISH AND SPARTANS FOLLOWING THE WOLVERINES
- Today’s game will mark the 19th time in Notre Dame history the Irish have faced off with Michigan State the week following the Michigan game.
- Notre Dame is 8-2 against the Spartans following a victory over the Wolverines, 4-3 following a defeat and 1-0 following a tie.
- The Irish have knocked off Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks eight different times (1980, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 2002 and 2004).
- Notre Dame has dropped both rivalry games three times (1986, 2003 and 2007).
- Overall, the Irish are 13-5 against the Spartans the week after playing Michigan.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played six previous games in its history on Sept. 20. The Irish are 3-3-0 all-time on this date. The Irish have recorded one shutout on Sept. 20 (1975, 17-0 vs. Purdue).
Sept. 20, 2003: Jaren Hayes scored on a 71-yard run and Greg Taplin returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown for the Spartans in a 22-16 victory.
Sept. 20, 1980: In one of the most dramatic moments in college football history, Harry Oliver boots a 51-yard field goal that sneaks over the crossbar by inches as time runs out, giving Notre Dame an incredible 29-27 victory over Michigan. Oliver is immediately engulfed beneath a pile of green-clad players and fans alike, as Notre Dame Stadium erupted in a wild celebration.
IRISH RECORD SETTERS IN THE NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE SERIES
- 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown returned two punts for touchdowns against Michigan State on Sept. 19, 1987.
- Phil Carter set a school record for rushes in a single-game (40) against the Spartans on Oct. 4, 1980. He also rushed for 254 yards that game, third most ever by an Irish running back.
- John Petitbon had a remarkable game against Michigan State on Oct. 28, 1950. Petitbon rushed for 170 yards on just 10 carries. The 17.0 yard per rush average is the second-highest in school history.
- Former QB Brady Quinn attempted 60 passes, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns in the 2005 game against Michigan State. The 60 pass attempts, 467 yards and five touchdowns are the second-most in school history. In the same game, Quinn tied the school record for completions in a single game with 33.
- Irish quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus completed a school record-tying 14 straight passes against Michigan State on Sept. 20, 1997.
- Former WR Jeff Samardzjia (Sept. 17, 2005) and former Irish WR Jim Mutscheller (Oct. 28, 1950) each registered three touchdown receptions in a single-game against Michigan State. The three touchdown catches is the second most in single-game school history.
- In the 2006 meeting, Notre Dame overcame a 16-point fourth quarter deficit. It marked the largest fourth quarter deficit ever overcome by the Irish since the Nov. 29, 1986 meeting at USC when Notre Dame trailed the Trojans, 37-20, with just under 12 minutes to go in the game and came back to win, 38-37. Steve Beuerlein tossed a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and John Carney booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired to secure the victory.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN STATE CONNECTIONS
- Notre Dame special teams coach Brian Polian began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1997, working for former Spartan head coach Nick Saban.
- Michigan State’s veteran play-by-play radio announcer George Blaha graduated from Notre Dame in 1966 with a degree in economics. Blaha is in his 31st season as the Spartans’ radio voice.
- Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio each attended the University of South Carolina. Weis earned a master’s degree in education in 1989, while Dantonio was a three-year letterwinner for the Gamecocks before graduating in 1978.
- Michigan State’s Dan Roushar (offensive line coach) and Notre Dame’s Mike Haywood (offensive coordinator/running backs coach) each served on the Ball State coaching staff in 1994. Roushar was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, while Haywood was the running backs/co-special teams coordinator.
- Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1997, working for former Spartan head coach Nick Saban.
- Michigan State associate athletics director for media relations John Lewandowski is a 1984 graduate of Notre Dame, earning a degree in business administration.
- Notre Dame director of recreational services and fitness Sally Derengoski is a native of East Lansing, Mich.
- The 2008 Notre Dame roster features three players from the state of Michigan, including senior WR David Grimes, senior QB Evan Sharpley and freshman TB Jonas Gray. Grimes is a native of Detroit and graduated from DePorres High School. Sharpley graduated from Marshall High School in Marshall, Michigan, while Gray attended Detroit Country Day High School and calls Beverly Hills home.
- The 2008 Michigan State roster does not feature a single player from the state of Indiana.
- A number of players from Michigan State and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown.
NOTRE DAME AND THE GREAT LAKES STATE
- Notre Dame owns an 82-47-4 (.632) all-time record against schools from the Great Lakes State, last playing a Michigan school (Michigan) last week (a 35-17 victory). Other Irish series records vs. teams from Michigan include a 1-0 mark vs. Adrian, 3-1-1 vs. Albion, 4-0 vs. Alma, 2-0 vs. Detroit, 4-0-1 vs. Hillsdale, 7-0 vs. Kalamazoo, 15-20-1 vs. Michigan, 44-26-1 vs. Michigan State and 2-0 vs. Western Michigan.
- Notre Dame’s all-time varsity football roster includes just over 2,700 players who have appeared in at least one career game, with 135 of those hailing from the state of Michigan.
- Of the 135 players from the state of Michigan that have appeared in an Irish uniform, only Randy Kinder (1993-96) hailed from East Lansing. Kinder ranks ninth on the all-time Notre Dame rushing list with 2,295 yards.
- The 2008 Notre Dame roster includes three Michigan natives, including two seniors and one freshman. That group includes senior starting WR David Grimes (Detroit/DePorres H.S.), senior backup QB Evan Sharpley (Marshall/Marshall H.S.) and freshman HB Jonas Gray (Beverly Hills/Detroit Country Day H.S.).
- Five of Notre Dame’s more noteworthy all-time players from Michigan include All-American and legendary halfback George Gipp (Laurium, 1917-20) plus four other consensus All-Americans: offensive guard Heartley (Hunk) Anderson (Hancock, 1918-21), cornerback Clarence Ellis (Grand Rapids, 1969-71), cornerback Todd Lyght (Flint, 1987-90) and defensive tackle Greg Marx (Redford, 1970-72).
- Other All-Americans from the state of Michigan include defensive end Earl Brown (Benton Harbor, 1936-38), defensive tackle Mike Kadish (Grand Rapids, 1969-71) and split end Jim Seymour (Berkley, 1966-68).
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Improve the Irish to 3-0 on the season.
- Give Notre Dame its first 3-0 start since 2002 and just its second over the last 12 years.
- Give the Irish a five-game winning streak dating back to the final two games of 2007.
- Give Notre Dame its third winning streak of five games or longer under Weis.
- Give the Irish their ninth all-time season sweep of Michigan and Michigan State.
- Mark the ninth time in school history the Irish defeat the Spartans and Wolverines in consecutive weeks.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 9-2 (.818) against the Spartans the week following a victory over Michigan.
- Improve Notre Dame to 45-26-1 (.632) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
- Improve the Irish at 19-13-1 (.591) in the all-time series with the Spartans in East Lansing.
- Improve an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 8-9 (.471) all-time against Michigan State (would be the eighth victory in the last 11 such meetings).
- Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 4-2 (.667) all-time against Michigan State in Spartan Stadium.
- Give the Irish a four-game winning streak in Spartan Stadium.
- Improve Notre Dame to 7-4 (.636) all-time against Michigan State when both teams are unranked.
- Improve Notre Dame to 4-1 (.800) all-time against Michigan State in Spartan Stadium when both teams are unranked.
- Improve Notre Dame to 218-111-15 (.656) all-time against the Big Ten Conference.
- Improve the Irish to 96-70-9 (.574) all-time on the road against the Big 10 Conference.
- Improve Notre Dame to 83-47-4 (.634) all-time against schools from the state of Michigan.
- Improve Weis’ record to 25-15 overall (.625), 2-2 (.500) against Michigan State and 7-7 (.500) against the Big Ten Conference.
- Improve Weis’ overall road record to 11-4 (.733) and his road record against the Big Ten Conference to 4-3 (.571).
- Improve Weis’ record to 10-7 (.588) in September games.
- Improve Weis’ record to 18-12 (.600) in afternoon games.
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record to 827-278-42 (.739).
- Improve Notre Dame’s all-time record on the road to 290-137-22 (.693).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD…
- Drop the Irish to 2-1 on the season.
- Deny Notre Dame its first 3-0 start since 2002 and just its second over the last 12 years.
- Deny the Irish a five-game winning streak dating back to last season.
- Deny Notre Dame its third winning streak of five games or longer under Weis.
- Deny the Irish their ninth all-time season sweep of Michigan and Michigan State.
- Mark the 10th time in school history the Irish have split the two meetings with the Spartans and Wolverines.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 8-3 (.727) against the Spartans the week following a victory over Michigan.
- Drop Notre Dame to 44-27-1 (.618) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
- Drop the Irish to 18-14-1 (.561) in the all-time series with the Spartans in East Lansing.
- Drop an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 7-10 (.412) all-time against Michigan State (would be just the fourth loss in the last 11 such meetings).
- Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 3-3 (.500) all-time against Michigan State in Spartan Stadium.
- Snap the three-game winning streak for the Irish in Spartan Stadium.
- Drop Notre Dame to 6-5 (.545) all-time against Michigan State when both teams are unranked.
- Drop Notre Dame to 3-2 (.600) all-time against Michigan State in Spartan Stadium when both teams are unranked.
- Drop Notre Dame to 217-112-15 (.653) all-time against the Big Ten Conference.
- Drop the Irish to 95-71-9 (.597) all-time on the road against the Big 10 Conference.
- Drop Notre Dame to 82-48-4 (.627) all-time against schools from the state of Michigan.
- Drop Weis’ record to 24-16 overall (.600), 1-3 (.250) against Michigan State and 6-8 (.429) against the Big Ten Conference.
- Drop Weis’ overall road record to 10-5 (.667) and his road record against the Big Ten Conference to 3-4 (.429).
- Drop Weis’ record to 9-8 (.529) in September games.
- Drop Weis’ record to 17-13 (.567) in afternoon games.
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record to 826-279-42 (.738).
- Drop Notre Dame’s all-time record on the road to 289-138-22 (.690).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: A record combined win total for the first two seasons of any University of 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 Notre Dame head football 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 season 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.
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 27 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 past spring. 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 two games in 2008.
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 have yet to allow a sack in 2008 (first time since 2003 Notre Dame has gone consecutive games without allowing a sack).
- The Irish ranked 115th in the NCAA a year ago in rushing (75.2 ypg), but Notre Dame has improved to 109.0 ypg in 2008.
- In last season’s 38-0 defeat at Michigan, the Irish allowed eight sacks and was limited minus-six yards rushing on the afternoon, but in last week’s game (a 35-17 Irish victory) Notre Dame did not allow the Wolverines a single sack (even though they averaged 4.0 sacks per game — tops in the NCAA) and rushed for 113 yards. The Wolverines had allowed 83 yards on the ground over their first two games combined.
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.
- Clausen completed 10 of 21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against Michigan. With five TD passes over his first two games, he has already almost equalled his entire total from 2007 (7).
- Clausen has thrown at least three touchdowns passes in three of his last five games and posted multiple TD pass games four times over the stretch.
- Battling an injury, Clausen connected on just four passes over 35 yards in 2007, but the second-year signal caller has already registered three such passes over the first two games.
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. Freshmen 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.
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 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. Sophomore Armando Allen (86 car., 348 yards, 4.0 avg.) 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. Fellow sophomore Robert Hughes (53 car., 294 yards, 5.5 avg., four 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 leads Notre Dame in 2008 with 36 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns — both last week 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.
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 (27 rec., 224 yards, 9.7 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 practice all last week and missed some playing time against Michigan, has six catches for 38 yards this season. Junior Robby Parris (29 rec., 361 yards, 12.4 avg., one TD) tallied the most receiving yards by an Irish wide receiver last year and had the highest average yards per reception total 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 (32 rec., 357 yards, 11.2 avg., four TDs) looks to grow the connection forged with quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Kamara set the Irish freshman record for most receptions 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. Kamara registered a catch in each of the first two games for Notre Dame, including a 10-yard touchdown last week to give the Irish a 14-0 first quarter lead. Notre Dame has also seen the emergence of sophomore Golden Tate. 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 with 10 catches and 220 yards. He has hauled in passes of 38, 45 and 60 yards over the first two games. Tate is 13th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (110.0) and only two other WR in the nation (with at least 10 receptions) have a higher average per catch than Tate’s 22.0. 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 last weekend 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 three receptions for 32 yards on the season.
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 all 27 games in his career, starting five contests as a second tight end (including each of the first two in 2008). He has seven career receptions for 37 yards (six of which came in 2007). 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 both games this season and became the first Notre Dame rookie tight end to ever start a season opener.
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 both games in 2008 with four tackles and two for loss (all coming last weekend 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 last week against Michigan. 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 has one solo tackle over the first two games of the season.
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 39 games that Notre Dame has played the past four years. Crum notched 84 of those stops and enters this weekend with 252 career tackles, needing 43 more tackles to enter Notre Dame’s top-10 list for career stops. Crum ranks third on the Irish with 11 tackles in 2008. He has 1.5 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 two tackles this season, but has added a pair of pass break-ups and a quarterback hurry. 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 six tackles (three each game against San Diego State and Michigan), one 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 fourth on the squad with 10 tackles, one for loss, two fumble recoveries, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. He ranks second in the nation in fumble recoveries.
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 is coming off a remarkable game against Michigan. He 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 24 consecutive games at cornerback and has intercepted four passes while totaling 82 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 eight tackles (all solo stops) and two pass breakups so far in 2008. Junior Raeshon McNeil has secured the other starting cornerback spot. McNeil has played in 22 games for the Irish and has been used as an extra cornerback and also as an extra safety. He made his third career start last week against Michigan and leads Notre Dame with three pass breakups, including two in the victory over the Wolverines. 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 last week against Michigan and returned it 40 yards. Freshman Robert Blanton made his Irish debut last week against Michigan and registered two tackles and one for loss. Sophomore Harrison Smith is listed as the backup to Bruton at free safety, but also has seen significant action at Sam linebacker. 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 four tackles with one for loss over the first two games of 2008. Junior Sergio Brown has played in 22 games over the last two seasons primarily on special teams, recording 11 tackles, but has exploded onto the scene in 2008. Brown has started both games for the Irish, as the extra safety in nickel packages, and has registered eight tackles, five solo, two 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 two games of 2008. McCarthy had played in 25 games and started one game 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 more tackles last week against Michigan. McCarthy ranks tied for fifth in the NCAA in total tackles and sits atop the list in solo stops.
Notre Dame has to replace Geoff Price who served as punter for the last two seasons and placed his name throughout the record book for Irish punters. Junior Eric Maust replaced him in the lineup for parts of 2007 and wound up with a better punting average for the season (21 punts, 42.1 avg.). 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 11 times in 2008 and averages 42.0 per boot. He already has three punts of 50+ yards and four have been pinned inside the 20-yard line. Maust is ranked 13th 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. Junior Ryan Burkhart is the kickoff specialist for the Irish after spending much of his freshman season in the same capacity. Burkhart has averaged 60.8 yards per kick and Notre Dame opponents are averaging just 11.89 per return (third best in the NCAA).
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.
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).
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.
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
SPECIAL TEAMS SHOW MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS
- In the final 2007 NCAA stats, Notre Dame ranked 40th (out of 119) in punt return defense (7.44) and 89th in kickoff return defense (22.75).
- In the season’s first two victories over San Diego State and Michigan, the Irish saw major improvements in each category.
- 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 on 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.
- 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. He registered three more tackles, two solo, as well as forced a fumble and recovered another. Anello also nearly recovered a second Michigan fumble on a punt.
- The fumble recovery set up another Irish score to make it 14-0 early in the first quarter.
- Notre Dame has a total of 21 punts (11) and kickoffs (10) in 2008. Anello has registered a tackle on seven of those 21 opportunities.
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 a 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 seven outdistance Bruton’s three.
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 11 times in 2008 for 462 yards, good for a 42.0 average. His 39.9 net punting ranks 13th best in the NCAA.
- Maust has already bombed three punts of over 50 yards, including two last week against Michigan (despite horrendous weather conditions).
- Maust has also dropped four inside the opponents 20-yard line. In fact, he has dropped 13 inside the 20-yard line already in his career (on just 32 punts).
- Maust’s hang time and directional punting has helped the Irish punt coverage team rank eighth best in the NCAA with a 0.60 per return average.
- 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 eight touchdowns in 2008 and six have come from sophomores. HB Robert Hughes and WR Golden Tate each have a pair of TDs, while WR Duval Kamara and LB Brian Smith each have one. If you toss in freshman WR Michael Floyd’s TD catch, a first or second year player has scored seven of Notre Dame’s eight touchdowns.
- Sophomore Jimmy Clausen has thrown five touchdown passes.
- The top two running backs and two of the top three wideouts (in terms of yards) are all sophomores.
CLAUSEN FOUND HIS WAY
- Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen tossed his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season last week in the 35-17 victory over Michigan. Clausen hooked up with fellow sophomores Duval Kamara and Golden Tate.
- Clausen managed just three completions over 35 yards in 2007, due in part to limited arm strength from an injury, but has already connected on three such passes in Notre Dame’s first two games.
- Clausen tossed seven TDs all of 2007, but has already registered five in the first two games for the Irish.
- Clausen has now thrown for at least two touchdowns in four of Notre Dame’s last five games (including three games with three TDs).
- The 48-yard touchdown pass to Tate 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.
- The touchdown passes give Clausen five for the season, 11 in the last five games and 12 for his career.
- 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.
- Eclipsed 200 yards passing for the second 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 had his best game to date against Air Force on Nov. 10, 2007. He completed 22-of-40 for 246 yards and three touchdowns. The completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns (tied) were all career-highs.
- Clausen was even better in the second-half against the Falcons. He was 17-of-29 for 192 yards and two scores. Clausen was victimized by at least five dropped passes.
- Including his second half effort against Air Force (17-of-29 for 192 yards and two touchdowns), Clausen went 30-of-52 for 361 yards and four TDs in that four-quarter span against the Falcons and Duke.
- 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).
FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULE
- Sophomore WR Golden 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 showed major improvements last week 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 a week ago 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 has recorded touchdown receptions each of the last two weeks (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 reception against Michigan State on Sept. 23, 2006.
- Tate eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the second time in his career.
- Tate registered 116 yards on three catches in the opening half, besting his previous career high of 104 yards receiving 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.
- Tate is 13th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (110.0) and only two other WR in the nation (with at least 10 receptions) have a higher average per catch than 22.0.
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 interception slipped through his hands), Kamara recorded his first touchdown reception of the season and fifth of his career to give Notre Dame a 14-0 lead at 11:00 of the first quarter last week against Michigan.
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 last week’s 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 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.
AR(MAN)DO TO BE RECKONED WITH
- Freshman HB Armando 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 (including a long of 25 yards). Allen registered 110 all-purpose yards in his first career game with Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech. Allen recorded 84 kick return yards on five tries and 25 yards rushing on three carries. He also added a reception for one yard.
- Allen totaled 226 all-purpose yards against Navy on Nov. 3. The 226 all-purpose yards was tied for the 11th most in single-game Notre Dame history. It is also the most all-purpose yards by an Irish player since Darius Walker had 241 at Stanford on Nov. 11, 2005.
- Allen set new 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 33 kickoff returns already rank seventh in Notre Dame career history.
- Allen eclipsed the 150 all-purpose yards for the third time in his career 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, including a career-best 22-yard return.
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 last week against Michigan.
- Bruton also forced a fumble for the second straight week 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 season inside the Irish six-yard line.
- Bruton has recorded the second-most career tackles (137) on the team (behind Maurice Crum Jr., 252 tackles).
- Bruton has appeared in 37 career games and started 13 contests while making 469 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.
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. 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 last week’s rout of Michigan.
- 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 252 career stops, needing just 43 tackles to enter Notre Dame’s top-10 list for career stops.
- Crum, Jr. has started every contest for Notre Dame (39) over the past three seasons.
- Crum, Jr. holds Notre Dame’s longest active streak in consecutive games played and started (both 39).
- 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.
- Only seven players enter this weekend with a longer active starting streak than Crum, Jr.’s 39.
- 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.
KYLE USHERS IN MCCARTHYISM ERA IN SECONDARY
- Senior SS Kyle McCarthy has definitely instilled intense fear amongst Irish opponents through two 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 last week. He totaled 10 stops.
- McCarthy leads the NCAA in solo tackles (17).
- McCarthy is tied for fifth in the NCAA in total tackles (24).
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.
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 last week against Michigan, including one for loss.
- Kuntz led all defensive linemen in the Football Bowl Subdivision with nine pass break-ups last year and tied for the team-high honors.
- Kuntz has played in 32 career games with 11 career starts (10 in 2007).
- Kuntz was on pace to surpass the school record for pass break-ups in a single-season. 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.
NOTING THE MICHIGAN GAME
FUMBLES, FUMBLES, FUMBLES
Notre Dame recovered four fumbles last Saturday. It is the most fumbles by an Irish opponents since Washington coughed up four on Sept. 25, 2004. The last time an Irish opponent fumbled more than four times in one game was Vanderbilt on Sept. 5, 1996 when the Commodores had five.
NO SACKS, AGAIN
Notre Dame allowed an NCAA record 58 sacks in 2007, but have yet to surrender a sack through two games of 2008. The last time the Irish went consecutive games without allowing a sack came during the 2003 season. Notre Dame actually went three straight games without giving up a sack (Oct. 25, at Boston College; Nov. 1 vs. Florida State; Nov. 8 vs. Navy).
- Notre Dame exploded for 21 points in the first quarter against Michigan. The Irish had not totaled 21 points in a first quarter since Sept. 25, 2004 against Washington. Notre Dame went on to win that game over the Huskies, 38-3. The Irish managed just 31 points in the first quarter throughout the entire 2007 season.
- The 21 points also equalls the most points in a single quarter by an Irish team in the all-time series with Michigan. Notre Dame scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of the 2004 come-from-behind, 28-20, triumph over the Wolverines (Sept. 11).
GETTING OFF TO A FAST START
- Notre Dame talked all off-season about getting off to a fast start. Well, the Irish did just that exploding for 14 points in the game’s first four minutes and 21 points in the opening quarter.
- The 14 points in the game’s first four minutes were the fastest two touchdowns for Notre Dame since Aug., 28, 1999. The Irish scored at 11:52 and 11:00 of the first quarter this afternoon. In the 48-13 victory over the Jayhawks, Notre Dame scored touchdowns at 11:36 and 11:19 of the first quarter.
QUICK STRIKE IRISH
Notre Dame’s offense under Charlie Weis has been known for its quick strike ability. In his first two seasons, the Irish totaled 12 different offensive scoring drives of under one minute. The Irish recorded just four in 2007, but have already equaled that total through two games in 2008. In fact, the first three touchdowns against Michigan for the Irish all came on drives under one minute.
CHECKING THE WEIS ERA RECORD BOOK
- The 21 points in the first quarter tied for the second-most points in a quarter under Weis. Notre Dame scored 28 points in the second quarter of Weis’ debut on Sept. 3, 2005 against Pitt.
- The 21 first quarter points are most points in a first quarter under Weis. The previous first quarter high for points under Weis was 20 at Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006.
- The 28 points in the first half are tied for the third-most under Weis. Notre Dame’s only better output were the 35 points at Pitt (Sept. 3, 2005) and 31 points against North Carolina (Nov. 4, 2006).
- Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen averaged 14.7 yards per completion (10 for 147 yards), which ranks as the ninth-best average in a single game under Weis.
- Notre Dame converted just three third downs (same amount in season opener against San Diego State), which ranks as tied for the fourth-fewest under Weis.
- The Irish shutout Michigan in the second half, which marked the fifth time Notre Dame blanked an opponent for an entire half under Weis.
- The 80 interception return yards and 40.0 average per INT return each ranked second-best in those respective categories in the Weis era.
- The four fumble recoveries were the most under Weis.
- The two forced fumbles were tied for the fourth-most in the Weis era.
- The 60-yard passing play from sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen to sophomore WR Golden Tate was the fourth-longest passing play under Weis.
- Tate’s 31.8 per catch average (minimum three receptions) is the second-highest average by a receiver in the Weis era.
IN THE MICHIGAN SERIES
- The 21 points in the first quarter were the most ever for Notre Dame in a first quarter against Michigan
- The 21 points were tied for the most in any quarter against the Wolverines (21, fourth; W, 28-20; 2004)
- The 28 first half points are the most ever by Notre Dame in a first half against Michigan and second most in terms of any half against the Wolverines (30, second; W, 36-20; 1998)
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