Sept. 11, 2015
Sometimes it’s amazing how circumstances can change.
When C.J. Prosise accepted a football scholarship and enrolled at the University of Notre Dame in 2012, he expected to be spending the second weekend of his senior season in 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his Irish teammates, taking on the Wolverines.
That same fall Notre Dame announced it was joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, including a football relationship that involved five games per year (sometimes four as in 2014 and six as in 2015) against ACC opponents and access to the ACC slate of postseason bowl games.
In April 2013 Notre Dame and the ACC announced the first three seasons of amended schedules. Gone was that game at Michigan, and in its place was–lo and behold–a game against Prosise’s home-state institution, the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville.
Prosise originally came to South Bend as a safety–after he impressed Irish coach Brian Kelly with his ability to dunk a basketball, as Kelly noted Tuesday. Most of Prosise’s impact had been as a wide receiver (he caught 29 passes in 2014), then he scored a rushing touchdown in the Music City Bowl versus LSU on a 50-yard jet sweep play. That helped him earn a 2015 spring drills audition as a running back, and Irish coaches were impressed enough to leave him there.
A month ago there still appeared to be a logjam at the running back spot. Then veteran Greg Bryant learned academics would keep him from participating in 2015. Then Tarean Folston suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the 2015 season opener last Saturday against Texas.
So, about three years worth of developments now send Prosise (from Petersburg, Virginia, and Woodberry Forest School) back to his home state Saturday as the number-one running back on an Irish team ranked ninth (Associated Press) in the country. (Irish junior linebacker Doug Randolph and sophomore linebacker Greer Martini also come from Woodberry Forest.)
In a sport where what you’ve done lately only carries you as far as the next Saturday, the challenges are readily apparent for the Notre Dame football team in Charlottesville:
1. Can the running game survive the loss of Tarean Folston and prosper somewhere near the tune of the 52 rushing attempts it logged against Texas?
2. Seems crazy to expect Malik Zaire to complete passes at the rate he did in the opener, but can he at least come close and keep the Irish out of the turnover column?
3. Will an Irish opponent find a way to slow down the gaggle of Notre Dame receivers?
4. Can the Notre Dame defense be productive enough to stay off the field to the length it did against the Longhorns and help produce another big playing time differential?
6. After playing three regular-season neutral-site contests in 2014, can the Irish regain their road warrior mentality and find a way to win on an opponent’s home turf?
This ranks as Notre Dame’s first visit to Charlottesville for football, though Irish connections with the Cavaliers have expanded in multiple sports with the University’s entrance into the ACC in 2013-14.
Notre Dame’s lone other football matchup with Virginia came in the 1989 Kickoff Classic at the Meadowlands. A No. 2-rated Irish team, coming off its 1988 national title, rolled to an early lead and pasted the Cavaliers 36-13. The Irish led 33-0 at halftime (scoring on their first six possessions) in that contest. Notre Dame went on to finish 12-1 that year; Virginia ended 10-3.
Virginia Tech comes to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time in 2016 (Nov. 19), and the Irish make their first trip to Blacksburg in 2018 (Oct. 13). Virginia plays at Notre Dame Stadium for the initial time in 2019 (Sept. 28).
Here’s how Jerry Ratcliffe of the Charlottesville Daily Progress described the 2015 matchup in Wednesday’s edition: “The game sold out in 25 minutes, surpassed in recent UVa history by only Taylor Swift’s concert and the Cavalier baseball team’s unexpected hosting of a NCAA Super Regional en route to its national championship.”
The most memorable Notre Dame-Virginia clash? It came in men’s basketball in 1981 when Notre Dame ended the top-rated Cavaliers’ national-best 28-game win streak 57-56 on a buzzer-beating jump shot by Orlando Woolridge. The Irish held Ralph Sampson to 10 points that afternoon at the Rosemont (Illinois) Horizon, as Kelly Tripucka paced Notre Dame with 15 points. Digger Phelps’ squad moved to 20-4 with the victory and left Oregon State as the only unbeaten team in the country.
— 1983-86 DE Robert Banks (Hampton)–second on 1984 Irish squad in tackles with 68; three-year starter
— 1972-74 FB Wayne Bullock (Newport News)–led Irish in rushing in 1973 national championship season (752 yards 11, TDs) and 1974 (855 yards, 12 TDs)
— 1982-85 DT Eric Dorsey (McLean)–three-year starter; first-round NFL draft pick who played seven years with the New York Giants from 1986-92.
— 1977-80 DB Tom Gibbons (Alexandria)–co-captain of 1980 team that played in Sugar Bowl
— 1985-88 TE Andy Heck (Annandale)–co-captain of 1988 national title team and AP and UPI first-team All-American that year
— 1999-03 RB Julius Jones (Big Stone Gap)–led Irish in rushing in 2000 (657 yards, 3 TDs), 2001 (718 yards, 7 TDs) and 2003 (1,341 yards, 10 TDs)
— 1982-85 RB Allen Pinkett (Sterling) who graduated from Notre Dame in 1986 as the program’s all-time leading rusher (4,131 yards, 49 TDs); current analyst on IMG College radio broadcasts of Notre Dame football games.
— 2008-11 K David Ruffer (Oakton)–holds Notre Dame record with 23 consecutive field goals kicked in 2009-10
— 1972-74 RB Al Samuel (Newport News)–rushed for 787 career yards in 1972-74
Some other Notre Dame-Virginia connections?
— Gene Corrigan left Charlottesville after 10 years (1971-81) as athletics director at Virginia and served in that same capacity at Notre Dame from 1981-87. He left South Bend to become the Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner. Corrigan also coached men’s lacrosse (1959-67) and men’s soccer (1958-65) at Virginia. Gene and his wife Lena still live just outside Charlottesville. Corrigan Friday night will receive the Order of the Crossed Sabres Award that is presented annually “in grateful recognition of exemplary service, selfless commitment, and exemplary impact on Cavalier Football” by the Virginia Football Alumni Club. Corrigan will serve as the Cavaliers’ honorary captain Saturday at the coin toss.
— Kevin Corrigan, son of Gene, is the current Irish men’s lacrosse head coach and a graduate of Virginia.
— Former Irish men’s basketball assistant coach Pete Gillen (he spent 1980-85 in South Bend on Digger Phelps’ staff) later served as the Cavaliers’ head coach for seven seasons from 1998 through 2005 (118-93 record).
— Former Irish baseball assistant Brian O’Connor has been the head baseball coach at Virginia since 2004. His Cavaliers won the 2015 NCAA baseball title and were runners-up in 2014.
— Current Notre Dame men’s basketball assistant Anthony Solomon is a former player (1983-87) and assistant coach (1994-98) at Virginia. He was born in Newport News, Virginia.
–Among current Virginia assistant football coaches are Jon Tenuta (he coached at Notre Dame in 2008-09), Jappy Oliver (2005-08) and Dave Borbely (1998-2001), all of whom previously served as Irish assistants. Oliver and Irish head coach Brian Kelly were assistants together at Grand Valley State in 1988.
— Virginia assistant athletics director for media relations Jim Daves is a former Notre Dame assistant sports information director.
— Notre Dame (2013-14) and Virginia (2014-15) are the last two winners of the men’s Capital One Cup.
Statistics may not mean much after a single weekend of play, but here’s where the Irish rank this week in the NCAA team stats: 1st in turnovers lost (0), red-zone defense and passes had intercepted (0), 4th in time of possession (39:10), pass completion percentage (.826) and first downs allowed (8), 6th in passing efficiency (239.97) and 7th in total defense (163.0). Individually Malik Zaire is 3rd in completion percentage (864) and passing efficiency (250.9) and 4th in passing yards per attempt (14.23); Will Fuller is 4th in receiving TDs (2).
Former Irish right halfback Bob Palladino passed away Monday in Weston, Massachusetts. Palladino played as a freshman for Notre Dame in 1943, then entered the U.S. Navy during World War II and later graduated from Boston College. Palladino is believed to be the first freshman to score a touchdown for Notre Dame.
The 2015-16 Athlon college basketball preview rates Notre Dame senior Zach Auguste No. 4 among post men and junior guard Demetrius Jackson eighth among floor leaders. Jackson is a second-team guard on the Athlon All-Junior team. The Athlon bracket breakdown lists Notre Dame as a No. 7 NCAA seed and predicts a second-round win over No. 10 Utah. ACC predictions show Notre Dame rated fifth, behind Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville, with Auguste a first-team all-ACC selection and Jackson on the second team. On the women’s side, Notre Dame rates No. 2 overall behind Connecticut, with sophomore Brianna Turner listed as a second-team preseason All-American.
— by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director