Aug. 29, 2006
(#2 AP/T-3 USA Today) Notre Dame (0-0) at Georgia Tech (0-0)
The Date and Time: Saturday, Sept. 2, 2006, at 8:12 p.m. EDT
The Site: Bobby Dodd Stadium/Grant Field (55,000, grass surface) in Atlanta, Ga.
The Tickets: The game is officially sold out. There are no standing-room only tickets available for the contest. Saturday’s game will be the 182nd sellout in Notre Dame’s last 208 games and 57th in the last 62 involving the Irish (the `01, `03 and `05 games at Stanford, the `04 game vs. Navy at The Meadowlands and last year’s game at Washington were not sellouts).
The TV Plans: ABC national telecast with Brent Musburger (play-by-play) and Bob Davie (analysis), Kirk Herbstreit (analysis), Lisa Salters (sideline), Bill Bonnell (producer) and Derek Mobley (director).
The Radio Plans: For the 39th consecutive season all Notre Dame football games are to be broadcast on approximately 300 stations in 50 states by Westwood One with Don Criqui (play-by-play) and former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) with Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, halftime and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159 for the Georgia Tech game) and it will be streaming live on the Notre Dame official athletics website at www.und.com.
All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on U93-FM (92.9) and WDND-AM (1490) with pre-game analysis featuring Sean Stires and Vince DeDario. The post-game show is hosted by Jack Nolan and features former Notre Dame players Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic. See page 3 of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
Real-Time Stats: Live in-game statistics will be provided through College Sports Online’s Gametracker via each school’s respective official athletic websites.
Web Sites: Notre Dame (www.und.com), Georgia Tech (www.ramblinwreck.com).
Two-Minute Drill (what you need to know about this weekend’s Notre Dame – Georgia Tech matchup) –
â€¢ Notre Dame is ranked #2 in the AP poll and tied for #3 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. This is the highest the Irish have been ranked in both of the preseason polls since 1994 when they opened in the same spots in each poll. Notre Dame has been ranked in the top-5 in its season opener 18 times since 1950 and has a 16-2 record in those contests.
â€¢ Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are meeting for the 33rd time with the Irish holding a 26-5-1 advantage in the series. Georgia Tech won the last meeting between the two schools, 35-28, at the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 1999 as Tech WR Dez White took a post pattern 55 yards for a touchdown to break a 28-28 deadlock with 7:55 left in the game. (see pages 3-4 for more information on the Notre Dame – Georgia Tech series).
â€¢ Notre Dame is 99-14-5 (.859) in season openers and has won its season debut in 17 of the last 20 years.
â€¢ Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are meeting in each other’s season-opening game for the first time since 1997, a 17-13 victory by the 11th-ranked Irish over the Yellow Jackets in the rededication of Notre Dame Stadium, and the third time overall. In 1974, the #2 Irish opened the year with a 31-7 win at Georgia Tech.
â€¢ This is the first trip for Notre Dame to Georgia Tech since 1980 when the then top-ranked Irish got a fourth quarter field goal by Harry Oliver to force a 3-3 tie, the only stalemate between the two schools in 32 meetings.
â€¢ Charlie Weis will become just the second Notre Dame head coach to open the season in each of his first two years on the road. Ara Parseghian took his unranked Irish squad to Wisconsin for his first game in his first year (31-7 ND victory) and then opened the next year by having his third-ranked team open at California (48-6 ND victory).
â€¢ Notre Dame will kickoff the season with a night game (8:12 p.m. EDT kickoff) for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the last five years.
â€¢ The Irish open on the road for the third consecutive year. The only other time Notre Dame has opened the season on the road in three consecutive seasons was from 1942-44.
â€¢ The Irish are 30-7-2 (.795) in season openers on the road. Last year’s season-opening victory at Pittsburgh was the first win on an opponent’s home field to begin the year since a 14-7 victory at Vanderbilt in 1996.
â€¢ Notre Dame is 72-27-2 (.723) against current Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The 26 wins against Georgia Tech and 32 meetings with the Yellow Jackets are the most by the Irish against any ACC school.
â€¢Notre Dame’s 26 victories against Georgia Tech ranks as the eighth-most wins against any opponent and fifth-most of any non-Big Ten institution.
â€¢The Irish are 5-2 in their last seven season openers that followed a bowl game loss from the previous season.
â€¢Current Notre Dame assistant head coach (defense)/defensive backs coach Bill Lewis returns to Georgia Tech for the first time since he was the Yellow Jackets head coach from 1992-94.
2006: Year Two of the Charlie Weis Era
The 118th season of Notre Dame football is the second in the tenure of head coach Charlie Weis, who started his career with a 9-3 record in 2005, including wins over three ranked opponents, and a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Notre Dame’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance since 2000).
The winner of the 2005 FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, Weis turned around Notre Dame’s football fortunes in astonishing fashion. He took most of the same talent of a 6-6 team in `04, installed his offensive system, and produced a team that came within six points of a perfect regular season record. One of the Fighting Irish losses was a last-second defeat to defending national champion USC. There was a little doubt from the beginning of the 2005 season things would be different under Weis. With victories at Pittsburgh and Michigan to open the season, Weis became the first Irish head coach to win his first two career games on opponents’ home fields since Knute Rockne in 1918. Weis made the Fighting Irish the most prolific scoring team in modern school history (36.7 ppg) and qualified the Irish as the most improved offensive team in the country.
Year two of the Charlie Weis era begins this Saturday. Weis led the team to a 9-3 record and an apperance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in his first campaign with the Irish.
Weis was named the 28th head football coach in Notre Dame history on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004. A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis took the reins of the Irish program after a highly successful career as an assistant coach in the National Football League. The owner of four Super Bowl champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as an NFL assistant, Weis is a widely respected disciple of professional coaching standouts Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He came to Notre Dame after excelling as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, where he played an integral role in New England’s victories in three Super Bowls.
Weis is the first Notre Dame graduate to hold the football head coaching position at his alma mater since Hugh Devore (a ’34 graduate) served as interim coach in 1963 and is the first Notre Dame graduate to serve as the Irish football coach on a full-fledged basis since Joe Kuharich (a ’38 graduate who coached at Notre Dame from 1959 through ’62). Entering his 28th season in coaching in 2006, Weis coached nine seasons with the Patriots, including five as offensive coordinator. He helped produce four Super Bowl championships (New York Giants following the 1990 season, Patriots following ’01, ’03 and ’04 seasons), five conference titles and seven division crowns.
2005: Season in Review
â€¢ Notre Dame completed a 9-3 season in 2005 playing a schedule that included four ranked teams (according to the AP ranking) in the season’s first six games. Notre Dame won three of the games, taking down #23 Pittsburgh, #3 Michigan and #22 Purdue – all on the road – before a narrow loss to #1 USC at home on Oct. 15.
â€¢ The season culminated with Notre Dame’s appearance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, a 34-20 loss to Ohio State. The game was the Irish’s second appearance in a Bowl Championship Series bowl game and Notre Dame’s first since 2000. The bowl game marked Notre Dame’s 27th bowl appearance (13-14) and the 15th in 19 years.
â€¢ Notre Dame’s 9-3 record marked a drastic improvement over the previous season’s 6-6 mark. The Irish lost their three games by a total of 20 points and narrowly missed a perfect regular season, losing two games by a total of six points (one in overtime, the other with :03 on the clock). Conversely, Notre Dame’s victories came by an average of 18.7 points per contest.
â€¢ Notre Dame had a 2-1 record against bowl teams during the regular season, including an 0-1 mark against BCS teams (wins over Michigan and Navy; loss to BCS participant USC). The three Irish opponents in bowls: Michigan (lost to Nebraska in Alamo), Navy (defeated Georgia Tech in Emerald) and USC (lost to Texas in Rose Bowl for the National Championship).
â€¢ The Notre Dame offense scored at a feverish pace in 2005, eclipsing 40 points six times, matching the school record set by both the 1991 and 1992 teams. The Irish scored 30 or more points in 10 of 12 games, setting a school record for 30-point performances (old record: nine in `91). The Irish scored 30+ points in nine straight games to end the regular season, the first Notre Dame team to do so. Notre Dame ended the season with 440 points scored to set a new Irish standard (old record: 426 in `91).
â€¢ With the impressive scoring pace, the Irish also put up yardage totals previously unprecedented in Notre Dame history. The 2005 Irish were the first Notre Dame team to have a 3,000-yard passer (Brady Quinn, 3,633 yards), 1,000-yard rusher (Darius Walker, 1,106 yards) and 1,000-yard receiver (Jeff Samardzija, 1,190 yards and Maurice Stovall, 1,023 yards) on the same roster.
Notre Dame – Georgia Tech Series Notes
â€¢This year’s opener will mark the 33rd meeting between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, with the Irish holding a 26-5-1 series lead. Georgia Tech won the previous matchup on Jan. 1, 1999 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. (see page 5 for recap). The Irish also own an 11-2-1 record against the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta
â€¢ The two schools first met in 1922, with the Irish claiming a 13-3 triumph behind head coach Knute Rockne. Notre Dame went on to win the first six contests between the two teams, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 133-20.
â€¢ This year’s matchup marks the second time that Notre Dame has played Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium with the #2 AP ranking. In 1974, the #2 Irish kicked off the season by beating an unranked Georgia Tech team 31-7 for Notre Dame’s 20th all-time victory against the Yellow Jackets.
â€¢Notre Dame has been ranked higher than Georgia Tech entering a matchup in the series 13 times, posting an 11-1-1 record in those games. On three occasions the Irish were ranked #1 overall, with the Irish winning the first two meetings (1953, 1970) and tying the third contest (1980).
â€¢Georgia Tech had a #4 ranking and a 31-game winning streak heading into its game against the #1 Irish in 1953 but saw its winning streak snapped by a 27-14 defeat to ND at Notre Dame Stadium.
â€¢ The top-ranked Irish got a two-yard touchdown run by Denny Allan with just 6:28 remaining in the game to escape Georgia Tech’s upset bid, 10-7, at Notre Dame Stadium on Nov. 14, 1970.
â€¢The Nov. 8, 1975 game between the two teams featured the Notre Dame debut of Rudy Ruettiger, made famous by the 1993 film, Rudy. The Irish entered the game ranked 12th in the AP poll and emerged with a 24-3 victory.
â€¢Notre Dame and Georgia Tech have met only twice since 1981, splitting matchups in 1997 and 1998. The 1997 meeting marked Bob Davie’s debut and the first game in the rededicated Notre Dame Stadium.
â€¢Notre Dame’s 26 all-time wins over Georgia Tech are the eighth-most against a single opponent in Irish history. The Irish have beaten only Navy (69 wins), Purdue (50), Pittsburgh (44), Michigan State (43), USC (42), Northwestern (37) and Army (36) more times.
Notre Dame vs. The ACC
â€¢ Notre Dame has had more success against members of the Atlantic Coast Conference than any other major conference, winning better than 72 percent of its games against ACC institutions. The Irish have a .500 or better record against eight of ten ACC teams Notre Dame has faced.
â€¢ Notre Dame’s 101 games against the ACC ranks as the third-most contests against a conference trailing the 334 meetings with the Big Ten and 113 games versus Pac-10 schools.
â€¢ Georgia Tech has faced Notre Dame 32 times (26-5-1), by far the most any ACC program has played the Irish. Miami has collided with Notre Dame 23 times (15-7-1) while North Carolina (15-1) and Boston College (9-7) have each played ND 16 times. It should be noted that all of Notre Dame’s meetings with Miami and Boston College occurred prior to conference realignment and their moves to the ACC.
â€¢ Notre Dame has played a handful of games versus Florida State (2-4), Duke (2-1) and Clemson (1-1). Additionally, the Irish met three ACC opponents only once. They beat Virginia in the 1989 Kickoff Classic, Maryland in the 2002 Kickoff Classic but lost to North Carolina State in the 2003 Gator Bowl.
â€¢ The Irish host North Carolina Nov. 4 marking the first time since 2002 (Maryland, Florida State and North Carolina State) and second time since 1982 that Notre Dame has played multiple ACC universities in the same season. Next year Notre Dame will play three ACC schools as it opens the season hosting Georgia Tech before renewing acquaintances with Boston College and Duke.
â€¢ Notre Dame has posted a 28-18-1 record against ACC opponents on the road.
The Last Time… Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech
#12 Georgia Tech – 35
#17 Notre Dame – 28
Gator Bowl – Jacksonville, Fla.
Jan. 1, 1999
JACKSONVILLE — Nearly all the pre-game speculation in the Notre Dame camp prior to the 1999 Gator Bowl matchup with Georgia Tech centered around the physical condition of Irish quarterback Jarious Jackson. Though Jackson wasn’t quite 100 percent, his gutty contributions and those of record-setting Irish tailback Autry Denson nearly were enough to carry green-clad Notre Dame to victory at Alltel Stadium. Instead, it was the big-play offense of Georgia Tech that paved the way for a 35-28 Yellow Jacket victory in a rematch between the same two teams that had opened the 1997 regular season in the dedication game of the expanded Notre Dame Stadium.
Jackson played it safe in the opening half, disdaining the option most of the time in the interest of simply making sure he was healthy for the second half. But he turned things loose a bit more after the break, even running for a third-period Irish score that brought the Irish within a point at 21-20. Denson, meanwhile, gained 96 of his game-high 130 rushing yards in the final two periods and his three touchdown runs helped earn him the Notre Dame MVP honor.
The last time Notre Dame and Georgia Tech met, Autry Denson (pictured), Notre Dame’s all-time career rushing leader, was carrying the ball for the Irish.
But all that wasn’t enough to prevent Tech’s diversified offense from using a banner 237-yard throwing effort by quarterback Joe Hamilton and TD receptions of 44 and 55 yards by Dez White in the second half to hold off the Irish. The Jackets scored on five drives of 71 yards or longer. Tech took a lead midway through the opening period, as Hamilton deftly mixed his plays, hitting four straight attempts good for 59 yards down to the Notre Dame 28. From there, the Jackets ran off seven straight running plays — including a conversion on fourth and one — with Joe Burns taking a pitch from Hamilton from the five, then throwing back to the Tech signalcaller for the score.
Notre Dame responded quickly, with Jackson finding Bobby Brown good for 33 yards on second down to the Tech 31. After a Jamie Spencer run for 10 yards, Denson ran for nine to tie the score. Tech responded in kind, with Hamilton throwing to Charlie Rogers for 26 yards and to White for 11. Phillip Rogers went the final two yards for a 14-7 Georgia Tech advantage.
Jackson was sacked to thwart each of the next two Irish series. Then it was Tech that put together another impressive 84-yard march, 68 of it coming on the ground. Hamilton found Mike Sheridan for nine yards and a 21-7 advantage. Jackson completed five straight passes in the final few minutes of the first half, but a Jim Sanson 44-yard field goal attempt fell short with 45 seconds remaining.
Denson nearly took control of the game by himself as the second half began. An 80-yard Irish excursion involved seven carries for 54 by the senior back, with his one-yard gain cutting the deficit to 21-14. Tony Driver’s fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff set the Irish up at the Tech 26, and on the eighth play Jackson found paydirt. A blocked PAT attempt left Tech ahead 21-20.
Then it became big-play time for the Jackets. A second-down Bobbie Howard sack left Georgia Tech with third and 10 from the Irish 44 — but Hamilton responded by finding Jacksonville native White behind the defense to put Tech back up 28-20. But the Irish weren’t finished. On a 12-play, 88-yard drive, Denson carried seven times — including for the TD — and Jackson found Jay Johnson on a key 27-yard pass play. Jackson’s two-point conversion throw to Brown tied the score at 28 with 11:56 to go in the contest.
The Irish nearly recovered a second fumble on the kickoff, but from there Tech launched its game-winning drive. After Hamilton threw twice for the necessary yardage on third downs, on first and 10 he again found White on a post pattern and the 55-yard scoring play.
The Irish had three more shots, but none of the three possessions advanced past the Notre Dame 28-yard line.
2006 Personnel Breakdown
A summary of the Notre Dame roster heading into the 2006 season reveals that 16 positional starters will return for action from the 2005 season: Seven offensive starters and nine defensive starters as well as one specialist. Overall, 36 monogram winners return from the `05 Irish (15 offensive, 20 defensive, 1 specialists).
Monogram winners from 2005
Monogram winners Returning 36
Special Teams 1
Starters Returning 16
Special Teams 1
Monogram Winners Lost 23
Special Teams 2
Career Starts Returning
Career Starts Returning – Offense 126 games
Career Starts Returning – Defense 113 games
Career Starts Lost
Career Starts Lost – Offense 118 games
Career Starts Lost – Defense 40 games
Same Faces, New Numbers
Four Notre Dame veterans will suit up with a new number in 2006. The following is a list of Irish players whose number has changed.
|Player||New Number||Old Number|
Quinn and the Notre Dame Record Book
Quarterback Brady Quinn returns for his fourth season as the starter in 2006, but he already has made a lasting mark on the Irish football record book owning 30 school records. Since 1950, a Notre Dame quarterback has thrown for 300 yards or more 16 times. Quinn is responsible for seven of those performances – the most for any single Notre Dame quarterback. Quinn has thrown for 350 (vs. Boston College, 2003), 432 (vs. Purdue, 2004), 487 (vs. Michigan State, 2005), 327 (at Washington, 2005), 440 (at Purdue, 2005), 467 (vs. BYU, 2005) and 432 (at Stanford, 2005).
Quinn is the only Notre Dame quarterback to throw for over 400 yards five times in a career (in fact, he is the only one to do it twice) – and in Notre Dame’s road game at Purdue in `05 he became the first to throw for more than 300 yards in three consecutive games. He also is the first Irish quarterback to throw for 300 or more yards four times in a season.
Quinn’s 2005 season game by game:
Pass Efficiency: 158.40
*Notre Dame record
Quinn’s TD Passes Streak
Brady Quinn tossed at least one touchdown pass in 16 games in a row for the Irish before the skein ended in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, breaking John Huarte’s record of 10 set in 1964. The Dublin, Ohio, native totaled 40 scoring tosses during the run (2.5 per game).
Quinn’s touchdown passes over the 16-game streak:
2005: 3 at Stanford, 2 vs. Syracuse, 4 vs. Navy 3 vs. Tennessee, 6 vs. BYU, 1 vs. USC, 3 at Purdue, 1 at Washington, 5 vs. Michigan State, 2 at Michigan, 2 at Pittsburgh
2004: 2 vs. Oregon State (Insight Bowl), 1 at USC, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 at Tennessee, 1 vs. Boston College
Quinn: A Touchdown Machine
Brady Quinn accounted for two or more touchdowns in 10 of Notre Dame’s 12 games last season and had an eight-game streak of multiple touchdown performances snapped in the Fiesta Bowl – three (passing) at Purdue, two (one run, one pass) vs. USC, six (passing) vs. BYU, three (passing) vs. Tennessee, four (passing) vs. Navy, two (passing) vs. Syracuse and three (passing) at Stanford.
Quinn Threw 21 TDs in Notre Dame Stadium in `05
Brady Quinn shattered the Notre Dame record for touchdown passes at Notre Dame Stadium in a season, exploding for 21 scoring tosses in `05 (5 vs. Michigan State, 1 vs. USC, 6 vs. BYU, 3 vs. Tennessee, 4 vs. Navy, 2 vs. Syracuse). The previous record for touchdown passes in Notre Dame Stadium in a single-season was 11 by Ron Powlus (1994) and Jarious Jackson (1999). Quinn’s performance was so dominant that his total home field touchdown passes would have broken the previous single-season record, regardless of venue, of 19 held by Ron Powlus (1994). Quinn threw 11 touchdown passes away from Notre Dame Stadium (32 total).
Samardzija’s Record Season Earned All-America Honors
Wide receiver Jeff Samardzija returns for his senior season in ’06 after earning consensus first-team All-America honors in 2005 when he led the team with 77 catches for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns. He became Notre Dame’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 1970 on an 80-yard touchdown pass against Stanford on Nov. 26. Samardzija eventually broke Tom Gatewood’s single-season receiving yardage record against Stanford, pushing his season total to 1,190 yards and tied Gatewood’s single-season receptions mark. He also surpassed the single-season touchdown total as his 15 scoring receptions led the nation and bested Derrick Mayes’ previous record of 11 from 1994
Jeff Samardzija earned consensus All-America honors for the Fighting Irish last season, snagging 77 passes for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Samardzija opened 2005 with TD Catches in 8 Straight Games
Jeff Samardzija entered the 2005 campaign without a touchdown catch in his career, then proceeded to catch a touchdown pass in each of Notre Dame’s first eight games. The two-sport athlete (also a top-line pitching propect for the Chicago Cubs after he was drafted in the fifth round in this year’s Major League Baseball draft) became the first Irish receiver to begin the season with eight consecutive games with a touchdown catch – which made him the Notre Dame record holder for consecutive games with a touchdown reception. He surpassed Malcolm Johnson’s six-game run from 1998 against BYU.
Samardzija, who also serves as the team’s holder on field-goal attempts, tied a Notre Dame record with three touchdown receptions versus Michigan State (later broken by teammate Maurice Stovall, who posted four touchdown receptions against BYU). Samardzija was the seventh player to catch three touchdown passes in a game and the first since Tom Gatewood versus Purdue in 1970.
Walker Rushed 1,000 Yards in Dramatic Fashion
Running back Darius Walker became the ninth Irish player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season with 1,196 yards on 253 carries and seven touchdowns last year. Walker surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier during a career-best 35-carry, 186-yard outing at Stanford during which he scored the winning touchdown and added a two-point conversion for the final score. Walker also cemented his status as an every down back in ’05, setting an Irish mark for receptions by a back with 43 for 351 yards and two scores. Walker’s big day against Stanford pushed him into the top-10 all-time on the single-season rushing yardage list as well –
Notre Dame Single-Season Rushing Yardage Top 10
|1.||Vagas Ferguson, 1979||1,437|
|2.||Allen Pinkett, 1983||1,394|
|3.||Reggie Brooks, 1992||1,343|
|4.||Julius Jones, 2003||1,268|
|Autry Denson, 1997||1,268|
|6.||Darius Walker, 2005||1,196|
|7.||Vagas Ferguson, 1978||1,192|
|8.||Autry Denson, 1998||1,176|
|9.||Allen Pinkett, 1984||1,105|
|10.||Ryan Grant, 2002||1,085|
Walker’s 100-Yard Games
Darius Walker rushed for 100 yards seven times last season, marking the first time since 1993 that an Irish player posted seven or more 100-yard rushing performances in a season. Lee Becton ended the `93 campaign with seven consecutive 100-yard performances.
100-Yard Rushing Games in a Single Season (Since 1950)
Older and Wiser
The 2006 Notre Dame offensive line is one of the most experienced units in school history. With four studen-athletes that started at least five games last year, the Irish offense boasts almost 100 combined career starts on the line. Entering the `06 campaign, senior tackle Ryan Harris started the last 32 Notre Dame games and led the veteran group in starting assignments. Seniors Bob Morton and John Sullivan were second and third with 26 starts and 20 starts, respectfully, while senior Dan Santucci has 13 starts to his credit. Here is a look at the 10 most experienced offensive line units to wear the blue and gold since `85, with the `06 group added in for comparison.
Year – Starts Heading Into Season
2005 – 99
2006 – 91
1997 – 84
2002 – 76
1985 – 56
1996 – 56
1998 – 52
1987 – 50
1995 – 49
1993 – 46
1989 – 45
1990 – 43
Young Set to Make ND History
Currently listed as the starter at right tackle entering the Georgia Tech game, Sam Young is slated to make Notre Dame history becoming the first true freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line since freshmen became eligible in 1972. Young will be just the fourth Irish freshman to start on the offensive line joining an elite club that includes teammate Ryan Harris as well as Brad Williams and Mike Rosenthal. Harris started the final eight games of the 2003 season, Williams made starts against Navy and Boston College in 1996 and Rosenthal started against Ohio State, USC and Air Force in 1995.
Nine Veteran Starters Return to Lead Irish Defense
A solid group of returning veterans returns to lead the Irish defense in ’06, led by nine starters from last season including four players entering their third season on the starting unit. A full offseason with the defensive coaching staff combined with a second season in defensive coordinator Rick Minter’s scheme as well as a talented crop of freshmen should alone make the Notre Dame defense better. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden (74 tackles in ’05) and safety Tom Zbikowski (71 stops in ’05) are the leading returning tacklers of the unit. While both figure to provide valuable leadership, other key returnees figure to be just as vital to the unit’s continued improvement. Chief among those returnees are senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri (eight sacks in ’05), senior tackles Derek Landri (eight tackles for loss in ’05) and Trevor Laws (33 tackles and two blocked field goals last season) and linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr. (57 tackles in ’05).
Zbikowski’s Rapid Returns
Safety Tom Zbikowski, a senior in ’06 who has seen action the last two seasons for the Irish, has already made a name for himself in the Notre Dame record books. In a three-game stretch against USC, BYU and Tennessee last year, he returned a punt or interception for a touchdown four times – the first Irish defensive player to accomplish such a feat. Zbikowski has scored five touchdowns in his career overall, having returned a fumble 75 yards for a TD against Michigan State in 2004.
With his interception and punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee on Nov. 5, Zbikowski became the first Irish player to accomplish that feat (interception return and punt return in the same game) since Nick Rassas against Northwestern in 1965. Rassas returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown and a punt 72 yards for a score in Notre Dame’s 38-7 victory. With his five career TD returns (two interceptions, two punts, one fumble), Zbikowski already has established himself among the best big-play return specialists in Notre Dame history.
Senior Victor Abiamiri returns to anchor the Irish defensive line as a four-year starter at defensive end.
Abiamiri Named to Hendricks Watch List
Senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri was named to the 2006 Hendricks Award Preseason Watch List announced in June by the Hendricks Foundation. Abiamiri has been a key member of Notre Dame’s defensive line since his freshman season in 2003 when he became just the fourth freshman to start on the defensive line for Notre Dame since 1991. Abiamiri enjoyed his best season last year totaling 48 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, a team-high eight sacks and seven quarterback hurries helping him earn the team’s Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Abiamiri begins the 2006 campaign needing just half a sack and five tackles for loss to enter Notre Dame’s all-time top 10 in both categories.
Harris Named to Outland Trophy Watch List
Senior offensive tackle Ryan Harris was named to the 2006 Outland Trophy Watch List in June by the Football Writers Association of America. The award has been given annually to the nation’s top offensive or defensive interior lineman since 1946. Harris has started the last 32 games of his Notre Dame career at tackle, including the last two seasons at left tackle protecting quarterback Brady Quinn’s blind side. Harris played a key role in 2005 as the team averaged 36.7 points per game and 477.3 yards of total offense. In 2004, he was named the team’s Westwood One/Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year. Harris earned freshman All-America accolades from Rivals.com in 2003 and second-team freshman All-America honors from The Sporting News after becoming just the third true freshman lineman to start on the offensive line.
Quinn, Samardzija and Walker Named to Maxwell Award Watch List
Senior quarterback Brady Quinn, senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija and junior running back Darius Walker have been named to the 2006 Maxwell Award Watch List. The Maxwell Award is presented annually by the Maxwell Football Club to the top collegiate football player. Notre Dame’s three players on the Maxwell Award Watch List matches USC, Ohio State, Michigan and Miami (FL) for the most nominees. The list will be trimmed to 12 semi-finalists in October before three finalists are named in November.
Quinn enters his senior season owning every major Notre Dame passing record and fluorished in his first season with head coach Charlie Weis last year. Quinn received third-team All-America praise by the Associated Press after setting single-season school records for attempts (450), completions (292), yards (3,919) and touchdowns (32).
Samardzija was on the receiving end of many of Quinn’s passes. His 2005 postseason accolades included being named first-team All-America by the Football Writers Association of America and ESPN.com. He was also a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for college football’s top receiver after setting single-season records for receiving yards (1,249) and touchdown catches (15).
Walker already ranks 13th in career rushing yards at Notre Dame having carved up 1,982 yards in his two seasons for the Irish. Last year, Walker gained 1,196 yards and scored nine touchdowns while eclipsing the 100 yard mark in seven games. Against a stout Ohio State defense in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he set a Notre Dame bowl record by tallying three rushing touchdowns. Walker also owns the school’s freshman rushing record with 786 yards in 2004.
Quinn and Samardzija Named to Walter Camp Player of the Year Watch List
Senior quarterback Brady Quinn and senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija were two of 35 “players to watch” chosen by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. The nation’s fourth-oldest individual college football award will have its watch list narrowed to 10 semi-finalists in early November before the winner is chosen based on voting conducted by the 119 Division I-A head coaches and sports information directors.
Sullivan Named to Rimington Watch List
Senior center John Sullivan has been named to the Rimington Trophy Spring Watch List. He joins 38 other centers on the list for the Dave Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the most outstanding center in college football. The Boomer Esiason Foundation presents the award to the center who receives the most first team All-America votes determined by the AFCA, Walter Camp Foundation, Sporting News and FWAA. Sullivan started the last seven games at center for the Irish in 2005, while making appearances in all 12 games. As a junior in 2004, he started all 12 games and called out all blocking assignments for the offensive line.
Zbikowski Named to Nagurski and Bednarik Watch Lists
Senior defensive back Tom Zbikowski has been named to both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List and Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List for 2006. The Nagurski Trophy is given to the nation’s top defensive player at the Charlotte Touchdown Club annual awards banquet. The Bednarik Award is given annually to the nation’s top defensive player as voted on by head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club and various sports writers throughout the country. Zbikowski was named third-team All-America by the Associated Press after the 2005 season when he made 62 tackles and led the team with five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. He also added two touchdowns on punt returns. Zbikowski has started all 24 games in which he has played over the last two seasons and has scored touchdowns via interception return, punt return and fumble return during his Notre Dame career.
Notre Dame Student-Athletes Lead the Way in National Graduate Rate
The graduation rate for student-athletes at the University of Notre Dame is the highest in the nation among Division I-A colleges and universities in an annual federal report for the Department of Education, and is the second highest in a new survey developed by the NCAA.
Notre Dame’s federal graduation rate is 90.4 percent, according to statistics released in January by the NCAA, slightly ahead of Duke University at 89.6 percent as the best among the major football-playing schools of Division I-A. The federal rate is based on the raw percentage of student-athletes who entered an institution and graduated with six years. Students who leave or transfer, regardless of academic standing, are considered non-graduates.
Notre Dame ranks second among Division I-A schools on another scale, called the Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which was developed last year by the NCAA. The University’s 98 percent GSR is second only to the 99 percent of the U.S. Naval Academy, which, like all the military academies, is exempt from the federal survey because it does not offer grants-in-aid to student-athletes.
The Graduation Success Rate was created to more accurately reflect actual graduation rates by including transfer data in the calculation. College and university presidents asked the NCAA to develop a new methodology that takes into account the mobility among students in today’s higher education environment. Research indicates that approximately 60 percent of all new bachelor’s degree recipients are attending more than one undergraduate institution during their collegiate careers.
The remainder of the top five after Notre Dame and Duke among I-A universities in the federal survey are Stanford at 88 percent, Northwestern at 86 percent, and Rice at 83 percent. On the GSR, the rest of the top five I-A schools following Navy and Notre Dame are Clemson and Northwestern, both at 97 percent, and Duke at 93 percent.
The data for both surveys is based upon the entering classes from 1995 to 1998. The two graduation rate reports should not be confused with another new NCAA initiative, the Academic Progress Rate, which uses a series of formulas related to student-athlete retention and eligibility to measure the academic performance of all participants who receive a grant-in-aid on every team at every NCAA Division I college and university.
Historic Notre Dame Stadium
The 2006 football season marks the 76th year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 386 games in the facility to date and own a 291-90-5 (.760) record in the “House that Rockne Built.” The Irish were 3-3 in Notre Dame Stadium in `04, but rebounded to finish 4-2 at home in `05 and push the team’s record at home to 95-32 (.748) over the last 21 years. The most wins in a season by the Irish at home is seven by the `88 national championship team and the longest home winning streak in Notre Dame football history is 28 games (from 11/21/42 through 9/30/50).
In Front of a Full House
Notre Dame will enter the ’06 season having played in front of sellout crowds in 181 of its previous 207 games, including 56 of its last 61 contests dating back to the end of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the `01, `03 and `05 games at Stanford, the `04 game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands and the `05 game at Washington were not sellouts). At Michigan in `03, the Irish and Wolverines attracted the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of the series that an NCAA attendance record was set. It also represented the seventh time in the last four seasons that Notre Dame has been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in `01; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in `02, vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl in `04 – 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 `05. The `05 Washington game was played before less than a capacity crowd as 71,473 witnessed the Irish defeat the Huskies, 36-17, at Husky Stadium (capacity: 72,500) in Seattle. At Purdue, the Irish and Boilermakers played before 65,491 football fans, a Ross-Ade Stadium record (since the renovation of the facility in 2003).
Football Ticket Demand Hits a Record High
How much interest is there in University of Notre Dame football games for 2006? There’s enough that the Sept. 9 Notre Dame-Penn State game and the Sept. 16 Notre Dame-Michigan game qualify as the two highest-requested games in the history of Notre Dame’s ticket lottery. There’s enough that four ’06 home games rank in the all-time top 10 for requests — and all seven games rank in the top 30. There’s enough that the Nov. 25 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles qualified as the most-requested road game in Irish ticket history.
And there’s enough that the Notre Dame ticket office expects to mail refunds worth more than a record $11.7 million (compared to refunds of $5.2 million a year ago) to unsuccessful lottery participants in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni, monogram winners, undergraduate parents and benefactors. There was a 37 percent increase in applications submitted to the ’06 lottery compared to a year ago.
Notre Dame alumni making an annual contribution of $100 or more to the University are eligible to apply for two tickets to as many home and away football games as they choose. In excess of 30,000 tickets per game are available for each home contest for contributing alumni. Any time the number of applications exceeds the supply, a lottery is held – and lotteries were required for all seven 2006 home games (meaning all seven home games automatically reached sellout status).
Demand was highest for the Sept. 9 home game vs. Penn State (66,670 tickets requested) and the Sept. 16 home game vs. Michigan (61,631), making those games the two highest-demanded home games in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The previous all-time high was 59,368 requests for the 2001 home game against West Virginia. The high in 2005 was 54,211 for the Notre Dame-USC game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Other high-demand home games in ’06 are contests against North Carolina (54,838 requests for sixth all-time), UCLA (51,933 for 10th all-time), Stanford (50,491 for 13th all-time) and Purdue (47,655 for 17th all-time).
The high demand for road games came for the regular-season finale at USC (an all-time record 33,251 requests). Notre Dame receives 15,000 tickets as the visiting team in that contest.
New Fighting Irish All-Access Package Launched on Aug. 4
The University of Notre Dame official athletic website, und.com, entered a new era on Friday, Aug. 4. The Fighting Irish All-Access package has undergone a complete overhaul and und.com will bring Notre Dame alumni and fans full coverage free of charge for the 2006-07 season.
Irish fans will no longer be required to subscribe or sign up for audio/video coverage on und.com. By September 1, und.com also will unveil a new media player, which will feature a bigger display screen and easier access to und.com’s multimedia offerings.
As part of the new Fighting Irish All-Access launch, the und.com crew will post a bevy of video offerings from a variety of Irish sports and the University archives – just the first step toward developing und.com into the top source for Fighting Irish fans on the world wide web. Check und.com for more details.
Former Heisman Winners to be Honored at Notre Dame Home Games
All former Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winners wil be featured on home game tickets as well as the corresponding game programs and schedule cards this season. The seven winners or family members of the winners have been invited back to Notre Dame to be honored during the weekend their likeness is featured on the game ticket and program.
Angelo Bertelli graces the cover of the Penn State game, Johnny Lujack is on the Michigan game cover, John Lattner is featured during the Purdue weekend, Leon Hart will be honored at the Stanford game, Paul Hornung will be on the cover of the UCLA game, the North Carolina game ticket and program will honor John Huarte, while Tim Brown will be featured at the Army game.
Easter Heathman to Receive Honorary Monogram
The University of Notre Dame Monogram Club will present Easter Heathman with an honorary monogram prior to the Penn State pep rally on Friday, Sept. 8. Heathman grew up near the Knute Rockne crash site in Bazaar, Kan., and has served as the unofficial caretaker of the Rockne crash site for the past 75 years.
1966 National Championship Team to be Honored During Purdue Weekend
This season marks the 40th anniversary of the 1966 Notre Dame football team that won the national championship and the team will be honored during its reunion on the Purdue game weekend. The `66 squad averaged over 36 points per game while permitting just five touchdowns on defense. That Irish squad posted a 9-0-1 record including three wins over top-10 teams with an average margin of victory in those contests of 33.7 points. Head coach Ara Parseghian won his first of two titles and tied Frank Leahy (later matched by Dan Devine) in the process as the quickest Notre Dame head coach to win a national championship, doing so in his third campaign.
Notre Dame Athletics in Print
Four new books either about Notre Dame athletics or written by past or current Irish coaches will be available in bookstores this fall.
Head coach Charlie Weis is scheduled to release his autobiography, NO EXCUSES, Oct. 10. With the help of NFL.com national editor and author, Vic Carucci, the book will tell the remarkable story of his journey from being a student of Notre Dame to becoming head coach of his alma mater. Stories from his professional career of working in the NFL to personal events involving himself and his family will also be chronicled.
Former head coach Lou Holtz’ autobiography, Wins, Losses, and Lessons hits bookshelves Aug. 15. Detailing stories from his youth to his days as a football head coach, this book is said to be a “reflective, inspiring and candid look back at an extraordinary life and career from a coaching legend.”
Fighting Irish Legends, Lists and Lore is the latest book by Karen Heisler, wife of Notre Dame Senior Associate Athletic Director John Heisler, and “captures the history, tradition, and spirit of one of the nation’s most storied and revered athletic programs.” The book recounts stories of Notre Dame’s most famous athletes and coaches in every sport.
Longtime writer and editor for Blue & Gold Illustrated Tim Prister is set to release his latest book entitled, The New Gold Standard Aug. 16. The book takes readers inside head coach Charlie Weis’ first season at Notre Dame and how he “returned the program to its rightful (and historic) place among college football’s elite.”