Dec. 20, 2004
The Date and Time:
Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2004 at 7:47 p.m. MST (9:47 p.m. EST in South Bend).
Bank One Ballpark (42,915/Natural Grass) in Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s a complete sellout, the 172nd of Notre Dame’s last 197 games, and the 36th of its last 38 games dating back to the end of the 2001 season (the ’03 game at Stanford and this year’s game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands were not sellouts). Notre Dame received an allotment of 10,500 tickets for the game. Notre Dame received an allotment of 10,500 tickets for the game.
The TV Plans:
ESPN national telecast with Ron Franklin (play-by-play), Mike Gottfried (analysis), Erin Andrews (sideline), Bill Bonnell (producer) and Scott Johnson (director).
The Radio Plans:
For the 37th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are broadcast on more than 300 stations in all 50 states by Westwood One with Tony Roberts (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis), Larry Michael (pregame/halftime) and Al Smith (producer). A live broadcast from the Notre Dame student station, WVFI, also is available via the Notre Dame athletics web site at www.und.com. All Notre Dame football games may be heard in South Bend on U93-FM (92.9) with pre- and post-game analysis featuring Sean Stires, Shawn Lewallen, Jack Nolan, Mirko Jurkovic, Reggie Brooks and Vince DeDario. All Irish games also are carried live in the Chicago market on ESPN Radio 1000.
Notre Dame (www.und.com), Oregon State (www.osubeavers.com).
NOTRE DAME AND OREGON STATE MEET IN THE 16TH ANNUAL INSIGHT BOWL
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (6-5) and the Beavers of Oregon State (6-5) meet for only the second time on the gridiron when they clash on Tuesday, Dec. 28, at 7:47 p.m. (MST) at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, AZ. The only previous meeting between OSU and Notre Dame also occurred in the Phoenix area and also occurred in a bowl game, as the Beavers defeated the Irish (41-9) in the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1, 2001, in Tempe.
Notre Dame enters the Insight Bowl attempting to snap a season-ending two-game losing streak and will do so under the direction of interim head coach Kent Baer, the Irish’s defensive coordinator who assumed the reins of the football program on Nov. 30. The Irish are in a postseason bowl game for the 26th time in Notre Dame’s football history. Notre Dame has a 13-12 record in bowl games entering the Insight Bowl.
The matchup with Oregon State matches the Irish with one of college football’s hottest teams as the Beavers overcame a 1-4 start to win five of their final six contests with the only loss coming at the hands of top-ranked USC in a 28-20 defeat at Corvallis. Over the span of their last six games, the Beavers have averaged 31.5 points per game.
Notre Dame completed the regular season with the nation’s ninth-best defense against the rush, allowing an average of 94.4 yards per game. The Irish also have been opportunistic, ranking 22nd nationally in turnover margin (+6 overall) at +0.55 per game. Notre Dame also has prevented big plays in the punting game, ranking eighth nationally in net punting (39.3 avg.).
The Irish have done an excellent job of protecting the football, ending the regular season with an impressive streak of five consecutive games without losing a fumble. Since a fumble lost against Stanford on Oct. 9, the Irish have gone 20 quarters and 151 rushing attempts without losing a fumble. Over that span, Notre Dame has only fumbled twice, recovering both drops (vs. Navy and USC). The Notre Dame offense has produced an average of 218.2 yards per game via the pass this season. That average ranks as the third-best per-game average in Notre Dame history (via records kept since the 1946 season). Only two other Irish teams averaged more yards passing – the 1970 squad that averaged 252.7 yards per game and the 1999 unit that averaged 238.2 yards via the pass. That success in the air has contributed to Notre Dame’s total offense average of 357 yards per contest, the most by the Irish since 1999 (419.7 ypg).
NOTRE DAME IN THE 2004 INSIGHT BOWL
â€¢ This is Notre Dame’s first appearance in the Insight Bowl. Notre Dame previously made appearances in Phoenix/Tempe, AZ in the Fiesta Bowl. The Fighting Irish have played in three Fiesta Bowl games (1989 vs. West Virginia, 1994 vs. Colorado and 2000 vs. Oregon State).
â€¢ The 2004 Insight Bowl marks the 26th bowl game for the Irish (13-12) and the 14th in 18 years.
â€¢ The first bowl game for Notre Dame followed the 1924 season when head coach Knute Rockne led his team to a 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl to claim the national championship.
â€¢ Notre Dame began playing bowl games on a regular basis in 1969 and will be making its 25th appearance since the ’69 season. That total ties USC for the 10th-most bowl appearances in the last 35 years. The Irish have 12 bowl victories since 1969, the 11th-most over that span.
â€¢ Prior to its appearance in this year’s Insight Bowl, Notre Dame has played in nine different bowl games over the years (Rose, Cotton, Orange, Sugar, Gator, Liberty, Aloha, Fiesta and Independence). The Irish have at least one win in seven of those nine bowl games, only coming up short in the Aloha and Independence Bowls, where they have made just one appearance.
NOTRE DAME’S 2004 SEASON
â€¢ Notre Dame finished the 2004 regular season with a 6-5 record, marking a slight improvement over last season (5-7 record in 2003). The Irish have played seven games decided by eight points or less this season, going 4-3 in those games. Three of Notre Dame’s five losses have come by a total of seven points (by 3 at BYU, by 1 to Boston College and by 3 to Pittsburgh), including a pair of games in which the deciding score occurred in the game’s final minute (BC and Pittsburgh).
â€¢ Notre Dame has a 3-4 record vs. bowl teams this season, including a 1-2 record vs. BCS teams (win over Michigan; losses to Pittsburgh and USC). The seven Irish opponents in bowls are: Michigan (vs. California in Rose), Purdue (vs. Oregon State in Sun), Navy (vs. Wyoming in Emerald), Boston College (vs. Florida State in Gator), Tennessee (vs. Wisconsin in Outback), Pittsburgh (vs. Utah in Fiesta), and USC (vs. Oklahoma in Orange).
â€¢ Notre Dame and Auburn are the nation’s only teams with multiple victories over opponents ranked in the nation’s top 10 at game time. The Irish own victories over Michigan (then ranked 7th on Sept. 11) and Tennessee (then ranked 9th on Nov. 6). The Irish have faced four teams in the latest AP poll (USC, Michigan, Tennessee and Pittsburgh), posting a 2-2 mark against those teams.
NOTRE DAME-OREGON STATE SERIES
â€¢ The Insight Bowl matchup marks the second meeting between the Irish and Beavers and the second consecutive and fourth Pac-10 opponent of the season for Notre Dame. The Irish defeated Washington 38-3 on Sept. 25, Stanford 23-15 on Oct. 9, and closed out the regular season with a 41-10 loss at USC on Nov. 27.
â€¢ Oregon State is one of only two Pac-10 schools to oppose Notre Dame in a bowl game. The two matchups with Oregon State (this Insight Bowl and the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl) are the only times Notre Dame has faced a Pac-10 opponent in a bowl game since the first bowl in which Notre Dame ever played — a 27-10 win over Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
Notre Dame and Oregon State played three common opponents during the 2004 regular season — Washington, Stanford and USC. The Irish went 2-1 against the trio, knocking off Washington (38-3) in South Bend and defeating Stanford (23-15) in Notre Dame Stadium, but suffered a loss at USC (41-10). Oregon State also posted a 2-1 mark against those three schools, defeating Washington (29-14) and Stanford (24-19) and falling to USC (28-20).
IF NOTRE DAME WINS …
â€¢ Notre Dame will earn the 14th bowl victory in school history and the first since a 24-21 win over Texas A&M in the 1994 Cotton Bowl. The Irish also will improve to 14-12 (.538) all-time in bowl games.
â€¢ Notre Dame will record its seventh victory of the 2004 season and will post its 72nd season of at least seven victories, its seventh in the last 10 seasons dating to 1995.
â€¢ Notre Dame will pick up its third victory this season against a Pac-10 Conference opponent and improve to 73-37-6 (.661) in 116 games against Pac-10 schools.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE PAC-10 CONFERENCE
â€¢ Notre Dame has won more than 65 percent of its games versus Pac-10 Conference opponents, with a winning series record versus nine of the Pac-10 teams and an overall mark of 72-37-6 (.652) in 115 games against Pac-10 schools – including the 1998, 2000, `02 and `04 wins over Stanford, the `98 and `99 wins over Arizona State, the `99, `00 and `01 wins over USC, the `03 victory over Washington State and the `04 win over Washington. Nearly 70 percent of those games (76) have come versus USC (42-29-5) while another 15 percent have come against Stanford (13-6-0).
â€¢ Other than USC and Stanford, Notre Dame has played a handful of games vs. California (4-0), Washington (5-0), Arizona (2-1), Oregon (1-0-1) and UCLA (2-0). Notre Dame and Arizona State met for the first time in 1998, while the Irish met Oregon State for the first time in the 2001 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame played its first-ever game against Washington State in 2003 and met Washington for the fifth-time ever earlier this season.
â€¢ Other than the Washington game this season and last year’s win over Washington State, the most recent games vs. other Pac-10 teams are: a 16-13 home loss to Arizona in 1982, a 41-8 home win over California in `67, a 13-13 tie at Oregon in `82 and a 24-0 home win over UCLA in `64.
â€¢ Notre Dame is 17-10-1 (.625) in its last 28 games vs. Pac-10 schools (4-6-1 vs. USC, 7-3 vs. Stanford, 3-0 vs. Washington, 2-0 vs. Arizona State, 1-0 vs. Washington State, 0-1 vs. Oregon State), starting with a 1992 victory over USC.
â€¢ The 2004 campaign marks the first time in school history Notre Dame has played four Pac-10 teams in the same season.
NOTRE DAME IN DECEMBER BOWL GAMES
Notre Dame will be making its fifth appearance in a December bowl game, having played 20 of its 25 previous bowl games in the month of January. The Irish are 3-2 in December bowl games entering the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28. Notre Dame is 10-10 all-time in the month of January, including an 8-9 record on Jan. 1. The Irish will be playing a Dec. 28 game for only the second time in their history. The only previous Dec. 28 matchup was a 27-9 loss to LSU in the 1997 Independence Bowl.
â€¢ One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s season has been its penchant for playing close games. The Irish have gone 4-3 this season in games decided by eight points or less, defeating No. 7 Michigan (28-20), Michigan State (31-24), Stanford (23-15) and No. 9 Tennessee (17-13), while losing to BYU (20-17), Boston College (24-23) and Pittsburgh (41-38). Five of those games (all but BYU and Tennessee) went down to the final seconds, with the Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College and Pittsburgh contests in doubt until time expired.
â€¢ This year’s squad has Notre Dame’s third-most wins by eight points or less in a season. The record of six victories was set in 1939 when that club had a 6-2 record in games decided by eight or less and equaled by the 2002 team that went 6-1 in those games. The 1937 team was 5-1-1 in games decided by eight or less, while 1974 squad posted a 5-0 record in eight-point games. The 2004 team joins teams from 1929 (4-0), 1940 (4-1), 1984 (4-3), 1990 (4-3), 1997 (4-2) and 1998 (4-1) with four wins by eight or less over the course of the season.
â€¢ As for winning percentage in games decided by eight points or less, the 1974 team went 5-0, while the 1929 unit was 4-0. The 1926, 1928, 1954 and 1989 teams all finished 3-0 in eight-point games. One item of note on the greatness of Knute Rockne: He was 21-4-5 (.783) in games decided by eight points or less over his Notre Dame career, including 16-0-2 (.944) over his last seven years.
CLOSE SHAVES – A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Notre Dame’s 2004 season has included seven games decided by eight points or less. The one-possession games in 2004 have been as follows: BYU (17-20 L), Michigan (28-20 W), Michigan State (31-24 W), Stanford (23-15 W), Boston College (23-24 L), Tennessee (17-13 W), and Pittsburgh (38-41 L).That ties for the most such close games of any season dating back through 1970. The years with the most “one-possession” games over the last 35 seasons of Notre Dame football are:
Games – Seasons
7 – 2004, 2002, 1990, 1984*
6 – 1999, 1997, 1986, 1982
5 – 2003, 2000, 1998*, 1994, 1983*, 1980*, 1979, 1978*, 1974*
4 – 2001, 1996, 1995*, 1981, 1976, 1975
3 – 1993*, 1992, 1989, 1987, 1985, 1977
* denotes that a bowl game counted for part of the total.
2004 NOTRE DAME TEAM AWARDS
Notre Dame senior defensive end Justin Tuck was named the 2004 Notre Dame Monogram Club Most Valuable Player, while seniors Derek Curry, Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant and Carlyle Holiday earned captain honors for the `04 Irish football team Friday, Dec. 3, at the 84th Notre Dame Football Banquet. The MVP award and the captain awards were determined by a vote of the players, the third consecutive season in which the team elected its official captains at season’s end.
Tuck, from Kellyton, Ala., broke the Notre Dame career record for quarterback sacks this season. His team-leading six sacks give him a total of 24.5 sacks for his career in just three seasons of action. Through three seasons of play, Tuck has garnered 43 tackles for loss, 164 total tackles and seven passes broken up. In 2004, Tuck led the team in tackles for loss with 14 (for 57 yards), while notching 47 tackles to rank sixth on the team. Tuck achieved all of this after recovering from a major knee injury suffered in the 2003 season finale, returning to earn a starter’s role in every game this season and logging a career-high 263 minutes of playing time. Tuck is majoring in management in the Mendoza College of Business.
Curry, from Sealy, Texas, has started 34 games over the last three seasons and has played in every game of his Notre Dame career at linebacker. In `04, Curry ranks fifth on the team in tackles with 61, is second on the team in tackles for loss with eight and is second in quarterback sacks with 4.5. He also intercepted two passes, recovered two fumbles and broke up three passes. Curry also was the recipient of the Nick Pietrosante Award presented each year to the Notre Dame player who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride of the late Irish All-America fullback Nick Pietrosante. The award is determined by a vote of the players and past winners have included Jeff Faine, Joey Getherall, Aaron Taylor and Chris Zorich. A double major in management information systems and theology in the Mendoza College of Business, Curry is scheduled to graduate from Notre Dame in May of 2005.
Goolsby, from Joliet, Ill., has played in 46 games for the Irish and has started 24 games at linebacker. He returned to action in `04 after missing the entire 2003 campaign with injuries and has been impressive throughout, leading the team in tackles with 94 and racking up a team-leading two interceptions, one fumble recovery, three quarterback sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. Goolsby is on pace to become only the 38th player in Notre Dame history to register 100 tackles in a season with the bowl game upcoming. Goolsby graduated with a degree in American Studies from the College of Arts and Letters in May of `04 and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Notre Dame.
Grant, from Nyack, N.Y., is currently ranked 11th on the Irish career rushing list with 2,201 yards and his 18 rushing touchdowns rank tied for 10th in Notre Dame history. Grant has started 26 games at tailback in his Notre Dame career, playing in 38 games overall, and is second on the team in rushing this season with 496 yards and five touchdowns. A starter for most of the last three seasons, Grant has rushed for more than 100 yards five times in his Notre Dame career and is one of only seven players in school history to have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season (1,085 in 2002). Grant is pursuing a double major in sociology and computer applications from the College of Arts and Letters. He is slated to graduate later this month, a half-year ahead of schedule.
Holiday, from San Antonio, Texas, is one of the most respected players in recent Notre Dame history. After starting his Notre Dame career at quarterback, Holiday moved to receiver in `03 and has added duties as a punt returner to his resume this season. Holiday has played in 46 games for the Irish, including 25 starting assignments with the first 24 coming as the team’s quarterback from 2001-03. At quarterback, Holiday compiled a 15-9 record as a starter, throwing for 2,876 yards and 14 touchdowns while completing 239 of 477 attempts (50.1 percent). His 239 pass completions rank 11th in Notre Dame history. Holiday also has rushed for 898 yards and five touchdowns and has caught six passes for 81 yards. In `04, Holiday has returned 28 punts for 308 yards (11.0 avg.) including a 68-yard return to set up a touchdown against Pittsburgh. He graduated in May of 2004 with a degree in marketing from the Mendoza College of Business.
Senior defensive end Kyle Budinscak was the winner of the Knute Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award presented by the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley. Budinscak has started 33 games during his Notre Dame career, including all 11 this season, and has played in 43 games overall since joining the Irish in 2000. A native of Bridgewater, N.J., Budinscak recovered from a serious knee injury that cut short his 2003 season to win a starting job at defensive end in 2004. His 21 tackles this season ranks him third among defensive linemen while his three quarterback sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss are among the team leaders. Budinscak also has forced one fumble, recovered a fumble, and has batted down three passes this season. He also was a first-team Academic All-District selection four times. Budinscak graduated in May 2004, from the Mendoza College of Business with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He finished his undergraduate degree with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.591 and is currently enrolled as a graduate student. He has been on the Dean’s List six semesters during his career and has been a three-time State Farm/Westwood One Student-Athlete of the Game. Budinscak has been selected to the Rosenthal Leadership Group at Notre Dame.
Senior defensive tackle Greg Pauly won the Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. The Waukesha, Wis., product has recorded 36 tackles in `04, including 4.5 for loss, and one quarterback sack. Pauly, who has started 16 games in his career and has seen action in 35 games overall for the Irish, has logged a career-high 246 minutes of action this season. He is a marketing and economics major in the Mendoza College of Business and will graduate later this month.
Sophomore offensive tackle Ryan Harris won the Westwood One/Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year Award as the top offensive lineman. In only his second season with the Irish, Harris was the leader of Notre Dame’s offensive line that helped quarterback Brady Quinn compile some of the finest passing totals in Notre Dame history. The native of St. Paul, Minn., has started all 11 games this season and has been a mainstay of the offensive line the last two seasons with 19 starting assignments already in his career, logging 346 minutes of playing time this season to lead the offensive line. Harris is enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters at Notre Dame.
Josh Schmidt, from Germantown, Tenn., won the Westwood One/State Farm Student-Athlete of the Year Award. This is the second consecutive season in which Schmidt has earned the honor. The senior fullback and former walk-on earned a scholarship before the season and has played in 23 games during his Notre Dame career, starting two contests. In his career, Schmidt has caught 15 passes for 155 yards (10.3 avg.). As a finance major in the Mendoza College of Business, he has maintained a 3.516 grade point average and is scheduled to graduate in May of 2005.
The Irish made two number change from the 2004 media guide rosters as junior wide receiver/special teams player Rob Woods has changed from No. 84 to No. 81 and freshman defensive end Tim Gritzman has moved to tight end and changed from No. 65 to No. 86.
THE 2004 CAPTAINS
For only the fourth time in the 116-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish are designating captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game — the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 consensus national championships.
The 2004 captains have been as follows:
BYU: Kyle Budinscak, Derek Curry, Billy Palmer, Rashon Powers-Neal
Michigan: Mike Goolsby, Carlyle Holiday, Dan Stevenson, Justin Tuck
at Michigan State: Dwight Ellick, D.J. Fitzpatrick, Ryan Grant, Brandon Hoyte
Washington: Quentin Burrell, Mark LeVoir, Greg Pauly, Matt Shelton
Purdue: Derek Curry, Carlyle Holiday, Dan Stevenson, Justin Tuck
Stanford: Kyle Budinscak, Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant, Rhema McKnight
vs. Navy: D.J. Fitzpatrick, Brandon Hoyte, Mark LeVoir, Maurice Stovall
Boston College: Quentin Burrell, Ryan Grant, Billy Palmer, Greg Pauly
at Tennessee: Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant, Mark LeVoir, Justin Tuck
Pittsburgh: Derek Curry, Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant, Carlyle Holiday
at USC: Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant, Carlyle Holiday, Justin Tuck
2004 Season Captain Award Winners: Derek Curry, Mike Goolsby, Ryan Grant, Carlyle Holiday
PASSING YARDAGE RANKS AMONG BEST IN NOTRE DAME HISTORY
The Notre Dame offense has produced an average of 218.2 yards per game via the pass this season. That average ranks as the third-best per-game average in Notre Dame history (via records kept since the 1946 season). Only two other Irish teams averaged more yards passing – the 1970 squad led by Joe Theismann averaged 252.7 yards per game and the 1999 unit led by Jarious Jackson averaged 238.2 yards via the pass. That success in the air has contributed to Notre Dame’s total offense average of 357 yards per contest, the most by the Irish since 1999 (419.7 ypg).
STRONG IN THE RED ZONE
Notre Dame has been solid on both sides of the ball in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line). On offense, the Irish have made 33 trips to the red zone this year, coming away with 22 touchdowns (a .667 TD percentage). Opponents also have visited the red zone 32 times, but have just 14 touchdowns (a .438 TD percentage).
NO TURNOVERS = VICTORY (USUALLY)
Notre Dame did not have a turnover in the loss at USC, snapping an amazing 41-game unbeaten streak (40-0-1) since 1985 for the Irish when they don’t commit a turnover. Prior to the USC game, the last time a Notre Dame team lost a game without committing a turnover was in a 34-30 loss at Penn State on Nov. 12, 1983. Two of Notre Dame’s six victories in 2004 have been keynoted by errorless outings in the turnover department as the Irish collected wins over Navy (27-9) and Tennessee (17-13) while not losing the ball via a turnover.
EXCELLENT BALL PROTECTION
The Irish completed the regular season with an impressive streak of five consecutive games without losing a fumble. Overall, Notre Dame did not lose a fumble in six of 11 games this season and lost more than one only once all season (2 at Michigan State). Since a fumble lost against Stanford on Oct. 9, the Irish have gone 20 quarters and 151 rushing attempts without losing a fumble. Over that span, Notre Dame has only fumbled twice, recovering both drops (vs. Navy and USC).
THE FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT
Notre Dame came up with six turnovers (3 fumbles, 3 interceptions) on Sept. 18 at Michigan State and followed up with five more turnovers one week later against Washington, marking the fourth consecutive week the Irish had at least two takeaways. Since the 2001 season, Notre Dame has forced two or more turnovers in 31 of its 46 games, including 24 contests where they came up with at least three takeaways. In this week’s NCAA statistical rankings, the Irish are 22nd in the country in turnover margin (+0.55 per game, +6 overall).
STOPPING THE RUN IS JOB ONE FOR IRISH
The Notre Dame run defense has been exceptionally sturdy since interim head coach/defensive coordinator Kent Baer arrived on the scene in 2002. Over the last three seasons, the Irish have held 22 of 36 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, including eight games this year (BYU – 22; Michigan – 56; Purdue – 99; Stanford – 67; Boston College – 62; Tennessee – 58; Pittsburgh – 98; USC — 83). In fact, Notre Dame opponents are averaging 2.7 yards per carry this season. In 2002, Notre Dame was ranked 10th in the nation in rushing defense, followed by a No. 29 national ranking last year. The Irish rank ninth in the country in rushing defense this season, allowing an average of 94.4 yards on the ground.
STOPPING THE RUN – PART II
Notre Dame’s defense against the rush has been the team’s most consistent area this season. The Irish have allowed only 1,038 rushing yards (94.4 per game) and a key to that success has been the defense’s ability to prevent long rushing plays. In 2004, Notre Dame has not allowed a rushing play of more than 25 yards this season. Other than two 25-yard runs (by Boston College and Tennessee), the Irish haven’t allowed a run of more than 18 yards (by Michigan State and USC) in a game this season.
RUSHING DEFENSE IN PERSPECTIVE
Notre Dame’s ability to stifle opponents on the ground has been well documented. None of the Irish’s 11 regular season opponents achieved their rushing average for the season against Notre Dame. Only three opponents have managed to break the century mark in rushing yardage this season (Michigan State, Washington and Navy), and only one averaged more than 4.0 yards per attempt (Michigan State, 4.7 yards per rush). Navy’s 216 yards (on 61 carries – a 3.5 avg.) is the only 200+-yard outing by an opponent this season.
IMPROVED RUSH DEFENSE LEADS TO SUCCESS
Rushing totals allowed by the Notre Dame defense are down across the board this season from 2003, a factor that has led to better numbers on the scoreboard. In 2003, the Irish allowed a respectable 127.2 yards per game on the ground, permitting opponents to average 3.1 yards per rush. This season, Notre Dame opponents are averaging only 94.4 yards per game rushing (an improvement of 32.8 yards per game) and only 2.7 yards per attempt (an improvement of 0.4 yards per attempt). Notre Dame allowed only five rushing touchdowns during the regular season (the Irish gave up 19 rushing touchdowns in 2003) for an improvement of 14 over the 12-game total from last season. That helped Notre Dame limit opponent scoring as Irish opponents are averaging 22.8 points per game this season, an improvement of 3.5 points per game from 2003.
NOTRE DAME REGISTERS 800TH ALL-TIME VICTORY
The Notre Dame football program reached a historic milestone with its Oct. 9 victory vs. Stanford, becoming just the second current NCAA Division I-A program to amass 800 all-time wins. The Irish currently rank second in NCAA history with 802 wins, trailing only Michigan’s 842 victories, although the Wolverines have played nine more seasons than Notre Dame.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
Sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn has spread his pass completions around this season. Quinn has completed passes to 20 different receivers (the most since 1962), a breakdown of seven wide receivers, six running backs, four tight ends and two passes to himself (caught off of deflections vs. Washington and Purdue). Junior wide receiver Rhema McKnight has been Quinn’s favorite target thus far, grabbing 38 passes for 520 yards and two touchdowns. Junior tight end Anthony Fasano is next with 26 catches for 354 yards and two scores. Junior wide receiver Maurice Stovall has 21 catches for 313 yards and a touchdown while senior wide receiver Matt Shelton has 19 catches for 518 yards and five touchdowns and sophomore wide receiver Jeff Samardzija has accounted for 12 catches for 185 yards. Quinn has tossed touchdown passes to six different players this season: McKnight, Shelton (five times), Fasano (twice), senior fullback Rashon Powers-Neal (twice), Stovall and senior tight end Billy Palmer.
SHELTON LOVES THE LONG BALL
Senior wide receiver Matt Shelton has emerged as a big-play threat for the Irish this season. After a career-best 128-yard outing against Pittsburgh and two catches for 13 yards at USC, Shelton ranks fourth on the team with 19 catches for 518 yards (27.3 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. He enjoyed a career day (of sorts) against Washington when he nabbed a career-best four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns, including scoring catches of 27 and 24 yards. One week earlier at Michigan State, Shelton snared three passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, including gains of 53, 35 and 35 yards. Shelton has averaged 38.0 yards on his seven career touchdown grabs (36 vs. Pittsburgh, 33 vs. Boston College, 27 and 24 vs. Washington, 35 at MSU, 46 vs. Michigan, 65 at Stanford in ’03). Eleven of Shelton’s 19 catches have measured at least 25 yards in length.
SHELTON AMONG NOTRE DAME’S BEST DEEP THREATS
Senior wide receiver Matt Shelton is averaging 27.3 yards per reception this season, nabbing 19 catches for 518 yards and scoring six touchdowns. That average threatens to shatter the 25-year-old Notre Dame single-season record, but Shelton needs to reach the minimum of 20 catches to qualify. The current mark of 25.6 yards per catch is held by Tony Hunter, who set the mark in 1979 with 690 yards on 27 receptions.
WALKER KEYS RUSHING GAME’S RESURGENCE
Freshman running back Darius Walker has provided a consistent threat in the Irish running game by averaging 74.3 yards rushing per game the past 10 contests (743 yards on 172 carries). Walker made a big splash in his home debut vs. Michigan, rushing 31 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-20 Irish win. He followed up with another solid effort at Michigan State, rushing for 98 yards on 26 carries and posted his second 100-yard effort of the season with 112 yards and two touchdowns against Pittsburgh. His Michigan performance was good enough for The Sporting News and Sporting News Radio to name the Lawrenceville, Ga., native as its National Player of the Week, and for Rivals.com to tab him as the National Freshman of the Week for Sept. 11. Walker’s numbers in his debut game vs. Michigan also put him among some select company in Notre Dame history. In that game, he: a) became the first Irish freshman to rush for 100 yards in a game since Julius Jones had 146 yards against Navy on Oct. 30, 1999; b) became the first Notre Dame freshman to score two touchdowns in a game since Matt LoVecchio ran for two scores at USC on Nov. 25, 2000; c) was the first Irish rookie to score in a home opener since Sept. 29, 1979, when Tony Hunter caught a 14-yard touchdown pass in a 27-3 win over Michigan State and the first freshman to score two touchdowns in a home opener since at least 1970; and d) was the first Notre Dame freshman running back to score twice in a game since Nov. 18, 1995, when Autry Denson rushed for two touchdowns in a 44-14 win at Air Force. (Julius Jones scored twice vs. Boston College on Nov. 20, 1999, but one of his touchdowns came on a punt return).
WALKER AMONG TOP FRESHMAN RUSHERS IN NOTRE DAME HISTORY
Freshman running back Darius Walker is on the way to posting one of the top rushing totals by a freshman in Notre Dame history. His 64-yard effort against USC moved him into second place on Notre Dame’s freshman rushing list, passing Autry Denson (695 yards in 1995). Walker needs only 14 yards in the Insight Bowl to break Jerome Heavens’ mark set in 1975. Here’s a rundown of the top freshman rushers in Irish football history:
Player Year Yards1. Jerome Heavens 1975 7562. Darius Walker 2004 7433. Autry Denson 1995 6954. Randy Kinder 1993 5375. Allen Pinkett 1982 532
WALKER’S 6 TOUCHDOWN RUNS RANKS SECOND AMONG IRISH FRESHMEN
Freshman running back Darius Walker has been consistently productive in the red zone, producing six touchdown rushes on the season. That total ranks him second all-time in Notre Dame history for rushing touchdowns by a freshman. Only Autry Denson’s eight rushing scores in 1995 ranks ahead of Walker’s total entering the Insight Bowl. Here’s a rundown of the top freshman touchdown rushers in Irish football history:
Player Year Rushing TDs1. Autry Denson 1995 82. Darius Walker 2004 63. Allen Pinkett 1982 5 Jerome Heavens 1975 5
BE LIKE MIKE
Senior linebacker Mike Goolsby made a resounding return to the Notre Dame lineup this season after missing the entire 2003 slate with an injury. Goolsby has been credited with a team-high 94 tackles (8.5 per game) while leading the team in six games. With six tackles in the Insight Bowl, Goolsby would become the 38th player in Notre Dame history to record 100 tackles in a season. The Joliet, IL, native rolled up career-best tackle totals his first two games of the year, tallying 11 stops at BYU and 14 tackles against Michigan, added 12 tackles vs. Navy and matched his career-best with 14 stops at Tennessee. His performance against the Vols also included a sack and an interception he returned for the decisive touchdown. Over a stretch of three games (Boston College, Tennessee and Pittsburgh), Goolsby produced at least one turnover in each contest with all three leading to subsequent scores. Strangely, all three plays occurred on the 26-yard line. In the second period against Boston College, Goolsby intercepted a pass at the Eagle 26 and returned it to the two-yard line to set up a Notre Dame touchdown for a 14-7 lead. Against Tennessee, he intercepted a Vols pass at the UT 26 and returned it for the winning score midway through the third quarter. Against Pittsburgh, his recovery of a Panther fumble at the Irish 26 led to a 74-yard Notre Dame scoring drive.
GOOLSBY EARNS NATIONAL ACCLAIM IN TENNESSEE VICTORY
Senior linebacker Mike Goolsby earned National Defensive Player of the Week honors from the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his performance in the 17-13 victory at Tennessee on Nov. 6. Not only did Goolsby post a game-high 14 tackles (seven solos) and a quarterback sack, he also intercepted at Tennessee pass in the third period and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown that provided the winning points in Notre Dame’s first road victory over a top 10 opponent in eight years (27-24 at No. 6 Texas on Sept. 21, 1996).
Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte has been a catalyst for Notre Dame’s physical play on defense this season, making several big hits and tackles for losses. Hoyte ended the regular season with 71 tackles to rank second on the team, and his knack for making big hits has been a hallmark of his play thus far in 2004. Hoyte has forced three fumbles this season, collected three quarterback sacks and has eight tackles for loss (46 yards). Hoyte posted a career-best 16 stops vs. Navy, the most by an Irish player since Courtney Watson had 18 tackles at Nebraska in 2001.
PAPER OR PLASTIC?
Senior defensive end Justin Tuck has taken full ownership of the Notre Dame career quarterback sacks record with a total of 24.5. He moved to the top of the list with a pair of sacks in the win at Tennessee on Nov. 6. The Kellyton, Ala., native set a school record with 13.5 sacks last year and has added six sacks this season. With a sack against Michigan, he passed Mike Gann (1982-84) for second place on the Irish career list behind Kory Minor’s 22.5 sacks from 1995-98. He later tied the mark with a share of a sack against Boston College. Here’s a look at the Irish career sack leaders since 1982 (when Notre Dame began recognizing sacks as a separate statistic — prior to that, they were labeled “tackles for loss”):
TUCK WREAKING HAVOC
Senior defensive end Justin Tuck has been a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses this season, racking up impressive totals as a pass rusher and a run stopper. In addition to his team-leading sack total of six (for 38 yards), he has garnered a team-high 14 tackles for losses totalling 57 yards. No other Irish defender has more than eight TFLs this season. Tuck has accomplished all of this while dealing with double-teams and offensive game plans designed to reduce his impact as a pass rusher and defensive force. His 47 total tackles rank sixth on the team.
FITZPATRICK SHARP IN THE PUNTING GAME
Senior punter D.J. Fitzpatrick has shown considerable improvement this season. Fitzpatrick currently ranks 30th in the nation with a 42.4-yard punting average, a jump of almost six yards per kick from last year’s average (36.84). That improvement is a big factor in Notre Dame’s ranking of eighth nationally in net punting. He has 17 punts of at least 50 yards, including a career-long 67-yarder vs. Boston College, has dropped 28 punts inside the opposition’s 20-yard line and is helping Notre Dame to hold its opponents to only 6.8 yards per punt return. Earlier this season, he had career-best outings in consecutive games, averaging 46.0 yards on seven attempts against Washington (including four punts of at least 50 yards and four punts downed inside the UW 20) and an impressive 49.3 yards on three punts against Purdue. His totals are on pace to rank among the 10 best punting seasons in Notre Dame history.
2004 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
The following is a look at Notre Dame opponents’ upcoming games. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame’s schedule has been rated the most difficult five times (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995) and has appeared in the top 30 a total of 22 times in the last 27 years. The 2004 Irish ledger currently is the seventh-toughest in the nation, based on cumulative opposition.
Notre Dame Opponents’ Combined Record in 2003: 89-49 (.645); Record in 2004: 77-47 (.621)
IRISH PLAYED THE NATION’S SEVENTH-TOUGHEST CUMULATIVE SCHEDULE
Notre Dame’s overall 2004 football schedule ranks seventh in difficulty, based on a combined 68-41 mark (.624) by Irish opponents in regular season games vs. NCAA Division IA opponents, according to NCAA figures released Sunday, Dec. 5. Texas A&M leads the list with a 71-37 mark (.657) by its opponents, followed by North Carolina and Arizona. Notre Dame’s schedule included seven teams that will participate in bowl games, including three participants in Bowl Championship Series games, and five teams that ended the regular season ranked in the nation’s top 25 (including No. 1 USC) by Associated Press.
CURRY NAMED TO AFCA GOOD WORKS TEAM
Senior linebacker Derek Curry was named to the 2004 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, the AFCA announced Sept. 15. Curry was one of only 11 football student-athletes chosen for the NCAA Division I-A Team. Another 11 student-athletes were named to the team representing schools from NCAA Divisions I-AA, II, III and NAIA. Nominations for the Good Works Team are submitted to the AFCA by college sports information departments. Nominees must be actively involved and committed to working with a charitable organization, service group or involved in other community service activities and must display sincere concern and reliability, while also having made a favorable impression on the organizations with which they are involved. Athletic ability is not a criterion.
Curry is completing his third season as a starting linebacker for the Irish. A three-time monogram winner at Notre Dame, Curry has distinguished himself as one of the team’s undisputed leaders. In addition to his prowess on the football field, Curry has been a three-year volunteer for the Student-Athlete Advisory Council Pediatric Oncology Christmas Party; has volunteered at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club of downtown South Bend and the Robinson Community Learning Center; is in his third year of “Iron Sharpens Iron”, an interdenominational Christian group at Notre Dame that brings students together in worship, prayer and bible studies; has volunteered for two years at “There Are Children Here”; and is a huddle leader for the Notre Dame chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Curry is the third Notre Dame football player named to the squad over the past six seasons.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 171 of its previous 196 games, including 35 of its last 37 games dating back to the end of the 2001 season (the ’03 game at Stanford and this year’s game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands were not sellouts). At Michigan in 2003, the Irish and Wolverines attracted the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of that series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represented the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been a part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in 2002).
The Notre Dame ticket office received 52,179 ticket requests for the Oct. 2 game vs. Purdue, making it the fifth-highest requested Irish home game in history. The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest — plus contributing alumni having the opportunity to apply for four tickets instead of the usual two, based on its designation as an alumni family game. The Irish have posted 179 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and 227 in their last 228 home games. NOTRE DAME ON THE SMALL SCREEN
With the Insight Bowl game televised nationally by ESPN, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 148 straight games, a stretch that spans 12 full seasons (1993-2004). The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was 12 years ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in South Bend on WNDU-TV. Here’s a breakdown of the networks on which the Irish have played during this impressive streak:
Year Games NBC ABC CBS ESPN1992 4 3 1 -- --1993 12 7 4 -- 11994 12 7 5 -- --1995 12 6 4 1 11996 11 6 2 2 11997 13 6 3 2 21998 12 7 3 2 --1999 12 7 3 1 12000 12 6 3 3 --2001 11 6 4 -- 12002 13 7 4 1 12003 12 6 5 -- 12004 12 6 1 2 3Totals 148 80 42 14 12
WHEN THE EYES OF THE NATION ARE UPON THEM
Notre Dame is 172-88-3 (.6596) all-time when it is playing in front of a national television audience. The 2003 game at Michigan was another milestone for the Irish program — it was the 300th time a Notre Dame football game appeared on national or regional television. During their 115-year history, the Irish have posted a combined 200-116-4 (.631) record in these national or regional TV games, beginning with a 27-21 victory over No. 4 Oklahoma on Nov. 8, 1952 in a game that was shown nationwide on ABC.
NOTRE DAME-MICHIGAN GARNERS NBC’S HIGHEST SEASON-OPENING RATING SINCE 1998
NBC’s coverage of Notre Dame’s 28-20 win over No.8 Michigan on Sept. 11 delivered a 4.0 national rating/10 share, making it the highest-rated season opener since a 5.1/14 on Sept. 5, 1998 for a 36-20 Irish win over fifth-ranked Michigan, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 4.0/10 represents a 29 percent hike over last year’s opener — a 29-26 overtime win over Washington State that produced a 3.1/8. It was the best rating for any Notre Dame telecast on NBC since a 4.4/11 vs. Boston College on Nov. 2, 2002. The 2004 season was Notre Dame’s 14th of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2010. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) are in their fourth full season broadcasting the action for NBC in ’04.
NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS DEBUT ON SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO
In addition to its unparalleled television coverage, Notre Dame also has increased its radio footprint, announcing an agreement on Aug. 31 with SIRIUS Satellite Radio to become the official satellite radio partner for Notre Dame athletics. SIRIUS will broadcast every Irish football game this season, and also will air selected men’s and women’s basketball games, as well as other sporting events. In addition, SIRIUS will aid in the development of marketing initiatives with the University’s athletic department as a member of “Team Notre Dame.” Notre Dame’s agreement with SIRIUS is one of the cornerstones in the formation of SIRIUS College Sports Radio, a partnership between SIRIUS and College Sports Television (CSTV) that includes 23 major universities around the country. SIRIUS radios for the car and home start at $149 and are available at major retailers nationwide. For more information, visit www.sirius.com.
KEVIN WHITE NAMED PRESIDENT OF DIVISION I-A ATHLETIC DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION
Notre Dame athletics director Dr. Kevin White is the new president of the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association for 2004-05. His appointment became effective Sept. 27 at the Association’s annual meeting in Dallas. White, who is now in his fifth year at Notre Dame, served as first vice president in 2003-04 under Gene DeFilippo, director of athletics at Boston College. In addition to his new leadership role with the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, White also is the third vice president of NACDA, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, for 2004-05.
MAKING THE GRADE
The last three seasons of Notre Dame football have produced some impressive semesters in the classroom for the Notre Dame football team. In fact, the Irish are coming off a 2004 spring semester in which the team’s 104 players combined for a 2.96 grade-point average that ranks as the program’s best semester GPA on record (dating back to 1992). The Notre Dame football program’s top six semester GPAs since ’92 all have been posted during the past seven semesters (prior to the fall of ’04), including the three semesters from fall of `02 to fall of `03 (2.84 in the fall of ’02, 2.79 in the spring of ’03 and 2.82 in the fall of ’03). The football program’s second-best semester GPA of the past 12 years came in the spring of 2002 (2.90), followed by a 2.80 in the spring of 2001 and a 2.69 in the fall of ’01. Upon closer examination, the 2004 spring semester saw 11 Irish football players post a Dean’s List GPA (sliding scale, based on major) while 21 turned in a semester GPA of 3.4-plus and more than half (53) had a GPA of 3.0 or better. In addition, two players — current fifth-year DE Kyle Budinscak and senior LB Brandon Hoyte — received Academic All-District V honors in 2003, marking Budinscak’s third selection and Hoyte’s second to the prestigious squad. Budinscak followed up with another All-District V honor this season.
NOTRE DAME EXCELS IN THE CLASSROOM AS WELL AS ON THE FIELD
The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) annually honors the school with the highest graduation rate based on a particular entering freshman football class — and Notre Dame has won the award six times, most recently in 2001 with its 100-percent graduation rate (22 of 22 entering freshmen from 1996 earned their degrees within five years). The 2001 award followed Notre Dame’s previous honors in 1982, ’83, ’84, ’88 and ’91. Notre Dame also holds the distinction of producing the first 100-percent rate in a single years after 24 of 24 student-athletes earned their degrees within a five-year period out of the entering class of 1982 (and 16 of those 24 did so within four years). Only eight other times has a school registered a 100-percent graduation rate. The 1988 award had special meaning, as it was the first time a school won the national championship on the football field — as Notre Dame did, finishing 12-0 after a Fiesta Bowl win over unbeaten West Virginia — and in the classroom. Including the special mention category, the Irish have received some sort of recognition in 23 of 24 years the award has been presented — with Duke next at 21.
TAKING ACADEMIC SUCCESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
The high graduation rate of the Notre Dame football program extends to the elite group of former players who have moved on to play in the National Football League. Notre Dame has seen 88 of its former players appear on NFL opening-day rosters during the past eight seasons (1996-2003) and 93.1 percent of those players (82) have earned their degrees from the University. In fact, Notre Dame’s own institutional research shows that 99 percent of scholarship football players who have entered the University since 1962 have received their degrees (896 of 905, based only on individuals who remained at the school at least four years). Those figures do not include players who transferred or withdrew before completing four or more years at Notre Dame. The 93.1 percent graduation rate for NFL participants ranks even higher than Notre Dame’s most recent NCAA graduation rates for all student-athletes (87 percent), male student-athletes (85), female student-athletes (92), football student-athletes (81) and African-American student-athletes (78). Those numbers, released last fall, comprised all student-athletes entering Notre Dame from 1993-96.