Oct. 26, 2016
By John Heisler
The midseason break didn’t work out perfectly symmetrically for the University of Notre Dame football team-with seven games in the bank and five remaining.
And some of the numbers-in particular a 2-5 record to date-aren’t to the liking of the Irish.
Even so, as Brian Kelly’s club comes back from a few days off during fall break to face Miami Saturday, there are plenty of numbers that could be meaningful over the last five weeks of the Notre Dame regular season:
1. The NCAA’s list of top 45 teams in total offense production contains three teams remaining on the Irish agenda in Army (40th at 440.4 yards per game), USC (42nd at 440.0) and Virginia Tech (45th at 435.9). The only team on that list among the seven Irish foes to date is Texas (34th at 477.6).
2. Notre Dame’s remaining schedule includes three of the top 22 teams in the country in total defense-Army (third while allowing 255.9 yards per game), Virginia Tech (11th at 302.0) and Miami (22nd at 343.4). Yet another future foe,USC, is 45th (at 370.7). The Irish already have lost to three teams on that list: North Carolina State (26 th at 349.6), Duke (37th at 362.9) and Stanford (41st at 365.9).
3. Among the five teams left for Notre Dame to play are three that rank among the top 42 in team passing efficiency defense, including two in the top 10:Virginia Tech (eighth at 101.86), Army (10th at 106.55) and this week’s opponent, Miami (42 nd at 120.23). The Irish already have fallen to one other team on that chart-Duke (44th at 121.0).
4. Five of the 50 most productive passing offenses are on Notre Dame’s 2016 schedule-with USC (38th at 263 yards per game) and Miami (49th at 246.9) to come and Syracuse (sixth at 357.1), Texas (44that 255.4) and North Carolina State (48th at 247.7) in the rear-view mirror. Notre Dame stands 37th at 263.9.
5. The Irish in November on consecutive Saturdays meet two of the top four rushing teams in the country in Army (second at 357.6 yards per game) and Navy (fourth at 293.2). Yet a third remaining opponent, Virginia Tech, is on the list at 42nd (197.6). The only previous Notre Dame foe among the top 50 is Texas (29th at 222.1).
6. Notre Dame must still deal with four of the top 44 scoring units nationally in Virginia Tech (29th at 35.9 points per game), Navy (40th at 33.8), Miami (42nd at 33.7) and Army (33.0). The lone other Irish opponent on that list is Texas (28th at 36.1).
7. Kelly’s crew must yet confront three teams rated 16th or better in scoring defense-in Army (10th while allowing 17.0 points per game), Miami (12th at 17.3) and Virginia Tech (16th at 17.9). Five other 2016 Irish foes also appear on that list-Stanford 23rd (20.3), Duke 32nd (21.9), North Carolina State 40th (23.7), USC 43rd (24.0) and Navy 48th (25.0).
8. Notre Dame’s remaining schedule features two of the top 11 teams nationally in stopping the run-with Army eighth while allowing 101.0 yards per game and Virginia Tech 11th (103.6). Other Irish foes listed are North Carolina State 12 th (105.0), Stanford 40th (139.7) and Navy 50th (148.0).
9. Notre Dame still faces two of the top eight quarterbacks in the country in passing efficiency in USC’s Sam Darnold (seventh at 167.3) and Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans (eighth at 167.2). Others of note are Miami’s Brad Kaaya (28th at 149.5),Texas’ Shane Buechele (29th at 149.4), Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor (31st at 148.2), DeShone Kizer (34th at 147.4) and North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley (49that 140.7).
10. The Irish will have to defend two of the top 46 players in passing yards per game-including this week against Kaaya (41st at 242.3 yards per game) and later Evans (46th at 230.1). That chart also includes Syracuse’s Eric Dungey (seventh at 328.9), Kizer (33rd at 253.6), Buechele (36th at 246) and Duke’s Daniel Jones (50th at 226.3).
11. Notre Dame still faces a pair of top 50 rushers-Miami’s Mark Walton (49th at 86.3 yards per game) this weekend andArmy’s Andy Davidson (44th at 87.9). Also on that list are Texas’ D’Onta Foreman (third at 142.5), Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey (27th at 102) and North Carolina State’s Matt Dayes (33rd at 97.4).
12. The Irish already have dealt with four of the top 29 players in all-purpose yardage-McCaffrey (seventh at 175.83 yards per game),Foreman (13th at 149.83), Michigan State’s R.J. Shelton (28th at 134.43) and Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo (29th at 134.25).
13. Miami leads the nation in team tackles for loss at 10.1 per game. The ‘Canes are fourth nationally in least fumbles lost with only two (one of the teams ahead of them is Nevada with one). Miami rates 10thin fewest turnovers so far in 2016 at seven. Hurricane receiverAhmmon Richards leads the ACC and rates eighth nationally at 21.85 yards per catch (20 for 437). Kaaya stands 15 th in yards per pass completion at 14.02 each.
14. Navy qualifies as the least penalized team in the nation (with only 14 for 116 yards). The Middies rate second in the country in fewest interceptions (two) and most passing yards per completion (19.29). Navy is 10th in total turnovers lost (seven). Quarterback Will Worth is 14th nationally in rushing TDs with nine.
15. Army has allowed only 85 first downs in 2016-and only one team in the country has permitted fewer (Michigan with 74). The Cadets lead the nation in possession time (35:52 minutes per game) and stand 10th in team passing efficiency defense.
16. Virginia Tech is fifth in the country in preventing opponent third-down conversions (.248). The Hokies have had only two passes intercepted all year. Tech stands seventh in tackles for loss (8.6 per game). Evans is 11th in passing TDs with 19.
17. USC rates 18th with only four interceptions thrown in 2016. The Trojans stand seventh in punt returns (15.73 yards each). The USC offensive line allows only 1.14 sacks per game (18th nationally). Darnoldis 14th nationally in completion percentage (.667).
18. Here are remaining players the Irish face in 2016 who rank among active career leaders in various statistical categories:
—USC’s Juju Smith-Schuster 10th in receiving yards at 2,743
—Virginia Tech’s Brandon Facyson seventh in passes defended at 35
—Miami’s Stacy Coley fifth in punt return average at 13.0 (25/325 yards)
—USC’s Adoree Jackson 10th in punt return average at 11.7 (37/434/3 TDs)
—Jackson 10th in kickoff return average at 26.9 (64/1,723/3 TDs)
—Virginia Tech’s Joey Slye ninth in field goals with 53
—Navy’s Dishan Romine seventh in kickoff return average at 27.6 (34/939)
19. The 87-yard punt return this season by Virginia Tech’s Greg Stroman rates as the second-longest punt return in the country in 2016.
20. Notre Dame rates 10th as a team in passing yards per completion (14.9), with Kizer fifth individually in that category (15.04). Kizer is 14th in the country in points responsible for per game (18.0). Equanimeous St. Brown is 19th individually in yards per reception (19.71).
21. Notre Dame’s remaining schedule rates as 18th most difficult on the NCAA’s toughest schedule chart-with those five teams playing at a .600 clip (18-12) versus FBS opponents. LSU is #1 in that category at .815 (22-5).
Here are the best of Brian Kelly’s Tuesday comments to the media:
** On the Irish overview –“We’ve made some progress. We just haven’t been able to close out games, which has been obviously the story this year. We’re going to. It’s just a matter of time. We’re all frustrated. But the attitude’s been great. Our kids have worked hard. They want to win. We’ll find a way to win one of these games and we’ll keep battling till we get one, and hopefully it’s this weekend.”
** On motivation –“All these kids come to Notre Dame because they want to be challenged. So they have incredible intrinsic motivation every day to get up, to go to class, to want to succeed. It’s why they come here. There’s an immense amount of pride. They want to practice more. They want to be with their teammates. They want to win football games. They want to be successful in the classroom. They want to be successful on the football field. That’s why they came here. That’s why I’m here. That’s all we talk about. That’s all we do every day–think about how we can be more successful. So there’s no carrot there that is really more appealing to us than wanting to win a football game.”
** On self-scouting –“We’ve looked at all the numbers, the analytics, the film. Part of it is that it’s a tough game and you’ve got to make plays. What separates you from winning and losing is a play here and a play there. We’re down 84 yards per game rushing. I think our third-down efficiency has to be better, especially in third to four and seven. Our ball-control situation has to be better now. We’re keeping the points down, but we’re limiting possessions. We went from 15 possessions earlier in the season to this past game we had four possessions in the first half. That’s like playing an option team. We’re going to keep the points down, we’re probably not going to get off the field quite as quick as we did earlier in the season.”
** On his personal approach– “I don’t know that I spend a lot of time on the word ‘frustration’ as much as looking for solutions to sometimes rather complex and difficult solutions. When I say ‘complex,’ I don’t mean things that can’t be accomplished, but things that take time. We don’t have time. Nobody has time in our society. Nobody has time, if you’re an annoyed fan, to wait for us. I get that. I’m not here to ask for time. It’s just that you have to be, every single day, clear on your communication and what you want to accomplish. Sometimes you have to make sure, check yourself and your staff, that they avoid all the noise.”
Here are presentations and recognition happening Saturday when Notre Dame plays host to Miami at Notre Dame Stadium:
–In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, the national colors will be presented by Kevin O’Connor, the current president, and seven past presidents–Marty Allen, Haley Scott DeMaria, Julie Doyle, Mike Heaton, Judge Marc Kelly, Dick Nussbaum and Joe Restic.
–The Notre Dame team will take the field just prior to kickoff through a tunnel of former Notre Dame monogram winners.
–The Presidential Team Irish Award goes to the University maintenance staff.
–At the end of the first period the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s 2016 Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award winner, Alan Page, will be recognized. Page will receive the award at a Friday luncheon.
–After the Notre Dame band performs at halftime, two-time Grammy Award-winning, international opera star Deborah Voigt, who currently teaches as an artist-in-residence with the Notre Dame Department of Music, will sing “God Bless America.”
–The Notre Dame faculty recognition goes to Harindra Joe Fernando, Wayne and Diana Murdy Endowed Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been chronicling Irish football fortunes since 1978.