September 2011 Archives

Hear It From a Student - Which One Are You?

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teoarms.jpg What type of Notre Dame football fan are you?

One away game weekend is okay, we can all handle that. Back-to-back weekends without a home game? Now things start to feel a little off.

No questions asked - if the team is playing at home we're all watching the game from arguably the best spot on Notre Dame's campus, the student section. When the team is away, we actually have to put some thought into where we're going to spend three (or four) hours cheering as the Irish run past Purdue.

Our go-to option: a dorm room.

Sounds simple enough, but game watches in dorm rooms take almost as many extremes as the number of Notre Dame turnovers this season.

Let's break it down ...

The Social: Dorm presidents live for these weekends. Nothing like a televised Notre Dame football game to have a big social event. Order some pizza, dust off the big screen television in the lounge and invite everyone down for some dorm bonding. If you like being social and catching about every other play between conversations with friends from the second floor who you haven't seen in ages, then this is the place for you.

The Party: Kickoff at 8:00 p.m.? Hmm ... that's going to cut into prime party time. Solution? Let's just get the party started two hours earlier. No better excuse to party than a Notre Dame football game. Crank up the surround sound speakers with some pump-up music, throw on your "Tailgate Like a Champion" lacrosse penny, text everyone in your phone book that your room is "where the real party is at" and, of course, flip the game on in the background.

The Die-Hard Fan: Socials and parties are good and all, but that's really going cut into seeing every play. That can't happen. There are only three hours each week that we can watch the Irish take the field, so why miss a single second of the action? Granted, even though watching another Irish turnover is a stab in the heart, we'd rather see it happen than hear everyone talk about it for the next week. Our dorm room televisions will be glued on ESPN from start to finish when Notre Dame travels to Purdue, and don't even think about touching the remote. All other die-hard fans are welcome to join.

The Studious Fan: It's almost midterm week so there is pressure to be productive at all times. I'd like to be able to sit in the student section again - and also in years to come - so failing these next few tests can't happen. As a Notre Dame student, missing the game completely isn't an option. So, to compromise, I'll stay in and glance over some calculus notes while the game is playing in the background. There's nothing wrong with that.

All in all, in some form or another, we're all going to be watching the game. To what extent and in what form depends on what type of Notre Dame fan you are. But there's one thing that we all agree on: Go Irish, Beat Boilermakers!

- Kristen Stoutenburgh ('13)

Live Chat - Women's Soccer vs. Connecticut

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After a rugged stretch on the road, Notre Dame is back home for five of its final seven regular-season contests, beginning this weekend when it plays host to Connecticut at 7:30 p.m. (ET). Today's match will be televised live to a national audience by ESPNU.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

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annual.report.jpg

Click HERE
(or on the sweet women's soccer national championship trophy in the photo above)
to view the 2010-11 Notre Dame Athletics Annual Report

Following Flynt - Freshman Friday

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NickMartin.jpg

Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program.

Though he played for the Trojans in high school, freshman Nick Martin decided to be Irish in college. The 6-foot-5, 280 lb. offensive lineman is the younger brother of junior Zack Martin, the team's starting left tackle. The Martin brothers played for Bishop Chatard, a Catholic high school in the suburban northeast of Indianapolis.

After an initial verbal commitment to Kentucky, his father's alma mater, the younger Martin changed his mind and decided to join his brother in South Bend. While at Chatard, Martin played basketball and started on both the offensive and defensive lines for football. In 2010, he helped lead the Trojans to the Indiana Class 3A state title, with a victory over one of South Bend's own, St. Joseph's.

After yesterday's practice, I had a chance to speak with Nick about his experiences at Notre Dame thus far.

I decided to attend the University of Notre Dame because ...
The people.

The thing I have enjoyed most about Notre Dame thus far is...
The football family - the environment of the team, in the locker room especially, off the field and on the field. It's competitive on the field and off the field everyone's really close.

Something interesting about me that people might not know is...
I was born in Kansas City.

The thing I miss most about being away at school is...
Friends back home.

Over the next four years at Notre Dame, I am most looking forward to...
Competing in big games.

Thoughts about returning close to home and playing Purdue...
Joe Holland, one of their linebackers, was a running back on our high school team when I was in eighth grade. I'm excited to head back there. All my buddies at Purdue are going to the game, so I'll get to see them.

Getting to know Nick Martin...
Dorm: Alumni
Favorite class: Microeconomics
Intended major: Business
Best dining hall food: omelettes
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption
Favorite song: "Eight Second Ride" by Jake Owen
Favorite sport other than football: Basketball
Favorite athlete while growing up: my older brothers, Josh and Zach
Favorite professional team: Indianapolis Colts

Does Your Friday Need Some Sunshine?

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Shorter Practices Keep Irish Fresh

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kellypract2.jpgChicago Sun-Times - Brian Kelly has his team practicing for only 90 minutes a day. While that may be less time spent on the field than other teams, the Notre Dame coach believes its the best way to keep his team fresh heading into Saturday night's game at Purdue and beyond.

"It's about 90 minutes but it's extremely quick [and] fast-paced and I don't mean relative to tempo," Kelly said. "When we go 11 on 11, good versus good, it's speed work and people flying around. That's a good thing, I believe, to keep your team ready."

Hear It From a Student - This Should Be Ours

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floydstate.jpg I don't want to overstate this, but this weekend should be ours.

This season has been an emotional mosh pit. Our last win revealed that we are still weak in some areas. No one should be cocky yet - that never leads to good places anyway.

With all of that in mind, I'm saying it now: Our boys should take no prisoners this weekend.

I'm proud to say that I know quite a few students heading to Purdue this weekend to, as I have been saying, ride the wave of excitement that is swelling from Irish football now. Good. Our program needs that. Our players need that.

But here is a little something extra to boost confidence and lift spirits on this Football Friday. Assistant sports editor Daniel Thomas of the Purdue student paper writes, "The Boilers look to beat the Irish for the first time in their last four tries," as his closing line in an article previewing the game.

Ouch. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

He calls the Notre Dame offense potent, praises Michael Floyd, and goes so far as to point out the ways in which the Purdue cornerback looking to cover Floyd doesn't match up.

"It is likely the Boilers will try to slow Floyd with sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen who is six inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter," Thomas writes.

There is absolutely no way we should come back from this weekend with anything other than a win. I won't even demand that it be pretty. "We're learning," after all.

Sorry, Ricardo Allen.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Kelly Smiles Through Agony

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kellysox.jpgChicago Tribune - With a broad grin likely masking some gastrointestinal turmoil endured for the previous 17 hours or so, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly actually offered the first question of his post-practice media confab.

"You guys want to talk about the Red Sox, don't you?" Kelly said.

Kelly, of course, was born in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., and attended high school and college in the state. He is a Red Sox fan, and all too keenly aware of the club's September collapse in which the Red Sox went 7-20 and lost a nine-game lead in the American League wild-card race.

Daily Dish - 9.29.11

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1800493.jpeg - At 9:00 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 24, most Notre Dame students could be found sleeping, alarms perhaps set to blare moments before the football team faced Pittsburgh at noon ... yet, at that moment the women's swimming and diving team was preparing for a youth clinic at the Rolfs Aquatic Center ... dedicating their time until 4:00 p.m., the swimmers volunteered to instruct nearly 100 local participants in a Coaches vs. Cancer event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and the local RiverBend Cancer Services.

- The men's lacrosse team has announced its 2011 fall schedule along with other dates of importance in the months of September and October ... on the field, the Fighting Irish will face Air Force and Navy during their fall exhibition season ... the Air Force contest will take place Oct. 8 at Notre Dame's Arlotta Stadium ... later that day, the Fighting Irish football team will play host to the Falcon gridiron squad ... Notre Dame will face Navy on Oct. 15 at Miller Field in Annapolis, Md.

- Melissa Henderson has accepted an invitation to participate in a training camp with the United States Under-23 National Team next week at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. ... the camp, which features 24 of the nation's top college players and young professionals, will take place from Oct. 2-7, and will be jointly overseen by U.S. Soccer Women's Development Director Jill Ellis, U.S. Soccer Women's Technical Director April Heinrichs and U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage ... Sundhage will be at the camp to evaluate players for possible call-ups to U.S. National Team camps heading into next January's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Vancouver, and potentially for the run to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

- For just the second time in six years, the coaches and media agree on who should own the No. 1 position in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's annual preseason polls ... Notre Dame received enough points from the conference's 11 head coaches and 72 media members to be named the preseason favorite in both polls ... in the coaches' poll, the Fighting Irish captured eight first-place votes

- Tyler Eifert was named the John Mackey Tight End of the Week by the Nassau County Sports Commission ... Eifert registered a career-high eight receptions, including four on the 11-play, 85-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh that gave the Irish a 15-12 lead ... his four grabs on the touchdown drive totaled 34 yards ... Eifert also added a critical two-point conversion reception ... the eight catches by Eifert tied him with Kyle Rudolph (twice in 2010), John Carlson (2006), Anthony Fasano (2004) and Ken MacAfee (1977) for second most ever in a game by a Notre Dame tight end.

- In addition to the standard ESPN telecast Saturday of the Notre Dame-Purdue football game, there also will be a separate ESPN 3D origination - with former Irish Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown providing the analysis on that version.

- National Football Foundation historian (and former Sports Illustrated writer) Dan Jenkins recently selected his 20 greatest college football plays - and one of those was John Lujack's open-field tackle of Doc Blanchard that preserved the 0-0 tie between Army and Notre Dame in 1946.

- Here are some interesting numbers on Notre Dame's athletics web site, UND.com, from 2010-11: the top states in terms of users of the Notre Dame site were Indiana (13.45 percent), Illinois (9.16), California (7.43), Ohio (6.22), Pennsylvania (6.22) and New York (5.88) ... the top schools in terms of use of the mobile GameTracker feature were (in order) Notre Dame, Michigan and Alabama (based on more than 200 school and conference sites produced by CBS) ... the top four sites in terms of page impressions and unique browsers were North Carolina, Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame.

Following Flynt - What To Watch for at Purdue

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kellypractpre.jpg Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. Here is his take on what to watch for during Saturday's game at Purdue  ...

All of the Lights: A nationally televised prime-time game is sure to create an electric environment in West Lafayette. The Purdue athletic department has dubbed it the 'Gold & Black Game', encouraging fans to wear the respective colors in designated sections of Ross-Ade Stadium. Opponents circle Notre Dame on their schedule every year, and Purdue is no exception. As head coach Brian Kelly described, "This is their Super Bowl." To add to the excitement, Purdue has yet to play a marquee opponent this season, having visited Rice while facing Middle Tennessee and Southeast Missouri State in its previous two home contests.

Two Quarterbacks: Though not for the Irish. While many have speculated that Kelly might use Everett Golson or Andrew Hendrix in a change-up role at some point this season, it's more likely that Purdue head coach Danny Hope will rely on two different options to mix up the Notre Dame defense. Junior Caleb TerBush will start for the Boilermakers, but the Purdue offensive scheme is also expected to feature senior Robert Marve (a former Miami Hurricane who started for Purdue last year, but that season was cut short by a knee injury and a slow recovery limited his reps during training camp). After redshirt sophomore Rob Henry suffered a knee injury of his own during the summer, TerBush took over, and has since guided Purdue to a 2-1 start.

Focus on Floyd: After the Pittsburgh defense shut him down for all but the first drive last Saturday, Michael Floyd will look to rebound with a strong game. Interestingly, some recent reports suggest that Notre Dame actually fares better when Floyd is less involved in the offense. Floyd is one of the most prolific receivers in school history, and there's no doubt that the Irish are better with him than without him. However, there is some truth in the numbers, which find that Notre Dame is 1-5 in games in which Floyd has more than 10 receptions. The challenge then for the Irish is to the find the right balance - getting their biggest playmaker the football, without relying too heavily on him and forgetting about the rest of their offensive weapons.

Defensive Momentum: From an offensive standpoint, the past two games have been a bit quiet, at least compared to the first two weeks. The Irish defense, however, has built up some confidence, holding Michigan State and Pittsburgh to just 25 points combined. Against the Spartans, the Irish got several big plays, including a bone-crushing forced fumble by Aaron Lynch and a game-sealing interception from Robert Blanton. At Heinz Field, Bob Diaco's defense came up with six sacks, the most for a Notre Dame team in a regular season game since 2005. During these Irish victories, both veterans, such as Darius Fleming, and newcomers, including Lynch and Stephon Tuitt have made key contributions to the Notre Dame defense. With a third consecutive strong defensive outing on Saturday, the Irish could continue to turn the corner and set themselves up for a big October.

Mental Toughness: Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, "Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It's a state of mind - you could call it character in action."

After last week's victory over Pittsburgh, Kelly preached to his players about developing the "will to win." Judging by Notre Dame's ability to bounce back from two losses to open the season, the 2011 team is a group not afraid to face adversity. Still, at 2-2 its identity is undetermined. What separates an average team from a good team and a good team from a great team is whether or not it develops the will to win and the mental toughness that are both so important in the game of football.

And as the story has been for much of the young season, minimizing turnovers and penalties will go a long way towards demonstrating that toughness. Turnovers will always be part of the game. Having only two against the Panthers is a significant improvement, but drawing eight flags for 85 yards is still a far cry from where Notre Dame should be in the penalty department. In order to win big games down the stretch of the season, it is crucial that the Irish capitalize on their own offensive opportunities and limit those for opposing squads.

Hear It From a Student - Talkin' Baseball

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As I trudged up the stairs to the third floor of Dillon Hall at 4:30 in the morning on Sept. 11, I wearily recounted the agony of the previous 24 hours: the three-hour drive to Ann Arbor, the game-that-must-not-be-named, the two-hour wait after the game, and the drive back. I could only imagine the gloom that would cover the campus when I awoke eight hours later.

I was not disappointed. I discovered that my trashcan saw its end when a friend watching the game kicked it too hard. I was incapable of doing any work and found myself growing angry with anyone who appeared too happy.

Notre Dame, to many degrees, revolves around football. Essentially, every student attends home games and almost all crowd around televisions to watch the team on the road. The NFL dominates attention on Sundays and Mondays, as football at times takes precedence over finishing papers.

But yesterday, that all changed. For a few short hours last night, everything was about baseball.

Screams echoed across the halls cursing Robert Andino, Jonathan Papelbon and Evan Longoria. The despair of some was only matched by a Fighting Irish loss.

I found myself in a bizarre universe in which Red Sox fans desperately cheered in vain for the success of the Yankees. Yankee fans watched with glee as their team blew a seven-run lead. The Braves completed a monumental meltdown with three walks in the ninth.

As a Chicago sports fan, though, I feel that Boston's pain is dwarfed in comparison to what we (Chicago fans) have gone through. Boston's four major franchises have seven championships in the past 10 years. Despite his four interceptions last week, the Patriots still have Tom Brady, and the Red Sox still have two titles since 2004.

I've seen two championships since Jordan last won when I was five years old (the White Sox in 2005 and the Blackhawks in 2010). I've lived through Rex Grossman, Vinny Del Negro, Cristobal Huet and Adam Dunn. If I was a Cubs fan, that list might be a lot longer.

But as divisive as last night's wild endings played out, the break between Red Sox, Rays, Braves and Cardinals comes to an end every fall Saturday. Although baseball reigned supreme last night, it cannot remotely compare to a Notre Dame football game day. I would trade every one of the Bulls' 1990s titles for one Irish national championship in a heartbeat.

At the end of the day, Notre Dame trumps all, and there's a broken trashcan on the third floor of Dillon to prove it.

- Craig Chval ('15)

Larger Than the Average Squirrel

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The New Globetrotters?

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Diggins' ESPNW Summit Panel on Mentorship

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Hanging With the Holts

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2479119.jpegThe Observer - Being married to your job can be stressful, depressing and ultimately damaging. But being married to someone who has the same job? That can be helpful, comforting and, for Irish coach Susan Holt, a whole lot of fun.

Holt is entering her 22nd year as a women's golf coach, and her sixth year coaching at Notre Dame. For the past three years she has been joined by her husband Tim Holt, who is currently the men's and women's golf coach just across the street at Holy Cross College.

The story of how the two came together to coach at neighboring schools, though, begins well before their time in South Bend.

Susan played golf in college at Ohio State, and landed her first coaching position in 1990, just two years out of school.

"I was head coach at Purdue from 1990-1993, and Tim was a club pro at a town near Lafayette," Susan said. "We met through a mutual friend, and we ended up getting married in 1993."

From Purdue, the Holts moved to Florida, where Susan took over the head coaching job at South Florida. Tim continued to work in golf, and took on a couple coaching jobs as well, at Zephyrhills High School, and later at Saint Leo University. While down south, they also started a family, welcoming children Justin and Kristin.

After 13 successful seasons at South Florida, including five conference championships, two NCAA championship appearances and receiving the title "Coach of the Decade" in Conference USA, Susan accepted a job offer from Notre Dame, and the family returned to the Midwest.

"We moved here six years ago," she said. "I got hired by Notre Dame, and [Tim] started as an instructor locally and worked at [local course] Juday Creek in the summers. He really immersed himself in the golf community here, and he was an obvious candidate when Holy Cross was looking for a head coach."

Since the two have taken their current coaching jobs, they've enjoyed an impressive run. Aided by the assistance they receive from one another, Tim's Saints have won four tournaments under his command, while Susan's Irish have won 10 tournaments and two Big East championships. Notre Dame also made their first-ever NCAA championship appearance last season.

"Having each other has been really helpful over the years," Susan said. "[Tim] played college golf, and he's in the business of golf, so he's been able to help me a lot."

Between the commitments of practices, tournaments and golf's demanding travel schedule, it can be difficult for the Holts to balance the demands at work and at home. After a few years of practice, though, they've managed to find a routine that allows success on the course as well as quality time at home.

"It's challenging," Susan said. "We have a daughter who's 13 and a son who's 15, so it requires a lot of time management. We keep in touch throughout the day and we make sure that they're getting picked up and that we're there when we need to be. It definitely keeps us busy."

For the Holts, though, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"I've been doing this for 22 years now," Susan said. "This is what I do and this is what I love, and I think my husband feels the same way. It's a good fit for us right now, and we'd like to keep this going."

Irish Connection - Episode 11

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Following Flynt - Walk-on Wednesday

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oxley.jpg Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program for Irish UNDerground ...

Like Nick Lezynski and Chris Salvi stated in previous editions of Walk-on Wednesday, running out of the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel had always been a dream. The same can be said for Sean Oxley. And like the rest of the football walk-ons, it took a special type of commitment to turn that vision into a reality.

Unlike many walk-on student-athlete, Oxley joined the Irish at the beginning of his freshman year.

"Coming out of high school I was recruited by the Ivy League schools and FCS programs, smaller schools mostly," he says. "I had contacted Notre Dame because Notre Dame was my dream school since I was a little kid. My dad went here and I came up every fall for games, so it was kind of like a dream for me."

After sending letters and film expressing his interest in joining the program, the Avon Lake, Ohio, native received some good news - the Irish wanted him to be part of the team. Still, hearing the news that he hoped for was only the beginning of Oxley's story.

Along with Matt Mulvey and Bobby Burger ('11), Oxley was pushed through a series of intense workouts during his first semester on campus, fall 2008.

"There was one conditioning coach that was assigned to the three of us ... for eight weeks, his job was to make us quit the team.

"We were coming in at five or six in the morning throughout the week. We'd do a two-hour workout with him, which was just conditioning like I had never done before. We did those in the morning, then we went to meetings and practice, just like everybody else in the afternoon."

Despite his desire to play for the Irish, Oxley admits that he sometimes had second thoughts.

"After chasing this dream for so long, I never thought that anybody would potentially put it in my mind that I should quit, but after a few of those workouts, I was definitely considering it."

But Oxley, as well as Mulvey and Burger, made their conditioning coach's job much more difficult than he probably wanted it to be. After eight weeks, all three were left standing, having earned their spot on the Notre Dame football team.

This year, the former O'Neill Hall resident is the leader of WOPU Nation. While WOPU does take things seriously from time to time, he explained that at the end of the day, it's a "more like the good ol' boys club than anything else."

"The life of a walk-on is not as glamorous as Rudy made it out to be, so it's nice for the guys, whenever they're struggling or anything, we can kind of lean on each other because we all know we're going through the same thing."

In addition to the brotherhood and support system, the lighthearted, joking aspect of WOPU is a significant part of the unofficial walk-on organization.

"We've got some massive email threads where we're just poking fun at each other. Football's fun and sometimes we lose track of that, but with WOPU, we're able to bring that back in and remember what it's all about."

As U.S. presidential hopefuls are gearing up for 2012, Oxley is also watching for who might be able to fill his role next season.

"It's going to be tough. We were kind of short on younger guys and then we just got a whole bunch with this new freshman class. Typically, it's been a senior, not that it's a structured thing, but I've definitely got my eye on a few people."

As a senior, the finance major is interviewing for jobs with investment banks, but having been injured last season, Oxley has not ruled out returning to Notre Dame.

"I haven't really thought about a fifth year, but if that were presented to me, I would definitely have to consider it," he says.

Whether he's headed to Wall Street or back to the Bend will be decided some time in the upcoming months. For now, Oxley is enjoying his time with the Irish.

"I feel blessed that I've gotten to meet the kids that I have on the team. All of the guys on the team are great," he says.

"But obviously you can see that the walk-ons kind of have that special bond. Getting to know all those guys and just realizing that they're some of the most incredible people and their stories and everything. That's been good for me. I'm really glad I've been a part of that and it's something that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."

Getting to Know Sean Oxley

Favorite place on campus ... South Dining Hall

Favorite dining hall food ... Carl's chicken sandwich

Favorite TV show ... Blue Mountain State

Favorite sports team ... Pittsburgh Steelers

Favorite athlete ... Patrick Willis

Most played song on my iPod ... "Lights" by Bassnectar ("I got into techno last summer.")

Favorite book ... Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis

Favorite sport other than football ... Basketball. I played basketball, baseball and ran track in high school. I was on the 4x100m relay team. I tried the 400m and did long jump, high jump and threw shot put. I did a lot in track, but I wouldn't necessarily say I was very good at it.

Hobbies ... I watch a ton of movies and play as many other sports as I can when I'm not playing football. Other than that, I would say watching sports and reading.

Favorite movie ... Tough to choose. I like "Pulp Fiction"

Giving Back

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"This is Notre Dame. It's a place of service. It's a place of giving." - Brian Barnes

Eifert Hoping for Happy Homecoming

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eifertusf.jpg ESPN - Tyler Eifert will find himself being covered by Joe Holland throughout this Saturday, and confusion will run through the families of each.

The son of a Purdue basketball player will be starring at tight end for Notre Dame, covered by a Purdue linebacker whose parents and grandfather graduated from Notre Dame.

Yet nostalgia will go out the door for Eifert when he takes the field of Ross-Ade Stadium, a place he grew up watching games in.

"When it all comes down to it, it's just a football field like anywhere else," Eifert said, "and that's how you have to approach it."

Still, some memories stick out more than others, particularly the Boilermakers' upset over Ohio State 11 years ago, a comeback keyed by Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees.

And, of course, there were a handful of the previous 83 meetings between the Fighting Irish and the Boilermakers that Eifert had a great view of.

"Notre Dame usually won," he recalled, "and that was annoying."

Eifert, whose father Greg played basketball at Purdue two decades ago, is hoping to annoy Purdue fans in similar fashion. Coming off game-highs of eight catches and 75 yards Saturday at Pitt, the junior from Fort Wayne finds himself second in the nation in catches (20) and receiving yards (244) among tight ends.

Eifert was thrust into the spotlight a year early, starting Notre Dame's final seven games last season after current Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph's year ended because of a right hamstring injury.

Tight ends coach Mike Denbrock called the situation a "baptism by fire."

"Compared to where he was a year ago at this time, he's light years ahead," Denbrock said. "We're not afraid to match him up physically, one-on-one with a defensive end, a linebacker or whatever. He does a nice job with that. It's kind of just the consistency that we're looking for where it's every single play you can lean on him if you need to. And he's getting the job done"

Eifert is already closing in on last year's totals of 27 catches and 352 yards, and he has turned into one of Tommy Rees' favorite targets. Only Michael Floyd has more receptions and receiving yards for the Irish.

Rees found Eifert four times during the Irish's go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter Saturday, including for a 6-yard touchdown pass and ensuing two-point conversion.

Two years ago, Rudolph made a game-winning touchdown catch in West Lafayette, propelling the Irish to a 24-21 win in primetime.

Eifert didn't play in that contest as a freshman, but he was there, happy for once to see Notre Dame walk out of Purdue with a victory.

"I remember I got to travel down to the last one my freshman year," he recalled, "and it was pretty rowdy, the night game. So that'll be a fun atmosphere and it'll be a good game."

Remember What Awesome Allen Rossum Did Against Purdue?

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The One-Man Band

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Before He Made Chicken Soup Famous

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A Natural In The Booth

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wwc07_usoutlook.jpgFor two-time Olympic gold medalist and 1999 World Cup champion Kate Sobrero Markgraf ('98), the game of soccer always came naturally. But until this past summer, she never knew that her talents also belonged in the broadcast booth.

After retiring from professional soccer in 2008, Markgraf began a new stage of her career in July as a color commentator for ESPN during the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. With no formal broadcast training, it was a bit of a crash course for Markgraf, who ESPN hired after only a brief, 30-minute audition.

Producers clearly had confidence in her, and during the competition she delivered.

Originally scheduled as an analyst for five World Cup matches, Markgraf ended up doing nine games, including the third-place contest between Sweden and France.

Throughout the event, Markgraf spent hours researching all 16 teams and each of the players competing to familiarize herself with their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. The result was a comprehensive knowledge of the field that carried over into her regular broadcasts.

"There are great players that are not the goal scorers, so I would highlight those athletes to show the viewers what they could do and give them the ability to appreciate different players," Markgraf said. "That was my main goal to be well researched and share those kind of details with the fans."

Couple that with her uncanny ability to add humor, personal experiences, and critical analysis to the broadcast, and there's no question that Markgraf was a big hit with producers and fans alike.

All in all, it was an experience she'll never forget.

"It was always changing, it was ever evolving, and it was a constant learning process," Markgraf said. "I ended up falling back in love with the game in a totally different way, and that was phenomenal."

Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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After last week's trip to Pittsburgh, the Irish will be spending the next several weeks at home in the Hoosier State. The team begins October with a visit to West Lafayette for a meeting with Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.

With the exception of Navy, Purdue is Notre Dame's most common opponent. This year's game will be the 83rd in the series, which dates back to 1896. In the previous 82 meetings, Notre Dame is 54-26-2. The Irish have also won five of the last six games against their in-state opponent.

One of the oldest rivalries in Irish history, the series with the Boilermakers is also one of the most consistent. This year marks the 66th straight contest, as the teams have played every season since 1946.

Beginning in 1957, the winner of the game was presented with the Shillelagh Trophy, donated by Irish fan Joe McLaughlin, who brought it from Ireland. This trophy is not to be confused with the Jeweled Shillelagh, which goes to the winner of the annual Notre Dame-USC game.

Interestingly enough, Notre Dame used to have a Shillelagh in the school's series with Northwestern, before both of these trophies became part of the Purdue and USC traditions. The Northwestern Shillelagh was part of the annual meeting in the 1930's and 1940's.

Throughout Notre Dame's history with Purdue, the teams have played a number of memorable games. In 1906, the Irish escaped with a 2-0 win over Purdue. And yes, that was in football.

Sixty years later, Ara Parseghian's squad won its season opener against Purdue by a score of 26-14. Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty connected with the late Jim Seymour on 13 passes and three touchdowns for 276 yards, a school record that still stands today. Later that season, Time Magazine featured a painting of Hanratty and Seymour on the cover, proclaiming a passing revolution in football.

The 1977 game against Purdue contributed to the growing legend of Joe Montana. After a loss to Mississippi in the second game of the year, the "Comeback Kid" helped preserve Notre Dame's title hopes. Montana entered the game with the Irish down 24-14. He proceeded to throw for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading Notre Dame to a 31-24 victory and paving the way for a 10th national championship season.

More recently, Notre Dame's 2007 trip to Purdue began the student body's love affair with receiver Golden Tate. Despite a 33-19 loss, the freshman amassed 104 receiving yards on just three catches and it was not long before many Domers began wearing "Golden is Thy Tate" shirts around campus.

In 2009, Notre Dame's last visit to Ross-Ade Stadium, it took some last second heroics from Jimmy Clausen and Kyle Rudolph to escape with a 24-21 victory.

I have to admit, this was the first Irish game in quite some time that I did not watch. Along with several other Notre Dame friends, I happened to be at a Dave Matthews Band concert in Tinley Park, Ill. Just about the same time the band was starting their signature anthem, "Ants Marching," sending the crowd into a frenzy, we also had our own Irish celebration, receiving word that Notre Dame had taken the lead after converting a 4th-and-goal from the Purdue two-yard line. With just 25 seconds remaining, the touchdown pass was the third-latest go-ahead touchdown in Irish history.

Like Pittsburgh and Michigan State previously, Purdue may be one of the Notre Dame fan base's under-appreciated rivals. It won't be the same as the "Under the Lights" game at Michigan, but when the Irish visit West Lafayette on Saturday, the home crowd will be fired up. Notre Dame is annually one of the biggest games on the Boilermakers' schedule and a prime-time nationally televised game will only add to the atmosphere.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Diggins Reports From the Summit

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5567058.jpegHere I am in Tucson, Ariz., for the espnW Summit. It is such an honor to be asked to be on the panel "Mentorship: How Women Inspire Each Other to Greatness" with one of my idols, Lisa Leslie. Whether she knows it or not, she had a huge influence on me as a person. As the poster child for women's basketball, she exemplifies everything that is good in a women's basketball player: her accomplishments in college and the WNBA, her positive image and her attitude. This is such a great opportunity for me to meet her, learn from her and just really sit back and be a sponge. She has been through everything I am hoping to go through in the future, both professionally and personally.

There comes a time when you realize, "I am actually influencing others' lives." When did I go from just being that girl looking up to Lisa Leslie or Niele Ivey to someone that others know and watch? I guess when you get to a certain level, being a mentor is part of it. I am still maturing in my role as a mentor, as are many college athletes, so to have this opportunity to actually learn from such a diverse group of women is priceless.

When someone looks up to you, you don't want to let them down. I can't wait to ask Lisa how she deals with that pressure, of all eyes being on you and not being able to make a wrong move. I have just gone with my gut and followed my morals, but now is the time to develop into the mentor I want to be.

Two of my personal mentors on the basketball side of life are Candice Wiggins and my coach at Notre Dame, Niele Ivey. I never thought in a million years that I would ever have a conversation with Candice. When we were introduced, we immediately hit it off. During my freshman year, I relied on her to talk me through the growing pains of college life and to be more patient and confident. From her, I take her positive energy. She is always upbeat and optimistic about everything. She is someone that her Minnesota teammates rely on, and that's what I strive to be. She is unselfish, putting her teammates above herself, and not afraid to change her role to help do whatever the team needs to win.

Growing up in South Bend, I always looked up to Coach Ivey when she was playing for Notre Dame. She is one of the faces of the program, now illustrated by the dozens of pictures of her that paint our home arena, Purcell Pavilion. I look to her leadership, will to win, competitiveness and basketball IQ. Her attitude is contagious, not just to all of us Fighting Irish guards, but to our whole team. She has everyone's respect and it's because of who she is. She is honest. Everyone needs a mentor in their life who will not sugarcoat opinions, but will tell you how you can get better and when you are being out of line.

As I am writing this, I keep thinking of how many characteristics a mentor must have - honesty, respect, expertise, a positive attitude, drive and the list goes on. The best thing for me to do is stick to my morals and be a sponge as I go through this process to influence and mentor the next generation. Lisa Leslie, I am looking to you to help me along this journey.

- Skylar Diggins ('13)

Inside Notre Dame Football

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Buckle Your Hats Up, and Let's Go!

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Hockey Meets With the Media

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Ice, Ice, Baby

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ESPNW Summit With Skylar Diggins

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Following Flynt - Getting the Job Done

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5669434.jpeg Though my memory of the exact scenario is a bit hazy (it's hard to believe it was eight years ago), my freshmen high school basketball coach once referred to a play or a victory - I honestly cannot remember which - as "ugly, but effective."

After Saturday's football game against Pittsburgh, those words were ringing in my head because I could not think of a better way to characterize Notre Dame's victory.

Save Jonas Gray's 79-yard touchdown run and Tyler Eifert's touchdown catch, it is safe to say that the Pittsburgh game will probably not be heavily featured in the post-season highlight reel.

However, a win is a win and you have to be happy any time your team comes home with a victory - especially a team like the Irish, a squad that is perhaps still trying to find its identity.

Statistics are very telling, yet at the same time, quite deceiving. Notre Dame's offense put up more than 500 yards in each of its first two games. The Irish lost both. Since then, that same offense has averaged 336.5 yards, and the team has evened its record at 2-2.

It wasn't pretty. As head coach Brian Kelly said, "It's not going to be an instant classic."

Though at the same time, he and his team recognize the importance of these types of wins.

In the locker room after the game Kelly explained to the team that games like this demonstrated they are developing the "will to win."

In the last several years, the "will to win" is a characteristic Notre Dame football has lacked. Previously, if someone had told me the Irish would be locked in a 12-7 battle going into the fourth quarter, I would not have liked our chances.

While the game did not feature a multiple-touchdown victory or the excitement many fans may have hoped for, the Irish left Heinz Field with a victory, a 2-2 record and the car headed in the right direction.

The box score won't catch many second looks, but at the end of the day, the Irish got the job done and that shows that this team is making progress. In the win-loss column, the only statistic that really matters, a 15-12 dogfight looks the same as a 42-14 victory.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Irish Connection - Episode 10

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His Name Is Jonas

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Hear It From a Student - Three Things

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5669438.jpegThree things we learned ...

1.) A win is a win ... Granted, Saturday's performance wasn't pretty, but it was a win. The Irish committed another two turnovers and the offense seemed to be confused for large time periods during the game. But Brian Kelly was able to figure out the Pittsburgh defense and relay that information to Tommy Rees, who once again battled through adversity, finishing the contest with a game-winning touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert. If the Irish had lost, pretty much all BCS aspirations would have been lost and the program would have started 1-3 for the second consecutive season. All teams have off-days and it was good to see the Irish take down a BCS team (and thereby potentially save their season, when they had an off day).

2.) Defense will continue to carry this team ... For the foreseeable future, it is clear that the Irish will go as far as their defense takes them. Notre Dame's defense was once again very impressive against the Panthers. The lone touchdown came on a drive that should have ended after a three and out (except after a running into the kicker penalty resulted in an automatic first down for Pittsburgh). Additionally, one of the field goals came after an Irish turnover on their own side of the field, even though the Irish defense was able to push the Panthers back five yards. Putting that all together the Irish defense could have very easily given up only three points to the Panthers at home. Also of note for the defense, the Irish recorded six sacks on the day from five different players, demonstrating their control of the Panthers offense.

3.) Tyler Eifert has all the tools ... Before Saturday, Tommy Rees had a propensity to target stud wide receiver Michael Floyd. But when the Irish needed a late score to go ahead against the Panthers, it was Eifert that Rees locked in on. That combination recorded both the six-yard touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion. Eifert registered eight catches for 75 yards against Pittsburgh and showed on the touchdown drive that he has the makings of yet another great Irish tight end.

Also worth noting ...

* The 79-yard touchdown run by Jonas Gray was his first ever collegiate touchdown.

* That touchdown run was the longest since 2000 when Terrance Howard had an 80-yard touchdown run at West Virginia.

* The Irish defense has now given up only one offensive touchdown or less in seven of their last eight games.

* Notre Dame has now defeated Pittsburgh in 14 of the last 18 meetings of the series.

* The Irish are now 3-1 in Heinz Field and 17-6-2 overall in current NFL stadiums.

* The Irish have dominated their opposition in the first quarter in games in the total yards column. The Irish have outgained their opponents by a 464-156 margin.

- Andrew Bartolini ('13)


Two Years Ago Today

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Hear It From a Student - Ride the Wave

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It wasn't a pretty win - in fact, I would go so far as to say it was an ugly one.

Brian Kelly's new catchphrase - "we're learning" - could not be more accurate. At this point, with two consecutive wins, we seem to have hit the point in the curve where we are learning just fast enough to produce wins. I'd certainly rather win ugly than lose pretty (let's not think about Michigan).

Saturday was the first game of the season I didn't watch in person. It is somewhat agonizing to watch everything on replay over and over again, and I now understand why my dad always used to mute the commentary about halfway through the first quarter when I was a kid. I can't say that I am thrilled that next weekend is another away game.

It is unfair that we are not able to ride the wave of our first win. If the Pitt game had been at home, I imagine the student section would have been invigorated by our defeat of Michigan State last weekend - we would have been louder, rowdier, caught up in our own excitement. The players would have felt that excitement.

Instead, we were all pent up in our dorm rooms, watching by peeking out from in between our fingers, thinking, "Oh, please, just let us have this one." Let us be 2-2 when we go up against Purdue. Let us be 3-2 when our boys run through the student section for warm-ups again.

It would have been nice to ride a wave after the win against Michigan State. But it would seem that Notre Dame football is teaching us patience and faith. Be patient and have faith that the wave will build over three weeks so that when it is back here, we will be beyond ready. Let the momentum carry us through Purdue and Air Force all the way to USC.

By then, let it not be relief we feel at a win, but ecstasy.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Following Flynt - Irish Around the League

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ryangrantnfl.jpgAfter a hard-fought battle with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, Notre Dame came away with a gutsy 15-12 victory to even the team's record at 2-2. Saturday's game was unusually low scoring, but it was not the only football game in which teams struggled to find the end zone.

In yesterday's NFL action, teams combined to score fewer than 40 points in seven of the 15 contests. Here's a look at how some former Irish players fared in the third week of the season ...

Performance of the Week: After an ankle injury in last year's opener forced him to miss the entire 2010 season, Ryan Grant ('05) has come back strong for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Grant tallied 92 yards on 17 carries in the Packers 27-17 road win over Chicago.

- Kyle Rudolph had the best game of his young career for Minnesota. He had three catches for 39 yards, including a 20-yard reception that helped set up a game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter. However, the Vikings lost to Detroit in overtime, 26-23.

- In other offensive news, Golden Tate caught two passes for 15 yards in Seattle's 13-10 win over Arizona and Anthony Fasano ('06) had a 26-yard reception in Miami's 17-16 loss at Cleveland.

- Trevor Laws ('07) had three tackles for Philadelphia in the Eagles' 29-16 loss to New York. Though he only had one tackle in yesterday's win, the Giants' Justin Tuck ('05) had five total tackles, including four solo and two for loss in last week's Monday night victory over St. Louis. The defensive end also registered 1.5 sacks.

- Sergio Brown ('10) had three tackles in New England's 34-31 loss at Buffalo and Tom Zbikowski ('07) had one solo tackle for Baltimore in a 37-7 win over the Rams.

Daily Dish - 9.26.11

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5669346.jpeg - No. 20/24 Notre Dame put together a pair of stirring second-half comebacks to force overtime, but No. 14/15 Marquette scored the match-winner 18 seconds into the extra session, defeating the Fighting Irish, 3-2 in BIG EAST Conference cross-divisional women's soccer action on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Valley Fields in Milwaukee.

- Notre Dame stumbled out of the gate and never fully recovered during Sunday's BIG EAST Conference volleyball match with Villanova ... while hitting .094 with 11service errors, Notre Dame fell to the Wildcats, 3-1 (25-18, 15-25, 25-19, 25-19) during the nationally televised contest on ESPNU with 1,337 fans on hand to watch at Purcell Pavilion.

- Here are some of Brian Kelly's comments from Sunday's media teleconference:

"Tommy (Rees) is 6-1 as a starter. He's led two very huge drives for us late in the games against Michigan and Pittsburgh. He's obviously not a finished product yet, nobody is. He'll continue to get better and better and we'll continue to help him in terms of play-calling and getting him in the right kind of situation so he can be successful."

"We felt our recruiting efforts and everything we have done since we have been here is to put together a championship defense and then we'll catch up on offense. I think you have to start with building your defense first and the line of scrimmage. We are not there yet but we are on the right road."

- Looking for a key matchup this week in the Notre Dame-Purdue football game? It's Notre Dame's rushing defense (ranked 25th nationally and allowing 93 yards a game) against Purdue's rushing attack that's rated 11th nationally at 258.67 yards per contest.

- Michael Floyd is now eighth nationally in receptions at 8.75 per game.

- The Irish football squad has outgained all four opponents in first-period total yardage, amassing a combined 464-156 edge.

- Notre Dame's defense now has permitted only two opponent rushing scores over its last nine combined games - and both those were one-yard quarterback sneaks.


Live Chat - Men's Soccer vs. Louisville

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No. 14 Notre Dame faces No. 3 Louisville today at Alumni Stadium in men's soccer BIG EAST action. Irish UNDerground is dedicated to provide you with an inside look at all the happenings in and around today's game. Feel free to share you questions, comments and complaints with us throughout the game - let your voice be heard!

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Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

 

Notre Dame 15, Pittsburgh 12

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Live Chat - Football at Pittsburgh

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This year's matchup will mark the 67th meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish holding a 45-20-1 series lead. Notre Dame owns a 25-10-1 mark against the Panthers away from Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have won 13 of the last 17 meetings, including two of the last three games at Heinz Field.

The game will be televised live on ABC with Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Urban Meyer (analysis), Chris Spielman (analysis) and Quint Kessenich (sidelines) calling the shots.

Neither Notre Dame nor Pittsburgh are ranked in either of this week's Associated Press or USA Today Coaches' poll, but the Irish are receiving votes in each poll.

Irish UNDerground is dedicated to provide you with an inside look at all the happenings in and around today's game. Feel free to share you questions, comments and complaints with us throughout the game - let your voice be heard!

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Chat - Volleyball vs. Georgetown

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Notre Dame begins the BIG EAST Conference portion of the 2011 slate today when it takes on Georgetown at 2:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground is dedicated to provide you with an inside look at all the happenings in and around today's game. Feel free to share you questions, comments and complaints with us throughout the game - let your voice be heard!

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Fine Lines

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Phenom Lynch Finds the Right Gear

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South Bend Tribune - Double-digit sacks Saturday?

Why not?

Listening to football logic imparted by Aaron Lynch, it makes perfect sense.

The other day, the 6-foot-6, 274-pound Notre Dame freshman defensive end was reminded that Maine had seven sacks against Pittsburgh's offensive line.

"Not to be down on Maine or anything, but Notre Dame's pass rush defense, with all the guys we have, is more dominant," Lynch said. "It makes us happy to know another team got seven.

"It builds us up that we're going to get 10 or 12. That's how I look at it."

All right, there we have it. Obviously, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri could fall under the endangered species category. Between now and Saturday, Panther brass may want to file for some sort of federal protection for him, if they can't get it for him from the guys on the offensive line.

Of course, a comment like that will make Notre Dame coaches cringe. Even if it comes from a guy who has the tools to back it up. Bulletin board material.

Lynch is learning on the field and in the interview room.

After a cameo appearance against South Florida, and a relegation to obscurity against Michigan, Lynch had his coming-out party last week in the win over Michigan State. Five tackles were nice. But, the eye-popping numbers came with six quarterback hurries. His first collegiate sack resulted in a fumble.

"He's only 274 pounds," Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston said of his prodigy. "Getting in there, mixing it up, two-gapping at times, he's overwhelmed at times. He made huge strides this past game, showing his ability to two-gap a bigger tackle than him, get off and make a play.

"His pass rush is something that's a strength already because of his speed, quickness and athleticism. Consistency is one thing. He was way behind on technique. He caught up some this past weekend. He gets better with playing more, with his technique and building confidence.

"Buying into what we're coaching hasn't been easy. It hasn't worked for him in practice, because he's not doing it right. He's back and forth on using the proper technique and not using it. In the game, he used it and it worked out well. He got confident with it. (This week in practice) his focus was stellar now, doing it the way we ask him to do it."

Lynch, stubbornly, felt sheer talent would make him a success. Technique wasn't important. That misconception was casually pointed out when he didn't leave the bench in Ann Arbor.

"(Coaches) told me I wasn't going to play until I do it right," Lynch said.

Following Flynt - Freshman Friday

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koyak11.jpg
Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. This feature highlights tight end Ben Koyack, an Oil City, Pa., native who will be returning to his home state for this weekend's game in Pittsburgh ...

I decided to attend the University of Notre Dame because ...
It's a great place with great tradition. I can really see myself helping the team win here.

The thing I have enjoyed most about Notre Dame so far is ...
Meeting new people and just having fun with the guys. There are always a lot of people around and it's great to kick back and relax for a bit.

Something interesting about me that people might not know is ...
That I can play three instruments - trombone, piano and euphonium.

The thing I miss most about home is ...
Watching 'Family Guy' late nights with my mom. She hated [the show], but it was always fun. She picked up on some of the jokes after a while. And of course, hanging out and talking with my family.

Over my next four years at Notre Dame, I am most looking forward to ...
Getting my degree and making a positive impact on this team.

Thoughts about returning home to the Pittsburgh area ...
I'm excited. I'll get to see a lot of people and they will get to see me. Hopefully I will make them proud that they know me.

Getting to know Ben Koyack ...
Dorm: Knott
Favorite class: Sociology
Intended major: Business
Best dining hall food: Stuffed shells
Favorite movie: Stranger Than Fiction
Favorite song: "Till I Collapse" by Eminem
Favorite actor/actress: Adam Sandler
Favorite sport: Track
Favorite athlete: Heath Miller
Favorite professional team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Nickname: Koy Monster
Hobbies: Playing Xbox, watching 'Blue Mountain State'
drumline1.jpg Bleacher Report - Virginia Tech climbed out of an 0-2 hole to reach a BCS bowl in 2010. Why can't Notre Dame do the same in 2011?

With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish still sporting a losing record, this may seem like a ridiculous comparison. Yet just one year ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies entered Week 4 in an identical position: On the road to recovery, but banished from the ranks of the ranked and still reeling from a pair of early losses.

Both 2010 Virginia Tech and 2011 Notre Dame began the season firmly within the AP Top 25. Unfortunately for both squads, it was all downhill from there, as preseason hype disintegrated in the wake of two crippling defeats.

In Virginia Tech's case, those two losses came to Boise State at a neutral site and to James Madison at home.

Against Boise State, the Hokies faced a talented team in a uniquely electric environment. They grabbed the lead late in the game, only to see their opponent's dynamic quarterback snatch a victory in the final minutes.

Eerily similar to this season's Notre Dame vs. Michigan game, eh?

Meet the General

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Irish Connection - 9.22.11

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Celebrity Showdown

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Chris O'Donnell and Dayne Crist

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Will Ferrell and Matt Mulvey

Following Flynt - What To Watch for at Pittsburgh

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program ...

An Early Start: For the Irish fans on the West Coast, be sure to set your alarms for this week's game or you might miss the opening kickoff. The noon (ET) game is the earliest the Irish will play this season. Despite having a different schedule for Saturday, head coach Brian Kelly and his players are not concerned.

On Tuesday, Kelly explained that players are used to getting up early because they have to finish their classes by 1:30 p.m. Likewise, Harrison Smith was not worried about making any major adjustments.

"I'm actually excited for our early game. It's almost like training camp, like get up and get ready to go. I think the whole team is going to have the mind set as soon as we get up that it's game time," the captain said.

From a fan's perspective, there might not be much time for tailgating, but there are a few benefits to an early Irish game. Though Notre Dame football reigns supreme for most Irish UNDerground readers, those that also enjoy the rest of the college football landscape need not worry about conflicts with this week's late afternoon and prime-time showdowns. Arkansas at Alabama, Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, Florida State at Clemson and LSU at West Virginia are just a few of the matchups between ranked teams.

Secondly, it is an issue that Domers face every season. A friend made the "mistake" of scheduling his or her wedding on a Saturday in the fall. To the average person, autumn might seem like a perfect time to get married. However, such is not the case for die-hard college football fans. Well, this week you might be in luck. If any of those friends are getting married this Saturday, perhaps you can make it to the church on time without even missing a play.


The Color Blue

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Reggie Brooks Knows How to Beat Pittsburgh

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Jones Moves Forward With Memories of His Father

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4318097.jpeg South Bend Tribune - There are moments now when the pain fades and the questions with no answers recede and TJ Jones can just be a goofy college sophomore.

Not in long stretches yet, not normalcy by any standard. But the Notre Dame wide receiver is smiling again, sometimes, watching the TV show Glee regularly and, surprisingly admitting to it publicly.

"Tommy Rees watches it too," Jones said, outing ND's starting quarterback Wednesday after football practice. "It was hard (at first). I got a little bit of tension for it, but they understand now. I'm proud to like Glee."

This is what nudging forward in life looks like three months after a brain aneurysm claimed the life of Jones' father, Andre, at age 42.

It's a muddled cocktail of emotions, a struggle to find balance in a life with so much promise and suddenly so much responsibility. It's tears. It's friendships. It's candles at the Grotto. It's getting scorched by Irish coach Brian Kelly on the sidelines with the NBC cameras capturing every syllable.

"I think people reacted to that more than what it was," Jones said of the Sept. 3 flare-up in his first media interview since his father's passing. "In the heat of the moment, I got his coaching. I got the message he was sending. It was other people who just saw him yelling at me. They misunderstood what he was saying.

"I looked at it as, 'Put the play behind you and get ready for the next play.' "

Jones' mother, Michele, was in Notre Dame Stadium that day, along with Jones' five siblings, and had a totally different reaction than either her son or most fans.

"She thought it was kind of funny," he said.

There are solemn moments, too, though, for all of them. Moments like the pregame ceremony Sept. 3 that honored Andre Jones, a former standout linebacker for the Irish, and others from the Notre Dame football family who had lost loved ones in the past year.

"It was hard, seeing my mom out there for the first time in six weeks," Jones said. "And she was crying, so it made me more emotional. And it definitely just hit home that he wasn't going to be there standing in the tunnel when I came out this year."

So now Jones plays for both of them - and for his younger siblings for whom he so ardently wants to set an example.

"He pushed on, because I think he needed to push on," Kelly said. "His mom needed his help, and he needed to be really a rock for his family."

He's been a rock for the Irish, too. Through three games, Jones's 12 receptions (for 126 yards and 2 TDs) are tied for the second-most on the team with tight end Tyler Eifert and behind only senior Michael Floyd's Xbox-ish total (31). And Jones is already more than halfway to surpassing last year's total of 23 receptions.

"As a player, I think he's really stepped up, is a lot more accountable," Kelly said. "He's not a freshman anymore. Last year there were times when he would just act like a freshman. He's a lot more mature in the way he handles himself.

"I think the biggest thing is he plays pretty fast now. He's a pretty tough matchup guy. So he's elevated his game."

The list is long of people who made sure that happened, including Jones' godfather, former Irish All-American Rocket Ismail.

Rice Loves Hoops

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110917_154916-3.jpg Condoleezza Rice ('75) is the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution and professor of political science at Stanford University ... from January 2005 to 2009, she served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States ... before that, she served as assistant to the president for national-security affairs from January 2001 to 2005 ... the following is a piece penned by Rice in 2010 ...

The Daily Beast - I was a tomboy as a child and a jock as a teenager. But that was years before Title IX spawned organized women's teams and college scholarships.

This might explain why my sport of choice was figure skating (despite my 5'8" frame and 5'10" legs). Dressed in pretty sequined costumes and make-up, I twirled and jumped my way to a decidedly mediocre competitive career. Well, it was actually worse than that - my best finish was third in one competition.

If only someone had put a basketball in my hand when I was an already lanky 5'5" 10-year-old.

Oh, if only someone had put a basketball in my hand when I was an already lanky 5'5" 10-year-old. Well, the truth is that someone did - when I was about 6. But in those days, the rules were strange for women. There were six players, only three of whom could cross half-court. Since I was big, I was relegated to standing behind the line and playing defense. It was really boring!

That is why I'll be cheering when the WNBA season tips off. Several years ago, when I was Secretary of State, I spoke to the League's Women's Achievement Luncheon. I told the athletes how much I envied them, playing a sport in which you can actually sweat and grimace when something goes wrong. In skating, even after the most humiliating and painful falls you were expected to get up and smile. This despite the fact that your dress was plastered to your body - courtesy of the water puddle on the ice that skaters always seemed to find when they hit the ice.

In women's basketball, you can look like what you do is hard and takes great athleticism. And I love the fact that these women work as a team - learning that you are only as good as the person next to you in the trenches. Great friendships come from pursuing a common and very measurable goal. These athletes learn too how to recover from bad performances and get up the next day, work hard and do it all over again. Sort of like life.

Teaching at Stanford, I have seen how intercollegiate athletics promotes the development of focused, confident, young women. It isn't easy to balance academics and athletics, and I've had both male and female athletes do it well. But nationally, women's athletics has had fewer problems with academic standards than big-time men's programs. Some say this is because women are not subject to the siren call of professional athletics. For too many male athletes, college is just a pit stop on the road to the NFL or the NBA.

Probably true. But I want to see women put their talents to work at the next level. I want them to be able to make a living at what they do best and still long to do when college is done. That is why I want the WNBA to succeed - along with the LPGA. I also hope women's soccer will return and that one day women's professional softball will be born.

To be sure, the product has to be good enough to sustain a fan base. I admit to a bit of discomfort watching the championship game between my beloved Stanford Cardinal (not the Lady Cardinal, just the Cardinal) and the Connecticut Huskies last April in San Antonio. Even though we led at the half, my heart fell with each missed layup on both ends of the floor. I said to my friend Lori White, who's also a fan of women's basketball, "Do you think the audience is tuning out?" We decided that it was really great defense that caused the score to be 12-5 deep into the first half.

So women's basketball and the WNBA have work to do even with devotees of the game. Owners like my friend Sheila Johnson, of the Washington Mystics, know that the game has a long way to go and are tireless in trying to improve it. Yet, there is a lot to work with.

After all, the second half of the NCAA final in San Antonio was terrific. Maya Moore and Tina Charles started hitting their shots and the place went crazy. Stanford made a furious run but Connecticut held us off. These women could really play. I watched Jayne Appel, our 6'5" center, wince in agony from the hairline fracture in her ankle that had hobbled her for much of the season. But I knew that for this very tough athlete and team leader, the end of Stanford's title hopes - her last chance to be a national champion - hurt even more. And then there was Tina Charles, basking in the glow of another undefeated championship season. But it had to be bittersweet, since her incredible run as a college superstar was over.

I thought to myself, "It's not the last time Jayne Appel and Tina Charles will meet." They'll see each other again in the WNBA. That's the way it should be. And I'll be watching.

We No Speak Americano

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Irish Connection - 9.21.11

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Hear It From a Student - Going Above and Beyond

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An average day of a Notre Dame student-athlete begins with an early morning workout and team meetings, followed by several more hours of class, practice, more team meetings and a team meal.

Balancing the demands of a rigorous academic and storied athletic tradition of an establishment like Notre Dame is an incredible feat, yet these young men and women do it every day. To put forth the effort to go above and beyond these expectations is nearly impossible; and Dayne Crist does it with ease.

Crist is one of 22 student-athletes named to the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. A record 132 student-athletes were nominated for the award over the summer. Two 11-member teams comprise the Good Works Team: one recognizing the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, the other representing the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. This marks the award's 20th year of recognizing community service efforts made off the field by Division I, II, and III college football players.

The nomination is an incredible honor for Crist, who is only the sixth Notre Dame football player selected to the Good Works Team since 1999.

Yet, in an unassuming demeanor, Crist highlights what is at the heart of the award, which is simply community service. "It's an incredible honor to be nominated for an award like this," says Crist. "I'm proud to see the other student-athletes named to the list as well for their contributions to their communities."

A senior from Canoga Park, California, Crist began his quest to make a difference the minute he set foot on campus. He mentions the impact his parents have on his choices as a student-athlete, saying, "It's always been something my family has stressed, helping those in need. No matter how much or little we have to give, it's our obligation to give whatever we have."

For the last three years, Crist helped organize the Bald and Beautiful fundraiser to benefit St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research. Other accomplishments include reading to grade school children at St. Joseph's grade school and visiting patients at St. Joseph's Medical Center. This past summer, Crist volunteered at the Logan Center, befriending children and young adults with a wide range of disabilities; three months later, the busy student-athlete still makes time to maintain those relationships.

"I feel it's important to recognize how fortunate we are to be given the opportunities we have been given and to assist those who may be less fortunate," he notes. "As student-athletes, it's important for us to use the power that we have to make an impact in our communities and the lives of people we come in contact with each and every day."

And Crist has done just that.

Notre Dame students, alumni and fans are invited to honor and select Crist as the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team Captain by visiting the official voting site of the service award.

- Hilary Ferguson (Saint Mary's '12)

Following Flynt - Walk-on Wednesday

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program for Irish UNDerground ...

One of the most exciting plays in Notre Dame's 31-13 victory over Michigan State was George Atkinson's 89-yard kickoff return late in the first quarter. If you were at Notre Dame Stadium, you may have missed the crucial block that helped set up Atkinson's touchdown return, the first by a Notre Dame freshman since Rocket Ismail in 1988.

If you saw the replay during NBC's broadcast, you probably heard commentator Mike Mayock key in on senior Chris Salvi, who took out two Spartan defenders, making way for Atkinson to cut up the right sideline.

Salvi, a walk-on safety from Lake Forest, Ill., first came to Notre Dame for the fall semester of 2009 after playing his freshman season at Butler University in Indianapolis.

"I knew as soon as I got into Notre Dame that I was going to try out (for the team). There was no question about that. Such a large part of why I wanted to be a part of Notre Dame was the football program," he says.

Now living off-campus, the former Dillon Hall resident walked on to the team during his first semester in South Bend, along with fellow Butler transfer and teammate Evan Wray.

Walk-on tryouts are usually held during the winter in preparation for spring practice, but Salvi and Wray talked to Tim McDonnell, the team's director of football personnel, who was able to get them an earlier tryout.

"I think maybe they had more confidence in us since we had played at Butler," Salvi says.

About a week after the tryout, the political science major received a phone call from McDonnell, informing him that he was now a part of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

"I had no idea. I actually didn't really know if I had done well in the tryout. Tim called me and I was extremely thankful and reassured him that I was going to work hard. Right after that I had to call my old man and let him know because he's my biggest fan and he was thrilled," Salvi recalls.

Since making the team, Salvi has appreciated the challenge of the walk-on experience, and of course, enjoyed being part of WOPU Nation.

"WOPU is a great support staff. We've got a group of people going through the same thing, not that it's a bad thing. It's just something that's not easy. When you have other guys who are working with you and experiencing similar things, it's great to be able to talk about it and help one another out."

Salvi played defensively in last season's games against Boston College and Western Michigan and appeared in nine games on special teams.

Though the block on Saturday is perhaps the defining moment of his career thus far, it is not his favorite memory in an Irish uniform. That title belongs to a play he made in 2010 against this week's opponent, Pittsburgh.

"Besides running out of the tunnel, making a tackle on kickoff last year against Pitt [is my favorite Notre Dame memory]. I had made a 'bucket list' when I got into Notre Dame a couple of years ago, and that was one of the goals. The block is a close second."

--

Getting to Know Chris Salvi

Favorite place on campus ... Notre Dame Stadium

Favorite dining hall food ... Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Favorite TV Show ... Entourage

Sports team ... Chicago Bears

Favorite athlete ... Mike Brown ("he played for the Bears when I was growing up")

Most played song on my iPod ... "Donald Trump" by Mac Miller

Favorite sport other than football ... Boxing

Daily Dish - 9.21.11

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4721381.jpeg - The women's golf team battled gusty winds and a tough course on Tuesday afternoon on the way to a 23-over par mark of 311 during the second round of the Golfweek Conference Challenge ... Notre Dame will enter Wednesday morning's final 18 holes, trailing first-place Oregon by 12 strokes as the Ducks moved into first place with the low round of the day, a 16-over mark of 34 ... Ashley Armstrong is Notre Dame's top golfer after 36 holes after rounds of 73-77 for a six-over 150 ... that puts her in a tie for 14th place, seven strokes behind the leaders.

- Former football standouts Dave Casper and Rocky Bleier will be among the honorees tonight at the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at Hawthorne Race Course ... a delegation of Notre Dame athletic administrators will be in attendance.

- The men's lacrosse team will take part in a "barnstorming" trip to central Indiana this Saturday ... the Fighting Irish will hold a practice/intrasquad scrimmage at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind., to help energize the growth of lacrosse in the Indianapolis area.

- Much has been made of the 13 turnovers by the Notre Dame football team through its first three games combined ... interestingly enough, the 1977 Irish team had 14 turnovers through three games - and went on to win the national championship ... the 1966 and 1973 Notre Dame teams, both national title winners, both had 10 turnovers through three games.

- The football team ranks 10th nationally in third-down defense - permitting only 10 conversions on 40 third-down attempts ... over the last seven games combined Notre Dame's defense has give up an average of only 90.9 rushing yards per contest ... Tommy Rees is the first Irish quarterback to lead his teams to wins over USC and Michigan State and win a bowl game (Miami in Sun Bowl) since Kevin McDougal did that in 1993.

Notre Dame Brings Hype to Heinz Field

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293483_274594085903478_155703994459155_1074383_998016875_n.jpg Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - The bus carrying the Notre Dame football team pulled up in front of LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., and the first-year coach stood and led his players through the crowd.

"People were spitting on us and throwing things," Lou Holtz said, chuckling at the 25-year-old memory, "and, good Lord knows, Louisiana is a Catholic place."

No one knows the U.S. sporting public's love-hate relationship with Notre Dame better than Holtz, who coached there for 11 seasons, winning the school's most recent national title in 1988.

"We never played in front of an empty seat, home or away," he said. "I don't care where we went."

Notre Dame arrives this week to play Pitt at Heinz Field and Pitt officials are expecting a sellout.

Pitt has sold out Heinz Field five times since moving there in 2001, and Notre Dame was the opponent for three of them, drawing above capacity - 65,000 or more people - each time.

"Notre Dame could sell out in Tel Aviv," ESPN college football analyst Beano Cook said.

Pitt coach Todd Graham is spending the week reminding his players of the importance of a game against a team that has lost two of its first three games.

"There is Penn State, West Virginia and Notre Dame when you think of the three games that mean the most to our players and our program," Graham said.

"You win this game, and they put (a picture of) the scoreboard up on the wall. It's a big deal."

The Irish (45-20-1) largely have dominated the series, including a 56-7 victory in 1968 in which Notre Dame officials used a running clock in the second half, without informing Pitt athletic director Frank Carver.

Holtz recalls the game at Pitt Stadium five weeks into his championship season when the Irish trailed for the first time all year and the score was tied, 17-17, late in the third quarter. The turning point occurred when Pitt quarterback Darnell Dickerson fumbled right before crossing the goal line and twice tried to fall on it before Notre Dame recovered.

"The fans are screaming, players on the other side are jumping up and down and I'll never forget (quarterback) Tony Rice coming up to me and saying, 'This is a good game,' " Holtz said

But the coach wasn't so sure, until Notre Dame won, 30-20.

Graham's Tulsa team beat Notre Dame on the road last season, 28-27, for his only victory in nine tries against BCS opponents. He remembers the game as a great memory for his seniors.

"I want these (Pitt) seniors to have an opportunity to beat a program that has the respect and notoriety of Notre Dame," he said.

That tradition springs from Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen, George Gipp, 11 national titles and seven Heisman Trophy winners.

Cook calls Notre Dame "the most liked team in America and the most disliked team in America. There are three teams that the general public likes to see get beat, Notre Dame, the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys."

Yet its Catholic roots created a following that was so devoted that priests and nuns used to ask students to pray for a Notre Dame victory.

From 1925-1969, Notre Dame refused to go to bowl games, only changing its stance when the national polls started taking their final vote in January.

"I don't know why they didn't go," Cook said, "but I asked Charlie Callahan, their PR guy for many years, and he said, 'Beano, we play a bowl game every week.' "

The Voice of Notre Dame Stadium

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Irish Connection - 9.20.11

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Four Years Strong

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Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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snowusf1.jpg Like Michigan State, Pittsburgh is one of the many regular opponents on the Notre Dame schedule. Pittsburgh is Notre Dame's fifth-most common opponent, behind only Navy, Purdue, USC and Michigan State.

Saturday will mark the 67th meeting between the Irish and the Panthers. Notre Dame currently holds a commanding 45-20-1 lead, including 13 victories in the last 17 games. Of the 45 victories, 25 have occurred away from Notre Dame Stadium.

The series began in 1909 at Forbes Field, with the Irish taking the opener, 6-0. Two years later, the teams played to a scoreless battle, the lone tie in series history. After another Irish victory in 1912, the young series took a hiatus until 1930, when the teams began an eight-year stretch of consecutive meetings.

The teams met again from 1943-54 and every year from 1956-78. They played several times in 1980's and early 1990's, and every season since 1996, with the exception of 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2007.

In 1999, Notre Dame visited the Steel City for the final game at Pitt Stadium. The following year, the Panthers played at Three Rivers Stadium, before moving to their current home, Heinz Field in 2001.

Four of the 10 largest victory margins in Notre Dame history have come at the Panthers' expense, most recently a 60-6 crushing in 1996. Perhaps Notre Dame's biggest win in the series, however, came in 1982, when an unranked Irish team went to Pittsburgh and came away with a 31-16 victory over Dan Marino and the Panthers.

On the way to a national championship in 1988, Notre Dame survived a scare against Pittsburgh. The Irish won 30-20, thanks in part to a couple of costly red zone fumbles by the Panthers.

The following year, Lou Holtz's top-ranked Notre Dame team faced No. 7 Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium. This time, it was all Irish, as they rolled to a 45-7 victory.

In 2005 - and Charlie Weis's first game as head coach - Notre Dame outscored Pittsburgh 28-3 in the second quarter on its way to a 42-21 rout. The game featured the first touchdown catch of Jeff Samardzija's career, a spectacular diving grab in the second quarter.

During the 2009 season, Notre Dame's last visit to Heinz Field, the Irish lost a close one to the eighth-ranked Panthers. After trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter, two Golden Tate touchdowns put the Irish within reach, but the rally ultimately fell short and the Panthers held on for a 27-22 win.

Though the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh series does not draw the national attention of Notre Dame-USC or have the intensity of Notre Dame-Michigan, the tradition between the Irish and the Panthers is storied. Dating back more than 100 years, this match-up is an important, and perhaps under-appreciated part of Notre Dame's rich football history.

Daily Dish - 9.20.11

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- The women's golf team started the 2011-12 campaign on Monday afternoon by shooting an opening-round mark of 14-over par 302 for 18 holes at the Golfweek Conference Challenge ... the event is being played at the par-72, 6,236-yard Tom Fazio course at the Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott, Colo. ... Notre Dame will enter Tuesday's 18 holes tied with Minnesota and trail first-round leader UC-Davis by eight strokes as the Aggies fired a first-day mark of six-over par 294 ... individually, the Irish were led by Ashley Armstrong, who got her collegiate career off to a fast start by firing a one-over par 73 ... she is tied for 10th after 18 holes and trails three players - Natalie Gleadoll of Mississippi, Kaitlin Higginbotham of Coastal Carolina and Grace Na of Pepperdine - by four strokes as that threesome carded three-under par marks of 69.

- The Joyce Athletics Grants-in-Aid program hosted former Secretary of State and 1975 Notre Dame graduate Dr. Condoleezza Rice for its annual recognition weekend Sept.17-18 ... she served as the keynote speaker for the dinner Friday evening at Jordan Hall of Science, where she spoke about the unique role Notre Dame plays in educating student-athletes and the importance of integrity in intercollegiate athletics ... one of the highlights of the evening occurred when women's basketball point guard, Skylar Diggins presented Dr. Rice with an autographed 2011 Women's Final Four jersey ... she joined the Joyce Grants-in-Aid members for their on-field recognition and thanked them for generously providing scholarship dollars for Irish student-athletes.

- A pair of men's soccer players have garnered BIG EAST accolades for their roles in helping the Fighting Irish post two victories over the weekend ... Grant Van De Casteele was named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week, while Adam Mena was selected to the league's weekly honor roll ... Mena, who also was named to the College Soccer News national team of the week, had a hand in all three Irish goals over the weekend ... Van De Casteele, a central defender, was a key part of an Irish defense that allowed just one goal in 181 minutes of play in the wins over the Wolverines and Spartans ... after giving up a goal 39 seconds into the Michigan match, Notre Dame did not allow another score in the final 180:21 of the weekend.

- Look for ice to be made in Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena this week.

- The New York Times featured an interesting piece Monday that measured the number of college football fans per program based on television markets ... Notre Dame ranked third in this numerical exercise, with 2,261,738 fans - behind Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State and ahead of Texas, Texas A&M, Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Clemson. The study suggested the top markets for numbers of Notre Dame fans are (in order) New York, Chicago, Boston, South Bend, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Washington, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Detroit.

- Quarterback Dayne Crist was one of 22 student-athletes named to the 2011 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, Allstate and the AFCA announced Tuesday ... in its 20th year, college football's pre-eminent community service award recognizes the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field ... two 11-member teams comprise the Good Works Team ... Crist has helped organize a fundraiser on Notre Dame's campus each of the past three years to benefit St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research ... in his three years involved with the fundraiser, he has helped the group raise approximately $100,000 for the charity ... Crist has also read to grade school children at St. Joseph's Grade School and visited with patients at St. Joseph's Medical Center ... Crist is the sixth Notre Dame football player selected to the Good Works Team since 1999 ... safety Tom Zbikowski was named to the 2007 team, offensive lineman Bob Morton was selected for the 2006 squad,linebacker Derek Curry was chosen for the 2004 team, linebacker Courtney Watson was named to the 2003 team and defensive end Grant Irons was the first Notre Dame player to be honored in 1999.

- Here are Brian Kelly comments from his media teleconference today:

"That's where we started this journey, to begin with recruiting on defense, and playing a tougher style of football. And to do that, you've got to be able to control the line of scrimmage. You also have to do it physically - you have to develop in the weight room."

"I like the way we play the game, other than we get sloppy. The big picture looks really good for me, and the big picture starts with developing a toughness, a mentality, both on the offensive and defensive line. We're seeing that through how we defend the run, how we've been able to run the ball more effectively."

"You can't come to practice now that you've won a game and feel as though, okay, you've arrived, because we certainly haven't. There are a lot of things we need to get better at if we're going to be a consistent winner."

"I think we had 11 scouts in and they said that physically he (Aaron Lynch) looks like an NFL player right now. He's got a lot of work to do as it relates to all the other little things that come with being a great player. But he's extremely gifted and he's relentless when it comes to rushing the quarterback."

"We demand a physical toughness from our football payers. And you get what you demand relative to physical toughness."

"If you put up the stats of the first three games and said pick which game they won, I don't know that you would pick this one (Michigan State)."

"We have not been infected with success yet. I'll know when that happens."

"I always thought it to be a great weakness within your program when you had to play freshmen. Not when they run as fast as George Atkinson or are as physical as Aaron Lynch. This group (of freshmen) was physically ready to compete right away."

- Cross country runner Jessica Rydberg has been named BIG EAST Cross Country Athlete of the Week ... Rydberg won the women's 5K at the National Catholic Championships last Friday ... her time (17:16) was the fastest since Notre Dame's JoAnna Deeter ran 16:52 in 1999 ... it was also the third-fastest time in the meet's history ... she was the ninth straight Notre Dame women's runner to win the meet ... the Pinetop, Ariz., product beat out 271 other women in the race, and helped lead the Irish to the team title over 32 other teams.

- Notre Dame ranks among the top three NCAA Division I institutions in the country in combining athletic and academic achievement, according to the annual rankings released today by the National Collegiate Scouting Association in Chicago ... Notre Dame ranked third among NCAA Division I universities and fifth overall in the annual NCSA Collegiate Power Rankings, trailing only Duke and Stanford in the Division I standings ... the NCSA Collegiate Power Rankings assess the academic and athletics standards of all NCAA and NAIA athletic programs across the country ... in the 2011 ratings, Notre Dame finished 18th in athletics, 19th in academic rank and second in NCAA graduation rank, for an average 13.0 power ranking ... this marks the seventh straight year Notre Dame has finished fifth or better in the NCSA rankings ... here are Division I standings from those seven years:

2011: 1. Duke 7.0, 2. Stanford 12.0, 3. Notre Dame 13.0
2010: 1. Stanford 9.33, 2. Princeton 12.33 ... 5. Notre Dame 25.66
2009: 1. Stanford 8.66, 2. Princeton 15.0 ... 4. (tie) Notre Dame and Harvard 23.33
2008: 1. Stanford 10.66, 2. Duke 14.66 ... 5. Notre Dame 23.66
2007: 1. Duke 11.66, 2. Notre Dame 18.33
2006: 1. Duke 11.33, 2. Stanford 13.0, 3. Notre Dame 15.0
2005: 1. Duke 8.66, 2. Stanford 13.0 ... 5. Notre Dame 22.33

Coaching Runs In the McGraw Family

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4772499.jpeg South Bend Tribune - Apparently, Muffet McGraw isn't the only coach in the McGraw family.

McGraw got in a round of golf before Saturday's Notre Dame-Michigan State football game with Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and Stanford political science professor who has a master's degree from Notre Dame. And some advice from McGraw's husband, Matt McGraw, played a role in Rice getting a hole-in-one on the Warren Golf Course.

Rice, who McGraw first met at the White House in a ceremony honoring Notre Dame's 2001 women's basketball national champions, spoke to the Fighting Irish team at this season's Final Four.

Rice contacted McGraw about getting in some golf, but thought she might only be able to squeeze in nine holes because of basketball obligations.

"We had just a great round," McGraw said. "We were only supposed to play nine holes. We finished so fast; she played at the same pace I play, which was nice. We played the front in an hour and five minutes. It was only 11:30, so I said, 'Hey, do you want to play a couple more?'"

Rice left a club on the ninth green, and McGraw called her husband, Matt, who she knew was on the putting green.

"I called and said, 'Hey, Matt. Bring the sand wedge over.'" McGraw related. "So he did and stayed with us, and was giving his ... 'home-court' expertise on the greens, a few tips here and there.

"Suddenly, Dr. Rice goes par, par, birdie," McGraw said of Matt McGraw 'coaching' Rice on her golf game. "It was unbelievable. Ever since Matt showed up, she was suddenly playing well, we were joking. She had been playing well before that, too, but it was funny."

McGraw had to leave to get back to the women's basketball players, but Matt McGraw and Rice decided to play a few more holes.

On her way to Purcell Pavilion, McGraw got a phone call from Matt.

"Guess who just got a hole-in-one?"

Rice shot an ace on the No. 14 hole (142 yards) after getting some advice from Matt McGraw before the shot on how to play the hole.

"She knows how to play," Matt McGraw said of Rice. "She swung the club. I just told her where the bunkers were, and that there's high grass left and right, and asked, 'Do you have a club that can hit 150 yards relatively straight?' She said 'I do,' and made a great swing at the ball. I told her, 'if you ever play Cypress Point and need to fly me out, I'm available.'"

Keeping the 'Student' In 'Student-Athlete'

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Did You Miss Trick Shot Monday?

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Human Highlight Reel

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Panthers Bracing for Irish

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"I think we've got the best team on our schedule coming in here this week. I'm very surprised by Notre Dame's record ... Defensively, they're by far, I think, the best defensive football team that we've played."

- Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham


Irish Can't Forget Last Time vs. Todd Graham

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toddgraham.jpgESPN - A day before being admitted into the ACC, Pittsburgh's football team held a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a hostile Big Ten stadium before losing by four.

Sound familiar?

OK, so the Panthers' collapse in a 31-27 loss to Iowa didn't exactly replicate Notre Dame's 35-31 loss at Michigan a week earlier. And, to be fair, the loss Saturday was Pitt's first of the season, so it might not be scratching its head and playing with the same chip on its shoulder that the Fighting Irish did in the culmination of two frustrating weeks Saturday, a 31-13 win against Michigan State for victory No. 1.

Brian Kelly, for one, doesn't think Pitt will let its loss linger.

"They're a football team in a first year with coach [Todd] Graham," Kelly said during a conference call Sunday. "They're still learning, they're still learning about the coaching staff. I know where they are relative to that development. We'll be more concerned with what we do and how we do it then losing a tough game. I know we lost a couple tough games, too, and the first thing he'll probably do is talk about, 'Put that behind you, because you've got Notre Dame coming into town. Because if you let that linger you'll get beat by Notre Dame.'

"So I'm pretty sure what happened last week won't have much effect on what happens this week."

What the Irish should be more concerned about is not letting what happened last year against Graham happen again.

Last year's game against Tulsa, Graham's previous head-coaching stop, was supposed to provide ample opportunity for the Irish to bounce back from a tough loss to Navy and get back over .500.

Instead, the Golden Hurricanes knocked Dayne Crist out of the game, ending his season. They scored 10 unanswered points in the second half and picked off Tommy Rees in the end zone in the final minute, sealing a 28-27 win that was the program's first against a BCS-AQ team since 1996.

More troubling is how they did it.

They blocked an extra point and returned it 98 yards for two the other way.

They returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown.

And, late in the third quarter, they returned a punt 59 yards for a score.

Notre Dame finally put two weeks of misery behind it with a win this past Saturday.

To prevent looking ahead, the Irish should look back at the last time they faced a Graham-coached team, and know that the more talented one they will face Saturday may carry an anger that is all-too-familiar.

Notre Dame knew the feeling just a short week ago.

Brophy Seeks Big Break

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brophybigbreak.jpgFormer Irish golfer Annie Brophy ('10) will be among six men and six women headed to Ireland in search of an $80,000 pot o' gold and two Tour exemptions as part of the Golf Channel's reality series "Big Break". The show premieres Tuesday (Sept. 20) at 9:00 p.m. (ET).

The show's premise is to award an aspiring professional golfer exemptions into selected events on certain tours. The contestants engage in a series of golfing challenges, with the weakest performer eliminated after each challenge. At the end of the competition, the winner receives prizes including one or more exemptions into a top professional golf tournament.

Check out Brophy's "Big Break" video profile, which includes a chip shot through the goal posts of Notre Dame Stadium.

While at Notre dame, Brophy was just the second four-time all-BIG EAST honoree in program history. A team co-captain during her senior campaign, Brophy left the program with the fourth-best career stroke average in program history with a 76.60 mark.

Monogram Club Musings - Michigan State

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This past weekend the Monogram Club's mission of "bridging the gap between legend and legacy" took center stage, as members of the 1966 national championship football team returned to campus to celebrate the 45th anniversary of its historic season and witnessed the current Irish squad upset 15th-ranked Michigan State Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium. The 1966 team famously played to a tie with the Spartans in the penultimate game of the season before throttling USC, 51-0, en route to the national title.

In addition to the '66 team reunion, members of the Monogram Club board of directors gathered for the organization's fall meeting on Friday and attended all of the Monogram Club events throughout the weekend.

- Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ('74, '77) and his wife, Mary Pat, presented the national colors during pregame festivities. The first family of the Monogram Club was joined by three members of the Notre Dame women's basketball team who led the United States to the gold medal this summer in the World University Games - Devereaux Peters, Natalie Novosel and Skylar Diggins.

- In celebration of the 2010-11 women's basketball team's magical run to the 2011 NCAA Final Four, Peters, Novosel and Diggins joined their teammates on the field at halftime to take part in a special recognition ceremony. They were accompanied by head coach Muffet McGraw (honorary), who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this past June.

- For the second-consecutive game, a pregame flyover electrified the crowd before the opening kickoff. Saturday's flyover featured two USAF A-10Cs.

- Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ('75 M.A.) spent the weekend meeting with University brass including president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and football head coach Brian Kelly. She also made a stop at Friday's pep rally and was recognized on the field Saturday during a first quarter timeout. Rice earned her master's degree in political science from Notre Dame before beginning her political career in 1977 as a State Department intern in President Jimmy Carter's administration. The highlight of Rice's weekend on campus may have been at the Warren Golf Course, where she stepped up to her shot and sunk an improbable hole-in-one while playing alongside McGraw. Way to go, Dr. Rice!

- The Muse spotted members of one of Hollywood's most buzzed-about families on the field prior to the contest against the Spartans, as actor Martin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez, were in South Bend to promote their new film, "The Way." In addition to being a huge Fighting Irish football fan, Sheen famously portrayed one of Notre Dame's most prominent fictional alumni, President Josiah Bartlet, on "The West Wing." There was no double-crossing President Bartlet when it came to Notre Dame football.

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"Why, as a matter of fact, I suggested [starting a hockey program] to Father Callahan, our president. He was downright interested until we came to the use of sticks, and then he threw up his hands. He said, 'No, that game is not for our University. Notre Dame will never endorse any game that puts a club in the hands of an Irishman.' "
- Knute Rockne: All American

As it has now been more than 70 years since the South Bend premiere of Knute Rockne: All American, Notre Dame has experienced some changes since the days of the greatest football coach of all time.

Not only is there now a hockey team, but the program has also become one of the greatest in the nation. Today, the Sporting News hockey yearbook ranked Notre Dame the No. 1 team in the country in its preseason poll, according to a tweet by Darin Pritchett of WSBT Radio.

The Irish are in the middle of their greatest stretch in team history, which started when head coach Jeff Jackson took over in 2005. Jackson has led Notre Dame to four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last five years, including two Frozen Four showings.

Sporting News' ranking shows just how far the hockey team has come over the last half-decade. The University has likewise recognized the importance of the program with the Compton Family Ice Arena, a state-of-the-art facility to host one of the country's premier teams. It's great to see such a well-performing team rewarded with upgraded home ice.

The future of Notre Dame hockey is as bright as it has ever been. Perhaps if the success continues, Compton Family will earn the moniker of "The House that Jackson Built."

- Craig Chval ('15)

Truly Blessed

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IMG_1536.JPG This summer I had an internship at Deloitte in the international tax group. I was luckily given the opportunity to get the internship in the Atlanta office, so I was home all summer. I had an amazing time working for Deloitte, and I have been fortunate enough to receive (and have already signed) my offer for a full-time position after graduation.

The experience I had at Deloitte this summer was far better than I could have ever expected. Before I got there, I didn't know if I would be prepared to work in the accounting world, and I didn't think I knew enough to actually be good at anything I could possibly be asked to do.

Because I had all these thoughts going through my head, I was really nervous for my first day. I had to quickly get over it though because when I walked in on my first day out of training, I was handed a stack of files and a job assignment. I couldn't believe it at first, but after I got over the shock of being given so much so soon, I got right on it.

I did a lot of tax compliance work this summer. I helped update company work-papers, put files together, print off a LOT of things for other people, made copies, and did some tax research. I realized that I knew a lot more than I thought, and I actually transitioned really well. I learned so much from an accounting standpoint, and also from a technical standpoint. My skills in using Microsoft Excel and other tax systems got better throughout the summer, and I'm confident that it will all help me out as I finish school and start as a new hire next fall.

I learned what it's like to work hard for 8+ hours a day, and how important it is to stand out. What I found to be most comforting was that the skills I have gained from playing basketball at Notre Dame, were the same skills I was expected to have while working for Deloitte. I took advantage of the fact that I'm used to performing in pressure situations and also just how hard I work in the classroom and on the court. It really is amazing how much those skills translate over into what is needed to be successful in the business world.

Throughout the summer, I felt like I was doing all the right things and showing that I would be a good fit at Deloitte. I found out on the second-to-last day of my internship that everyone I worked with thought the same thing. I had lunch with the partner of the group I worked for and he informed me that I did a great job this summer and that they were offering me a full-time position next fall.

It really felt like being recruited for basketball all over again. It was such a relief to hear him say that I had the job offer. I was so excited that I signed the offer letter and gave it back to them before I even left the office that day. I remember how I felt when Coach McGraw told me she was offering me a scholarship, and the feeling was pretty much the same.

Although I have to still maintain a high GPA and take full class loads this semester and next semester, it is a relief to know that I have a job in place for after graduation.

I know that not many people my age are fortunate enough to have a job lined up after graduation and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I am truly blessed and I am looking forward to finishing out my senior year at Notre Dame strong and moving on to the next chapter of my life. I really missed my girls this summer, and I'm so glad to be back with them. I'm beyond excited about the season and what I think this team is capable of doing.

And now with "get a job" checked off my list, I'm ready to get to work for the season!

- Fraderica Miller ('12)

Daily Dish - 9.19.11

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Weekly Sports Schedule - 9.19-9.25

- Melissa Henderson posted her second hat trick of the season and fifth of her stellar career, leading No. 12/14 Notre Dame to a clinical 4-1 BIG EAST Conference women's soccer win at Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 1,400 fans at Gettler Stadium ... Henderson netted two goals less than nine minutes apart midway through the first half after the Fighting Irish spotted the Bearcats an early lead ... she then completed her three-goal day with a key insurance score in the 65th minute ... Lauren Bohaboy opened her goal-scoring account with a tally in the final three minutes, while Elizabeth Tucker dished out two assists.

- A goal from Harrison Shipp in the 54th minute was all the 16th-ranked men's soccer team needed to defeat Michigan State, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium ... Notre Dame now has a four-game unbeaten streak, which includes three straight victories ... Shipp had a game-high three shots on goal ... Will Walsh made five saves for Notre Dame to earn his second shutout of the season ... Walsh has all seven decisions this season for the Irish.

- Notre Dame stayed focused in front of a raucous crowd of 3,410 at the Wisconsin Field House to sweep the host Badgers, 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-23), in volleyball action Saturday night ... the win was the first ever for the Irish volleyball program on Wisconsin's home floor and snapped the Badgers' six-game winning streak heading into the contest ... Notre Dame was led by InnTowner Invitational MVP Kristen Dealy, who connected for eight kills and a pair of solo blocks with nine digs in the finale ... Hilary Eppink (nine kills) and Frenchy Silva (14 digs) were named to the all-tournament team.

- The men's golf team jumped two more spots on the final day of the Olympia Fields Invitational at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago, Ill., finishing Sunday in a tie for eighth amongst a deep 15-team field ... the Irish closed with a final day 294 (+14) to conclude the 54-hole tournament at 883 (+43) ... Stanford held on for the tournament title, finishing up the event with a score of 849 (+9) for a full 16-shot victory over both Auburn and Oklahoma State who finished tied for second at 865 (+25) ... in addition, with Notre Dame's tie for eighth, the Irish posted victories over three teams which appeared in last season's NCAA Championship final four: Augusta State, Duke and Ohio State.

- The men's tennis team managed a pair of singles victories in a rain-shortened final day at the Illini Invitational in Chicago on Sunday ... Casey Watt earned his first victory of the weekend, taking down California's Riki McLachlan in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3 ... Blas Moros closed out the weekend with a 2-2 singles record after dropping Alabama's Stuart Kenyon, 6-3, 6-4.

- Former Irish assistant football coach Urban Meyer will be one of the color commentators on ABC Sports Saturday for the noon Notre Dame-Pittsburgh telecast ... he'll join Dave Pasch and Chris Spielman.

- Former Irish baseball player Steve Sollmann is back on campus working as an academic counselor in the Academic Services for Student-Athletes department ... Sollmann played second base and was a 10th-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2004 ... he had a .360 career average at Notre Dame and earned All-America honors in 2003 and was a two-time Academic All-American.

- Notre Dame fans are lining up to attend winter sports ... led by a near 300 percent increase in hockey sales, all three winter sports season (hockey, men's and women's basketball) ticket sales are on pace to exceed their 2010-11 season-ticket totals.

- Brian Kelly comments from his Sunday media teleconference included these tidbits:

"I think right now he (Aaron Lynch) shows himself very well as a guy that can get after the quarterback. He's relentless and he's very, very physical. He doesn't beat you with speed off the edge, he beats you with power."

"I got a chance to shake hands with every one of the 1966 players (in town for the national championship team's 45th reunion) as they came off the stage for our pep rally on Friday and our team got a chance to interact with them as well. It was a great way to mix our team with Ara Parseghian and his championship team."

"If we can control the line of scrimmage, take care of the football, play better pass coverage, especially at the end of the game, we're probably sitting here with a different record."

"They're not going to forget the fact that they've let two games slip away. You want that feeling of: We're not going to let this happen again. Enough is enough. If that's what they do the rest of the year that's a good place to be."

- Kicker David Ruffer is Notre Dame's 2011 nominee for the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete program ... offensive lineman Chris Stewart was a winner of that award a year ago ... Ruffer was a first-team Academic All-American in 2010 with his 3.9 GPA.

- The connection Saturday with NASCAR driver Kurt Busch attending the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game is former Irish football walk-on defensive back Chris Ham, who works with Busch in the marketing area ... a 1995 Notre Dame graduate in business, Ham lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., and is president of his own consulting form as well as director of motorsports for Lennox Motorsports.

- Army quarterback Trent Steelman, Notre Dame cornerback Robert Blanton, and Notre Dame running back/kick returner George Atkinson III have been named FBS Independent Players of the Week, for games through Sept. 17 ... Blanton was instrumental in Notre Dame's inaugural win of the season, a 31-13 home decision over No. 15 Michigan State ... Blanton thwarted a late Spartan rally when he secured an interception deep in Notre Dame territory and returned it 82 yards, setting up a game-sealing field goal for the Fighting Irish ... Atkinson tallied 142 yards on four kickoff returns, highlighted by an 89-yard scoring scamper, in Notre Dame's win over Michigan State ... Atkinson is the first Fighting Irish freshman to return a kickoff for score since Raghib Ismail in 1988.

- Quarterback "hurries" are an inexact football statistic since they are not kept routinely in college press boxes and are not considered official by the NCAA ... still, Aaron Lynch's six hurries Saturday against Michigan State are more than any single Irish player had in all of 2010.

- Notre Dame's fall slate for men's lacrosse includes an Oct. 8 home game against Air Force (10 a.m. at Arlotta Stadium on the morning of the Notre Dame-Air Force football game) and an Oct. 15 road date at Navy (noon at Miller Field in Annapolis, Md.).

- Michael Floyd's 31 receptions after three games (10.33 per game) rank him fourth nationally (USC's Rob Woods has 33) ... Floyd also is fourth in receiving yards per game at 132.33 each.

- Notre Dame's football schedule this week ranks 28th by the NCAA in degree of difficulty, with Irish opponents standing 15-9 (.625) ... Irish opponents still unbeaten include South Florida, Michigan, USC and Stanford.

- Looking way ahead to Notre Dame's next home football game Oct. 8 vs. Air Force - the featured event of the weekend will be dedication of the Dan Devine sculpture.

- Tickets remain on sale to the public through the Purdue ticket offices for the Oct. 1 Notre Dame-Purdue football game in West Lafayette.

- The women's tennis team and head coach Jay Louderback have announced their 2011-12 schedule.

Blanton Nominated for Defensive Performance of the Year

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Robert Blanton has been nominated for Intersport's Defensive Performance of the Year following his dominant outing against Michigan State. The Defensive Performance of the Year is part of a four-month competition that allows fans to determine which individual performances reign supreme during the 2011 college football season.

Blanton had six tackles (three for a loss), one sack for an 11-yard loss, three pass breakups, and a fourth-quarter interception followed by an 82-yard return to seal the 31-13 Irish win over No. 15 Michigan State.

The other week-two nominee for Defensive Performance of the Year is Trey Wilson of Vanderbilt. Wilson's two interceptions for 82 yards and one touchdown led Vanderbilt to a 30-7 win over Ole Miss, its largest margin of victory over a SEC foe since 1971.

Notre Dame fans can vote to help advance Blanton to the finals of the competition by visiting the All-Star Football Challenge's Facebook page.

Following Flynt - Irish Around the League

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sergio-celebrate.JPGAfter a big home victory for the Irish football team over 15th-ranked Michigan State, several former Notre Dame players shined in week two of the NFL season ...

- Performance of the Week: Second-year safety Sergio Brown ('10) recorded seven tackles, including five solo tackles in New England's 35-21 win over San Diego. The Maywood, Ill. native's biggest play, however, was a third-quarter interception to preserve the Patriots' 20-7 lead. With the Chargers in the red zone, Brown picked off Philip Rivers' pass at the 7-yard line. It was his first interception since high school.

- Ryan Grant ('05) carried the ball six times for 25 yards and also had three catches for 14 yards in Green Bay's 30-23 win over Carolina.

- Kyle Rudolph had his first career reception, a 15-yard catch in Minnesota's 24-20 loss to Tampa Bay. The game featured former Irish players at center for both teams - John Sullivan ('07) started for the Vikings and Jeff Faine ('03), the Bucs' offensive co-captain.

- Seattle's Golden Tate caught two passes for 12 yards, but the Seahawks were shut out by Pittsburgh, 24-0.

- Though he did not play a significant role in Miami's game on Sunday, tight end Anthony Fasano ('06) had five catches for 82 yards in last week's Monday night game against the Patriots.

- Baltimore's Tom Zbikowski ('07) had six tackles in a 26-13 loss to Tennessee.

- David Bruton ('09) recorded one solo tackle in Denver's 24-22 victory over Cincinnati.

- New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck ('05) is listed as questionable for tonight's game against St. Louis.

- Josh Flynt

Following Flynt - Big Play Blanton

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44.jpg Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program ...

Senior cornerback Robert Blanton seems to have a knack for making big plays. On Saturday, Blanton intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass late in the fourth quarter to help seal the Irish victory over 15th-ranked Michigan State.

After a fumbled punt, many fans began to expect another heart-stopping finish. In victory and in defeat, it is a trend that has seemed to become commonplace in recent years for the Irish.

With a first-and-goal from the three-yard line, it appeared that the Spartans were destined to score and move within one possession of tying the game. Blanton however, had other ideas.

He stepped in front, juggled and picked off a pass intended for Keshawn Martin before carrying it 82 yards to the Michigan State 12. His eighth career interception set up a David Ruffer field goal, putting the game away and dashing Michigan State's hopes of keeping its undefeated season alive.

Blanton's ability to make important plays in an Irish uniform dates back a few years. As a freshman in 2008, Blanton's breakout performance came in a 38-21 victory over Purdue. In addition to five tackles, he intercepted a Curtis Painter pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown, getting the Irish on the board and tying the game at 7-7.

Last season, Blanton came through with what many people consider the turning point of Notre Dame's season. Following a difficult loss to Tulsa, the Irish entered their meeting against No. 15 Utah with a 4-5 record and in danger of falling out of bowl contention.

With 2:09 remaining in the first quarter, Blanton blocked Utah's punt and returned it for a touchdown. It was the first of four unanswered touchdowns, as the Irish rolled to a 28-3 victory, their first over a ranked opponent since 2006.

Following the Utah game, the Irish went on to beat Army in Yankee Stadium, USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum and Miami in the Sun Bowl.

Nothing is to say that Michigan State would have forced overtime or won the game if Blanton had not intercepted Cousins' pass, but the game certainly had the makings of another down-to-the-wire finish if not for the cornerback's pick.

Only time will tell if Saturday's victory over Michigan State will be the catalyst that drives the rest of the 2011 season. Regardless, if he stays healthy, we can probably expect to see #12 making several more key contributions to Irish victories.

Hear It From a Student - Let's Run With It

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18.jpgI had almost forgotten what this feels like.

I have become somewhat proficient at talking (or writing) the Notre Dame nation down from the ledge over the last three weeks. But now, here, in the glow of a win - a win we fought for and deserved, a win I knew we could take - it's like I'm just realizing what I've been hoping for. It's like I just realized how tall of an order it is.

Brian Kelly and the team have been confident in their abilities not only in the preseason, but also in the weeks after the two losses. That confidence astounded me. How could they still be so sure after everything they had been through? The only logical explanation my mind could generate was that underneath the blunders, they really were a good team. They really could turn it around and produce wins.

So they produced a win. The players went right up to the student section after the game for the alma mater - maybe 20 feet closer than they had been just two weeks prior. Their faces lit up as they took in their fellow students, and I knew that is how it should be.

But that is how it should be all the time. The tall order I've been demanding over the past few weeks isn't just a win. It isn't even a win against a ranked team. It's that we must keep winning. Now it isn't about finding a way to win - it's about finding a way to be winners.

The football players believed in themselves when the rest of the world doubted. I know I have read more negative press about Notre Dame in the past few weeks than I ever have in my life. Through all of that, the team remained sure.

And now as students, as fans, as Notre Dame, it is our turn to believe. As student-athletes, they feel our energy. They know when our support is half-hearted, and I'm telling you, use your whole heart. Take what they've given us and push for more.

Let's take this win and run with it.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Irish Connection - 9.18.11

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Hear It From a Student - Three Things

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5649514.jpegThree things we learned ...

1.) Tommy Rees is persistent, has the intangibles ... With the way the game started, Tommy Rees could have given up. He got crushed by a first-quarter blindside hit resulting in a fumble and then proceeded to throw an interception on the next drive. At that point, he had seven turnovers in seven quarters. But Rees stuck with it, managed the game, distributed the ball and guided the Irish offense to 31 points against a defense that had given up a total of six points in two games. Rees isn't the tallest quarterback, he isn't the strongest quarterback, but he has what it takes to win at Notre Dame.

2.) Robert Blanton is a defensive stud ... Blanton had the best game of his Notre Dame career against Michigan State. The highlight of R.J.'s night was an 82-yard interception return to the Michigan State 11-yard line, which set up an Irish field goal to ice the game. Blanton also registered three pass break-ups, three tackles for a loss, one sack and six tackles. Blanton was all over the field for the Irish and made a number of big plays that helped the Irish defense hold a Spartan offense that had put up 72 points up in their first two games to only 13 points.

3.) Aaron Lynch is going to be fun to watch ... After playing very little against South Florida and then not getting into the Michigan game, Aaron Lynch dominated the Michigan State offensive line on Saturday. Lynch recorded six quarterback hurries, one sack, a forced fumble and five tackles. Lynch helped keep Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins on the run for pretty much the entire game. The remarkable part is that Aaron is only a freshman. Lynch should be a joy to watch over the course of his Irish career.

Also worth noting ...

* George Atkinson III became the first freshman to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Rocket Ismail did so against Rice in 1988.

* Michigan State had -1 yards rushing in the first quarter, a season-low for an Irish opponent in a quarter.

* Notre Dame's 75 yards rushing in the first quarter were the most in a first quarter this season.

* Notre Dame snapped its five-game losing streak in the month of September.

* Notre Dame's defense has allowed one offensive touchdown or less in six of its last seven games.

* Michigan State gained only 29 yards on the ground. That's the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Irish since Oct. 2, 2010, when the Irish held Boston College to five yards.

- Andrew Bartolini ('13)

Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 13

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Live Chat - Football vs. Michigan State

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Today marks the 75th meeting between the Irish and Spartans - Notre Dame's fourth-most played series in school history. The Irish hold a 45-28-1 lead in the series, but Michigan State took last year's meeting in overtime, 34-31, in East Lansing. Nine of the last 11 games in the rivalry have been decided by seven points or less.

Michigan State enters this weekend ranked No. 15 - its highest ranking entering a matchup with Notre Dame since Sept. 29, 1979, when the Irish routed No. 7 Michigan State, 27-3, at Notre Dame Stadium. In fact, the Irish are 4-2-1 in the last seven meetings with a ranked Spartan squad.

Irish UNDerground is dedicated to provide you with an inside look at all the happening in and around Notre Dame Stadium throughout today's game. Feel free to share you questions, comments and complaints with us throughout the game - let your voice be heard!

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Daily Dish - 9.17.11

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- Former Irish football standout Jerome Bettis joined the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Thursday night in Novi, Mich., with Notre Dame athletics administrators Bill Scholl, John Heisler and Josh Berlo in attendance ... among the previous hall of famers with Notre Damec onnections inducted have been George Gipp (1957), Gus Dorais (1958), Leon Hart (1997) and Bill Laimbeer (1999),

- Our baseball team played host to Michigan State this morning at at Eck Baseball Stadium on the Notre Dame campus.

- A golden goal in the first minute of overtime from Adam Mena gave the 16th-ranked men's soccer team a 2-1 triumph of Michigan on Friday evening at Alumni Stadium ... Mena scored both Irish goals on the evening and Greg Klazura assisted on each tally.

- Kristen Dealy became the eighth player in Notre Dame volleyball history to record 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career with a 13-kill effort in a 3-1 win Friday evening over Western Michigan in Madison, Wis. ... Dealy hit .306 with 21 digs, one ace and a solo block for the Irish ... entering the contest, Dealy had 995 kills and 1,042 digs ... her 1,000th kill came in the second set to make her the first Irish player to join the 1,000-1,000 club since Adrianna Stasiuk did so in 2007.

- Louisville's Erin Yenney scored the lone goal of the match in the 56th minute and the Cardinals made it stand, upsetting the Irish women's soccer team, 1-0, Friday night before a crowd of 2,501 fans at Alumni Stadium ... the loss was the first for the Fighting Irish in BIG EAST regular-season action since Sept. 30, 2005 (a 4-1 defeat at Marquette), snapping a 62-match unbeaten streak in the process.

- The men's tennis squad won five doubles contests and four singles matches on day one of the season-opening Illini Invitational in Chicago, Ill. ... Notre Dame's doubles tandems went 5-3 on day one with victories over teams from Texas and Alabama ... the Irish were a combined 4-0 in doubles against the Crimson Tide.

- Jessica Rydberg won the women's 5K race and Martin Grady finished second in the men's five-mile race to power the Notre Dame women's and men's cross country squads to a pair of victories at the 32nd annual National Catholic Championships on Friday afternoon at the Notre Dame Cross Country Course ... Rydberg's time (17:16) was the fastest since Notre Dame's JoAnna Deeter ran 16:52 in 1999 ... it's also the third-fastest time in the meet's history ... she is the ninth straight Notre Dame women's runner to win the meet ... the Irish women have won 18 times out of the last 20 years, including each of the last 10 ... the men won for the third straight year and for the 20th time in the last 24 years.

- Former Notre Dame Bengal Bout champion Mike Lee won a unanimous four-round decision Friday night over Jacob Stiers of Kansas City, Kan., in front of 3,296 fans at Purcell Pavilion ... Lee is now 7-0 in is professional career ... the event benefited both the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center.

- Lou's Lads, the organization of former Notre Dame football players who played under Lou Holtz, presented its first scholarship on Friday night at a dinner at the Gillespie Conference Center in South Bend to current Notre Dame senior Paul Moya from Los Lunas, N.M.

Wish Granted to Cheer for Irish

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cheerhoop.jpg South Bend Tribune - Hope Mullery dreams of being a cheerleader for the University of Notre Dame.

That's not surprising. The fourth-grade student who lives in Danville, Pa., is one in a line of big-time Notre Dame fans, according to Joselle DeRemer, her mother.

"Her father's family is Irish and they are all Notre Dame fans," DeRemer says.

Mom says that her family and the family of Hope's stepfather, Bill DeRemer, all root for the Irish.

The family has another connection to the college and the football team.

"My dad coached Ron Powlus in high school," Joselle DeRemer says of the former Irish quarterback.

Now, a large contingent of the family is in South Bend to cheer for Notre Dame and to cheer for 9-year-old Hope as well.

Hope, who is battling cystic fibrosis, got a special gift when the Make a Wish Foundation granted her desire to be a University of Notre Dame cheerleader for a weekend.

Hope practiced with the cheerleaders Thursday.

"I learned two cheers and did stunts and tumbling," Hope says.

She says that she can't remember the names of the cheers, but in one of them the cheerleaders yelled, "Go Irish!"

On Friday, Hope and her family used the tunnel that the players and cheerleaders use to enter the field. Hope walked in with the cheerleaders during Friday's pep rally, and she will practice with them prior to today's game with Michigan State.

What game-day experience would be complete without engaging in a little tailgating, and Hope will dine on some pre-game eats in the parking lot.

Hope's reaction to the activities that she will be involved in this weekend is a combination of understatement and wide-eyed excitement. In short, she was a typical fourth-grader.

"I think it's gonna be really fun," she says.

Mom says that her daughter deserves to have some fun.

"This is awesome. It's wonderful to see her get this dream because she wants to be a cheerleader," DeRemer says.

"Hopefully, here at Notre Dame."

DeRemer says the treatment for cystic fibrosis is very difficult.

"It's a challenging day-to-day routine that she has to follow, so it's nice to break the monotony of all of the medications, even if she still has to do the treatments and physical therapy," DeRemer says.

"It's nice to enjoy this atmosphere. It makes us all feel better."

Always Remember

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Never Forget

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Hear It From a Student - Done Streaking

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5647007.jpeg The women's soccer team has dominated the BIG EAST Conference throughout its 17 seasons in the league, which made Friday afternoon's 1-0 home loss to Louisville that much more stunning.

The Cardinals scored in the 57th minute and used a conservative defensive approach to pull off the upset in what was the conference-opener for both squads.

As the clock ticked down, the crowd at Alumni Stadium tried to will the Irish to victory, but to no avail.

The Cardinals' win was their first win over the Irish since Sept. 24, 1989. Since Louisville joined the BIG EAST, the Irish were a perfect 6-0 against the foe from the Bluegrass State, including a 5-0 road win in 2010 over a ranked Louisville squad.

Notre Dame now takes a two-game losing streak into Sunday's match at Cincinnati after seeing its 62-game unbeaten streak in regular-season BIG EAST play go to the wayside.

After taking a conservative approach on offense in the first half, the Cardinals opened the second half on the attack and they reaped the reward when Christine Exeter broke through the Irish defense near the sideline and sent a cross into the goal box that bounced past two Irish defenders. The pass found Erin Yenny, who drilled it past a diving Maddie Fox for the deciding goal. The goal was Yenny's first collegiate goal in her seventh start.

Louisville's youth shined throughout the game, led by Exeter, last season's BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. Many of the Cardinals' scoring chances came through Exeter's aggressive play, which was evident as early as the 13th minute of the game when she split two defenders with her speed before misfiring a shot on goal.

Louisville seemed to play for the tie in the first half, packing its defenders in the middle of the field. As a result, the Irish were forced to use the sidelines to send crosses.

Notre Dame's best first-half opportunity came in the first minute when Melissa Henderson worked her way open in the goal box only to see Louisville goalkeeper Chloe Kiefer deflect her shot. That proved to be Henderson's only shot on goal for the game, a rarity for the team's leading scorer and Hermann Trophy candidate.

Notre Dame had hoped to leave its goal scoring woes on the West Coast, but continued to struggle cashing in on chances throughout the game. The Irish controlled the ball for most of the game and took 20 shots (compared to Louisville's 10) and only managed to land six shots on goal.

Notre Dame's best look in the second half came off a corner kick in the 61st minute. Jessica Schuveiller reeled in Henderson's corner kick and fired a shot. However, a Louisville defender stood in the shot's way to record a key save.

- Matt Unger ('14)

Food and Football

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Where Amazing Happens

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Bettis Inducted Into Michigan Sports Hall of Fame

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jeromebettis-ST.jpg The Detroit News The entire evening became a blur for former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. He shook hands, hugged strangers and high-stepped it through the crowd between radio and television interviews.

Bettis was one of eight people inducted Thursday night into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame at the Suburban Showcase, and it seemed as if everybody wanted a piece of him.

One of his stops was to shake hands with Detroit Martin Luther King running back Dennis Norfleet, who was a recipient of the Dave Bing Scholarship for Leadership and Achievement. The NFL veteran and the high school student hugged and exchanged words.

Bettis used to be the wide-eyed football player thrilled to meet anybody who found success in the game. He chose football over bowling and now is a Hall of Fame member. He passed along some advice to young athletes during his speech.

"You got to love the game because if you love the game you will do what you need to do in order to be successful," Bettis said. "This game is going to take a lot of sacrifice. If you love the game you will do whatever it takes to have success. That means your education is taken care of. It means getting up at 5:00 in the morning to work out. Whatever you do you've got to love it."

Bettis had asthma as a child and almost did not play football. But an uncle told him to introduce himself to Mackenzie coach Robert Dozier and a budding career began.

"It was definitely an amazing journey," Bettis said. "You never prepare or plan for the Hall of Fame. That is not in the plans."

Following Flynt - Freshman Friday

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brinza.jpgFighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. This is the first in a new 'Freshman Friday' feature on Irish UNDerground. This week focuses on kicker Kyle Brindza ...

I decided to attend the University of Notre Dame because ...
I was born in Indiana and grew up as a Notre Dame fan. My grandpa is a graduate of the university. When I was looking at colleges, Coach Kelly really drew me here to Notre Dame.

The thing I have enjoyed most about Notre Dame ...
The team - we're so close. Coming from high school, I didn't think we would be that close, but we are a really tight-knit group. We have a lot of fun together outside of football.

Something interesting about me that people might not know about ...
I was born with a clubfoot and had to have surgery when I was born. I've had eight surgeries on my kicking foot. The most recent one was in sixth grade.

The thing I miss most about home is ...
My high school coach (Mike Sawchuk) and my team (Plymouth Wildcats). Coach Sawchuk has been a father figure to me.

Over my next four years at Notre Dame, I am most looking forward to ...
Winning a national championship. I am very confident we can win one with this coaching staff and group of players.

Getting to know Kyle Brindza ...

Hometown: Canton, Mich.
Dorm: Zahm
Nickname: "The Foot"
Favorite class: Intro to Jazz
Intended major: Business
Favorite dining hall food: Chinese
Favorite movie: The Lincoln Lawyer
Favorite song: "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" by Jake Owen
Favorite actor/actress:
Will Smith
Favorite sport other than football: Soccer
Favorite athlete: Tim Tebow
Favorite professional team: Tennessee Titans
Hobbies outside of football:
Hanging with my teammates and watching sports

Mike Lee Bringing New Fans to Boxing

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Chicago Sun-Times - At this point in his career, the story Mike Lee brings to the ring is as important as the skills he uses once inside it.

If he can develop the skills it will allow him to become what his adopted sport so desperately needs, a crossover star who can draw a new demographic to boxing.

"What I'm starting to capture is a lot of sports fans who aren't necessarily boxing fans," Lee said. "That's really what the sport needs. There are so many little kids and guys who come up to me after fights and say, 'This was our first boxing match. We'll be at every one of your fights from now on.'"

Mike Lee is coming home, not to Wheaton, where he grew up, but to Notre Dame, where on Friday night the light heavyweight will headline the first professional boxing card staged on university grounds. All proceeds of the six-bout card, which will be held at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, will benefit the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center.

It's appropriate venue because it was on the campus known for its gilded dome that a child of privilege earned a finance degree after graduating near the top of his class only to discover that he wanted to pursue a sport dominated by athletes on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum.

"There's something about the electricity of fight night," Lee said. "I can't explain it."

His story is what makes him unique. He started out playing multiple sports like a lot of suburban kids but struggled to channel his aggression. When an opposing hockey player spit in his face, for example, Lee punched him and a brawl ensued in the post-game handshake line of a youth hockey tournament.

Women's Hoops Ranked No. 1 In Preseason Poll

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4654153.jpeg South Bend Tribune - Women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw rolled out the basketballs for the four-player workout sessions that the NCAA allows before the full-team practices start. The expectations were already waiting for the Fighting Irish.

The Sporting News preseason poll has McGraw's Irish ranked No. 1.

"Not in my rankings, we're not No.1," shot back the tough-to-please McGraw.

But the Irish, last season's national runners-up, won't be taking notice of preseason rankings.

"We ignore it," McGraw said. "It doesn't mean anything. Our focus has been on getting ready to have that target on our backs. In some ways, it's easier to say, 'You know we have that target on our back, now it's getting a little bit bigger,' and getting them ready to handle that kind of pressure.

"We always have a target on our back at Notre Dame. I think there's a difference. Sometimes the expectations can really change things. Last year, we saw ourselves as the underdog. Now, we aren't in that role anymore."

McGraw said that she is confident the Irish upperclassmen can handle the expectations, and that she and her staff are working to make sure the sophomores and freshmen are ready for the pressure.

A New Look for UND.com

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Today we're launching a redesign of the UND.com site. This includes a complete redesign of the individual sport pages and a new standard content page. Some of the major changes to the site are addressed below.

This is the first in a series of steps we will be taking over the coming months to refine the online experience of Notre Dame Athletics.

What We've Addressed (So Far)

  1. Updated header with a more efficient use of space
  2. Simplified global navigation, prominent links to official social media channels and better-positioned search
  3. Simplified tool for getting video content quickly and easily
  4. A bigger, bolder and more prominent 'Feature Story' area with clearer, simpler thumbnail interaction
  5. Repositioned rotating graphic content that reinforces the visual dominance of the 'Feature Story'
  6. Redesigned 'Football Countdown' clock with prominent link to the football schedule, which is consistently among the most popular pages at UND.com
  7. New content layout that clarifies where users should look for certain kinds of content and allows for flexibility in overall content length
  8. Prominent position for social media content from official Twitter and Facebook profiles as well as a new blogging tool
  9. Interactive events tool that provides quick access to all Notre Dame Athletics events and the various channels with which users can access content related to these events

SiteDesign_schematic.jpg 1. Updated header with a more efficient use of space

We felt the old header used too many pixels to present very little content. Our new header has been shortened. We're allowing the Notre Dame Monogram - one of the most recognizable symbols in all of sports - to do more of the branding work, which allows the words "Notre Dame" to be smaller.

Reducing the overall size of the site branding frees up the right side of the header for a new (at this point, experimental) way to get a quick, at-a-glance view of the athletic events on tap for the next couple of days. This is not the only way to interact with our events content. There a few ways to access our 'Events' content:

  • The 'Schedule' link in the global navigation
  • Sport-specific schedules on our 'Sport' subpages
  • The "at-a-glance" 'Event' slider in the header
  • The new interactive event slider at the bottom of the UND.com homepage and all 'Sport' index pages.

The large banner ad that was previously the highest element on the page has been moved into the right-hand side bar, below the new 'Video' area and re-sized to a standard sidebar ad shape. This allows us to free up the 'Tickets', 'Store', 'Auctions' and 'Support' links and position them in a "sticky" bar that remains fixed as the user scrolls the page. Any view of any page on the site now has quick access to these choices from any scroll point in the page.

2. Simplified global navigation

The overall site architecture has been re-evaluated and resorted into a new, much more simplified group of global navigation items. The old site had two rows worth of global navigation with 16 different choices. The updated global navigation reduces this available choices to seven. The goal here is to get users to the content they are looking for with minimal confusion.

To aid in this, we've repositioned the 'Search' field (which has always been a part of the homepage design, though long-time users may have missed it). The search field uses Google's custom search technology to make all of the content of UND.com quickly available. Hopefully this provides users with a good navigation solution that will be made progressively better and prominent search as a fail-safe.

There is still a lot for us to learn about how users interact with this updated global navigation and refinements to this area will happen frequently as we move forward.

3. Simplified tool for accessing video content

The old site design relied on a Flash element to get users from the home page to our video content. We have removed the old "thumbnail" video viewer from this section. Our 'Video Channel' page has a much larger viewing area for video content and provides easier access to other videos in one interface. We felt that the thumbnail viewer on the homepage distracted from getting users to the video channel.

As before, all video content "sorts" by sport. So when you visit, say, our 'Softball' page, you'll be presented with a list of 'Softball'-only video content.

Our vendor does not yet provide an HTML5 video tool, so our video channel content will not work on iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. We will address this at the earliest possible opportunity. In the mean time we are committed to populating our official YouTube channel with video content for our iOS users.

4. Prominent 'Feature Story' area

The 'Feature Story, area has been made significantly larger and more prominent. In the old site design, the feature area competed for attention with a rotating graphic content element, and the general headline content was position in a different column.

The relationship between these elements has been re-thought, and everything has been repositioned to provide a clear hierarchy of content based on importance - feature stories at the top, followed by graphic rotation for special announcements, then headlines (which are discussed below).

The play/pause and skip controls have been removed from the feature story. The story will continue to rotate, but selecting another story is as simple as clicking one of the four thumbnail stories. Additionally, these thumbnails now have a clear title that gives users more information about the story content before making a selection.

We will continue to stream some of the more popular live events through this feature space as we have done in the past.

5. Repositioned rotating graphic content

The rotating graphic element at the top of the old design was a valuable piece of real-estate for presenting different kinds of content then the feature stories. The old position of this element at the top of a content column distracted from the prominence of the more important feature story.

The option of presenting some content in a rotating graphic has been preserved, but the rotation has been repositioned below the feature story where it supports the most important content, rather than distract from it.

6. Redesigned 'Football Countdown' clock

This doesn't represent a major change, as this element has always existed on the site. We're noting it here because the countdown clock will no feature the opponent logo and a redesigned interface and - perhaps more importantly - a permanent sidebar link to the 'Football Schedule' page which is consistently one of the most popular pages on the entire UND.com domain.

7. New streamlined content layout

Very little of the content that was previously present on the old design has actually been removed. The new design reflects an easier means of interacting with that content.

The new layout features clearly labeled columns that allow the content the freedom to expand in length as needed. The previous design was much more modular, in the sense that everything was contained within boxy elements. We've moved away from that kind of layout in favor of columns. All headline content is now presented in the left column.

8. Addition of social media content

Next to the 'Headlines' column is a column devoted to social media content, including spaces for interaction with the official Notre Dame Athletics Facebook page and the UND.com Twitter profile (@UND_com). Additionally, we are now using a new blogging platform powered by Moveable Type. Currently, the official Irish UNDerground blog through which you are reading this post will manage our blog content but there are plans are in the works to expand blogging in the coming months.

9. New 'Events' interactive scrolling element

We've added CBS College Sport's powerful events element to the bottom of the UND.com home page as well as a sport-specific version on each 'Sport' home page. This element provides users to see all upcoming Notre Dame athletic events, as well as review the results of past events. It also draws together convenient links to our Watch Live options as well as GameTracker and other broadcast options as available.

To make a long story short ...

We're proud of the work that's been accomplished to refine the user experience at UND.com but we have a long way to go before we are finished. Today's site refresh represents the first step in what will be a long process of consistent refinement. Thanks for your continued support of the site.

- Tim O'Connor (@oaknd1)

McHugh In Peru

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Kelly's Post-Practice Comments - 9.15.11

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Hear It From a Student - Getting There

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p1_crowdsurfing_denimskirt.jpg I'm getting a little nervous.

I know our losses have been overwhelming. The first was unexpected and the second should not have happened - everything that could have gone wrong, did. I know we've had 10 turnovers in our first two games, but those two games also yielded 1,021 total yards of offense. That's the kind of up and down emotional roller coaster that leaves us more depleted than getting crushed.

We are 0-2 and preparing to face a team that is far better and ranked higher than our first two opponents. Merchandise tents are going up near Notre Dame Stadium and alumni are beginning to roam campus - sure signs of game day approaching. So, yeah, I'm feeling slightly anxious.

Frankly, I'm proud that I still have the ability to feel nervous. Everyone else seems to have lost it. ESPN's Tim Keown says now is the time to declare a moratorium on Notre Dame football and to stop expecting greatness simply because it once existed in the past.

"It's the Zen approach: If there are no expectations, there can be no disappointment," he writes. "Only success."

Keown is not alone is his thinking. There is no shortage of people around me who are emotionally detaching themselves from Irish football.

"It hurts too much," they tell me. "Nothing surprises me anymore."

I'm sorry, but I don't want the Zen approach. Whoever watched football to be Zen? Yes, I'm going to devote countless hours of attention, thought and conversation to a game played by a group of young men I don't even know because that sounds Zen.

The nature of being a fan of football is passion and irrationality. That's just the way it is. Otherwise, everyone would be a fair-weather fan and change their team with the wind every year.

When I was in Ann Arbor last week, I saw a Michigan fan holding a sign that said: "Notre Dame - Returning To Glory Since 1993."

It's funny because it's true. No really, it is. But what if that's our strength, not our weakness? What other place is more determined, more headstrong, more irrationally passionate? Nowhere but Notre Dame.

We'll get there. Because we don't know where else to go.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

545136.jpegFighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. Here's a look at five things to watch for during the coming weekend both on and off the field ...

'66 Saturday: Celebrating the 45th anniversary of its famous 10-10 tie with the Spartans, Ara Parseghian's 1966 national championship Irish team will be on campus this weekend. More than 80 representatives from this team will be recognized prior to kickoff, and Parseghian and members of his squad will also be present at Friday's pep rally on Irish Green. The 1966 season was Parseghian's first of two championship years while coaching the Fighting Irish. Though his coaching and broadcasting days have long been over, the legendary Irish leader and his family founded the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 1994. The organization is dedicated to funding research projects to find a treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C, a rare genetic disease that took the lives of three of Parseghian's grandchildren.

FIGHTING Irish: On Friday night, three-time Bengal Bouts champion Mike Lee ('09) will highlight the first-ever professional boxing card on Notre Dame's campus. Proceeds from the match will benefit South Bend's Robinson Learning Center and the Ara Parseghian Foundation. In his young professional career, Lee is a perfect 6-0 with four knockouts. Lee recently appeared in a Subway commercial alongside Ryan Howard, Michael Strahan and fellow Notre Dame graduate Justin Tuck ('05). The former finance major will square off against Kansas native Jacob Stiers in a four-round light heavyweight bout. Regis Philbin will be among the notable alumni on campus this weekend, and the 1953 graduate will serve as master of ceremonies.

Protecting the Ball: Turnovers, especially in the red zone, have haunted the Irish in the young season. With five in each of its first two games, Notre Dame sits last in the FBS for turnover margin. Even with three or four turnovers in each of the games against USF and Michigan, many believe the Irish would be 2-0 heading into this weekend. Penalties have also been a weak spot for Notre Dame, prolonging opposing drives and cutting offensive possessions short. They have registered 17 for 148 yards. Despite facing a 2-0 and 15th-ranked Michigan State squad, many college football pundits believe Saturday's game is Notre Dame's to win, as long as the Irish hold on to the football and eliminate costly mental errors.

Runnin' Down a Dream: Although overshadowed by the 0-2 record, there are several bright spots from the first two games of the Irish season. One of these is the new-found game on the ground. Though there is not much depth at the running back position, Cierre Wood opened the year with consecutive 100-yard performances and Jonas Gray bounced back from a tough season-opener for 68 yards on six carries against Michigan. The Irish have not had a running back eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since Darius Walker ran for 1,267 in 2006, but if Wood stays healthy and continues to get great support from the offensive line, he could be headed towards this significant milestone. Either way, the combination of Wood and Gray provides the Irish with a strong backfield duo, a part of the offense that has been lacking in recent years. For the Irish to be successful this Saturday and throughout the remainder of the season, continued strong performances from the rushing game will be very important.

Down to the Wire: If recent history is any indication, we can expect another nail-biter between Notre Dame and Michigan State. As I mentioned on Irish UNDerground earlier this week, nine of the last 11 meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. Notre Dame and Michigan State have played some classic games during the past decade and with the exception of 2007-08, when Michigan State won two in a row, it has been a back-and-forth rivalry. Particularly memorable Irish highlights came in 2002, 2006 and 2009.

Samardzija Not Too Worried About Football's 0-2 Start

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2448515.jpeg "They look good, man," said Jeff Samardzija, a former All-America receiver for the Irish. "I don't think it's anything serious. They just can't turn the ball over nine times in two games. It's just like walking people in baseball. You can't turn the ball over in football, period."

Atkins Looking Forward to Leading Irish

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eric-atkins-notre-dame.jpgBaltimore Sun - In the fall of 2006, Mount St. Joseph coach Pat Clatchey gave Eric Atkins the ball and asked the ninth-grader to lead his team.

Mike Brey didn't go quite that far with Atkins last season. But the Notre Dame coach had no problem giving Atkins more responsibility than your average freshman point guard in the Big East.

"I was extremely pleased with what he was able to do coming off the bench ... and actually starting a little bit," Brey said. "He believes he's supposed to be good. He knew it was his destiny to be a really high-level Big East guard. He prepared for it mentally. Even though his body was young last year, he was able to be a very efficient player in the Big East because of his discipline."

Atkins may have had a modest season statistically for the Fighting Irish last year (5.8 points, 3.2 assists, 1.8 rebounds), but the two-time Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro player proved to Brey and other Big East observers that his best was yet to come.

"I think I had a really good experience as a freshman last year," Atkins said. "Coach Brey told me before the season that pretty much everything was going to be done just the way it happened. He told me how my playing time was going to be. I knew how it was going to play out."

For those who watched Atkins' decorated four-year career at Mount St. Joseph unfold, seeing him appear in all 34 games - and starting six - for the Irish was no surprise. The Columbia native proved to Brey early on in his freshman season that he was up to the challenge. Notre Dame (27-7) reached the championship game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando last November. In the Irish's 58-51 title-game win over Wisconsin, Brey said Atkins - who scored 12 points against the Badgers - was arguably "the most consistent player" on the floor.

"The first couple of weeks [of practice], there were times that he was the best guard on the floor," said Brey, whose team also featured senior guard Ben Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year. "[Atkins'] ability to find guys at the right time, understanding tempo and controlling the tempo as a point guard, those were things [that immediately stood out]. In the Wisconsin game, and really the whole Old Spice tournament ... [he was] making big plays for us and really helped us win there. When Carleton Scott got hurt, we beat St. John's and Connecticut with him starting for us. That's why this season I'm so excited to just give him the ball and say, 'It's your team.'"

Beating UConn in Storrs was a definite highlight for Atkins, although watching the Huskies win the national title brought on somewhat of a bittersweet feeling.

"It kind of made me mad to see them win the national championship knowing we beat them twice last year," Atkins said. "It's just kind of frustrating, but our team knew what we were capable of doing. I wouldn't say we reached our potential last year, losing in the second round [of the NCAA tournament]. But we're ready to build up and [our time] is coming."

Looking back on the 2010-11 season, Atkins said he was pleased with how he performed, but acknowledged there was plenty of room for improvement. He spent the summer focused on two key areas: improving his jumper and adding strength. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound sophomore added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame, which Brey expects to make a big difference in Atkins' ability to handle the physicality of Big East competition.

Atkins credits Clatchey for teaching him how to be a leader. It didn't come naturally to Atkins as a freshman at Notre Dame, but this season he's definitely up to the task.

"I'm looking forward to becoming one of the leaders of this team," Atkins said. "Leading my team to wins, whatever I have to do to make that happen, if it's scoring, assists, locking down the other team's best offensive player, whatever they need, I want to do it. ... Getting back to the tournament, that's my first goal. Winning the Big East is another goal, and just probably finishing in the top three again, just like we did before, would be another team goal of mine."

Brey, who welcomes back two senior captains in Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin, has already noticed Atkins becoming more vocal in the locker room. Atkins may have "learned by survival" as a freshman, but with an improved jump shot and much-needed strength, the former Gaels star seems primed for an expanded role this season.

"I'm just looking for him to make a big jump so that by the end of the season, Eric Atkins will be referred to as one of the better guards in the Big East," Brey said. "I feel strongly about his career here. It makes me sleep well at night, knowing he's the guy running the team for three more years."

Fans Help Save Man at Notre Dame-Michigan Game

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alg_notre_dame_fans.jpg

Detroit Free Press - A Notre Dame fan who suffered cardiac arrest during last football weekend's game at Michigan survived to watch the final touchdowns from a hospital bed.

The school says 69-year-old Leo Staudacher's heart stopped beating during the second quarter of Saturday night's game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The Bay City man survived thanks in part to one football fan who began CPR and others who called for a medical team.

The medical team used an automated electric defibrillator and he was transported to the University of Michigan Health System, where he was diagnosed with having a heart attack.

After treatment at the hospital, he watched part of the final quarter from an intensive care unit bed - and saw Michigan's thrilling 35-31 win.


Daily Dish - 9.15.11

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4757576.jpeg- All of NBC's Notre Dame football games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com ... "Notre Dame Extra" will feature a simulcast of the broadcast feed in full HD quality plus one additional online-only bonus camera ... the video player will include picture-in-picture capability and full DVR functionality, allowing the user to pause the live video and even review plays in "slo-mo" ... this season, fans will receive live in-game tweets from sideline reporter Alex Flanagan and a live in-game chat from Inside the Irish blogger Keith Arnold ... additionally, fans can also watch live coverage of the Notre Dame and visiting teams' bands at halftime, in-game highlights, as well as a live, online-only post-game footage that will include head coach Brian Kelly's press conference.

- Former Irish defensive lineman Paul Grasmanis last night was inducted onto the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame ... tonight, former Irish running back Jerome Bettis is inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fane ... next Wednesday, former Irish stars Dave Casper and Rocky Bleier receive awards at the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame induction event at Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero.

- Notre Dame's 2011 football opponents so far are a combined 12-5 (.705), so Notre Dame's schedule ranks 21st this week in terms of difficulty ... Big 12 teams hold the top eight spots in that survey, with Missouri (at 10-0) followed by Kansas (12-1), Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

Kelly's Post-Practice Comments - 9.14.11

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Daily Dish - 9.14.11

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3887207.jpeg- The men's golf team concluded the Gopher Invitational in third place after firing a final round 307 (+19) at Spring Hill Golf Course in Wayzata, Minn. ... individually, Max Scodro led the way for the Irish after posting a 219 (+3) score ... the Irish entered Monday's final round holding a four-shot advantage over Arkansas, but could not hold on to the lead as the Razorbacks rode a final round 299 (+11) to secure the title at 16-over par (880) for the three rounds.

- Four traditional home indoor meets highlight a 24-meet indoor and outdoor track and field schedule that head coach Joe Piane released recently ... the Meyo Track plays host to four meets during the indoor season including the Blue & Gold Invitational (Dec. 2), Notre Dame Invitational (Jan. 21), Meyo Invitational (Feb. 3-4) and Alex Wilson Invitational (March 2-3) ... the Meyo Invitational, including the famous Meyo Mile race, will be held for the 26th time ... the BIG EAST Indoor Championships are scheduled for Feb. 18-19 in New York, N.Y. ... the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships will be hosted by South Florida May 4-6 in Tampa, Fla.

- Head coach Tim Welsh recently announced the release of the men's swimming and diving 2011-12 schedule following an extremely beneficial and successful summer for the program ... the season's rather traditional schedule begins Oct. 14 with the 47th edition of the Dennis Stark Relays at the on-campus Rolfs Aquatic Center ... the first half of the schedule comes to an end when Irish student-athletes will compete at the USA Winter Nationals (Dec. 1-3), Iowa Invitational (Dec. 2-4) and Ohio State Invitational (Dec. 2-4) ... this year's BIG EAST Championships will be held at Pittsburgh's Trees Pool ... the diving portion spans from Feb. 10-12 and the swimming events take place from Feb. 15-18.

- Head softball coach Deanna Gumpf announced the upcoming fall and spring schedules for the Fighting Irish, which includes 15 home dates at Melissa Cook Stadium for the 2012 campaign ... in addition, Notre Dame will play host to the BIG EAST Conference Championship for the first time since 2007 ... Notre Dame also hosted the league championship in 1998, 2005 and 2006.

- Two members of the women's lacrosse team - Meredith Locasto and Kelly Driscoll - have been selected to the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) academic honor roll for the 2011 campaign ... the two Irish players were among a group of 187 Division I women's lacrosse juniors and seniors with 3.5 grade-point averages or better or ranked in the top 10 percent of their team to be honored by the coaches' association ... the Notre Dame team also was among 56 Division I institutions to earn Academic Squad honors ... as a team, the Notre Dame had a 3.238 grade-point average ... Locasto graduated summa cum laude with a degree in accountancy from the prestigious Mendoza College of Business following her junior year, earning the top grade-point average among all Irish women's lacrosse juniors and seniors with a 3.967 grade-point average for the 2009-10 school year ... Locasto completed her master's of science with a 3.856 GPA.

- The Notre Dame vs. Michigan State football game will feature a pre-game flyover by two USAF A-10Cs ... the national colors will be presented by Richard A. Nussbaum II, president of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, an attorney in South Bend and a member of the University's Board of Trustees ... he will be accompanied by his wife, Mary Pat ... they will be joined by three members of the women's basketball team who led the United States to the gold medal this summer in the World University Games - Devereaux Peters, Natalie Novosel and Skylar Diggins ... just before kickoff more than 80 representatives of the 1966 Notre Dame national championship football team will be introduced as they return for their 45th reunion ... at halftime the women's basketball team will be recognized for its 2011 NCAA runner-up finish, as will head coach Muffet McGraw for her 2011 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction.

Irish Connection - 9.14.11

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Rodgers Joins Marquette Lacrosse Staff

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v13i10_Rodgers.jpg GoMarquette.com - Marquette has announced the addition of volunteer assistant coach Scott Rodgers to its coaching staff.

Rodgers, who will primarily be working with Marquette's goalies as well as helping out with the team's strength and conditioning, played his collegiate career at Notre Dame and is currently a member of the Hamilton Nationals of Major League Lacrosse and the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League.

During his time at Notre Dame, Rodgers played in 38 games, including 31 starts and posted a 6.77 goals-against average and a .642 save percentage in his career. In 2010, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship game after a 15-save performance in a 6-5 overtime loss to Duke in the national championship.

Rodgers, a two-time All-America honoree for the Fighting Irish, lead the nation in save percentage twice (2009 and 2010) and in goals-against average in 2009. He left Notre Dame with a 24-6 career mark in between the pipes.

In addition to receiving national recognition for his on-field performance, Rodgers was also a finalist for the 2010 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes student-athletes for great achievement during competition and in their community. Rodgers graduated Notre Dame with a degree in Sociology.

Rodgers was selected seventh overall in the 2010 Major League Lacrosse draft by the Hamilton Nationals and 15th overall by the Minnesota Swarm. The Wantagh, N.Y., native played in eight games for the Nationals and helped the team to a championship appearance in his rookie season.

"I am really excited to be working with Marquette University's men's lacrosse team, because it is an up and coming division I team, starting from the ground up," said Rodgers. "To get my career off in strength and conditioning and in the lacrosse coaching world is a great opportunity offered by Coach Amplo, so I just appreciate it."

The Workout Irish Rowing Loves To Hate

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Notre Dame Partners With Maverik Lacrosse

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laxglove.jpg Maverik Lacrosse announced Tuesday a multi-year partnership with the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team. With this agreement, Maverik is now the official equipment supplier of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame will receive custom designed Maverik gloves, shoulder pads and elbow guards. Additionally, they will have a vast arsenal of Maverik equipment to choose from including the new Spider 1 and Flight heads, as well as the Boost, H2 and Wonderboy shafts. Maverik will also provide the Irish with everything needed for on-field play from chest protectors to Maverik game balls.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with Maverik for all our lacrosse equipment needs. Maverik has proven to be smart, innovative and committed to the growth of the game. Most importantly, I believe they are a great fit for us because we share the same values and goals for the sport and for our program. They are committed to helping us provide the best experience for our student-athletes," said Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan.

In recent years, Notre Dame has had tremendous success under the guidance of Corrigan and his staff. Most notably in 2010, the Irish battled their way to an NCAA Division I National Championship Game and fell in the final. In 2011, Notre Dame ascended to the No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history and again returned to the NCAA Championship weekend where its season came to an end in the quarterfinals.

All signs point to the Fighting Irish making an even bigger showing in 2012.

"Notre Dame is the most recognized university in the world because of its top academics and athletic department. Coach Corrigan has done an outstanding job building Notre Dame's program into a title contender," said John Gagliardi, president and founder of Maverik Lacrosse. "We are proud to be partners with an elite program like the Notre Dame lacrosse family."

Following Flynt - Walk-on Wednesday

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. This is the first in a new 'Walk-on Wednesday' feature on Irish UNDerground.

"You're five-foot nothin', 100 and nothin', and you have barely a speck of athletic ability ..."

Though it is certainly not the case that the Notre Dame football walk-ons have "barely a speck of athletic ability" as Fortune suggested to Rudy, some of them, as is true with fifth-year cornerback Nick Lezynski, do compare to the now-legendary Ruettiger in their size and stature.

The 2011 marketing graduate from Newtown, Pa., is listed at 5-foot-9, 180 lbs. on the official Notre Dame roster, but it's unclear if those measurements were taken before or after donning the shoulder pads and gold helmet.

No matter the sport, it takes a certain level of commitment to play Division I athletics, especially at an institution with the academic rigors of Notre Dame. Walking-on is a particularly telling sign of one's love for the sport, as few walk-on athletes ever see significant playing time.

"Notre Dame football has always been it for me - kind of the gold so to speak, the treasure pot at the end of the rainbow," Lezynski says. "I just decided to try out and go for it all."

After passing the general conditioning and agility workout during the winter of his freshman year, Lezynski and 10-12 remaining athletes (from the original group of 60-70) worked out until spring practice.

"We were in the Gug at like 4:30 a.m., three or four days per week, doing conditioning, body weight exercises, push-ups, sit-ups, a ton of them. If you survived, you were put on the spring roster."

Though he is now a cornerback, Lezynski tried out at quarterback - the position he played in high school - because Jimmy Clausen was the only quarterback on the spring roster while backup Evan Sharpley was playing baseball for the Irish.

After making it through spring practice, and even completing a pass in the Blue-Gold game, Lezynski received the news - he had reached that "pot of gold" - he was officially a Notre Dame football player.

Last season, he saw some action on special teams, including a kickoff return play in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame's 23-16 victory over Pittsburgh.

"That was really fulfilling for me because it was meaningful playing time and I always wanted to contribute to a close Notre Dame win."

Among Notre Dame's unique characteristics are the particularly strong lifelong friendships that students develop during their time here. Sports build relationships and football players are known to have an especially strong bond.

For Fighting Irish walk-ons, this connection is commonly referred to as 'WOPU Nation' (Walk-on Players Union).

"We added 'Nation' because it sounds better," he says. "My group of walk-ons and the guys that were a year or two older, we just had a really good bond both in and out of football. Those are guys that we're going to be friends with for the rest of our lives.

"It's a brotherhood, not like a fraternity, though I guess it could be equated to that. But really it's just something we're proud of. We're like any other social group, I suppose. We have formals, t-shirts, e-mail chains, members and honorary members. A lot of the scholarship guys have wanted to be a part of it."

They refer to Mike Anello ('09), who gained widespread recognition for his role as a key Irish special teams player, as the "godfather of WOPU Nation." Last year's president of WOPU, Lezynski has since handed the reins over to senior Sean Oxley. "I'm the president emeritus," he jokes. "The man behind the scenes."

While it may sound like a goofy exclusive club to the average outsider, it is much more than that and it's something that current and former walk-ons hold close to heart.

"The older guys are still very much a part of it and we want to be able to carry on that tradition. We like to talk trash to one another and we make fun of ourselves, but we do it for Notre Dame first. WOPU is for having that pride in Notre Dame. We want to be Notre Dame men and we want to spread that to other people, let other people share in it."

Though every walk-on story seems to beg the comparison to the famous movie, it's not just Lezynski's unassuming figure, but also his love for Notre Dame that parallels Ruettiger's story.

No. 42 for the Fighting Irish is "gold and blue, through and through." His parents and sister graduated from the University, and his brother, Blaise is a freshman baseball player for the Irish. And the name of his high school? Notre Dame, of course.

Lezynski hopes to eventually pursue a career in sports, perhaps in a professional front office, college athletics administration or coaching.

"I've always wanted to be a coach, ever since I was little," he says. "I guess I knew I wouldn't be able to play for a long time."

But four years as part of the Notre Dame football program is certainly longer than even he might have expected when he arrived on campus as a freshman in August 2007.

Though walk-ons do not leave Notre Dame with the statistics, records or celebrity recognition of some scholarship athletes, their passion and appreciation for the university is just as strong.

"Although we've struggled at times, there's never a second guess in striving for excellence in every category. I'm proud of Notre Dame for being a program that's not just striving for success on the field, but also off the field. I like being part of a class organization, excellence and what it stands for, knowing that we have the power, as players, to create a new tradition for Notre Dame based on the commitment and passion of fans and players from the past."

--

Getting to Know Nick Lezynski

Favorite place on campus ... The Grotto

Favorite dining hall food ... NDH pasta stir-fry and make-your-own pizza

Favorite TV show ... 24 - I aspire to be as cool as Jack Bauer some day. He is an honorary member of WOPU Nation.

Favorite sports team ... I have a "Favorite Four" - Bears, Patriots, Saints and Steelers. I sort of root for players and organizations, not necessarily teams. I feel like they run their organizations with the most class.

Favorite athlete while growing up ... Dan Marino and Jackie Robinson

Most played song on iPod ... "Club Can't Handle Me," by Flo Rida. Fellow walk-on Mike Garcia ('11) can attest to that.

Sport I'd be playing if not football ... Lacrosse

- Josh Flynt

Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program throughout the season.

Though USC and Michigan are considered Notre Dame's biggest rivals, the Fighting Irish also have a longstanding, thrilling and sometimes controversial history with this week's opponent in Michigan State.

The Irish currently lead the series 45-28-1, with 27 of those wins coming in South Bend and 16 coming in Notre Dame Stadium. With 74 meetings between the teams, Michigan State is Notre Dame's fourth-most frequent opponent behind only Navy, Purdue and USC.

They first met in 1897, an easy 34-6 victory for Notre Dame. Beginning in 1949, the Megaphone Trophy was introduced to the rivalry. The Detroit alumni clubs of both universities sponsored the trophy, which is half blue and half white with a green and includes the results of the previous games.

Throughout the history of the series, Notre Dame and Michigan State have played several memorable games, perhaps most notably on Nov. 19, 1966. Dubbed the "Game of the Century", both the Irish and the Spartans were undefeated and at the top of the rankings. With the game knotted at 10-10 and just over a minute to play, Irish coach Ara Parseghian elected to play conservatively. Rather than risking a turnover and Notre Dame's No. 1 ranking, the Irish coach ran the clock out.

Many were left disappointed by the lack of a resolution to the game, but Parseghian's strategy paid off. His Irish team wrapped up the season with a 51-0 crushing of USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum. They ended the year undefeated at 9-0-1, securing the University's eighth national championship and the first of two for the legendary coach.

Notre Dame-Michigan State games have not been devoid of excitement in more recent years either, as nine of the last eleven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. In 2002, Arnaz Battle caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Pat Dillingham with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Irish to a 21-17 victory.

In 2005, the Spartans won in South Bend on Jason Teague's 19-yard touchdown run in overtime, spoiling a 21-point Irish comeback. Michigan State's post-game celebration, which included planting their flag in the Notre Dame Stadium field, was the cause of much controversy.

The following year, the Irish staged another memorable comeback, erasing a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit capped by Terrail Lambert's 27-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:53 to play.

In 2009, the Irish won another thriller against Michigan State, this time back in South Bend. Kyle McCarthy's interception at the four-yard line with less than a minute remaining helped preserve a 33-30 win.

And of course, who could forget last year's heart-breaker in East Lansing, when the Spartans pulled the "Little Giants" fake field goal play. After lining up for what appeared to be a game-tying field goal attempt, punter Aaron Bates threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charlie Gantt, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

Based on their last several games, the history and the emotion of the rivalry, don't be at all surprised if Saturday's meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan State comes down to who has the ball last. Let's just hope it ends more like it did in 2002 or 2009 than 2005 or 2010.

- Josh Flynt

Christmas In September

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Caption Contest

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Who needs tickets to the gun show?

Hear It From a Student - That Moment

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5633086.jpeg It's just a game. There are more important things than football. There are more important things at Notre Dame than football.

That is a cop out. If we had won on Saturday in one of the most riveting displays of college athletics that I have ever seen, no one would be saying, "It's just a game."

Last weekend granted me two ultimate moments.

In the moment of our final touchdown, I can honestly say I don't think I have ever felt such pure, unadulterated joy. It was a moment in so bright and blindly ecstatic that I have trouble remembering it perfectly. It is a blur of screaming and love.

I don't have to tell you what came afterward. I don't have to tell you how we felt as we hiked up through the crowds of Michigan fans with our hoods up. You know. Everyone who calls themselves Irish knows.

The second ultimate moment of the weekend was not in the depression afterward. I did not find it in our 45 minutes of complete silence after the game. The disbelief and rage that we talked through in the car ride home was overwhelming, but my second moment came Sunday.

The Mass held for the 10th anniversary of September 11 was somber and completely removed from the world of football. While we walked as a student body to the Grotto bearing candles, I couldn't help but think, "This is the single most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

In a weekend completely saturated with sadness, Notre Dame granted me perfect joy and beauty. There is nowhere else I would rather be.

I know there is certainly a feeling of dread as this weekend approaches. How much more can we take?

But I will forever hold on to that moment in Michigan Stadium as we all jumped around wildly, hugging each other as tightly as we could in the chaos. No matter what we say in our anger and despair in the face of failure, we will never stop hoping.

That moment is too great. That joy is too great.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Following Flynt - Irish Around the League

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While the Irish play their games on Saturdays, the return of the NFL means that some former Domers will be suiting up on the gridiron on Sundays (and occasionally, Thursdays and Mondays, too).

Here's a look at some notable performances around the league from opening week:

- Ryan Grant ('05) and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers kicked off the season at home Thursday against New Orleans. Grant finished the game with 40 yards on nine carries and also caught a five-yard pass in a thrilling 42-34 victory.

- Golden Tate scored the first touchdown of the season for Seattle on Sunday. With 10:20 remaining in the third quarter, Tate caught an eight-yard pass from Tarvaris Jackson for the score, but the Seahawks lost to San Francisco, 33-17.

- Jeff Faine ('03) and John Sullivan ('07) started at center for Tampa Bay and Minnesota, respectively. Both teams dropped their season openers. The Vikings lost to San Diego while Detroit defeated the Bucs.

- Speaking of the Lions, Maurice Stovall ('06) caught one pass for eight yards.

- On the defensive side, Trevor Laws ('07) recorded one tackle for Philadelphia in a 31-13 win over St. Louis and Tom Zbikowski ('07) had six tackles in Baltimore's 35-7 rout of Pittsburgh.

- In Monday night's doubleheader, New England visits Miami while Denver plays host to Oakland. Anthony Fasano ('06) should start at tight end for Miami, while Sergio Brown ('10) could see some playing time at free safety for New England. Brady Quinn ('07) backs up Bronco starting quarterback Kyle Orton, while teammate David Bruton ('09) is second on the depth chart at safety.

- Josh Flynt

Daily Dish - 9.11.11

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5633097.jpeg - Here are some of Irish football coach Brian Kelly's comments from Sunday afternoon's media teleconference:

"Until we clean up the detail things, we can't be a good team. I still believe in this team. I still believe we're going to be a good football team. We're not giving ourselves a chance to be a good team."

"They know how to win. They've got to stop making those little mistakes and we've got to give them a game plan each and every week that puts then in a good situation."

"We're building it the right way. We'll get them there. We're not there yet. I know this journey all too well. I've been on it before. It's frustrating. It's disappointing. We'll break through.There's too many good things happening out there for us not to break through."

"If you look at what Tommy (Rees) did out there, almost throwing for 70 percent completions, getting us into a lot of good run checks, playing against a team that shows all kinds of different pressure packages, that's a very good situation at the end of the day."

"You want to be better in coverage. But the guys that we've got out there - I promise you there's not three All-Americans that we have on the bench."

"I understand we've got to win. Our players want to win. We've got the chance to be a good team. We can't be a good team until we take care of the little things that are cropping up. It's pretty clear that until we get those things taken care of on Saturdays, we'll be a mediocre football team."

- Melissa Henderson scored for the sixth time in the past four matches, as No. 8/7 Notre Dame held the upper hand for much of its contest at No. 17/18 Santa Clara before settling for a 1-1 draw in women's soccer action on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 1,145 fans at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. ... Notre Dame returns home next weekend to open BIG EAST Conference play, as Louisville comes to Alumni Stadium Friday for a 5 p.m. (ET) match.

- No. 14 Notre Dame defeated Bucknell 2-1 on Sunday afternoon in men's soccer action at a sunny Alumni Stadium on the Notre Dame campus ... the Fighting Irish concluded the 10th annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament in second place with a 1-0-1 mark ... Indiana won the event with a 2-0 record ... the victory gave Irish head coach Bobby Clark the most wins in program history ... Clark, who is in his 11th season on the Notre Dame sidelines, has a 129-60-32 record with the Irish ... he moved past Rich Hunter, who was Notre Dame's first varsity head coach from 1977-83.

- Golden Dome Invitational MVP Jeni Houser had 12 kills for Notre Dame during its 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-21) sweep of Valparaiso Sunday at Purcell Pavilion ... the outside hitter led the Irish to a 2-1 record on the weekend while leading all players at the four-team volleyball invitational in hitting (.348), kills/set (3.82) and points/set (4.36).

- Michael Floyd is tied for the lead nationally in receptions with 25 after two games (USC's Robert Woods also has 25).

Irish Connection - 9.11.11

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I Am An American

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Donald O'Connor is the co-founder of Compulsive Pictures and father of Notre Dame softball infielder Kasey O'Connor ('12). A resident of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Donald shares his account from Sept. 11 and the following days with Irish UNDerground.

--

A couple of days after Sept. 11 my company was asked to participate in a public service announcement to promote tolerance and remind people that we are all Americans. Because the airports were closed, the creative director of GSD&M, an advertising agency in Texas, rented a car and had to drive home to New York from a client meeting several states away.

During his long ride, he heard a report on the radio that a person working in a gas station was beaten just because they were of Middle Eastern decent. He then decided to put together the "I am an American" project.

A variety of directors were to go out, interview people and have them say on camera " I am an American". I believe six different directors took part in the project, including the world renown documentary film maker, Albert Maisles. It was all shot one week after that horrible day, but I have to tell you it was one of the most moving experiences in my life. Everybody pitched in. The crew all worked for free, The equipment was donated. Nobody wanted anything out of it. We were just trying to help in our own way.

We started the day on the Brooklyn Promenade, which is directly across the East River from downtown Manhattan. We started at sunrise and since the idea was to just stop people in the street and ask them to be filmed, we needed to make sure we had some people to start with at that early hour.

I brought my daughter, Kasey, and my niece, to be used in the first shot of the day. The eerie thing about that morning was that when we filmed the people on the Promenade, it didn't look real. It looked like there was a backdrop behind us because everything was hazy from all the smoke that was still in the air. It is an old film trick to make fake backdrops look more real by adding smoke or a white netting to defuse a painted backdrop. But this was no painted canvas. This was real. The pile of rubble that was once the World Trade Center was still smoldering and a layer of smoke was still thick in the air even though it was a week later.

There were make shift shrines with candles burning all around and we filmed Kasey and her cousin in front of one of those. After we were done with Kasey, the crew walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and stopped people as they were walking over the bridge to go to work. We traveled that whole day by foot because the traffic was so bad in the city they were asking people not to drive, especially in downtown.

That day we walked all over Manhattan and filmed a priest down the block from Ground Zero. He had traveled up from the south to see if there was anything he could do to help.

We met firemen and policemen, we went through the city to different shrines that were set up. Past the bulletin boards with notes from people looking for information on their missing loved ones. People in restaurants would stop us and feed us. Never asking for anything - just trying to help out people who were trying to do something good. We talked with dozens of volunteers, some of them widows of the fallen heroes.

The whole New York community bonded together in those days after Sept. 11 like I have never seen it before or since.

--

Editor's note: "I am an American" was tabbed as a historic campaign by the Ad Council.

Following Flynt - 10 Years Later

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helmetsticker.jpg Sept. 11, 2001, is forever etched in our memories. A day to our generation what Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963, were to those before us.

None of us will ever forget where we were or who we were with when we heard the tragic news about the terrorist attacks on our country.

Ten years ago today, I sat in Miss Tusa's seventh grade English class at Ballston Spa Middle School, first hearing the news, but still unaware of the magnitude of what happened earlier that morning. On the same day that nearly 3,000 innocent civilians lost their lives, part of our innocence also died for my classmates and me. As 12- and 13-year-olds, the words "terrorism" and "al-Qaeda" were not yet on our radar, but that quickly changed, as our eyes became fixated on the television while listening to the reports from Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings for several days.

Whether or not we knew someone in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania, each of us was affected. For the next few days, weeks or months, many began to recognize the fragility of life, the sobering reality that what we have can be taken from us in an instant. We heard stories of people who were supposed to be in the World Trade Center or on those fateful flights, but for one reason or another had changed their plans on what began as a typical fall Tuesday morning. We learned about those who had gotten out just in time, or who sadly, were unable to escape before the towers crumbled.

Here at Notre Dame, the morning began like any other. A Tuesday in September meant that Irish football was in the air and classes were in full swing. Everything changed when the second plane hit the World Trade Center and it became apparent that the first was not just an unfortunate accident.

"It was surreal. Everything just came to a screeching halt. We were glued to the television. Nobody got much work done that day," recalled senior associate athletic director John Heisler. "Nothing else seemed very important, given the circumstances."

Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

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Live Chat - Football at Michigan

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This time has come for the Battle Under the Lights between Notre Dame and Michigan.

This will be the 39th meeting all-time between the rivals. It is Notre Dame's sixth-most played series and the third-most frequent with any school in the Big Ten. Michigan holds a 22-15-1 lead in the series and took last year's meeting, 28-24, in South Bend. The Wolverines have captured each of the last two meetings in Ann Arbor - 38-0 in 2007 and 38-34 in 2009.

This marks the first night game in the 84-year history of Michigan Stadium. It also represents the first of a Notre Dame record five night games in 2011. Notre Dame owns an all-time mark of 58-33-2 in night games, including a 3-0 record against Michigan.

Irish UNDerground
is here to cover every angle of the historic meeting. Share you questions, comments and complaints throughout the evening.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem. Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Be sure to check us out on Twitter (@UND_com) and Facebook (search for 'Notre Dame Athletics' or 'Notre Dame Football') to enhance your social media experience.


Are You Ready to Go Under the Lights?

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Will You Be Cheering Like This Tonight?

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Hear It From a Student - We Are ND

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studentsection.jpg We are ND.

For such a short sentence, there is so much power behind these words. Standing in the student section and shouting this cheer in unison gives me goose bumps every time.

However, after last weekend's performance there is a feeling of skepticism about what this season will bring ... if Notre Dame will be able to live up to its tradition and its history.


My answer to his question is a simple but resounding "no".

Even though players like Manti Te'o, Tommy Rees, and Kapron Lewis-Moore perhaps did not know much about Notre Dame's tradition coming into the school, they are now certainly aware of the legacy and honor of playing for Our Lady. 

Cherishing Notre Dame's tradition is part of the experience of attending the school and can be seen in the students singing the Victory March at games and fans attending the drummer's circle at midnight in front of the Golden Dome.

Notre Dame has claimed 11 national titles and boasts seven Heisman winners. The legacy of Notre Dame's football team is unrivaled. Yet here we are today, focusing on the "glory days" of the past and praying that we can find that winning formula again.

Brian Kelly understands and respects the importance Notre Dame's traditions, but he knows that his team can't live or dwell on past accomplishments if it wants to succeed this season. The team needs to focus on where it is right now, not on what the team did 23 years ago, or what the team will do five years in the future. By focusing on the present, the football team can address its current struggles and work to improve and progress.

Couch questions whether or not our reliance on tradition will help us moving forward. Our devotion and passion for the football team has stemmed out of Notre Dame's tradition. Notre Dame's tradition unites us, but we cannot let it strictly define us.

Couch states it perfectly when he writes, "On his walk at Notre Dame, he (Kelly) has to invent a new history while keeping one foot planted firmly in the past."

While cherishing what we know about Notre Dame football, we need to also embrace the new future of the team and the tradition that our football team can create. We are capable of winning a national championship as long as we continue to support and believe.

We are the Fighting Irish.

We are ND.

- Briana Coyne ('12)

Daily Dish - 9.10.11

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4619696.jpeg - A highly efficient and balanced offensive output by the Irish volleyball team helped produce a 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-17) win over visiting Lipscomb Friday night at Purcell Pavilion ... Notre Dame hit .549 as a squad, committing just two errors on 91 swings with 52 kills ... with the effort from above the net, Notre Dame set a program record for hitting pct. in a three-set match ... the previous best (.539) was set against Marquette in 1986.

- Melissa Henderson put Notre Dame ahead off assists from Mandy Laddish and Courtney Barg in the 67th minute, but No. 2 Stanford rallied with two goals in the final 10 minutes, including Mariah Nogueira's match-winner with 2:23 left, to pull out a 2-1 women's soccer victory at the Stanford Invitational before a sellout crowd of 1,960 fans in Stanford, Calif. ... all three Fighting Irish losses this season have come away from home at the hands of top-10 opponents.

- The men's soccer team jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the 31st minute, yet Denver netted two second-half goals en route to a 2-2 tie during the first day of the 10th annual Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament at a soggy Alumni Stadium ... Chris Sutton put Notre Dame on the board in the 21st minute as he took a pass from Harrison Shipp and blasted the ball into the lower right corner of the netting from 25 yards away ... it was Sutton's first career goal ... the Fighting Irish went up by two goals with just over 14 minutes left in the first half as Danny O'Leary headed in a Brendan King corner kick for the first goal of his career ... a heavy rain arrived at Alumni Stadium toward the end of the first half and the precipitation was on and off for the remainder of the contest ... Notre Dame led 2-0 at halftime.

- A trio of men's tennis student-athletes received rankings in the annual preseason polls released Friday by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ... Casey Watt is ranked No. 28 in singles to open the 2011-12 season, while the doubles duo of Niall Fitzgerald and Spencer Talmadge are ranked No. 21.

- Women's golf coach Susan Holt has announced that senior golfer Becca Huffer will serve as the team's captain for the 2011-12 season ... a three-time all-BIG EAST selection, Huffer is coming off her best season at Notre Dame as she turned in four top-10 finishes as a junior, including a career-best second-place finish at the John Kirk / Panther Intercollegiate last spring as she carded a five-under par 211 in leading the Irish to a tournament win ... for the season, Huffer's 74.97 stroke average was second on the team and the second lowest of her career.

- Hockey fans will have an opportunity to purchase two different nine-game, half-season ticket packages or a four-game package for games over Christmas break at the new Compton Family Ice Arena ... those packages are now on sale at the Murnane Family Ticket Office at Purcell Pavilion, via und.com/tickets or by calling 574.631.7356 ... the nine-game packages - Blue and Gold Nights - are available in the mezzanine level only since the main bowl of the arena is already sold out with full season tickets.

- The men's golf team is set to get its 2011 fall season underway this weekend when it heads to the Gopher Invitational on Sunday and Monday at Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata, Minn. ... the 14-team field represents the largest in the tournament's history with 10 collegiate conferences being represented ... Notre Dame earned its best finish at the event in 2007, tying for fourth with a three-round total of 893 (+29).

Making Fencing History In Uganda

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West Wing Nuts

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"I made fun of Notre Dame ... I usually get away with it."

"They're playing Michigan tomorrow ..."


"... I know that now."

Record Crowd Expected

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tunnelcashore1.jpg Blue and Gold Illustrated - In the Wolverines' 2010 season opener against Connecticut, a new standard was set with 113,090 in attendance in a stadium that officially lists 109,901 as its capacity. In fact, after some stadium expansion, the top four crowds in Michigan history occurred last year with a minimum of 112,276.

Back on Sept. 13, 2003, an NCAA record 111,726 were in attendance to see Michigan clobber Notre Dame 38-0. That is now only seventh all-time for largest crowd at a Michigan game. (Note: in 1927 against USC and 1928 versus Navy -- both at Chicago's Soldier Field -- the attendance was unofficially recognized at 120,000 for those Notre Dame games, but the NCAA didn't track those figures back then, so it's not recognized as a record.)

"I think we may have room for 115,000," Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon told the Associated Press. "I really believe we easily could sell another 25,000 to 50,000 tickets ... we're selling every square inch of the stadium that we can put somebody.

"I haven't been around for all of our 132 seasons of Michigan football, but in my time as a player, a fan, ticket-holder, regent and as an athletic director, I've never seen anything like it."

Consequently, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly believes there should be no issues for the Irish coaches and players to get out of the funk experienced last week in the 23-20 loss to South Florida.

"Getting our players focused on Michigan will not be difficult at all," Kelly said, who noted this "team likes the road."

Notre Dame has a modest three-game winning streak away from home, its longest since 2006. However, what is particularly notable is sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees' fifth career start will be in another hallowed venue.

In addition to winning his initial start versus No. 15 Utah last year, Rees was at the throttle for a 27-3 victory against Army at Yankee Stadium and then a 20-16 upset of USC in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The record as a starter improved to 4-0 after a 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over Miami in which the attendance was a capacity audience of 54,021, or less than half of what is projected this Saturday.

Rees will have an opportunity to become the third quarterback in Notre Dame history to start in victories at USC and at Michigan during his career. The first was 1943 Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli, who followed a 13-0 victory at the Coliseum (94,519 in attendance) in 1942 with a 35-12 drubbing of Michigan in 1943 at the not yet known "Big House," which had a capacity audience of 86,408 for that game.

Rees Embraces Expectations of Role

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reesusfthrow.jpg South Bend Tribune - Leaders don't come along by accident.

Tommy Rees didn't just happen to be a guy who could emerge from obscurity to supply a spark for the Notre Dame football team.

He's been that sort of quarterback for several years. Chuck Spagnoli swears by it.

About five years ago, Rees was a fuzzy-faced 15-year-old quarterback at Lake Forest (Ill.) High School. Spagnoli, the Scouts' head coach - then and now - couldn't avoid inserting Rees as the starter ahead of a senior four games into the season.

"It was obvious (Rees) deserved to play," Spagnoli said.

It took Rees until later that season to solidify the situation. Spagnoli said Lake Forest hadn't beaten Libertyville High in more than a decade. The opportunity was there. Tie game. The Scouts had just recovered a fumble - 1:20 to play, 70 yards to go.

"I saw Tommy take control right then," Spagnoli said. "He became the leader everybody wanted him to be."

After engineering the drive, Rees threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

Spagnoli wasn't surprised.

"Tommy didn't just hope he did well," his old coach said. "He made sure he did the work and the studying it took to be prepared. That's when you know you've got someone special.

"It wasn't overwhelming to him. That's part of his mental makeup. He didn't feel it was a major transition. He did the work and he was ready."

"As a quarterback, you have to be a leader," Rees said. "I've always prepared myself as a leader. I think that comes naturally to some guys. The best way to get the respect of your teammates is to go out there and play well. They have to know they can count on you. As long as you can do that, you'll gain their respect."

Rees went on to throw for more than 4,700 yards in his last two years at Lake Forest.

Maybe it was his background that allowed Rees to gravitate so easily into such high-stress situations. His father has been in the football business - on the college and professional level - since Tommy was born. His brother Danny was a punter and holder at UCLA.

"That's just the way it's always been," Rees said of his football family. "I don't know anything else."

"He had an unusual grasp of the situation," Spagnoli said. "He doesn't try to do too much. His philosophy is: Keep your own house clean. And, on top of that, he's not afraid of a challenge."

What made Rees a significant part of the Lake Forest offense at such a tender age is what gave Irish coach Brian Kelly the confidence to make the move from Dayne Crist to Rees for Saturday's game at Michigan.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore is poised. He's prepared. And the good things he accomplished in the second half of last week's loss to South Florida (24 of 34 passing, 296 yards, 2 TDs) outweighed the bad (two interceptions, one in the red zone) more than Crist's (7 of 15, 95 yards, 0 TDs) , one interception in the red zone.

"Everyone understands what went wrong Saturday," Rees said. "No one's blaming anybody. We're a team. We're sticking together. Everyone has so much confidence in one another. No one's doubting anyone; no one's hanging their head."

Mattison Has Seen Both Sides

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mattison.jpg NBC Sports - Saturday isn't just another game for Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

"I know it's a huge rivalry for everybody involved in it," Mattison said. "It's Michigan. It's Notre Dame."

He knows because he's spent eight years on the opposite sideline, coordinating the Irish defense under Bob Davie and then staying on staff under Tyrone Willingham to coach the defensive line.

"I had a great eight years there," Mattison recalled. "I got to see my family through school and my daughter in college, so that made it a really good deal."

Mattison left Notre Dame when the Willingham era ended, landing with Urban Meyer in Gainesville, part of a coaching staff filled with Davie lieutenants. From there, he became a perennial thorn in Irish fan's side, winning several one-on-one battles for high-profile recruits, and drawing the ire of Irish fans by allegedly using some negative tactics about all things under the Golden Dome to win.

Mattison's three year run at Florida was a successful one, but he jumped to the NFL to join John Harbaugh, a friend and coach he'd worked with early in his career under Harbaugh's father Jack. Mattison ascended to defensive coordinator after Rex Ryan was hired as head coach of the New York Jets.

While Mattison was coordinating one of the NFL's best defenses, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein of Wolverine Nation nicely chronicles Mattison's unlikely return to the college game, a move he made only because of the man asking.

The NFL taught Mattison more about disguising blitzes and coverages and about how best to pressure the quarterback with schematics. It forced him to become more varied in his playcalling. For the first time, he didn't have to teach as much as he had to call the right scheme.

"He was a very good coach here," said safety Tom Zbikowski, who played for Mattison at Notre Dame and with the Ravens. "But with his personality and just him as a human being I think he works very, very well with young men. I think he can relate to them well and be a figure that somebody needs at that time of their life."

Mattison learned a lot. But his best friend called. He had just been hired as Michigan's head coach. Did Mattison want to come?

Back to college, back to Michigan, back to Brady Hoke he would go.

Hoke tasked Mattison with fixing a Wolverine defense that had falling apart under Rich Rodriguez. He's already gotten off to a quick start in his other forte, recruiting, with 15 of the 23 recruits already committed to Michigan set to play defense. Now he's got to get his defense ready to take on one of their biggest rivals, after it took a few lumps in its debut against Western Michigan.

When Mattison sat down with the media earlier this week, he discussed some of the difficulties his defense had against a Western Michigan unit that played an up-tempo, hurry-up scheme.

"The thing that happen is the kind of thing you worry about happening," Mattison said about his unit's opening drive. "When you had so many guys that hadn't played a lot football you probably had the toughest scenario you could get because it was a very fast pace. They were switching personnel groups in and out without us really being able to decide and see what they were."

No disrespect to Bill Cubit's Broncos, but when Tommy Rees took the helm of the Irish offense after halftime last Saturday, the Irish moved at a tempo that made Western Michigan look like it was running out the clock.

Mattison countered WMU's early success by bringing pressure, forcing turnovers from the Broncos after it was clear that Michigan couldn't get to the passer in its base defense.

"We won't sit back and play zone coverage until we have the ability to get a rush with a four-man front," Mattison said. "It's not fair to that secondary or that underneath coverage. If we get in a situation like that we'll always try to do what's best for the defense. I'm not going to say I'm a guy that's going to say he's going to go out and blitz every down, but when it dictates it, then I think you have to."

If there's a situation that dictates it, Saturday evening is it. With Rees moving the offense up and down the field in the second half, Mattison knows he'll need to protect a secondary that's still lacking in depth.

If there's a counter-punch to be had by Brian Kelly and the Irish coaching staff, it's a running game that can be the biggest offensive asset Notre Dame possesses. Lost in last Saturday's defeat was Cierre Wood's performance, a dynamic effort as a runner, who also made big plays in the passing game as well.

Mattison understands that while Rees, Michael Floyd, and the Irish's other aerial weapons can hurt Michigan, they'll need to make sure Wood doesn't take over the football game.

"We have to be able to stop the run," Mattison said. "Any time a team runs the football on your defense, you can't have a great day."

Brian Kelly made the change to Tommy Rees in large part because he knows Rees is undefeated when he has both a run game and passing attack at his disposal. If the Irish are going to get their season back on track in front of 110,000 fans in Michigan Stadium, they'll need to have both.

Warren Golf Course Named 12th-Best College Course

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warren.jpgNotre Dame's Warren Golf Course has been chosen as one of the top 15 college courses in the nation, according to Golfweek Magazine. To qualify for the Golfweek's Best Campus Courses list, a course must be part of a school's recreational life in terms of preferential access for students, faculty and alumni.

Last year, Golfweek ranked the Warren Golf Course as the 14th-best college golf course. This year the home course of the Irish moved up two notches to 12th, passing the likes of the University of Michigan Golf Course and Duke University Golf Course.

Co-designed by Bill Coore and PGA Tour veteran Ben Crenshaw, the Warren Golf Course opened on May 1, 2000, and has played host to three U.S. Amateur Championship qualifiers, the 2005 and 2010 men's NCAA Central Regional, the 2011 women's NCAA Central Regional, three Western Amateur Championship qualifiers, five BIG EAST Conference Men's Championships and three BIG EAST Women's Championships. In addition, the par-70, 7,020-yard tree-lined layout has welcomed numerous junior golf tournaments and serves as the home course for the Notre Dame men's and women's golf teams.

The Warren Golf Course also has been recognized nationally and internationally for excellence in several other major publications. The Warren Golf Course was selected as one of the nation's top 15 on-campus college courses in 2005 according to a feature article in Golf Digest. In 2008, the course was rated as the second-best course in the state of Indiana according to Golfweek as part of its series "America's Best Courses: State-by-State Rankings of Best Public Access Courses."

Cheer, Cheer ...

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Don't Worry, It's Just a Video Game

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The Band Plays On

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Seattle Times - Notre Dame and Michigan have seen better football days, but Saturday in Ann Arbor will be among the bigger matchups for two of the country's most storied programs.

No rankings, no worries.

The first night game in Michigan Stadium's 84-year history will draw ESPN's GameDay crew, a retro look for both teams and perhaps the biggest crowd in college football history.

The record of 113,090, set by Michigan against Connecticut last September, is expected to tumble as a crowd of 115,000 is possible. The teams are first and second among FBS schools in winning percentage -- Michigan at .735 and Notre Dame at .732. Michigan is No. 1 in all-time wins at 885, Notre Dame No. 3 at 843.

Big Game. Big Night. Big House.

Expect a cacophony of yelling, chanting and music. Luckily, two of the most famous fight songs in the land will bring harmony to the dissonance.

In addition to extra hours of fans imbibing on their favorite beverages, expect to hear Michigan's "The Victors" and the "Notre Dame Victory March" a few dozen extra times.

While it can be argued there are bigger rivalries, there might not be two fight songs with more famous choruses. The marches are long, perfect for pom-pom waving and clapping, before building slowly to their famous stanzas.

"The Victors," almost universally mislabeled as "Hail to the Victors," was written by Louis Elbel immediately after he attended one of Michigan's most noteworthy victories at the time, a last-minute 12-11 win over the University of Chicago in 1898. OK, so no one left on the planet saw it live, but it was huge, trust us.

Elbel was adamant about praising the victory as much as possible, so in writing the piece he had more "hail" in the lyrics than an Oklahoma thunderstorm.

"The Victors" was called "the greatest college fight song ever written" by John Philip Sousa, the most famous marching band conductor in U.S. history.

"'The Victors'" is a powerful melody that is catchy and easy to sing," said Scott Boerma, the director of the Michigan marching band.

"Both 'The Victors' and the 'Notre Dame Victory March' have melodies that ascend throughout their opening phrases, providing an uplifting, forward-moving emotional reaction."

And that's before Michigan fans have an extra five or six hours Saturday to get ramped up. Notre Dame band director Ken Dye said the songs were written as part of the growing popularity of using music at sporting events. The "Notre Dame Victory March" was written by the Shea brothers, Michael (music) and John (lyrics) in 1908 -- the same year as "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" -- but was arranged as it is now known in 1925.

Dye said the "Notre Dame Victory March" derives from "ragtime rhythm" or syncopation. "Both are great fight songs, but the 'ND Victory March' benefits from the newer musical elements developing in popular American music in the early 20th century," Dye said.

Both teams will wear legacy Adidas football jerseys. Player numbers also will appear on Michigan's famous winged helmets for the first time since the late 1960s. A large shamrock logo will appear on Notre Dame's gold helmets for the first time since the early 1960s. The Michigan band also will be going all out with light suits on the drum major, flag members and dance team, Boerma said. The lights will require wireless controllers. Boerma said the bands will only add to what will be an electric (literally) atmosphere.

Said Boerma: "When you hear the 'Notre Dame Victory March,' played back and forth with 'The Victors,' it simply feels like college football at its finest."

Both bands also respect each other and know they are playing two of the catchiest college tunes of all time.

"The Notre Dame marching band is made up of some of the classiest students and staff members I've ever met, so we always look forward to sharing the day with them," Boerma said.

Here is something you are unlikely to hear any Ohio State fan utter: "The Michigan Band has historically been one of the benchmarks of musical excellence in the collegiate band world," Dye said. "They perform with great pride and conduct themselves with dignity and confidence."

And on Saturday, wedged into the Big House, about 115,000 fans can safely say, "They're playing our song."

Following Flynt - What To Watch for at Michigan

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9.2.11 Dillon Pep Rally 3.jpgFighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program throughout the season. Here's his take on Saturday's upcoming match-up with Michigan ...

Trusting Tommy: Brian Kelly announced Tuesday that sophomore Tommy Rees would start Saturday's game at quarterback. After replacing Dayne Crist in the second half of last week's game against USF, Rees threw for nearly 300 yards and brought the Irish back to within striking range. Last season, the Lake Forest, Ill., native was 4-0 in place of the injured Crist.

With wins at Yankee Stadium, against USC in the Coliseum, at home against No. 14 Utah and in the Sun Bowl, the true freshman seemed unfazed by high-pressure settings. Now, he puts his perfect record on the line at Michigan Stadium - the nation's largest college football venue and one of the biggest athletic stadiums in the world - in an environment that will most definitely trump each of the previous four (more on that later).

Defending Denard: Last season, the Michigan dual-threat quarterback torched the Irish defense for 502 yards, including 258 on the ground with 244 more through the air. He broke off an 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter (a Notre Dame Stadium record) and when it seemed Notre Dame was going to come away with a victory, he orchestrated a game-winning drive to send Michigan home with a 28-24 win.

However, through the final stretch of 2010 and the first game of 2011, the Irish defense looks much improved. Despite the loss to USF, the Irish defense held the Bulls to a third-down conversion clip of 2-for-14 and just 3.0 yards per carry on 42 rushing attempts. It is safe to say that continued strong defensive play will be imperative if the Irish are to leave Ann Arbor with a victory for the first time since 2005.

Electric Atmosphere: Saturday's matchup in Michigan Stadium will be the first night game in the 84-year history of the stadium. adidas has dubbed it the "Under The Lights" game and has created retro-style uniforms for both the Irish and the Wolverines.

Though the capacity is 109,901, more than 113,000 raucous fans are expected to pack the seats and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon suspects the university could have easily sold 25,000 to 50,000 more tickets, if possible.

Though it did not become a yearly rivalry until 1978 (save three brief hiatuses, most recently in 2000-01), Notre Dame vs. Michigan is a storied series that dates back to the 19th century. In fact, the first game in Notre Dame football history was against Michigan on Nov. 23, 1887 (Scholastic, which is of course, the greatest Notre Dame student publication has more on that contest here).

The End of Screamgate

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Much has been made of Brian Kelly's sideline demeanor on Saturday. As you can see, it extends to the Notre Dame hallways, too.

One Last Weather Nugget From Saturday

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ND-USF 56.jpgESPN.com - Notre Dame's media relations office spoke with former NCAA statistics staffer and Fighting Irish historian Steve Boda, who passed along this interesting note related to the pair of weather delays in this past Saturday's opener against South Florida:

Boda says the closest a Notre Dame game came to being postponed by weather was the 1923 season finale at St. Louis University. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 29).

There was a drenching, non-stop rain that day and the field was ankle-deep in mud. Knute Rockne proposed the game be postponed until the following day, but there already were 9,000 fans in attendance and St. Louis did not agree.

The game went on as scheduled, Notre Dame won 13-0 and Boda says there were 22 fumbles in the game.

And some of you thought Rockne never would have approved of Saturday's breaks in the action.


Gray Heads Home to Atone for Fumble

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grayhold.jpgChicago Tribune - It took just one instant for Jonas Gray, the Notre Dame running back with the burgeoning stand-up comedy career, to recognize that mistakes can be no laughing matter for people who ostensibly supported you.

Gray's fumble near the goal-line -- returned for a 96-yard touchdown by South Florida in the season opener -- set a grim tone after just one series for what become a miserable day. The public's response through social media this week confirmed for the senior that others dwell on mistakes far longer than he does.

"It's a little bit of both - a lot of negatives and a lot of positives," Gray said. "On Twitter, I got a lot of people saying things back and forth towards me. But a lot of it was positive: Keep your head up, we're going to need you this season, things like that. A lot of the things the coaches were echoing."

So the Pontiac, Mich., native returns home Saturday already having secured 20-plus tickets at Michigan Stadium and looking to secure some atonement, too.

He may want to play well for familiar faces, he may want to obtain bragging rights over friends on the Michigan sideline, and he may want to absorb fully the first-time-ever night atmosphere at the Big House that he expected would be "weird."

Mostly, Gray wants to extinguish the memories from Week 1 and create more palatable ones during Weeks 2 through 13.

"He's got to go back out there," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "He's got to play for us. He's physically able to do it. Mentally he's got to be able to do it. We're not sitting him down. He's got to play for us against Michigan, and he's got to play for us all year.

"I'll tell you exactly what I said (to him): How do you want to be remembered? As that guy that fumbled on the one-yard line or as that guy in your senior year that bounced back from some adversity and had an incredible season?"

Gray said starting tailback Cierre Wood approached him immediately after the fumble, asked what happened, and then issued a proclamation: To them, it never happened.

Those mental gymnastics are easier said than done, especially when few outsiders let it go as easily. But then there's nothing preventing one error from being more a springboard than an albatross, too.

"It means a lot, it helps my confidence," Gray said of his team's backing. "It pushes me to a point I need to be pushed to. It's not that I need to show something to my coaches, because they're already behind me.

"There's definitely a bigger chip on my shoulder than there was before."

Just Askin'

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ND-USF 54.jpg

SI.com recently took the time to ask a few questions of head coach Brian Kelly. The interactive video from that interview can be viewed here.

Hear It From a Student - Excitement Under the Lights

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"There's a lot of excitement around Ann Arbor," says Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.

Why shouldn't they be excited? They're meeting us - their rival - under the lights in the first night game that football stadium has ever seen. We're playing on their turf, and they have a better record than we do after we suffered a particularly heartbreaking and embarrassing loss last weekend.

And, as analyst Kirk Herbstreit says, there is a lot of confusion surrounding our quarterback situation. Brian Kelly insisted Dayne Crist was our guy, and now all of a sudden he isn't. Tommy Rees stepped up and became our new starter.

"I just wonder how it may affect the Notre Dame football team," Herbstreit says. He looks very concerned, everyone.

Well, I'm not concerned. That's a lie - I totally am. A week ago I was waxing nostalgic about my Notre Dame childhood and all the hope I continued to have even after heartbreak, but now that the failure is a little more in my face, I must admit I'm nervous.

It's one thing to lose to Skip Holtz. It is another animal entirely to lose to Michigan.

But there are a couple things keeping me breathing until I, too, am under the lights this weekend.

Firstly, Michigan hasn't even played a whole game yet - its victory came in the middle of the third quarter. They did not have to push through the rain delay. They did not discover all of the kinks in their (very new, I might add) system.

So many little things went wrong in our game last week that it's not hard to imagine what the focus has been on during these past few days of practice. We know what to work on. I hope to Touchdown Jesus we're working on it.

Secondly, I really like Rees. I like the way our team looked at the end of last year when it had no choice but to unite beneath him. I like that he is so young and so obviously not as natural of an athlete as Crist . There is something about an underdog stepping up and proving it can be done - Notre Dame has taken on that role countless times both related and unrelated to this sport we love called football. It feels right to root for Tommy.

Last week's game was a light that exposed our many flaws. It was an overwhelming experience, but there was nothing so overwhelming that I think it absolutely cannot be fixed.

I want to believe in us. I want to believe this weekend's lights will show a different team.

- Lauren Chval

Meet Jeb Brovsky

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Jeb Brovsky soccer


Jeb Brovsky plays midfield for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a major league soccer team based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also is the founder of Peace Pandemic, an organization that uses youth soccer camps to teach nonviolence and promote social justice.  

Jeb founded Peace Pandemic as a junior at the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in business management and peace studies, pursued a concentration in entrepreneurship, and played varsity soccer. While taking the peace studies course "Peacemaking in Divided Societies," taught by Kroc Institute professor John Darby, he learned about the thousands of children in war-torn countries who are forced to become soldiers.  

"This touched my heart, and I wanted to react in a positive way," says Jeb, a native of Lakewood, Colorado. "I eventually realized I could use soccer as a new avenue for peace."  

Peace Pandemic organizes soccer camps across North America, using the funds it generates to coordinate rotating camps in conflict-affected countries. The organization's first international camp will take place in Tanzania in fall 2011, and a camp has been scheduled in Israel for 2012. In the future, Jeb hopes to coordinate Peace Pandemic camps in Guatemala, Nepal, and Nicaragua.  

"Soccer is a boundary crosser," he says. "In nearly every country, kids on the street are playing this game and they respond to this game." Peace Pandemic camps aim to get kids excited about the game, but also to teach them about resolving conflict nonviolently and being responsible members of their homes and communities, Jeb says.  

Jeb became interested in peace after being exposed to violence as a child. On the day of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, he was a fourth-grade student at the elementary school next door to the high school. Four of Jeb's neighbors, including his next-door neighbor, were killed that day.  

"Trying make sense of that experience was very difficult, but it made me want to change my surroundings for the better," Jeb says.  

As he launches his soccer career, Jeb plans to use his professional athlete status as a tool for social change.

"Athletes have a lot of pull in their communities," Jeb says. "It would be foolish of me not to take advantage of that for a good reason. 

"It's been my dream to get to this level - and to blend my passion for soccer with my passion for peace." 

- Renee LaReau

scodro2.gifSenior golfer Max Scodro has been named to the Golf World 50 Players to Watch list. The accolade goes hand-in-hand with the publication's 2011-12 College Preview issue.

Scodro earns the recognition off of his most successful collegiate season with the Irish that saw him post the lowest stroke average on the team at 73.30. In addition, Scodro finished as the team's top finisher at two tournaments while earning a share of top finisher at one other event.

The Chicago, Ill., native also was named the 2011 BIG EAST Men's Player of the Year after earning medalist honors at the conference championship. He concluded the 54-hole event as the only player in the field below par with a three-round score of 212 (-1).

Scodro prepares to enter his final season following a successful summer amateur circuit that most recently saw him qualify for the match play portion of the U.S. Amateur. He earned a spot in the 64-player, single-elimination draw after finishing three under par (139) during the stroke play portion of the event.

Only the top 10 players selected to the College Players to Watch list are ranked by Golf World. Patrick Cantlay (UCLA), the golfer who defeated Scodro in match play at the U.S. Amateur, headlines the list after claiming NCAA Player of the Year honors last season. The remainder of the top 10 features Peter Uihlein (Oklahoma State), Chris Williams (Washington), Andrew Yun (Stanford), Luke Guthrie (Illinois), James White (Georgia Tech), Blayne Barber (Auburn), Jordan Spieth (Texas), Alex Ching (San Diego) and Patrick Rodgers (Stanford).

Irish Connection - 9.7.11

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Were the Aliens Cheering for Notre Dame or USF?

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Yahoo.com - If you believe one conspiracy website, the oddest thing that took place Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium weren't the hundreds of lightning strikes that caused a pair of long weather delays or the fact that the Fighting Irish fell to visiting USF. It was the presence of extraterrestrial life hovering above the stadium.

Amateur skywatchers noticed a number of unidentified flying objects circling the stadium during the first weather delay. This clip, taken from NBC's broadcast, proves beyond a reasonable doubt that wacky conspiracy theorists are proficient at uploading video to the web:



Cue the "X-Files" theme while I make a few observations:

1. You know what flies around huge, enclosed stadiums when the wind is whipping around during a thunderstorm? Everything. Programs, ticket stubs, popcorn containers, hot dog wrappers, napkins, the band's sheet music, copies of "Infinite Jest" that were brought to the game by a freshman attending the football game ironically; you name it. There are literally thousands of better explanations for what that little white thing was than a UFO.

2. The UFO was voted No. 23 in this week's coaches' poll.

3. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is considering starting the alien occupants of the vessel at starting quarterback this weekend against Michigan.

4. Is it coincidence that the UFOs flew over South Bend when Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell (N.M.) had a home football game the same day? The same day people!

Monogram Club Musings - USF

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The Monogram Club will bring Irish fans the "Monogram Club Musings" following each home football game throughout the 2011 season.

This past weekend, Monogram winners returned to South Bend to kick off the 2011 campaign.

In addition to participating Monogram Club events throughout the weekend, Monogram winners also bore witness to one of the strangest games ever to occur inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Despite the multiple stadium evacuations on Saturday due to lightning warnings members still enjoyed the weekend, highlighted by the baseball program's annual reunion weekend and alumni game. The newest member of the Monogram Club was also inducted on Sept. 2 in a special ceremony. Keep reading to find out more!

- The season kicked off in grand fashion in Notre Dame Stadium, as pre-game festivities were highlighted by a special flyover featuring two USAF E/A-18 Growlers.

- Members of the Notre Dame football family who passed away over the last year were recognized during the pre-game flag presentation. The group included 19 football Monogram winners.

- In addition, representatives of three current Notre Dame football families who lost family members in 2010-11 presented the flag, including current Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones, whose father Andre Jones ('97) died in June. TJ was joined by his mother, Tiffany, and twin sisters, Kayla and Kynna.

- A much talked about storyline leading up to the game, Monogram winner and former Irish assistant coach Skip Holtz ('87) returned to Notre Dame Stadium Saturday as head coach of the USF Bulls. Holtz is in his second season at the helm of the program after spending five seasons as the head coach at East Carolina from 2005-09. Honorary Monogram recipient Beth Holtz was also on hand to see her son return to his alma mater.

Run Like a Champion Today

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Following Flynt - The Cheering Thousands

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ND-USF 1.jpgIf you were on campus for the season opener, I understand that the outcome of the game might have spoiled your memory of the new player walk to the stadium.

Notre Dame football weekends are about much more than the result on the scoreboard, but I recognize the fact that an Irish loss can negatively impact one's memory of what may otherwise have been a great weekend. If you can, I suggest that you try to separate the two (and forget about the bad weather and rain delays) because from what I watched on Saturday, this different path might be the start of a great new Notre Dame tradition.

One of the changes to this year's player walk that I like is the recognition of Notre Dame's residence hall life. To acknowledge the hall that they live (or lived) in, the players wore pins with the dorm's insignia on their blazers.

As students, residential life is such an integral part of the Notre Dame experience. For as much pride as we take in the University, sometimes the pride and sense of family within one's dorm is an even stronger feeling.

We root for the Irish in every game, match, or race, but we especially cheer for those who share the dorm identity that we hold close to our hearts. From Knights to Ramblers and Shamrocks to Purple Weasels (or any of the 25 other dorm mascots), we love to see "one of our own" shine on the field, court, pool, strip or track.

As for the walk itself, I think the change was met with a great response from fans. Everyone seemed to be aware of the fact that the location and schedule had been adjusted, and many fans still gathered outside the Basilica to greet the team on their way to Mass.

I watched the team at the beginning of its walk near the Gug and also as they entered the stadium. Along the entire route, thousands gathered to cheer on the Irish as they made the shorter walk across campus. While the walk itself is shorter, the team's drive through the main tailgating lots and the location closer to the stadium give more fans an opportunity to wish the Irish well before game time.

From the weather to the final score, little seemed to go right for the team and fans on Saturday. There may be few positives we can take away from Notre Dame's season opener, but one we certainly can enjoy is this new tradition.

It was a special scene on Library Quad and hopefully one that will only continue to grow throughout 2011 and beyond.

- Josh Flynt

Irish Connection - 9.4.11

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Hear It From a Student - Nothing More Than Feelings

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ND-USF 53.jpg I know how Brian Kelly feels.

More than eight months of waiting after last season's Sun Bowl, I felt blow after blow during my first game in the student section. Fumbles, touchdown returns, interceptions, dropped passes, muffed punts, shanked punts, personal fouls, two stadium evacuations. It was frustrating; there's no other word for it.

And that's coming from a student - a simple bystander who's indirectly (albeit, passionately) involved in the game. I can't imagine the magnitude of disappointment head coach Brian Kelly must have been feeling.

In his press conference earlier today, he called Saturday "one of the most frustrating experiences that I've ever had as a head football coach." He prepared the team for this game, this season, facing the mounting pressure of a clamoring fan base and BCS expectations.

In the clip that Greg Pollowitz posted on Sunday, did Kelly's angry tirade directed at T.J. Jones go over the top? Yes. Kelly even admitted today when he said "I'll have to do a better job of controlling my emotions."

Was that display worthy of being fired as Pollowitz suggested? Not even close.

Yelling can be an important motivational tool to increase players' focus and determination, but he doesn't want to appear out of control.

Discipline is one of the most important characteristics a team needs to win, and that starts with the coach. When mistakes continue to mount in a close game and the frustration builds, coaches yell. It happens. But would Pollowitz and Notre Dame fans have been as frustrated with Kelly's outburst had Notre Dame won the game?

I probably landed myself a deeper circle of Hades for all the profanities I screamed on Saturday. Calling for Kelly's resignation isn't the answer, though. It's working to manage that frustration and minimizing those mistakes so that, hopefully, there's a little less to scream about against Michigan.

- Craig Chval ('15)

McGraw's Twist of Fate on September 11

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USA Today - September of 2001, and the national champion women's basketball coach at Notre Dame is planning a recruiting trip. She needs to get from one coast to the other, and her travel agent finds a non-stop, Boston to Los Angeles.

United Flight 175. Tuesday morning, Sept.11. Book it, Muffet McGraw asks.

A few days later, her assistant, Kevin McGuff, mentions he has planned to leave out of Providence instead, so why don't they fly together, instead of him driving through traffic and dropping her in Boston?

They ponder, they debate. She really likes the Boston non-stop. "He was pretty stubborn," she would later be quoted. "Had it been another assistant, I would have gotten on the plane."

She cancels her seat on United 175. That morning, she and McGuff happen to see Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey at the Providence airport. They're aghast at the horror pouring from the TV screens and get the last Hertz rental car to leave Providence, for the 13-hour drive home to South Bend. Before they leave, the newscasters are identifying the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. Something about United 175 ...

Come Sunday, we'll all remember where we were 10 years ago. You, me. And most certainly, the basketball coaches at Notre Dame.

What is there to say about the narrow ledge that fate has us all tiptoeing upon?

"It was a little eerie," Brey said this week by phone. "I'll never forget, Kevin drove the whole way, Muffet was in the back, I was in the front. All of what you saw over and over again, we just got a glimpse of in the airport. We're listening to the radio reports all day and they're describing things, and I can't picture them. I can't picture the towers falling down.

"I don't think any of us talked for an hour. It was like, 'What the hell is going on?'"

McGraw has not spoken much publicly about the matter, and won't now, said the Notre Dame sports information office. The exception was in the epilogue of a book by Jeff Goldberg, Bird at the Buzzer: UConn, Notre Dame, and a Women's Basketball Classic. That was the 2001 Big East title game, won on a shot by Connecticut's Sue Bird.

"I was pretty shook up," McGraw was quoted. "I just didn't want to talk about it. It felt funny. The three of us drove home. And I was a little shaky. I was transfixed by it ... and then I put it behind me."

Her husband, Matt, told the South Bend Tribune then, "A little part of me died that day."

The 10th anniversary beckons, and McGraw still wants it behind her.

"In my memory, she mentioned it briefly and said she didn't want to elaborate on it," Brey said. "So it was like, 'Let's not revisit that. Let's talk about some other things. We're safe, we're in a car on the way home and we're doing pretty good right now.' ... We actually talked about our teams and recruiting and Notre Dame. We were both very sensitive to her after she explained she was on that flight.

"I remember Muffet saying from the back after about an hour, 'You know what, I need snacks.' I said, 'We'll take care of you. We've got you covered. You've got the whole back seat; you can tell us what you need.'

"We pull into South Bend, and Kevin drops me off. I remember standing in my driveway giving Muffet a hug. It was like, 'Don't say anything, but we made it, and God bless you.' You really felt for her."

Time marches on. McGraw's team made it back to the national championship game last April. Brey was Big East coach of the year. McGuff is head women's coach at Washington.

Has McGraw ever mentioned the stunned ride home that will always connect them?

"Never has," Brey said.

Some days you talk about. Some, you just remember.

Dressed To Thrill

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On Sept. 10, 2011, Notre Dame and Michigan will engage in "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."

The old will be the 28th meeting in their series since its renewal in 1978.

The new will be the first night game in Michigan Stadium history.

Something borrowed will be that both will have "Throwback Night" when they wear retro jerseys from a half-century ago.

As for the blue, Michigan will have its traditional Maize and Blue colors to go with its Block M on the front and arm stripes.

However, Notre Dame will feature a green shamrock on its gold helmets, in addition to a green numeral and green stripes on the shoulder pads and on the white socks. Its uniforms will mirror those donned under former Irish head coach Joe Kuharich (1959-62).

Hopefully, that will be the lone resemblance, because the football record over those four seasons was 17-23.

Notre Dame's official school colors are gold and blue, and the third verse of the Alma Mater states: "Proudly in the heavens, gleams thy Gold and Blue."

However, green represents a link to the school's "Fighting Irish" heritage, and will remain an everlasting aspect.

Daily Dish - 9.6.11

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Weekly Sports Schedule - 9.9-9.11

- Here are snippets from Brian Kelly's press conference at noon today as he previewed the Notre Dame-Michigan night football game to be played Saturday in Ann Arbor:

*Opening statement - "There's nothing like getting back to work for our football team, especially after a loss ... We need to start winning some of these games in this rivalry."

*On Denard Robinson - "Last year Denard had too many big plays against our defense. So we'll be looking for answers towards keeping him in that realm where he doesn't take over the game. The largest run we had last week (by USF) was 17 yards. If we can get to that same kind of defensive play against Robinson and the host of backs that they have, that will be a job well done."

*On the quarterback slot - "We're going to start Tommy Rees against Michigan. Any time you take your quarterback out, those aren't easy decisions because they impact so many things you're doing. Nobody wants to change their quarterback each and every week. Our hopes are Tommy is productive and can play at a high level week in and week out. He's got a pretty good resume, 4-0 as a starter, and he's come off the bench twice and played very well under those circumstances. It falls on the quarterback as the leader to be productive."

*On the USF game - "It was probably one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had as a head football coach. Everybody was frustrated. We certainly didn't expect it, let's put it that way. We did not expect to have the kind of mistakes that we had. But we're clearly committed to playing those guys and playing through it. Those are our guys, our leaders. They know they've got to step up this weekend and make some plays. If there's a business end of college football it's on Saturdays. Those guys understand you've got to be more productive."

*More on Rees - "I've told him you've got to be productive. If you're not, you should be looking over your shoulder. I want to win right now. I believe Tommy gives us the best chance to win against Michigan."

*On Jonas Gray - "He's got to go back out there. He's got to play for us against Michigan and he's got to play for us all year. I said, 'How do you want to be remembered? As that guy that fumbled on the one-yard line or the guy that bounced back from some adversity and had an incredible season?' "

*On the Michigan game - "It's all about us. It's all about how we play. We've got to go play Saturday and play the right way. We have to clean things up. That's our focus and playing cleaner is going to give us a chance to win."

- Women's soccer senior forward Melissa Henderson has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference Offensive Player of the Week ... in addition, Henderson was named to the 11-player Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week ... Henderson is Notre Dame's first BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week honoree this season (and earns the third citation of her career) after tallying 10 points (4G-2A) last weekend in victories over Tulsa (7-1) and Indiana (4-1) to claim the championship at the Notre Dame adidas Invitational ... the All-American and Hermann Trophy candidate collected Offensive Most Valuable Player honors at the tournament after notching a goal and two assists against Tulsa, followed by her fourth career hat trick (first since 2009) against Indiana ... her hat trick against Indiana was the fifth in the 19-year history of the Notre Dame adidas Invitational.

- Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy and Navy placekicker Jon Teague have been named FBS Independent Players of the Week, for games through Sept. 3 ... Proctor and Floyd share the inaugural weekly award on offense ... Floyd recorded a career-high 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns ... Floyd ended the game with 183 career receptions, four ahead of previous school record holder Jeff Samardzija ... Floyd also extended his Notre Dame touchdown receptions record to 30, and his 14th 100-yard receiving game leaves him only one behind the Fighting Irish record of 15 century games, held by Golden Tate.

Reggie Brooks Knows How to Beat Michigan

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Take it from a man who knows how to put it to the Wolverines!


Following Flynt - A Turning Point

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ND-USF 47.jpgWhether six months or 30 years from now, when we look back on the 2011 season it is very possible that the South Florida and Michigan games will be recognized as turning points.

Over the course of a 12-game season, it may seem odd to look at an opening-weekend loss as the proverbial fork in the road.

Then again, consider Saturday's game. One might argue that the 14-point swing on the first possession was the pendulum that shifted momentum away from the Irish.

Using an attack both on the ground and through the air, Notre Dame's offense appeared to be moving the ball at will, but the forced fumble and defensive touchdown opened the gate in favor of Skip Holtz's Bulls, who never looked back.

Given the nature of college football, every play, every yard and every second matters. For better or worse, a single moment can turn a drive, game or season.

That is not to conclude that a first-quarter fumble was the deciding factor in why the Irish were on the losing end in Saturday's marathon game. Four additional turnovers and eight penalties for 73 yards certainly did not help Notre Dame's cause.

In the end, the Irish piled up twice as many offensive yards as the Bulls and had a last-minute onside kick bounced a bit differently, they might have had a chance to tie or win the game.

Yet despite the close final score, once they fell behind early in the first quarter I never got the sense that the Irish were going to win the game.

Now, the Irish are a few days away from a trip to Ann Arbor and a meeting with one of their biggest rivals for the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. ESPN's College GameDay will be in town and the teams will be wearing special retro-style uniforms. Tickets to this game are among the most wanted in the nation for the entire season.

On top of that, Brian Kelly announced Tuesday that he would be looking toTommy Rees to lead the offense against Michigan. It is safe to say there is a lot of intrigue surrounding this weekend's matchup.

Kelly ended weeks of speculation by announcing on Aug. 23 that Crist would start at quarterback. Though he expressed confidence in both quarterbacks' ability to play "championship-caliber" football, Kelly also made it known that he expected Crist to start throughout the season. Except for the opening drive, Crist struggled for much of the first half on Saturday, and Rees replaced him when the game resumed following the first weather delay.

If Rees keeps his unbeaten streak intact and leads the Irish to a victory against Michigan, the sophomore may position himself as the leader of the Irish offense for the rest of the season. If he struggles however, it may be back to the drawing board for Coach Kelly and his staff.

How the Irish play this Saturday will say a lot about the team's identity in 2011. As is always the case in South Bend, expectations were high coming into the season. During the summer, we heard much about how the Irish had improved since 2010, how focused they were in training camp and how Coach Kelly's second year could have his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

But the USF game left many wondering where that focus had gone, as penalties and turnovers were the team's Achilles' heel.

With one loss already on their record, the Irish are almost assured they will not be playing for the national championship in New Orleans. However, the Big Easy could still be their New Year's destination for the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3.

I am not suggesting or assuming that Notre Dame is a BCS-caliber team. My point, however, is that there are 11 games left to play and the Irish have put USF in their rear-view mirror.

Though Saturday's loss led many people to begin writing off the 2011 season, whether the Irish win or lose in Ann Arbor, they can still win 10 games and have a shot at a BCS game.

More importantly than the statistical difference between 1-1 and 0-2, is how the team responds to the adversity of an opening weekend loss and how they play in primetime in college football's largest stadium. Win or lose, this game could very well set the tone for the rest of the year.

So whether you are making the trip to Michigan Stadium or watching from the comfort of your living room, stay tuned because Saturday evening's game could tell you a lot about the type of Irish team you will see for the rest of the 2011 season.

- Josh Flynt

Notre Dame and Michigan to Battle Under the Lights

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Scodro Talks About His Time at the U.S. Open

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Former Irish Pitcher Kyle Weiland Called Up by Red Sox

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weiland.jpgNESN.com - The Red Sox have 31 active players with them in Toronto after another round of September call-ups Monday.

Slugging catcher/designated hitter Ryan Lavarnway, infielder Nate Spears and right-hander Kyle Weiland have each joined the club for the stretch run.

Weiland may make the most immediate impact of the three if he is chosen to take the start of Erik Bedard on Friday in Tampa Bay. Bedard will be skipped due to left knee pain.

In two starts filling in for Jon Lester back in July, Weiland was 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA. The right-hander, who turns 25 next Monday, was 8-10 with a 3.58 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket.

Jamie Moyer Speaks to Irish Baseball Squad

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Hear It From a Student - Skip Savors

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5611684.jpeg I wish I could talk to you about silver linings.

I want to comb through Rudy quotes and talk about overcoming adversity. I would like to tell you that the first game never goes well in the movies, but then the team, driven by their failure, works twice as hard and takes it all in the end.

I even considered explaining that Saturday might not have proven the strength of our team, but it showed the heart of our students, who waited all day in the rain just to have their hearts broken.

I wish I could talk to you about those things. There must be a silver lining in there somewhere.

Instead, I'd like to talk to you about Skip Holtz.

I don't mean to rub salt in the wound. I realize that Holtz is the man who facilitated Saturday's devastation. He crushed our hope before it could even begin to rise.

Consider, though, the man's story. As a senior in high school, he didn't get into Notre Dame. He enrolled in Holy Cross and worked to get his grades up until he was able to transfer here as a junior and walk-on to the football team as a senior. He never caught a pass but rushed a single yard. It sounds like a story you might have heard before.

Holtz worked under his father as a part of the Irish coaching staff in the early 90's. Notre Dame is undeniably his home, and yet yesterday he had to walk in as our enemy. He walked in against a tradition he loved with a young football program and succeeded in something we wish wasn't even a possibility - he won.

It was a long and emotionally exhausting day for those of us who love Notre Dame. As I stood there during the postgame press conference, I realized that group includes Skip Holtz. He took the podium, red in the face like maybe he had cried. He spoke with utmost sincerity about two things: how proud he was of his players and how much he respected Notre Dame.

The man deserves to be proud of his players. But it was his love of Notre Dame that shook me. Holtz talked about how many memories he had in our stadium, how he had seen his old dorm on campus, and how he lit a candle at the Grotto. He said he got through college by lighting candles at the Grotto.

I hope with all my broken heart that a silver lining emerges sometime in the next few weeks. But if it doesn't, I want you to know that this place is something special. It fosters in people a love and respect that lasts a lifetime, no matter the circumstances. Skip Holtz is a Notre Dame man, and yesterday he made me proud to be of this place.

We all get through college by lighting candles at the Grotto.

- Lauren Chval

Daily Dish - 9.4.11

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-Some late notes from Notre Dame Stadium after the Notre Dame-USF football game included these items:

*It marked the first time a Notre Dame graduate brought a team to Notre Dame Stadium and won since Eddie Anderson did it with Iowa in 1940.

*Notre Dame's defense has now allowed only five opponent offensive touchdowns over its last six games combined.

*Before Jonas Gray's first-period lost fumble, Irish running backs had not lost a fumble on any of their last 224 carries.

*Michael Floyd became Notre Dame's career leader in receptions in the third period against USF with his 180th all-time catch, to pass Jeff Samardzija (Floyd now has183).

*Floyd enjoyed his 14th career 100-yard receiving yard day and is now one away from career leader Golden Tate's total of 15.

*Floyd needs only 15 receiving yards this week against Michigan to pass Tate's career receiving yards record of 2,707.

*Floyd's 12 catches against USF marked a single-game high for him (and two away from Maurice Stovall's single-game record of 14 from 2005).

- Here are snippets from Brian Kelly's media teleconference on Monday:

*On the QB situation - "We're evaluating that right now. We've just finished grading all the film. We'll meet here about four to start to discuss things relative to personnel and then whatever decision we make, we'll talk to the quarterbacks involved and then get rolling again on Monday with the decision as to how we go."

*On the long halftime - "It gave us more chance to go over what we were doing and what they were doing against us with Tommy (Rees)."

*On punter Ben Turk - "It still goes back to how you respond when 81,000 people are out there. He's our best guy. We see that every day in practice. When it's game time he's got to perform. We're at that point now where the guys we have, there's not another guy. They simply have to get better when we get into game situations."

*On reasons for optimism - "I think they know there's no cupcakes. You play good teams right out of the gate. We probably played as poorly as we can in terms of execution. We played hard, we fought, we had great resolve. Our guys hung together. So I think our future is bright."

*More on the QB assessment - "Sometimes you want to evaluate - was it as bad as you thought or was it better than you thought because when you take a step back and look at the film you get a better understanding of maybe it wasn't the quarterback's fault on this play. We'll find out where we want to go for the rest of the season and that will be a critical decision."

*On the defense - "I thought they played pretty strong. If you look at the 23 points, 10 were a direct result of turnovers and another three were on a short field on a punt return. There are some things we've got to clean up, but they're really specific, they're not far-reaching issues. Too many penalties would be the first thing."

*On the decision between the two QBs - "This isn't going to be trying to gain a tactical advantage because they run a very similar system."

*On how well the defensive and offensive lines played -"Certainly well enough for us to win the football game."

*On Theo Riddick - "We're going to start Theo again at that position (returning punts). He didn't look great back there. I was probably as nervous as anybody else when the ball went up in the air. But we've got to get him through that. He's capable of doing it. He can track the ball. We've got to get him to that next level."

- ESPN's College GameDay crew will head to the Notre Dame-Michigan football game Saturday night in Ann Arbor.

- Former Irish QB/WR Arnaz Battle today was named the special teams captain for 2011 for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.

Live Chat - Women's Soccer vs. Indiana

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Two days after a 7-1 rout of Tulsa at the 19th annual Notre Dame adidas Invitational, the Fighting Irish and Indiana will square off today at 1:30 p.m. (ET). Cover all the bases of Sunday's live action right here at Irish UNDerground.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.


Mother Nature 1, Notre Dame Stadium 0

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Live Chat - Football vs. USF

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Notre Dame and USF will meet on the gridiron for the first time in the 123-year history of Irish football today at 3:40 p.m. (ET).

Notre Dame enters the contest ranked No. 16 in the preseason Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the preseason USA Today Coaches' poll. USF is receiving votes in the coaches' poll.

Follow all the action right here on Irish UNDerground! Share your questions, comments and complaints throughout the day - from the pregame festivities to the postgame radio show - and let your voice be heard! And be sure to join the conversation on Twitter by sending your thoughts to @UND_com.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Blazing a New Trail

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It's Gameday!

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Enough said.

If You're Excited Tonight, Just Wait Until Tomorrow

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Skip Holtz Inspired Man Who Inspired Millions

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TBO.com - It's opening week, Notre Dame week, alma mater time for South Florida coach Skip Holtz, and the question was a throwaway.

Skip Holtz was asked: Have you seen "Rudy?"

"Rudy lived across the street from me," Holtz said.

Wait, there's more. We're just getting started. Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger is on the phone.

"Skip was an inspiration to me when I was trying to get the movie made," Ruettiger said.

"Rudy," the feel-good 1993 blockbuster, inspired millions - and USF's coach inspired Rudy.

You got all that?

Our story begins in 1990, when Skip Holtz, then 26, returned to Notre Dame to work for his father as a coach. Holtz and his wife, Jennifer, newlyweds, moved into Oak Hill Condominiums, not far from campus. Already present, just across the way: Rudy.

Rudy Ruettiger was a 41-year-old sales manager at a car dealership at the time. America didn't know him. Rudy had returned to South Bend with a decade-old script he'd co-written and a dream: A major motion picture based on a true story, about a pint-sized underdog walk-on who won't quit until he gets in for a few plays at the end of the 1975 season for the team and school he'd loved all his life.

Rudy and Skip and Jennifer became fast and forever friends.

Vitale a USF Fan, But Irish at Heart

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popevitale.jpgSt. Pete Times - Living in Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale has become a fan of USF athletics, but his family has strong ties to Notre Dame - his daughters Terri and Sherri went there on tennis scholarships, graduated with MBAs and married fellow Notre Dame graduates.

He has endowed the Dick Vitale Family Scholarship, which goes to a student involved in Fighting Irish athletics in areas that don't have financial aid, like the marching band or spirit squads.

Vitale will be in South Bend this weekend for USF's opener at Notre Dame, and while he'll be pulling for the Irish, he has a long friendship with the Holtz family.

Vitale said when Lou Holtz coached Notre Dame, he "represented everything the university was about. In terms of spirit, enthusiasm, doing things the right way, graduating players. He was just perfect, like a (Mike) Krzyzewski fits at a Duke, a guy like Roy Williams at North Carolina, (Joe) Paterno at Penn State."

When USF went searching for a head football coach in January 2010, Vitale wrote to Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard and later talked with him, saying that Skip Holtz could be the same kind of fit for USF.

"I said, 'Skip Holtz is the perfect guy.' This guy to me should have been in a big-time place a lot sooner," Vitale said. "He did a heck of a job at Connecticut, a terrific job at East Carolina. These aren't schools to win at. I was at Rutgers, so I understand what he's faced with in terms of recruiting. I felt South Florida, with the players he had in the state, that he would be perfect."

Vitale has referenced the USF-Notre Dame game on Twitter often in the past month. He predicts a 31-24 Notre Dame victory. "I'll root for South Florida in all its other games," he said. "The 12th man, the spirit, the Golden Dome ultimately takes Notre Dame to the winner's circle."

His Father's Name, His Own Success

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skiplou.jpgNew York Times - After his first day of kindergarten, Skip Holtz returned home and told his parents the teacher never called his name. He mentioned there was another boy in the class named Holtz, with the first name of Louis. "He wasn't there," he said, "but I'm looking forward to meeting him."

Skip Holtz was 8-5 last year at South Florida, which opens the season at Notre Dame, his alma mater, on Saturday.

Holtz, the University of South Florida football coach, laughed as he told the story recently. He knows it sounds crazy, given his life's path, that he spent his first five years not knowing he was a junior, christened with the same first name as his father, the football coach turned motivational speaker and ESPN analyst.

"I was always Skip," Holtz said.

He didn't skip the family business. But the nickname, bestowed upon him by his parents, Lou and Beth, shortly after his birth in 1964, gave him a degree of detachment from his father as he forged his own coaching career.

Holtz's Bulls, who were 8-5 last year in his first season, will open the 2011 season Saturday at Notre Dame, where Holtz played football as an undergraduate and later coached under his father, who led the Irish to the 1988 national championship and nine straight New Year's Day bowl games from 1987 to 1995.

South Florida, which started playing football in 1997, cannot match the Irish's rich history. At a $125-a-plate kickoff dinner last month attended by more than 400 boosters, Holtz led the room in the singing of the U.S.F. fight song. The words appeared on two video screens that served as jumbo cheat sheets.

Holtz's father was the guest speaker. After a grand introduction by his son, Lou Holtz delivered a 40-minute speech that was a cross between a roast and a revival meeting. Then he and his son shared the dais. They stood side by side and addressed each other with obvious affection, but did not physically touch until Skip Holtz patted his father on the back and drew him closer.

That ability to connect with people, to bring young men into his embrace, is Holtz's gift, his father said.

Live Chat - Women's Soccer vs. Tulsa

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Back To School With Dr. Lou

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Our Team, Our Story - USF Weekend

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Running of the Bulls

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The men of Siegfried Hall got a bit festive - running through the Hesburgh Library reflective pool and onward to Notre Dame Stadium - before Friday night's pep rally.

You Have Two Guesses ...

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1.) The new football equipment truck
2.) The ultimate Notre Dame tailgate machine

Ski-Ba-Bop-Ba-Dop-Bop

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There are plenty of ways to follow the Irish before, during and after the action of Saturday's football showdown between Notre Dame and USF.

Among them, the Official Notre Dame Football Post Game show co-hosted by our very own "Scatman", Reggie Brooks.

Hear It From a Student - Coming Back

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Lauren Chval ('13) shares her reactions after reading Why We Should All Be Rooting for Notre Dame penned by John Brandon of Grantland.com.

--

I have been waiting for Notre Dame football to be "back," as John Brandon says, my whole life. The team hasn't won a national championship since 1988, and I didn't enter the picture until 1991. Still, that doesn't mean my childhood wasn't completely saturated with the Fighting Irish.

Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine and Holtz. Eleven national championships. To my brothers and me, they were idols. The last four each won their first national championship in their third season of coaching. With each new Notre Dame coach - Davie, Willingham, Weis - we watched their first season hopefully, but we really waited for their third. That's when we'd just know if Notre Dame was "back."

154176_458415570779_703305779_5987198_5723782_n.jpg Now, over 20 years later, everyone is a little more cynical. Maybe there has been too much hype surrounding each new coach or quarterback -

the "ones" who would lead us back. Two years ago, near the end of the Weis era, a friend of mine compared Notre Dame football to Santa Claus - something you believe in fervently as a child but now you can't bring yourself to do it anymore.

"The Brian Kelly Incarnation of Hope," as dubbed by Brandon, is moving Irish football into the 21st century. Football is an old game filled with traditions, and we (the Notre Dame nation) know this because we were the start of it. This institution of football has been hesitant to join the "razzle-dazzle" of college football recruiting precisely because it ignores those traditions and moves into definitively sketchier territory. Once upon a time, kids grew up hearing about and watching the majesty of Notre Dame football and just knew that they had to play here. Perhaps not so much anymore. Unless those kids are 30.

It is a step forward but a look back to drag all of our "national championship booty" out to show the young men who come here trying to decide if this is where they want to play. Many of today's recruits haven't sat in their living room to watch Notre Dame win a national championship as Rudy did, but we can show them that this is a place where that happens - where it is important for it to happen. There is a sense of awe in the Guglielmeno Complex that anyone with a heart can feel.

Brandon says everyone will always have to hear about the Irish incessantly, even if they, for lack of a better term, sucked. If we lose a game in our sometimes-forgiving schedule, he says the commentary will be "They lost only one game." It is that mentality that makes me sure cynicism will never really overtake Notre Dame. We've endured over 20 years of what some consider sub-par football, but no one can keep themselves from thinking, "Maybe this will be it."

I'm still watching for Kelly's third season, but would be fine with a title in his second year.

- Lauren Chval

Following Flynt - A Look Back at 2010

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While this weekend's forecast calls for weather perhaps more like South Beach than South Bend, there is a sense of excitement surrounding Notre Dame football that has been absent for several years. Much of that anticipation is a result of the thrilling finish to the 2010 campaign, in which the Irish rattled off four consecutive wins, including a Sun Bowl victory.

With kickoff almost 24 hours away, it is a great time to revisit last season's thrilling finish. The following is an article that I wrote for Scholastic, Notre Dame's student magazine. It first appeared in the February 10 (2011) football review issue.

--

A Hollywood Ending Sets The Stage for a Promising Sequel

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Irish that day,
The record stood four and five, with but three games more to play.

Borrowing from Ernest Lawrence Thayer's "Casey at the Bat," it is safe to say that a once promising year looked bleak for the Notre Dame football team as it prepared for the final stretch of the 2010 season.

The Irish could not have endured a more difficult conclusion to October. For the third time in four years, the Navy Midshipmen had gotten the better of Notre Dame, and this time, they made it look easy, 35-14. On the following Wednesday, an unusually blustery autumn afternoon, tragedy struck the Notre Dame community when junior videographer Declan Sullivan died following the collapse of the tower from which he had been filming practice. Just three days later, the Irish faced the difficult task of playing a football game, a 28-27 loss to Tulsa that left many people scratching their heads and searching for answers.

A bye week gave the Irish a chance to recover from the on- and off-the-field heartache before they set out to defeat No. 14 Utah. It was an opportunity to send the dejected class of 2011 out with a landmark win and a celebration of Notre Dame's first victory over a ranked opponent in more than four years.

As they sought to avoid a painful third consecutive Senior Day loss, the Irish came out with a different sense of pride, an emotion that seemed to have been missing for much of the season. As my classmates and I watched our final games as students, we knew we would be leaving the stadium through the Knute Rockne Gate, but few of us expected to be joined by the entire student body jubilantly celebrating a 28-3 victory. No tailgate or post-game Finny's celebration could have topped the ecstasy of storming the field, rain-soaked and marshmallow-covered, finally experiencing Notre Dame football at its finest. Little did we know, however, that the fun was just beginning on the evening of Nov. 13.

The following week, Notre Dame took over the Big Apple as thousands of Domers and "subway alums" made the trip for the first football game in the new Yankee Stadium. I have lived in the Albany-area my entire life and I have never been a New York City person. Yet there was something electric, something magical about being 700 miles from campus, in the nation's largest city, but still surrounded by green, blue and gold. The Basilica was swapped for St. Patrick's Cathedral, while the steps of Bond Hall were traded for Times Square. Far from South Bend, the weekend still featured many of the traditions that make Notre Dame special.

Sachire Coaches Elite College Team at U.S. Open

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sachire.jpgAssociate head men's tennis coach Ryan Sachire recently returned from the U.S. Open in Flushing, N.Y., where he co-coached the 2011 United States Tennis Association Collegiate Team with Alabama assistant coach Bo Hodge.

"It was an honor to be chosen for such a prestigious role within the USTA," said Sachire. "I saw this opportunity as a way for me to greatly expand my coaching knowledge and help bring some visibility to our program at the highest level of the sport."

Sachire applied for the position and was selected by the USTA Director of Coaching, Jose Higueras, and the USTA head men's coach Jay Berger, over other qualified head and assistant coaches from various schools throughout the country.

The USTA Collegiate Team is composed of 12 of the top American collegiate tennis players and is an elite training program for the top American collegiate tennis players. It began in 1996 and is funded by the USTA. It is designed to provide college players with valuable exposure to the USTA Pro Circuit in a team-oriented environment during the year.

Team members were selected based on their performance at the NCAA Championships, the ITA All-Americans and the National Indoor Championships. If a player had any USTA Pro Circuit, ATP or WTA events on their resume, those results were also taken into account.

"It was a great experience overall," said Sachire. "We had two players that turned pro after successful summers. We also had several college players make the finals of the pro future tournaments, including Tennys Sandgren of Tennessee, who won two future tournaments. At the U.S. Open we had several guys win qualifying matches, which was far better than any college team had done before."

"It's a valuable experience to work with the USTA Collegiate Team because you always learn one or two new things that you can bring back to Notre Dame," said Sachire. "I feel it is very important to do just that to help keep our program on the cutting edge of the sport. I was proud to wear my Notre Dame gear as much as I could and represent our university."

Sachire, who was the 2000 ITA National Senior Player of the Year while competing for the Irish, earned a spot on the USTA Collegiate Team three times. The Canfield, Ohio, native also spent five seasons on the USTA pro circuit, winning 16 doubles titles.

There's a Magic In the Sound of Their Name

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Coach Kelly's Post-Practice Comments - 9.1.11

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Daily Dish - 9.1.11

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- SI.com produced its college football preview today and five of the site's writers predicted a BCS bowl for Notre Dame (three said Fiesta, one Sugar, one Orange) ... two writers selected South Florida as their surprise team for 2011 ... the SI.com preseason All-America squad includes Notre Dame's Harrison Smith as one of the safeties ... SI's Stewart Mandel predicts Notre Dame will end up playing Wisconsin in the Fiesta Bowl.

- Guests at the Notre Dame Football Kickoff luncheon Friday (Jack Nolan is the host) are Jeff Rea (president of the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County), Rob DeCleene (director of the South Bend/Mishawka Area Convention and Visitors Bureau), Harvey Foster Award winner and former Irish swimmer Haley Scott DeMaria, Irish offensive line coach Ed Warinner, Irish offensive linemen Trevor Robinson and Braxston Cave and head coach Brian Kelly.

- BIG EAST Conference commissioner John Marinatto will be in attendance at the Notre Dame-USF game Saturday.

- There will be a pre-game flyover at the Notre Dame-USF game Saturday by four USAF E/A-18 Growlers.

- Presentations at the Notre Dame-USF game Saturday include:
*Presidential Team Irish Award - Morris Inn Housekeeping and Maintenance team
*Introduction of University provost Tom Burish and Beth Holtz highlighting Lou and Beth Holtz as inaugural University research ambassadors for cancer research.
*Introduction of men's basketball National Coach of the Year honoree Mike Brey and USA men's basketball World University Games player Tim Abromaitis.
*Alumni Association presentation of Harvey Foster Award to former Irish swimmer Haley Scott DeMaria.
*Notre Dame faculty recognition - John Copeland Nagle, John N. Matthews Professor of Law.

- The official Notre Dame football postgame show will again be broadcast live following every Notre Dame game on WSBT-AM News Radio 960 and Sunny 101.5 FM, and televised live on und.com ... the show is hosted by Jack Nolan and Irish All-Americans Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic ... the televised version of the show on UND.com also features game highlights.

- The 2011 Notre Dame Football Replay (home games only) will be shown on 21 affiliates (including Direct TV, YES Network, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, NESN and Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) and reach more than 69 million homes ... Inside Notre Dame Football is on 25 affiliates and in 71 million homes (all the same major carriers) ... both networks are the largest in the country.

- The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) released its preseason cross country top 25 on Tuesday, and has the Notre Dame men's team ranked 23rd to open the upcoming 2011 season ... the Irish, who finished 25th in the final poll last season, are one of six BIG EAST teams to receive a ranking in the top 30 ... the Irish men were ranked fourth in the Great Lakes Region to open the season, tops among the BIG EAST teams that compete in the region ... the Irish women's squad was ranked sixth in the region to open the year.

- Two former Notre Dame men's soccer players will be competing for the United Soccer Leagues (USL) PRO title this Saturday ... Jack Traynor and his Orlando City squad will play host to Harrisburg City (Pa.), which features Philip Tuttle ... the match is slated for a 7:00 p.m. (ET) start inside the Florida Citrus Bowl ... the game will be aired live on Fox Soccer Channel.

- The 2011 NCAA national runner-up women's basketball team is poised to take on representatives from each of the nation's top six conferences, and will play up to 19 regular-season games against teams that qualified for postseason play last year (including 16 NCAA Championship qualifiers and four NCAA Elite Eight participants) as part of a demanding 2011-12 schedule that was released Thursday ... what's more, Notre Dame is in position to make at least 11 national or regional television appearances in 2011-12, highlighted by a second consecutive CBS matchup with BIG EAST Conference rival Connecticut (Jan. 7 at Purcell Pavilion) and six games on the ESPN family of networks, three of which are slated as part of ESPN's Big Monday lineup.

- The men's basketball team will play 17 nationally-televised games during the upcoming season ... the slate also features two BIG EAST matchups against defending national champion Connecticut and contests against 12 teams that played in the 68-team NCAA tournament field in 2011 ... Notre Dame also will begin the season riding a 19-game home win streak at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center ... Notre Dame's 17 television appearances include 16 on ESPN's family of network and one on CBS.

Hoops Schedules Released

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When Hells Bells and Motley Crue Collide

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Point, set, match.

Irish Connection - 9.1.11

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Skip Holtz: USF Player Need to Avoid "The Circus"

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"I want them focused on what's important, and that's what goes on between the lines. We call it the circus - the media circus, the fanfare, the interviews, getting pulled and tugged, the families ... all that stuff that goes on in college football is great. I mean, it's part of the pageantry that makes college football so great, but as a player in the game, it has zero effect on what happens between the lines. We're not gonna get off the bus with a camera around our neck. This is a business trip. This is not a tourist function that we're going to this weekend." - USF head coach Skip Holtz

Skip's father, Lou, may know a few things about circuses ...

The "Real" Freshmen Orientation

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Following Flynt - Taking New Steps to the Stadium

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If you have yet to start watching UND.com's Irish Connection, you may not be aware of the changes that will be taking place Saturday when the Notre Dame football team walks to the stadium prior to its game against South Florida.

As tradition plays so heavily into the Notre Dame experience, the history of the player walk and pregame Mass were kept in mind when making the decision to change this ritual. For as long as I have been attending Notre Dame games (only four short years during my time as a student), the players have walked from the Basilica through God Quad and South Quad before arriving at the stadium.

Given the number of great traditions we have here at Notre Dame, I assumed that the player walk had been around for decades, but in speaking with director of media relations Brian Hardin, I learned that only the team Mass dates back to the earlier days.

"A lot of our fans may not realize this, but the tradition of the walk from the Basilica to Notre Dame Stadium is actually younger than some of the players on this year's team. Based on conversations I had with former players, assistant coaches and senior managers, I learned Coach (Lou) Holtz moved the team Mass to the Basilica somewhere between 1991-93. Even though the team began to walk together from the Basilica to the Stadium in the early 90's, it did not attract a large number of fans until the late 90's.

"In fact, many Notre Dame players never took part in a team walk to the stadium. Under Coach (Ara) Parseghian, the team's Mass was held at Moreau Seminary on Saturday mornings. The players were then dismissed to return to their dorm rooms to change and they were given a time they needed to report to the Stadium," Hardin says.

For 2011, the walk remains intact, but in a different form. After Mass, the players will board buses and drive across campus to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex (affectionately known as "the Gug"), making their way through the main tailgating lots south of Notre Dame Stadium.

Earlier this week, Brian Kelly explained that the change would give the team some extra time to prepare for the game while still keeping with the tradition established by Holtz.

"One of the great, unique qualities we have here at Notre Dame is that there is such pageantry, such tradition. We want to maintain that, but we also want to make sure that our players get ample time to be focused on football as well."

The decision to change the timing and location of the walk to the stadium allows the team some extra meeting time in a building they have spent enough hours in to call home.

"We wanted to do it in a comfortable environment, instead of doing it at a hotel, which they're at once a week, we wanted to do it here at the Gug, where we have all of our training aids, all of our video and a comfort level in being here," Kelly says.

After their meetings, the team will walk westward to the Hesburgh Library. When they get to the statue of Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce, they will make their way towards the stadium across Library Quad, where historic Cartier Field once stood.

In the second episode of UND.com's Irish Connection, Jack Nolan explained that this path takes the team along "the field where Rockne, Gipp and the Four Horsemen once practiced and played. It's a way for the players of the present to connect with the players of the past."

As a student, my family and I often lined the path near the Basilica and watched as the team began their walk from Mass. I have always felt that it was a great tradition and one of the many examples of what makes Notre Dame such a special place.

So when it was first announced, I was a bit hesitant to accept the change. But it gives the Irish an opportunity to drive past the thousands of fans tailgating around campus, enabling the team to truly see the incredible magnitude of a Notre Dame football weekend, outside of the 80,795 cheering inside the "House That Rock Built".

While the new plan is a bit of a deviation from the tradition, the Mass and walk are still intact, assurance that Notre Dame is not about to leave behind its history, even in the midst of a new chapter of Irish football.

I am looking forward to the reaction from tailgaters as the team buses pass through the parking lots, but truly, I believe the scene when Coach Kelly leads his team across Library Quad to the cheers of thousands of fans is the one that ought not to be missed.

As the Irish begin 2011 and seek a return to championship form, it could be the beginning of a new tradition for the ages.

-Josh Flynt

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