NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Mike Mayock (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), Rob Hyland (producer) and Pierre Moossa (director).
IMG College Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. IMG College manages, produces and syndicates the Irish national football radio network. This broadcast can be heard live on both SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio (channel 129).
All Irish home games may be heard in South Bend on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM & 960 AM WSBT.
Saturday is the 226th straight sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every home game for the Irish has been a sellout except one - a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force. Notre Dame has played in front of sellouts in 274 of its last 275 home games.
The Irish have also played in front of sellout crowds in 245 of its previous 287 games (.854) overall, including 102 of its last 120 contests.
Notre Dame has played before 616 sellouts in 888 total games (.694) since 1930.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 22 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls. Purdue is unranked in both polls.
Live in-game stats will be provided through CBS Sports.com College GameTracker via UND.com.
Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the 84th time in the all-time series Saturday. The Irish lead the series by a 55-26-2 count.
Over the last 26 meetings, Notre Dame holds a 21-5 advantage. The Irish won from 1986-96, 1998, 2000-02, 2005-06 and 2008-11. Purdue claimed victories in 1997, 1999, 2003-04 and 2007.
Saturday's game is the home opener for the Irish and the 82nd time Notre Dame Stadium has served as the venue. The Stadium opened for Knute Rockne's final season in 1930 and the Irish have compiled a 314-106-5 (.745) record in "The House that Rockne Built."
Notre Dame is 97-20-5 (.816) in its home openers, including 65-17-2 (.786) at Notre Dame Stadium. There were no home games in 1929 due to construction of Notre Dame Stadium.
Here's a breakdown of each Notre Dame head coach's record in home openers (post 1913):
Notre Dame has opened its home schedule with Purdue on 12 previous occasions. No program has faced the Irish more often in their home openers than the Boilermakers. Notre Dame holds a 10-2 record against Purdue in home openers.
This year's lid lifter with Purdue is the second home opener with the Boilermakers in the past three years (2010). Prior to '10, Notre Dame had not opened its home slate with Purdue since 2002.
Notre Dame has captured each of the last three home-opening meetings with the Boilermakers. Purdue has not defeated the Irish in a Notre Dame home opener since Sept. 28, 1974.
The most famous home opener with Purdue came during the 1966 season. Both teams were ranked in the top 10, Notre Dame at No. 6 and the Boilermakers at No. 8. Purdue was led by All-American Bob Griese, but quarterback Terry Hanratty and wide receiver Jim Seymour stole the show. The duo hooked up 13 times for 276 yards, including touchdowns of 39, 84 and seven yards, en route to a 26-14 Irish victory. Seymour's total of 276 receiving yards remains a single-game Notre Dame record. Notre Dame went on to capture the national title, while the Boilermakers captured their first and still only Rose Bowl title in school history.
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL CELEBRATES 125 YEARS
The celebration of 125 years of Fighting Irish football (1887-2012) is well underway.
The University last spring introduced a special 125 logo that is being utilized throughout the year on all signage identifying elements of the campaign. The logo will be seen on sideline apparel worn by Irish coaches during 2012 home games and on the back of the Irish helmets for the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game.
The "Strong and True" slogan - taken from the University's alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother"- has been interwoven through various segments of the NDFB125 program.
Although the celebration lasts all fall, the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game at Notre Dame Stadium (7:30 p.m. EDT on NBC Sports) will feature special recognition events based on Irish football history dating back to the first Notre Dame game in 1887 against Michigan. The Notre Dame-Michigan relationship qualifies as the original and oldest Football Bowl Subdivision rivalry. Former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian will take part in the coin toss for that game.
A Web site devoted to 125 years of Irish football has been created at http://125.nd.edu. It launched last spring, with three sample "Strong and True" moments featured. Beginning Aug. 27, 125 "Strong and True" moments will be released (one per day) via digital media, along with photo and video galleries. Some of those video moments will be featured at the Notre Dame Football Kickoff luncheons on the Fridays of home weekends.
Former Notre Dame players and fans have been and will be encouraged to engage and participate via the 125 site (as well as social media) by sharing stories, photos and videos of their "Strong and True" experiences via Facebook (facebook.com/ndfootball) and Twitter (@125ndfb). The official NDFB125 site also will feature memories provided by former Irish football players and others connected with the program from their Notre Dame football experiences.
Here are specifics of other elements of the 125-year celebration:
-- NDFB125 banners featuring the official logo will be on display at all Notre Dame Stadium gates, as well as at the media entrance and on the ticket windows.
-- The pennant-style flags that fly over Notre Dame Stadium and normally feature all the different opponent names from that season instead in 2012 will display the NDFB125 logo.
-- The light posts surrounding Notre Dame Stadium, in the Joyce and Stadium parking lots and also around the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and the LaBar Practice Complex fields will feature NDFB125 flags.
-- A 360-degree megapixel photo will be taken to commemorate the Sept. 22 Notre Dame-Michigan game. Fans will be able to interact with the image via the NDFB125 Web site, tag themselves and share with friends via social media.
-- The 2012 Official Notre Dame Football Yearbook features a 125-year Irish football time line, including more than 140 pages of all-new prose in a scrapbook format and more than 1,200 images. It will be published Aug. 24 and will be sold through the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus and via UND.com.
-- Each of the Notre Dame football game programs (including the version for the Notre Dame-Miami game in Chicago) features a specially-designed, eight-page pullout insert devoted to 125 years of Notre Dame football. Each insert is based on an essay dealing with an aspect of Notre Dame football history.
-- Covers of the football games programs feature original art by nationally-known sports artist Tim Cortes from Duluth, Minn. Cortes' work highlights the NDFB125 celebration and can be seen on all seven program covers (including the Solder Field game).
-- Game tickets for the 2012 home season (and the Oct. 6 Soldier Field game against Miami) include both the NDFB125 logo as well as throwback looks based on tickets from past seasons.
-- A one-hour television special providing a behind-the-scenes look at the Notre Dame football program will air at 2:30 p.m. EDT, on Oct. 13 (just prior to the Notre Dame-Stanford game) on NBC.
-- The Leprechaun Legion, the official student group liaison to the athletics department, is coordinating a celebration of student traditions over 125 years of Notre Dame football.
-- The Notre Dame Licensing Office has worked with a variety of its licensees to produce commercial products that include the NDFB125 logo -- including everything from pins and pennants to apparel and mini-helmets.
-- The 2012 version of "The Shirt" features the NDFB125 logo below the back collar.
-- A special NDFB125 commemorative coin has been produced and is being utilized throughout the 2012 season for pre-game coin tosses. A smaller version is being produced for retail sale.
-- Legends of Notre Dame, located just south of Notre Dame Stadium, is displaying signage related to the celebration.
-- Centerplate, the University's official athletics concessionaire, has included the 125 logo on commemorative drink cups and popcorn boxes utilized throughout the 2012 football season.
-- The South Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau has joined in the celebration with a variety of programs--including streets renamed during the football season in both downtown South Bend and Mishawaka. Flags denoting NDFB125 will hang along Michigan Avenue in downtown South Bend all fall, as well as throughout downtown Mishawaka.
-- A large version of the official logo will appear throughout September on the side of the parking garage at Main and Colfax in downtown South Bend.
-- Hotels in the South Bend-Mishawaka area will feature commemorative room key cards featuring the NDFB125 logo all during the 2012 home season.
-- Notre Dame's University Relations department will create a commemorative poster featuring images from the Notre Dame-Michigan game weekend.
A VICTORY OVER PURDUE...
Gives Notre Dame a victory in its home opener for the fourth time in the last five years.
Improves the Irish to 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
Improves Notre Dame to 98-20-5 (.817) all-time in home openers.
Improves the Irish to 66-17-2 (.788) all-time in home openers at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Notre Dame to 11-2 (.846) all-time against Purdue in home openers.
Improves the Irish to 130-56-4 (.695) all-time in the month of September.
Improves Notre Dame to 80-23-2 (.771) in September home games and 69-23-1 (.747) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves the Irish to 56-26-2 (.679) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Gives Notre Dame five consecutive victories over the Boilermakers.
Improves the Irish to 29-11 (.725) at home in the all-time series with Purdue.
Gives Notre Dame 17 victories over its last 18 home games with the Boilermakers.
Improves the Irish to 26-10 (.722) at Notre Dame Stadium in the all-time series with Purdue.
Improves Notre Dame to 39-12 (.765) all-time against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Improves the Irish to 20-5 (.750) all-time against the unranked Boilermakers (post 1936) at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 33-16 (.673) all-time against Purdue (post 1936).
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 29-8 (.784) all-time against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 19-7 (.731) all-time at home against Purdue (post 1936).
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 15-4 (.789) all-time at home against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 855-300-42 (.732).
Improves the all-time home record for the Irish to 462-118-13 (.790).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 315-106-5 (.745).
Improves the all-time record of the Irish against Big Ten foes to 231-124-16 (.644).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record at home against Big Ten foes to 118-47-5 (.709).
Improves the all-time record of the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium against Big Ten foes to 96-42-3 (.691).
Improves Kelly's record to 189-67-2 (.736) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 70-32 (.686) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 61-20 (.753) since 2006.
Improves Kelly's record to 112-34 (.767) since 2001.
Improves Kelly's record to 3-0 (1.000) all-time against Purdue.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-0 (1.000) all-time against Purdue at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Kelly's record to 5-8 (.385) all-time against Big Ten foes.
Improves Kelly's record to 3-1 (.750) all-time against Big Ten foes at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Kelly's record to 56-28 (.667) all-time in the month of September.
A LOSS TO PURDUE...
Drops the Irish to 1-1 for the third time in four years.
Drops Notre Dame to 97-21-5 (.809) all-time in home openers.
Drops the Irish to 65-18-2 (.776) all-time in home openers at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Notre Dame to 10-3 (.769) all-time against Purdue in home openers.
Drops the Irish to 129-57-4 (.689) all-time in the month of September.
Drops Notre Dame to 79-24-2 (.762) in September home games and 68-24-1 (.737) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops the Irish to 55-27-2 (.667) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Drops Notre Dame to 28-12 (.700) at home in the all-time series with Purdue.
Drops the Irish to 25-11 (.694) at Notre Dame Stadium in the all-time series with Purdue.
Drops Notre Dame to 38-13 (.745) all-time against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Drops the Irish to 19-6 (.760) all-time against the unranked Boilermakers (post 1936) at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 32-17 (.653) all-time against Purdue (post 1936).
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 28-9 (.757) all-time against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 18-8 (.692) all-time at home against Purdue (post 1936).
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 14-5 (.737) all-time at home against unranked Purdue (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record to 854-301-42 (.731).
Drops the all-time home record for the Irish to 461-119-13 (.788).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 314-107-5 (.743).
Drops the all-time record of the Irish against Big Ten foes to 230-123-16 (.642).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record at home against Big Ten foes to 117-48-5 (.703).
Drops the all-time record of the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium against Big Ten foes to 95-43-3 (.684).
Drops Kelly's record to 188-68-2 (.733) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 69-33 (.676) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 60-21 (.741) since 2006.
Drops Kelly's record to 111-35 (.760) since 2001.
Drops Kelly's record to 2-1 (.750) all-time against Purdue.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-1 (.500) all-time against Purdue at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Kelly's record to 4-9 (.308) all-time against Big Ten foes.
Drops Kelly's record to 2-2 (.500) all-time against Big Ten foes at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops Kelly's record to 55-29 (.655) all-time in the month of September.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played three previous games in its history on Sept. 8. The Irish are 0-3 (.000) all-time on this date.
NOTRE DAME IN SEPTEMBER
Notre Dame is 129-56-4 (.693) all-time during the month of September.
The Irish are 50-33-2 (.600) in September games away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame is 79-23-2 (.769) in September games at home.
The Irish are 45-31-2 (.590) in September road games.
Notre Dame is 5-2-0 (.714) in September neutral games.
The Irish are 68-23-1 (.745) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won three straight games in September, which comes on the heels of a five-game losing streak in the month.
The Irish lost just one September game between 1899-1962. Notre Dame posted a 32-1-3 (.931) record over the span.
2012 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Notre Dame faces five opponents that were ranked in the top 20 of the USA Today's preseason coaches poll, including USC (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 4), Michigan (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 13) and Stanford (No. 18). Those same five foes are ranked among the top 25 of the preseason AP poll: USC (No. 1), Oklahoma (No. 4), Michigan (No. 8), Michigan State (No. 13) and Stanford (No. 21).
The slate is even more difficult when you consider that three of those meetings (USC, Oklahoma and Michigan State) will come on the road. Only one other team in college football plays at least three teams ranked among the preseason top 10.
Twenty-seven FBS teams won at least 10 games in 2011 and Notre Dame faces six of those squads, including three on the road.
The Irish have a long history of playing challenging schedules - with Notre Dame ranking (since the NCAA began this rating in 1977) first in 1978, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 2010; third in 1986, 1999, 2003; and fourth in 1979 and 1990. That makes for 11 top-four finishes in that category in the 35 years the NCAA has calculated these numbers.
ONLY THE BIG BOYS
Notre Dame is one of just three NCAA FBS programs to have not faced a non-FBS opponent since the current setup was established in 1978. The two other remaining schools that have yet to play a non-FBS opponent are USC and UCLA.
IRISH RETURN 41 MONOGRAM WINNERS, 16 STARTERS
Notre Dame opened fall practice with 41 returning monogram winners from 2011 - 18 on offense, 19 on defense and four on special teams.
LOOKING BACK AT PURDUE 2011
Notre Dame's first touchdown - a 35-yard TD pass from Tommy Rees to Michael Floyd - came just 24 seconds into the first quarter. It was Notre Dame's earliest touchdown to open a game since Floyd hauled in an 80-yard touchdown pass from Dayne Crist on the first play from scrimmage against Western Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010. That Floyd score came just 12 seconds into the contest.
The 10-second scoring drive was the fastest for the Irish since an eight second touchdown drive against the Broncos. Floyd hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from John Goodman.
Notre Dame totaled 551 total yards against the Boilermakers in 2011. It proved to be the second-most yards the Irish racked up in a single game last season.
Notre Dame collected an astounding 34 first downs. The Irish fell just two first downs shy of the school record set against Army in 1974 (36). The 34 first downs were a season high and the most for Notre Dame since they had 34 against Michigan State on Sept. 21, 1991.
The Irish rushed for a season-high 287 yards, which was the most for Notre Dame since its ran for 320 yards at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003 up until the 297-yard effort against Navy on Sept. 1.
The 6.9 yards per rush average was the highest for Notre Dame since August 28, 1999 against Kansas (when the Irish averaged 7.1 yards per carry; minimum 20 carries).
Notre Dame outgained Purdue, 185-39, in the first quarter and 157-53 in the third quarter of last season's contest.
The Irish outscored the Boilermakers, 28-0, in the first and third quarters.
Cierre Wood raced for a career-best 191 yards on 20 carries. The 191 yards were the most by an Irish running back since Julius Jones had 218 yards rushing at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003. Wood's previous career-high was 134 yards at Michigan in 2011.
Wood's 9.6 yards per rush was the highest by a Notre Dame running back (minimum 10 carries) since Darious Walker averaged 10.2 at Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006. Walker rushed for 153 yards on 15 carries.
Wood ripped off a career-best 55-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the second quarter to give Notre Dame a 21-0 lead. The run was the longest of his career (bested 39-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2010).
Notre Dame played 47 different players in the first quarter against Navy on Sept. 1, including 14 that saw their first career action in an Irish uniform.
The Irish ultimately played a total of 56 different players, including 20 that saw their first career action. Of those 20 players, nine came on the offensive side of the ball, 10 on defense and one (walk-on Tyler Plantz) ran down once on special teams.
Sophomore WR DaVaris Daniels and sophomore TE Troy Niklas each collected their first career receptions. Daniels' grab went for 35 yards, while Niklas' reception went for 29 yards.
Senior LB Manti Te'o collected his first career interception and first career fumble recovery in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
Senior S Danny McCarthy recorded his first career fumble recovery and sophomore OLB Ishaq Williams registered his first forced fumble.
Freshman WR Justin Ferguson picked up his first career reception in the fourth quarter.
Senior WR Robby Toma collected his first career rushing touchdown.
Sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt recorded his first career fumble recovery and first career touchdown.
HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Notre Dame was torched for 367 yards on 60 carries in the 2010 loss against Navy, but has now limited the Midshipmen to a total of 345 yards on the ground in the last two meetings combined (including 149 yards on 40 carries last week; 39 rushing yards came on final two plays of game).
The 149 yards rushing for Navy on Sept. 1 was its lowest output in a single game since Dec. 11, 2010.
Notre Dame became the first Navy opponent to hold the Midshipmen without a rushing touchdown since Oct. 2, 2010, when Navy failed to collect a touchdown on the ground in a 14-6 defeat at Air Force.
The Irish had not held Navy without a rushing touchdown run in the series since 2000.
Notre Dame has outscored Navy, 106-24, in its last two meetings since dropping the 2010 contest. The Irish have limited the Midshipmen to a total of one rushing touchdown over the last two years. Navy collected six rushing touchdowns over the previous two meetings in 2009 and 2010.
Navy managed just one touchdown and 10 points against the Irish on Sept. 1. It's the fewest points Navy has scored in the series since the Irish handed Navy a 27-9 loss in East Rutherford on Oct. 16, 2004. In fact, the 24 combined points by Navy is the fewest allowed by Notre Dame in consecutive games in the series since 1998-99.
Notre Dame's front-line defense limited Navy on Sept. 1 to just 110 yards on 34 carries (3.2/rush) before resting for most of the fourth quarter.
IRISH OUTRUSH NAVY BY WIDE MARGIN
Navy has not averaged less than 270.75 yards rushing per game over the last 10 years (dating back to 2002). So, the Midshipmen are quite accustomed to outrushing their opponent. However, not only did Notre Dame outrush Navy in the season opener on Sept. 1, but they gained 144 more yards on the ground.
Navy had not been outrushed by that many yards since at least 2004. In fact, no team had outrushed the Midshipmen by more than 80 yards over the same span.
Notre Dame had not outrushed Navy by that many yards in the series since 2000 when the Irish held a 218-58 edge on the ground.
IRISH RUMBLE OVER NAVY
Notre Dame reached the 50-point barrier in a season opener for the first time since 1983 when the Irish bested Purdue 52-6. It marked the third time since the end of World War II in 1945 that the Irish reached the half-century mark in an opener. The third was a 50-7 victory versus Northwestern in 1971.
Notre Dame rushed for 293 yards in the win over Navy on Sept. 1. The Irish had not rushed for more yards in a game since Nov. 29, 2003 at Stanford (320).
Sophomore RB George Atkinson III collected the first career multi-rushing touchdown game of his career.
Senior RB Theo Riddick registered his first career 100-yard rushing game and first career multi-rushing touchdown game.
Riddick (107 yards on 19 carries) and Atkinson (99 yards on nine carries) nearly became the first Irish tandem to each run for 100 yards in the same game since 2002 (when Rashon Powers-Neal and Ryan Grant) each eclipsed the century mark against Stanford.
Atkinson III and Riddick's multi-rushing touchdown games gave Notre Dame multiple players with at least two touchdown runs against Navy for the second consecutive meeting. Jonas Gray and senior RB Cierre Wood each rushed for a pair of touchdowns against Navy in 2011.
Prior to last season's meeting with Navy, and then again on Sept. 1, Notre Dame had not had two running backs register multiple rushing touchdowns in the same game since Oct. 11, 2001 against West Virginia when Julius Jones and Tony Fisher each had a pair.
Notre Dame finished with seven rushing touchdowns in the 2011 meeting with Navy - the most for the Irish since Sept. 26, 1992 against Purdue (also had seven rushing touchdowns). Notre Dame has not had more rushing touchdowns in a game since Nov. 6, 1965 when the Irish had nine rushing touchdowns in a 69-13 rout of Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame added five more rushing touchdowns against the Midshipmen last week.
Notre Dame has recorded 12 rushing touchdowns in the last two meetings with Navy. The Irish had exactly 12 rushing touchdowns combined in the six meetings from 2005-10.
Atkinson III sprinted 56 yards to give the Irish a 13-0 lead late in the first quarter. The 56-yard run was the longest of his career and longest by an Irish running back since Jonas Gray raced 79 yards at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24, 2010.
Notre Dame rushed for 107 yards on 11 carries in the opening quarter, which averaged out to 9.7 yards per carry.
Senior WR Robby Toma added his first career rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
IRISH OPEN YEAR WITH TDs ON FIRST THREE DRIVES
Notre Dame took the opening possession against Navy on Sept. 1 and marched 75 yards for a touchdown. The Irish had not taken the opening kick and scored a touchdown in a season opener since 2009 against Nevada. Notre Dame added touchdowns on its next two offensive possessions of the game as well.
The Irish scored on their first three possessions against the WolfPack in `09.
Notre Dame has now scored 50 or more points in consecutive games against one team for the first time since 1993-94, when the Irish took down Navy, 58-27, on Oct. 30, 1993, and then equaled their point total in a 58-21 trouncing of the Midshipmen one year later (Oct. 29).
It is only the 10th time in school history Notre Dame has put up 50 points in back-to-back meetings against one opponent. The Irish have never scored 50 or more points in three straight games against one team.
It marks the first time since 1973-74 Notre Dame has beaten a single opponent by 40 or more points in back-to-back years. In 1973, the Irish downed Northwestern (44-0) and Army (62-3) by 40+ before duplicating the feat in '74 (49-3 over Northwestern, 48-0 over Army).
The last team Notre Dame beat by 40 or more points in consecutive meetings - whether those meetings came in consecutive years or not - was Pittsburgh. Notre Dame touched up the Panthers 44-0 in 1993 before winning 60-6 in 1996. When Notre Dame beat Rutgers 62-0 in 1996, it was its second consecutive 40-point victory over that team as well, although the previous meeting had taken place way back in 1921 (48-0).
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has appeared on national or regional television in 236 consecutive games entering this weekend.
The Irish have made 354 appearances on network television -- more than any other school and more than the next two combined.
Notre Dame has become accustomed to thrilling finishes. The Irish have been involved in 21 games decided by seven points or less since the start of the 2009 campaign. In fact, 15 of the last 21 losses for the Irish have been decided by a touchdown or less, including seven by a field goal or less.
Notre Dame has played in 56 games in the 123-season history of the program where the winning points have occurred in overtime or the game's final minute of regulation. Amazingly, 11 have come in the past five years alone.
NO TURNOVERS = VICTORIES
Notre Dame was victimized by turnovers in 2011. To no surprise, the Irish went 3-0 in games when they did not commit a turnover. In fact, Notre Dame is 6-0 under Brian Kelly when playing an entire game without a turnover.
Notre Dame has won its last seven games in which it failed to commit a turnover. The Irish have not lost a game without no turnovers since Oct. 17, 2009 when USC upended Notre Dame, 34-27.
Notre Dame is 21-4 in its last 25 games in which it failed to commit a turnover.
TIDE TURNING IN IRISH FAVOR WITH TURNOVERS
Notre Dame finished 2011 with 29 turnovers. The 29 turnovers were the most by an Irish squad since 1999. Notre Dame committed at least three turnovers in six different games.
As if the 29 turnovers were not costly enough, nine occurred inside the opponents' 25-yard line. In fact, eight of the turnovers happened in the red zone, which led the FBS and six came inside its opponents' 10-yard line. Four of the six turnovers inside the 10-yard line came on a first down play as well.
Notre Dame ranked 73rd or worse in each of the four FBS turnovers categories. The Irish were tied for 112th in interceptions thrown (17), tied for 73rd in fumbles lost (12), tied for 110th in total turnovers (29) and 118th in turnover margin (-1.15).
Notre Dame forced four turnovers and held a plus-three turnover margin against Navy on Sept. 1. The Irish produced 14 all of last season, the fewest dating back to 1951. It was the first time the defense produced more than three turnovers in a game since intercepting four passes in the 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over Miami to end the 2010 season.
Notre Dame recovered three Navy fumbles on Sept. 1, which is exactly half of the total (six) the Irish recovered over the entire 2011 season.
KELLY EXCELS WITH FIRST-TIMERS UNDER CENTER
Each of the last six times a Brian Kelly coached team has opened a game with a first-time starting quarterback, Kelly's team has proved victorious.
In his three years at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has helped the Irish secure a 16-3 record when entering halftime with a lead and 15-3 mark when leading after three quarters.
Kelly is 160-11 in his coaching career when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and 96-5 since 2001. He owns a 148-13 record when taking a lead into halftime, including a 93-5 mark since 2001.
Kelly registered his first victory at Notre Dame when trailing at halftime at Wake Forest on Nov. 5. The Irish had lost their five previous games when trailing at intermission under Kelly.
Kelly coached teams owned a 57-game winning streak in games where they held their opponents to less than 20 points, which ended in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State (18-14). Kelly's previous such loss came on Dec. 8, 2001 when North Dakota edged Grand Valley State, 17-14, in the NCAA Division II title game.
Since 2001, Brian Kelly has totaled the third-most wins among all active FBS coaches. Kelly is 111-34 over the last 11 seasons and is tied with Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. They trail only Bob Stoops (120-29) and Mack Brown (115-28).
Since 2006, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has compiled the fourth-most wins of any active NCAA FBS coach. Kelly has gone on to win 52 contests (52-15 overall) over that span. The only coaches ahead of Kelly in that time frame are Chris Peterson of Boise State (61), Gary Patterson of TCU (55) and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (55).
Brian Kelly ranks as the fifth-most successful active NCAA FBS coach in winning percentage since 2007. Kelly's .792 winning percentage is bested only by Chris Peterson of Boise State (.889), Gary Patterson of TCU (.846), Kyle Whittingham of Utah (.811) and Nick Saban of Alabama (.800).
Brian Kelly ranks fifth and eighth among active NCAA FBS coach in both victories and winning percentage, respectively.
Notre Dame sophomore Everett Golson made his first career start on Sept. 1 against Navy. He was the 21st signal caller to make his Irish starting debut since 1985. Notre Dame has gone 15-6 in those 21 games with a first-time starting quarterback under center.
Golson became the first Irish signal caller to make his career and starting debut in a season opener away from Notre Dame Stadium since Ron Powlus in 1994. All Powlus did in his debut was throw for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-12 rout of Northwestern. Golson completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown.
Golson hooked up with senior TE Tyler Eifert on a five-yard touchdown pass with 11:20 left in the second quarter to give the Irish a 20-0 lead.
Golson extended Notre Dame's winning streak to three games under first-time starting quarterbacks.
Dayne Crist snapped that five-game skid with a victorious debut against Purdue on Sept. 4, 2010. Junior Tommy Rees made it two straight wins for the Irish with a first-time starter under center. Rees helped Notre Dame upend No. 15 Utah, 28-3, on Nov. 13, 2010.
From 1985-98, Notre Dame was victorious in nine straight games in which an Irish quarterback was making his first career start, including four coming in a season opener. Those openers were won by Rick Mirer (No. 1 Notre Dame def. No. 4 Michigan 28-24 in '90), Kevin McDougal (No. 7 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 27-12 in '93), Ron Powlus (No. 3 Notre Dame def. Northwestern 42-12 in '95) and Jarious Jackson (No. 22 Notre Dame def. No. 5 Michigan 36-20 in '98).
Notre Dame's nine-game, first-start streak ended in the 10-0 loss at USC on Nov. 28, 1998, when Eric Chappell started in place of the injured starter Jackson (then-freshman Arnaz Battle also played a large chunk of that game).
Following the 1998 meeting with USC, the Irish won three consecutive games under first-time signal callers. In fact, all three came during the same season, 2000, and occurred over the year's first five contests. Arnaz Battle (Notre Dame def. No. 24 Texas A&M, 24-10), Gary Godsey (Notre Dame def. Purdue, 23-21) and Matt LoVecchio (No. 25 Notre Dame def. Stanford, 20-14).
The Irish then dropped five straight contests with a first-time starting quarterback under center.
Notre Dame used a trio of first-time signal callers in 2007, including one in each of the first two games of the season. Demetrius Jones (Georgia Tech def. Notre Dame, 33-3), Jimmy Clausen (No. 14 Penn State def. Notre Dame, 31-10) and Evan Sharpley (No. 13 USC def. Notre Dame, 38-0) all failed to walk away with a victory.
Interestingly enough, the Irish are 9-2 when playing in Notre Dame Stadium, 4-4 when playing on the road and 2-0 when playing on a neutral field under a first-time starting quarterback (since 1985).
OFFENSIVE LINE PAVES THE WAY
Notre Dame's offensive line is led by senior LT Zack Martin and graduate C Braxston Cave. Each are candidates for the prestigious Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. Cave is also on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which is given to the top center in college football.
Martin, who has another year of eligibility after 2012, has started all 27 games for Notre Dame over the last three seasons. He has won the Guardian of the Year Award, presented by the Guardian Life Insurance Company, to the top Irish offensive lineman in each of the last two years.
In 2011, Martin had the highest grade of any offensive linemen and recorded the most snaps. He led the team in knockdown blocks, extra individual effort and allowed only one sack plus permitted the fewest defensive pressures. Martin was a key component to an offensive line that improved its rushing attack by 33.8 yards per game from 2010 to 2011.
Cave has played in 36 games during his career. He started 22 straight games (and now 23 career starts including Sept. 1 against Navy) before a foot injury in 2011 required surgery and forced him to miss the remainder of season. Prior to the setback, Cave started the first nine games at center and helped Notre Dame's offense average 173.6 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry. A Rimington Trophy candidate in each of the last two years, he also spearheaded an offensive line that allowed only five sacks in 324 pass attempts in the season's first nine games.
Senior LG Chris Watt will get the nod to the left of Cave. He has played in 27 consecutive games for the Irish and started every contest in 2011 and 2012 at left guard after serving as a backup in 2010. Watt does have another season of eligibility after 2012.
Graduate RG Mike Golic, Jr. gives the Irish some experience and versatility on the right side of the line. He served the role of backup center in 2009 and 2010 and emerged in 2011 when Cave was lost for the year due to injury. He has appeared in 28 games over his career and can play either guard or center spot. He has started five consecutive games for the Irish, including Sept. 1 against Navy.
Junior RT Christian Lombard made his first career start in the season opener against Navy on Sept. 1. He served as an understudy to Taylor Dever in 2010 and 2011. Lombard did not play as a freshman and participated in 13 games last year, primarily on special teams and as a reserve right tackle.
The sophomore tandem of OT Nick Martin and OG Conor Hanratty made their respective Irish debuts against Navy on Sept. 1 and provide depth at either of the guard or tackle positions. Martin is the younger brother of Notre Dame starting LT Zack Martin, while Hanratty is the son of former Irish All-America quarterback Terry Hanratty.
Notre Dame was sacked only 17 times (or 1.31 per game) on 473 passes attempted or 490 actual pass attempts when including the pass plays that ultimately resulted in sacks in 2011. In other words, the Irish yielded a sack once out of every 27.8 pass attempts or just 3.47% of true pass attempts.
Notre Dame's offensive line put the "O" in October as the group allowed zero sacks in October last season. In fact, the Irish did not allow a sack in 195 consecutive pass attempts, spanning from the third quarter at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 until the second quarter of the victory over Maryland on Nov. 12. The Terps did finish the contest with three sacks.
Notre Dame held seven of its opponents in 2011 without a sack, including USC (20th) and Michigan (29th) - both of whom ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in sacks/game. In fact, the Irish ranked 26th in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed despite having faced five teams that ranked among the top 20 in sacks/game.
Notre Dame held USC without a sack for the first time since the 1998 meeting.
Notre Dame was 26th in the FBS in overall sacks allowed (17) and sacks allowed per game (1.31).
RUNNING BACK POSITION DEFINITE STRENGTH ENTERING 2012
Notre Dame's running backs arguably had the best season of any offensive position group last year, as they averaged 5.8 yards per carry and 153.2 rushing yards per game with 23 rushing touchdowns.
Senior Cierre Wood led the Irish with 1,186 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2011. He became the 10th Notre Dame running back to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season and was named to the Doak Walker Award watch list prior to 2012. Wood will miss the first two games of 2012 after being suspended for a violation of team rules.
Senior Theo Riddick moved from slot receiver to running back for the final two games of 2011 and sticks at that position in 2012. Riddick, who arrived at Notre Dame as a heralded running back, has rushed 54 times for 252 yards in his college career. He gained 36 yards on eight carries in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State.
Riddick was one of 49 players named to the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, an award in its third year that honors the most versatile player in major college football. He caught 38 passes for 436 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games last season as a junior, adding 63 yards on 14 carries. He returned eight kickoffs for a total of 166 yards.
Sophomore George Atkinson III played a limited role on offense in his rookie season, as Atkinson rushed for 27 yards on nine carries with two touchdowns. However, Atkinson thrilled the Irish faithful in the 2012 Blue-Gold Spring Football Game by gaining 124 yards on 15 carries and added 54 yards on three pass receptions.
DOUBLE CENTURY GROUND GAME
Notre Dame ran for 293 yards against Navy on Sept. 1. The Irish have won nine consecutive games when it rushes for at least 200 yards. The Irish have not lost a game with more than 200 yards on the ground since Nov. 3, 2007 against Navy.
Notre Dame is 21-1 since the start of the 2002 season when it gains 200 or more yards rushing.
IRISH TOUGH TO BEAT WHEN WINNING THE RUSHING BATTLE
Since the start of the 2005 season, Notre Dame has won 34 of its last 36 games when recording more rushing yards than their opponent.
The Irish 27-game winning streak when outrushing its opponent was snapped in the loss at Michigan on Sept. 10, 2011. Notre Dame had not previously lost a game when outrushing its foe since Dec. 28, 2004 when the Irish lost to Oregon State, 38-21, in the Insight Bowl. Notre Dame also collected more rushing yards than Florida State in last year's Champs Sports Bowl, yet ended up on the losing side of the contest.
TYLER'S EIFERT GARNERS PLENTY OF ALL-AMERICA ATTENTION
Senior TE Tyler Eifert - a 2011 Mackey Award finalist - is the only tight end on the 2012 Maxwell Award Watch List, an award that goes to college football's player of the year. He is also on the watch list for the Lombardi and Mackey awards, and is the consensus preseason first-team All-American tight end.
Eifert hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass from Everett Golson with 11:20 left in the second quarter to give the Irish a 20-0 lead over Navy on Sept. 1. The touchdown catch was the eighth of his career.
Eifert has a reception in 21 consecutive games, which is the longest streak by an FBS tight end in the country.
Eifert moved into sole possession of third place on the Notre Dame tight end career receptions list with 94. He surpassed Kyle Rudolph (90, 2008-10) and Anthony Fasano (92, 2003-05).
Eifert has 1,177 career yards receiving, which ranks second all-time in tight end school history.
Eifert needs just six receptions to become the third Notre Dame tight end in school history to reach 100 career catches. With 34 more grabs and 583 receiving yards, Eifert would rank first in career catches and receiving yards by an Irish tight end.
Eifert led all Football Subdivision tight ends in receptions (63), receptions per game (4.84) and receiving yards (803) in 2011. He also ranked second in receiving yards per catch (12.74; minimum 4.33/game) and second in receiving yards per game (61.76).
Eifert finished 2011 with 63 receptions for 803 yards - both single-season school records for an Irish tight end.
Eifert broke a 34-year record at the position set by three-time All-America TE Ken MacAfee.
48 of Eifert's 63 receptions last season garnered the Irish a touchdown or first down.
20 of Eifert's 22 receptions last season on third down garnered the Irish a touchdown or first down.
Eifert had 19 receptions of 15 or more yards and 10 grabs of 20 or more yards in 2011.
Eifert became the second Irish tight end with at least five touchdown catches in a single-season. Ken MacAfee owns the school record for touchdown receptions by a tight end with six in 1977.
Eifert has registered a career-best eight catches on three different occasions in 2011 - against Pittsburgh, Air Force and Maryland. He is tied 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. The Irish single-game record is nine by MacAfee for 114 yards in a 31-24 victory at Purdue in 1977.
KOYACK, NIKLAS GIVE IRISH TWO MORE WEAPONS AT TIGHT END
The sophomore tandem of Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas will also see the field plenty in 2012. Koyack caught just one pass in 2011, but played in 12 games and started one. Niklas, on the other hand, is new to the position. He saw action in 12 games as a freshman at outside linebacker, but switched to tight end for spring drills in 2012. Niklas registered 20 tackles last year on defense and started at outside linebacker in Notre Dame's victory against No. 15 Michigan State. Nicknamed Hercules, Niklas provides incredible athleticism, size (6-7, 260) and physicality at the position.
Both saw extensive time at the position against Navy on Sept. 1. Niklas collected his first career start and first career reception in the victory. His grab went for 29 yards and setup an Irish touchdown.
The 2012 Irish wide receiving corps won't be the only group attempting to fill the void created by the graduation of standout Michael Floyd--as Notre Dame tight ends and running backs are expected to become greater receiving threats this year.
Junior TJ Jones, who was listed on the 2012 Biletnikoff watch list, was tied for third on the team in receptions (38 for 366, 3 TDs) in 2011 and, with Theo Riddick moving to running back, Jones ranks as the leading returning pass-catcher among wide receivers in 2012.
A concise route-runner, Jones has 63 total receptions in his first three seasons and has started 19 of 26 career games for the Irish.
Senior slot receiver Robby Toma (19 receptions for 207 yards and one TD in 2011) emerged late in the season a year ago after Riddick missed two games due to injury. A shifty player with reliable hands, Toma started the final four games and recorded 16 receptions for 172 yards over the final four games of 2011 (only Floyd and All-America tight end Tyler Eifert had more catches and yards over that stretch).
Toma did not have a catch against Navy on Sept. 1, but he did register his first career rushing touchdown.
Graduate John Goodman will utilize his fifth season with the Irish after graduating from Notre Dame in May. Goodman has started five games in his Notre Dame career, including against Navy on Sept. 1, and totaled 28 receptions for 315 yards and one touchdown.
Junior Daniel Smith made his first career start on Sept. 1 against Navy and sophomore DaVaris Daniels saw action for the first time in his career - and both are options at wide receiver. Smith, Notre Dame's biggest wideout at 6-feet-4, has been hampered by injuries in his Notre Dame career but has flashed signs of being a good playmaker when healthy. Daniels has the best vertical on the team at 38 inches and preserved a year of eligibility in 2011. An electric player in high school, Daniels showed flashes of his potential during spring practices and could be a favorite to eventually win the open receiver battle.
Daniels had two catches for 49 yards against Navy on Sept. 1, including a 35-yard reception - Notre Dame's longest of the game.
Three dynamic freshmen will all get an opportunity to compete for playing time in 2012. Chris Brown was the South Carolina state champion in triple jump while placing second in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes plus the high jump and could be the fastest receiver on the team. Justin Ferguson recorded 21 receiving TDs over his final two seasons at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Davonte' Neal was the Gatorade Arizona player of the year following his junior and senior seasons and could be a natural slot receiver for the Irish.
Ferguson and Neal each had catches against Navy on Sept. 1.
Notre Dame had 10 different players with at least one reception against Navy on Sept. 1 - three more than the Irish had in any one game in 2010 and most since Dec. 28, 2004 against Oregon State (when Notre Dame also had 10 different players catch a pass).
DEFENSE IS ABOUT POINTS, NOT YARDS
Notre Dame was one of 13 FBS teams that allowed less than 21.0 points/game over each of the last two seasons.
Notre Dame has allowed an average of 20.46 points/game over the last two seasons combined, which ranked as the 20th-best average over 2010-11 of any team in the FBS.
IRISH DEFENSE LEADS THE WAY
Notre Dame's defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns or less in 13 of its last 18 games.
Notre Dame has given up exactly nine rushing touchdowns over its last 19 games (dating back to the Tulsa game in 2010). Even more amazing, only three of those rushing touchdowns have come from an opposing running back (Jonathan Lee's eight-yard TD run for Air Force with the Irish leading 59-27 with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter on Oct. 8, 2011, Josh Harris' two-yard run for Wake Forest in the second quarter on Nov. 5, 2011 and D.J. Adams' two-yard touchdown on Nov. 12, 2011 with the Irish leading Maryland, 45-14, with 37 seconds left).
USC's Mitch Mustain (2010) and Michigan's Denard Robinson each snuck in from one-yard out (Robinson's following a Wolverine fumble) in 2011. Tim Jefferson of Air Force had a three-yard scoring run on Oct. 8, 2011 and Jarvi Cummings of Navy had a 12-yard touchdown run with the Irish leading 49-7 in the fourth quarter in 2011. Maryland's signal caller C.J. Brown had a 24-yard touchdown run on Nov. 12, 2011 and Boston College quarterback Josh Bordner had a two-yard touchdown run on Nov. 19, 2011. Even crazier, eight of the last 10 rushing touchdowns against the Irish have come from quarterbacks (when you include Ricky Dobbs' two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter of the game against Notre Dame on Oct. 23, 2010).
Over the last 23 games, only four running backs have recorded a rushing touchdown against Notre Dame (Gee Gee Greene, Navy, 2010; Jon Lee, Air Force, 2011; Josh Harris, Wake Forest, 2011; D.J. Adams, Maryland, 2011).
Notre Dame surrendered 14 points or less in five games in 2011 - Michigan State (13), Pittsburgh (12), Purdue (10), Navy (14) and Boston College (14). The Irish had not limited that many opponents to 14 points or less in the same season since 2002 when Notre Dame surrendered 14 points or less in six games.
Notre Dame surrendered 13 points or less in three consecutive games - Michigan State (13), Pittsburgh (12) and Purdue (10). The Irish had not done that since 1989 when Notre Dame was the top-ranked team in college football. Notre Dame limited Pittsburgh (seven), Navy (zero) and SMU (six) all under 13 points.
Notre Dame's defense allowed only eight rushing touchdowns in 2011. Only four teams in the FBS allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Irish.
DEFENSIVE LINE FITS THE BILL
Notre Dame possesses arguably its best front line in recent memory. The trio of senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, junior NG Louis Nix III and sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt have combined to start 46 games over their respective careers.
Lewis-Moore is the elder statesmen of the trio. He has played in 33 games over his Notre Dame career and has started 30 contests, including all 13 in 2010, each of the first seven in 2011 (before a knee injury against USC ended his season) and on Sept. 1 against Navy. Lewis-Moore has totaled 140 career tackles, more than any other Irish defensive lineman, including 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He has added three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups.
Lewis-Moore was on pace to lead the Irish defensive line in stops for the third straight season prior to the injury. He had tallied 32 tackles, including four for loss, and recorded one and a half sacks, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.
Nix III, the anchor of Notre Dame's defensive line, was a force at times in the middle of the Irish defense in 2011. He tied for seventh on the team - tops among defensive ends and nose guards - with 45 tackles last season. Nix III recorded 32 tackles over final seven games of season.
Nix III had three tackles, including 1.5 for loss against on Sept. 1 against Navy.
Tuitt is a physically-imposing defensive lineman that showed ability to play both defensive end and defensive tackle for the Irish as a freshman in 2011. He played in nine games and totaled 30 tackles with three tackles for loss and two sacks. Tuitt received third-team Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele.
Both Nix III and Tuitt are using their second season of athletic eligibility in 2012.
Junior NG Kona Schwenke arguably was the biggest and most pleasant surprise for the Irish in spring drills. The Hawaii native moved from defensive end to nose guard in the spring and thrived during practices and the spring game. Schwenke pushed Nix III for the starting nod right up until the end of fall practice.
Joining Nix III and Schwenke as other options on the interior of the Irish defensive line are sophomore NG Tony Springmann and early-enrollee freshman DT Sheldon Day - both made their Notre Dame debuts on Sept. 1 against Navy. Springmann did not see game action for Notre Dame in 2011. Day was runner-up for Mr. Football in Indiana last year, losing out to fellow early enrollee and quarterback Gunner Kiel.
Sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt scooped up a fumble and rumbled 77 yards for a touchdown with 2:12 left in the second quarter to give the Irish a 27-0 lead on Sept. 1 over Navy.
The touchdown fumble return was the longest since Steve Lawrence had a 79-yard return in 1985 and third-longest in school history.
Frank Shaughnessy holds, and will forever barring NCAA rules changes, the school record with a 107-yard return against Kansas in 1904.
Tuitt is the first Irish defense lineman in 18 years to score a touchdown. The last time it occurred was a 20-yard fumble return by nose guard Alton Maiden on Nov. 9, 1996 in a 48-21 victory at Boston College. A week earlier, defensive end Renaldo Wynn had a 24-yard fumble return for a score -- against Navy in Dublin, Ireland as well in a 54-27 win.
LINEBACKER CORPS AS EXPERIENCED AS ANY IRISH UNIT
For the second straight season, three of four starting Notre Dame linebackers return and the unit features more upperclassmen than any other position on defense.
The entire defense is led by All-American senior ILB Manti Te'o. A finalist for the Butkus Trophy and Lott Award in 2011, Te'o led the Irish in tackles for a second-straight season with 128 stops while setting career highs of 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. After considering entering the NFL Draft, Te'o chose to return to school and was a preseason All-American by virtually every selector.
Senior ILB Dan Fox emerged from a pack of contenders to earn the starting inside linebacker job opposite Te'o last year and played well enough to start all 13 games. Fox, who has held onto the job this fall, ranked sixth on the squad with 48 tackles and added two and a half tackles for loss and one sack.
Fox started his 14 consecutive game for the Irish on Sept. 1 against Navy. He finished with seven tackles, including six solo stops.
Senior ILB Carlo Calabrese split time with Fox in 2011 and played especially well against the run. Only three players on the team have more career tackles than Calabrese's 97 stops.
Junior ILB Kendall Moore and sophomore ILB Jarrett Grace received good reviews from the Irish coaching staff and provide quality depth at both inside linebacker positions. Both saw significant playing time on Sept. 1 against Navy. Grace made his debut for Notre Dame.
At outside linebacker, junior Prince Shembo started eight of 12 games played in 2011; the only four games he didn't start came when the Irish opened with five defensive backs on the field. Shembo recorded 31 tackles with three and a half tackles for loss and two sacks in 2011--though he moves to the outside linebacker position owned by Darius Fleming the previous two seasons.
Shembo picked up a pair of tackles and tackle for loss in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
Sophomore OLB Ishaq Williams spent much of his first year with the Irish learning how to play outside linebacker after being one of the top defensive ends in the country as a high school senior. Standing 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, he has the physical attributes needed to compete at the highest of levels and will get a chance in his second season to become a larger contributor.
Williams, without a doubt, had the best game of his young career on Sept. 1 against Navy. He registered four tackles, three solo, one for loss and forced the fumble that directly led to sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt's touchdown.
Sophomore OLB Ben Councell has tremendous potential and moved atop the depth chart with junior OLB Danny Spond out with migraines. He benefited greatly from the extra snaps in fall practices.
Councell picked up a tackle in his Notre Dame debut on Sept. 1 against Navy.
Sophomore Anthony Rabasa did not play as a freshman in 2011 but adds great depth to the position this year.
Romeo Okwara, a freshman from Charlotte, N.C., attended the same high school as Shembo and was a first-team all-state defensive player in 2011. He is extremely young (just turned 17) and raw, but his frame (6-4, 239) and athleticism helped him see the field against Navy on Sept. 1.
TE'O PACKS A HAWAIIAN PUNCH
Senior LB Manti Te'o has been tabbed a candidate for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player), Lombardi and Butkus Awards, as well as highlights just about every preseason All-America squad. He led the Irish with 128 tackles,13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2010. He has collected 100 or more stops in each of the last two seasons. Te'o became the 10th player in Notre Dame history to record 300 tackles for a career and currently ranks eighth in school history with 330 tackles.
Te'o collected his first career interception, first career fumble recovery and added six tackles in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1. He was one of seven players in the FBS with both an interception and fumble recovery over the opening weekend of action.
Walter Camp, Rivals, Phil Steele, SI.com and Associated Press named Te'o a second-team All-American in 2011. He was also named Capital One Academic All-America second team. Te'o was also a finalist for the Butkus Award and Lott Trophy in 2011.
Te'o led the Irish in total tackles (128), solo stops (62), assisted tackles (66) and tackles on running plays (93).
Te'o ranked for tied for 24th in the FBS in tackles per game (9.85) and tied for 69th in tackles for loss (1.04/game). He ranked 24th in total tackles and 59th in solo stops.
Off the gridiron, Te'o has excelled in the classroom and in the community. He has earned a 3.296 cumulative grade-point average at Notre Dame and has volunteered dozens of hours at a local youth center. While he was in high school, the former Eagle Scout volunteered his time at Hawaii Special Olympics and with the Head Start preschool program.
Te'o eclipsed 10 or more tackles in nine of Notre Dame's 13 games in 2011. He has accomplished the feat 18 different times over his career. He led Notre Dame in tackles nine times in 2011 and 19 different times over his career.
Te'o has collected 330 tackles in his career, which ranks eighth in school history.
Te'o also ranks second in the FBS among active players in career tackles and fourth in tackles per game.
SECONDARY EXPERIENCED AT SAFETY, FAR FROM IT AT CORNER
The most inexperienced unit on the 2012 Fighting Irish football team, without question, is the secondary where senior safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta are the only players that entered the season with starting experience. However, the entire group of defensive backs has combined to appear in 212 games at Notre Dame.
Slaughter, who graduated from Notre Dame in May, started 10 games in 2011 as a safety and also can be an outside linebacker in certain defensive packages. Always known for his ferocious tackles, Slaughter recorded a career-best 45 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in 2011.
Slaughter made his 17th career start and collected three solo tackles in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
Motta started seven games in 2011 and has opened 16 contests over his Irish career, including on Sept. 1 against Navy. Only Kapron Lewis-Moore and Manti Te'o have more career stops among active Irish players than Motta's 106 tackles.
Motta had four solo tackles, including one for loss, in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
Farley made the largest leap of any safety during fall practice. He is in his first year at the position after playing wide receiver in his freshman year (entirely on the scout team as he did not see any game action).
Farley was one of eight first-time starters in the Irish lineup on Sept. 1 against Navy.
McCarthy returns for a fifth year and has been primarily a special-teams player in his Notre Dame career, but did collect his first career fumble recovery on Sept. 1 against Navy. Salvi is a walk-on who was rewarded with a scholarship last spring. The hard-hitting safety packs even bigger punches in the boxing ring, as Salvi won the 188-pound title at the 2012 Bengal Bouts on Notre Dame's campus.
Hardy suffered a knee injury early in 2011 and missed the entire season while recovering.
Junior Austin Collinsworth was outstanding in spring ball and would have been in the rotation this season, but a shoulder injury suffered near the end of spring drills required surgery and Collinsworth will likely miss the 2012 season.
The Irish secondary was boosted with the addition of five freshmen safeties this fall. Chris Badger enrolled early in January 2010 and participated in Brian Kelly's first set of spring drills before Badger left Notre Dame for his Mormon mission. Baratti played five positions in high school and was named a first-team all-state selection in Texas as a senior. Virginia's C.J. Prosise earned all-state honors as a junior and senior and Elijah Shumate played for the top-rated high school in the country last year (Don Bosco Prep in East Orange, N.J.) and was ranked as a top-10 defensive back last year. John Turner helped Cathedral High School in Indianapolis win the state championship last year and he was selected to the Indianapolis Star Super Team in 2011.
Baratti and Shumate, who cross-trains at cornerback as well, each saw extensive action not only on special teams on Sept. 1 against Navy, but with the defense as well.
Only five scholarship cornerbacks dotted the Irish roster at the start of training camp - and juniors Lo Wood and Bennett Jackson entered as the favorites to start. Jackson won the job, as did Wood, but Wood was lost for the season following a ruptured Achilles tendon midway through fall practice.
Jackson has played in all 27 games over the last three years, primarily on special teams, before breaking into the starting lineup for the first time in his career on Sept. 1 against Navy. He came to Notre Dame as a wide receiver, but transition to corner back in the spring of 2011. Jackson has been one of the top special teams tacklers each of the last two seasons. He also helped Notre Dame's indoor track team win the 2012 BIG EAST Championship, competing in the 60-meter hurdles.
Jackson led the Irish in tackles (seven) and solo stops (seven) in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
A track teammate of Jackson, sophomore Josh Atkinson placed fifth in the 60-meter dash and sixth in the 200 at the 2012 BIG EAST Indoor Championships and followed that up by placing fourth in the 100-meter dash and fifth in the 200-meter dash at the BIG EAST Outdoor Championships. Atkinson played in eight games in his freshman season, mostly on special teams.
Sophomore Jalen Brown is the tallest of Notre Dame's cornerbacks at 6-foot-1. He did not play as a freshman in 2011 but defended Michael Floyd in practice every day as a member of the scout team. Floyd actually thanked Brown in his speech after winning the team MVP award for the effort Brown gave every day in practice, helping make Floyd a better player.
Atkinson and Brown each played in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
No player had a more meteoric rise through the Irish depth chat this fall than KeiVarae Russell. He was recruited to play running back, but moved to cornerback prior to the start of fall camp and excelled.
RUSSELL, A ROOKIE, STARTING AT CORNER (IN THE SEASON OPENER NO LESS)
Freshman CB KeiVarae Russell was the first freshman ever at Notre Dame to start at cornerback in the opening game of a season (Sept. 1 against Navy), which leaves quarterback as the only position group that never has had a freshman start the opener.
The previous closest freshman to start near a season opener was Stacey Toran in 1980 when he started the third game and the remaining nine for the Sugar Bowl team.
Russell was the first Irish rookie to start at cornerback since Robert Blanton on Nov. 15, 2008 - ironically against Navy. Darrin Walls also started as a rookie in 2006. Both Blanton and Walls are now in the NFL - Blanton with the Minnesota Vikings and Walls with the Atlanta Falcons. Walls even played in the '06 opener at Georgia Tech and went up against now Detroit Lions' superstar Calvin Johnson, holding his own.
Freshmen Luther Bradley (1973), Todd Lyght (1987), Tom Carter (1990) and Bobby Taylor (1992) all were starters as freshmen (Bradley in every game), but it was at safety. Bradley, Lyght, Carter and Taylor later became All-America corners, with the first three first-round picks and Taylor a second-round selection after his junior year in 1994.
Another freshman starter at corner was Ivory Covington in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl against 10-1 Colorado.
BY GEORGE, IT'S ATKINSON AGAIN
Sophomore RB George Atkinson III equaled the school record for most kickoff returns for touchdown with two in 2011.
Atkinson III registered a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against USC on Oct. 22. The 96-yard return was the longest at Notre Dame Stadium since Julius Jones went 100 yards against Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000. It also was the tied for the fifth-longest in Notre Dame Stadium history.
The kickoff return for a touchdown was Atkinson's second of the season. He was the first Irish player to have multiple kickoff returns for touchdowns in the same season since Allen Rossum in 1997.
Atkinson III was the second Notre Dame freshman to ever return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season. Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had a pair in 1988.
Atkinson III was the fourth FBS player in 2011 to register a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Atkinson III returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter against Michigan State on Sept. 17.
Atkinson III was the first Irish freshman to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had two kickoff returns for touchdown against Rice on Nov. 6, 1988. He was the first Notre Dame player to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Armando Allen Jr. raced 96 yards for a score against Hawai'i in the 2008 Hawai'i Bowl.
Atkinson III - the fourth Notre Dame rookie to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown - joined the company of running back Al Hunter (1973 Sugar Bowl victory versus Alabama), running back Allen Pinkett (1982 loss to Penn State) and Ismail (two against Rice in 1988). Hunter became Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard rusher, Pinkett is No. 2 on the school's all-time rushing chart and Ismail won the Walter Camp Award as a junior. Not a bad club to join.
Atkinson III recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown by an Irish player at Notre Dame Stadium since Julius Jones against No. 1 Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000 with his 89-yard kick return against Michigan State.
BRINDZA OWNS QUITE THE LEG
Sophomore PK Kyle Brindza averaged 65.3 yards per kickoff on 71 attempts in 2011. He recorded 12 touchbacks, which was the most by an Irish kicker since the stat was recorded in 1998.
Brindza's 65.3 yards per kickoff average is the best since 1998 by a wide margin. The next best effort by an Irish kicker since '98 - David Ruffer's 64.3 yards per kickoff in 2010.
TURK ENTERS FOURTH YEAR AS STARTING PUNTER
After a shaky start to the 2011 season, senior Ben Turk rebounded nicely to average 41.6 yards per punt over the last 11 games with 17 of 44 punts landing inside the 20 yard line. In his Notre Dame career, 55 of Turk's 149 career punts have landed inside the 20 and 53 of his punts have been fair caught.
Senior PK Nick Tausch reclaimed the starting kicking job he had as a freshman in 2009. As a rookie, Tausch set the Notre Dame record for most consecutive made field goals in a season when he converted 14 straight field goals. That record lasted only one season, though, as David Ruffer made 18 consecutive field goals in 2010.
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL - A FAMILY AFFAIR
The Golic family is one of just several father-son combinations who have played for Notre Dame represented on the 2012 Irish roster. Mike Sr. earned four monograms at Notre Dame from 1981-84, while Mike Jr. is a graduate C/G and Jake is a senior TE. In addition to their father, Mike and Jake's two uncles also played for the Irish. Bob was not only a four-year monogram winner from 1975-78, but he was a two-time All-American and helped the Irish to the 1977 National Title. Greg earned a pair of monograms in 1981 and 1983.
Other current Notre Dame players whose fathers also played for the Irish include junior WR TJ Jones (Andre, 1987-90) and sophomore OG Conor Hanratty (Terry, 1966-68).
In addition to the Golic brothers, the Irish 2012 roster has three other sets of brothers - Zack and Nick Martin, George III and Josh Atkinson as well as Chris and Will Salvi. Zack is a senior OT and Nick is a sophomore OT. George III is a sophomore RB and Josh is a sophomore CB. Chris is a senior S and Will is a senior CB.
No FBS schools have more than Notre Dame's four sets of brothers.
SIX FOOTBALL STUDENT-ATHLETES ENTER FIFTH YEAR
Six seniors on the University of Notre Dame football team were approved to return for a fifth year by the school's Faculty Board on Athletics.
The Official Notre Dame Football Postgame Show will again be broadcast live following every Notre Dame game on Newsradio 960 WSBT and 96.1 FM, and televised live on UND.com. The show is hosted by Jack Nolan and Irish All-American Reggie Brooks. The televised version of the show on UND.com also features game highlights.
OFFICIAL NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL TAILGATE SHOW
The IMG College Notre Dame Football Radio Network will again originate the Notre Dame Football Tailgate show from outside Legends of Notre Dame south of the Football Stadium beginning one hour before the kickoff of each Notre Dame home game. The show features live guests and is hosted by Jack Nolan and Alan Pinkett.
The Brian Kelly Radio Show begins live on Sept. 6 (the first show of the year will has been taped due to Notre Dame's travel for the Navy game and will air on Aug. 30) - and University of Notre Dame football fans can attend the show on the Notre Dame campus at Legends of Notre Dame, just south of Notre Dame Stadium. It will be telecast live on UND.com and broadcast live on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM & 960 AM WSBT in South Bend, as well as WXNT-AM NewsTalk 1430 in Indianapolis. Sirius/XM College SportsNation will also broadcast the show twice each week on Friday night and again on Saturday morning. The show will air from 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET.
Dates for the shows are Aug. 30; Sept. 6, 13 and 20; Oct. 4, 11, 18 and 25; Nov. 1, 8 and 15.
Hosted by Jack Nolan, the Brian Kelly Radio Show is a production of Notre Dame Sports Properties.
INSIDE NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL WITH Brian Kelly (TELEVISION SHOW)
Taped on Sunday afternoons, Inside Notre Dame Football will feature a recap of the week's contest, Notre Dame player features and more. The show can be seen locally Sunday evenings on WNDU-TV following the late local news. It will also re-air on WNDU-TV the following Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. as well as 90 minutes prior to kickoff of Notre Dame home games. All shows can also be viewed on UND.com starting Monday of each week. Inside Notre Dame Football airs on a total of 25 affiliates nationwide reaching nearly 72 million households.
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL PEP RALLIES
Notre Dame has announced locations for pep rallies for its six home football weekends on campus in 2012, as well as for its off-site game in October in Chicago:
-- Friday, Sept. 7 (Purdue): On South Quad in front of Rockne Memorial Building
-- Friday, Sept. 21 (Michigan): On Library Mall in between Hesburgh Library and Notre Dame Stadium
-- Friday, Oct. 5 (Miami, Fla.): At Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park
-- Friday, Oct. 12 (Stanford): At Purcell Pavilion
-- Friday, Oct. 19 (BYU): At Purcell Pavilion
-- Friday, Nov. 2 (Pittsburgh): At Purcell Pavilion
-- Friday, Nov. 16 (Wake Forest): At Purcell Pavilion
All pep rallies at Notre Dame begin at 6 p.m. (Eastern time), with the Irish football team arriving at 6:30 p.m. All rallies at Purcell Pavilion are free to the public and DO NOT require tickets. The Chicago rally begins with a 5-6 p.m. (Central time) performance by the Chicago band Maggie Speaks. The pep rally portion featuring Irish head coach Brian Kelly begins at 6:15 p.m. (Central time).
1992 IRISH MEN'S TENNIS TEAM HONORED THIS WEEKEND
Attendance at college reunions typically is spotty. Some have no desire to attend, others entrenched in workplace or family duties. Reunions with 30 percent attendance likely are a success - above 50 percent, generally unheard of.
Notre Dame men's tennis holds its annual reunion this weekend, coinciding with a 20-year anniversary celebration for the record-setting 1992 team - the first double-digit seed (10th) and first northern team ever to reach the NCAA team final.
Nobody is missing this 1992 "mini-reunion" - with 100 percent attendance from nearly 20 former players/coaches. It's hard to tell what's more impressive: the accomplishments of that team, or their lifelong bonds of friendship.
Notre Dame made its debut in the NCAA team format a year earlier and returned all six singles players - led by ace David DiLucia and tremendous doubles talent. The 1992 squad rattled off "the greatest string of upsets" in tournament history: beating 7-seed Mississippi State (5-3), then homestanding 3-seed Georgia (5-4) before echoes from a gridiron rivalry versus top seed USC (5-1). Despite losing the final to Stanford (the Cardinal's 10th title in 16 years), Notre Dame was the talk of college tennis, after battling the sport's three powerhouses (Georgia, USC, Stanford).
The team will be recognized at halftime of the football game with Purdue.