#20/19 Notre Dame (2-0) vs. #10/10 Michigan State (2-0)DATE
Saturday, September 15, 2012
8:12 p.m. EST
Spartan Stadium (75,005); East Lansing, Mich.
ABC national telecast with Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analysis), Heather Cox (sideline), Bill Bonnell (producer) and Derek Mobley (director).
IMG College Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. Notre Dame's game this weekend will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers (sideline). This broadcast can be heard live on both SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio (channel 129).
All Irish games can be heard in South Bend on News & Sports Radio 96.1 FM & 960 AM WSBT.
Including Saturday's game with Michigan State, Notre Dame has played before 272 capacity crowds among its 449 road games (.606) since 1930. The Irish have actually played in front of sellout crowds in 246 of its previous 288 games (.854) overall.
Notre Dame has played before 617 sellouts in 889 total games (.694) since 1930.
Notre Dame is ranked No. 19 in the USA Today Coaches' poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press poll. Michigan State is ranked No. 10 in both polls.
Live in-game stats will be provided through CBSSports.com College GameTracker via UND.com.
Notre Dame leads the series with Michigan State, 46-28-1, including 18-15-1 in East Lansing.
The Irish have captured 15 of the last 20 games in Spartan Stadium despite dropping each of their last two trips to East Lansing (2008, 2010).
Over the last 12 meetings (dating back to 2000), the Notre Dame-Michigan State game has been decided by a touchdown or less on nine occasions, with the game-winning score coming late in the fourth quarter or overtime in eight of the 12 meetings.
ROAD SEASON OPENERS
Notre Dame is 75-37-5 (.662) in road openers, but has dropped 12 of its last 15.
Notre Dame owns a 9-6 (.600) record when its first road game of the season comes against Michigan State. In fact, the Spartans have captured each of the last two meetings with the Irish when they have ventured on the road for the first time of the year (2008 and 2010).
WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE
Notre Dame has opened its road schedule with Michigan State on 15 previous occasions. No program has faced the Irish more often in their road openers than the Spartans.
This year's road lid lifter with Michigan State is the third road opener with the Spartans in the past five years (2008 and 2010). Prior to '08, Notre Dame had not opened its road slate with Michigan State since 2002.
The Spartans have captured each of the last two meetings with the Irish when they hit the road for the first time in a season.
-- Most Points Scored: 58-0, Pittsburgh (9.30.1944)
-- Most Points Allowed: 38-0, Michigan (9.13.2003)
-- Largest Margin of Victory: 58-0, Pittsburgh (9.30.1944)
-- Largest Margin of Defeat: 38-0, Michigan (9.13.2003)
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.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played two previous games in its history on Sept. 15. The Irish are 2-0 (1.000) all-time on this date.
NOTRE DAME IN SEPTEMBER
Notre Dame is 130-56-4 (.695) 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 (.771) in September home games.
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 69-23-1 (.747) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won four straight games in September, which comes on the heels of a five-game losing streak in the month.
Notre Dame has now collected at least one victory on every day of college football's main calendar days (Sept. 1 through Nov. 30). The two dates it had never won on entering this season were Sept. 1 and Sept. 8. The Irish took care of that with victories over Navy and Purdue. Until this season, Notre Dame had been 0-1 on Sept. 1 and 0-3 on Sept. 8.
The Irish lost just one September game between 1899-1962. Notre Dame posted a 32-1-3 (.931) record over the span.
A VICTORY OVER MICHIGAN STATE...
Gives Notre Dame a victory in its road opener for the first time since 2006 - snapping a five-game losing streak in road openers.
Gives the Irish a victory over a top-10 team for first time since Sept. 10, 2005, at No. 3 Michigan - snapping a nine-game losing streak in such games.
Gives Notre Dame a victory over a top-10 team on the road for first time since Sept. 10, 2005, at No. 3 Michigan - snapping a four-game losing streak in such games.
Gives the Irish a victory over a top-25 team on the road for first time since Oct. 1, 2005, at No. 22 Purdue - snapping a six-game losing streak in such games.
Improves Notre Dame to 3-0 for the first time since 2002.
Improves the Irish to 143-130-10 (.523) all-time against teams ranked in the top 25.
Improves Notre Dame to 79-85-6 (.482) all-time against teams ranked in the top 10.
Improves the Irish to 56-56-4 (.500) on the road against teams ranked in the top 25.
Improves Notre Dame to 27-38-2 (.418) on the road against teams ranked in the top 10.
Improves the Irish to 75-37-5 (.662) all-time in road openers.
Improves Notre Dame to 64-35-2 (.644) all-time in night games.
Improves the Irish to 10-6 (.625) all-time against Michigan State in road openers.
Improves Notre Dame to 5-2 (.714) all-time in night games against Michigan State.
Improves the Irish to 131-56-4 (.696) all-time in the month of September.
Improves Notre Dame to 47-31-2 (.600) in September road games.
Improves the Irish to 51-33-2 (.605) in September games away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves Notre Dame to 47-28-1 (.625) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
Gives the Irish consecutive victories over the Spartans for the first time since 1993-94.
Improves Notre Dame to 19-15-1 (.557) on the road in the all-time series with Michigan State.
Gives the Irish 16 victories over its last 21 road games with the Spartans.
Improves Notre Dame to 7-12-1 (.375) all-time against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Improves the Irish to 3-7-1 (.318) all-time against the Spartans when ranked in the top 10 (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame to 3-7-1 (.318) on the road against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Improves the Irish to 2-5-1 (.313) on the road against the Spartans when ranked in the top 10 (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 25-15-1 (.622) all-time against Michigan State (post 1936).
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 14-9-1 (.604) on the road against the Spartans (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 5-7-1 (.423) all-time against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Improves the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 3-6-1 (.350) on the road against the Spartans when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 856-300-42 (.732).
Improves the all-time road record of the Irish to 281-144-23 (.653).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record against Big Ten foes to 232-124-16 (.645).
Improves the all-time road record of the Irish against Big Ten foes to 103-70-10 (.590).
Improves Kelly's record to 190-67-2 (.737) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 71-32 (.689) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 62-20 (.756) since 2006.
Improves Kelly's record to 113-34 (.769) since 2001.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-2 (.500) all-time against Michigan State.
Improves Kelly's record to 1-2 (.333) on the road against Michigan State.
Improves Kelly's record to 6-8 (.429) all-time against Big Ten foes.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-6 (.333) on the road against Big Ten foes.
Improves Kelly's record to 58-28 (.674) all-time in the month of September.
A LOSS TO MICHIGAN STATE...
Extends the losing streak for the Irish to six games in road openers.
Drops Notre Dame to 142-131-10 (.519) all-time against teams ranked in the top 25.
Drops the Irish to 78-86-6 (.476) all-time against teams ranked in the top 10.
Drops Notre Dame to 55-57-4 (.491) on the road against teams ranked in the top 25.
Drops the Irish to 26-39-2 (.403) on the road against teams ranked in the top 10.
Drops Notre Dame to 74-38-5 (.654) all-time in road openers.
Drops the Irish to 63-36-2 (.634) all-time in night games.
Drops Notre Dame to 9-7 (.563) all-time against Michigan State in road openers.
Drops the Irish to 4-3 (.571) all-time in night games against Michigan State.
Drops Notre Dame to 130-57-4 (.691) all-time in the month of September.
Drops the Irish to 46-32-2 (.588) in September road games.
Drops Notre Dame to 50-34-2 (.593) in September games away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drops the Irish to 46-29-1 (.612) in the all-time series with Michigan State.
Drops the Irish to 18-16-1 (.529) on the road in the all-time series with Michigan State.
Drops the Irish to 6-13-1 (.325) all-time against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame to 2-8-1 (.227) all-time against the Spartans when ranked in the top 10 (post 1936).
Drops the Irish to 2-8-1 (.227) on the road against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame to 1-6-1 (.188) on the road against the Spartans when ranked in the top 10 (post 1936).
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 24-16-1 (.598) all-time against Michigan State (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 13-10-1 (.563) on the road against the Spartans (post 1936).
Drops the Irish when ranked in the top 25 to 4-8-1 (.346) all-time against Michigan State when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame when ranked in the top 25 to 2-7-1 (.250) on the road against the Spartans when ranked in the top 25 (post 1936).
Drops the all-time record for the Irish to 855-301-42 (.731).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time road record to 280-145-23 (.651).
Drops the all-time record of the Irish against Big Ten foes to 231-125-16 (.642).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record on the road against Big Ten foes to 102-71-10 (.585).
Drops Kelly's record to 189-68-2 (.734) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 70-33 (.680) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 61-21 (.744) since 2006.
Drops Kelly's record to 112-35 (.762) since 2001.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-3 (.250) all-time against Michigan State.
Drops Kelly's record to 0-3 (.000) on the road against Michigan State.
Drops Kelly's record to 5-9 (.357) all-time against Big Ten foes.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-7 (.125) on the road against Big Ten foes.
Drops Kelly's record to 57-29 (.663) all-time in the month of September.
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.
2012 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Notre Dame faces six opponents in 2012 that were ranked in this week's Associated Press top 25 poll, including USC (No. 2), Oklahoma (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 10), Michigan (No. 17), Stanford (No. 21) and BYU (No. 25). Five of those foes, excluding BYU (which is receiving votes), are ranked in this week's USA Today coaches' poll: USC (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 5), Michigan State (No. 10), Michigan (No. 16) and Stanford (No. 18).
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.
Notre Dame faces a top-25 opponent in five of its next six games.
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.
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has appeared on national or regional television in 237 consecutive games entering this weekend against Michigan State.
The Irish have made 355 appearances on network television - more than any other school and more than the next two combined.
RIGHT DOWN TO THE WIRE
Notre Dame sophomore PK Kyle Brindza connected on a 27-yard field goal with seven seconds left in regulation to give the Irish a 20-17 victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
The Irish had not won a game in regulation with less time on the clock since Nov. 8, 2003 when D.J. Fitzpatrick kicked a field goal as time expired to top Navy, 27-24.
Notre Dame has recorded only nine victories in school history with less time remaining in regulation.
Notre Dame has become accustomed to thrilling finishes. The Irish have been involved in 22 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 57 games in the 125-year history of the program where the winning points have occurred in overtime or the game's final minute of regulation. Amazingly, 12 have come in the past five years alone.
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 turnovers 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.
Notre Dame forced two more turnovers, both interceptions, in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. The Irish also won the turnover battle for the second consecutive week. Notre Dame won the turnover battle just three times all of last season.
Notre Dame also forced multiple turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time since Sept. 10 (Michigan) and Sept. 17 (Michigan State) of last year.
Notre Dame ranks seventh in the FBS in turnovers forced (six) and eighth in turnover margin (+2.00) - a remarkable turnaround through the first two games of 2012 when compared to the first two games of 2011.
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 a turnover 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.
LOOKING BACK AT MICHIGAN STATE 2011
Michigan State managed just one rushing first down against Notre Dame in 2011 - and it came with two minutes remaining in the opening half. The Spartans have been held to one rushing first down or less just eight times in school history and three of those have come against the Irish (1976, 1981 and 2011).
Michigan State has been held to fewer first down rushes (zero) just once in school history and it came against Purdue in 1979.
Bob Diaco - Notre Dame's assistant head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers coach and two-time all-Big Ten selection at Iowa - played a key role as the starting middle linebacker in the Hawkeyes' dominant effort of the Spartans in 1995 (another game in which Michigan State was held to one rushing first down).
Notre Dame limited Michigan State to 29 yards rushing on 23 carries last season. It was the fewest rushing yards by the Spartans in the series with Notre Dame since Sept. 19, 1987 when Michigan State managed just 21 yards on the ground in a 31-8 defeat.
The Spartans entered last season's game averaging 175.0 yards per game on the ground.
It is still the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Irish since limiting Boston College to five yards on the ground on Oct. 2, 2010.
Notre Dame registered 10 quarterback hurries, nine pass breakups, five tackles for loss and two sacks. The Irish also forced a pair of turnovers (both came following an Irish turnover).
Michigan State's longest run of the game was eight yards.
Notre Dame limited the Spartans to one yard or less on eight of their 23 carries.
Notre Dame limited Michigan State to 13 yards rushing in the first half on 14 carries (just a 0.9 yards per carry average).
Michigan State's longest run of the first half went for five yards. In fact, the Irish held the Spartans to one yard or less on six of their 14 rushes before halftime.
Michigan State amassed 154 total yards in the first half, 80 of which came on its 11-play touchdown drive early in the second quarter. The Spartans managed 74 yards on their other five drives. Notre Dame limited Michigan State to fewer than 17 yards on four of its six drives before halftime.
The Irish allowed a total of 52 yards of total offense in the third quarter on 13 plays, including nine yards rushing on six carries.
George Atkinson III returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead in the first quarter against Michigan State.
Atkinson 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.
Atkinson 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.
IRISH MOTTO 'NEXT MAN IN' TRULY PUT TO THE TEST
Notre Dame lost the services of the following front-line players and yet still managed to knockoff Purdue, 20-17, on Sept. 8:
Senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore and senior S Jamoris Slaughter were each lost for the game in the first quarter. The duo has combined to start 49 career games for the Irish. Both, though, are expected to return for matchup with No. 10 Michigan State.
Senior All-American TE Tyler Eifert and sophomore WR DaVaris Daniels (Notre Dame's leading receivers in the game and the season) were both lost early in the third quarter. Eifert had four catches for 98 yards and Daniels had four grabs for 70 yards before leaving the game.
Freshman backup DE Sheldon Day missed most of the second half due to dehydration.
Sophomore OLB Ishaq Williams was extremely limited in the second half.
Sophomore S Matthias Farley and freshman S Elijah Shumate, both of whom made their respective Notre Dame debuts against Navy on Sept. 1, shared duties for the injured Slaughter. Farley had four tackles, while Shumate had two tackles and a pass breakup.
Day initally replaced Lewis-Moore, but sophomore NG Tony Springmann was forced to play most of the second half at defensive end. Springmann, who made his Irish debut against Navy on Sept. 1, had a tackle and quarterback hurry.
Sophomore TE Troy Niklas, who just moved to tight end from linebacker this past spring, filled in for Eifert and recorded a 30-yard reception.
Junior QB Tommy Rees, senior WR John Goodman and senior WR Robby Toma all contributed significantly when needed, especially on the game-winning drive. Rees found Goodman for 10 yards on third-and-six and Toma for 21 on third-and-10 to set up the game winning field goal - converted by you guessed it, another "next man in."
Senior PK Nick Tausch had an injured groin and was unavailable so sophomore PK Kyle Brindza was forced into action. He has handled kickoff duties in 2011-12, but had yet to attempt a field goal and proceeded to miss his first attempt from 40 yards, but connected on his next two, including a 27-yarder with seven seconds remaining to give Notre Dame the victory.
THIRD DOWN WAS THE DIFFERENCE AGAINST PURDUE
The Notre Dame-Purdue game on Sept. 8 featured an asstounding 36 third-down plays. The Irish converted 11 of their 19 attempts, while the Boilermakers were limited to six of 17.
The 11 third-down conversions were the most for Notre Dame in a single game since Nov. 21, 1998 when the Irish had 11 against LSU. Notre Dame has not had more conversions in a game since Oct. 21, 1995 when the Irish converted an eye-dropping 15 of 20 third down plays in a rout of No. 5 USC.
Notre Dame has not had more third down attempts in a single game since Dec. 31, 2010 against Miami, Fla., in the Sun Bowl.
A Notre Dame opponent has not had more third down attempts in a single game since Boston College had 19 on Oct. 2, 2010.
Notre Dame ranks fourth in the FBS in third down efficiency and only six schools have more third down conversions this season.
UNDERMANNED IRISH DEFENSE STIFFENS IN SECOND HALF AGAINST PURDUE
Notre Dame's defense limited Purdue to 288 total yards on Sept. 8, despite playing nearly the entire game without starting DE and co-captain Kapron Lewis-Moore and starting S Jamoris Slaughter.
The Irish were at their best on third down and allowed the Boilermakers to only six third down conversions in 17 attempts.
Notre Dame limited Purdue to just 90 rushing yards on 30 carries (3.0 yards/carry). The Irish are now allowing only 119.5 rushing yards/game and 3.4 yards/carry.
The Irish defense was even better after halftime. They held Purdue to 109 total yards in the second half. The Boilermakers' eight total possessions in the third and fourth quarter resulted in four three-and-outs, two interceptions, one sustained drive that led to a field goal and one touchdown drive that occurred on a short field following Everett Golson's fumble at the Notre Dame 15-yard line.
Purdue rushed 11 times for 16 yards in second half and completed 7-of-16 passing for 93 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Boilermakers were 0-for-6 on third down in second half.
Notre Dame's first-team defense has allowed only one third-down conversion on nine attempts in the second half this season.
SOME YOUNG PUPS
Notre Dame has played a total of 58 different players over its first two games of the season, including 21 that saw their first career action in an Irish uniform. Of those 21 players, nine came on the offensive side of the ball, 10 on defense and two on special teams.
Following Notre Dame's 50-10 victory over Navy the Irish have 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).
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 it 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 on Sept. 1.
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.
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 when leading after three quarters.
Kelly is 161-11 in his coaching career when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and 97-5 since 2001. He owns a 148-13 record when taking a lead into halftime, including a 93-5 mark since 2001.
Here are a couple other pretty remarkable win-loss records during Kelly's career:
-- Kelly is 12-2 coming off a bye week.
-- Kelly is 126-23 when scoring first.
-- Kelly is 151-23-1 when outrushing his opponent.
-- Kelly is 114-12 when his team wins the turnover battle.
-- Kelly is 36-14-2 in games decided by three points or less.
-- Kelly is 63-6 when his team gets a defensive or special teams touchdown.
-- Kelly is 54-14 in the month of November, including a 20-2 mark since 2006.
-- Kelly is 124-7 when his team scores 30 or more points, including a 73-1 mark with 40 or more points.
-- Kelly is 121-6-1 when his team allows 19 points or less.
-- Kelly is 136-36-1 coming off a victory.
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 112-34 over the last 11 seasons and is tied with Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. They trail only Bob Stoops (121-29) and Mack Brown (116-28).
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 (53-15 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 (56) and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (56).
Brian Kelly ranks as the fourth-most successful active NCAA FBS coach in winning percentage since 2007. Kelly's .796 winning percentage is bested only by Chris Peterson of Boise State (.889), Gary Patterson of TCU (.849) and Nick Saban of Alabama (.804).
Brian Kelly ranks fifth and eighth among active NCAA FBS coach in both victories and winning percentage, respectively.
DEFENSE HAS CHANGED IRISH CULTURE
Notre Dame has allowed 27 total points over its first two games of 2012. The Irish have not allowed fewer points over the first two games of a campaign since 2002 when Notre Dame's foes managed only 17 points through two games.
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 14 of its last 19 games.
Notre Dame has given up exactly nine rushing touchdowns over its last 20 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 and two (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 and D.J. Adams' two-yard touchdown on Nov. 12, 2011 with the Irish leading Maryland, 45-14, with 37 seconds left) came against the Irish reserves.
USC's Mitch Mustain (2010) and Michigan's Denard Robinson each snuck in from one-yard out in 2011. Air Force's Tim Jefferson 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 (including Ricky Dobbs' two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter of the game against Notre Dame on Oct. 23, 2010).
Over the last 24 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.
HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Notre Dame was torched for 367 yards on 60 carries in the 2010 loss to Navy, but limited the Midshipmen to a total of 345 yards on the ground in the last two meetings combined (including 149 yards on 40 carries on Sept. 1; 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.
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 15th consecutive game for the Irish on Sept. 8 against Purdue, but for the first time at OLB. He collected seven tackles, including six solo stops, against Navy on Sept. 1 and five more stops in the victory over the Boilermakers.
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 104 stops. He registered seven tackles in his 2012 debut against Purdue on Sept. 8.
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 have seen significant playing time already in 2012.
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. He had five tackles and a pair of quarterback hurries in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
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 seventh in school history with 342 tackles.
Te'o also ranks second in the FBS among active players in career tackles and fourth in tackles per game.
Te'o also ranks second in the FBS among active players in assisted tackles, sixth in assisted tackles for loss, ninth in solo stops and 16th in total tackles for loss.
His 342 stops are the most career tackles by an Irish player since Mike Kovaleski ended his career in 1986 with 353 stops.
Te'o led Notre Dame with 10 tackles and one quarterback hurry in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
Te'o eclipsed 10 or more tackles in nine of Notre Dame's 13 games in 2011. He has accomplished the feat 19 different times over his career. He led Notre Dame in tackles nine times in 2011 and has done so 21 different times over his career.
Te'o collected his first career interception, first career fumble recovery and added eight 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.
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 49 games over their respective careers.
Lewis-Moore is the elder statesmen of the trio. He has played in 34 games over his Notre Dame career and has started 31 contests, including all 13 in 2010, each of the first seven in 2011 (before a knee injury against USC ended his season) and the first two games of 2012. Lewis-Moore has totaled 142 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. He backed up that performance with another top notch effort against Purdue on Sept. 8. Nix III had four tackles and 1.5 sacks in the victory over the Boilermakers.
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.
Springmann and Day were forced into major action against Purdue on Sept. 8. Day had four tackles, while Springmann, who made his Irish debut against Navy on Sept. 1, had a tackle and quarterback hurry.
Sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt has already collected four sacks in Notre Dame's first two games of 2012. He ranks tied for third in the FBS in sacks. Tuitt has more sacks that any underclassmen in the FBS. Only Bjoern Werner of Florida State has more total and solo sacks than Tuitt.
Tuitt picked up his third sack of the season on the final play of the third quarter against Purdue. The sack came on third and goal from the Notre Dame six-yard line. It forced the Boilermakers into a field goal.
Tuitt added his second sack of the game in the fourth quarter against the Boilermakers. He has collected two sacks in each of Notre Dame's first two contests.
Tuitt is the first Irish player with at least two sacks in consecutive games since Victor Abiamiri in 2006. Abiamiri had two against Navy (Oct. 28) and North Carolina (Nov. 4).
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.
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 223 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 18th career start and collected three tackles and a pass breakup in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. He left the game with an injury in the first quarter.
Motta started seven games in 2011 and has opened 17 contests over his Irish career, including on Sept. 8 against Purdue. Only Kapron Lewis-Moore and Manti Te'o have more career stops among active Irish players than Motta's 116 tackles.
Motta had four solo tackles, including one for loss, in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1. He backed up that effort with nine tackles against Purdue on Sept. 8. Motta had 11 stops and an interception at Michigan State in 2010.
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, have seen extensive action not only on special teams, 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 28 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 solo tackles (seven) in the victory over Navy on Sept. 1.
Jackson collected his first career interception in the third quarter against Purdue on Sept. 8 that ultimately led to a Notre Dame field goal. He also had an interception on the last play of the game to secure the victory. Jackson is the first Irish player with multiple interceptions in a game since Harrison Smith equaled the school record of three against Miami, Fla., in the 2010 Sun Bowl.
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.
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 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).
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).
JUST GOOD `OLE GOLSON FOOTBALL
Sophomore QB Everett Golson registered the best performance of his young career in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was on the ground.
The 289 yards passing by Golson was the second most by a Notre Dame quarterback making his first start in Notre Dame Stadium. Terry Hanratty holds the record with 304 in a 26-14 victory against No. 6 Purdue in 1966, and Golson just nudged ahead of Tom Clements' 1972 effort of 287 yards in a 35-14 Irish win against the Boilermakers.
Golson scored his first career rushing touchdown in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
Golson accounted for 196 of Notre Dame's first 210 total yards (189 through the air and seven on the ground) against the Boilermakers.
Golson completed a 41-yard pass to fellow sophomore WR DaVaris Daniels on Notre Dame's initial touchdown drive of the game. The completion was the longest of his career.
Golson went 3-for-3 for 73 yards on that drive and also added 10 yards rushing. He registered 83 of the 88 total yards.
Golson then spotted junior WR TJ Jones for a three-yard TD pass in the third quarter to give the Irish a 14-7 lead.
Golson went 3-for-6 on that scoring drive for 50 yards, twice hooking up with senior TE Tyler Eifert (for 22 and 25 yards).
REES PIECES TOGETHER IRISH OFFENSE
Junior QB Tommy Rees is 12-4 as the Irish starting quarterback. He has captained the Irish to victories over both Michigan State (2011) and USC (2010). Toss in a bowl victory (2010) as well and he is the first Notre Dame quarterback to accomplish those three feats since Rick Mirer in 1992. Mirer led Notre Dame to victories over the Spartans (52-31), Trojans (31-23) and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl (28-3).
Rees though might have made his most significant accomplishment on Sept. 8 in the victory over Purdue. He entered the game with 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter and promptly guided the Irish on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that setup the winning field goal.
Rees completed 3-of-6 passes for 35 yards on the drive and none were bigger than a 21-yard hookup with senior WR Robby Toma on a huge third down and 10 play from the Purdue 41-yard line. In fact, two of Rees' three completions converted third downs.
Rees became the 10th Notre Dame quarterback to ever surpass 4,000 career passing yards.
Rees has guided the Irish to victories at Notre Dame Stadium against 15th-ranked Utah (2010), at Notre Dame Stadium against 15th-ranked Michigan State (2011), at Yankee Stadium against Army (2010), at the LA Coliseum against arch-rival USC (2010; snapped Trojans eight-game winning streak in series), back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Purdue (2011), routs of Air Force, Navy and Maryland (2011) and narrow wins over Wake Forest (2011) and Boston College (2011). Rees was also the starting signal caller in Notre Dame's rout of Miami, Fla. in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Rees owns a .750 winning percentage over his 16 career starts (12-4).
Rees not only ranks as the most accurate quarterback in school history based on career completion percentage (64.2%), but his 65.5% completion percentage in 2011 ranks second best.
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 28 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 37 games during his career. He started 22 straight games (and now 24 career starts including Sept. 8 against Purdue) 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 28 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 29 games over his career and can play either guard or center spot. He has started six consecutive games for the Irish, including Sept. 8 against Purdue.
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.
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.
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.
Atkinson had 99 yards on nine carries and two touchdowns in the rout of Navy on Sept. 1, including a career-best 56-yard touchdown sprint. The 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.
Sophomore Amir Carlisle transferred to Notre Dame from USC prior to the start of the 2012 spring semester. Carlisle gained 118 yards on 19 rushes in 2011 for the Trojans and will be eligible for the Irish in 2012 after receiving a waiver from the NCAA, but missed spring practice with a broken ankle. He was held out for much of fall practice and returned to the practice field the week leading into the Purdue game.
BY LAND, CIERRE
Senior RB Cierre Wood became the 10th Irish running back (16th different season) to surpass 1,000 yards on the ground in a single season in 2011 and first since Darius Walker ran for 1,267 yards in 2006.
Wood's 1,186 yards rushing ranked 10th in single-season school history.
Wood registered nine rushing touchdowns in 2011.
Wood had a touchdown run in seven of Notre Dame's 13 games in 2011.
Wood has recorded 12 career rushing touchdowns, 10 of which have come over his last 15 games. He was the first Irish running back to record a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games (accomplished last season) since Darius Walker over the final four games of the 2005 campaign.
Wood's versatility was on display last season. He had 27 receptions for 189 yards. Wood has also upped his career total for catches to 47. Both totals rank in the top 10 in school history among running backs.
Wood registered 1,375 total yards from scrimmage in 2011, which ranked sixth-best in school history.
Wood has recorded three career multiple-rushing touchdown games.
Wood raced for a career-best 191 yards on 20 carries in the rout at Purdue on Oct. 1, 2011. The 191 yards was 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 earlier in '11.
The 9.6 yards per rush was the highest by a Notre Dame running back (minimum 10 carries) since Darius 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 against the Boilermakers last season. The run was the longest of his career (bested 39-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2010).
Wood recorded 40 rushes of 10 yards or more, 64 of his 217 carries resulted in a touchdown or first down and 13 of his 25 rushing attempts on third down plays resulted in a touchdown or first down in 2011.
Wood rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown at Michigan in 2011. He eclipsed career-highs in both carries and rushing yards in each of the first two weeks of the season.
Wood surpassed 100 yards in each of Notre Dame's first two games in 2011. He was the first Irish running back to exceed 100 yards on the ground in consecutive weeks since Armando Allen Jr. in 2009 (against both Michigan and Michigan State). Wood was the first Notre Dame running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing in the opening two weeks of a season since Darius Walker in 2005 (who actually had 100 yards on the ground in the first four games of the year).
Wood rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown in the season opener against USF.
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Senior RB Theo 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.
Riddick, recruited as a running back, but switched to receiver in head coach Brian Kelly's first season at Notre Dame, returns to his natural position this fall.
Riddick collected his first career 100-yard rushing game and multiple-rushing touchdown game against Navy on Sept. 1. He ran for 107 yards on 19 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Riddick added 53 yards rushing on 15 carries against Purdue on Sept. 8, but 47 came on 10 second-half carries.
As a wideout in 2010, Riddick collected a career-high 10 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. He registered his first and only career 100-yard receiving game. Riddick hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to tie the score, 21-21. The TD reception was the first of his career.
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 had four catches for a career-best 98 yards in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8 despite missing the fourth quarter due to injury.
All four of Eifert's receptions in the victory exceeded 20 yards (29, 25, 22 and 22 yards). Of his now 98 career catches, 20 have gone for at least 20 yards.
Six of Eifert's eight receptions in 2012 have garnered a touchdown or first down. Seventy of his 98 career catches have resulted in a touchdown or first - that's a pretty remarkable 71 percent of the time.
Eifert has a reception in 22 consecutive games, which is the longest streak by an FBS tight end in the country.
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 stands alone in third place on the Notre Dame tight end career receptions list with 98.
Eifert has 1,275 career yards receiving, which ranks second all-time in tight end school history.
Eifert needs just two receptions to become the third Notre Dame tight end in school history to reach 100 career catches. With 31 more grabs and 485 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.
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.
Below is an interesting comparison between Eifert's final receiving numbers in 2011 and the 12 all-time Mackey Award winners. Only two tight ends finished with more receptions, only five with more receiving touchdowns and only three with more receiving yards.
KOYACK, NIKLAS GIVE IRISH TWO MORE WEAPONS AT TIGHT END
The sophomore tandem of Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas have already seen 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.
Niklas added a 30-yard grab in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
Notre Dame's tight end trio of Eifert, Niklas and Koyack have combined for 12 catches, 207 yards receiving and one touchdown. The trio is averaging 17.3 yards per reception.
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 66 total receptions in his first three seasons and has started 20 of 27 career games for the Irish. He recorded his first touchdown catch of 2012 and seventh of his career in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8.
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.
Toma finished the game against Purdue on Sept. 8 with four receptions for 33 yards, but the senior had a pair of grabs for 25 yards on the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, including a 21-yard catch on a huge third-and-10 play from the Purdue 41-yard line.
Graduate John Goodman will utilize his fifth season with the Irish after graduating from Notre Dame in May. Goodman has started six games in his Notre Dame career, including Navy on Sept. 1, and has totaled 29 receptions for 325 yards and one touchdown.
Goodman had a critical 10-yard grab on the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against Purdue on Sept. 8. He helped the Irish convert a third-and-six play from the Notre Dame 49-yard line
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.
Daniels collected four more receptions in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. He added a career-best 41-yard catch before missing most of the second half with an injury.
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.
IRISH BALANCED IN THE PASSING GAME
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).
Notre Dame completed passes to nine different players in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. The Irish have already featured 12 different pass catchers over the first two games of 2012.
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, 56 of Turk's 154 career punts have landed inside the 20 yard line and 55 of his punts have been fair caught.
Turk launched punts of 50 and 54 yards in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. He now has 16 career punts of at least 50 yards. It marked the first game for Turk with multiple punts of at least 50 yards since Oct. 30, 2010 against Tulsa.
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.
Brindza has already registered five touchbacks in Notre Dame's first two games of 2012.
Brindza stepped in for an injured Nick Tausch and connected on a pair of field goals in the victory over Purdue on Sept. 8. After missing his first career attempt, Brindza made field goals of 30 and 27 yards. The 27-yard field goal came with seven seconds remaining in regulation and gave the Irish a 20-17 victory.
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.
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.
Only seven active players in the FBS have more career kickoff returns for touchdown than Atkinson III. He also ranks 10th among active players in career kickoff return yards/game, 11th in kickoff return average and 12th in kickoff returns/game.
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.
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).