ABC national telecast with Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Urban Meyer (analysis), Chris Spielman (analysis), Quint Kessenich (sidelines) and Bryan Ryder (producer).
IMG College Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. Notre Dame games are broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers (sideline). This broadcast can be heard live on both SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio (channel 129).
All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on Sunny 101.5 FM and Newsradio 960 WSBT-AM.
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 272 of its previous 307 games, including 116 of its last 151 games away from the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium dating back to the start of the 1986 season.
Neither Notre Dame nor Pittsburgh are ranked in either of this week's Associated Press or USA Today Coaches' poll, but the Irish are receiving votes in each poll.
Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports GameTracker via UND.com.
This year's matchup will mark the 67th meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish holding a 45-20-1 series lead. Notre Dame owns a 25-10-1 mark against the Panthers away from Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have won 13 of the last 17 meetings, including two of the last three games in Heinz Field (more on the series on pages 2-7).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR SATURDAY
Brian Kelly - who spent three years on the sidelines at Cincinnati - ranks third all-time in BIG EAST history in both overall winning percentage (34-6, .850) and BIG EAST only winning percentage (17-4, .810). He has also captured 13 of his last 14 meetings with BIG EAST foes.
PITTSBURGH HEAD COACH TODD GRAHAM
Todd Graham was officially named Pitt's 35th head football coach by Athletic Director Steve Pederson on January 10. His appointment came after a highly successful head coaching tenure at Tulsa, where in four years he had three 10-win campaigns and an undefeated bowl record (3-0).
This is Graham's third collegiate head coaching post. In addition to Tulsa, he served as the head coach at Rice in 2006, leading the Owls to their first bowl game in 45 years and earning Conference USA Coach of the Year honors. Graham's career head coaching record is 43-23 and includes four bowls in five seasons.
Graham compiled a 36-17 overall mark at Tulsa, including teams that achieved records of 10-4, 11-3 and 10-3. His final year with the Golden Hurricane in 2010 was highlighted by a 28-27 victory at Notre Dame and 62-35 demolition of 24th-ranked Hawai'i in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
On the field, prolific offenses have been Graham's hallmark. Under his direction, Tulsa led the nation in total offense twice (2007 and 2008) and ranked fifth in 2010. While he has a well-deserved reputation for devising explosive offensive game plans, the 46-year-old coach built his career as a distinguished defensive coordinator and position coach.
Graham's 2010 Tulsa team rolled up 505.6 yards per game to rank fifth nationally and averaged 41.4 points to rank sixth. Defensively, the Golden Hurricane led the country in interceptions (24) and ranked third in turnovers gained (36).
Graham has coached some of college football's most exciting and explosive players. Last year, Tulsa's Damaris Johnson rose to All-America status after leading the country in all-purpose yards for the second consecutive year (202.2 yards/game in 2010). Johnson enters his senior season in 2011 already holding the NCAA career record for all-purpose yards with 7,796.
In Graham's first two seasons as Tulsa's head coach, the Golden Hurricane made program history by posting consecutive 10-win seasons and winning a school-record 11 games in 2008.
He went 21-7 his first two years, the best start by a Tulsa coach ever. Tulsa was one of just 11 schools on the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level to achieve back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2007 and 2008.
In 2007, Tulsa led the country in total offense, averaging 543.9 yards per game, and set 29 school records, 15 Conference USA marks and four NCAA records. The Golden Hurricane routed Bowling Green, 63-7, in the GMAC Bowl, the largest bowl margin of victory in NCAA history.
In 2008, Tulsa again led the country in total offense (569.9 yards/game) while ranking second in scoring (47.2 points/game), fifth in rushing (268.0 yards/game) and ninth in passing (301.9 yards/game). Graham's team finished with an 11-3 record, capped by a 45-13 victory over 22nd-ranked Ball State in the GMAC Bowl.
Tulsa's 661 points in 2008 established a school record and marked the second highest single-season total in the modern era of the NCAA (second only to Oklahoma's 2008 total of 716 points).
A QUICK LOOK AT THE PANTHERS LAST WEEK IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg engineered the biggest comeback in Hawkeyes' history in a 31-27 defeat of Pittsburgh.
Vandenberg threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to rally from a 17-point deficit with just over 12 minutes left. He passed for 399 yards - including 162 in the fourth quarter, and completed the Hawkeyes' rally with a 22-yard TD pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley with 2:51 left.
Iowa (2-1) trailed 27-10 early in the fourth quarter. But Vandenberg threw TD strikes of 14 yards to Keenan Davis and 25 yards to Martin-Manley to bring the Hawkeyes within three, then found a leaping Martin-Manley for the go-ahead score.
Tino Sunseri had 255 yards passing for the Panthers (2-1).
The Panthers led by as much as 24-3 on Sunseri's 4-yard TD pass to Drew Carswell with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Vandenberg moved the Hawkeyes 60 yards in under two minutes and scored on a 1-yard plunge to make it 24-10 - but Pitt answered with a long drive capped by Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal with 12:09 to go, putting Iowa three scores behind again.
But Vandenberg cut Pitt's lead to 27-17 with 9:55 left, finding Davis for a 14-yard score. The Panthers moved to Iowa's 36-yard line but were stopped on fourth down, leaving the door open for Vandenberg to lead the Hawkeyes right back down the field.
Iowa caught a break when Pittsburgh's Buddy Jackson was called for pass interference on a key third down. Two plays later, Vandenberg hit Martin-Manley from 25 yards out to make it 27-24 with 6:19 left.
The Hawkeyes forced another quick punt, and Vandenberg drove the Hawkeyes 64 yards in just 1:31 before capping the comeback with a 22-yard TD toss to Martin-Manley.
Davis had 10 catches for 129 yards and Marvin McNutt added 112 yards receiving for Iowa, whose 21-point rally topped its 18-point comeback against Oregon in 1949.
The Panthers opened the second half up 10-3, and used some trickery to extend the lead.
Ray Graham took a handoff and gave it to receiver Ronald Jones on a reverse. Jones did the rest, floating it out to an open Cameron Saddler for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 17-3 lead.
Pitt made it 24-3 just three minutes later.
Devin Street had seven catches for 138 yards and Ray Graham rushed for 97 yards for the Panthers.
NOTRE DAME - PITTSBURGH SERIES HISTORY
This year's matchup will mark the 67th meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish holding a 45-20-1 series lead.
The teams first played in 1909, '11 and '12 (all at Pittsburgh's legendary Forbes Field), with Notre Dame picking up two wins and a tie and shutting out Pittsburgh in all three contests. The series resumed from 1930-37 before taking a five-year break. It picked up again from 1943-54, took 1955 off, and then played every year in a 23-season stretch (1956-78) before taking a four-year hiatus in the series. The Irish and Panthers met in 1982 and '83, every season from 1986-92, and then 1996, '97, '99, 2001-05 and '08-'11.
Notre Dame was the opponent in Pittsburgh's final game at Pitt Stadium -- the Panthers won, 37-27, in 1999. Pittsburgh now plays its home games at Heinz Field, also home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have met in 57 of the last 69 seasons (including 2011), with no gaps in the series of more than three years during that 69-year period.
Pittsburgh notched its highest point total ever in the series (41) in its 2004 meeting with Notre Dame; conversely, the Irish have topped the 40-point level 19 times against the Panthers, including an eight-game stretch from 1965-72.
Four of the 10 biggest victory margins in Notre Dame history have come against Pittsburgh: by 58 in 1944 (58-0), by 56 in both 1945 (56-0) and 1965 (69-13), and by 54 in 1996 (60-6).
NOTRE DAME - PITTSBURGH SERIES NOTES
Notre Dame has won 13 of the last 17 meetings with the Panthers, including two of the last three games in Heinz Field (20-14 on Oct. 11, 2003 and 42-21 on Sept. 3, 2005; 22-27 on Nov. 14, 2009). Pittsburgh has upended the Irish in two of the last three meetings in Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish own a 20-10 record against the Panthers at Notre Dame Stadium and a 25-10-1 mark against Pittsburgh away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won 27 of their last 36 contests against the Panthers, dating back to 1964 (Ara Parseghian's first year as Notre Dame's head coach).
Pittsburgh has been ranked higher than Notre Dame entering a matchup in the series 10 times, winning the first five games (1937, '56, '60, '63 and '76), but then lost the next four (1978, '82, '03 and '05) before winning in 2009. Interestingly, the Irish were unranked in all four of those upset victories.
In the 2009 recent meeting at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh held off Notre Dame late for a 27-22 victory. Jonathan Baldwin made two exceptional catches that allowed No. 8 Pittsburgh to open up an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame rallied behind two touchdowns by Golden Tate, but the Irish came up short. In 2005, Notre Dame posted touchdown drives on five of its first six possessions in a 42-21 rout of No. 23 Pittsburgh.
In the two meetings at Notre Dame Stadium in 2004 and 2008, Notre Dame dropped 41-38 and 36-33 decisions to Pittsburgh on last-second field goals. In '04, Josh Cummings kicked a 32-yard field goal with one second left in regulation to secure the victory. In '08, Conor Lee kicked his school-record fifth field goal in the fourth overtime to secure the Panthers' victory.
Over the last 17 games in the series, Notre Dame has outscored the Panthers 589-309, topping the 30-point mark 11 times in that span and producing an average score of 34.6-18.2.
Notre Dame is 74-33-3 (.686) all-time against schools from the state of Pennsylvania, with the Pittsburgh series accounting for more than half of the games played (66) and the Irish victories (45).
Dating back to 1990, the Irish are 7-1 against Pittsburgh when the Panthers finish the game with more passing yards than Notre Dame.
Since 1990, the Irish have scored 40 or more points a total of 51 times and six have come against Pittsburgh. That number is the second most against any opponent during that time frame, as Notre Dame has accomplished the feat seven times against Navy.
Since 1990, Notre Dame has committed fewer turnovers than Pittsburgh in a head-to-head matchup eight times and the Irish are 7-1 in those games (the only defeat came in 2008 when Notre Dame forced three turnovers and did not commit one).
Since 1990, Notre Dame is 9-0 against Pittsburgh when an Irish runner scores multiple rushing touchdowns and just 2-3 when no one scores more than one.
Since 1990, the Irish and Panthers have faced off in years ending with an odd number eight times, and Notre Dame is 6-2 in those contests. The Irish are 5-2 in years ending with an even number.
Since 1990, Notre Dame is 9-0 against Pittsburgh when at least one Irish runner reaches the century mark in terms of rushing yards and just 2-3 when none do.
Only four teams have beaten the Irish more times than Pittsburgh's 20 - USC with 34, Michigan State with 28, Purdue with 26 and Michigan with 23.
NOTRE DAME VS. BIG EAST
Notre Dame has won almost 70 percent of its games (57-25-1) vs. teams that currently make up the BIG EAST Conference, with 66 of those 83 games coming versus former independent Pittsburgh.
This is Notre Dame's second meeting with a BIG EAST foe this season. USF upended the Irish 23-20 in the season opener.
Notre Dame played three BIG EAST schools during each of the 2001, '02, '03 and '04 seasons.
The Irish own a winning series record against four of the seven BIG EAST teams they have faced.
The Irish are 27-13 (.675) all-time at home against BIG EAST teams and 28-11-1 (.713) all-time on the road against the BIG EAST.
Notre Dame capped its 1988 national championship season with a 34-21 win in the Fiesta Bowl over No. 3 West Virginia.
The Irish has never faced Louisville on the gridiron.
Notre Dame has played Cincinnati, Connecticut and USF just once. The Irish upended the Bearcats 58-0 in 1900. The Huskies clipped Notre Dame, 33-30, in double overtime in 2009 and the Bulls nipped the Irish, 23-20, in the '11 season opener.
The Irish are a perfect 4-0 against Rutgers, including a trio of shutouts (1921, 48-0; 1996, 62-0; 2002, 42-0).
NOTRE DAME'S PENNSYLVANIA QB PIPELINE
Notre Dame's all-time football roster includes 18 quarterbacks from the state of Pennsylvania, highlighted by some of the most noteworthy QBs in program history: John Lujack (Connelsville/Connelsville HS, 1943, '46-'47), Bob Williams (Wilkes-Barre/G.A.R., 1956-58), Terry Hanratty (Butler/Butler HS, 1966-68), Tom Clements (McKees Rocks/Cenevin HS, 1972-74), Joe Montana (Monongahela/Ringgold HS, 1975, '77-'78) and Ron Powlus (Berwick/Berwick HS, 1994-97).
Lujack played on three national title teams and won the '47 Heisman Trophy while Williams backed up Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung in '56 before starting in '57 and '58. Williams made some key plays on both sides of the ball in the 7-0 win at Oklahoma in '57, halting the Sooners' NCAA-record 47-game winning streak. Hanratty was a three-year starter and helped the Irish win the '66 national championship. Clements also was a three-year starter and led the Irish to a national title in his junior season ('73). Montana backed up Rick Slager in '75 and was injured in '76 before guiding the Irish to the '77 national title (he also started in '78 and led Notre Dame to a legendary 35-34 comeback victory over Houston in the Cotton Bowl).
Hanratty ranks seventh at Notre Dame with 304 career completions, eighth in career passing yards (4,152) and tied for eighth in career touchdown passes (tied, 27).
Montana ranks ninth at Notre Dame with 4,121 career passing yards and 10th with 268 career completions (in three years).
Powlus stands third in Irish career history for completions (558), fifth in season completion percentage (.611, 1997), sixth in career completion percentage (.575) and owns the fourth-lowest career interception ratio (.0278, 27 of 969). He also ranks third in career passing yards (7,602), fifth in TD passes in a season (19 in 1994) and third in career TD passes (52) while sitting tied for sixth for TD passes in a game (four, three times). Powlus pretty much owned every school record before Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen arrived on the Notre Dame campus.
Pittsburgh and the surrounding western Pennsylvania area have produced a number of Irish QBs including Lujack, Williams, Hanratty, Montana, Clarence Diebold (Pittsburgh, starter in 1900), Joe Gasperella (Pittsburgh/Vandergrift HS, '44-'45), Jim Bigelow (Glenshaw/Shaler HS, '52-'54 reserve), Pat Steenberge (Erie/Cathedral Prep, '70-'71), Jim Bulger (Pittsburgh/Central Catholic HS, '70-'71 reserve), Ken Karcher (Glenshaw/Shaler HS, '81-'82), and Paul Failla (Sewickley/North Allegheny HS, '91-'93).
Other Notre Dame QBs from Pennsylvania have included Philadelphia natives Vince McNally (Roman Catholic HS, '25-'26), Charles McKinney ('26-'27 reserve) and Bill Whiteside (LaSalle HS, '49-'50), plus John Mazur (Plymouth/Plymouth HS, backup in '49-'50, starter in '51) and Cliff Brown (Middletown/Middletown Area HS, '71-'73).
Pittsburgh (67th meeting in '11) is the fifth-most common opponent in Irish football history, trailing four other '11 foes: Navy (84), Purdue (82), USC (82) and Michigan State (75).
The Irish have played 140 different teams in their 123 seasons of varsity football.
BIG PLAYS HIGHLIGHT THE PITTSBURGH SERIES
Some of the biggest-gaining plays in Notre Dame football history have come in games against Pittsburgh.
The longest game in terms of periods also came in the series with the Panthers. Pittsburgh outlasted the Irish, 36-33, in four overtimes in 2008.
The longest punt and field goal in Notre Dame history both have come in games against Pittsburgh (42 seasons apart). Bill Shakespeare booted an 86-yard punt versus the Panthers in 1935, while Dave Reeve connected on a 53-yard field goal in the 1976 season-opening loss to Pittsburgh (31-10). Shakespeare also had a 72-yard punt against the Panthers in 1934 (still seventh in Irish history).
Bob Kelly ripped off an 85-yard run versus Pittsburgh in 1944 (tied for fourth in the Irish record book), while John Huarte's 91-yard pass play to Nick Eddy remains the third-longest in school history.
Six of the longest punt returns in Notre Dame history have also come against Pittsburgh: Joe Heap (fifth-longest, 92 yards, 1952), Golden Tate (sixth, 87 yards, 2009), Lancaster Smith (eighth, 85, 1948), Allen Rossum (ninth, 83, 1996), Tom Schoen (13th, 78, 1967) and Autry Denson (15th, 74, 1996).
NOTRE DAME AND PITTSBURGH IN THE RECORD BOOK
The following Notre Dame records were set in games against Pittsburgh: Julius Jones' 262 rushing yards (24 for 262, 2003), Tom Schoen's nine punt returns (1967), 231 team punt-return yards and 38.5 yards per punt return (1996), low ND first downs (3, modern record, 1937), 31 rushing first downs (1993), 40 points in the second quarter (1996) and 49 points in the first half (modern record, 1968).
The following are tied for first in the Notre Dame record book and were set in games versus Pittsburgh: Ken Ivan's nine PATs (1965), Allen Rossum's two punt returns for TDs (1996), low total offense attempts (31 in 1937), modern records of 69 points, 10 TDs and nine PATs (1965), low ND rushing first downs (1 in 1937), low ND passing first downs (0 in 1989) and no ND punts (last done in 1993).
The first of Lee Becton's six consecutive 100-yard rushing games (a Notre Dame record) came against Pittsburgh in 1993.
Bill Wolski's 30 points (five TDs) versus Pittsburgh in 1965 rank second in the Irish record book, as do Ivan's 10 PAT attempts in 1965.
Angelo Dabiero's 22.6 yards per kick return average (6 for 136) against Pittsburgh in 1960 ranks sixth in Irish history, while Tim Brown's 26.0 yards per catch ratio (6 for 156) in 1987 ranks 11th.
Former Pittsburgh players and teams hold the following Notre Dame opponent records: 303 rushing yards by Tony Dorsett (23 carries in 1975), 754 career rushing yards by Dorsett (96 carries from 1973-76) and 411 team rushing yards (50 carries in 1975, tied for first).
NOTRE DAME - PITTSBURGH CONNECTIONS
The 2011 Notre Dame roster includes four Pennsylvania natives: senior LS Ryan Kavanagh (West Chester/Salesianum H.S.), senior DB Nick Lezynski (Newton/Notre Dame H.S.), senior LB David Posluszny (Aliquippa/Hopewell H.S.) and freshman TE Ben Koyack (Oil City/Oil City H.S.). The 2011 Pittsburgh roster does not include an Indiana native.
Notre Dame Director of Olympic Sports Strength & Conditioning Tony Rolinski worked in the Pittsburgh strength and conditioning department from 1994-96 while attaining his master's degree in exercise physiology from the school. He then was the head strength coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh before serving as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne in 1997-98.
Notre Dame's all-time football roster includes more than 2,700 players who have appeared in at least one career game, with 19 hailing from Pittsburgh: RG Frank Winter (1898-1901), QB Clarence Diebold (1900), LG Lee Diebold (1910), HB John McSorley (1926-27), T Joe Papa (Kiski Prep, 1938-40), QB Joe Gasperella (Vandergrift HS, 1944-45), LG Ed Fay (Central Catholic HS, 1944-45), E Ray Jonardi (Baldwin HS, 1949-50), HB Dave Flood (Langley HS, 1950-52), T Bill McCarthy (North Catholic HS, 1951), FB Don Schaefer (Central Catholic HS, 1953-55), HB Tom Mittelhauser (South Hills Catholic HS, 1963), PK Joe Azzaro (Central Catholic HS, 1964-67), OG/LB Dan Dickman (North Catholic, HS, 1967), LB John Cloherty (Churchill Area HS, 1969-71), QB Jim Bulger (Central Catholic HS, 1970-71), FB Ray Zellars (Oliver HS, 1991-94), OG Rob Mowl (Woodland Hills HS, 1998) and DB Darrin Walls (Woodland Hills, 2006-07). Of the players listed, Zellars and Walls had the longest stints as starters (Zellars in 1993 and '94; Walls in 2006-07, '09-'10).
A VICTORY OVER PITTSBURGH...
Evens Notre Dame's overall record at 2-2 and road record at 1-1.
Gives the Irish consecutive victories over the Panthers in the all-time series for the first time since 2002-03.
Gives Notre Dame a victory in three of its four meetings with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
Gives the Irish a victory over the Panthers in 14 of the last 18 meetings overall and seven of the last nine meetings on the road.
Improves Notre Dame to 46-20-1 (.694) in the all-time series with the Panthers.
Improves the Irish to 26-10-1 (.716) in the all-time series with Pittsburgh on the road, including 3-1 (.750) at Heinz Field.
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 847-297-42 (.732).
Improves the all-time record on the road for the Irish to 280-144-23 (.652).
Improves Notre Dame to 58-25-1 (.696) all-time against the BIG EAST, including 29-11-1 (.719) on the road.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 12-8 (.600) all-time against Pittsburgh.
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 7-4 (.636) all-time against the Panthers on the road.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 8-4 (.667) all-time against unranked Pittsburgh.
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 4-2 (.667) all-time against the unranked Panthers on the road.
Improves Kelly's record to 181-64-2 (.737) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 63-29 (.685) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 53-17 (.757) over the last six seasons.
Improves Kelly's record to 4-1 (.800) all-time against Pittsburgh, including 2-1 (.667) on the road.
Improves Kelly's record to 18-6 (.750) all-time against the BIG EAST, including 10-2 (.833) on the road.
Gives Kelly a victory over a BIG EAST foe for the 14th time in the last 15 meetings.
A DEFEAT TO PITTSBURGH...
Drops Notre Dame's overall record to 1-3 and road record to 0-2.
Denies the Irish consecutive victories over the Panthers in the all-time series for the first time since 2002-03.
Evens Notre Dame's record at 2-2 with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.
Gives the Panthers a victory over the Irish for the fifth time in the last 18 meetings overall and third in the last nine meetings on the road.
Drops Notre Dame to 45-21-1 (.679) in the all-time series with the Panthers.
Drops the Irish to 25-11-1 (.689) in the all-time series with Pittsburgh on the road, including 2-2 (.500) at Heinz Field.
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record to 846-298-42 (.731).
Drops the all-time record on the road for the Irish to 279-145-23 (.650).
Drops Notre Dame to 57-26-1 (.685) all-time against the BIG EAST, including 28-12-1 (.695) on the road.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 11-9 (.550) all-time against Pittsburgh.
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 6-5 (.545) all-time against the Panthers on the road.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 7-5 (.583) all-time against unranked Pittsburgh.
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 3-3 (.500) all-time against the unranked Panthers on the road.
Drops Kelly's record to 180-65-2 (.733) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 62-30 (.674) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 52-18 (.743) over the last six seasons.
Drops Kelly's record to 3-2 (.600) all-time against Pittsburgh, including 1-2 (.333) on the road.
Drops Kelly's record to 17-7 (.708) all-time against the BIG EAST, including 9-3 (.750) on the road.
Gives Kelly two straight losses to BIG EAST foes after winning the previous 13 meetings with league foes.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 10 previous games in its history on Sept. 24. The Irish are 9-1 all-time on this date. The Irish were ranked in the top 20 on seven of the 10 previous occasions.
IRISH IN NFL STADIUMS
Notre Dame is 16-6-2 (.708) when playing in a current NFL stadium (Soldier Field 9-0-2, Heinz Field 2-1, Gator Bowl/Alltel Stadium 1-2, Superdome 1-2, Ravens/M&T Bank Stadium 2-0, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium/FedEx Field 1-0, New Meadowlands 0-1).
Overall, the Irish are 68-20-3 (.764) when playing in a NFL Stadium (Baltimore Municipal Stadium 18-4-0, Briggs Stadium 1-0-0, Cotton Bowl 1-1, Cleveland 9-1-1, Foxboro 1-0-0, Sun Devil Stadium 1-3-0, Meadowlands 11-0-0, Soldier Field 9-0-2, Gator Bowl/Alltel Stadium 1-2, Superdome 1-2, Jack Kent Cooke Stadium/FedEx Field 1-0, Hoosier/RCA Dome 0-1, Orange Bowl 2-3, JFK/Veterans Stadium 10-1-0, Heinz Field 2-1, New Meadowlands 0-1).
OPENERS AN INDICATOR?
Notre Dame is 102-16-5 (.850) in season openers, but have they been foretelling of the season ahead? Take a look:
The 102 seasons Notre Dame has won its opener, the Irish went on to post winning records 93 times (91.2%), with four losing seasons and five .500 records.
The 15 seasons the Irish lost their opener, the Irish posted winning records six times and a losing mark eight times (with one .500 season).
The five seasons Notre Dame registered a tie in its opener, the Irish had four winning records and one losing record.
NOTRE DAME IN SEPTEMBER
Notre Dame is 127-56-4 (.690) all-time during the month of September.
The Irish are 79-23-2 (.769) in September home games.
Notre Dame has an all-time mark of 45-31-2 (.590) in road games during September.
The Irish are 68-23-1 (.745) in September games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame snapped its five game losing streak in the month of September following its victory over Michigan State last week. The Irish have never lost six in a row in the month of September.
IRISH RETURN 51 MONOGRAM WINNERS, 17 STARTERS
Notre Dame opened fall practice with 51 returning monogram winners from 2010 - 21 on offense, 25 on defense and five on special teams.
Notre Dame had 12 players named to a major preseason award watch list. Only Alabama's 13 players on various watch lists bests the Fighting Irish dozen.
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.
RIVALRY TROPHIES HEADING TO NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame has possession of the Megaphone (Michigan State), Jeweled Shillelagh (USC), Ireland (Boston College) and Shillelagh (Purdue) Trophies for the first time since Nov. 30, 1996.
Brian Kelly was one of 22 head coaches at the FBS level that took over new programs in 2010. Out of the that group, Kelly was one of just five coaches that produced at least eight wins and one of just four that led their teams to a bowl victory. Jimbo Fisher at Florida State led the group with 10 wins, while three other coaches, Skip Holtz at USF, Lane Kiffin at USC and Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech, each secured eight victories. Out of the five coaches who won at least eight games, only Kelly, Fisher and Holtz exceeded their team's win total from the previous season. Kelly, Holtz, Tuberville and Louisville's Charlie Strong were the coaches that won bowl games.
Notre Dame has had 15 different head coaches, including Brian Kelly, walk the sidelines in the all-time series with rival USC. Kelly became the first Irish head coach to knock off the Trojans in his first meeting since Lou Holtz.
Kelly became the first Irish coach in school history to capture a bowl game in his inaugural season with Notre Dame.
KELLY'S WINNING WAYS
In his first year at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly helped the Irish secure a 6-1 record when leading after three quarters and a 8-1 mark entering halftime with a lead. Kelly and the Irish were unable to continue that success at Michigan. The Wolverines rallied from a 17-point deficit heading into the final period for a 35-31 victory.
Notre Dame did not suffer a similar fate last week against Michigan State. The Irish took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Spartans. With the victory, Kelly improved to 153-10 in his coaching career when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and an 89-4 mark since 2001. He owns a 141-12 record when taking a lead into halftime, including an 86-4 mark since 2001.
Here are a couple other pretty remarkable win-loss records during Kelly's career:
Kelly is 12-1 coming off a bye week.
Kelly is 119-22 when scoring first.
Kelly is 145-22-1 when outrushing his opponent.
Kelly is 109-12 when his team wins the turnover battle.
Kelly is 33-14-2 in games decided by three points or less.
Kelly is 61-4-1 when his team gets a defensive or special teams touchdown.
Kelly's is 51-13 in the month of November, including a 17-2 mark since 2006.
Kelly is 117-7 when his team scores 30 or more points, including a 68-1 mark with 40 or more points.
Kelly is 114-5-1 when his team allows 19 points or less.
Notre Dame second-year head coach Brian Kelly - who spent three years at Cincinnati - ranks third all-time in BIG EAST history in both overall winning percentage and BIG EAST winning percentage. Kelly was victorious in his last 12 games against BIG EAST foes with the Bearcats and upped the streak to 13 straight against the league before this season's loss to USF.
Since 2006, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has compiled the seventh-most wins of any active NCAA FBS coach. Kelly has gone on to win 52 contests (52-17 overall) to tie him with Kyle Whittingham of Utah and Brett Bielema of Wisconsin over that span. The only coaches ahead of Kelly in that time frame are Chris Peterson of Boise State (63), Gary Patterson of TCU (57), Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (56), Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech (54), Mack Brown of Texas (53) and Les Miles of LSU (53).
Since 2001, Brian Kelly has totaled the third-most wins among all active FBS coaches. Kelly is 103-31 over the last 11 seasons and trails only Bob Stoops (111-26) and Mack Brown (109-23) for the best coaching record this decade.
Brian Kelly ranks as the sixth-most successful active NCAA FBS coach in winning percentage and sixth in victories.
2011 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
According to the NCAA, no Football Bowl Subdivision school played a tougher regular season schedule based on opposition win-loss percentage than Notre Dame in 2010. Irish opponents had a combined record of 80-43 (.650). NCAA ratings includes opponent's record against only FBS schools and excludes result in meeting with the Irish.
Notre Dame's No. 1 ranking in the NCAA strength-of-schedule standings was its highest since a No. 1 ranking in 1995. The .650 winning percentage of Irish opponents made for its strongest schedule faced in 21 years - since a .655 percentage when Notre Dame finished tops in the toughest-schedule derby in 1989.
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 34 years the NCAA has calculated these numbers.
Notre Dame is one of six FBS schools to face an opponent from a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference over the first three weeks of the 2011 campaign. The remaining schools include BYU, Florida Atlantic, Miami (Fla.), Rice and USC.
Even more remarkable, only 17 schools faced two such opponents over the first two games of '11 and only four of those 17 schools compete in a BCS AQ conference - Maryland, Miami, Fla., Wake Forest and USC. Not one member from the SEC, Big Ten, BIG EAST or Big 12 can make such a claim.
According to the Sagarin ratings, only nine schools have a stronger strength of schedule than the Irish. Of those nine schools, only Maryland hails from a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference.
This season could prove to be just as tough as the Irish face nine teams that went to bowl games last year and 10 teams that finished with a winning record.
NOTRE DAME DEBUTS
Junior OG Chris Watt, junior ILB Dan Fox and sophomore OLB Prince Shembo all registered their first career start at Notre Dame in the season opener against USF.
Atkinson returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter. He 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 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. He recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown by an Irish player at Notre Dame Stadium since Vontez Duff against Navy on Nov. 9, 2002.
Atkinson - 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.
Lynch - seeing the most playing time of his Irish career - absolutely dominated his counterparts on the Michigan State offensive line. He recorded six quarterback hurries, one sack, a forced fumble and five tackles. While Notre Dame tracks quarterback pressures at home, not every Irish opponent does the same on the road. To put into perspective what an incredible number that is, consider that senior DE Ethan Johnson and senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, plus senior OLB Darius Fleming, led the Irish in that category -- with five apiece for the entire 2010 home season.
Notre Dame has played a total of eight freshman over its first two games and another five sophomore players that did not see game action as rookies in 2010.
TAILS IT IS
Notre Dame opened each of its first 11 games in 2010 with the football. The Irish then won the coin toss and elected to receive against both USF and Michigan State in 2011. Notre Dame has opened 14 of its last 16 games with the football. The only exceptions? Notre Dame won the coin toss against USC in '10 and Michigan earlier this season, but elected to defer each time.
THE 2010 CAPTAINS
Notre Dame reinstated an old tradition in 2010, designating captains on a game-by-game basis for only the third time in school history. Back in 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game - the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame's 11 national championships. The Irish also designated captains on a game-by-game basis from 2002-04 as well, but the team voted on season captains following the regular season.
Senior S Harrison Smith is Notre Dame's lone season captain. He is the first Irish lone season captain since 1999 when Jarious Jackson held the individual honor. The other single individual captains for Notre Dame in the last 40 years include Jarious Jackson (1999), Rodney Culver (1991) and Mike Kovaleski (1986).
In addition to Smith, the Irish will continue to name gameday captains. The 2011 gameday captains have been as follows:
Michigan State entered today's tilt ranked No. 15 - its highest ranking entering a matchup with Notre Dame since Sept. 29, 1979 when the Spartans were No. 7. The Irish routed Michigan State, 27-3, at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame is now 5-2-1 in the last eight meetings with a ranked Spartan squad.
REBOUNDING FROM DIFFICULT LOSSES
Notre Dame is now 14-6-1 all-time the week following a loss in the final 20 seconds of regulation following last weekend's victory over No. 15 Michigan State (the Irish lost to Michigan on a touchdown with two seconds remaining in regulation the week prior). Four of those victories have come against the Spartans, and seven have come over a top 25 opponent. In 2009, the Irish lost at Michigan 33-30 on a touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining in the game, but rebounded the following week for a 33-30 victory over Michigan State, which also snapped the Spartans' six-game winning streak in Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame's two losses have come by a combined seven points - 23-20 vs. USF and 35-31 at Michigan.
Five of second-year head coach Brian Kelly's losses at Notre Dame have come by a combined 15 points.
Notre Dame regained a 31-28 lead with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter at Michigan. Had the Irish held on, the touchdown would have been the sixth-latest gamewinning touchdown in school history (excluding overtime), but Michigan added a touchdown with two seconds left to secure the victory.
The Wolverines' touchdown was the latest a Notre Dame opponent has ever recorded a winning touchdown in regulation. The previous mark was Matt Leinart's one-yard quarterback sneak for USC in 2005.
The game with Michigan marked the 15th time in the program's history that a game involving Notre Dame has had the winning points scored with three seconds or less in a game (seven wins, eight losses).
Amazingly, in Notre Dame's eight losses with less than three seconds left in regulation, the Irish actually scored a touchdown to take the lead in the final 1:32 of the contests six times, including the touchdown reception by junior WR Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left against Michigan.
The game marked the first in school history that featured a Notre Dame go-ahead touchdown in the final minute only to also include an opponent go-ahead touchdown. The other two games in school history the Irish took a lead in the final minute and lost came from field goals - Remy Hamilton's 42-yard field goal with two seconds left to give Michigan a 26-24 victory in 1994 and Frank Jordan's 37-yard field goal with two seconds left to give USC a 27-25 triumph in 1978.
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has become quite accustomed to nailbiting finishes. In addition to each of the first two games in 2011, the Irish have been involved in 17 games decided by seven points or less since the start of the 2009 campaign. In fact, 14 of the last 19 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-year 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.
IRISH, WOLVERINES PRODUCE EXCITING GAMES
Eleven of the last 21 Notre Dame-Michigan games have been decided by five points or less while only seven of the last 28 games have been won by more than 10 points: Michigan's 25-7 home win in 1981, Notre Dame's 26-7 victory at Michigan in 1987, Notre Dame's 36-20 triumph at home in 1998, Michigan's 38-0 victory in Ann Arbor back in 2004, the Wolverines 47-21 win at Notre Dame in 2006, Michigan's 38-0 triumph in 2007 and Notre Dame's 35-17 victory in 2008.
Eight of the last 26 games in the series have seen the winning points come in the final two minutes (1980, '88, '90, '94, '99, '09, '10 and '11), including three that were decided in the final seconds ('80, '94, '09, '10 and '11).
Michigan has defeated the Irish three straight times and the winning touchdown has been scored under 27 seconds left in regulation each time.
IRISH IN PLENTY OF BIG HOUSES
Notre Dame's game with Michigan marked the 21st time in school history the Irish played before a crowd of at least 100,000 people, and the first time since Sept. 12, 2009 against the Wolverines (110,278 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor). The Irish are now 10-11 in such games.
The NCAA-record crowd of 114,804 signaled the fourth time in the Notre Dame-Michigan series that the game has resulted in a new NCAA attendance mark (also 1993, '99 and 2003).
NEVER A DRY MOMENT
Notre Dame Stadium was evacuated due to inclement weather and lightning just moments after halftime in the season opener against USF. The first half ended at 5:12 p.m. ET. The game resumed at 7:22 p.m. The contest was delayed two hours and 10 minutes at halftime. The game was halted a second time in the fourth quarter for a total of 43 minutes. In all, the game was suspended for two hours and 53 minutes, lasted five hours and 59 minutes and ended at 9:39 p.m. ET.
It is believed to be the first weather related delay in Notre Dame history - home or away.
According to Steve Boda, long-time NCAA statistics staffer and a particular expert on Notre Dame football history, the closest a Notre Dame game came to being postponed by weather was the 1923 season finale at St. Louis University. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 29). There was a drenching, non-stop rain and the field was ankle-deep in mud. Knute Rockne proposed the game be postponed until the following day, but there already were 9,000 fans in attendance and St. Louis did not agree. The game went on as scheduled, Notre Dame won 13-0 and the teams' combined for 22 fumbles in the game.
The game officially goes into the record books as the longest in terms of time in school history. Longest recent Notre Dame games included the 4:01 quadruple overtime loss at home to Pitt in 2008 and another 4:01 marathon in the 44-41 overtime defeat to Michigan State at home in 2005.
CONTINUED FIRST QUARTER DOMINANCE
Notre Dame continued its trend of quick starts last week. The Irish outgained Michigan State, 95-36, in the opening quarter. After Notre Dame outgained both Michigan (145-27) and USF (152-62) in the first quarter, the Irish have now outgained its first three opponents of the 2011 season in the opening period by a 392-125 margin.
Notre Dame averaged 5.6 yards per play and limited Michigan State to 2.8 yards per play.
The Irish defense limited the Spartans to a pair of first downs and minus-one yard on eight carries in the opening quarter.
Notre Dame averaged 8.5 yards per play and limited Michigan to 2.7 yards per play.
IRISH DEFENSE ANSWERS THE BELL FOLLOWING TURNOVERS
Notre Dame committed two more turnovers in the first quarter, both inside its own territory, but the Irish defense answered each time. The Spartans managed minus-five yards on three plays following the first turnover (Notre Dame forced its own turnover to end the threat).
Michigan State then opened a drive at the Irish 23-yard line following a 34-yard interception return, but the Irish limited the Spartans to a field goal. Michigan State gained just four yards on four plays following the turnover.
Notre Dame added its third turnover of the game late in the fourth quarter when senior WR John Goodman muffed a punt at the Irish 21-yard line. The Irish defense responded with an interception. Senior CB Robert Blanton picked off Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins and raced 82 yards to set up a field goal.
DEFENSE REBOUNDS AGAINST MICHIGAN STATE
Michigan State managed just one rushing first down the entire game - and it came with two minutes remaining in opening half. The Spartans have been held to one rushing first down or less just eight times in school history and three times 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 defensive coordinator/inside 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. It is the fewest rushing yards by the Spartans in the series with Notre Dame since Sept. 19, 1987. Michigan State managed just 21 yards in a 31-8 defeat.
Michigan State entered the game averaging 175.0 yards per game on the ground.
Notre Dame's defense has allowed one offensive touchdown or less in six of its last seven games.
It was 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).
Freshman DE Aaron Lynch - seeing the most playing time of his Irish career - absolutely dominated his counterparts on the Michigan State offensive line. He recorded six quarterback hurries, one sack, a forced fumble and five tackles. While Notre Dame tracks quarterback pressures at home, not every Irish opponent does the same on the road. To put into perspective what an incredible number that is, consider that senior DE Ethan Johnson and senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, plus senior OLB Darius Fleming, led the Irish in that category -- with five apiece for the entire 2010 home season.
Michigan State's longest run of the game went for 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).
The 13 yards rushing allowed by the Irish were the fewest by a Notre Dame opponent in a half since Western Michigan managed minus-two yards in the second half on Oct. 16, 2010.
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.
FOURTH QUARTER OUT OF DEFENSIVE CHARACTER
Notre Dame's defense thoroughly dominated Michigan over the first two quarters and most of the third period. The Irish outgained the Wolverines, 145-27 and 123-63, in the opening 30 minutes (good for a halftime advantage in total yards of 268-90). Notre Dame then outgained Michigan, 142-51, in the third quarter before Denard Robinson's 77-yard pass completion with an Irish nearly defender pulling him down for a sack in the process. Notre Dame led 24-7 with just under two minutes left in the period and had outgained the Wolverines, 410-141, prior to that long pass play.
Michigan then exploded for 28 points and 229 yards in the fourth quarter alone (306 over the final 16 minutes of the game).
Notre Dame had allowed a total of five offensive touchdowns over its previous six games entering the tilt with Michigan. The Irish then limited the Wolverines to a touchdown over the first three quarters of the game. In fact, Notre Dame's five offensive touchdowns allowed came over a stretch of 28 quarters. Michigan nearly equalled that output in the fourth quarter alone.
Notre Dame has given up exactly two rushing touchdowns over its last eight games (dating back to the Tulsa game in 2010). Even more amazing, neither of those rushing touchdowns have come from an opposing running back. USC's Mitch Mustain and Michigan's Denard Robinson each snuck in from one-yard out (Robinson's following a Wolverine fumble). Even crazier, each of the last four 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).
Just how out of character was the fourth quarter for the Irish? Here is an interesting comparison between Notre Dame's defense over the last 32 quarters of football (excluding the fourth quarter against Michigan), the first three quarters against the Wolverines and then the fourth quarter.
DEFENSE DOMINATES FIRST HALF AGAINST MICHIGAN
Michigan did not register a first down until the third-to-last play of the first quarter. The Wolverines had gained 27 yards on its first nine plays of the game. Notre Dame limited Michigan to 2.7 yards per play in the first quarter.
Notre Dame forced its first turnover of the season on the ensuing play following Michigan's initial first down of the game.
Michigan did register a touchdown in the second quarter, on a 43-yard pass from Denard Robinson to Junior Hemingway, but was held to a total of 47 yards over its other 21 plays (that's a 2.1 per play average).
Notre Dame allowed just three first downs in the first half. The Irish forced the Wolverines into a trio of three-and-outs in the opening 30 minutes. Michigan's longest drive of the first half was four plays. Six of the Wolverines' seven first-half drives totaled 21 yards or less, including four that failed to even manage 10 yards.
The Wolverines managed just 223 yards and six first downs over the first three periods and 120 of those 223 yards came on two plays. The Wolverines managed just 103 yards on their other 33 plays in the first three quarters (an average of 3.1 yards per play).
DEFENSE DOES ITS PART VS. USF
Notre Dame limited USF to a total of 254 yards of offense, including 110 yards after halftime. Notre Dame allowed just 3.0 yards per rush, 3.5 yards per play, 4.3 yards per pass attempt, one offensive touchdown and 2-of-14 on third-down conversions.
In the second half with a lead and looking to run the football, USF managed a grand total of 43 yards on the ground on 21 carries or a 2.0 per rush. The Bulls' needed 37 plays from scrimmage to collect those 110 second-half total yards. USF averaged a shade under 3.0 yards per play after intermission.
USF wide receiver Lindsey Lamar had the longest scamper of the game against Notre Dame (a 17-yard run). Otherwise, the Irish contained the Bulls' running game. If you eliminate Lamar's 17-yard run and the Bulls averaged just 2.7 yards per carry over their other 41 rushes. USF had 22 carries for two yards or less.
The Bulls did mount one touchdown drive and marched 80 yards on 14 plays. On USF's other 14 drives against the Irish defense, it never gained fore than 45 yards. In fact, the Bulls had nine drives in which they failed to advance the ball more than 17 yards. Six drives did not even garner 10 yards.
Notre Dame forced USF into a punt on five of its seven second-half drives and one of those drives included the final play of the contest - a kneel down.
USF benefitted from great field position on two of its scoring drives (both field goals). The Bulls opened a drive at the Irish 20-yard line following a muffed punt by junior WR Theo Riddick and opened another drive at the Notre Dame 40-yard line following a 34-yard punt return.
The longest drive of the opening half for USF was 45 yards and it took the Bulls 12 plays to accumulate that total.
Notre Dame did not allow USF a third-down conversion in seven first-half attempts.
Notre Dame limited USF to 48 total yards in the third quarter, including five yards rushing on six carries.
The Irish collected two sacks against one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the country - B.J. Daniels. Notre Dame's starting defensive ends senior Kapron Lewis-Moore and senior Ethan Johnson combined for 12 tackles. The nose guard tandem of senior Sean Cwynar and sophomore Louis Nix III amassed 10 tackles, six for Nix in his first collegiate appearance. In all, the Irish defensive line registered 23 tackles. If you include senior OLB Darius Fleming, who spends significant action on the line of scrimmage in the Notre Dame 3-4 look, the group totaled 31 stops.
Notre Dame used 16 different players on defense via rotation during its first series on the field that lasted eight plays. Seeing action off the bench right away were freshmen DEs Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, sophomore NG Louis Nix III, junior ILB Carlo Calabrese and junior S Zeke Motta.
STATS TURNED IRRELEVANT
Notre Dame racked up 27 first downs and 508 total yards against USF (both were the third-most under head coach Brian Kelly). The only totals higher came against Michigan in 2010 and 2011 (both defeats).
Notre Dame's 508 total yards in the game were exactly twice as many as USF (254).
The 254 yards allowed were the second-fewest by an Irish defense under Kelly.
Notre Dame outgained USF, 152-62, in the first quarter, but the Bulls led 13-0.
The Irish outgained USF, 317-110, in the second half.
TURNOVERS STILL A BONE OF CONTENTION
Notre Dame committed two more turnovers in the first quarter against Michigan State, both inside its own territory. The Irish added a third turnover late in the fourth quarter - the final miscue coming inside the Notre Dame 25-yard line. The Irish have now turned the football over 13 times over their first three games of the season.
Notre Dame ranks 114th or worse in each of the four FBS turnovers categories. The Irish are 114th in interceptions thrown (six), tied for 119th in total turnovers (13), 120th in fumbles lost (seven) and 120th in turnover margin (-2.67).
Notre Dame has forced five turnovers over its last two games - an interception and fumble against Michigan State and three picks off Michigan's Denard Robinson - but still is minus-eight in turnover margin after three games.
The 13 turnovers over the first three games of a season are the most for an Irish team since 1977. The '77 team had 14 turnovers over its first three games. In case you are curious, the '77 team won Notre Dame's 10th consensus national title.
Notre Dame had 12 turnovers over its first three games - and 10 in the first two games - of the 1978 season. Interestingly enough, the Irish opened the year 0-2 before ripping off eight straight regular season victories and capped off the campaign with Cotton Bowl victory over Houston.
In large part to its five turnovers inside its opponents' 20-yard line, Notre Dame is ranked 111th in the FBS in red zone offense.
As if the 13 turnovers were not costly enough, but in addition to the five inside the opponents' 20-yard line, seven others have come in Notre Dame's half of the field, including four inside the Irish 20-yard line.
Notre Dame committed five turnovers in each of its first two games. Prior to the first two weeks of 2011, the Irish had not committed five turnovers in a single-game since Nov. 15, 2008 against Boston College.
Notre Dame has not gone consecutive games with five turnovers since '08.
Two of Notre Dame's turnovers against Michigan occurred inside the Wolverine 20-yard line, including one inside Michigan's 10-yard line.
Both of Notre Dame's turnovers inside the red zone against Michigan came on a first down play as well.
Sophomore QB Tommy Rees fumbled on a first down play from the Michigan eight-yard line and also threw an interception on a first-down play from the Wolverines' 18-yard line.
Notre Dame committed five turnovers in the loss to USF. The Irish had not had five turnovers in a home contest since Sept. 16, 2006 against Michigan.
Notre Dame was minus-five in turnover margin for the first time since Nov. 8, 2008 against Boston College. The Irish had not been minus-five in the turnover margin at home since Nov. 5, 1983 against Pittsburgh (to no surprise Notre Dame lost, 21-16). That's a span of 166 games over 28 years.
The minus-five turnover margin was also the worst in the FBS in week one.
Notre Dame had a pair of first-half turnovers inside the USF 10-yard line. Senior RB Jonas Gray fumbled on a 3rd and goal carry at the Bulls' one-yard line and senior QB Dayne Crist was picked off in the end zone on a 3rd and goal pass from the USF seven-yard line.
Notre Dame had marched a total of 137 yards (76 and 61) on the two drives, but failed to score on either attempt.
Notre Dame committed its third turnover in the first-half when junior WR Theo Riddick muffed a punt and USF recovered at the Irish 20-yard line. Notre Dame's defense allowed just a single yard and limited the Bulls to a field goal.
The Irish added a third turnover inside the USF 10-yard line on their first possession of the second half. On first and goal from the Bulls' five-yard line, sophomore QB Tommy Rees was intercepted when his pass deflected off shoulder of sophomore WR TJ Jones.
Twenty-five years ago, Lou Holtz made his debut at Notre Dame with a 24-23 loss at home to Michigan in which his Irish never punted but lost the ball inside the Wolverines 20-yard line three times. Twenty-five years later Holtz's son Skip was the beneficiary of Notre Dame's red zone difficulties.
NOTRE DAME OFFENSE, DEFENSE QUARTER BY QUARTER BREAKDOWN
Notre Dame started quickly again on Saturday. The Irish outgained Michigan State, 95-36, in the opening quarter. After Notre Dame outgained both Michigan (145-27) and USF (152-62) in the first quarter, the Irish have now outgained its first three opponents of the 2011 season in the opening period by a 392-125 margin.
Notre Dame has averaged 7.4 yards per play in the first quarter this season, while USF, Michigan and Michigan State have averaged just 3.7 yards per play.
Notre Dame averaged 5.6 yards per play and limited Michigan State to 2.8 yards per play.
Notre Dame continued its statistical dominance of Michigan over the first two quarters and most of the third period. The Irish outgained the Wolverines, 145-27 and 123-63, in the opening 30 minutes (good for a halftime advantage in total yards of 268-90). Notre Dame then outgained Michigan, 142-51, in the third quarter before Denard Robinson's 77-yard pass completion with an Irish nearly defender pulling him down for a sack in the process. Notre Dame led 24-7 with just under two minutes left in the period and had outgained the Wolverines, 410-141, prior to that long pass play.
Michigan then exploded for 28 points and 229 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The Wolverines managed just 223 over the first three periods and 120 of those 223 yards came on two plays. The Wolverines managed just 103 yards on their other 33 plays in the first three quarters (an average of 3.1 yards per play).
Notre Dame statistically dominated USF in three of four quarters in the season opener. The Irish out-gained the Bulls, 152-62, in the first quarter but trailed 13-0. USF's touchdown came on a 96-yard fumble return and its two field goals were assisted by a 23-yard Notre Dame punt and 34-yard punt return set up great field position. The two Bulls' scoring drives in the first quarter totaled 80 yards.
The Irish also outgained USF in the third quarter, 159-48, and fourth quarter, 156-24. USF held an advantage in the second quarter, 82-39.
Senior S Harrison Smith rebounded from a disappointing effort against Michigan with one of the top games in his Irish career. Smith registered eight tackles, four solo stops, and recorded five pass breakups. The five pass breakups are likely the most by an Irish player in any game in school history when you consider 10 over an entire season ranks tied for 10th most in single-season history. Only five players have recorded five or more pass breakups in an entire season dating back to 2007.
Smith now has registered 23 pass breakups over his career, which ranks fourth all-time in school history.
Smith has 238 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 23 pass breakups and seven interceptions over his Irish career. He is the first Notre Dame player to ever register 200 or more tackles, 15 or more tackles for loss and 15 or more pass breakups.
Smith is Notre Dame's lone season captain. He is the first Irish lone season captain since 1999 when Jarious Jackson held the individual honor. The other single individual captains for Notre Dame in the last 40 years include Jarious Jackson (1999), Rodney Culver (1991) and Mike Kovaleski (1986).
Smith collected three interceptions in the first half alone of the Hyundai Sun Bowl in 2010. The three interceptions not only equaled a school record, but is also equaled the Sun Bowl record. Smith became 14th Notre Dame player to accomplish the feat and first since Shane Walton against Maryland in 2002. Buddy McClinton of Auburn had three interceptions in the 1968 Sun Bowl.
Smith's three interceptions was an Irish bowl game record. It bested Elmer Layden's previous school record of two picks set against Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
Smith finished 2010 with seven interceptions, which ranked fourth nationally in total picks and interceptions per game. Smith also joined Jayron Hosley of Virginia Tech and Marco Nelson of Tulsa as the only three players in the FBS in 2010 to record three interceptions in one game.
Smith's seven career interceptions are tied for the 17th most among active FBS players.
In the last 20 years, only one group of Notre Dame defensive backs totaled more interceptions in a season than the 15 picks the 2010 group recorded (2002 group had 16 interceptions).
The 11 touchdown passes against Notre Dame's defense in 2010 tied for eighth-fewest in the country.
The improved coverage and tackling by the Irish defensive backs under Chuck Martin and Kerry Cooks helped Notre Dame allow only 10.2 yards per completion in 2010, the fewest yards allowed by a Notre Dame defense since 1993. The 10.2 yards per completion average was seventh-best in the FBS in 2010.
TE'O PACKS A HAWAIIAN PUNCH
Junior LB Manti Te'o has been named to a number of preseason award lists, including the Bednarik, Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski. He was also named to numerous preseason All-American teams.
Te'o registered a team-high 12 tackles in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State. He has now eclipsed 10 or more tackles in two of Notre Dame's three games in 2011 and 11 different times over his career.
Te'o finished with a game-high 14 tackles in the season opener against USF. He had seven solo stops, seven assisted tackles and one sack. The 14 tackles were the second-most in his career.
Te'o paced the Irish last year with 133 tackles and his nine and a half tackles for loss ranked second on the team. He was named a second-team All-American by SI.com after the season and Te'o was also a semifinalist in 2010 for both the Bednarik Award (top collegiate defender) and Butkus Trophy (top collegiate linebacker).
The 133 tackles by Te'o in 2010 were the most by a Notre Dame player since Tony Furjanic made 147 in 1983.
Off the gridiron, Te'o has excelled in the classroom and in the community. He has earned a 3.487 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.
Among FBS retuning players in 2011, Te'o ranks tied for eighth in total tackles (133), tied for eighth in assisted tackles (67), 12th in tackles per game (10.23) and 13th in solo stops (66).
ROBERT "BIG PLAY" BLANTON
Senior DB Robert Blanton has turned himself into one of the top defensive backs in the country. Blanton not only leads the Irish in tackles for loss (4.0), interceptions (two) and sacks (1.0), but also ranks second in pass breakups (three) and fourth in total tackles (16).
Blanton's four tackles for loss ranks tied for the 47th most in the FBS. Only one defensive back in the nation has more tackles for loss than Blanton - Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech.
Blanton quite possibly registered the best game of his career in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State. He had six tackles, three for loss, three pass breakups, one sack and an interception. After Michigan State recovered a muffed punt deep in Irish territory trailing by 15 points with just over four minutes left in regulation, Blanton picked off a Kirk Cousins' pass and raced 82 yards to set up a field goal that sealed the Notre Dame victory.
Blanton ranks tied for eighth in the FBS with two interceptions. His eight career picks lead all active Notre Dame players and ranks tied for 12th among all active FBS players.
Blanton played in 12 games in 2010 and only started one contest, but it did not deter him from making a number of big plays.
Blanton blocked a punt and returned it six yards for a touchdown against Utah on Nov. 13. He was the first Irish player to block a punt since Dec. 24, 2008, against Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl. Blanton was also the first Notre Dame player to return a blocked punt for a touchdown since Toryan Smith (14 yards) on Nov. 15, 2008, against Navy.
The touchdown was the second of Blanton's career. He registered a 47-yard interception return for touchdown against Purdue on Sept. 27, 2008.
Blanton registered 7.0 tackles for loss in 2010, which ranked third-best on the team. The 7.0 tackles for loss were the most by an Irish defensive back since A'Jani Sanders had 10.0 during the 1999 season.
LYNCH PIN OF IRISH FRONT FOUR
Freshman DE Aaron Lynch registered his first career sack and forced fumble on a 3rd and five play late in the first quarter against Michigan State. Lynch not only sacked Spartan QB Kirk Cousins for a loss of 10 yards, but knocked the ball loose and senior DE Ethan Johnson recovered the fumble.
Lynch - seeing the most playing time of his Irish career - absolutely dominated his counterparts on the Michigan State offensive line. He recorded six quarterback hurries, one sack, a forced fumble and five tackles. While Notre Dame tracks quarterback pressures at home, not every Irish opponent does the same on the road. To put into perspective what an incredible number that is, consider that senior DE Ethan Johnson and senior DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, plus senior OLB Darius Fleming, led the Irish in that category -- with five apiece for the entire 2010 home season.
Fleming and Johnson are each gaining ground on the career sack totals at Notre Dame. Sacks did not become an officially recognized statistics until 1982.
IRISH OFFENSE IN MID-SEASON FORM
Notre Dame piled up 508 and 513 yards, respectively, over its first two games of this season. The 1,021 total yards were the most for the Irish in consecutive weeks since they compiled 1,104 yards on Oct. 31 (vs. Washington State, 592) and Nov. 7 (vs. Navy, 512) of 2009. In fact, it was the most total yards over the first two weeks of a season since the Irish registered 1,051 yards of total offense to open the 1974 campaign.
Notre Dame has totaled 1,296 yards of total offense over its first three games, which ranks 26th in the FBS. No team in the country has piled up more yards in three games against Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying opponents.
No team in the country has piled up more rushing yards (429) than Notre Dame in three games against BCS automatic qualifying opponents.
Only one team in the country (USC, 894) has registered more passing yards (867) than the Irish in three games against BCS automatic qualifying opponents.
Notre Dame is one of five offenses among the 120 FBS schools that has a wide receiver, quarterback and running back rank among the top 30 in total receiving yards, total passing yards and total rushing yards. Senior WR Michael Floyd ranks second (397 yards receiving), sophomore QB Tommy Rees ranks 21st (772 yards passing) and junior RB Cierre Wood ranks 30th (299 yards rushing). The other four schools - Oklahoma State, SMU, Bowling Green and Clemson. That quartet has combined to play the same amount of BCS automatic qualifying opponents (three) as the Irish have alone.
Notre Dame tallied five more explosive plays (rushes of at least 15 yards and passes of at least 20 yards) in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State. The Irish have recorded 23 such plays over their first three games of the season, which is the most during any three-game span of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame's offense tallied 10 explosive plays at Michigan, the most in the Kelly era. The previous high of eight was accomplished twice, including the season opener against USF and last year's 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl victory over Miami (Fla.).
Notre Dame has recorded 73 first downs over its first three games. The 73 first downs are tied for 16th in the FBS. The Irish had 28 first downs against Michigan, tied for the most in the Kelly era, and 27 against USF - tied for the third-most in the Kelly era.
Notre Dame had 55 first downs in its first two games of 2011. The Irish had not registered more first downs over a two-game span since the Washington State and Navy games in 2009.
Notre Dame recorded a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in each of the first two games of 2011. The Irish had not posted consecutive outings with a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver since Sept. 12 and Sept. 19, 2009 against Michigan and Michigan State.
Notre Dame's offensive line allowed 1.54 sacks per game in 2010, the best by an Irish group since 1998. The position has improved this year as Notre Dame has attempted 114 passes through three games but have been sacked only three times (or 1.0 per game).
OUTRUSH OPPONENT STREAK ENDS
Notre Dame's 27-game winning streak when outrushing its opponent was snapped in the loss at Michigan. The Irish had not lost a game when outrushing their foe since Dec. 28, 2004 when Notre Dame lost to Oregon State, 38-21, in the Insight Bowl.
Notre Dame outrushed Michigan State to give the Irish their 28th victory in the last 29 games when recording more rushing yards than their opponent.
RED ZONE REPORT
Notre Dame has had little trouble moving the ball up and down the field, ultimately entering the red zone, but have struggled mightily with turnovers inside its opponent's 20-yard line.
The Irish defense made its own noise in the red zone against Michigan State. The Spartans ventured into the Notre Dame 20-yard line on five different occasions, but the Irish allowed just two scores and only one touchdown. Notre Dame stopped Michigan State on a pair of fourth down plays and senior DB Robert Blanton's interception at the goaline prevented another score.
Notre Dame has already committed five turnovers inside the red zone, including four inside its opponents' 10-yard line. Three of the five turnovers inside the 10-yard line have come on a first down play.
Prior to the first two games of 2011, Notre Dame had only six turnovers in the red zone over its previous 35 games.
There are 44 teams in the FBS that have yet to commit five turnovers, period, let alone in the red zone.
FLOYD IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Senior WR Michael Floyd owns Notre Dame school records in career receptions (202), career receiving yards (2,936), career touchdown receptions (30), career receiving yards per game (89.0) and shares the mark in career 100-yard receiving games (15).
Floyd recorded his 200th career reception on a 22-yard grab early in the third quarter in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State.
Floyd finished the Michigan game with a career-high 13 receptions for 159 yards. The 13 catches were tied for the second-most in school history.
Floyd became Notre Dame's all-time leader in career receiving yards following his 21-yard catch early in the first quarter against the Wolverines. Floyd bested the previous school record of 2,707 held by Golden Tate (2007-09).
Floyd surpassed 100 yards receiving in the first half alone. It was his 15th career 100-yard receiving game. Floyd is tied with Golden Tate (2007-09) for the most career 100-yard receiving games in school history.
Floyd has eclipsed 10 receptions in a single-game six times in his career and twice already in 2011. He had never posted back-to-back games with 10 or more catches before the opening two games of 2011.
Among FBS receivers in 2011, Floyd ranks second in receptions (31), second in receiving yards (397), fourth in receptions per game (10.3) and fourth in receiving yards per game (132.3).
Among active FBS receivers, Floyd ranks second in career receiving touchdowns (30), second in career receiving yards (2,936), third in career receiving yards per game (89.0), fifth in career receptions per game (6.1), fifth in career receptions (202) and 15th in career receiving yards per catch (14.5).
Floyd recorded 79 catches for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010 despite missing one game due to injury. The 79 receptions were the second-most in single-season school history. His 12 touchdown receptions were tied for fourth-most in single-season school history. Floyd is the third wideout in Notre Dame history to have two separate seasons rank in the top 10 for receiving touchdowns in a single season (joined Golden Tate and Jeff Samardzija). His 1,025 receiving yards ranked seventh in single-season school history. Floyd was the sixth Notre Dame wideout to eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier in a single season. He is the only wide receiver in school history to have at least three seasons with four or more 100-yard receiving games.
Floyd has played in 33 career games, and in two of them (at Navy in 2008 and vs. Michigan State in 2009) he missed most of the action following an injury. Yet, Floyd has 15 career 100-yard receiving games over the other 31 games played.
Floyd is the only Notre Dame wideout to ever register four or more games with at least 11 catches.
Floyd has recorded eight multi-touchdown games over his Irish career, including four in his last nine contests.
Floyd recorded three touchdown receptions against Western Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010 - the second such feat in his career. He also had three touchdown catches against Nevada on Sept. 5, 2009. Floyd is the third Notre Dame wideout to have three or more touchdown receptions in multiple games (Maurice Stovall, 2005; Golden Tate, 2009).
Floyd is the first player in school history to register a touchdown catch of at least 80 yards more than once in his career. He actually has recorded three touchdown catches of at least 70 yards.
Floyd has a reception in 31 of the 32 games he has suited up for the Irish. The only game he failed to make a reception came against Navy in 2008 when he was injured early in the first quarter while blocking down field.
Floyd still owns the school record for yards per reception in a single game. He recorded four catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-0 rout of Nevada in the 2009 season opener. He averaged 47.3 yards per reception, which broke the previous school record of 41.6 yards per catch by Jim Morse against USC on Nov. 26, 1955.
Floyd's career-best reception went for 88 yards and a touchdown against Nevada in 2009. The 88-yard reception is the fourth-longest in Notre Dame football history. The 189 yards receiving in the rout of the WolfPack ranks 10th on the single-season list.
Floyd not only became the first Irish freshman to register a touchdown catch in a season opener (2008), but also became the first freshman to register Notre Dame's first points of a season by TD. He established new school records for receptions (48), receiving yards (719) and receiving touchdowns (seven) by an Irish freshman in 2008. He also set a freshman record with 10 receptions against Pittsburgh on Nov. 1, 2008.
Floyd was the fourth different rookie in the last 20 years whose first career catch was a TD. The others were Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and Derek Brown in 1988 and Derrick Mayes in 1992 - mighty impressive company for Floyd to join.
REES PIECES TOGETHER IRISH OFFENSE
Sophomore QB Tommy Rees will make his seventh career start this weekend at Pittsburgh. He is 5-1 as the Irish starting quarterback, including 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) and at the LA Coliseum against arch-rival USC (2010; snapped Trojans eight-game winning streak in series). Rees was also the starting signal caller in Notre Dame's rout of Miami, Fla. in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Rees has captained the Irish to victories over both Michigan State and USC over his first six career starts. Toss in a bowl victory as well and he is the first Notre Dame quarterback to accomplish those three feats since Kevin McDougal in 1993. McDougal - who started only one season for the Irish - led Notre Dame to victories over the Spartans (36-14), Trojans (31-13) and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl (24-21).
Rees, who was mere seconds from becoming the third Irish quarterback in school history to record road victories over both USC and Michigan in a career, completed 27-of-39 for 315 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan. He exceeded 300 yards passing for the second time in his career.
Rees came off the bench and sparked the Irish in the second half against USF. He completed 24-of-34 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns - all after halftime.
The 296 yards passing in a half ranks as the fourth-most in a half by a Notre Dame signal caller in school history.
Rees hooked up with fellow sophomore WR TJ Jones for a touchdown for the second consecutive week. He found Jones in the corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 9:30 remaining in the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 28-10 lead over No. 15 Michigan State.
Rees has now thrown six touchdown passes in 2011 and 18 for his career
Rees spotted junior WR Theo Riddick for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left to give the Irish a 31-28 lead over the Wolverines. He was 3-of-4 for 46 yards on the go-ahead scoring drive.
Rees connected with junior WR Theo Riddick on a seven-yard touchdown pass with 9:05 left in the opening quarter to give the Irish a 7-0 lead against Michigan. He completed both of his pass attempts on the drive for 28 yards.
Rees continued his torrid start on Notre Dame's second scoring drive of the first quarter against the Wolverines. He connected on all six of his pass attempts for 66 yards. He ultimately completed his first eight passes of the game and 10 straight dating back to the fourth quarter of the USF game. Rees completed 15 of 17 passes over the first two drives against Michigan and the final drive against the Bulls.
Rees found sophomore WR TJ Jones alone across the middle and Jones raced 15 yards for a touchdown to give the Irish a 24-7 lead over Michigan with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
Rees quickly led the Irish on a scoring drive early in the third quarter against the Bulls. Rees found senior WR Michael Floyd open for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 7:12 left in the third quarter to cut the Irish deficit to 16-7. Rees went 3-of-5 on the drive for 66 yards.
Rees hooked up with Floyd again late in the fourth quarter to bring Notre Dame within a field goal, 23-20.
On his first drive of the contest, Rees' led the Irish down to the USF five-yard line, completing his first four passes for 31 yards, before an interception ended the drive.
Rees completed 10-of-14 for 140 yards and one touchdown in the third quarter and 14-of-20 for 156 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Interestingly enough, two of Rees' three best passing games have come in games he did not start. Rees replaced an injured Dayne Crist on Oct. 30, 2009 against Tulsa and threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 33-of-54 passes against the Golden Hurricane.
Rees was the ninth freshman quarterback to start for the Irish in the last 60 seasons (1951-present). The group includes Ralph Guglielmi (1951), Blair Kiel (1980), Steve Beuerlein (1983), Kent Graham (1987), Paul Failla (1991), Matt LoVecchio (2000), Brady Quinn (2003), Jimmy Clausen (2007) and Rees (2010).
Rees, who started in the 28-3 victory over No. 15 Utah last year, was the first Irish freshman quarterback to knock off a top 20 opponent since Blair Kiel helped Notre Dame get past No. 13 Miami, Fla., 32-14. Rees threw for the most touchdown passes (three) by a freshman in his first career start in school history. Rees also threw for the fourth-most yards ever by an Irish quarterback in his first start (second-most ever by a Notre Dame rookie quarterback in a victory).
Rees was the first Irish rookie quarterback to ever throw four touchdown passes in a single game. The four touchdown passes against Tulsa is tied with numerous others for the sixth-most in single-game school history. Rees completed 33 of 54 passes for 334 yards - the most ever by a quarterback that did not start the game. His 300-yard game was the 35th in school history and second-ever by a Notre Dame freshman. Brady Quinn is the only other freshman signal caller to throw for at least 300 yards in a single game (350, Oct. 25, 2003 at Boston College).
Rees became the first freshman quarterback in Notre Dame history to ever lead the Irish to a victory in a bowl game. He also was the first-ever, first-year starter (regardless of class) to lead Notre Dame to a bowl game victory.
Prior to Rees, freshmen or sophomore quarterbacks who are first-year starters at Notre Dame had a tough history in bowl games. From 1972 through 2004, they were 0-6 while averaging only 13 points per game.
They include 1972 sophomore Tom Clements (40-6 to Nebraska), 1980 freshman Blair Kiel (17-10 to Georgia), 1990 sophomore Rick Mirer (10-9 to Colorado), 1994 sophomore Ron Powlus (41-24 to Colorado), 2000 freshman Matt LoVecchio (41-9 to Oregon State) and 2004 sophomore Brady Quinn (38-21 to Oregon State). However, all but Quinn played a top-5 team.
Jimmy Clausen was a sophomore QB in 2008 when the Irish crushed Hawaii 49-21 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, but it was Clausen's second season as a starter, not first.
Rees set a single-season freshman school record with 12 touchdown passes in 2010. He also established a single-season freshman record in completions percentage (.610). Rees ranked among the top-five in the following categories for Irish freshman quarterbacks.
BY LAND, CIERRE
Junior RB Cierre Wood leads Notre Dame with 299 yards on the ground on 60 carries and four rushing touchdowns. Wood registered his first career multiple-rushing touchdown game in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State. Wood totaled only 61 yards on 14 carries, but he had scoring runs of six and 23 yards in the opening half. Wood carried six times for 59 yards on the opening scoring drive alone. He picked up a trio of first downs on runs of 11, 16 and 23 yards.
Wood was the first Irish running back with multiple touchdowns on the ground in the same game since James Aldridge had a pair at Washington on Oct. 25, 2008.
Wood has now recorded seven career rushing touchdowns, five of which have come over Notre Dame last four games. He has registered a rushing touchdowns in four consecutive games - the first Irish running back to accomplish the feat since Darius Walker over the final four games of the 2005 campaign.
Wood has already registered seven plays of 15 yards or more, including six rushes and one reception. He has recorded 13 rushes of 10 yards or more, 17 of his 60 carries have resulted in a touchdown or first down and three of his eight rushing attempts on third down plays have resulted in a touchdown or first down.
Wood rushed for 134 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown at Michigan. 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 has started at running back in seven of the last eight games dating back to the Tulsa game of 2010. He has rushed for 686 yards on 136 carries over the span.
Wood rushed for 29 yards on four carries, including a pair of 11-yard bursts on Notre Dame's first scoring drive of the game against Michigan.
Wood raced up the middle from the four-yard line for a touchdown to give the Irish a 14-0 lead against the Wolverines.
Wood rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown in the season opener against USF.
Wood surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career against the Bulls. He became the first Irish running back to eclipse 100 yards since Armando Allen against Connecticut on Nov. 21, 2009.
Wood scored from one-yard out with 7:35 left in the fourth quarter against USF to bring Notre Dame within 23-13.
Wood hauled in a career-long 31-yard reception on Notre Dame's opening offensive play of 2011. It bested his previous career-long grab of 23 yards set last season against Tulsa.
Wood finished the game against the Bulls with a career-best 148 all-purpose yards, 104 on the ground and 44 through the air.
Wood did not play as a freshman in 2009, but opened the 2010 campaign as the backup. He rushed for 58 yards on seven carries in the season-opener against Purdue, but managed just 19 yards on 10 carries over Notre Dame's next four games.
When Armando Allen missed most of the Western Michigan game with injury, Wood stepped in and did not miss a beat. He ran for 94 yards on 11 rushes, including a 39-yard touchdown run.
Wood led the Irish in rushing with 603 yards on 119 carries, good for a 5.1 yard average per rush in 2010. He rushed for three touchdowns. Wood also collected 20 receptions for 170 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He added 15 kickoff returns for 300 yards and totaled 1,073 all-purpose yards (best on Irish).
Wood averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2010. Over the last 14 seasons, only one Notre Dame running back with at least 100 rushes in a single season posted a better yards per carry average than Wood (Julius Jones, 5.5 yards per carry in 2003).
Wood registered 15 plays last season of 20 yards or more, including eight rushes, one reception and six kickoff returns. He recorded 21 rushes of 10 yards or more, 27 of his 119 carries resulted in a touchdown or first down, six of 17 rushing attempts on third down plays resulted in a touchdown or first down and eight of 20 receptions resulted in a touchdown of first down.
TYLER'S EIFERT HAS NOT GONE UNNOTICED
Junior TE Tyler Eifert posted career-highs in both receptions (six) and receiving yards (93) in the season opener against USF. He also hauled in a 37-yard grab, the second-longest reception of his career.
Eifert, a 2011 Mackey Award candidate, played in the 2009 season opener as a freshman, but missed the remainder of the year after suffering back injury. He entered the 2010 campaign behind junior All-American and John Mackey Award candidate Kyle Rudolph.
Eifert played somewhat sparingly in each of the first four games in 2010 (totaled one reception for 17 yards against Michigan) and then missed back-to-back games against Boston College and Pittsburgh.
Eifert was forced into the starting lineup following Rudolph's season-ending injury. He has now started 10 consecutive games and made an immediate impact for the Irish.
Eifert earned the John Mackey Tight End of the Week Award in 2010 for his effort against Army.
CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Junior WR Theo Riddick had six catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns against Michigan. It was Riddick's first career multi-touchdown receiving game. He now has five career receiving touchdowns.
Riddick still finished 2010 with 414 yards receiving, 40 catches and three touchdown receptions, each of which ranked second on the Irish, despite missing four games.
Riddick was somewhat slow in his progression at wideout over Notre Dame's first two games of 2010. He managed just four grabs for 52 yards vs. Purdue and Michigan, but the wide receiver found his form over a four-game stretch against Michigan State, Stanford, Boston College and Pittsburgh. Riddick totaled 33 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns (all team-highs over the four-game stretch). He managed just one catch against Western Michigan before he was sidelined by an injury.
Riddick finished the 2010 contest against the Spartans with a career-high 10 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. He registered his first career 100-yard receiving game. Riddick posted two grabs for 42 yards on Notre Dame's opening scoring drive of the second half (an 18- and 24-yard grab). He hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Crist with 1:29 to go in the third quarter to tie the score, 21-21.
Riddick's 10 receptions against Michigan State were tied for the ninth-most in single-game school history at the time. In fact, his output is tied for the third-most ever by an Irish sophomore wideout. Notre Dame senior WR Michael Floyd also hauled in 10 catches against Navy on Nov. 7, 2009. Jim Seymour, who was a first-year player, but a sophomore eligibility wise, has the two highest outputs. He had games with 13 and 11 catches in 1966.
Senior PK David Ruffer is the FBS active leader in career field goal percentage (92.59). He has connected on 25 of his 27 career field goal attempts. Ruffer actually made the first 23 field goals of his career. The 23 straight field goals was the longest streak in school history.
Ruffer missed two straight kicks after the 23 straight, including a 30-yarder in the loss to USF, but has connected on his last two attempts.
Prior to his first career miss against Miami (Fla.) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in 2010, Ruffer was the only kicker in the FBS in 2010 still perfect in field goal attempts. He also was the only kicker in the FBS still perfect for his career.
Ruffer's 23 straight field goals was the longest active streak in the FBS. The NCAA record for consecutive field goals converted is 30 by Chuck Nelson of Washington in 1981-82. He also holds the NCAA record for consecutive field goals made in a single season (25, 1982).
Ruffer's 18 field goals in 2010 ranked as the third-most in single-season school history.
Ruffer's 18 straight field goals in one season was an Irish school record.
Ruffer is the second Irish kicker to ever register multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer in the same season. Harry Oliver had a pair of 50+ yard kicks in 1980. He also became the third kicker in school history to connect on multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career.
ATKINSON GOES THE DISTANCE
Freshman RB George 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.
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 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 recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown by an Irish player at Notre Dame Stadium since Vontez Duff against Navy on Nov. 9, 2002.
Four returning veterans changed jersey numbers for the 2011 season. Sophomore DB Bennett Jackson will don No. 2, junior WR Robby Toma sports No. 9, sophomore NG Louis Nix also wears No. 9 and sophomore QB Tommy Rees dons No. 11.
A quintet of Irish players underwent position changes during spring practice. Freshman Brad Carrico, who played defensive line in high school, moved to offensive line. Sophomore Austin Collinsworth moved from wide receiver to safety. Sophomore Justin Utupo moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. Sophomore Bennett Jackson moved from wide receiver to defensive back. Sophomore Luke Massa moved from quarterback to wide receiver.
One other Notre Dame player entered the fall at a new position. Sophomore Bruce Heggie moved from defensive end to offensive guard/center.
WALK-ON PLAYERS JOIN THE IRISH SQUAD THIS SPRING
Nine walk-on players have been added to the 2011 roster. Junior S Blake Breslau (San Diego, Calif./Francis Parker), freshman S Connor Cavalaris (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest), freshman WR/RB Eric Lee (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic), sophomore WR Ryan Liebscher (Colorado Springs, Colo./Cheyenne Mountain HS), freshman LB Connor Little (Lake Elmo, Minn./Hill-Murray), sophomore TE Arturo Martinez (Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit), sophomore RB Tyler Plantz (Frankfort, Ill./Providence Catholic), freshman ILB Joe Schmidt (Orange, Calif./Mater Dei) and senior WR Ryan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich./Marshall).
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 Golic family is one of just several father-son combinations who have played for Notre Dame represented on the 2011 Irish roster. Mike Sr. earned four monograms at Notre Dame from 1981-84, while Mike Jr. is a senior C and Jake is a junior 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 sophomore WR TJ Jones (Andre, 1987-90), freshman OT Conor Hanratty (Terry, 1966-68) and senior OLB Jonathan Frantz (Mike, 1970-72).