Sept. 22, 2008
Full Notes Package in PDF Format (recommended for easy reading and enhanced statistical data)
GAME 4: NOTRE DAME (2-1) vs. PURDUE (2-1)
DATE: Saturday, September 27, 2008
TIME: 3:43 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): Notre Dame Stadium (80,795); Notre Dame, Ind.
TICKETS: The game is officially sold out making it the 202nd consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every Notre Dame home football game has been a sellout except one - a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force. The Irish have now played in front of sellouts in 250 of their last 251 home games.
TV: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director). NBC will stream a live 30 min. pre-game show (3-3:30 p.m.) and post-game show on NBCSports.com.
RADIO: ISP Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. The Notre Dame-ISP relationship begins with the 2008 season and extends through the 2017 season -- with ISP managing, producing and syndicating the Irish national football radio network. Notre Dame games will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish great Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, sideline and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159). All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on Sunny 101.5 FM and NewsTalk 960 WSBT-AM. See page 12 of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), Purdue (purduesports.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports Gametracker via each school's respective official athletic websites.
POLLS: Notre Dame failed to receive votes in either the USA Today coaches poll or Associated Press poll, while Purdue received votes in the coaches poll.
SERIES INFO: This meeting will be the 80th all-time between the rivals. It is Notre Dame's second-most played series (trailing only Navy). Notre Dame holds a 51-26-2 lead in the series, but dropped last year's meeting, 33-19, in Ross-Ade Stadium. Notre Dame has won five of the last eight and 17 of the past 22 in the series. The Irish have also captured 14 of the last 15 meetings in Notre Dame Stadium. (see All-Time Series Results on page 2).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Saturday's game will mark the 19th time in Notre Dame history the Irish have faced off with Purdue the week following the Michigan State game. The Irish are 4-2 against the Boilermakers following a loss to the Spartans, including 2-0 in Notre Dame Stadium. Overall, Notre Dame is 15-3 against Purdue the week after facing Michigan State.
PURDUE HEAD COACH JOE TILLER: Tiller has put Purdue back on the college football map.
With each passing year, Joe Tiller further solidifies his reputation as one of the greatest coaches in Purdue football history - perhaps the greatest.
Taking the reins of a program that had just one winning season (with the help of a forfeit victory) and no bowl game appearances since 1984, Tiller has engineered 10 bowl berths in 11 years, an average of 7.5 wins per season and a Big Ten championship in 2000.
Tiller's teams have qualified for 10 of the 15 bowl games in school history: 1997 Alamo, 1998 Alamo, 2000 Outback, 2001 Rose, 2001 Sun, 2002 Sun, 2004 Capital One, 2004 Sun, 2006 Champs Sports and 2007 Motor City Bowl.
As for Tiller, who was assistant head coach at Purdue from 1983 to 1986, his 11-year record with the Boilermakers stands at 85-55, a snappy .606 winning percentage. His 17-year head coaching record is 122-84-1, a .592 winning percentage. In Big Ten games, he is 51-37, a .580 winning percentage.
Tiller, who will retire following the 2008 season, just passed Hall of Famer Jack Mollenkopf for the most wins in school history. Mollenkopf won 84 games, including 57 Big Ten contests, from 1956 to 1969. Tiller's 140 games coached are the most in school annals.
NOTRE DAME VS. BIG TENNotre Dame has faced no other conference as often as the Big Ten. The Irish have played 344 all-time games against the 11 current members of the league. Notre Dame is 217-112-15 in those meetings. The Irish have played almost three times as many games against the Big Ten as any other conference. The Pac-10 (125) and ACC (106) are the only other conferences against whom Notre Dame has played at least 100 games.
Notre Dame has faced Purdue 79 (51-26-2) times in school history, more all-time meetings than any other Big Ten program. Michigan State is second with 72 all-time meetings followed by Northwestern (47).
Last year's matchup with Penn State, the 19th all-time meeting, was the second with the Nittany Lions as a member of the conference.
Notre Dame will face three members of the Big 10 in 2008 (Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue). The Irish face the Wolverines, Spartans and Boilermakers for the seventh consecutive season. Notre Dame played four members of the Big 10 in each of the last two seasons. Notre Dame has played a member of the Big Ten every single season since 1915.
Notre Dame has posted a 111-45-5 (.705) record against Big Ten opponents at home and a 90-40-3 (.688) mark inside Notre Dame Stadium.
NOTRE DAME-PURDUE SERIES HISTORYNotre Dame and Purdue will be meeting for the 80th time in the all-time series this Saturday. The Irish lead the series by a 51-26-2 count.
The series started in 1896, with Purdue collecting a 28-22 victory in South Bend. The only current NCAA Division I-A schools that played Notre Dame earlier than Purdue are Michigan (1887 - first game in program history) and Northwestern (1889).
The teams played seven times from 1899-1907 before a 11-year break (the longest hiatus in the history of the series). The teams resumed the rivalry in 1918 and met every year until 1923 before a 10-year break. The teams then met in 1933, 1934, 1939 and the series has been continuous since 1946.
The series is tied with the USC rivalry for Notre Dame's second-longest continuous series (Notre Dame and Navy have played every year since 1927).
Notre Dame's 51 series wins against Purdue are the second-most against any opponent -- 70 against Navy is the highest.
Entering the 2008 season, Purdue has beaten Notre Dame more times (26) than any other school besides USC (32) and Michigan State (26).
The Irish have not been shutout by the Boilermakers since 1933 (a 19-0 loss in South Bend). Notre Dame has been blanked on two other occasions (1904, 1905).
Including this weekend's game, Notre Dame or Purdue has been nationally ranked in 19 of the past 21 meetings (dating back to 1987). The 2001 and 2007 games were the only time in that stretch that neither the Irish or Boilermakers were ranked.
Over the last 10 meetings, Notre Dame holds a slim 6-4 advantage. The Irish won in 1998, from 2000-02 and 2005-06. Purdue claimed victories in 1997, 1999, 2003-04 and 2007.
The series has been one filled with many offensive fireworks. Since 1982 (a span of 26 games), the winning team has scored no fewer than 22 points in every meeting except Notre Dame's 17-0 triumph in 1993. The winning team has eclipsed the 30-point barrier on 14 different occasions and averaged just over 35 points per contest.
If series history holds true, Notre Dame will need to score often to earn a victory this weekend. When the Irish fail to score 23 or more points in a game against Purdue, the Irish are 11-18-2 (.387). Since 1981 (27 meetings), Notre Dame has lost six out of the seven games to Purdue in which it failed to score over 20 points.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 10 previous games in its history on Sept. 27. The Irish are 6-3-1 all-time on this date. The Irish have recorded two shutouts on Sept. 27 (1902, 33-0 vs. MSU; 1958, 18-0 vs. Indiana).
Sept. 27, 1941: Arizona is no match for the Irish under the direction of new coach Frank Leahy, who records his first win at his alma mater with a 38-7 thrashing of the Wildcats at Notre Dame Stadium. Leahy would not only go undefeated in 1941, but would do so an unbelievable seven times in his eleven-season career.
Sept. 27, 1959: New head coach Joe Kuharich led the Irish to a 28-8 victory in his first game against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
IRISH RECORD SETTERS IN THE NOTRE DAME-PURDUE SERIESThe Notre Dame-Purdue series has been filled with incredible quarterback performances from the Irish. Five of the top 10 single-game completion records happened against the Boilermakers (Ron Powlus - 31; Brady Quinn - 29, 29, 26; Terry Hanratty - 29). Three of the top seven single-game highs for passing yards also came against Purdue (Brady Quinn - 440, 432; Terry Hanratty - 366). Only three Irish quarterbacks have ever attempted 45 or more passes in one game and three of those efforts came against the Boilermakers (Hanratty owns the school record with 63; Quinn recorded 59 in 2003 and 46 in 2004).
Reggie Brooks rushed for three touchdowns, tied for sixth-most in single-game history, in a 48-0 rout of the Boilermakers on Sept. 26, 1992.
Former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn recorded 11 straight completions in the 49-28 victory in 2005 and his 80.5 completion percentage for the game is the sixth-best in single-game school history.
Quinn eclipsed the 400-yard mark in passing on four occasions over his career, twice against Purdue. He threw for 440 yards in 2005 and 432 yards in 2004.
Former QB and current Irish quarterback coach, Ron Powlus, tossed four touchdown passes in a 35-28 victory over Purdue on Sept. 9, 1995. At the time, the four TD passes was tied for the school record.
Former All-American WRs Jim Seymour and Tom Gatewood each had remarkable careers against Purdue. Seymour had 13 catches, second most in single-game school history, with a school record 276 yards on Sept. 24, 1966. Gatewood had 12 catches, third most in a game, for 192 yards against the Boilermakers on Sept. 26, 1970. Both had three touchdown receptions in the each game as well.
Notre Dame has had a pair of running backs eclipse 100 yards rushing in the same game just 16 times over 118 years of football. Two of those occasions came against Purdue. Phil Carter and Larry Moriarty rushed for 154 and 106 yards, respectively, on Sept. 25, 1982. Ray Zellars and Randy Kinder went for 156 and 143 on Sept. 24, 1994.
NOTRE DAME - PURDUE CONNECTIONSNotre Dame defensive line coach Jappy Oliver began his collegiate coaching career as a graduate assistant at Purdue in 1979-80, working for former Boilermaker head coach Jim Young.
Notre Dame wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello and Purdue offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ed Zaunbrecher each had previous stints at the University of Arizona. Ianello served as an assistant (recruiting coordinator/wide receivers and recruiting coordinator/tight ends) from 1994-2002. Zaunbrecher was a graduate assistant from 1973-74 before becoming a full-time assistant in 1975-76. Zaunbrecher was on the same Purdue staff in 1979 that included Oliver.
Former Notre Dame assistant head coach (defense)/defensive backs Bill Lewis (now manager of athletics community relations) and Zaunbrecher each had stops at Wake Forest. Lewis was defensive backs coach from 1969-70, while Zaunbrecher was an assistant from 1980-83 for the Demon Deacons.
Notre Dame offensive coordinator/running backs coach Mike Haywood (1995-02) and Zaunbrecher (1984-90) each paced the sidelines at LSU.
Purdue tight ends coach John McDonell coached the centers and guards at Notre Dame from 2002-04. Five of his players were taken in the NFL draft. Center Jeff Faine was a first team All-American and runner-up for the Rimington Award in 2002 and subsequently a first-round pick (21st overall) of the Cleveland Browns. Faine presently is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting center.
A number of players from Purdue and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD...Make Notre Dame 3-1 for the first time since 2006 and fourth time in the past five years (2004, 2005, 2006).
Give the Irish a victory over Purdue for the third time in four years.
Improve the all-time record for the Irish to 16-3 (.842) against Purdue the week after facing Michigan State.
Improve the all-time record for Notre Dame to 5-2 (.714) against Purdue the week after losing to Michigan State and 3-0 in such meetings in Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve the Irish to 7-9 (.438) under Weis following a loss.
Improve Notre Dame to 52-26-2 (.663) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Improve the Irish to 27-11 (.711) in the all-time series with the Boilermakers in South Bend and 24-10 (.706) in Notre Dame Stadium.
Give Notre Dame its 15th victory in the last 16 meetings with Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 11-7 (.611) all-time against Purdue (snapping a three-game losing streak in such meetings).
Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 7-3 (.700) all-time against Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve Notre Dame to 10-5 (.667) all-time against the Boilermakers when both teams are unranked.
Improve Notre Dame to 7-2 (.778) all-time against Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
Improve Notre Dame to 218-112-15 (.654) all-time against the Big Ten Conference.
Improve the Irish to 112-45-5 (.707) against Big Ten opponents at home and 91-40-3 (.690) at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve Weis' record to 25-16 overall (.610), 3-1 (.750) against Purdue and 7-8 (.467) against the Big Ten Conference.
Improve Weis' overall home record to 14-9 (.609) and his home record against the Big Ten Conference to 4-3 (.571).
Improve Weis' record to 10-8 (.556) in September games.
Improve Weis' record to 18-13 (.581) in afternoon games.
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record to 827-279-42 (.738).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 301-96-5 (.755).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD...Make Notre Dame 2-2 for the first time since 2000 and second time in the past 26 years (1983).
Deny the Irish a victory over Purdue for the third time in four years.
Drop the all-time record for the Irish to 15-4 (.789) against Purdue the week after facing Michigan State.
Drop the all-time record for Notre Dame to 4-3 (.571) against Purdue the week after losing to Michigan State and 2-1 in such meetings in Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop the Irish to 6-10 (.375) under Weis following a loss.
Drop Notre Dame to 51-27-2 (.650) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Drop the Irish to 26-12 (.684) in the all-time series with the Boilermakers in South Bend and 23-11 (.676) in Notre Dame Stadium.
Deny Notre Dame its 15th victory in the last 16 meetings with Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 10-8 (.556) all-time against Purdue (extending a four-game losing streak in such meetings).
Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 6-4 (.600) all-time against Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop Notre Dame to 9-6 (.600) all-time against the Boilermakers when both teams are unranked.
Drop Notre Dame to 6-3 (.667) all-time against Purdue in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
Drop Notre Dame to 217-113-15 (.651) all-time against the Big Ten Conference.
Drop the Irish to 111-46-5 (.701) against Big Ten opponents at home and 90-41-3 (.683) at Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop Weis' record to 24-17 overall (.585), 2-2 (.500) against Purdue and 6-9 (.400) against the Big Ten Conference.
Drop Weis' overall home record to 13-10 (.565) and his home record against the Big Ten Conference to 3-4 (.429).
Drop Weis' record to 9-9 (.500) in September games.
Drop Weis' record to 17-14 (.548) in afternoon games.
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record to 826-280-42 (.738).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 300-97-5 (.752).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: A record combined win total for the first two seasons of any Notre Dame head football coach, consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances for the first time in Irish history, and the two most accomplished passing seasons in Notre Dame football annals - those are the most notable by-products of the first three seasons of the Charlie Weis era in South Bend.
Weis, a 1978 Notre Dame graduate and owner of four Super Bowl-champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as a National Football League assistant coach, wasted no time putting his signature stamp on his alma mater's program in his first two years as Irish head coach in 2005 and 2006.
Weis and his Irish followed up a 9-3 record in '05 and BCS appearance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with a 10-3 overall mark in '06 and a second consecutive BCS invitation, this time to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Those 19 combined wins (including eight straight in the middle of the '06 regular season) qualified as most in a two-year period by the Irish since they collected 21 in 1992-93. It was also the first time Notre Dame played in BCS games in successive years and the most prominent two-season bowl qualification since the Irish played in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls after the 1994 and '95 campaigns. The only schools to play in BCS games after both the '05 and '06 seasons were Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
Notre Dame's 10 regular-season wins in '06 marked the ninth time that figure had been achieved in Irish history. Weis' 19 combined wins in his first two seasons were the most by a Notre Dame head football coach in his first two years (the previous high was 17 by both Terry Brennan in 1954-55 and Dan Devine in 1975-76). For the second straight year in '06 Weis was one of three finalists for the George Munger Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club (of Philadelphia) to the college coach of the year.
The architect in '05 and '06 of the two most prolific passing seasons in Irish football history, Weis effectively transformed the ND offense into one of the most productive in the country, as Notre Dame scored more points in `05 (440) than in any previous season in school history - and also qualified as the most improved offensive attack in the nation, jumping its total offense production (477.33 yards per game) a national-best 131.8 yards per game better than in '04. The Irish followed that up with another strong passing attack in '06, with Notre Dame's average of 264.1 passing yards per contest ranking 13th nationally and second all-time in the Notre Dame record book (behind only the 330.3 mark from '05). The Irish protected the football nearly as well as any team in the country in '06, with their 14 overall turnovers in 13 games ranking tied for fourth of the 119 NCAA I-A teams.
On a combined basis in 2005 and '06 under Weis, Notre Dame led the nation in interception avoidance with only 1.6 percent of Irish passes picked off over those two years. The Irish, thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Brady Quinn, finished third in TD passes with 69 and sixth in passing yards per game (295.8) and passing rating (151.7). In '05 and '06 combined, compared to the previous two seasons, the Irish improved their points per game by 11.5, and their total yards per game by 90.9.
IRISH TEAM NOTES
OPENERS AN INDICATOR?The 99 previous seasons Notre Dame has won its opener, the Irish went on to post winning records 91 times (91.9%), with four losing seasons and four .500 records.
Notre Dame is now 100-15-5 in season openers, but have they been foretelling of the season ahead? Take a look:
The 15 seasons Notre Dame lost its 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.
FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Notre Dame has historically recruited from all across the country and 2008 is no different. A total of 29 different states are represented on the Irish roster. Among Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division IA), only Army has more states represented on its 2008 roster.
COACHING IN THE CLUTCH
Knute Rockne owns the best career winning percentage among Notre Dame coaches in games decided by seven or fewer points, at 21-1-5 (.870). Among Irish coaches with 14-plus "close games", the other top winning percentages in tight games belong to Elmer Layden (22-7-3, .734), Frank Leahy (17-5-8, .700), Tyrone Willingham (10-5, .667), Ara Parseghian (13-6-4, .652), Dan Devine (15-9-1, .620), Bob Davie (14-12, .611) and Lou Holtz (20-18-2, .525). Current head coach Charlie Weis owns a .667 winning percentage in such games (6-3).
IRISH SPECIAL TEAMS
Junior Eric Maust recorded an average of 42.1 per punt in 2007. Maust landed nine of his 21 punts inside the 20-yard line and recorded a long punt of 53 yards. A starting pitcher on the baseball team, Maust has punted 16 times in 2008 and averages 41.6 per boot. He already has three punts of 50+ yards and six have been pinned inside the 20-yard line. Maust is ranked 17th in the NCAA in net punting. Notre Dame had not had a left-footed kicker since Harry Oliver in 1981 until sophomore Brandon Walker entered the picture in 2007. Walker served as the primary placekicker throughout the season and converted six of 12 field-goal attempts with a long of 48 yards. He also serves as the backup punter. Junior Ryan Burkhart is the kickoff specialist for the Irish after spending much of his freshman season in the same capacity. Burkhart has averaged 60.7 yards per kick and Notre Dame opponents are averaging just 14.00 per return (third best in the NCAA).
HELLO, ANELLOSenior CB Mike Anello, who was awarded a scholarship during fall practice, has made quite a name for himself over the past two seasons. Anello joined the squad a walk-on in 2007 and spent the entire fall camp as well as the first two weeks of the season on the scout team. After making one play after another against the Irish first team special teams unit, head coach Charlie Weis moved Anello into the starting lineup against Michigan in 2007 as a gunner opposite senior FS David Bruton.
In that first career game against the Wolverines, Anello proceeded to make a solo tackle on his second ever play in a Notre Dame uniform. He finished last season with six tackles in eight games.
Anello was incredible in the season opener against San Diego State. He registered four solo tackles on special teams (two on punt return coverage and two on kickoff return coverage).
Anello continued his tear on the opposition on punt and kickoff coverage against Michigan. He registered three more tackles, two solo, as well as forced a fumble and recovered another. Anello also nearly recovered a second Wolverine fumble on a punt.
The fumble recovery set up another Irish score to make it 14-0 early in the first quarter.
Notre Dame has a total of 28 punts (16) and kickoffs (12) in 2008. Anello has registered a tackle on seven of those 28 opportunities.
NOT TO BE OVERSHADOWED
While senior CB Mike Anello certainly deserves much of the credit with his play on special teams, fellow senior FS David Bruton (the other gunner) has a significant role. Bruton, widely considered one of the top gunners in all of college football the past two seasons, led the Irish in special teams stops the past two seasons and only Anello's seven outdistance Bruton's three.
MAKING THE MAUST OF THE SITUATIONJunior P Eric Maust had the unenviable task of replacing one of the top punters in Irish history, but the dual sport athlete has picked up right where Geoff Price left off.
Maust has punted 16 times in 2008 for 666 yards, good for a 41.6 average. His 39.56 net punting ranks 17th best in the NCAA.
Maust has already bombed three punts of over 50 yards, including two against Michigan (despite horrendous weather conditions).
Maust has also dropped six inside the opponents 20-yard line. In fact, he has dropped 15 inside the 20-yard line already in his career (on just 37 punts).
Maust's hang time and directional punting has helped the Irish punt coverage team rank 11th best in the NCAA with a 2.00 per return average.
Maust has gone three consecutive games with a pair of punts that were downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
Armando Allen AWAKENS IRISH RETURN GAMESophomore Armando Allen finally broke through in the Irish kick return game last week against Michigan State. Allen had five kick returns for 147 yards, including a career-best 53 yard burst in the fourth quarter.
The 53-yard return was the longest for an Irish player since Vontez Duff returned a kick 92 yards for a touchdown against Navy on Nov. 9, 2002.
The 147 kickoff return yards are the second-most in the Charlie Weis era and most for any Notre Dame player since David Grimes had 145 yards against Michigan on Sept. 16, 2006.
The 29.3 per kickoff return average was the third-best by an Irish player under Weis and highest average since Grimes averaged 33.7 per return against North Carolina on Nov. 4, 2006.
Allen now ranks 40th in the NCAA FBS in kickoff returns with a 24.1 average.
Allen set single-season school records for kickoff returns (33) and kickoff return yards (704) in 2007. He broke the previous school record for kickoff returns in a single-season of 26 held by Julius Jones (1999) and Tim Brown's previous school record of 698 kickoff return yards in 1986. In fact, his 33 kickoff returns already rank seventh in Notre Dame career history.
SPECIAL TEAMS SHOW MAJOR IMPROVEMENTSIn the final 2007 NCAA stats, Notre Dame ranked 40th (out of 119) in punt return defense (7.44) and 89th in kickoff return defense (22.75).
In the season's first three games against San Diego State, Michigan and Michigan State, the Irish saw major improvements in both categories.
Notre Dame ranking third in kickoff return coverage is even more impressive when you consider they have yet to register a touchback on the season. On the other hand, Kentucky, which ranks just ahead of the Irish have benefitted from 12 touchbacks.
Notre Dame has punted 16 times over its first three games, 10 have not been returned a single yard, including one touchback, two out of bounds, three downed and four fair catches. Five other punts have been returned for three yards or less.
IRISH OFFENSIVE NOTES
Notre Dame started one of its most inexperienced offensive lines in years last season (as four different players registered their first career starts), but a benefit from last season's struggles is that the 2008 offensive line now is full of experienced hands. Three returning players started all 12 games last season -- and two more started six and five games, respectively. Two of the three best rushing games for the Irish last year came in the final two contests, and all five starters from those two games return in 2008. Junior Sam Young has started all 28 games in his career at tackle and is the most experienced returning player on the Irish offensive line. He opened the first 15 games at right tackle before sliding over to left tackle following the second game of his sophomore season, but returned to RT this past spring. Young is the only Notre Dame offensive lineman to start every game through his first two seasons since freshmen regained eligibility in 1972. Seniors Paul Duncan and Mike Turkovich had not earned meaningful minutes prior to starting all 12 games last year. Duncan started the first two games at left tackle, then switched with Young and played the final 10 contests at right tackle. Turkovich had only played in 16 games prior to 2007, but he started every game at left guard for the Irish. Juniors Eric Olsen and Dan Wenger both saw valuable playing time in 2007, but they did it at different points of the season and in different ways. Olsen did not start until midway through last year, but once he opened at right guard against UCLA, Olsen never relinquished his opportunity. He started the final six games of the campaign. Wenger opened the season as the starting right guard and played three games there before an injury forced him to the sidelines. After missing the middle portion of the schedule, he returned to start the final two contests at center. Wenger's natural position is center. Fellow junior Chris Stewart worked his way up the depth chart and has started each of the first three games in 2008. In fact, the entire quintet of Turkovich, Stewart, Wenger, Olsen and Young have started every game this season.
The quintet has already seen major improvements from a year ago. Here are just a few noticeable upgrades:Notre Dame surrendered an NCAA record 58 sacks in 2007, but the Irish did not allow a single sack over their first two games of 2008 (first time since 2003 Notre Dame has gone consecutive games without allowing a sack).
In last season's 38-0 defeat at Michigan, the Irish allowed eight sacks and was limited minus-six yards rushing on the afternoon. In the 35-17 Irish victory earlier this season, Notre Dame did not allow the Wolverines a single sack (even though they averaged 4.0 sacks per game -- tops in the NCAA entering the contest) and rushed for 113 yards. The Wolverines had allowed 83 yards on the ground over their first two games combined.
QUARTERBACKSClausen posted career-highs last weekend against Michigan State in both completions (24) and attempts (41). He also threw for 242 yards, second-most in his Irish career. With six touchdown passes over his first three games, Clausen has nearly equalled his entire total from 2007 (7).
No Notre Dame freshman quarterback had ever started his first game for the Irish prior to the fourth week of the season until sophomore Jimmy Clausen opened under center in the second game of the 2007 season at Penn State. He completed 17 of 32 passes that day for 144 yards and displayed the poise and resiliency often in that game which would help carry him through a challenging and, at times, frustrating rookie season. Clausen (138-245, .563, 1,254 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INTs) started nine games for the Irish and etched his name throughout the Notre Dame record books. He equaled the school record for starts by an Irish freshman quarterback and finished second on the following freshman quarterback single-season lists: passing yards, completions and completion percentage. Clausen missed two games at midseason to help heal some lingering injuries, but he returned to start the last three games where he completed 57 of 104 passes for 636 yards with six TDs and one interception.
Clausen struggled in the first-half against Michigan State (just 7-of-14 for 79 yards and two INTs), but rebounded with a stellar second-half in which he started 17-of-21 for 163 yards and a touchdown before missing his final six attempts.
Clausen has thrown at least three touchdowns passes in three of his last six games and posted multiple TD pass games four times over the stretch.
Battling an injury, Clausen connected on just four passes over 35 yards in 2007, but the second-year signal caller has already registered three such passes over the first three games.
Senior Evan Sharpley (77-140, .550, 736 yards, 5 TDs 3 INTs) epitomized the role of a quality backup in 2007. Called upon in eight games, Sharpley never skipped a beat as the Irish signal caller. He entered when Clausen was injured at Purdue and passed for 208 yards with two TDs and one interception -- and then started against USC and Navy. A member of the Irish baseball team, Sharpley missed most of spring practices due to his baseball commitment where he led the team in home runs. Freshman Dayne Crist, a 6-4, 230-pounder from California who was a Parade All-American last year and one of six finalists for the U.S. Army Player of the Year Award, as well as Nate Montana (son of NFL Hall of Famer and former Irish legend Joe) also join the mix this fall.
One of the deepest positions on the team in terms of talent and versatility is the running back spot. The top three rushers from 2007 all return, featuring styles that complement one another. Those three combined to start 10 games last year and rushed for 1,105 yards and four TDs. Junior James Aldridge started five games in 2007 and led the Irish with 463 yards on 121 carries. The former prep All-American displayed both the power to run through arm tackles as well as speed in the open field as he recorded the second-longest run from scrimmage last year - a 43-yard gallop vs. Michigan State. Aldridge eclipsed 100 yards in two games and paced the Irish in rushing in six contests. Aldridge did not play in the season opener, but returned to the lineup against Michigan and rushed for 28 yards on nine carries against the Wolverines. He added four carries for 13 yards last week against Michigan State. Sophomore Armando Allen (86 car., 348 yards, 4.0 avg.) showed flashes of his game-breaking speed last year, but he was seldom able to rip off big gains in 2007. Allen's longest run was 15 yards and his longest reception went for 16 yards, however the dual-threat option he presents as a rusher and receiver combined with his elite speed adds another dimension to the Irish backfield. Allen only had two carries for four yards against Michigan in limited duty, but rushed 16 times for 59 yards in the season-opening victory over San Diego State. He also added three receptions for 18 yards and totaled 158 all-purpose yards against the Aztecs. Allen again struggled on the ground, as did the entire Irish backfield, last week agains the Spartans. Allen managed just eight yards on six carries, but did register five receptions (20 yards), 147 kickoff return yards and 198 all-purpose yards. Fellow sophomore Robert Hughes (53 car., 294 yards, 5.5 avg., four TDs) burst onto the scene in the final two games last year, featuring a power running game not seen by a Notre Dame player in a number of years. With just 18 carries through the first 10 games, Hughes became the workhorse versus Duke and Stanford by rushing a combined 35 times for 246 yards (7.0 avg.) and two TDs. Hughes became the first freshman running back at Notre Dame to surpass 100 rushing yards in consecutive games since Allen Pinkett in 1982. Hughes leads Notre Dame in 2008 with 41 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns -- both in the victory over Michigan. Returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2006 season, senior Asaph Schwapp started seven games a year ago and served as the lead fullback in every game. Schwapp was the lead blocker for the aforementioned three running backs and also rushed 12 times in 2007, gaining 14 yards. Junior Luke Schmidt, an Indiana native, appeared in 11 games last season and splits time at tight end.
The entire wide receiver group returns in 2008 as the Irish look to return to the aerial assault applied in 2005 and 2006. Six receivers combined to catch 117 passes for 1,252 yards with eight TDs in 2007 -- and the two leading receivers were a sophomore and a freshman. Senior tri-captain David Grimes (27 rec., 224 yards, 9.7 avg., two TDs) is the veteran leader of the bunch. He is coming off an 2007 campaign that saw him record a career-high 27 receptions, despite missing two games in the middle of the season. Grimes, who did not see the field last week against Michigan State, has six catches for 38 yards this season. Junior Robby Parris (29 rec., 361 yards, 12.4 avg., one TD) tallied the most receiving yards by an Irish wide receiver last year and had the highest average yards per reception total among receivers with at least 10 receptions. Parris started four games in 2007 and flashed his big-play potential as he led the team with eight receptions of at least 20 yards and recorded over 90 yards receiving in two games (93 yards at Purdue, 94 yards vs. Boston College), but battled an injury through the pre-season is still looking to regain top form. Following a strong freshman season that saw him named an honorable mention freshman All-American by The Sporting News, sophomore Duval Kamara (32 rec., 357 yards, 11.2 avg., four TDs) looks to grow the connection forged with quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Kamara set the Irish freshman record for most receptions by a first-year wide receiver (breaking Tim Brown's school record of 28) and also set the Notre Dame record for most TD receptions by a freshman. Kamara registered a catch in each of the first two games for Notre Dame, including a 10-yard touchdown last week to give the Irish a 14-0 first quarter lead. Notre Dame has also seen the emergence of sophomore Golden Tate. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native showed flashes of brilliance in 2007 (four of his six receptions exceeded 20 yards), highlighted by his three catches, 104 yards and one touchdown performance against Purdue. Tate has already exceeded his entire reception output from a year ago and leads the Irish with 15 catches and 303 yards. He has hauled in passes of 30, 38, 45 and 60 yards over the first three games. Tate is 14th in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (101.0) and only two other WR in the nation (with at least 5.0 receptions per game) have a higher average per catch than Tate's 20.2. Freshman Michael Floyd was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota as a junior and a senior and was a USA Today first-team All-American. The rookie picked up his first career start against Michigan and not only became the first Irish freshman to register a TD catch in a season opener, but also became the first freshman to register Notre Dame's first points of a season by touchdown. Floyd has 10 receptions for 118 yards on the season. He set a new freshman record with seven receptions last week against Michigan State. Floyd led Notre Dame with 86 receiving yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.
The Irish will struggle to find an immediate replacement for John Carlson, one of the most prolific tight ends in school history. Carlson started each of the last 23 games in which he appeared and recorded the second-most receptions (100) and third-most receiving yards (1,093) for a career by a Notre Dame tight end. Sophomore Mike Ragone, a former high school All-American, was the initial odds on favorite to replace Carlson after playing in 11 games as a freshman in 2007, but was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Junior Will Yeatman has played in all 28 games in his career, starting six contests as a second tight end (including each of the first three in 2008). He has eight career receptions for 39 yards (six of which came in 2007). Freshman Kyle Rudolph was a USA Today first-team All-American and considered by most recruiting sites as the top tight end in the nation. He has started all three games this season and became the first Notre Dame rookie tight end to ever start a season opener. Rudolph hauled in two catches for 29 yards, including a career-long 18-yard reception last week against Michigan State.
SUPER SOPHOMORESNotre Dame's 2007 recruiting class, which was widely considered one of the top classes in the country, experienced serious growing pains a year ago, but from the early returns from 2008 the experience was rewarding.
The Irish have scored nine touchdowns in 2008 and six have come from sophomores. HB Robert Hughes and WR Golden Tate each have a pair of TDs, while WR Duval Kamara and LB Brian Smith each have one. If you toss in freshman WR Michael Floyd's TD catch, a first or second year player has scored seven of Notre Dame's eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Jimmy Clausen has thrown six touchdown passes.
The top two running backs and two of the top three wideouts (in terms of yards) are all sophomores.
Four of the top 10 tacklers on the Irish squad are sophomores.
CLAUSEN CONTINUES TO DEVELOPSophomore QB Jimmy Clausen posted career-highs last weekend against Michigan State in both completions (24) and attempts (41). He also threw for 242 yards, second-most in his Irish career. With six touchdown passes over his first three games, Clausen has nearly equalled his entire total from 2007 (7).
Clausen struggled in the first-half against Michigan State (just 7-of-14 for 79 yards and two INTs), but rebounded with a stellar second-half in which he completed 17-of-27 for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Eclipsed 200 yards passing for the third time in his career.
Clausen has thrown at least three touchdowns passes in three of his last six games and posted multiple TD pass games four times over the stretch.
Battling an injury, Clausen connected on just four passes over 35 yards in 2007, but the second-year signal caller has already registered three such passes over the first three games.
Clausen tossed his fourth and fifth touchdowns of the season in the 35-17 victory over Michigan. Clausen hooked up with fellow sophomores Duval Kamara and Golden Tate.
The 48-yard touchdown pass to Tate against Michigan was Clausen's longest of his career, but stood for only eight minutes on the game clock.
Clausen again connected with Tate for 60 yards to set up another Notre Dame touchdown against the Wolverines.
The 60-yard passing play from Clausen to Tate was the fourth-longest passing play under Weis.
The 60-yard passing play was the longest for the Irish since Brady Quinn connected with John Carlson for a 62-yard TD reception against Michigan State on Sept. 23, 2006.
With Notre Dame trailing 13-7 and 11:55 to go in the fourth quarter in the season opener against San Diego State, Clausen proceeded to complete 8-of-his-final-9 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns (led Notre Dame on scoring drives of 80 and 55 yards) to secure the come-from-behind victory.
Recorded at least three touchdown passes in the same game for the third time in his career.
Over the final three games of 2007 and the contest with San Diego State, Clausen tossed nine touchdown passes and three interceptions. He completed 78-for-138 (.565) and 873 yards over those four games.
Clausen had his best game to date against Air Force on Nov. 10, 2007. He completed 22-of-40 for 246 yards and three touchdowns. The completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns (tied) were all career-highs.
Clausen was even better in the second-half against the Falcons. He was 17-of-29 for 192 yards and two scores. Clausen was victimized by at least five dropped passes.
Including his second half effort against Air Force (17-of-29 for 192 yards and two touchdowns), Clausen went 30-of-52 for 361 yards and four TDs in that four-quarter span against the Falcons and Duke.
Clausen finished the Air Force and Duke games with three touchdown passes each, tying career-high and the Irish freshman quarterback record.
Prior to the Air Force contest, Clausen's best game of 2007 came at Purdue on Sept. 29, 2007. Despite missing most of the fourth quarter after suffering a hip injury, he went 18-of-26 for 169 yards and one touchdown. Clausen recorded a completion percentage of 69.2% against Purdue -- second-highest ever by a Notre Dame freshman quarterback (only Steve Beuerlein (.700, 14-for-20) at Penn State on Nov. 12, 1983 completed a higher percentage).
Michael Floyd: ANOTHER BRICK IN IRISH RECEIVING WALLSophomore WR Duval Kamara finished 2007 with 32 receptions for 357 yards and four touchdowns. He set a pair of Notre Dame rookie receiving single-season records in 2007. Kamara's 32 receptions are the most ever by an Irish receiver, breaking the previous mark of 28 held by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown in 1984. His four receiving touchdowns are also the most ever by a Notre Dame freshman.
Freshman WR Michael Floyd is on pace to shatter rookie receiving marks in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Here is a look at how Floyd's freshman season may rate against the rookie campaigns of Notre Dame's top five all-time leaders in career receptions (does not include Tom Gatewood  or Jim Seymour , who were not eligible to play as freshman). (see chart in PDF of notes package)
Floyd recorded career-highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (86) last week at Michigan State.
Added his second career touchdown reception (a 26-yard pass play from Clausen with 14:51 to go in the fourth quarter) against the Spartans.
The 26-yard reception was a career-long for Floyd.
Registered four catches that gave the Irish a first down.
The seven receptions were the most by an Irish receiver since Jeff Samardzija had eight against LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
The seven receptions are also the most ever by a Notre Dame freshman receiver (most by a freshman at any position as well). The previous school record by an Irish rookie was six set last season on two different occasions by sophomore WR Duval Kamara.
FOLLOW THE GOLDEN RULESophomore WR Golden Tate has blossomed into one of the most improved wide receivers in the country.
Tate ranks 14th in the NCAA FBS in receiving yards per game (101.0).
Among players with at least 5.0 receptions per game, Tate ranks third in the NCAA FBS with a 20.2 per reception average.
Tate has recorded four receptions of 30 yards or longer through the first three games for Notre Dame. That number equals the total by the entire Irish receiving corp in 2007.
Recorded Notre Dame's longest rush of the season with his 24-yard scamper on a reverse midway through the first quarter (also gave the Irish their initial first down of the afternoon) against Michigan State.
Finished the afternoon against the Spartans with five receptions for 83 yards - marking the third straight game with at least 80 yards receiving.
Registered four catches that gave the Irish a first down.
Tate flashed glimpses of his athletic ability in 2007. Tate had three receptions for 104 and a touchdown against Purdue and not only became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass since Maurice Stovall (2002 against Rutgers), but also became the first Notre Dame freshman to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game since Derrick Mayes (100 yards on two catches) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992.
Tate only managed three receptions the rest of the season, but exploded onto the scene in the season-opener against San Diego State. He hauled in six catches for 93 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to give the Irish a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead. The TD reception was the longest by an Irish player since Jeff Samardzija recorded a 51-yard scoring strike from Brady Quinn against Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006.
Tate continued his development in the victory over Michigan. The speedster hauled in four passes for 127 yards, including a 48-yard TD strike from fellow sophomore Jimmy Clausen.
The touchdown was his second of the season and third of his career.
Tate recorded two touchdown receptions over the first two weeks of the season (38 and 48 yards respectively).
The 48-yard reception against the Wolverines was Tate's longest of his career, but for only eight minutes on the game clock.
Tate hauled in a slant pattern and raced 60 yards to set up another Notre Dame touchdown.
The 60-yard reception was the longest for the Irish since John Carlson hauled in a 62-yard TD grab against Michigan State on Sept. 23, 2006.
Tate eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the second time in his career against the Wolverines.
Tate registered 116 yards on three catches in the first half, besting his previous career high of 104 yards against Purdue on Sept. 29, 2007.
Tate's 31.8 per catch average (minimum three receptions) is the second-highest single-game average by a receiver in the Weis era.
Tate has the best single-game average of 34.7 (3-104) set against Purdue last season.
THOSE AREN'T BOOS, THEY'RE HUGHESSophomore HB Robert Hughes finished 2007 with 294 yards rushing on 53 carries and four touchdowns. He totaled 246 of those yards on 35 carries over the season's final two games. Hughes became the first Notre Dame freshman tailback to eclipse 100 yards rushing in consecutive weeks since Allen Pinkett during the 1982 season. Pinkett rushed for 129 yards against Navy (Oct. 30) and 112 yards against Pittsburgh (Nov. 6).
Hughes opened the season against San Diego State with 54 yards on 17 carries.
Hughes registered a well-earned 79 yards on 19 carries in the 35-17 victory over Michigan.
The Wolverines were allowing just 1.1 yards on the ground per rush and just over 30 total yards per game, but Hughes averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
Hughes registered his fifth career touchdown giving the Irish a 7-0 lead over the Wolverines at 11:52 of the first quarter.
Hughes added his second rushing touchdown of 2007 and sixth of his career to give Notre Dame a 28-10 lead with 8:47 to go in second quarter.
Hughes leads the Irish in carries (41), yards (142) and rushing touchdowns (2).
AR(MAN)DO TO BE RECKONED WITHSophomore HB Armando Allen totaled 1,176 all-purpose yards in 2007. He led Notre Dame with six receptions against Penn State and returned three kicks for 67 yards. Allen registered 110 all-purpose yards in his first career game with Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech. Allen recorded 84 kick return yards on five tries and 25 yards rushing on three carries. He also added a reception for one yard.
Allen totaled 226 all-purpose yards against Navy on Nov. 3. The 226 all-purpose yards was tied for the 11th most in single-game Notre Dame history. It is also the most all-purpose yards by an Irish player since Darius Walker had 241 at Stanford on Nov. 11, 2005.
Allen eclipsed the 150 all-purpose yards for the fourth time in his career and second time in 2008 against Michigan State. He had 198 all-purpose yards, including eight on the ground, 20 in the air, 147 on kickoff returns, including a career-best 53-yard return, and 23 on punt returns. Allen recorded 158 in the season opener against San Diego State. He registered 59 yards on the ground, 18 in the air, 46 in kickoff returns and another 35 on punt returns.
CHECK OUT THAT SHINY KAMARASophomore WR Duval Kamara finished 2007 with 32 receptions for 357 yards and four touchdowns. He set a pair of Notre Dame rookie receiving single-season records in 2007. Kamara's 32 receptions are the most ever by an Irish receiver, breaking the previous mark of 28 held by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown in 1984. His four receiving touchdowns are also the most ever by a Notre Dame freshman.
After struggling in the season opener against San Diego State (one INT slipped through his hands), Kamara recorded his first TD reception of the season and fifth of his career to give Notre Dame a 14-0 lead at 11:00 of the first quarter against Michigan.
It will be nearly impossible to replace the 2007 production of Trevor Laws. Not only did he lead the entire nation for tackles by a defensive lineman (112 tackles, 9.3 tackles/game), but he also recorded the second-most tackles ever by an Irish defensive lineman. No one individual on the Irish roster will come close to duplicating the performance by the 2007 Notre Dame MVP, but the vacancy he created at the position could be filled by a combination of players. Senior Justin Brown returns for his fifth year at Notre Dame after setting individual career highs in almost every statistical category last year. Brown started five of the 10 games in which he appeared at defensive end opposite Laws and tallied 30 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. The senior member of the defensive line, Brown has started all three games in 2008 with six tackles and two for loss (both coming in the victory over Michigan). Senior Pat Kuntz started the first 10 games of 2007 at nose tackle and recorded 42 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss. He also tied for team-high honors with nine passes broken up, the most by any defensive lineman in the nation a year ago. After failing to register a tackle in the season opener, Kuntz came back with three solo stops, including one for loss against Michigan. Sophomore Ian Williams started the final two games of the season at nose tackle, but he was a valuable reserve in the first 10 contests as he totaled 45 tackles, sixth-most on the team. It was the third-most tackles by an Irish freshman defensive lineman in school history and he earned freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America. Williams had one solo tackle over the first two games of the season, but regained his form with six stops last week against Michigan State.
Three starters return while two other linebackers have starting experience, as the linebackers group possesses the leader of the defense as well as upstart talent which helped make the Irish defense so improved last year. A staple of Notre Dame's linebacker corps the last three seasons, tri-captain Maurice Crum Jr. returns for a fifth year and is the indisputable leader of the defense. He has started all 40 games that Notre Dame has played the past four years. Crum notched 84 of those stops in 2007 and enters this weekend with 260 career tackles, needing 37 more tackles to enter Notre Dame's top-10 list for career stops. Crum ranks fourth on the Irish with 19 tackles in 2008. He has 2.5 TFLs and the only sack of the season for the Irish. Junior John Ryan is one of the more versatile members of the Irish defense, as he posted eight starts as an outside linebacker in 2007 and two starts at defensive end last year. Ryan ranked ninth on the team with 39 tackles including 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. He has just three tackles this season, but has added a pair of pass break-ups, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. Two freshmen burst onto the scene in 2007 and made significant contributions to Notre Dame's defense. Kerry Neal and Brian Smith each started as outside linebackers during their rookie seasons and both now server as sophomore starters. Neal played in every game and started five contests, while totaling 20 tackles with two sacks, two tackles for loss, two recovered fumbles and three pass breakups. He has picked up seven tackles (three each game against San Diego State and Michigan), one for loss and his first career interception against the Aztecs. Smith started three of the 11 games in which he appeared and made a great impact when he was on the field. He recorded 25 tackles with 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, forced one fumble and intercepted one pass (which he returned for a TD). Smith is third on the squad with 20 tackles, 2.0 for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. He ranks tied for fifth in the nation in fumble recoveries.
The most improved area on the entire team last year was the play by the Irish secondary. Two of the four starters return from the group that recorded the second-best pass defense in the nation. Notre Dame allowed almost 42 fewer passing yards per game and the passing efficiency of opposing quarterbacks improved from 90th in 2006 to 22nd last year. Senior David Bruton was a major contributor to the success of the Irish secondary in his first season as starter at free safety. The 6-2, 207-pounder proved to be a tremendous addition as he ranked third on the team with 85 tackles and added three interceptions. Bruton recorded at least nine tackles in five games and is the top returning tackler from 2007. Bruton is coming off another great game against Michigan State. He registered a game-high tying 10 tackles. Bruton has posted double-digit tackle games each of the last two times out. He had a remarkable game against Michigan. Bruton totaled a career-high tying 15 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, a forced fumble, quarterback hurry and interception. Both of Bruton's forced turnovers occurred either at the Irish five-yard line or just inside. In fact, Bruton forced a third turnover inside the Notre Dame five-yard line when he forced a fumble against San Diego State at the goaline. Senior Terrail Lambert returns for his fifth season and is the most veteran member of the defensive backs. Lambert has started 25 consecutive games at cornerback and has intercepted four passes while totaling 90 tackles over the last three campaigns. Only Crum has started more games on the Irish defense, and no player has played in more games than Lambert over the past three years. Lambert has 16 tackles (10 solo stops) and two pass breakups so far in 2008. Junior Raeshon McNeil has secured the other starting cornerback spot. McNeil has played in 23 games for the Irish and has been used as an extra cornerback and also as an extra safety. He made his fourth career start last week against Michigan State and leads Notre Dame with four pass breakups, including two in the victory over the Wolverines. Sophomore Gary Gray has seen prominent playing time in 2008. Gray missed the entire 2007 season with an injury after enrolling in January 2007 but was highly touted coming out of high school. Gray picked up his first career interception against Michigan and returned it 40 yards. Freshman Robert Blanton made his Irish debut against Michigan and registered two tackles and one for loss. Sophomore Harrison Smith is listed as the backup to Bruton at free safety, but also has seen significant action at Sam linebacker, including making his first career start last week against Michigan State. Smith was a highly recruited player from Tennessee who was named the state's player of the year by Gatorade. The former state decathlon champion did not play in his first year with the Irish, but has picked up four tackles with one for loss over the first two games of 2008. Junior Sergio Brown has played in 23 games over the last two seasons primarily on special teams, recording 11 tackles, but has exploded onto the scene in 2008. Brown has started two games for the Irish, as the extra safety in nickel packages, and has registered eight tackles, five solo, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, one fumble recovery, one TFL and a blocked punt. Replacing All-American Tom Zbikowski is a tall order, but senior Kyle McCarthy has done so and then some over his first three games of 2008. McCarthy had played in 25 games and started one game against Navy in 2007, but has taken his game to another level. McCarthy recorded a career-best 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops, in the season opener against San Diego State and came back with 10 tackles against Michigan and nine more last week against Michigan State. McCarthy ranks seventh in the NCAA in total tackles and 16th in solo stops.
SOMETHING BRUTON IN THE NOTRE DAME SECONDARYSenior FS David Bruton will serve as one of three captains of 2008 Irish squad, joining Maurice Crum Jr. and David Grimes.
After recording five tackles in the season opener against San Diego State, Bruton exploded for a career-high tying 15 stops against Michigan.
Bruton also forced a fumble against the Wolverines inside the Notre Dame five-yard line.
Bruton added an interception midway through the fourth quarter, once again at the five-yard line.
Bruton has forced three turnovers this year inside the Irish 6-yard line.
Bruton made 10 tackles last week against Michigan State, eclipsing 10 or more tackles in a single game for the second time in 2008 and fourth time in his career.
Bruton ranks 17th in the NCAA in total tackles and 16th in solo stops.
Bruton has recorded the second-most career tackles (147) on the team (behind Maurice Crum Jr., 260 tackles).
Bruton has appeared in 38 career games and started 14 contests while making 469 special teams appearances.
Bruton is still one of the top gunners on the punt coverage unit, as he was during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Bruton is the top returning tackler on 2008 roster after ranking third on the team and pacing the secondary in 2007 with 85 tackles.
Bruton recorded one sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, three passes broken up, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery a year ago.
Bruton was primarily a special teams player in his first two seasons before starting at free safety throughout his junior year in 2007.
Bruton is one of two returning starters in the Notre Dame secondary.
Bruton was named to the Nagurski Watch List (defensive player of the year) for 2008.
Bruton was rated the 12th-best safety in the nation by Lindy's and the No. 19 free safety by Phil Steele in the `08 preseason.
Bruton was named to `08 Jim Thorpe and Nagurski Award Watch List.
CRUMBLING THE COMPETITIONSenior LB Maurice Crum, Jr., totaled 100 tackles in 2006 to lead Notre Dame. Crum was the first Irish player to eclipse the 100 tackle mark since Courtney Watson had 117 in 2003.
Crum, Jr. had six tackles, one for loss, including a sack in the season opening victory over San Diego State.
Crum, Jr. registered five tackles with another 0.5 tackle for loss in the rout of Michigan.
Crum, Jr. had eight tackles, four solo, including a tackle for loss last week against Michign State.
Crum, Jr. finished his career with 36 tackles in four games against the Spartans.
Crum, Jr. followed up that effort with a 84 tackle season in 2007 despite battling injuries throughout much of the season.
Crum, Jr. is the 17th player in Notre Dame football history to be named captain consecutive years.
Crum, Jr. has 260 career stops, needing just 35 tackles to enter Notre Dame's top-10 list for career stops.
Crum, Jr. has started every contest for Notre Dame (40) over the past three seasons.
Crum, Jr. holds Notre Dame's longest active streak in consecutive games played and started (both 40).
Crum, Jr. started at outside linebacker as a sophomore, middle linebacker as a junior (both in a 4-3 scheme) and inside linebacker as a senior (in a 3-4 scheme).
Crum, Jr. named an honorable mention `08 preseason All-American by The Sporting News.
Crum, Jr. selected to the `08 Nagurski Trophy Watch List (defensive player of the year) and Lott Award Watch List.
Crum, Jr. rated the No. 11 inside linebacker by Phil Steele for `08 and the 11th-best outside linebacker by Lindy's.
Crum, Jr. named to `08 Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List.
Only six players enter this weekend with a longer active starting streak than Crum, Jr.'s 40.
Crum, Jr. ranked tied for 28th in the NCAA in 2007 with the three forced fumbles.
In 2007, Crum, Jr. added 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, four passes broken up, and two fumble recoveries.
Crum, Jr. was responsible for five turnovers as he intercepted two passes, forced a fumble (that was recovered by a teammate) and recovered two fumbles that he forced.
Crum, Jr. received national Defensive Player of the Week award from the Walter Camp Foundation following his performance at UCLA.
Crum, Jr. scored first career touchdown when he returned a fumble he forced and returned 35 yards for a score at UCLA.
Crum, Jr. became the first Irish player to ever record a pair of forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in the same game.
Crum, Jr. also set a single-game school record with four turnovers forced at UCLA.
SMITH, Brian Smith ... INSIDE LINEBACKERNotre Dame sophomore LB Brian Smith registered a career-best 10 tackles, including one for loss, and a forced fumble last weekend against Michigan State.
Smith has started all three games for the Irish, but last weekend was his first at inside linebacker as Notre Dame failed to open in nickel for the first time in 2008.
Smith is the first sophomore LB to post 10 or more tackles in a single game since Maurice Crum, Jr. had 11 against Navy on Oct. 28, 2006.
KYLE USHERS IN MCCARTHYISM ERA IN SECONDARYSenior SS Kyle McCarthy has definitely instilled intense fear amongst Irish opponents through the first three games this season.
McCarthy made just his second career start in the season-opening victory over San Diego State, but the Youngstown, Ohio native recorded a career-high 14 tackles, including 10 solo stops.
McCarthy backed up the performance with another stingy double-digit tackle effort against Michigan. He totaled 10 stops.
McCarthy nearly reached the double-digit tackle plateau for the third straight game last week against Michigan State (finishing the game nine stops).
McCarthy ranks seventh in the NCAA FBS in solo tackles (18).
McCarthy is tied for 16th in the NCAA FBS in total tackles (33).
WHAT DOES BROWN DO FOR YOU?Junior S Sergio Brown made his first career start in the season opener against San Diego State. The safety, who saw extensive playing time in the nickel package, set career-highs in tackles (six), tackles for loss (1.0), quarterback hurries (1), pass breakups (2) and even managed a blocked punt.
Brown, again, found himself around the football in the victory over Michigan recording two tackles and one fumble recovery.
WHO SAYS KUNTZ IS UNDERSIZED?Senior NT Pat Kuntz entered the 2007 season without a single start and just 11 tackles in 21 career games. Kuntz excelled in Notre Dame's new 3-4 defensive scheme last season.
Despite missing the final two games to injury, Kuntz started 10 games, totaled 53 career tackles with three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, nine pass break-ups and one fumble recovery.
Kuntz has moved to defensive end after starting at nose tackle in 2007.
Kuntz possesses a tremendous motor and work ethic and displayed an uncanny ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.
Kuntz did not record a tackle in the season-opening victory over San Diego State, but finished with three solo tackles against Michigan, including one for loss.
Kuntz led all defensive linemen in the NCAA FBS in 2007 with nine pass break-ups last year and tied for the team-high honors.
Kuntz has played in 33 career games with 12 career starts (10 in 2007).
Kuntz was on pace to surpass the school record for pass break-ups in a single-season a year ago. Of those players that have broken up 10 or more passes in a single season, he would have been just the second non-defensive back on the list (David Martin, 1966).
Kuntz ranked 58th in the nation in passes broken up and just outside the top 100 in the nation in passes defended a year ago.
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