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Notre Dame vs. Massachusetts: On to the Next Play

Head coach Brian Kelly

Sept. 24, 2015

University of Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey has a pet saying: "On to the next play."

What's he trying to tell his players? Don't dwell on the last missed shot or turnover (or slam dunk). There are going to be plenty of those in the course of the game—so move on to the next play.

Irish football coach Brian Kelly and his staff likely are thinking those same thoughts this week (and, frankly, every week).

Coaches in any sport aren't allowed to become complacent and satisfied. There's always something that can be improved:

-- Think the Irish defense can be much better than it was in completely shutting down the Texas attack and then effectively throttling the Georgia Tech offense? On paper maybe not, but what about the loss of safety Drue Tranquill? What does that mean in terms of personnel in the secondary?

-- Think DeShone Kizer represented himself well in his first start at quarterback? Absolutely, but Kelly noted there are plenty of things to "tighten up," as he phrased it. And how can the Irish find a way to create game opportunities for freshman Brandon Wimbush, now the backup following the injury to Malik Zaire?

-- Think Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery are holding their own in place of the injured Jarron Jones in the middle of the Irish defensive line? No arguments there, but how can the rotation be tweaked to take best advantage of their strengths?

-- Think the Irish are in good shape at running back? It's tough to argue with C.J. Prosise's numbers and production, yet he's still a relative neophyte as a running back. Just assume Notre Dame running back coach Autry Denson has a list of things for Prosise to improve—and that's not even mentioning freshman backups Josh Adams and Dexter Williams.

 

 

-- Think the Irish are surviving okay at tight end even with Durham Smythe sidelined? That doesn't mean Tyler Luatua and Alize Jones and Chase Hounshell and Nic Weishar can't get better with every rep they take in practice and games.

-- Think Will Fuller has been awfully strong as a wide-out? Hard to argue when your top receiver leads the nation in scoring receptions. What's keeping Kelly up at night (as he noted Tuesday) is figuring out how to interject players like Torii Hunter Jr. into the mix more often without taking Fuller off the field.

-- Think the tag team of Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt has been great in the middle of the Notre Dame defense? So how do the Irish keep opposing offenses from game-planning to keep the play away from them?

Last week Georgia Tech. This week Massachusetts. Next week Clemson. The beat goes on.

"You rely on your leaders to make certain they hold everybody accountable to the way they prepare and, ultimately, the way they play," says Kelly.

"If we really have the kind of locker room and chemistry that I think we have, then we should play very well.

"If we play very well, we're capable of beating anybody in the country. If we don't, then we can lose to anybody.

"You put it heavily on your players to prepare the right way. And especially your seniors and your leaders to make certain that everybody across the board is doing the little things the right way."

Meanwhile, looking for a matchup to watch on Saturday? How about Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame's most experienced and physical player at that spot, against 6-3, 188-pound senior Tajae Sharpe, the top-rated Massachusetts receiver who caught 11 passes in each of the first two games for the Minutemen for a combined 294 yards. Sharpe grabbed 85 balls for 1,281 yards in 2014 and boasts 188 career catches for 2,461 yards and 11 touchdowns. Without doubt, Notre Dame's ability to deal with the Massachusetts' passing attack (and quarterback Blake Frohnapfel) will be one of the big keys to the outcome.

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Check out a few Irish football notes and quotes:

-- C.J. Prosise's 198 rushing yards vs. Georgia Tech are the 10th-best individual single-game total in the country so far in 2015.

-- Former Notre Dame players Sunday in the NFL caught 25 passes for 284 yards and three TDs—Golden Tate (Detroit) 6/80, Theo Riddick (Detroit) 5/41, Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota) 5/30/1, Anthony Fasano (Tennessee) 5/84/1 and Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati) 4/49/1.

-- National Football League opening day rosters included 29 former Irish players. The top 10 schools in that category were LSU (38), Miami (37), Alabama (35), Georgia (34), USC (33), Florida State (33), Florida (31), Oklahoma (30), Notre Dame (29) and Clemson (28).

-- Notre Dame heads into its fourth game of 2015 rated sixth (AP)

-- that's the highest Notre Dame has been going into Week 4 since 1996 (ranked fifth going into Ohio State game that year).

-- Notre Dame has started 3-0 for the second straight season

-- that hasn't happened since the Irish did it four years in a row in 1987-88-89-90.

-- Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise this week ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards with 451:

  1. Jordan Howard, Indiana 507 (3 TDs)
  2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State 476 (5 TDs)
  3. Nick Chubb, Georgia 468 (4 TDs)
  4. Ray Lawry, Old Dominion 453 (6 TDs)
  5. C.J. Prosise, Notre Dame 451 (4 TDs)

-- Notre Dame WR Will Fuller is tied for the NCAA FBS lead in TD receptions with five (he's tied with six other players—Kenny Lawler of California, Quincy Adeboyejo of Ole Miss, Ed'Marques Batties of Middle Tennessee State, Corey Coleman of Baylor, Roger Lewis of Bowling Green and Keevan Lucas of Tulsa).

-- Irish 2015 opponents remaining unbeaten are #10 Clemson and Temple at 3-0 and Navy at 2-0. All Irish opponents combined stand 22-12 (three of those losses are to Notre Dame). Texas rates #1 in the NCAA Toughest Schedule rankings with its opponents at 17-3 (FBS foes only).

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Notre Dame's matchup with Massachusetts this weekend represents the one game on the 2015 schedule that is not part of a home-and-home relationship—and that's generally the case with one home contest each year on the Irish slate. Most of those single games are based on a Notre Dame relationship with someone at the institution:

-- 2015: Massachusetts—That game was scheduled when former Irish assistant Charley Molnar (he was at Notre Dame in 2010-11) was the Minutemen head coach (2012-13).

-- 2016: Nevada—The Wolf Pack is coached by former Irish assistant Brian Polian (2005-09 at Notre Dame).

-- 2017: Miami (Ohio)—The RedHawks are coached by former Irish assistant Chuck Martin (at Notre Dame 2010-13).

-- 2018: Ball State—When this game was scheduled, former Notre Dame deputy athletics director Bill Scholl (now athletics director at Marquette) was the Cardinals' athletics director.

-- 2019: New Mexico—The Lobos are coached by former Irish head coach Bob Davie (at Notre Dame 1997-2001 as head coach, 1994-96 as defensive coordinator).

This marks Massachusetts' first visit to Notre Dame—and the Irish would like to end a trend of recent victories by first-time visitors to Notre Dame Stadium (including Connecticut, Tulsa, South Florida and Louisville).

A few 2015 Irish scheduling oddities—Notre Dame plays in the state of Pennsylvania on consecutive Saturdays (Oct. 31 at Temple, Nov. 7 at Pittsburgh), and Brian Kelly's squad also plays two opponents from his home state of Massachusetts (Massachusetts this week and Boston College on Nov. 23) plus two teams from California (USC and Stanford, both slated to appear on future Irish schedules in years to come).

Notre Dame's six football round trips this fall equate to a combined 9,256 miles in the air. The Irish away-from-home assignments in 2015 include four major markets—Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area (Stanford)—plus two traditional college towns in Charlottesville and Clemson.

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Notre Dame's connections with the state of Massachusetts begin with Irish head coach Brian Kelly (born in Everett, raised in Chelsea and a graduate of Assumption College in Worcester) and also include Irish players John Montelus (offensive lineman from Everett), Justin Yoon (kicker from Milton Academy) and walk-on receiver Cam Bryan (from Westwood).

The list of former Irish players from Massachusetts begins with 1943 Heisman Trophy winner Angelo Bertelli (Springfield) and also includes names such as tight end Mark Bavaro (Danvers), tight end Ken MacAfee (Brockton), safety and punter Joe Restic (Milford), linebacker Nick Buoniconti (Springfield) and end Wayne Millner (Salem).

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Here are special recognitions slated for the Notre Dame-Massachusetts football game Saturday:

-- The national colors will be presented by Shannon Boxx, a 1999 Notre Dame graduate and one of the most decorated soccer players in U.S. history. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, Shannon has represented our nation in four FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments, including last summer in Canada when the U.S. women captured the world title with a dominating 5-2 victory over Japan.

-- The Notre Dame team will take the field just before kickoff through a tunnel of former Notre Dame monogram winners.

-- Just before kickoff Michael Chronert will be introduced. He's a Notre Dame senior science and business major from Riverside, Connecticut—and he's the #1-ranked tri-athlete in the world for the 18-to-24 age group in the IRONMAN 70.3. It's a race that begins with a 1.2-mile swim, transitions to a 56-mile bike race and ends with a 13.1-mile run. He already has won three of those races this year. Chronert also boasts a 3.87 grade-point average.

-- At halftime former Irish split end Thom Gatewood will be recognized for his December 2015 induction into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.

Gatewood becomes the 45th former Notre Dame player—and the first since tight end Dave Casper in 2012—to join the College Football Hall of Fame. With 45 former players and six former coaches selected, Notre Dame boasts more honorees than any other school in the country. Gatewood is only the second true receiver from Notre Dame (Tim Brown is the other) to earn selection to the Hall of Fame.

A 1971 Irish co-captain (the first black football captain at Notre Dame) for head coach Ara Parseghian, Gatewood led the Irish in receiving in three straight seasons—in 1969 with 47 catches for 743 yards and eight touchdowns, in 1970 with 77 for 1,123 and seven TDs and in 1971 with 33 for 417 and four TDs.

The Baltimore, Maryland, product set the Notre Dame record for most passes caught and most receiving yards in a season (with 77 for 1,123 yards in 1970), and he finished his Irish career as Notre Dame's all-time leading pass-catcher with 157 for 2,283 yards. He also set the Irish standard for most catches per game in a season with 7.7 in 1970 (ranking second nationally in the final NCAA statistics that year) and most TDs by reception in a game (three against Purdue in 1970). His most productive individual game featured 12 receptions (one short of Jim Seymour's single-game record at that time) for a career-best 192 yards and three TDs in that 1970 Purdue contest.

-- Presidential Team Irish Award (first timeout in first period)—Center for Research Computing.

-- Notre Dame faculty recognition (first timeout in third period)—Nora J. Besansky, O'Hara Professor of Biological Sciences.

-- Former Indiana State Police Sgt. Tim McCarthy, who retired in April after 55 seasons of delivering safety messages (and accompanying puns) at Irish home games, will be recognized and will deliver his final safety tip live from the field Saturday at the end of the third period of the Notre Dame-Massachusetts game.

The Notre Dame game management staff has used taped messages of previous McCarthy messages in conjunction with the first two Irish home games in 2015. However, McCarthy has agreed to attend the game this weekend. He will be recognized at the end of the third period and plans to reprise the first safety message he used back in 1960.

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Jack Swarbrick, vice president and director of athletics at the University of Notre Dame, this week took over as chair of the Division 1A Athletic Directors' Association, a not-for-profit membership organization comprised of the directors of athletics at the 126 NCAA Division 1A institutions. The association engages in advocacy, legislative services, business analysis and training for its member athletic directors and their schools.

At the same time, former University of Maryland and professional basketball standout, U.S. Congressman and Rhodes scholar C. Thomas (Tom) McMillen has been selected to lead the association as president and CEO, as part of a major repurposing of that organization.

McMillen, who was chosen after a national search, will be a key component in the restructured 1A Association, which will move its headquarters from Dallas, Texas, to Washington, D.C. He is expected to help member athletics directors better navigate the rapidly changing landscape of collegiate athletics as the association expands its mission by providing increased resources in the areas of advocacy, legislative services, business analytics and professional training.

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Turning to basketball, Notre Dame's Zach Auguste is the cover subject for the regional edition of Sporting News 2015-16 college basketball preview magazine. The Irish are picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with Auguste and Demetrius Jackson both listed among the top 10 ACC players. On the women's side, the Irish are rated third nationally on a preseason basis (behind South Carolina and Connecticut). Brianna Turner is a first-team preseason All-American, with guard Lindsay Allen on the third team.

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The University of Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena and the city of South Bend and will play host to the 2017 USA Curling Arena National Championship. The event is expected to include 16 men's teams and 16 women's teams. The competition will take place April 25-30, 2017.

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If you're a repeat visitor to Notre Dame for football weekends, maybe you're looking for some different options for lunch, dinner or free-time extravaganzas.

You've spent plenty of time at Rocco's, Parisi's, the LaSalle Grill, the Linebacker, O'Rourke's, The Mark, Legends and all the familiar spots.

So here are a few that may be new to you—and many of them are a bit off the beaten track and/or away from the University locale:

-- Fat Cam's (on Garver Lake)--Only 10 minutes from Granger, just over the state line, a little south of Edwardsburg (turn east on May Road off Indiana 23 that becomes Michigan 62). Expect great New Orleans options (crawfish etouffee, bayou pasta, creole sausage and chicken combo, shrimp and grits, catfish—and dinner-size portions of gumbo), plus Michigan microbrews. Very casual but make a reservation just in case—and there's outdoor seating when the weather cooperates.

-- Casey's (in New Buffalo, Michigan)—There are lots of close and interesting options in Michigan off Red Arrow Highway if you're willing to drive a half-hour. Casey's is a steak, pasta and seafood downtown staple, Redamak's is the best for burgers, the Stray Dog (rebuilt after a fire a year ago) is always booming—and there's Brewster's for Italian, the Bentwood Tavern (with on-the-deck dining overlooking the marina) within the Marina Grand Hotel and the ever-popular Red Arrow Roadhouse (up the road in Union Pier).

-- Rocky River Tap & Table (in the former location of the Tilted Kilt, adjacent to Ruth's Chris Steak House in City Plaza off University Drive in Granger)—Great farm-fresh menu that's sourced locally. Sandwiches to dinners and lots of microbrews on draft.

-- Eddie's Steak Shed (in "downtown" Granger)—You likely think of Eddie's as a dinner option, but try it for breakfast on the weekend. Strong, basic breakfast fare and huge portions. Open 6:30 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Another close-by Granger breakfast (or lunch) stop is Copper Creek Cafe.

-- Rise'n Roll (on Grape Road)—This Amish bakery makes amazingly good cinnamon caramel doughnuts (or doughnut holes) and its iced cinnamon rolls are to die for as well. Closed Sunday.

-- Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House—Just opened over the summer. On Lincoln Way East in South Bend, just across the St. Joseph River from Farmer's Market. Features small plates and large plates (the brisket and sausage both are excellent) and its own microbrews.

-- Corndance Tavern (on Grape Road in Mishawaka)—Owned by the same folks who own the Corndance Cafe in Culver, Indiana. Outstanding "farm to fork" dinner menu with a little bit of everything.

-- Evil Czech Brewery and Public House (on Main Street in Mishawaka) – Also part of the Corndance group. Good for a sandwich or a full meal. Also has large outdoor seating section.

-- Café at the Overlook (on Twyckenham, across the street from the Eck Tennis Pavilion, part of the Overlook at Notre Dame apartment community)—Breakfast, lunch or dinner (open until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and until 8 p.m. Sunday) and adult beverages.

-- Main Street Grille (on Main Street in downtown Mishawaka)—Small and intimate, and the menu and food are outstanding.

-- Café Navarre—Downtown South Bend's latest upscale dining offering. Located in the old American Trust Bank building, with lots of seating upstairs in a balcony-like setting.

And then when you've had all you can handle to eat and drink:

-- History Museum (on West Washington Street in downtown South Bend)—There's a new exhibit running until August 7, 2016, titled "The House That Rockne Built: Notre Dame Stadium." It contains all sorts of interesting Irish football memorabilia, much of it culled from the University of Notre Dame Archives.

-- South Bend River Lights—It's the City of South Bend's celebration of the 150th anniversary of its incorporation, and to add to the party there are multiple interactive light sculptures and multi-color LED lighting highlighting the St. Joseph River. Best viewed from areas around the Colfax Street Bridge.

-- by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director

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