Fighting Irish Visit In-State Rival Purdue Saturday Night Notre Dame has won 20 of its last 25 games against the Boilermakers, including eight of the past 12 in West Lafayette (8:06 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN 3D).
ESPN national telecast with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analysis), Holly Rowe (sidelines), Mark Loomis (producer) and Scott Johnson (director).
ESPN 3D telecast with Dave Lamont (play-by-play), Tim Brown (analysis), Ray Bentley (sidelines), Joe Taylor (producer) and Jeff Evers (director).
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 273 of its previous 308 games, including 117 of its last 152 games away from the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium dating back to the start of the 1986 season.
Neither Notre Dame nor Purdue are ranked in either of this week's Associated Press or USA Today Coaches' polls, but the Irish are receiving votes in the AP poll.
Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports GameTracker via UND.com.
This year's matchup will mark the 83rd meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue, with the Irish holding a 54-26-2 series lead. Notre Dame owns a 26-14-2 mark against the Boilermakers away from Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have won 20 of the last 25 meetings, including eight of the last 12 games in Ross-Ade Stadium (more on the series on pages 2-6 of the PDF version of this notes package).
NOTRE DAME - PURDUE SERIES HISTORY
The series started in 1896, with Purdue collecting a 28-22 victory in South Bend. The only current NCAA Football Subdivision 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 play in 1918 and met every year until 1923 before a 10-year break in the series. The teams then met in 1933, '34 and '39 and the series has been continuous since 1946, tying 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 54 series wins against Purdue are the second-most against any opponent - 71 against Navy is the highest.
Purdue has beaten Notre Dame more times (26) than any other school besides USC (34) and Michigan State (28).
The Irish have not been shut out by the Boilermakers since 1933 (a 19-0 loss in South Bend).
The winner of the game is presented the Shillelagh Trophy, a tradition started in 1957. The trophy was donated by the late Joe McLaughlin (a merchant seaman and Notre Dame fan who brought the club from Ireland). Notre Dame has taken home the Shillelagh Trophy 35 times in the 54-year history of the award.
NOTRE DAME - PURDUE SERIES NOTES
Notre Dame and Purdue will meet for the 83rd time in the all-time series Saturday. The Irish lead the series by a 54-26-2 count.
Notre Dame or Purdue has been nationally ranked in 19 of the past 24 meetings (dating back to 1987). The 2001 and 2007-11 games are the only times in the stretch that neither the Irish nor Boilermakers were ranked.
Over the last 25 meetings, Notre Dame holds a 20-5 advantage. The Irish won from 1986-96, 1998, 2000-02, 2005-06 and 2008-10. Purdue claimed victories in 1997, 1999, 2003-04 and 2007.
The series has been filled with offensive fireworks. Since 1982 (a span of 29 games), the winning team has scored at least 23 points in every meeting except Notre Dame's 17-0 triumph in 1993. The winning team has eclipsed the 30-point barrier on 15 different occasions and averaged 34.3 points per contest.
If series history holds true, Notre Dame will need to score often to earn a victory. When the Irish fail to score at least 23 points in a game against Purdue, the Irish are 15-25-2 (.381). Since 1981 (30 meetings), Notre Dame has lost six out of the seven games to Purdue in which it failed to score over 20 points.
Notre Dame has captured eight of the last 12 meetings with Purdue inside Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermaker victories came 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2007.
The series has produced 48 previous games in which at least one team was ranked in the AP poll, but the higher-ranked team is just 30-18 in those games.
Purdue has been the beneficiary in 15 of the series' 18 upsets of the higher-ranked teams, including four times in which the Boilermakers knocked off the top-rated Irish: 1950 (28-14) and 1954 (27-14) at Notre Dame Stadium, and 1965 (25-21) and 1967 (28-21) at Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue was unranked in 1950, No. 19 in '54, No. 6 in '65 and No. 10 in '67.
Lower-ranked Irish teams have upset a higher-ranked Purdue squad three times, most recently at Notre Dame Stadium in 2000 when Notre Dame's Nicholas Setta connected on a 38-yard field goal with no time remaining to give the 23rd-ranked Irish a 23-21 victory over the 13th-ranked Boilermakers. Other Irish upsets include at Ross-Ade Stadium in 1952, when the unranked Irish knocked off No. 9 Purdue (26-14), and at Notre Dame Stadium in 1980, when the No. 11 Irish topped the ninth-ranked Boilermakers (31-10).
Unranked Purdue teams also have beaten ranked Irish teams in 1956, '59, '60, '74 (31-20, when ND was No. 2), '81, '84 and '97 while lower-ranked Purdue teams also have beaten higher-ranked ND teams in '58, '69, '79 and '99.
IRISH RECORD SETTERS IN THE PURDUE SERIES
The 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, 29; Terry Hanratty - 29). Three of the top 11 single-game highs for passing yards also came against Purdue (Brady Quinn - 440, 432; Terry Hanratty - 366). Only six Irish quarterbacks have ever attempted 48 or more passes in one game and two of those efforts came against the Boilermakers (Hanratty owns the school record with 63; Quinn recorded 59 in 2003).
Reggie Brooks rushed for three touchdowns, tied for seventh-most in single-game history, in a 48-0 rout of Purdue on Sept. 26, 1992.
Rick Mirer completed 12 of 14 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns as the Irish routed Purdue, 45-20, on Sept. 28, 1991. Mirer's completion percentage of 85.7% is still tied with two others for second-best in school history.
Brady Quinn recorded 11 straight completions in the 49-28 victory in 2005 and his 80.6 completion percentage for the game is the 10th-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. The totals rank fifth and tied for sixth, respectively, in single-game Notre Dame history.
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, but is now tied for sixth.
Former All-American WRs Jim Seymour and Tom Gatewood each had remarkable careers against Purdue. Seymour had 13 catches, tied for the second-most in single-game school history, for a school record 276 yards on Sept. 24, 1966. Gatewood had 12 catches, tied for fourth-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, which ranks as tied for the second-most in program history.
Notre Dame has had a pair of running backs eclipse 100 yards rushing in the same game just 16 times over 123 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.
Former Irish kicker and punter Craig Hentrich connected on 136 consecutive extra points, a school record, from Sept. 30, 1989 to Sept. 26, 1992. Ironically, the streak started and ended in games against Purdue.
THE CLOSE GAMES AND NOT-SO-CLOSE GAMES
Notre Dame is 20-5 in the last 25 games with Purdue (dating back to 1986). Those 25 games have been decided by an average of 13.0 points, including 10 wins of over 20 points and five wins of over 30 points for the Irish.
Since 1986, only seven games have been decided by fewer than 10 points and each occurred over an eight-year span between 1995-2002 until the 2009 contest.
Since the series with Purdue resumed in 1946, there have been five games where the winning points were scored in the final five minutes. Ironically, three have come on the date of Sept. 26. Here is a list of those five games:
Sept. 25, 1971 - #2 Notre Dame 8, at Purdue 7
With just over three minutes to play, the snap bounces at the two-yard line before slipping out of the hands of Purdue punter Scott Lougheed. Notre Dame's Walt Patulski and Clarence Ellis converge to block a punt that never gets airborne, with Fred Swendsen recovering in the end zone for a TD with 2:58 to play. Pat Steenberge's pass to Mike Creaney adds the two-point conversion for the margin of victory.
Sept. 26, 1981 - at Purdue 15, #13 Notre Dame 14
Purdue's Scott Campbell and Steve Bryant combined on a TD pass into the corner of the end zone with 0:19 left to play before running the same play to the other corner for the winning two-point conversion. Notre Dame's Phil Carter had scored on a 30-yard run with 2:57 remaining to give the Irish a 14-7 lead.
Sept. 26, 1998 - at #23 Notre Dame 31, Purdue 30
Notre Dame's Jim Sanson kicked a 17-yard field goal with 57 seconds left to give the No. 23 Fighting Irish a 31-30 victory. Tony Driver made two key interceptions in the closing minutes. He returned his first interception off Drew Brees to the Purdue 5-yard line with 1:39 left to set up Sanson's field goal. His second interception with 37 seconds left ended Purdue's hopes for a comeback after the Boilermakers had reached the Notre Dame 44-yard line.
Sept. 16, 2000 - at #21 Notre Dame 23, #13 Purdue 21
Though Gary Godsey couldn't run the option, he ran the Notre Dame offense well enough to help the Irish take advantage of numerous Purdue mistakes. The Irish scored 17 points off Purdue miscues and Nick Setta kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to give Notre Dame a 23-21 victory over the Boilermakers. The loss was the 12th straight for Purdue at Notre Dame. Godsey, a sophomore making his first start, completed 14 passes - one more than Purdue's Drew Brees managed against Notre Dame and one more than Arnaz Battle did over Notre Dame's first two games.
Sept. 26, 2009 - Notre Dame 24, Purdue 21
Junior QB Jimmy Clausen completed a two-yard touchdown pass to sophomore TE Kyle Rudolph with 24.8 seconds to play, and Notre Dame rallied for a 24-21 win over Purdue. Clausen led the Irish on a 12-play, 72-yard drive. He went 6-for-9 on the drive for 69 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown pass.
Notre Dame has won four games in its storied history by scoring a touchdown in the last 30 seconds of regulation. Here is that list of games:
Sept. 26, 2009 Notre Dame 24, at Purdue 21 (0:25)
Oct. 21, 2006 at Notre Dame 20, UCLA 17 (0:27)
Nov. 14, 1992 at Notre Dame 17, Penn State 16 (0:19)
Jan. 1, 1979 Notre Dame 35, Houston 34 (1979 Cotton Bowl) (:00)
The Irish have never registered a longer drive (72 yards) to win a game on the road with less than 25 seconds to go in the contest in school history than it did at Purdue in 2009.
Notre Dame scored with just 24.8 seconds remaining on the clock at Purdue. It is the latest the Irish have scored to secure a victory on the road since 1997 when Scott Cengia booted a field goal with five seconds left to secure a 23-22 victory at Hawaii.
NOTRE DAME VS. BIG TEN
Notre Dame has faced no other conference as often as the Big Ten. The Irish have played 369 all-time games against the 12 current members of the league. Notre Dame is 229-124-16 (.642) in those meetings. The Irish have played almost three times as many games against the Big Ten as any other conference. The Pac-10 (140) and ACC (111) are the only other conferences against which Notre Dame has played at least 100 games.
Notre Dame has faced Purdue 82 (54-26-2) times in school history, more all-time meetings than any other Big Ten program. Michigan State is second with 75 all-time meetings.
Notre Dame will face three members of the Big Ten in 2011 (Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State). The Irish face the Wolverines, Spartans and Boilermakers for the 10th straight season. Notre Dame played four members of the Big Ten in 2006 and 2007. The Irish have played a member of the Big Ten every season since 1915.
Notre Dame is 101-70-10 (.586) all-time against Big Ten on the road.
NOTRE DAME - PURDUE CONNECTIONS
The 2011 Notre Dame roster features eight players from the state of Indiana, including senior C Braxston Cave (Mishawaka/Penn H.S.), senior WR John Goodman (Fort Wayne/Bishop Dwenger H.S.), junior TE Tyler Eifert (Fort Wayne/Bishop Dwenger H.S.), junior OT Zack Martin (Indianapolis/Bishop Chatard H.S.), junior WR Nick Fitzpatrick (Mishawaka/Marian H.S.), sophomore WR Daniel Smith (South Bend/Clay H.S.), freshman NG Tony Springmann (Fort Wayne/Bishop Dwenger H.S.) and freshman OT Nick Martin (Indianapolis/Bishop Chatard H.S.).
The 2011 Purdue roster features 23 players from the state of Indiana.
A VICTORY OVER PURDUE...
Improves Notre Dame's overall record to 3-2 overall and 2-1 on the road.
Gives the Irish three straight victories overall and two consecutive wins on the road.
Gives Notre Dame victories in road games over consecutive weeks for the first time since 2005.
Gives the Irish four straight victories over Purdue in the all-time series for the first time since winning 11 consecutive meetings (1986-96).
Gives Notre Dame a victory over the Boilermakers in 21 of the last 26 meetings overall and nine of the last 13 meetings on the road.
Improves Notre Dame to 55-26-2 (.675) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Improves the Irish to 27-14-2 (.651) in the all-time series with Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 848-297-42 (.732).
Improves the all-time record on the road for the Irish to 281-144-23 (.653).
Improves Notre Dame to 230-124-16 (.643) all-time against the Big 10, including 102-70-10 (.588) on the road.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 11-6 (.647) all-time against Purdue.
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 6-4 (.600) all-time against the Boilermakers on the road.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 10-4 (.714) all-time against unranked Purdue.
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 5-3 (.625) all-time against the unranked Boilermakers on the road.
Improves Kelly's record to 182-64-2 (.738) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 64-29 (.688) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 54-17 (.761) over the last six seasons.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-0 (1.000) all-time against Purdue, including 1-0 (1.000) on the road.
Improves Kelly's record to 3-3 (.500) against the Big 10 at Notre Dame, including 1-2 (.333) on the road.
Improves Kelly's record to 56-15 (.789) all-time in night games and 4-2 (.667) in night games at Notre Dame.
A DEFEAT TO PURDUE...
Drops Notre Dame's overall record to 2-3 and road record to 1-2.
Denies the Irish three straight victories overall and two consecutive wins on the road.
Denies Notre Dame victories in road games over consecutive weeks for the first time since 2005.
Snaps the Irish three-game winning streak over Purdue.
Gives the Boilermakers only their sixth victory in the last 26 meetings overall and fifth in the last 13 meetings at home.
Drops Notre Dame to 54-27-2 (.663) in the all-time series with Purdue.
Drops the Irish to 26-15-2 (.628) in the all-time series with Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record to 847-298-42 (.731).
Drops the all-time record on the road for the Irish to 280-145-23 (.651).
Drops Notre Dame to 229-125-16 (.641) all-time against the Big 10, including 101-71-10 (.582) on the road.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 10-7 (.588) all-time against Purdue.
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 5-5 (.500) all-time against the Boilermakers on the road.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 9-5 (.643) all-time against unranked Purdue.
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 4-4 (.500) all-time against the unranked Boilermakers on the road.
Drops Kelly's record to 181-65-2 (.734) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 63-30 (.677) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 53-18 (.746) over the last six seasons.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-1 (.500) all-time against Purdue, including 0-1 (.000) on the road.
Drops Kelly's record to 2-4 (.333) against the Big 10 at Notre Dame, including 0-3 (.000) on the road.
Drops Kelly's record to 55-16 (.775) all-time in night games and 3-3 (.500) in night games at Notre Dame.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 13 previous games in its history on Oct. 1. The Irish are 12-1 all-time on this date. The Irish were ranked in the top 20 on seven of the 13 previous occasions.
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 has started a season 0-2 seven times in the 123-year history of Irish football. Notre Dame has rebounded to secure a winning record on two previous occasions.
Notre Dame has not rebounded with back-to-back wins after an 0-2 start since 1978. In addition to '78, the Irish clawed back to 2-2 in 1963 and 1896.
NOTRE DAME IN OCTOBER
Notre Dame is 373-91-8 (.799) all-time during the month of October.
The Irish are 230-48-4 (.823) in October home games.
Notre Dame has an all-time mark of 107-36-3 (.743) in road games during October.
The Irish are 84-23-2 (.780) in October games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won seven of its last nine games on the road in the month of October.
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.
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.
ALL THE NIGHT MOVES
Notre Dame will host a night game (Oct. 22, USC, 7:30 p.m.) for the first time in 21 years. The last Irish night game at Notre Dame Stadium came on Sept. 15, 1990 against Michigan.
Notre Dame already played under the lights Sept. 10 at Michigan, the first night game ever at home for the Wolverines. The Irish have night games at Purdue (Oct. 1), against Maryland at FedEx Field (Nov. 12) and at Stanford (Nov. 26).
Five night games is a Notre Dame regular season record.
This year will mark the 60th anniversary of Notre Dame's first night game, a 48-6 Irish victory against Detroit on Oct. 5, 1951 in Briggs Stadium.
The Irish have played 94 night games overall with an overall record of 60-32-2 (.649), including 6-1 at home from 1982-90.
Notre Dame's night history can almost be divided into two eras - the 35-year pre-Lou Holtz era from 1951-85, and the 25 years since Holtz took the reins in 1986. It was under Holtz that multiple night games in a season became standard at Notre Dame to woo a prime time audience. It eventually prompted the exclusive NBC contract for home games that commenced with the 1991 season.
In the 35 years from 1951-85, Notre Dame was 21-6-1 (.768) in night games. In the 11 years under Holtz alone (1986-96), the Irish were an almost identical 20-5-1 (.788).
Notre Dame's longest winning streak in night games is 11, beginning with an Oct. 13, 1973 win at Rice and concluding with a Sept. 24, 1983 shutout loss at Miami (20-0), which went on to win its first national title.
The longest losing streak is nine under Davie.
The largest margin of victory at night was 57-7 at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2004, when Willingham poured it on his former employer.
The largest margin of defeat was 38-3 at USC on Nov. 29, 2008, eking out the Jan. 1, 1973 Orange Bowl to Nebraska (40-6) -- which would inspire the Irish to win the national title the next year under Parseghian.
Notre Dame is 6-7 at night in bowls, where it has a five-game losing streak and has not won since the 39-28 conquest of Florida in the 1992 Sugar Bowl.
The opponent Notre Dame has played most at night is Miami with 11 contests, 10 of them in Miami. The Irish are 6-4-1 versus the Hurricanes, with the lone loss at home at night occurring in 1984 (31-13). The Irish have played USC at night 10 times, all in Los Angeles, and are 3-6-1.
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 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 142-12 record when taking a lead into halftime, including an 87-4 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 146-22-1 when outrushing his opponent.
Kelly is 109-12 when his team wins the turnover battle.
Kelly is 34-14-2 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 115-5-1 when his team allows 19 points or less.
Since 2006, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has compiled the sixth-most wins of any active NCAA FBS coach. Kelly has gone on to win 53 contests (53-17 overall) to tie him with Mack Brown of Texas and Brett Bielema of Wisconsin over that span. The only coaches ahead of Kelly in that time frame are Chris Peterson of Boise State (64), Gary Patterson of TCU (58), Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (57), Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech (55) and Les Miles of LSU (54).
Since 2001, Brian Kelly has totaled the third-most wins among all active FBS coaches. Kelly is 104-31 over the last 11 seasons and trails only Bob Stoops (112-26) and Mack Brown (109-23) for the best coaching record this decade.
Brian Kelly ranks as the fifth-most successful active NCAA FBS coach in winning percentage and sixth in victories.
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.
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 and USC are the only two FBS schools to face an opponent from a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference over the first four weeks of the 2011 campaign.
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 four schools have a stronger strength of schedule than the Irish. Of those four schools, only Arizona hails from a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference.
According to the NCAA, Notre Dame's schedule currently ranks as the 26th-most difficult in the FBS. Irish opponents have a combined record of 18-11 (.621). Notre Dame's past opposition schedule ranks tied for third. The quartet of USF, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh have combined for an 8-1 mark (NCAA ratings includes opponent's record against only FBS schools and excludes the result from the matchup with the Irish).
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.
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.
TAILS IT IS
Notre Dame opened each of its first 11 games in 2010 with the football. The Irish won the coin toss and elected to receive against both USF and Michigan State in 2011. Pittsburgh won the coin toss, but deferred to the second half. Notre Dame has opened 15 of its last 17 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 2011 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:
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 Julius Jones against No. 1 Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000.
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 four games and another five sophomore players that did not see game action as rookies in 2010.
Freshman TE Ben Koyack, from Oil City, Pa., registered his first career reception against Pittsburgh. Koyack hauled in a five-yard pass on Notre Dame's opening drive of the game.
Senior RB Jonas Gray certainly made the most of his first career rushing touchdown. He raced 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Irish a 7-3 lead at Pittsburgh. The 79-yard run was the longest by an Irish player since Terrance Howard went 80 yards for a touchdown at West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2000.
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has become quite accustomed to nailbiting finishes. In addition to each of the first two games in 2011 and last week against Pittsburgh, the Irish have been involved in 18 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.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
Michigan State entered its tilt with Notre Dame ranked No. 15 - its highest ranking entering a matchup with the Irish since Sept. 29, 1979 when the Spartans were No. 7. The Irish routed Michigan State, 27-3, at Notre Dame Stadium in '79 and did the same earlier this year, 31-13.
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 its 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 seven 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.
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 against Pittsburgh. After Notre Dame outgained USF (152-62), Michigan (145-27) and Michigan State (95-36) in the first quarter, the Irish also outgained the Panthers, 72-31, in the opening quarter. Notre Dame has now outgained its first four opponents of the 2011 season in the opening period by a 464-156 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.
The Irish averaged 8.0 yards per play while USF averaged 5.6 yards per play.
IRISH DEFENSE ANSWERS THE BELL FOLLOWING TURNOVERS
Following Notre Dame's last nine turnovers, the Irish defense has not allowed a touchdown. Notre Dame has allowed a pair of field goals, forced four turnovers (three interceptions and fumble), two punts and one turnover occurred on the final play of the Michigan game.
The nine opponent possessions following an Irish turnover have resulted in only 146 yards on 30 plays - which averages to 3.3 plays and 16.2 yards per drive (only two of those possessions gained more than 18 yards and five resulted in fewer than five yards).
Notre Dame's defense again answered the challenge following a turnover in the first quarter by Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh opened its drive at the Irish 23-yard line following a fumble, but only managed a field goal.
Notre Dame's defense allowed a total of 12 yards on 14 plays - and one first down - on the four drives following an Irish turnover (prior to the Irish interception at the Pittsburgh five-yard line midway through the second quarter).
The Irish had three turnovers against Michigan State - all inside Notre Dame territory - and two of which occurred inside 25-yard line. The Irish defense only allowed a field goal. Notre Dame also answered with a pair of forced turnovers of its own on the other two possessions.
Michigan State 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 Notre Dame field goal.
IRISH DEFENSE LEADS THE WAY
Notre Dame's defense has allowed one offensive touchdown or less in seven of its last nine games.
Notre Dame has given up exactly two rushing touchdowns over its last nine 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).
Notre Dame's rush defense has been downright naughty over its last eight games. The Irish have surrendered 100 yards on the ground just four times over the stretch and no team has rushed for more than 135 yards (it took Army, a triple option attack, 43 carries to reach that mark). Notre Dame has limited its opponents to 92.3 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush along the way.
Notre Dame ranks among the top 40 in rush defense (25th; 93.00/game), total defense (37th; 330.00/game) and scoring defense (39th; 20.75/game). The Irish have not finished a season among the top 40 in all three of those defensive categories since 2002 when Notre Dame ranked 13th in total defense (300.00/game), 10th in rushing defense (95.2/game) and ninth in scoring defense (16.7).
Through Notre Dame's first four games of 2011, the Irish have allowed only four explosive carries (15 yards or more). Notre Dame limited USF to one, Michigan to two, Michigan State to none and Pittsburgh to one. That effort is even more impressive when you consider where those four teams rank in the FBS in rushing yards per game. The Bulls rank 20th (228.50 rushing/game), Wolverines rank ninth (270.00), Spartans rank 65th (143.25) and Panthers rank tied for 61st (148.75).
Notre Dame allowed nine rushes of 15 or more yards over the first four games of 2010.
IRISH HOST A SACK PARTY
Notre Dame registered 6.0 sacks in its last outing at Pittsburgh. The 6.0 sacks were the most for the Irish under second-year head coach Brian Kelly and most since Notre Dame had 8.0 against Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl to close the 2008 season. The 6.0 sacks also were the most by an Irish defense in a regular-season game since Notre Dame recorded seven at Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005.
Notre Dame ranks 23rd in the FBS in sacks per game (2.75). No team in the FBS has averaged more sacks or totaled more sacks against four BCS automatic qualifying opponents in 2011.
Sacks became official by the NCAA prior to the 1982 season. Notre Dame is on pace to record 33.0 sacks in the 12-game regular season. That total would be the highest by an Irish defense since the 2003 edition had 39.0. The 2003 Notre Dame defense was led in sacks by Justin Tuck's 13.5.
Notre Dame has three different players rank among the top 100 in the FBS in sacks per game. Freshman DE Aaron Lynch leads the trio with 0.67 sacks per game. Senior OLB Darius Fleming follows Lynch with 0.62 sacks per game and junior ILB Manti Te'o closes out the threesome with 0.50 sacks per game.
DEFENSE LEADS IRISH TO VICTORY AT PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh entered the contest with Notre Dame averaging 164.0 yards on the ground, 240.33 yards through the air, 404.33 total yards and 32.33 points. The Irish limited the Panthers to 103 yards rushing, 165 yards passing, 268 total yards and 12 points.
The 15 points scored by Notre Dame was the fewest en route to a victory since Sept. 2, 2006, when the Irish slipped past Georgia Tech, 14-10.
Pittsburgh's 103 yards rushing came on 38 carries, good for an average of 2.7 yards per carry. The Panthers' Ray Graham - who entered the game fifth in the FBS at 139.67 yards rushing/game - did have a 42-yard run, but otherwise Pittsburgh gained 61 yards on its other 37 carries (1.7 per carry average). Graham finished the contest with 89 yards on 21 carries (4.2 yards per rush). Again, without the 42 yard run, Graham managed 47 yards on his other 20 carries.
The Panthers managed just 3.8 yards per offensive play.
Notre Dame registered 8.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. The 6.0 sacks were the most for the Irish under second-year head coach Brian Kelly and most since Notre Dame had 8.0 against Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl to close the 2008 season. The 6.0 sacks also were the most by an Irish defense in a regular-season game since Notre Dame recorded seven at Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005.
All three Pittsburgh scores followed Notre Dame miscues (Tommy Rees' fumble led to field goal, Kyle Brindza kickoff out of bounds gave Panthers ball at the 40-yard line which resulted in field goal and Austin Collinsworth roughing the punter penalty gave Pittsburgh a first down to extend touchdown drive).
DEFENSE STYMIES POTENT MICHIGAN STATE RUNNING GAME
Michigan State managed just one rushing first down the entire game - and it came with two minutes remaining in the opening half. The Spartans have been held to one rushing first down or less just eight times in school history and three 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.
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.
JUST HOW MUCH OUT OF DEFENSIVE CHARACTER WAS FOURTH QUARTER AT MICHIGAN
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.
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 36 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 the freshmen DE duo of 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 half against Pittsburgh, one inside the Irish 25-yard line and another at the Panthers five-yard line. The Irish have now turned the football over 15 times over their first four games of the season.
As if the 15 turnovers were not costly enough, in addition to the six inside the opponents' 20-yard line, eight others have come in Notre Dame's half of the field, including five inside the Irish 20-yard line.
Notre Dame ranks 112th or worse in each of the four FBS turnovers categories. The Irish are tied for 112th in interceptions thrown (seven), tied for 119th in total turnovers (15), tied for 118th in fumbles lost (eight) and 120th in turnover margin (-2.50).
Notre Dame committed two 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.
Notre Dame has forced five turnovers over its last three games - an interception and fumble against Michigan State and three picks off Michigan's Denard Robinson - but still is minus-10 in turnover margin after four games.
The 13 turnovers over the first three games of a season were 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.
The 15 turnovers over the first four games of a season are also the most for a Notre Dame team since the '77 squad had an astounding 20 turnovers over its first four games. The '76 Irish also had 15 turnovers over their first four games.
In large part to its five turnovers inside its opponents' 20-yard line, Notre Dame is ranked tied for 116th in the FBS in red zone offense.
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 had 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 UM'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 (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 continued its trend of quick starts. After Notre Dame outgained USF (152-62), Michigan (145-27) and Michigan State (95-36) in the first quarter, the Irish also outgained Pittsburgh, 72-31, in the opening quarter. Notre Dame has now outgained its first four opponents of the 2011 season in the opening period by a 464-156 margin.
Notre Dame has averaged 6.2 yards per play in the first quarter this season, while USF, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh have averaged just 3.6 yards per play.
Notre Dame's 154 yards on the ground in the opening half against Pittsburgh are the most in a half for the Irish this season. In fact, it is the most rushing yards in a half for Notre Dame under second-year head coach Brian Kelly. The previous single-half high for the Irish was 153 yards in the second half against Western Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010.
Notre Dame senior RB Jonas Gray had 80 yards rushing on two carries, including 79-yard scoring run, and junior RB Cierre Wood had 69 yards on 16 carries.
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.
IRISH PRETTY TOUGH ON THIRD DOWN
Notre Dame's defense ranks tied for 18th in the FBS in third down defense. Irish opponents have managed to convert just 29.8% (17 of 57) on third down. Notre Dame's third down defense in the first two quarters of its opening four games has been downright incredible. Irish foes have converted just one third down in 10 attempts in the opening quarter and only four in 26 attempts in the first half. Here is a breakdown of Notre Dame's third down defense.
Senior S Harrison Smith rebounded from a disappointing effort against Michigan with one of the top games in his Irish career a week later against Michigan State. 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 244 tackles, 16.5 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 has recorded 157 of 244 career tackles as a defensive back, which ranks just outside the top 10. His total of 93 tackles in 2010 ranks as the fifth-most in single-season history by an Irish defensive back.
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.
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 leads the Irish in total tackles (41), solo stops (21), assisted tackles (20) and tackles on running plays (29). He ranks tied for 22nd in the FBS in tackles per game (10.25). Te'o also ranks 15th in the FBS among active players in career tackles per game (8.2).
Te'o registered a team-high 10 tackles in the victory over Pittsburgh. He also added a sack. Te'o has now eclipsed 10 or more tackles in three of Notre Dame's four games in 2011 and 12 different times over his career.
Te'o registered a team-high 12 tackles in the victory over No. 15 Michigan State.
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.
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 passes defended (tied with five), but he also ranks second in pass breakups (three), third in total tackles (23) and third in solo stops (tied with 15).
Blanton's four tackles for loss ranks just outside the top 100 in the FBS, but he ranks tied for sixth in the category among defensive backs. Only one defensive back in the nation has more solo tackles for loss than Blanton - Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech - and only four have more total tackles for loss.
Blanton ranks tied for 21st in the FBS with two interceptions. His eight career picks lead all active Notre Dame players and ranks tied for 14th among all active FBS players.
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 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 has come into his own over the last two games for Notre Dame. In his last outing against Pittsburgh, Lynch had a pair of tackles and sack. Lynch registered his first career sack and forced fumble on a 3rd and five play late in the first quarter against Michigan State the week prior. 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 still try and 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.
Lynch ranks tied for 53rd in the FBS in sacks per game (0.67). He is one of eight true freshman to appear on the FBS sack chart. Lynch's total of 2.0 sacks is tied for second best among all FBS first-year players.
Sophomore OLB Prince Shembo has played in 16 career games and started three. He has accounted for 23 career tackles, including 12 solo stops, but has also registered 7.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Just over 30 percent of Shembo's tackles fall behind the opponent's line of scrimmage and nearly 24 percent are sacks.
Shembo had a career-best six tackles and one sack in the victory over Pittsburgh.
Only senior OLB Darius Fleming (14.5 TFLs), junior ILB Manti Te'o (12.5) and senior DB Robert Blanton (11.0) have more tackles for loss for Notre Dame than Shembo combined over 2010 and 2011. Fleming (8.5) is the only Irish player with more sacks over the same time span.
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.
Fleming is also approaching the top 10 list for career tackles for loss.
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 both Michigan State and Pittsburgh to give the Irish 29 victories in the last 30 games when recording more rushing yards than their opponent.
IRISH CHURN UP YARDS IN FIRST HALF
Notre Dame owned statistical advantages in just about every offensive category in the half. The Irish had more first downs, rushing yards, passing yards, total yards and time of possession.
Notre Dame's 154 yards on the ground in the opening half is the most in a half for the Irish this season. In fact, it is the most rushing yards in a half for Notre Dame under second-year head coach Brian Kelly. The previous single-half high for the Irish was 153 yards in the second half against Western Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010.
Notre Dame senior RB Jonas Gray had 80 yards rushing on two carries, including 79-yard scoring run, and junior RB Cierre Wood had 69 yards on 16 carries.
IRISH MOVE THE CHAINS ON THE GROUND
Notre Dame converted all five third-down attempts of three yards or shorter against Pittsburgh. The Irish gained first downs on four running plays and one on a pass play. Notre Dame has converted seven consecutive third down attempts of three yards or less by using four runs and three passes over the last two games (Michigan State and Pittsburgh). The Irish were just 1-of-4 (including 0-of-3 in 2nd half) at Michigan.
Notre Dame also converted a pair of fourth down tries on quarterback sneaks.
The Irish rushed for 182 yards against Pittsburgh, who entered game allowing 80.0 rushing yards per game.
Notre Dame averaged 5.7 rushing yards per game against a team allowing 2.4 rushing yards entering the contest.
Notre Dame senior RB Jonas Gray had 84 yards rushing on three carries, including 79-yard scoring run, and junior RB Cierre Wood had 94 yards on 23 carries.
Gray registered the first touchdown run of his career. He raced 79 yards with 13:44 to go in the second quarter to give the Irish a 7-3 lead over Pittsburgh.
The 79-yard run was the longest since Terrance Howard went 80 yards for a touchdown at West Virginia on Oct. 21, 2000.
IRISH OFFENSE OPEN SEASON 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 1,694 yards of total offense over its first four games, which ranks 33rd in the FBS. No team in the country has piled up more yards in four games against Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying opponents.
No team in the country has piled up more rushing yards (611) than Notre Dame in four games against BCS automatic qualifying opponents.
Only one team in the country (USC, 1,121) has registered more passing yards (1,083) than the Irish in four games against BCS automatic qualifying opponents.
Notre Dame has recorded 25 explosive plays (rushes of at least 15 yards and passes of at least 20 yards) over their first four games of the season, which is the most during any four-game span of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.
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.
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 96 first downs over its first four games. The 96 first downs are 22nd 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 fourth-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 155 passes through four games and been sacked only four times (or 1.0 per game).
RED ZONE REPORT
Notre Dame had little trouble moving the ball up and down the field prior to last week's tilt at Pittsburgh. The Irish entered the Panthers' red zone on just one occasion, but recorded a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Notre Dame has 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 six turnovers inside the red zone, including five inside its opponents' 10-yard line. Four of the six 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.
The Irish have more turnovers in their opponents' red zone than 52 teams in the FBS, period, let alone in the red zone.
FLOYD IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Senior WR Michael Floyd owns Notre Dame school records in career receptions (206), career receiving yards (2,963), career touchdown receptions (30), career receiving yards per game (87.1) 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 fifth in receptions (35), 12th in receiving yards (424), eighth in receptions per game (8.75) and 18th in receiving yards per game (106.0).
Among active FBS receivers, Floyd ranks tied for second in career receiving touchdowns (30), second in career receiving yards (2,963), fourth in career receiving yards per game (87.1), fifth in career receptions per game (6.1), fifth in career receptions (206) and 20th in career receiving yards per catch (14.4).
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 34 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 32 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 eighth career start this weekend at Purdue. He is 6-1 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), at the LA Coliseum against arch-rival USC (2010; snapped Trojans eight-game winning streak in series) and at Pittsburgh. Rees was also the starting signal caller in Notre Dame's rout of Miami, Fla. in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Rees has thrown a touchdown pass in nine straight games, which ranks tied for the fourth-longest streak in school history. Brady Quinn holds the school record with a touchdown pass in 16 straight games (2004-05).
Rees hooked up with junior TE Tyler Eifert on a six-yard touchdown pass with 6:48 remaining against Pittsburgh to give the Irish a 13-12 lead. Rees then spotted Eifert again on the ensuing two-point conversion play to push the Notre Dame lead to 15-12.
Prior the 11-play, 85-yard go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter, Rees was just 15-of-32 for 135 yards, but the sophomore signal caller went 8-of-8 for 74 yards on the drive. In fact, Rees completed his final nine passes of the contest.
Rees connected with Eifert four different times on the drive, including the touchdown pass and two-point conversion.
The touchdown pass for Rees' was his seventh of 2011 and 19th of his career.
Rees has captained the Irish to victories over both Michigan State and USC over his first seven career starts. Toss in a bowl victory as well and he is the first Notre Dame quarterback to accomplish those three feats since Rick Mirer in 1992. Mirer led Notre Dame to victories over the Spartans (52-31), Trojans (31-23) and Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl (28-3).
Rees, 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 in the corner of the end zone on 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 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 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 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 hooked up with Floyd again late in the fourth quarter to bring Notre Dame within a field goal, 23-20.
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.
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: passing yards (2nd; 1,106), passing efficiency (2nd; 132.70) and completions (3rd; 100).
BY LAND, CIERRE
Junior RB Cierre Wood leads Notre Dame with 393 yards on the ground on 83 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He ranks 34th in the FBS in rushing yards per game (98.25) and tied for 90th in all-purpose yards per game (113.0).
Wood had 69 yards on 16 carries in the first half against Pittsburgh and finished the afternoon with 94 yards on 23 rushes.
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's last five games. He was the first Irish running back to record a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games (snapped at Pittsburgh) since Darius Walker over the final four games of the 2005 campaign.
Wood has already registered eight plays of 15 yards or more, including seven rushes and one reception. He has recorded 14 rushes of 10 yards or more, 22 of his 83 carries have resulted in a touchdown or first down and six of his 13 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 eight of the last nine games dating back to the Tulsa game of 2010. He has rushed for 780 yards on 159 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 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 registered a career-high eight receptions, including four on the 11-play, 85-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Eifert's four grabs totaled 34 yards. He also added a the two-point conversion reception.
The eight catches by Eifert ties him with Kyle Rudolph (twice in 2010), John Carlson (2006), Anthony Fasano (2004) and Ken MacAfee (1977) for second most ever in a game by a Notre Dame tight end. The Irish single-game record is nine by MacAfee for 114 yards in a 31-24 victory at Purdue in 1977.
The touchdown catch for Eifert was his first of 2011 and third of his career.
Among FBS tight ends on the FBS receiving report, Eifert ranks second in receptions (20), second in receiving yards (244), second in receiving yards per catch (12.2), second in receiving yards per game (61.0) and second in receptions per game (5.0).
Eifert's previous career-high was six catches in the season opener against USF. He also registered a career-best 93 receiving yards against the Bulls. He 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 11 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 is third on the Irish in receiving with 16 catches for 153 yards and two 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 third among FBS active leaders in career field goal percentage (89.29). He has connected on 25 of his 28 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 connected on two straight before missing another field goal at Pittsburgh.
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