NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Mike Mayock (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), Rob Hyland (producer) and Andy Rosenberg (director).
IMG College Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. IMG College manages, produces and syndicates the Irish national football radio network. Notre Dame games will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish great Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers (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.
Saturday is the 223rd straight sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every home game for the Irish has been a sellout except one - a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force. Notre Dame has played in front of sellouts in 271 of its last 272 home games.
Neither Notre Dame nor USC are ranked in either of this week's Associated Press or USA Today Coaches' polls, but the Irish are receiving votes in both polls and the Trojans are receiving votes in the AP poll.
Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports GameTracker via UND.com.
This meeting will be the 83rd all-time meeting in NCAA college football's top intersectional rivalry. USC has captured 11 of the last 14 meetings overall. Notre Dame did not lose to the Trojans over the previous 13 meetings (1983-95), including an 11-game winning streak. (more on the series on pages 2-6 of the PDF version of this notes package).
A QUICK LOOK AT THE TROJANS LAST WEEK SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- After taking part in plenty of high-octane shootouts early in the season, Southern California relied on its defense to win a game when the offense wasn't clicking.
The Trojans forced five California turnovers and allowed only one touchdown to bail out the offense on a rare off night as USC won its eighth straight game in the series, 30-9 on Thursday.
Matt Barkley threw touchdown passes to Marqise Lee and Brandon Carswell for USC (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12), but was held to a season-low 195 yards against a mostly stout Cal defense.
That didn't matter because of USC's own opportunistic defense. After allowing 84 points and 946 yards the previous two games, the Trojans kept Cal (3-3, 0-3) off the scoreboard until late in the third quarter and doubled their turnovers caused this season with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The main concern for USC was on the health front as the Trojans lost Lee to a right shoulder injury in the first half and leading rusher Marc Tyler to a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Kiffin did not know the extent of the injuries after the game.
Zach Maynard committed four of Cal's five turnovers -- surpassing the team's season total coming into the game -- and the Bears dropped their sixth straight conference game since late last season. Cal is off to its worst conference start ever under coach Jeff Tedford.
Maynard threw for 294 yards and ran for a touchdown and his half brother, Keenan Allen, had a career-high 13 catches for 160 yards but it wasn't enough to overcome the litany of mistakes.
This series has been decidedly one-sided ever since Cal upset USC 34-31 in triple overtime back in 2003. The Trojans have won eight straight and it hasn't even been close of late with USC outscoring Cal 125-29 the last four years.
Cal fell behind 23-0 early in the third quarter before the offense finally got going, with Maynard leading the Bears to a field goal and then scoring on a 3-yard run with 6 seconds left in the third to cut it to 23-9.
But Maynard's third interception midway through the fourth quarter led to Curtis McNeal's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 30-9 with 5:14 remaining.
The Bears turned the ball over four times in the first half, including three alone by Maynard, and failed to convert a fake punt as they fell behind 20-0 at the break.
It wasn't quite as bad for the Bears as the game a year ago in Los Angeles when USC led 42-0 at halftime. Cal's defense actually did a decent job defending Barkley and the Trojans' high-powered offense, but USC took advantage of short fields for its scores.
Allen fumbled on Cal's fourth play from scrimmage to set the tone for the game, but the Bears withstood that miscue thanks to an odd play call by Kiffin.
On fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Trojans lined up in an off formation and snapped the ball diagonally to Rhett Ellison, who dropped it for a turnover. Kiffin tried the trick play instead of opting for the easy field goal.
The Trojans capitalized on the next turnover as Nick Perry forced a fumble by Maynard that led to Andre Heidari's first field goal.
USC then broke the game open with 17 points in the second quarter, getting a 39-yard TD catch from Lee over fellow freshman Stefan McClure, a field goal after Chris Galippo intercepted Maynard's pass deep in Cal territory and a 7-yard TD pass from Barkley to Carswell after punter Bryan Anger was stopped on a fake that made it 20-0.
Cal's only sustained drive of the half ended in the final minute when Maynard threw into triple coverage and was intercepted in the end zone by Bailey.
NOTRE DAME VS. PAC-12
Notre Dame is 87-47-6 (.643) all-time against teams from the Pac-12 Conference. USC represents the first of two Pac-12 opponents for the Irish this season. Notre Dame closes the regular season at Stanford on Nov. 26.
The 140 games against Pac-12 teams are the second-most for the Irish against any conference. The Big Ten Conference (370) represents the most games played against Notre Dame and the ACC ranks third (111).
Notre Dame has a winning series record against 11 of the Pac-12 teams. Most of those games (82) have come versus USC (43-34-5), while 25 other matchups have come against Stanford (17-8).
Notre Dame has also played California (4-0), Washington (8-0), UCLA (4-0), Colorado (3-2), Arizona State (2-0), Oregon (1-0-1), Washington State (2-0), Arizona (2-1), Utah (1-0) and Oregon State (0-2).
Notre Dame has posted a 48-16-1 (.746) record against Pac-12 opponents at home.
NOTRE DAME-USC SERIES HISTORY
This rivalry began in 1926, when legendary Irish head coach Knute Rockne became the first Midwestern coach to take a team to the West Coast (Notre Dame won that game, 13-12) and the teams have meet every season since (taking 1943-45 off due to travel restrictions during World War II).
Notre Dame has won eight Associated Press national titles while USC has won five.
The Irish have been selected as a national champion by at least one legitimate poll in 19 seasons; USC lists 17 such campaigns.
Notre Dame began the 2011 season second on the all-time winning percentage list and third in total victories. USC was not far behind in eighth and 10th place, respectively.
Instantly recognizable coaches have stalked the sidelines for each team: Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, Lou Holtz and Brian Kelly for Notre Dame and Howard Jones, John McKay, John Robinson, Pete Carroll and Lane Kiffin for USC.
The winner of the game keeps a jeweled shillelagh (presented by the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles), with shamrocks representing Notre Dame victories and ruby Trojan heads standing for USC wins (each is engraved with the year and final score). The original foot-long shillelagh was flown from Ireland by Howard Hughes' pilot, according to legend, and was introduced in 1952 (although the medallions date back to the start of the series in 1926). When the original shillelagh ran out of space after the 1989 game, it was retired and is permanently displayed at Notre Dame. A new shillelagh, slightly larger than the original, was commissioned by Jim Gillis, a former baseball player at both USC and Notre Dame and one-time president of the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles. The new trophy was handcrafted in 1997 in County Leitrum, Ireland, and contains medallions beginning with the 1990 game.
NOTRE DAME-USC SERIES NOTES
Notre Dame and USC will be meeting for the 83rd time. The Irish lead the all-time series 43-34-5 overall and 23-13-1 in games played in South Bend. The teams have met twice at a neutral site (Soldier Field in Chicago) in 1927 and 1929.
Notre Dame's 43 wins over USC are the most for any Trojan opponent. California is second with 30 wins over USC.
USC captured eight straight victories in the series from 2002-09. The eight-game winning streak is the longest by the Trojans in series history. Notre Dame ended the eight-game USC winning streak with a 20-16 victory over the Trojans in Los Angeles last season.
The Irish compiled an unbeaten streak of 13 games against USC from 1983-1995. The Irish won 11 straight games from 1983-93, but a 17-17 tie in 1994 (at USC) ended the streak. Notre Dame won in 1995 but a Trojan 27-20 overtime victory in 1996 (Lou Holtz's final game as Irish coach) ended the 13-game unbeaten run.
From 1965 to 1982, either Notre Dame or USC was ranked in the top 20 entering the game. In fact, both teams were ranked in the top 20 in each series meeting from 1972-79. In that eight-year span, USC compiled a 6-2 record, but the two Notre Dame victories (1973, 1977) marked national championship seasons for the Irish.
It's not unheard of that a national title be at stake for one of the combatants in this rivalry. Seven times Notre Dame has entered the game at USC with a shot at a national crown, only to be defeated (1938, 1948, 1964, 1970, 1974, 1980 and 2006) and an eighth chance was damaged by a tie in 1948. Notre Dame has ruined USC's national title dreams three times: 1947 (38-7), 1952 (9-0) and 1988 (27-10).
Notre Dame is 9-6 in its last 15 games against USC in Notre Dame Stadium, but the Trojans have captured each of the last four meetings and five of the last seven. Notre Dame's victories in that span came in 1983 (27-6), 1985 (37-3), 1987 (26-15), 1989 (28-24), 1991 (24-20), 1993 (31-13), 1995 (38-10), 1999 (25-24) and 2001 (27-16). Prior to this year's meeting, USC had entered the game in South Bend ranked no worse than 13th in the country over the last four meetings.
At least one team has been ranked in the AP Top 25 in 63 of the 72 (.875) meetings since 1936 (the first season of AP national rankings), while both teams have been ranked a total of 29 times.
Since 1965, the ND-USC game has been nationally televised on 38 occasions (including the 2011 game).
ND-USC IN THE POLLS
Since the AP poll began in 1936, the last 73 Notre Dame-USC games (including this meeting) have included 31 in which both teams were ranked in the AP poll, 32 when one team was ranked and only nine when neither team was ranked. The 63 games with at least one ranked team have included 53 with at least one top-10 team.
In the 63 games where at least one team has been ranked, the higher-ranked team is 39-19-5 (.659).
An unranked team has defeated a ranked team 11 times in the series (six by USC), most recently in 1998 when USC knocked off No. 9 Notre Dame (10-0) at the Coliseum.
There have been seven other times in the series when an unranked team knocked off a top-10 opponent, with the Trojans winning four of those games.
Notre Dame has a 20-9-2 record when it is ranked higher than USC.
Saturday's meeting will be the second straight between Notre Dame and USC with both teams unranked. It marks the first time in series history that each team was unranked in consecutive meetings.
Notre Dame and USC have had just nine meetings in series history with both teams unranked. The Irish are 7-2 in such meetings, including a 4-1 mark in Notre Dame Stadium.
A RECORD-SETTING SERIES
Four of the top rushing games in Notre Dame history have come against USC: Reggie Brooks' 227 yards at USC in 1992 (4th place; 19 carries, 11.9 avg., 3 TDs); Vagas Ferguson's 185 yards at home in 1979 (19th; 25 carries, 7.4 avg., 2 TDs); Jim Morse's 179 yards at home in 1954 (24th; 19 carries, 9.4 avg., 1 TD); and Jerome Bettis' 178 yards at home in 1991 (26th; 24 carries, 7.4 avg., 2 TDs).
The following rank first in the Irish record book and occurred during the USC series: Bob Livingstone's 92-yard run from scrimmage in 1947; Coy McGee's 24.4 rushing yards per attempt in 1946 (6 for 146); Joe Theismann's 526 passing yards and 512 yards of total offense in 1970; and Tim Brown's 30.6 yards per kick return in 1986 (5 for 153).
Theismann's 33 pass completions in 1970 (tied with Brady Quinn against Michigan State in 2005 and Tommy Rees against Tulsa in 2010) were a school record until Jimmy Clausen completed 37 in 2009 against Navy.
Steve Beuerlein's four touchdown passes against USC in 1986 are tied for sixth in the Notre Dame record book.
Lee Becton's record six consecutive games with 100-plus rushing yards included a game against USC in 1993 (the third game of that string).
Reggie Brooks had two 200+ rushing yards games in the same season, in 1992 vs. Purdue and USC (second most in a single-season).
Thesimann's 71 total offense attempts and 58 pass attempts vs. USC in 1970 rank second and fourth, respectively, in the Irish record book.
Notre Dame returned two interceptions for touchdowns vs. USC in 1966, which remains tied for the Irish record.
In addition to Livingstone's above run, some of the longest plays in Irish history have come vs. USC: Joe Heap's 94-yard punt return in 1953 (4th); Eric Penick's 85-yard rush in 1973 (t-4th), Joe Perkowski's 49-yard FG in 1961 (t-11th); Bob Scarpitto's 82-yard punt return in 1958 (11th); a 78-yard pass play from Paul Hornung to Morse in 1955 (t-13th); Wally Fronhart's 82-yard interception return in 1935 (t-10th); and Hornung's 95-yard kickoff return in 1956 (t-14th).
Notre Dame players own or share several USC opponent records: John Lattner (1953) and Larry Conjar's (1965) 24 points are tied with four others; John Lattner and Larry Conjar's four touchdowns in 1953 and 1965, respectively, are tied with four others; Joe Theismann's 526 yards passing and 512 yards of total offense in 1970; Steve Beuerlein's four touchdown passes in 1986 are tied with four others; and Bob Livingstone's 92-yard run from scrimmage in 1947.
Notre Dame also owns or shares several USC opponent team records: 51 point (51-0) margin of victory in 1966; 517 yards rushing in 1946; 526 yards passing in 1970; 623 total yards in 1946; and four touchdown passes in 1986 is tied with six others.
USC players own several Notre Dame opponent records: Charles White's 44 rushing attempts in 1979 and 120 career rushing attempts from 1976-79; Carson Palmer's 425 yards passing in 2002; Matt Leinart's five touchdown passes in 2004 (tied) and nine career touchdown passes; R. Jay Soward's 23 career receptions; Anthony Davis' six TDs and 36 points in 1972 (both are USC records and tied for Pac-12 records), in addition to 11 career TDs and 68 career points from 1972-74; John Jackson's 14 receptions in 1989 is tied with two others; Dwayne Jarrett's three touchdown receptions in 2006 is tied with three others, his five career touchdown catches and 335 career receiving yards stand alone; Eric Hipp's six extra points in 1979; Don Schafer's 60-yard FG in 1986 (USC record); Adrian Young's four INTs in 1967 (also the USC record and tied for Pac-12 record); Anthony Davis' 100-yard kickoff return is tied with three others; and Vern Lillywhite's 83-yard punt in 1946.
USC's 425 passing yards in 2002 and five touchdown passes in 2002 (tied) are Irish opponent records.
NOTRE DAME AND THE GOLDEN STATE
Notre Dame owns a 70-42-5 (.620) all-time record against schools from the Golden State, last playing a California school (USC) on Nov. 27, 2010 (a 20-16 victory). Irish series records vs. teams from California include a 4-0 mark vs. Cal, 1-0 vs. Pacific, 1-0 vs. San Diego State, 17-8 vs. Stanford, 4-0 vs. UCLA and 43-34-5 vs. USC.
Notre Dame's all-time varsity football roster includes nearly 2,800 players who have appeared in at least one career game, with 131 of those hailing from the state of California.
Notre Dame's all-time California natives include 33 offensive linemen, 23 quarterbacks, 17 defensive ends, 10 linebackers, nine fullbacks, nine running backs, eight wide receivers, seven defensive backs, six tight ends, four kickers, two safeties, two defensive tackles and one center.
Those players include 11 from Los Angeles, five from Santa Ana, four from Long Beach, four from San Francisco, four from Concord, three from San Diego, three from San Jose, three from Santa Barbara, three from Pasadena, three from Hollywood, two from Santa Rosa, two from Oakland, two from Santa Maria, two from Huntington Beach, two from Carson, two from Downey, two from Arcadia, two from Anaheim, two from Sacramento, two from Hacienda Heights, two from Oxnard and one each from 66 other cities.
The 2011 Notre Dame roster includes 12 California natives, with the nine scholarship members of that group dispersed fairly evenly among each class: three seniors, one junior, two sophomores and three freshmen ... that group is headlined by senior QB Dayne Crist (Canoga Park/Notre Dame H.S.), senior OT Taylor Dever (Grass Valley/Nevada Union H.S.) and junior RB Cierre Wood (Oxnard/Santa Clara H.S.) ... other veteran Irish players who hail from California include senior LB Anthony McDonald (Burbank/Notre Dame H.S.) and senior QB Matthew Mulvey (Del Mar/LaJolla H.S.) ... Notre Dame has a pair of sophomores from California in RB Cameron Roberson (Newbury Park/Newbury Park H.S.) and LB Justin Utupo (Lakewood/Lakewood H.S.) ... the Irish brought in a trio of freshmen from California, including George Atkinson III (Stockton/Granada H.S.), Josh Atkinson (Stockton/Granada H.S.) and Troy Niklas (Fullerton/Servite H.S.).
Six of Notre Dame's more noteworthy all-time players from California include 1964 Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback John Huarte (Santa Ana) plus five other consensus All-Americans: Nick Eddy (Lafayette, 1964-66), offensive back George Kuntz (Arcadia, 1966-68), split end Jack Snow (Long Beach, 1962-64), offensive tackle Aaron Taylor (Concord, 1992-94) and defensive back Shane Walton (San Diego, 1999-2002).
Other All-Americans from the state of California include defensive tackle Kevin Hardy (Oakland, 1967) and offensive tackle Mike Shiner (Sunnyvale, 1983).
NOTRE DAME-USC CONNECTIONS
Notre Dame women's volleyball head coach Debbie Brown was twice named the national player of the year while helping USC win the 1976 and 1977 national championships in women's volleyball.
Notre Dame's roster features 12 players from the state of California. USC's roster does not have a player from Indiana.
Senior LB Anthony McDonald's father, Mike, played at USC and was a long snapper for the L.A. Rams in the NFL.
A VICTORY OVER USC...
Improves Notre Dame's overall record to 5-2 overall and 3-1 at home.
Gives the Irish five straight victories overall and three consecutive wins at home.
Gives Notre Dame a five-game winning streak for the first time under second-year head coach Brian Kelly.
Gives the Irish a five-game winning streak for the first time since 2006.
Gives Notre Dame a victory over USC at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 2001.
Gives the Irish victories over the Trojans in back-to-back meetings for the first time since 2000-01.
Improves Notre Dame to 44-34-5 (.560) in the all-time series with USC.
Improves the Irish to 24-13-1 (.645) in the all-time series with the Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium.
Improves the Irish to 17-8-2 (.667) all-time against unranked USC (post 1936).
Improves Notre Dame to 12-2 (.857) all-time against the unranked Trojans (post 1936) at home.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 13-10-1 (.563) all-time against USC.
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 7-4 (.636) all-time against the Trojans at home.
Improves the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 8-2 (.800) all-time against unranked USC (post 1936).
Improves unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 5-1 (.833) all-time against the unranked Trojans (post 1936) at home.
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record to 850-297-42 (.733).
Improves the all-time record for the Irish at home to 460-117-13 (.791).
Improves Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 313-105-5 (.746).
Improves the Irish to 88-47-6 (.645) all-time against the Pac-12 Conference, including 49-16-1 (.750) at home.
Improves Kelly's record to 184-64-2 (.740) overall.
Improves Kelly's record to 66-29 (.695) in FBS games.
Improves Kelly's record to 56-17 (.767) over the last six seasons.
Improves Kelly's record to 2-0 (1.000) all-time against USC, including 1-0 (1.000) at home.
Improves Kelly's record to 3-1 (.750) all-time against the Pac-12 Conference, including 1-1 (.500) at home.
A DEFEAT TO USC...
Drops Notre Dame's overall record to 4-3 and home record to 2-2.
Denies the Irish five straight victories overall and three consecutive wins at home.
Denies Notre Dame its first five-game winning streak under second-year head coach Brian Kelly.
Denies the Irish their first five-game winning streak since 2006.
Denies Notre Dame a victory over USC at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 2001.
Denies the Irish victories over the Trojans in back-to-back meetings for the first time since 2000-01.
Drops Notre Dame to 43-35-5 (.548) in the all-time series with USC.
Improves the Irish to 23-14-1 (.618) in the all-time series with the Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium.
Gives the Trojans a victory in five consecutive meetings with Notre Dame in Notre Dame Stadium.
Gives the Trojans a victory over the Irish in nine of the last 10 meetings overall.
Drops the Irish to 16-9-2 (.630) all-time against unranked USC (post 1936).
Drops Notre Dame to 11-3 (.786) all-time against the unranked Trojans (post 1936) at home.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 12-11-1 (.521) all-time against USC.
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 6-5 (.545) all-time against the Trojans at home.
Drops the unranked Irish (post 1936) to 7-3 (.700) all-time against unranked USC (post 1936).
Drops unranked Notre Dame (post 1936) to 4-2 (.667) all-time against the unranked Trojans (post 1936) at home.
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record to 849-298-42 (.732).
Drops the all-time record for the Irish at home to 459-118-13 (.789).
Drops Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 312-106-5 (.743).
Drops the Irish to 87-48-6 (.638) all-time against the Pac-12 Conference, including 48-17-1 (.735) at home.
Drops Kelly's record to 183-65-2 (.736) overall.
Drops Kelly's record to 65-30 (.684) in FBS games.
Drops Kelly's record to 55-18 (.753) over the last six seasons.
Drops Kelly's record to 1-1 (.500) all-time against USC, including 0-1 (.000) at home.
Drops Kelly's record to 2-2 (.500) all-time against the Pac-12 Conference, including 0-2 (.000) at home.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 13 previous games in its history on Oct. 22. The Irish are 12-1 all-time on this date.
HISTORIC NOTRE DAME STADIUM
The 2011 football season marks the 81st year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 423 games in the facility to date and own a 313-105-5 (.746) record in the "House that Rockne Built." The most wins in a season by the Irish at home is seven by the 1988 national championship team and the longest home winning streak in Notre Dame football history is 28 games (from 11/21/42 through 9/30/50).
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 rebounded with four consecutive wins after an 0-2 start just twice in school history. The 1978 Irish squad posted eight straight victories after their 0-2 start.
NOTRE DAME IN OCTOBER
Notre Dame is 375-91-8 (.800) all-time during the month.
The Irish are 231-48-4 (.823) in October home games.
Notre Dame is 108-36-3 (.745) in October road games.
The Irish are 85-23-2 (.782) in October games at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won eight of its last 10 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.
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.
COMING OFF A REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULED BYE WEEK
Notre Dame has won nearly 80 percent of its games (60-15-2, .792) when it plays after a bye week (since 1900). The Irish have an even higher percentage (29-6, .829) playing after an off week since 1984.
Notre Dame has played USC the week following a bye on 17 different occasions in school history. The Irish are 5-10-2 all-time in such scenarios, including 1-3 at Notre Dame Stadium.
TAILS IT IS
Notre Dame opened each of its first 11 games in 2010 with the football. The Irish have won the coin toss and elected to receive against USF, Michigan State and Air Force in 2011. Notre Dame has actually opened 16 of its last 19 games with the football. The only exceptions? Notre Dame won the coin toss against USC in `10, Michigan in `11 and Purdue in `11, but elected to defer each time.
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 and Oct. 1 at Purdue. The Irish will also play night games vs. Maryland at FedEx Field (Nov. 12) and at Stanford (Nov. 26).
Five night games is a Notre Dame regular season record.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Notre Dame's first night game, a 48-6 rout of Detroit on Oct. 5, 1951 in Briggs Stadium.
The Irish have played 95 night games overall with an overall record of 61-32-2 (.653), including 6-1 all-time at home (1982-90).
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 has played more night games against Miami (Fla.) (11 contests with 10 in Miami) than any of foe. The Irish are 6-4-1 vs. the Hurricanes, with the lone loss at home at night occurring in 1984. Notre Dame has played USC at night 10 times, all in Los Angeles, and are 3-6-1.
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 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.
2011 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Notre Dame and USC were the only two FBS schools to face an opponent from a Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying conference over the first five 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 could make such a claim.
Notre Dame's two losses have come by a combined seven points - 23-20 vs. USF and 35-31 at No. 18/17 Michigan. The Bulls (4-2) and Wolverines (6-1) have a combined record of 10-3 this season.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Lynch - seeing the most playing time to that point 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.
Notre Dame has played a total of nine freshman over its first five games and another six 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.
A number of Irish players established firsts in the 38-10 rout of Purdue on Oct. 1. Freshman RB Cam McDaniel not only made his first appearance in an Irish uniform, but the rookie registered his first career carry. Freshman RB George Atkinson III picked up his first career reception - a 10-yard screen pass. Sophomore WR Luke Massa made his first career appearance. Sophomore DE Kona Schwenke, senior QB Matt Mulvey and senior WR Deion Walker each saw their first game action of 2011.
Sophomore QB Andrew Hendrix made his debut in an Irish uniform against Air Force. Hendrix completed four of four passes for 33 yards. He also finished with 111 yards rushing on six carries, which was the most rushing yards by an Irish quarterback since Carlyle Holiday had 130 yards on Oct. 13, 2001, against West Virginia. The 111 yards on the ground is the sixth-most ever by a Notre Dame signal caller. Hendrix was the first Irish quarterback to run for 100 yards since Holiday on Oct. 27, 2001, at Boston College. His 78-yard run was the second-longest in school history by a Notre Dame quarterback.
Junior WR Robby Toma collected his first career touchdown reception against Air Force. Toma hauled in a 10-yard pass from Rees with 4:07 to go in the first quarter to give the Irish a 21-3 lead.
Freshman RB George Atkinson III collected his first career touchdown run against Air Force. Atkinson III lept in the end zone from one-yard out to make the score, 59-19, in favor of Notre Dame. Twin brother DB Josh Atkinson also made his Irish debut against the Falcons.
Freshman DE Chase Hounshell made his first appearance for Notre Dame against Air Force and registered four tackles.
Freshman DE Aaron Lynch and freshman TE Ben Koyack both made their first career starts against Air Force.
GREAT FOR TELEVISION
Notre Dame has become quite accustomed to nailbiting finishes. In addition to each of the first two games in 2011 and again 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.
Notre Dame has had three games in 2011 decided by a touchdown or less.
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.
HOW DO THE IRISH LOOK ONE YEAR REMOVED
Notre Dame's most significant increases offensively fall under the scoring, rushing yards per game and rushing yards per carry. The Irish have also made a major improvement in completion percentage. Notre Dame has been strong all season on third down and the offensive line continues to play at an extremely high level. After the well documented struggles for the Irish in terms of turnovers and red zone scoring this season, it's interesting to see the 2011 edition is actually still improved when compared to 2010.
The defensive comparison is a bit skewed following the Air Force game on Oct. 8 (as the 2010 season does not include numbers vs. a similar option attack in the six-game comparison). For instance, prior to meeting with the Falcons, Notre Dame's defense was allowing 91.2 rushing yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry. Eliminate the two touchdowns scored by Air Force against the third-team defense and the scoring defense drops to 18.7 points per game, almost five points fewer than 2010.
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 has not suffered a similar fate over the recent four-game winning streak. Kelly is 155-10 in his coaching career when taking a lead into the fourth quarter and 91-4 since 2001. He owns a 144-12 record when taking a lead into halftime, including an 89-4 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 121-22 when scoring first.
Kelly is 147-22-1 when outrushing his opponent.
Kelly is 111-12 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 119-7 when his team scores 30 or more points, including a 69-1 mark with 40 or more points.
Kelly is 116-5-1 when his team allows 19 points or less.
Since 2001, Brian Kelly has totaled the third-most wins among all active FBS coaches. Kelly is 106-31 over the last 11 seasons and trails only Bob Stoops (114-26) and Mack Brown (110-24) for the best coaching record this decade.
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 55 contests (55-17 overall) to tie him with Bret Bielema of Wisconsin over that span. The only coaches ahead of Kelly in that time frame are Chris Peterson of Boise State (66), Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (59), Gary Patterson of TCU (58), Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech (56) and Les Miles of LSU (56).
Brian Kelly ranks as the fourth-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.
The other six coaches to knock off USC in their first matchup: Hugh Devore (1963), Joe Kuharich (1959), Terry Brennan (1954), Frank Leahy (1941), Elmer Layden (1934) and Knute Rockne (1926).
Kelly became the first Irish coach in school history to capture a bowl game in his inaugural season with Notre Dame.
RED ZONE REPORT
Notre Dame has not had difficulty reaching the red zone, but, rather, capitalizing once entering the scoring area.
The Irish rank tied for 105th in the FBS in red zone offense. Notre Dame has scored on just 18 of its 25 red zone chances, including only 16 touchdowns. The seven failed opportunities for the Irish include two missed field goals, three interceptions and two fumbles.
Notre Dame has excelled in the red zone over the last two weeks. The Irish had six red zone opportunities against Air Force on Oct. 8 and came away with six touchdowns. Notre Dame had five red zone chances at Purdue on Oct. 1 and came away with four scores (three touchdowns), but did have a 23-yard field goal blocked.
In victories over the Boilermakers and Falcons, Notre Dame scored on 10 of its 11 red zone chances, including nine touchdowns.
The Irish entered Pittsburgh's red zone on just one occasion and recorded a touchdown along with a two-point conversion.
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.
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.
THAT'S TWO STRAIGHT GAMES WITH NO TURNOVERS
Notre Dame, which turned it over 15 times over its first four games, has now played consecutive games without a turnover. The Irish had not had back-to-back games without a turnover since Oct. 17 and 24, 2009 (against USC and Boston College).
Notre Dame played its first turnover free game of 2011 at Purdue on Oct. 1. The Irish had not gone without a turnover in a game since the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl victory over Miami, Fla.
TURNOVERS MAJOR BONE OF CONTENTION THE FIRST FOUR WEEKS
Notre Dame committed two turnovers in the first half against Pittsburgh, one inside the Irish 25-yard line and another at the Panthers five-yard line. The Irish 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.
Despite back-to-back turnover free games at Purdue and against Air Force, Notre Dame still ranks 83rd or worse in each of the four FBS turnovers categories. The Irish are tied for 83rd in interceptions thrown (seven), tied for 102nd in fumbles lost (eight), tied for 103rd in total turnovers (15) and tied for 113th in turnover margin (-1.17).
Notre Dame has forced eight turnovers over its last five games - a fumble on Air Force's first offensive play from scrimmage, an interception against the Falcons, an interception on Purdue's first offensive play from scrimmage, a fumble against Michigan State and three interceptions off Michigan's Denard Robinson - but still is minus-seven in turnover margin after six games.
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.
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.
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.
NOTRE DAME OFFENSE, DEFENSE QUARTER BY QUARTER BREAKDOWN
Notre Dame's 191 yards in the first quarter against Air Force was the most yards for the Irish in an opening quarter since the Irish recorded 211 in the first quarter at Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006.
Notre Dame averaged an absurd 9.1 yards per play in the opening quarter against Air Force.
The Irish have totaled 376 yards in the opening period of the last two games (Purdue and Air Force) combined.
The 185 yards in the first quarter against Purdue on Oct. 1 was the third-most for Notre Dame in any quarter this season (186 in the 2nd quarter at Pittsburgh and 191 in the first quarter against Air Force). The 185 yards was the most for the Irish in any opening quarter under second-year head coach Brian Kelly until that total was bested the next week against Air Force.
Notre Dame's 158 yards on the ground in the opening half at Purdue on Oct. 1 was 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 154 yards in the first half at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24.
Notre Dame junior RB Cierre Wood had 101 yards on nine carries in the first half, including a 55-yard scoring run, against the Boilermakers, while senior RB Jonas Gray had 56 yards rushing on nine carries. Wood (69 yards on 16 rushes) and Gray (80 yards on two carries) totaled 149 yards in the opening half at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24.
Notre Dame statistically dominated 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.
CONTINUED FIRST QUARTER DOMINANCE
Notre Dame continued its trend of quick starts against Air Force. After Notre Dame outgained USF (159-62), Michigan (145-27), Michigan State (95-36), Pittsburgh (72-31) and Purdue (185-39) in the first quarter, the Irish racked up 191 total yards in the opening quarter against Air Force. Notre Dame has now outgained its first six opponents of the 2011 season in the opening period by a 847-355 margin.
The Irish have outgained their first six opponents of 2011 in the opening quarter by an average of 140-59.
Notre Dame has averaged 6.9 yards per play in the first quarter this season, while its five opponents have averaged just 4.8 yards per play.
The 191 yards in the first quarter against Air Force on Oct. 8 was the most for Notre Dame in any quarter this season (186 in the 2nd quarter at Pittsburgh was the previous high). The 191 yards is the most for the Irish in any opening quarter under second-year head coach Brian Kelly.
The 191 yards is the most for Notre Dame in an opening quarter since the Irish recorded 211 in the first quarter at Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006.
Notre Dame averaged an absurd 9.1 yards per play in the opening quarter against Air Force.
The Irish have totaled 376 yards in the opening period of the last two games (Purdue and Air Force) combined.
The 185 yards in the first quarter against Purdue on Oct. 1 was the third-most for Notre Dame in any quarter this season (186 in the 2nd quarter at Pittsburgh and 191 in the first quarter against Air Force). The 185 yards was the most for the Irish in any opening quarter under second-year head coach Brian Kelly until that total was bested the next week against Air Force.
Notre Dame averaged 7.1 yards per play and limited Purdue to 3.2 yards per play.
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 TOUGH TO BEAT WHEN WINNING THE RUSHING BATTLE
Notre Dame's 27-game winning streak when outrushing its opponent was snapped in the loss at Michigan on Sept. 10. 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 has outrushed three of its four foes during the current four-game winning streak to give the Irish 30 victories in the last 31 games when recording more rushing yards than their opponent.
Notre Dame had seven different players register a touchdown in the 59-33 rout of Air Force. The last time the Irish had at least seven different players score touchdowns - Oct. 9, 1999 against Arizona State.
The 59 points scored for the Irish were the most since Nov. 23, 1996, when Notre Dame shutout Rutgers, 62-0, in Lou Holtz's last game as head coach at Notre Dame Stadium.
Junior WR Robby Toma collected his first career touchdown reception. Toma hauled in a 10-yard pass from Rees with 4:07 to go in the first quarter to give the Irish a 21-3 lead over Air Force.
Freshman RB George Atkinson III collected his first career touchdown run. Atkinson III lept in the end zone from one-yard out to make the score, 59-19, in favor of Notre Dame. Twin brother DB Josh Atkinson also made his Irish debut against the Falcons.
During Notre Dame's current four-game winning streak, the Irish have been incredibly balanced on offense, scoring nine rushing TDs and nine passing TDs. Notre Dame has rushed the ball on 48 percent of its plays over the last four games and 48 percent of its offensive yards have been rushing yards. The Irish have averaged 6.4 yards on running plays and 6.5 yards on total pass plays in the last four games.
Notre Dame and Air Force combined for 60 first downs, 1,125 total yards and 92 points in its meeting on Oct. 8.
The 92 combined points are the most in Notre Dame Stadium history. The previous mark was 90 combined points, which happened on two different occasions. The Irish knocked off SMU, 61-29, in 1986 and Navy bested Notre Dame, 46-44, in three overtimes in 2007.
Notre Dame collected touchdowns on each of its first six drives in the game against Air Force on Oct. 8.
QUICK STRIKE OFFENSE
Notre Dame's first touchdown at Purdue on Oct. 1 - a 35-yard TD pass from sophomore QB Tommy Rees to senior WR Michael Floyd - came just 24 seconds into the first quarter. It was Notre Dame's earliest touchdown to open a game since Floyd hauled in an 80-yard TD pass from senior QB Dayne Crist on the first play from scrimmage against Western Michigan on Oct. 16, 2010. That Floyd score came just 12 seconds into the contest.
The 10-second scoring drive was the fastest for the Irish since an eight second touchdown drive against the Broncos. Floyd hauled in a 32-yard TD pass from senior WR John Goodman on that drive.
IRISH COME OUT OF THE LOCKER ROOM ON FIRE
Notre Dame registered touchdowns on each of its first six possessions of the first half in the 59-33 rout of Air Force.
Notre Dame's 42 points in the opening half against the Falcons were the most for the Irish in any half since Nov. 3, 1990, when Notre Dame registered 42 points in the second half against Navy (52-31).
The Irish have not scored 42 points in an opening half since Nov. 11, 1989. Notre Dame registered 42 points in the first half of a 52-6 rout of SMU.
The last time Notre Dame exceeded 42 points in any half was Nov. 5, 1977, against Georgia Tech. The Irish registered a second-half school record 48 points in a 69-14 rout of the Yellow Jackets.
The last time Notre Dame exceeded 42 points in the first half was Nov. 4, 1968, against Pittsburgh. The Irish registered a modern day first-half school record 49 points in a 56-7 rout of the Panthers.
The overall school record for points in a half is 111 against American Medical on Oct. 28, 1905.
Notre Dame outgained Purdue, 185-39, in the first quarter and 157-53 in the third quarter.
The Irish outscored the Boilermakers, 28-0, in the first and third quarters.
Notre Dame outscored Air Force, 28-3, in the first and third quarters.
Notre Dame blanked Air Force in the third quarter on Oct. 8. The Irish added a touchdown and now have outscored its opponents, 42-6, in the third quarter this season. Notre Dame has blanked five of its six foes in the third quarter. Pittsburgh is the only team to register any points against the Irish - a touchdown (missed the ensuing extra point) drive that was extended only after a Notre Dame roughing the kicker penalty.
FORTUNE 500 OFFENSE
Notre Dame has eclipsed 500 yards of total offense in four of its first six games (508 vs. USF, 513 at Michigan, 551 at Purdue, 560 vs. Air Force) - marking the first time the Irish have posted four or more 500-yard performances since the 2005 season.
Notre Dame has surpassed 550 total yards in each of the last two games. The Irish had not totaled 550 yards or more of total offense in back-to-back games since 2005. Notre Dame actually surpassed 550 total yards in three straight games against Michigan State, Washington and Purdue.
The Irish are averaging 467.50 yards of total offense (22nd in the country) and are on pace for the most prolific offensive season since the 2005 team averaged 477.3 yards of total offense (10th in the nation). Notre Dame averaged a school-record 510.5 yards of total offense in 1970.
Notre Dame totaled 560 total yards in the rout of Air Force on Oct. 8. It was the most yards for the Irish since Oct. 31, 2009 when Notre Dame had 592 against Washington State.
Purdue was the first time the Irish came away with a victory in a game where the Irish exceeded 500 yards this season. Notre Dame also had 500 or more total yards against both USF and Michigan.
Notre Dame's 2005 offensive totaled 500 or more total yards in four of its first five games and five of its first seven. The '05 Irish finished the season with seven games of at least 500 total yards, including 621 and 663 against BYU and Stanford, respectively.
In 1970, when Notre Dame set its all-time single-season record by averaging 510.5 yards per game (behind quarterback Joe Theismann), they had only two in their first five contests and finished with five 500-yard days for the season. More recently, in 2009 when the Irish ranked eight nationally with 451.75 yards per contest, they finished with four 500-yard efforts (with Jimmy Clausen at the helm). In 1968 - the only other year the Irish averaged 500 yards a game for the full season (504.4 to rate second nationally) - Terry Hanratty and Company accounted for five 500-yard efforts.
Notre Dame racked up 34 first downs in the victory over Purdue on Oct. 1. The Irish fell just two first downs shy of the school record set against Army in 1974 (36). The 34 first downs were the most for Notre Dame since they had 34 against Michigan State on Sept. 21, 1991. In fact, an Irish team has not recorded more first downs in a game since the school record 36 first downs on Oct. 19, 1974.
The Irish are tied for seventh in the FBS in first downs per game (26.33).
Notre Dame is one of three FBS schools that rank among the top 30 in both passing and rushing offense. The Irish join Baylor and Texas A&M.
Notre Dame has totaled 2,805 yards of total offense over its first six games, which ranks 22nd in the FBS.
Notre Dame has recorded 41 explosive plays (19 rushes of at least 15 yards and 22 receptions of at least 20 yards) over its first six games of the season, which is the most during any six-game span of the Brian Kelly era at Notre Dame.
The Irish tallied nine more explosive plays in the victory over Air Force on Oct. 8.
Notre Dame tallied seven explosive plays in the rout at Purdue on Oct. 1.
Notre Dame collected five explosive plays 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 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 accomplished the feat again in the rout of Purdue on Oct. 1.
IRISH MOVE THE CHAINS ON THE GROUND
Notre Dame rushed for 266 yards on 29 carries in the 59-33 rout of Air Force on Oct. 8. The Irish have rushed for 735 yards in their last three games - all victories. Notre Dame recorded 182 yards at Pittsburgh and 287 yards at Purdue. The Irish have not rushed for more yards over a three-game span since 2003 when Notre Dame totaled 804 yards on the ground against Navy (280), BYU (204) and Stanford (320), respectively.
Notre Dame has surpassed 250 yards rushing in each of the last two weeks (287 at Purdue and 266 against Air Force). The Irish have not gone back-to-back weeks with 250+ yards on the ground since Nov. 11 and Nov. 18, 2000. Notre Dame galloped for 380 and 295 against Boston College and Rutgers, respectively.
Notre Dame rushed for 469 yards in consecutive road games at Pittsburgh (182) and at Purdue (287). The Irish had not posted a higher rushing total over back-to-back road games since 2000 (Notre Dame had 541 yards on the ground in victories at Rutgers and USC).
The Irish rushed for 287 yards in the rout of Purdue on Oct. 1 - the most for Notre Dame since it ran for 320 yards at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003.
Notre Dame has averaged a remarkable 8.0 yards per rush over the last two games - 287 yards on 40 carries at Purdue and 266 yards on 29 carries against Air Force.
Notre Dame averaged an astounding 9.2 yards per rush in the rout of Air Force on Oct. 8. This came one week after the Irish averaged 7.2 yards per rush at Purdue. The 7.2 yards per rush average against the Boilermakers was the highest for Notre Dame since Nov. 9, 1996 (when the Irish averaged 7.3 yards per carry; minimum 20 carries). The Irish rushed for 426 yards on 58 carries in a 48-21 rout of Boston College in Chestnut Hill.
Just how good is 9.2 yards per carry? Notre Dame has not posted a higher per carry average (minimum 20 rushes) since the start of the 1950 season (when complete box scores became available). The 9.2 yards per carry is just off the school record. Notre Dame averaged 12.9 yards per rush (464 yards on 36 carries) against Kalamazoo on Sept. 29, 1923. It fell just shy of the modern school record as well - 10.0 yards per carry against Great Lakes on Dec. 5, 1942 (250 yards on 25 rushes).
Notre Dame has a pair of running backs ranked among the top 100 in the FBS in rushing yards per game. Junior RB Cierre Wood ranks 20th and senior RB Jonas Gray is tied for 87th. The Irish are one of 16 teams across the nation to have two separate running backs on the NCAA rushing report.
EXPLOSIVE RUSHING ATTACK
Notre Dame has already registered three different players - senior RB Jonas Gray (79), junior RB Cierre Wood (55) and sophomore QB Andrex Hendrix (78) - with a run of 50 yards or longer. The Irish have not had three seperate players record runs of 50 yards or longer in the same season since 2001 when Carlyle Holiday (67), Julis Jones (59) and Tony Fisher (55) accomplished the feat.
Notre Dame has collected 19 runs of 15 yards or longer already in 2011. Junior RB Cierre Wood leads the Irish with 11 such carries, while senior RB Jonas Gray has added seven and sophomore QB Andrew Hendrix has one. Notre Dame is on pace for 41 runs of 15 yards or longer. The Irish recorded 26 in 2010.
Notre Dame is averaging 6.0 rushing rushing per carry in 2011, which would shatter the modern school record set during the 1946 season (5.4 yards per carry). The all-time school record was put up by Knute Rockne's 1921 squad (6.2 yards per rush).
Notre Dame ranks seventh in the FBS in yards per carry. Oregon, Georgia Tech and Alabama are the only FBS AQ schools with a higher per rush average than the Irish.
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.
OFFENSE LINE PAVES THE WAY
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 been sacked only five times (or 0.83 per game) on 232 passes attempted or 237 actual pass attempts when including the pass plays that ultimately resulted in sacks. In other words, the Irish are yielding a sack once out of every 47.4 pass attempts or just shy of 2.1% of true pass attempts.
Notre Dame is tied for 14th in the FBS in fewest sacks allowed (0.83 per game), but only one school, Oklahoma, has allowed fewer sacks per game with as many pass attempts as the Irish (232). The Sooners have surrendered 0.50 sacks per game and have attempted 268 passes.
FLOYD IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Senior WR Michael Floyd owns Notre Dame school records in career receptions (224), career receiving yards (3,178), career touchdown receptions (32), career receiving yards per game (88.3) and career 100-yard receiving games (16).
Floyd hauled in a touchdown pass from sophomore QB Tommy Rees with 12:13 left in the opening quarter to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead against Air Force.
The touchdown catch was Floyd's 32nd of his career (already a school record). He has a TD catch in each of the last two games and both came on Notre Dame's opening drive of the contest.
Floyd registered 12 catches for 137 yards and one touchdown at Purdue on Oct. 1. The 12 receptions were just one shy of equalling his career-high of 13 set earlier this season at Michigan.
Floyd became the second active FBS receiver to eclipse 3,000 career receiving yards.
Floyd, who was held to four catches for 27 yards at Pittsburgh, surpassed that total on the second offensive play from scrimmage (35-yard TD catch) at Purdue.
Floyd eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first half alone against the Boilermakers.
Floyd hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass from sophomore QB Tommy Rees just 24 seconds into the first quarter to give the Irish a 7-0 lead at Purdue.
Floyd recorded his 200th career reception on a 22-yard grab early in th e 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 has eclipsed 10 receptions in a single-game seven times in his career and three already in 2011. He had never posted back-to-back games with 10 or more catches before the opening two games of 2011.
Among active FBS receivers, Floyd ranks second in career receiving touchdowns (32), second in career receiving yards (3,178), fourth in career receiving yards per game (88.3), sixth in career receptions (224) and seventh in career receptions per game (6.2).
Among FBS receivers in 2011, Floyd ranks tied for eighth in receptions (53), tied for sixth in receptions per game (8.83), 13th in receiving yards (639) and 13th in receiving yards per game (106.5).
Floyd recorded 79 catches for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010 despite missing one game due to injury. The 79 receptions were the second-most in single-season school history. His 12 touchdown receptions were tied for fourth-most in single-season school history. Floyd is the third wideout in Notre Dame history to have two separate seasons rank in the top 10 for receiving touchdowns in a single season (joined Golden Tate and Jeff Samardzija). His 1,025 receiving yards ranked seventh in single-season school history. Floyd was the sixth Notre Dame wideout to eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier in a single season. He is the only wide receiver in school history to have at least three seasons with four or more 100-yard receiving games.
Floyd has played in 36 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 16 career 100-yard receiving games over the other 34 games played.
Floyd is the only Notre Dame wideout to ever register five or more games with at least 11 catches. Jim Seymour is the only other Irish wide receiver to have multiple games with 11 or more receptions and he had two.
Floyd has recorded eight multi-touchdown games over his Irish career.
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 34 of the 35 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 10th career start this weekend against USC. He is 8-1 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), back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Purdue (2011) and last week's rout of Air Force. Rees was also the starting signal caller in Notre Dame's rout of Miami, Fla. in the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Rees has the chance to be the first Irish quarterback to start and lead Notre Dame to victories over arch-rival USC in conseucutive years since Rick Mirer in 1991 and '92.
Rees has accomplished so much in his nine starts. He has captained the Irish to victories over both Michigan State and USC. 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 becomes the fourth Irish quarterback in school history with multiple games of at least four touchdown passes. Rees joined Brady Quinn (seven), Jimmy Clausen (three) and Ron Powlus (three).
Rees has thrown for at least two touchdown passes in four different games in 2011 and eight times over his career.
Rees is the first Notre Dame quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a single half since Brady Quinn against Washington on Sept. 25, 2004 (also in first half).
Rees and Quinn are the only two Notre Dame signal callers to throw four touchdown passes in a single half.
Rees is the fourth Irish sophomore quarterback to throw for 300 yards in a game. He joins the likes of Terry Hanratty (1966), Brady Quinn (2004) and Jimmy Clausen (2008).
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 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 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).
Rees has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 straight games, which ranks as the third-longest streak in school history. Brady Quinn holds the school record with a touchdown pass in 16 straight games (2004-05).
Rees' 11 straight games with a touchdown pass ranks as the fifth-longest among current FBS signal callers.
Rees has thrown at least three touchdown passes three times in 2011 and five times in his career.
Rees has thrown at least two touchdown passes in four different games in 2011 and eight times over his career.
Rees connected with senior WR Michael Floyd on a 34-yard touchdown pass at the 12:13 mark of the first quarter to give the Irish a 7-0 lead against Air Force.
Rees hooked up with junior TE Tyler Eifert on a five-yard completion with 8:21 left in the first quarter to give the Irish a 14-0 lead over the Falcons.
Rees spotted junior WR Robby Toma for a 10-yard score with 4:07 left in the first quarter to give Notre Dame a 21-3 lead (his third touchdown pass of the game) against Air Force.
Rees added another touchdown pass - his fourth of the game (and first half), 14th of 2011 and 26th of his career - just before halftime. He spotted junior WR Theo Riddick for a 24-yard score with 32 seconds left in the first half to give Notre Dame a 42-16 lead.
Rees threw for three touchdown passes and 254 yards in the rout at Purdue on Oct. 1.
Rees connected with senior WR Michael Floyd on a 35-yard touchdown pass just 24 seconds into the first quarter at Purdue to give the Irish a 7-0 lead.
Rees hooked up with junior TE Tyler Eifert on a six-yard completion with 12:00 left in the third quarter to give the Irish a 28-3 lead over the Boilermakers.
Rees added another touchdown pass - his third of the game - late in the third quarter. He spotted sophomore WR TJ Jones for a seven-yard score with 2:07 left in the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 35-3 lead.
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.
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.
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 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).
BY LAND, CIERRE
Junior RB Cierre Wood leads Notre Dame with 650 yards on the ground on 113 carries and six rushing touchdowns. He ranks 20th in the FBS in rushing yards per game (108.33) and tied for 58th in all-purpose yards per game (123.67).
Wood registered an eight-yard touchdown run with 6:10 left in the first half to give Notre Dame a 35-9 lead over Air Force on Oct. 8.
The touchdown run was Wood's sixth of 2011 and ninth of his career.
Wood has a touchdown run in five of Notre Dame's six games this season. He has a rushing touchdown in six of the last seven games for the Irish.
Wood raced for a career-best 191 yards on 20 carries in the rout at Purdue on Oct. 1. The 191 yards was the most by an Irish running back since Julius Jones had 218 yards rushing at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003. Wood's previous career-high was 134 yards earlier this season at Michigan.
The 9.6 yards per rush was the highest by a Notre Dame running back (minimum 10 carries) since Darius Walker averaged 10.2 at Air Force on Nov. 11, 2006. Walker rushed for 153 yards on 15 carries.
Wood ripped off a career-best 55-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the second quarter to give Notre Dame a 21-0 lead over the Boilermakers. The run was the longest of his career (bested 39-yard touchdown run against Western Michigan in 2010).
Wood also surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in the opening half (101 yards on nine carries). He has registered 100 or more yards on the ground in three of Notre Dame's six games in 2011 (the first three 100-yard rushing games of his career).
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 has now recorded nine career rushing touchdowns, seven of which have come over Notre Dame's last eight 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 13 plays of 15 yards or more, including 11 rushes and two receptions. He has recorded 25 rushes of 10 yards or more, 34 of his 113 carries have resulted in a touchdown or first down and seven of his 15 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 10 of the last 11 games dating back to the Tulsa game of 2010. He has rushed for 1,037 yards on 189 carries over the span.
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.
TYLER'S EIFERT NO LONGER UNNOTICED
Junior TE Tyler Eifert leads all Football Subdivision tight ends in receptions (32) and receptions per game (5.3). He also ranks among the top five in receiving yards (fourth, 363), receiving yards per catch (fourth, 11.3) and receiving yards per game (third, 60.5).
Eifert hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass from sophomore QB Tommy Rees with 8:21 left in the first quarter to give Notre Dame a 14-0 lead over Air Force on Oct. 8.
The touchdown reception was Eifert's third of the season (third in as many weeks) and fifth of his career.
Eifert registered a career-high tying eight receptions against the Falcons.
The eight catches by Eifert ties him with himself (earlier this year at Pittsburgh), 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.
Eifert hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass from sophomore QB Tommy Rees with 12:00 left in the third quarter to give Notre Dame a 28-3 lead at Purdue.
Eifert registered a career-high tying eight receptions, including four on the 11-play, 85-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh on Sept. 24. Eifert's four grabs totaled 34 yards. He also added a the two-point conversion reception.
Eifert, a 2011 Mackey Award candidate, earned the Mackey Tight End of the Week Award for his effort against Pittsburgh. He was honored with the same award following last year's Army game where Eifert caught four passes for 78 yards with one touchdown at Yankee Stadium
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 was forced into the starting lineup following Rudolph's season-ending injury in 2010. He has now started 13 consecutive games and made an immediate impact for the Irish.
A starter in the last 13 games (equivalent to a regular season and bowl game), here is where Eifert's production would rank in single-season tight end school history.
With 32 receptions for 363 yards in 2011, Eifert already ranks among the top 10 in Notre Dame tight end single-season receiving history.
With 59 career receptions for 715 yards, Eifert already ranks among the top 10 in Notre Dame tight end career receiving history.
Sophomore QB Andrew Hendrix saw playing time for the first time in his Notre Dame career against Air Force on Oct. 8.
Hendrix completed all four of his pass attempts for 33 yards and added a game-high 111 yards rushing. He was the first Irish quarterback to run for 100 yards since Carlyle Holiday on Oct. 27, 2001, at Boston College.
Hendrix' 78-yard run in the fourth quarter was the second-longest in school history by a Notre Dame quarterback. Bill Eder had a 79-yard touchdown run against Navy on Nov. 1, 1969.
Hendrix finished with 111 yards rushing on six carries. It was the most rushing yards by an Irish quarterback since Holiday had 130 yards on Oct. 13, 2001, against West Virginia.
MY NAME IS JONAS
Senior RB Jonas Gray not only ranks second on the Irish in rushing with 395 yards on 47 carries, but he ranks tied for 87th in the FBS in rushing yards per game (65.83). Gray is averaging 8.4 yards per carry in 2011, which would best George Gipp's single-season school record of 8.1 yards per rush (minimum 100 carries).
Gray collected a pair of touchdown runs in a single-game for the first time in his career against Air Force.
Gray plowed in from five yards out with 11:39 left in the first half to give the Irish a 28-9 advantage. He then registered a six-yard touchdown run with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter to push the Notre Dame lead to 49-16.
Gray failed to registered a touchdown run over the first 25 games of his career, but has now run for a touchdown in three consecutive games. Gray has a total of four touchdown runs over the same span.
IRISH DEFENSE GETS EARLY TURNOVER AGAIN
Notre Dame has forced a turnover on its opponent's first two offensive plays in each of its last two games. Senior CB Gary Gray registered an interception against Purdue on Oct. 1 and senior S Jamoris Slaughter forced a fumble against Air Force on Oct. 8.
IRISH DEFENSE LEADS THE WAY
Notre Dame's defense has allowed one offensive touchdown or less in eight of its last 11 games.
Notre Dame's first-team defense allowed 19 points to an Air Force offense that entered averaging over 38 points per game. The final two touchdowns and 147 of the 565 total yards came against third-team defenders on Oct. 8. In fact, over 25 percent of Air Force's final total yardage came in the last three possessions against the third-team defense.
The two touchdowns scored on the first-team defense occurred on drives that had actually been stopped earlier in the possession. The first touchdown came one play after the Irish jumped offsides on fourth-and-two from their own seven-yard line when the Falcons were attempting a field goal. The second touchdown came on a drive that was continued by a fake punt from the Air Force 35-yard line. The defense had allowed 15 yards on six plays in that possession before the Falcons punter scrambled 19 to keep the drive alive.
Air Force gained only 107 yards on 28 plays in the third and fourth quarters against Notre Dame's first-team defense. A team that entered the contest averaging 7.7 yards per play was held to half that after halftime. The Irish starters were tough to run against after intermission as Air Force tallied 78 rushing yards on 20 carries.
Explosive plays were non-existent in the second half as the only rush over 15 yards and pass over 20 yards in the second half came at the end of the game when the Irish cleared the bench in the waning two possessions.
Notre Dame surrendered 13 points or less in three consecutive games - Michigan State (13), Pittsburgh (12) and Purdue (10). The Irish had not done that since 1989 when Notre Dame was the top-ranked team in college football. Notre Dame limited Pittsburgh (seven), Navy (zero) and SMU (six) all under 13 points.
Notre Dame limited Purdue to just a pair of first downs over its opening five drives of the game. The Boilermakers totaled 20 yards on their first 18 offensive plays.
Eight of Purdue's 11 drives of the game garnered 21 yards or less of total offense.
Notre Dame has given up exactly four rushing touchdowns over its last 11 games (dating back to the Tulsa game in 2010). Even more amazing, only one of those rushing touchdowns have come from an opposing running back (Jonathan Lee's eight-yard TD run for Air Force with the Irish leading 59-27 with 33 seconds left in the fourth quarter). USC's Mitch Mustain and Michigan's Denard Robinson each snuck in from one-yard out (Robinson's following a Wolverine fumble). Tim Jefferson of Air Force had a three-yard scoring run on Oct. 8. Even crazier, five of the last six 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 defense has allowed only three rushing touchdowns this year. Only two teams in the FBS have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Irish.
Notre Dame's rush defense was downright nasty over its nine games preceeding Air Force (Oct. 8). The Irish surrendered 100 yards on the ground just four times over the stretch and no team rushed for more than 135 yards (it took Army, a triple-option attack, 43 carries to reach that mark). Notre Dame limited its opponents to 91.4 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush along the way.
Despite 363 yards rushing, 565 total yards and 33 points by Air Force on Oct. 8, Notre Dame still ranks among the top 52 in rush defense (48th; 136.50/game), total defense (52nd; 362.17/game) and scoring defense (30th; 20.00/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 five games of 2011, the Irish allowed only five explosive carries (15 yards or more). Notre Dame limited USF to one, Michigan to two, Michigan State to none, Pittsburgh to one and Purdue to one (late in fourth quarter against Irish second and third team defense). That effort is even more impressive when you consider where those five teams rank in the FBS in rushing yards per game. The Bulls rank 17th (215.17 rushing/game), Wolverines rank 13th (239.00), Spartans rank 66th (142.83), Panthers rank 57th (158.00) and Boilermakers rank 24th (206.50).
Notre Dame ranks 48th nationally in rush defense, and that's with already having faced the nation's No. 3 (Ray Graham of Pittsburgh) and No. 10 (Denard Robinson of Michigan) rushers. The Irish have also faced Air Force, which enters this weekend ranked third in the FBS in rsuhing yards per game (336.00).
Notre Dame has limited USF, Michigan, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Purdue on the ground to significant worse numbers than those teams average against everyone else on its 2011 schedule.
Notre Dame's front line defense limited Purdue to 44 yards (21 rushes) and 2.1 yards per carry. The Boilermakers recorded 40 yards on six carries during their final drive of the game in the waning seconds against the Irish second and third team defense.
IRISH HOST A SACK PARTY
Notre Dame had three sacks in the victory at Purdue on Oct. 1. The Irish have at least two sacks in four of their six games. Notre Dame has totaled 12.0 sacks over its last four games.
The Irish registered six sacks at Pittsburgh. The six sacks were the most for the Irish under second-year head coach Brian Kelly and most since Notre Dame had eight against Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl to close the 2008 season. The six 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 27th in the FBS in sacks per game (2.50).
Sacks became official by the NCAA prior to the 1982 season. Notre Dame is on pace to record 33.0 sacks in the 13-game 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. Here are Notre Dame's top 10 single-season sack totals and where the 2011 defense might project.
Notre Dame has two different players ranked among the top 100 in the FBS in sacks per game. Junior ILB Manti Te'o leads the duo with 0.67 sacks per game (t-27th). Freshman DE Aaron Lynch (t-48th) follows Te'o with 0.60 sacks per game.
IRISH PRETTY TOUGH ON THIRD DOWN
Notre Dame ranks 19th in the FBS in third-down defense. Irish opponents have managed to convert just 31.82% (28 of 88) on third down. Notre Dame's third-down defense in the first two quarters of its opening six games has been even better. Irish foes have converted just three third downs in 15 attempts in the opening quarter and only 12 in 44 attempts in the first half. Here is a breakdown of Notre Dame's third-down defense.
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 has three career 200-yard rushing games and ranks third in the FBS at 146.80 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 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 to that point 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.
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.
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 single-game 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 collected his seventh career 10 or more tackle game against Air Force on Oct. 8. He finished the contest with a team-high 12 stops, including seven solo tackles.
Smith ranks second on the Irish in total tackles (40), third in solo stops (25) and third in assisted tackles (15).
Smith leads the Irish with seven pass breakups in 2011, which ranks tied for 18th in the FBS.
Smith now has registered 25 pass breakups over his career, which ranks tied for third all-time in school history.
Smith has 259 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 25 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 172 of 259 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.
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 (59), solo stops (34), assisted tackles (25) and tackles on running plays (41). He ranks tied for 21st in the FBS in tackles per game (9.83). Te'o also ranks 14th in the FBS among active players in career tackles per game (8.2).
Te'o also leads the Irish in sacks (4.0) and tackles for loss (8.5). He ranks tied for 27th in the FBS in sacks and tied for 25th in tackles for loss. Te'o ranks even higher among linebackers - tied for seventh in sacks and tied for 11th in tackles for loss.
Only four linebackers in the nation have more solo sacks than Te'o and only
four have more solo tackles for loss.
Among inside or middle linebackers, Te'o leads nation in sacks per game and ranks second in tackles for loss per game.
Te'o paced the Irish defense with 10 tackles, five solo stops, two and a half for loss and one pass breakup, in the victory over Air Force on Oct. 8. He has led Notre Dame in tackles five times in 2011 and 15 different times over his career.
Te'o has eclipsed 10 or more tackles in four of Notre Dame's six games in 2011 and 13 different times over his career.
Te'o paced the Irish defense with eight tackles, all solo stops, three for loss and two sacks, in the victory at Purdue on Oct. 1.
Te'o registered a team-high 10 tackles in the victory over Pittsburgh. He also added a sack.
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 is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions and ranks third on the Irish in tackles (39), second in solo stops (26), second in tackles for loss (5.0), tied for second in passes defended (five) and tied for second in pass breakups (three).
Blanton's 1.0 tackles for loss per game ranks tied for 88th in the FBS, but he ranks tied for second in the category among defensive backs. Only one defensive back in the nation has more solo tackles for loss or total tackles for loss than Blanton - Winston Guy of Kentucky.
Blanton and Winston Guy are the only two defensive backs in the country with at least 5.0 tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Blanton ranks tied for 47th in the FBS with two interceptions. His eight career picks lead all active Notre Dame players.
Blanton collected a career-high 10 tackles, including seven solo stops, one for loss and recovered a fumble in the rout of Air Force on Oct. 8.
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 four games for Notre Dame. He picked up his first career start on Oct. 8 against Air Force. Against Purdue on Oct. 1, Lynch had three solo tackles, including his third sack of the season and third in as many games. Lynch was the first Irish player to register unassisted sacks in three consecutive games since Kyle Budinscak accomplished the feat in the final three games of the 2004 season. In fact, a Notre Dame player had not registered unassisted sacks in three straight regular season games since Justin Tuck in 2003. Ryan Roberts is the last Irish player to have a sack in four straight games - the first four contests of the 2000 season.
Lynch had a pair of tackles and sack in the victory over Pittsburgh on Sept. 24. In the rout of No. 15 Michigan State on Sept. 17, Lynch registered his first career sack and forced fumble on a 3rd and five play late in the first quarter. He 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 to that point 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.
Lynch ranks tied for 48th in the FBS in sacks per game (0.60). He is one of four true freshman to appear on the FBS sack chart. Lynch's 0.60 sacks per game is tied for second-best among first-year players, while his total of three sacks is tied third-best.
Sophomore OLB Prince Shembo has played in 18 career games and started five. He has accounted for 27 career tackles, including 14 solo stops, but has also registered 7.0 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Just over 25 percent of Shembo's tackles fall behind the opponent's line of scrimmage and nearly 21 percent are sacks.
Shembo had a career-best six tackles and one sack in the victory over Pittsburgh.
Only junior ILB Manti Te'o (18.0), senior OLB Darius Fleming (14.5 TFLs) and senior DB Robert Blanton (13.0) 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.
Despite a challenging start to the 2011 season (four of eight), senior PK David Ruffer is still fifth among FBS active leaders in career field goal percentage (84.38). He has connected on 27 of his 32 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 connected on his only field goal attempt on Oct. 8 against Air Force. He made a 39-yard field goal.
Ruffer made one of his three field goal attempts at Purdue on Oct. 1 - a 21-yard attempt. He had a 28-yard kick blocked and missed just wide from 49 yards.
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 in a single season (25, 1982).
Ruffer's 18 field goals in 2010 ranked as the third-most in single-season school history.
Ruffer's 18 straight field goals in one season was an Irish school record.
Ruffer is the second Irish kicker to ever register multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer in the same season. Harry Oliver had a pair of 50+ yard kicks in 1980. He also became the third kicker in school history to connect on multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career.
ATKINSON GOES THE DISTANCE
Freshman RB George Atkinson III returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter against Michigan State on Sept. 17.
Atkinson III was the first Irish freshman to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Raghib "Rocket" Ismail had two kickoff returns for touchdown against Rice on Nov. 6, 1988. He was the first Notre Dame player to return a kickoff for a touchdown since Armando Allen Jr. raced 96 yards for a score against Hawai'i in the 2008 Hawai'i Bowl.
Atkinson III - the fourth Notre Dame rookie to ever return a kickoff for a touchdown - joined the company of running back Al Hunter (1973 Sugar Bowl victory versus Alabama), running back Allen Pinkett (1982 loss to Penn State) and Ismail (two against Rice in 1988). Hunter became Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard rusher, Pinkett is No. 2 on the school's all-time rushing chart and Ismail won the Walter Camp Award as a junior. Not a bad club to join.
Atkinson III recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown by an Irish player at Notre Dame Stadium since Julius Jones against No. 1 Nebraska on Sept. 9, 2000.
Atkinson III ranks 12th in the FBS in kickoff return average (28.50). He also ranks third among freshman. Atkinson III only trails Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska (31.90 per return) and Sammy Watkins of Clemson (30.73).
WALK-ON PLAYERS JOIN THE IRISH SQUAD THIS SPRING
Nine walk-on players have been added to the 2011 roster. Junior S Blake Breslau (San Diego, Calif./Francis Parker), freshman S Connor Cavalaris (Lake Forest, Ill./Lake Forest), freshman WR/RB Eric Lee (West Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling Catholic), sophomore WR Ryan Liebscher (Colorado Springs, Colo./Cheyenne Mountain HS), freshman LB Connor Little (Lake Elmo, Minn./Hill-Murray), sophomore TE Arturo Martinez (Miami, Fla./Belen Jesuit), sophomore RB Tyler Plantz (Frankfort, Ill./Providence Catholic), freshman ILB Joe Schmidt (Orange, Calif./Mater Dei) and senior WR Ryan Sharpley (Marshall, Mich./Marshall).
SIX FOOTBALL STUDENT-ATHLETES ENTER FIFTH YEAR
Six seniors on the University of Notre Dame football team were approved to return for a fifth year by the school's Faculty Board on Athletics.
The Golic family is one of just several father-son combinations who have played for Notre Dame represented on the 2011 Irish roster. Mike Sr. earned four monograms at Notre Dame from 1981-84, while Mike Jr. is a senior C and Jake is a junior TE. In addition to their father, Mike and Jake's two uncles also played for the Irish. Bob was not only a four-year monogram winner from 1975-78, but he was a two-time All-American and helped the Irish to the 1977 National Title. Greg earned a pair of monograms in 1981 and 1983.
Other current Notre Dame players whose fathers also played for the Irish include sophomore WR TJ Jones (Andre, 1987-90), freshman OT Conor Hanratty (Terry, 1966-68) and senior OLB Jonathan Frantz (Mike, 1970-72).
The Irish feature a quartet of players who had elder siblings also suit up for Notre Dame. Junior WR Nick Fitzpatrick is the younger brother of former PK D.J. Fitzpatrick (2002-05). Senior RB Patrick Coughlin is the younger brother of former WR Brian Coughlin (2009). Senior WR Ryan Sharpley is the younger brother of former QB Evan Sharpley (2006-09). Senior S Dan McCarthy is the younger brother of former S Kyle McCarthy (2006-09).
In addition to the Golic brothers, the Irish 2011 roster has two other sets of brothers - Zack and Nick Martin as well as George III and Josh Atkinson. Zack is a junior OT and Nick is a freshman OT. George III is a freshman RB and Josh is a freshman CB.
RECRUITING CLASS OF 2011 FINISHES AT 24
The 24 student-athletes represented 14 states - four from Ohio, three each from California and Florida, and two each from Indiana, North Carolina and Texas, plus one each from Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
As listed by group, Notre Dame added nine power players, eight skill players, six big skill players and one specialist. As listed by position, Notre Dame added six defensive linemen, four defensive backs, four linebackers, four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, one quarterback, one running back, one tight end and one kicker/punter.
Sixteen were selected for postseason all-star games.
One Gatorade State Football Player of the Year: OLB Ishaq Williams (New York)/
NFL HAS LARGE INFLUENCE ON NOTRE DAME ROSTER
Several players also have family connections with the National Football League.
Senior C Mike Jr. and junior TE Jake Golic's father Mike Sr. played in the NFL forthe Houston Oilers (1986-87), Philadelphia Eagles (1987-92) and Miami Dolphins (1993). Their uncle, Bob, also played in the NFL for the New England Patriots (1979-81), Cleveland Browns (1982-88) and Los Angeles Raiders (1989-92).
Other players whose fathers played in the NFL include freshman WR DaVaris Daniels (Phillip, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, 1996-2010), sophomore S Austin Collinsworth (Chris, Cincinnati Bengals, 1981-88), senior ILB Anthony McDonald (Mike, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, 1983-92, junior K Nick Tausch (Terry, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco, 1982-89) and freshman RB George Atkinson III and freshman CB Josh Atkinson (George Jr., Okaland Raiders, 1968-77).
Senior ILB David Posluszny's brother Paul has played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills (2007-10) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2011-).
Junior P Ben Turk has two uncles that have played in the NFL. Matt is currently the punter for the Houston Texans (2007-10), but has also suited up for the St. Louis Rams (1996), Miami Dolphins (2000-01, 2003-05), New York Jets (2002) and Washington Redskins (1995-99). Dan played 15 years in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1985-86), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-88), Los Angeles Raiders (1989-94), Oakland Raiders (1995-96) and Washington Redskins (1997-99).
Freshman OLB Troy Niklas' uncle Bruce Matthews played 19 seasons for the Houston Oilers/Tennesse Titans (1983-01). A former 14-time Pro Bowl selection, Matthews was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
OFFICIAL NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL POSTGAME SHOW
The Official Notre Dame Football Postgame Show will again be broadcast live following every Notre Dame game on Newsradio 960 WSBT and Sunny 101.5 FM, and televised live on UND.com. The show is hosted by Jack Nolan and Irish All-Americans Reggie Brooks and Mirko Jurkovic. The televised version of the show on UND.com also features game highlights.
OFFICIAL NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL TAILGATE SHOW
The IMG College Notre Dame Football Radio Network will again originate the Notre Dame Football Tailgate show from outside Legends of Notre Dame south of the Football Stadium beginning one hour before the kickoff of each Notre Dame home game. The show features live guests and is hosted by Jack Nolan and Alan Pinkett.
The Brian Kelly Radio Show began Sept. 1 - and University of Notre Dame football fans can attend the show on the Notre Dame campus at Legends of Notre Dame, just south of Notre Dame Stadium. It will be telecast live on UND.com and broadcast live on Newsradio 960 WSBT in South Bend and WXNT-AM NewsTalk 1430 in Indianapolis. Sirius/XM College SportsNation will also broadcast the show twice each week on Friday night and again on Saturday morning. The show will air from 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET.
Dates for the shows are Sept. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and 30; Oct. 6, 20 and 27; and Nov. 3, 10 and 17.
Hosted by Jack Nolan, the Brian Kelly Radio Show is a production of Notre Dame Sports Properties.
INSIDE NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL WITH Brian Kelly (TELEVISION SHOW)
Taped on Sunday afternoons, Inside Notre Dame Football will feature a recap of the week's contest, Notre Dame player features and more. The show can be seen locally Sunday evenings on WNDU-TV following the late local news. It will also re-air on WNDU-TV the following Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. as well as 90 minutes prior to kickoff of Notre Dame home games. All shows can also be viewed on UND.com starting Monday of each week. Inside Notre Dame Football airs on a total of 25 affiliates nationwide reaching nearly 72 million households.
2011 FOOTBALL PEP RALLIES
The traditional, season-opening Dillon Hall pep rally will be held on Friday, Sept. 2, in front of Dillon Hall on the South Quad of the University of Notre Dame campus.
The Sept. 17 rally prior to the home game against Michigan State will be held at Irish Green, south of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the very south edge of campus.
The sites for the remaining home-game pep rallies will be determined at a later date.
Rallies are expected to be held from 6:00-7:30 p.m. All pep rallies are free of charge. Outdoor rallies are subject to cancellation due to inclement weather.
NOTRE DAME KICKOFF LUNCHEONS
Tickets are now on sale for the six Friday Notre Dame Football Live kickoff luncheons for the 2011 University of Notre Dame football season.
Those events are slated for noon (Eastern time) on Sept. 2 (South Florida) and 16 (Michigan State), Oct. 7 (Air Force), 21 (USC) and 28 (Navy), and Nov. 18 (Boston College) in the north dome (field house) of the Joyce Center.
Tickets are $23 each and can be ordered by writing to Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Checks can be made payable to University of Notre Dame. There is a $3 handling fee per order. There are 10 seats per table. You can also print an order form off the football page ("schedule" pulldown menu) of UND.com.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly, a combination of Irish players and assistant coaches, and other special guests will be in attendance.
Parking is available south of the Joyce Center. Entrances are Gate 1 or 2 of the Joyce Center. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. (Eastern time).
-- ND --
Irish Back From Bye Week To Face Traditional Rival USCNotre Dame will play host to the Trojans Saturday in the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium in 21 years (7:40 p.m. ET, NBC).