October 25, 2017
By John Heisler
It remains October, with the November stretch run yet to come.
Brian Kelly’s 2017 Notre Dame football team likely benefits from playing four of its final six games here at Notre Dame Stadium, including three of its last five beginning today against a 6-1 and 15th-rated North Carolina State team coming off an open date.
Take a look at a few pertinent numbers that reflect what the Irish have accomplished to date and what lies ahead, especially this week versus the Wolfpack:
--Notre Dame’s 6-1 record has come against a slate of opponents rated 28th most-difficult in the country by the NCAA (those seven Irish foes have gone 26-18 for a .591 win percentage against FBS opponents not including the Irish). By contrast, North Carolina State’s slate so far ranks 23rd at .600 (21-14).
--The final five regular-season opponents for the Irish combine to create the third-most challenging slate to come (23-8 for . 742, behind only Auburn and Georgia Tech). The Wolfpack rates 46th at .556 (20-16).
--The overall full-season slates for Notre Dame and North Carolina State rate fourth (.653 at 49-26, behind only Maryland, Iowa and Florida State) and 28th (.577 at 41-3), respectively.
--Notre Dame’s running game (sixth nationally at 317.9 yards per game) has produced 28 rushing scores so far this season (only Army with 31 has more). Meanwhile North Carolina State ranks sixth nationally in rushing defense (91.3 yards per game) and has permitted only six rushing TDs in 2017.
--The Irish defense has allowed only a single rushing TD so far this fall, with Alabama, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin all at two.
--Josh Adams’ 9.21 yards-per-carry average is second nationally to Stanford’s Bryce Love (10.27). Adams rates higher than five other players who have topped the 1,000-yard mark (Adams has 967)—Navy’s Zach Abey, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Hawaii’s Diocemy Saint Juste and Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay. The all-time Notre Dame record is 8.11 held by George Gipp in 1920.
--Notre Dame has now forced an opposing turnover or punt on the first defensive series in all seven games this season after USC fumbled on its first play from scrimmage last weekend. Of the 17 turnovers caused in 2017, the Irish have converted 13 takeaways into touchdowns and one into a field goal.
--Notre Dame had a pair of players, Adams (191) and Brandon Wimbush (106), gain 100 or more yards rushing in the same game for the fourth time this season. By comparison, from 2002-16 the Irish had five total games with two 100-yard rushers.
--Adams is the first Notre Dame player with three rushing touchdowns in a game against USC since Reggie Brooks in a 31-23 Notre Dame win in 1992.
--Adams ranks as the only Notre Dame back to rush for at least 800 yards in each of his first three seasons. Already this year he has seven runs of at least 59 yards.
--Notre Dame is 60-15-1 versus teams playing in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time, as North Carolina State is Saturday.
--Notre Dame ranks fourth nationally in turnover margin (plus-10 overall), behind only South Florida, Penn State and UCF. The Irish already have gained 17 turnovers in 2017, three more than in all of 2016.
--The Irish are third nationally in fumbles recovered with 10 (trailing only Bowling Green with 12 and Memphis with 11).
--North Carolina State and Georgia Tech are the lone two teams in the country not to have a pass intercepted yet in 2017.
--North Carolina State leads the country in terms of fewest turnovers lost with three.
--Notre Dame holds a 94-10 edge this season in points off turnovers, after scoring three TDs last week after USC mistakes.
--The Irish are 14th nationally in red-zone offense this year, converting 28 of 30 times.
--Notre Dame plays Atlantic Coast Conference opponents each of the next three games (starting today), including next week at Notre Dame Stadium against a currently 4-3 Wake Forest squad that plays host to Louisville Saturday and then Nov. 11 at a 6-0 Miami team that plays at North Carolina Saturday.
--Irish 2017 opponents listed in this week’s Associated Press poll are Georgia (third at 7-0), Miami (eighth at 6-0), North Carolina State (15th at 6-1), Michigan State (18th at 6-1), Stanford (20th at 5-2) and USC (21st at 6-2).
--These are two very productive football teams, with Notre Dame averaging 41.3 points (11th nationally) and 474.9 total yards (19th) and North Carolina State averaging 35.4 points and 467.4 total yards (24th).
--Notre Dame’s defense will attempt to corral the fourth-best player in the country so far this season in all-purpose yardage in Nyheim Hines (178.43 yards per game), the sixth-best quarterback in terms of completion percentage (Ryan Finley at .694) and the eighth-best pass receiver in terms of catches per game (Jaylen Samuels at 7.7 receptions per outing).
--North Carolina State this week becomes the 13th of 14 ACC teams to play in Notre Dame Stadium. The lone ACC opponent not to come to South Bend is Virginia (the Cavaliers play here in 2019).
Here are some of Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s thoughts on this week’s matchup with North Carolina State:
--“I think right now the mentality of our football team has been crafted over this year of physicality and running the football, where last year it was about throwing the football. These guys really take so much pride in that. I'll take you back to a great block by Josh Adams on Brandon Wimbush's score (versus USC). He cuts the end where Brandon is able to walk into the end zone. Or Tony Jones, where he's really physical in our two-back set coming out on the perimeter and making a great block. So there's a commitment among the group to have that kind of mentality because they know who we are now. Once you know who you are, you take great pride in that.”
--“Our mission from day one is to win a national championship. You guys are just catching up to us. Whatever's being said and has been said has been what our mission has been from day one. Look, USC lost the game Saturday. They go home and get to play for the Pac-12 championship. That's great. We don't have anything else to play for. We've been in the playoffs since we lost to Georgia. Every game is a playoff for us. Everybody is talking about getting to the playoffs. Every game we play is a playoff game. Our guys don't know it any other way. That's what we play for. We're an independent football team, and our mission is to graduate all of our players and play for a national championship. That's all we have. It's not really any different than it was yesterday or the day before or last week.”
--“Coming out of last year, we were a 4-8 football team. Even though Josh Adams had two really good games, a great game at the end of the year (181 yards against USC), individual awards go to really good teams. Penn State was a really good team last year. Those that were in running for the Heisman all had good years last year. Notre Dame did not have a very good year. We have to earn everything this year. We still have a lot of football left. We're making up for lost ground. He's got to continue to play well. Notre Dame's got to continue to play well. I think if you just hold your ballots till the end of the year, we'll see where it falls from there.”
--“I think I would have preferred that North Carolina State played a very physical game (last week) against Clemson maybe. In all seriousness, really for us it's more about our preparation. We know what we're going to get from North Carolina State. They've shown it. I think once you win six in a row, you've shown who you are as a football team. So we know what we're going to get there. Maybe a little bit more creativity on offense, a couple of wrinkles here or there. But they're going to settle into who they are, just as they know we're going to settle into who we are. I think from our perspective, the break was great for us before the USC game. Having now played, I think both teams know what they're going to get regardless of whether there's a bye or not.”
Here are presentations and introductions that will take place Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium:
--Flag Presentation: The national colors will be presented by the incoming and outgoing presidents of the Notre Dame Monogram Club, Terri Vitale and Kevin O'Connor. Vitale is a three-time monogram winner in tennis, the vice president of Tandem Enterprises in Florida and actively involved in supporting the V Foundation for cancer research. O'Connor also earned three monograms and was captain of the 1989 Notre Dame lacrosse team. He is a former attorney general of the United States and currently general counsel for Point72 Asset Management.
--The Team Irish Award goes to the Laboratory Safety Advisory Committee: The University of Notre Dame strives to create a research and teaching environment in which hazards are understood and the associated risks are minimized by proper procedures, protocols and equipment. The goal of the committee is to provide strategic direction for the laboratory safety program, and it is composed of a team of faculty and staff. The committee made several significant contributions this past year, including the development of a comprehensive laboratory integrated safety plan, collaboration on key lab safety programs--and providing guidance on lab inspection programs, all of which led to improved lab safety performance across campus.
--Monogram Club Moose Krause Award: Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton, a 1987 University of Notre Dame graduate and former senior manager for the Fighting Irish football team, is the 2017 recipient of the Notre Dame Monogram Club's Edward "Moose" Krause Distinguished Service Award. The award is the highest honor given by the Monogram Club. The Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award is annually bestowed upon an active Monogram Club member who has achieved notoriety in the following areas:
• Exemplary performance in local, state or national government
• Outstanding dedication to the spirit and ideals of Notre Dame
• Demonstrated responsibility to and concern for their respective communities
• Extraordinary commitment and involvement with youth
Past recipients of the Moose Krause Distinguished Service Award include Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. (1986), Ara Parseghian (1998), Rev. Edward A. "Monk" Malloy, C.S.C. (2005), Lou Holtz (2008), Ruth Riley (2015) and Justice Alan Page (2016). Fenton has served in the United States Army for more than 30 years after being commissioned as an Army officer from the Notre Dame Army ROTC program. In 2014, Fenton was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and then advanced to the position of Major General in 2016 as the Commander of Special Operations Command, Pacific. This past May Fenton received a third star and became the first special operations officer to assume the job of deputy commander at U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Honolulu, Hawaii. USPACOM is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and is comprised of over 350,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian employees. Fenton, who was born in New Orleans and raised in Seymour, Tennessee, holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing from Notre Dame. He also has a Master of Military Arts and Science degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and served as the 2009 Army Fellow in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Fenton has received negotiation/leadership training at Harvard's Business/Law Schools. As a career infantry/special forces officer, Fenton has served at various posts in the United States and locations overseas, participating in numerous operations such as Operation Joint Forge (Bosnia), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan/Africa), Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya). During his time on the Monogram Club board, Fenton organized numerous outings for fellow board members--as well as Notre Dame athletic teams--to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to visit with wounded veterans. He also participated in the Wounded Warrior softball game hosted by the Notre Dame softball program in September 2013. The game featured the Fighting Irish softball team, Notre Dame alumni and coaches playing against the U.S. military's Wounded Warrior amputee softball team. Fenton also is a volunteer with the USO in Honolulu. Fenton and his wife, Dawn, have two daughters: Nora, a freshman at Notre Dame, and Cecilia.
--Templeton Prize: The University of Notre Dame recognizes Alvin Plantinga, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, who recently received the 2017 Templeton Prize for his exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimensions. Awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Prize is considered by many to be the “Nobel Prize for Religion.” In naming Plantinga the 2017 Laureate, the foundation praised his more than 50 years of pioneering research in the philosophy of religion, through which he returned the exploration of religious belief to the philosophical agenda. He is especially noted for his vigorous defenses of the rationality of belief in God and his work on the problem of evil. Plantinga taught philosophy at Notre Dame for 28 years before retiring in 2010.
--The All-Faculty Team honoree is Marya Lieberman, professor of chemistry and biochemistry. From her lab in Notre Dame’s Stepan Chemistry Hall, Lieberman is tackling a global health problem: substandard and fake medicines. Working with faculty colleagues and student researchers, she designs paper test cards that can literally reveal the chemical composition of a drug in the palm of someone’s hand. Lieberman’s team has produced more than 15,000 of these paper analytical devices so far, helping doctors and others detect impure or low-quality pharmaceuticals in countries like Kenya, where resources for drug testing are scarce.
--Flyover Recognition: The US Air Force aircrew from Saturday’s flyover by the 112th Fighter Squadron "Stingers" will be feted, as Col. Jim Bowen will present an official Notre Dame football helmet signed by Irish coach Brian Kelly on behalf of the University. The pilots are Capt. Phil “Skip” Messer, Capt. Roy “Grease” Poor, Maj. Garrick “FOG” Webb and Lt. Col. Brian “Beav” Moran.
--1977 and 1987 NCAA Champion Fencers: It’s been 40 years since the 1977 Notre Dame men’s fencing squad won the NCAA title--and three decades since the 1987 Irish women claimed the NCAA crown. In ’77 Pat Gerard won the individual NCAA title in foil, and Mike Sullivan did the same in sabre in finishing 47-1 during the regular season and 20-2 in NCAA competition. Tim Glass also claimed All-America honors with a fourth-place finish in epee. That Mike DeCicco-coached Irish squad finished a perfect 23-0, winning the NCAA title after a fence-off tiebreaker competition with NYU. Ten years later the Notre Dame women finished 19-0 under coach Yves Auriol. Molly Sullivan ended up in third place in the NCAA foil competition to claim the third of her four All-America certificates and Janice Hynes took 18th. These two Irish fencing teams celebrate the anniversaries of their national titles--the 1977 Irish men and the 1987 Notre Dame women--both NCAA champions.
--1947 National Championship Football Team: It’s been seven decades since Notre Dame’s 1947 football squad won the national championship as part of a magical Irish run in the ‘40s -- when four Irish teams won consensus national titles and Frank Leahy-coached teams went four straight years without losing a game. Many consider that ’47 team the best of the bunch, with 42 members of that squad eventually playing professional football. That 1947 team never trailed in a game that year, averaging more than 32 points a game while allowing fewer than six. Quarterback John Lujack, tackle George Connor and guard Bill Fisher won consensus All-America honors, with Lujack winning the Heisman Trophy. That trio later joined teammates Leon Hart, Emil Sitko and Ziggy Czarobski in the College Football Hall of Fame. They played on a team that ranked second nationally in total offense and fourth in scoring defense while permitting only eight touchdowns all season. On the 70th anniversary reunion of that title season, John Lujack and Terry Brennan will be on the field representing the 1947 Notre Dame national championship football squad.