Oct. 27, 2008
Full Notes Package in PDF Format (recommended for easy reading and enhanced statistical data)
GAME 8: NOTRE DAME (5-2) vs. PITTSBURGH (5-2)
DATE: Saturday, November 1, 2008
TIME: 2:43 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): Notre Dame Stadium (80,795); Notre Dame, Ind.
TICKETS: The game is officially sold out making it the 204th consecutive sellout at Notre Dame Stadium. Since 1966, every Notre Dame home football game has been a sellout except one - a 1973 Thanksgiving Day game vs. Air Force. The Irish have now played in front of sellouts in 252 of their last 253 home games.
TV: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play), Pat Haden (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director).
RADIO: ISP Sports is the exclusive national rights-holder for Irish football radio broadcasts. The Notre Dame-ISP relationship begins with the 2008 season -- with ISP managing, producing and syndicating the Irish national football radio network. Notre Dame games will be broadcast by Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish great Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, sideline and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159). All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on Sunny 101.5 FM and NewsTalk 960 WSBT-AM. See page 12 of this notes package for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), Pittsburgh (pittsburghpanthers.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports Gametracker via each school's respective official athletic websites.
SERIES INFO: This year's matchup will mark the 64th meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, with the Irish holding a 44-18-1 series lead. The teams first played in 1909, `11 and `12 (all at Pittsburgh's legendary Forbes Field), with Notre Dame picking up two wins and a tie and shutting out Pittsburgh in all three contests. The series resumed from 1930-37 before taking a five-year break. It picked up again from 1943-54, took 1955 off, and then played every year in a 23-season stretch (1956-78) before taking a four-year hiatus in the series. The Irish and Panthers met in 1982 and '83, every season from 1986-92, and then 1996, '97, '99, 2001-05. (see All-Time Series Results on page 26 of the attached PDF file).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame has an opportunity to open a season 5-0 inside Notre Dame Stadium for the 16th time in school history and the first time since 1998 (when the Irish went 6-0 at home for the season).
NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH Charlie Weis: A record combined win total for the first two seasons of any Notre Dame head football coach, consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances for the first time in Irish history, and the two most accomplished passing seasons in Notre Dame football annals - those are the most notable by-products of the first three seasons of the Charlie Weis era in South Bend.
Weis, a 1978 Notre Dame graduate and owner of four Super Bowl-champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as a National Football League assistant coach, wasted no time putting his signature stamp on his alma mater's program in his first two years as Irish head coach in 2005 and 2006.
Weis and his Irish followed up a 9-3 record in '05 and BCS appearance in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with a 10-3 overall mark in '06 and a second consecutive BCS invitation, this time to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Those 19 combined wins (including eight straight in the middle of the '06 regular season) qualified as most in a two-year period by the Irish since they collected 21 in 1992-93. It was also the first time Notre Dame played in BCS games in successive years and the most prominent two-season bowl qualification since the Irish played in the Fiesta and Orange Bowls after the 1994 and '95 campaigns. The only schools to play in BCS games after both the '05 and '06 seasons were Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
Notre Dame's 10 regular-season wins in '06 marked the ninth time that figure had been achieved in Irish history. Weis' 19 combined wins in his first two seasons were the most by a ND head coach in his first two years (the previous high was 17 by both Terry Brennan in 1954-55 and Dan Devine in 1975-76). For the second straight year in '06 Weis was one of three finalists for the George Munger Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club (of Philadelphia) to the college coach of the year.
The architect in '05 and '06 of the two most prolific passing seasons in Irish football history, Weis effectively transformed the ND offense into one of the most productive in the nation, as the Irish scored more points in `05 (440) than in any previous season in school history - and also qualified as the most improved offensive attack in the nation, jumping its total offense production (477.33 yards per game) a national-best 131.8 yards per game better than in '04. The Irish followed that up with another strong passing attack in '06, with Notre Dame's average of 264.1 passing yards per contest ranking 13th nationally and second all-time in the Notre Dame record book (behind only the 330.3 mark from '05). The Irish protected the football nearly as well as any team in the country in '06, with their 14 overall turnovers in 13 games ranking tied for fourth of the 119 NCAA I-A teams.
On a combined basis in 2005 and '06 under Weis, Notre Dame led the nation in interception avoidance with only 1.6 percent of Irish passes picked off over those two years. The Irish, thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Brady Quinn, finished third in TD passes with 69 and sixth in passing yards per game (295.8) and passing rating (151.7). In '05 and '06 combined, compared to the previous two seasons, the Irish improved their points per game by 11.5, and their total yards per game by 90.9.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD...Improve Notre Dame to 6-2 on the season.
Improve Notre Dame to 3-2 (.600) this season and 18-4 (.818) under Weis coming off a victory.
Give the Irish a victory over Pittsburgh for the second time in four years.
Improve the Irish to 5-0 (1.000) this season inside Notre Dame Stadium.
Extend Notre Dame's home winning streak to six games, which is the longest such streak since the Irish ripped off 10 straight home games over the 1997-98 seasons.
Mark the 24th time in school history Notre Dame recorded at least five victories inside Notre Dame Stadium in one season.
Mark the 16th time in school history the Irish have opened a season 5-0 inside Notre Dame Stadium (last happened during the 1998 season).
Give Notre Dame a victory over Pittsburgh for the fifth time in the last six meetings and 12th time in the last 14.
Give the Irish a victory for the seventh time in the last eight meetings in Notre Dame Stadium (lone loss came in the Panthers last visit in 2004).
Improve Notre Dame to 45-18-1 (.711) in the all-time series with Pittsburgh.
Improve the Irish to 20-9 (.711) in the all-time series with the Panthers in Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 17-8 (.680) all-time against Pittsburgh (extend their winning streak to four games in such meetings).
Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 7-4 (.636) all-time against Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve Notre Dame to 13-5 (.722) all-time against the Panthers when both teams are unranked.
Improve Notre Dame to 6-2 (.750) all-time against Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
Improve Notre Dame to 57-20-1 (.737) all-time against the current makeup of the BIG EAST Conference.
Improve Notre Dame to 64-27-1 (.701) all-time against BIG EAST Conference opponents at the time of the game (includes Boston College before its move to the ACC).
Improve Notre Dame to 26-9 (.743) all-time against the current makeup of the BIG EAST Conference.
Improve Notre Dame to 31-13 (.705) all-time at home against BIG EAST Conference opponents at the time of the game (includes Boston College before its move to the ACC).
Improve Weis' record to 28-17 overall (.614), 2-0 (1.000) against Pittsburgh and 3-1 (.750) against the BIG EAST Conference.
Improve Weis' overall home record to 16-9 (.640) and his home record against the BIG EAST Conference to 2-1 (.667).
Improve Weis' record to 11-3 (.786) in November games.
Improve Weis' record to 22-14 (.611) in afternoon games.
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record to 830-280-42 (.739).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 302-96-5 (.756).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD...Drop Notre Dame to 5-3 on the season.
Drop Notre Dame to 2-3 (.400) this season and 17-5 (.818) under Weis coming off a victory.
Give the Irish a loss to Pittsburgh for the second time in the past three meetings.
Drop the Irish to 4-1 (.800) this season inside Notre Dame Stadium.
Snap Notre Dame's five-game home winning streak, falling one victory shy of the longest streak since the Irish ripped off 10 straight home games over the 1997-98 seasons.
Give Notre Dame a defeat against Pittsburgh for the second time in the last six meetings and third time in the last 14.
Give Pittsburgh a victory for the second time in the last eight meetings in Notre Dame Stadium (victories in each of its last two trips).
Drop Notre Dame to 44-19-1 (.695) in the all-time series with Pittsburgh.
Drop the Irish to 19-10 (.655) in the all-time series with the Panthers in Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop an unranked Irish squad (post 1932) to 16-9 (.640) all-time against Pittsburgh (snap their winning streak at three games in such meetings).
Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 6-5 (.545) all-time against Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop Notre Dame to 12-6 (.667) all-time against the Panthers when both teams are unranked.
Drop Notre Dame to 5-3 (.625) all-time against Pittsburgh in Notre Dame Stadium when both teams are unranked.
Drop Notre Dame to 56-21-1 (.724) all-time against the current makeup of the BIG EAST Conference.
Drop Notre Dame to 63-28-1 (.690) all-time against BIG EAST Conference opponents at the time of the game (includes Boston College before its move to the ACC).
Drop Notre Dame to 25-10 (.714) all-time against the current makeup of the BIG EAST Conference.
Drop Notre Dame to 30-14 (.682) all-time at home against BIG EAST Conference opponents at the time of the game (includes Boston College before its move to the ACC).
Drop Weis' record to 27-18 overall (.600), 1-1 (.500) against Pittsburgh and 2-2 (.500) against the BIG EAST Conference.
Drop Weis' overall home record to 15-10 (.600) and his home record against the BIG EAST Conference to 1-2 (.333).
Drop Weis' record to 10-4 (.714) in November games.
Drop Weis' record to 21-15 (.583) in afternoon games.
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record to 829-281-42 (.738).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record at Notre Dame Stadium to 301-97-5 (.753).
IRISH TEAM NOTES
IRISH GETTING OFF TO A FAST STARTNotre Dame exploded out of the gates with a pair of touchdowns to grab a 14-0 first quarter lead last week against Washington. It took the Irish just three offensive plays to score their first touchdown (drive was three plays for 61 yards). Notre Dame added another seven-play, 70-yard scoring drive. The 14 first quarter points mark the second time this season the Irish have scored at least 14 points in the opening quarter (ND scored 21 against Michigan earlier this season).
The Irish ran 18 plays in the opening 15 minutes and racked up 154 total yards, good for an average of 8.6 yards per play against the Huskies. On the other hand, Notre Dame limited Washington to 16 total yards on 15 plays or 1.1 yards per play in the first quarter.
The Irish also picked up a pair of sacks, both by sophomore DS Harrison Smith. Notre Dame entered the contest with Washington with only seven sacks over its first six games of the season, which ranked 100th in the NCAA FBS (Irish finished the game with four).
Notre Dame has now opened each of its last three games with touchdown drives on its opening possession of the game.
Washington's starting quarterback Ronnie Fouch went 17-of-32 for 276 yards in his previous start against Oregon State, but the Irish limited the signal caller to complete just 1-of-9 for five yards in the opening half.
Notre Dame blanked Washington in the first half. The Irish last blanked an opponent over the first 30 minutes against Michigan earlier this season.
Notre Dame carried the dominance through halftime. The Irish outgained the Huskies, 238-38, in the opening 30 minutes. Notre Dame also had 13 first downs, compared to Washington's three.
The Irish forced the Huskies into six first half punts, including four three and out drives. Washington's longest drive of the first half went for just 14 yards.
The Irish opened the first quarter against North Carolina in no-huddle (as it has the last four games) and racked up 158 total yards on 23 plays (good for a 6.9 yard average per play). Notre Dame totaled 11 first downs, compared to just four for the Tar Heels in the opening 15 minutes. North Carolina recorded 73 yards on 14 plays in the first quarter.
DEFENSIVE EFFORT OF EPIC PROPORTIONSSimply put, Notre Dame registered its top defensive game in recent memory. The Irish limited Washington to just 124 total yards on 48 offensive plays (only 2.6 yards per play) -- all Notre Dame bests since head coach Charlie Weis arrived in South Bend in 2005. In fact, the 124 total yards are the fewest for an Irish opponent since Rutgers managed only 43 in a 62-0 Notre Dame victory on Nov. 23, 1996.
The Irish forced the Huskies to punt on each of their first nine possessions. Washington's longest drive of the game (prior its final drive of the game) went for 14 yards. The Huskies did have a nine play drive that managed just nine yards.
Notre Dame forced Washington into six three and outs over its first nine drives.
Prior to that final Huskies' drive, in which they marched 69 yards on 10 plays against Notre Dame's third-team defense to avoid their first home shutout since 1976, Washington had only 55 total yards on 38 plays. The Huskies had not been held below 100 yards of total offense in nearly 60 years.
Notre Dame held Washington to plays of two yards or less 30 times over its 48 plays. Notre Dame did not allow a play of longer than eight yards prior to that final drive. Washington finished the game with eight plays of over eight yards and five came on that final meaningless drive.
While the Irish did not force a turnover, they did register four sacks against Washington. Notre Dame managed just one sack over its first four games, but the Irish have totaled 10 in their last three games.
Notre Dame also limited the Huskies to just nine first downs, but five game on that final drive. The nine first downs allowed are the fewest under Weis and fewest by an Irish opponent since Pittsburgh managed just nine in a Notre Dame 20-14 victory on Oct. 11, 2003.
Washington could only muster 26 yards rushing on 23 carries, just 1.1 yards per carry. The 26 yards rushing are the fewest for an Irish foe since UCLA had 26 in last season's meeting. Notre Dame did not allow a rush of longer than eight yards all game.
IRISH MOVING THE BALL UP AND DOWN THE FIELDNotre Dame gained 459 yards of total offense last week against Washington. The Irish have surpassed the 450-yard barrier in total yards in three of the last four weeks. In fact, Notre Dame has 430+ total yards each of the last four games (Purdue, Stanford, North Carolina and Washington).
Notre Dame had not surpassed 430 yards of total offense in four straight games since 1995 when the Irish had 502 (Sept. 9 at Purdue), 493 (Sept. 16 vs. Vanderbilt), 511 (Sept. 23 vs. Texas) and 447 (Sept. 30 at Ohio State).
Notre Dame totaled 472 yards in the loss against North Carolina. It was the second-most total yards for the Irish this season and most since the Irish racked up 476 against Purdue earlier in the year.
MORE, MORE BIG PLAYSSophomore QB Jimmy Clausen completed three more passes of over 20 yards last week against Washington. In fact, all three passes (two to freshman WR Michael Floyd and one to sophomore WR Golden Tate) exceeded 30 yards.
Clausen now has 27 completions of over 20 yards on the season. He connected on just 13 in 10 games as a freshman a year ago.
Clausen completed his 20th pass of 20 yards of more when he found freshman WR Michael Floyd for 32 yards midway through the first quarter against North Carolina (helped the Irish get out of their own end zone as the drive started at the Notre Dame seven-yard line). Clausen added his 21st when he found sophomore WR Golden Tate for 47 yards to setup a touchdown late in the second quarter. He then connected with Floyd for 24 yards in third quarter to give him 22 passes of over 20 yards.
Clausen finished the afternoon against the Tar Heels with a total of five 20+ yard completions.
The Irish had six passing plays of over 30 yards in the entire 2007 season. Not only does sophomore WR Golden Tate have more by himself (eight), but Notre Dame has 15 as team though seven games.
YOUNG PUPSNotre Dame not only started two freshmen against Washington, but played a total of nine true freshmen in the game, including the first career appearance for TE Joseph Fauria.
The Irish have scored 25 touchdowns already this season and 20 have come from either freshmen or sophomores, including both scores in today's game. The only touchdowns scored this season by upper classmen are junior James Aldridge (3) and senior WR David Grimes (2).
The 20 of 25 touchdowns by under classmen does not include sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen, who has tossed 15 touchdown passes this season.
TERRITORIAL DOMINANCEWashington ran 26 plays in the first half and not one inside the Irish 50-yard line. By contrast, 27 of Notre Dame's 42 plays were run inside Huskies' territory.
Notre Dame's averaged drive start was its own 43-yard line, while Washington's was its own 20. When you take into consideration each team had six first half possessions, the Irish had an advantage of 138 hidden yards.
Washington did not enter the Irish territory until 5:50 to go in the game.
Washington ran a total of 48 plays in the game. Notre Dame ran a total of 49 plays in Washington territory alone.
IRISH GROUND GAMENotre Dame recorded 104 yards rushing in the first half against Washington. The 104 yards on the ground were the most in any first half this season and the second most of any half overall to that point, but Notre Dame followed with 148 rushing yards in the second half against the Huskies. The Irish rumbled for 139 yards rushing in the second half against Purdue.
Notre Dame surpassed the 200-yard rushing barrier for the second time this season. The Irish rushed for 201 yards against Purdue earlier this season. The 252 yards on the ground were the most since 275 against Pittsburgh in 2005.
The Irish entered the game with 17 carries of at least 10 yards through their first six games. Notre Dame had 11 such rushes against Washington.
The Irish registered 25 first downs in the game, including 14 on running plays -- another season-high.
Notre Dame attempted only seven passes in the second half. In fact, the Irish passed just three times over their final 31 plays.
CHECKING THE WEIS ERA RECORD BOOKWith seven points allowed, the Irish allowed the second fewest points under Weis. The fewest points Notre Dame has allowed under Weis were the six points in a 20-6 victory over UCLA on Oct. 6, 2007.
With 26 rushing yards allowed, the Irish allowed the second fewest during the Weis era (tied). Notre Dame allowed just minus-11 yards on the ground against Stanford in 2005.
With 98 passing yards allowed, Notre Dame allowed the seventh-fewest under Weis.
With 124 yards total yards allowed, the Irish allowed the fewest in the Weis era.
With nine first downs allowed, Notre Dame surrendered the fewest under Weis.
The 26-point margin of victory over Washington was tied for the second-largest margin of victory in the Weis era. Only the 41-9 victory over Army in 2006 was greater.
The 252 rushing yards were not only a season-high for the Irish, but it is the second-most rushing yards in a game for the Irish under Weis. Notre Dame registered 275 yards on the ground in the victory over Pittsburgh in 2005 (Ironically, Weis' first game as Irish coach).
The 49 carries are the sixth-most rushing attempts in the Weis era and most since Notre Dame carried it 63 times in the overtime game with Navy in 2007 (which is the most under Weis).
Notre Dame averaged 5.1 yards per rush (49 for 252) against Washington which ranks sixth-best in the Weis era.
The Irish recorded three rushing touchdowns which ranks in a tie for fourth under Weis.
Notre Dame totaled 82 all-purpose attempts (rush, receiving, punt return and kick return) against the Huskies which ranks fifth-best in the Weis era.
The Irish rolled up 37:28 in time of possession which is the third-most under Weis. Ironically, it surpassed the 2005 meeting with the Huskies when Notre Dame had 36:56.
Notre Dame blanked Washington in the first half which marks the sixth half in the Weis era that the Irish have pitched a shutout.
It also marked the third time under Weis that Notre Dame has blanked a team in three sperate quarters on a single game.
The Irish limited the Huskies to just 1.13 yards per rush (23 for 26) which is the third-lowest average by a Notre Dame foe in the Weis era.
Washington completed just 44.0% of its passes (11-of-25) which ranks eighth-worst under Weis.
The Huskies managed to run only 48 plays the entire game which is the fewest by an Irish opponent in the Weis era and 10 came on their final drive of the night against the Irish third-team defense.
The Huskies managed to gain just nine first downs the entire game which is the fewest by a Notre Dame opponent under Weis.
Junior RB James Aldridge averaged 6.5 yards per rush (13 for 84) which ranks sixth-best by an Irish running back in the Weis era (with a minimum of 10 carries).
Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen's 51-yard touchdown pass ranks tied for the seventh-longest passing play under Weis.
Freshman WR Michael Floyd averaged 26.8 yards per reception (4 for 107) which ranks sixth-best in the Weis era.
Freshman WR Michael Floyd's 51-yard touchdown reception ranks tied for the seventh-longest reception under Weis.
Sophomore DS Harrison Smith totaled two sacks against Washington which ranks tied for third best in the Weis era.
IRISH PUNTER, Eric Maust, WELL RESTED
Notre Dame did not register a single punt in its victory over Washington. The Irish did line up to punt, but sophomore Harrison Smith took the direct snap and rumbled 35 yards for a first down. It marked the fourth time under Charlie Weis that Notre Dame played an entire game without the use of a punt. The other three occurrences came in the meetings with Navy in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
TURNOVERSNotre Dame entered the game against North Carolina with a +5 advantage in turnover margin and ranked tied for 20th in the NCAA FBS. In fact, Notre Dame had gone the two previous games (Purdue and Stanford) without committing a single turnover. The Irish had not gone two straight games without a turnover since the 2006 season when ironically enough Notre Dame went without turnovers in victories over the Boilermakers and Cardinal.
Freshman RB Jonas Gray mishandled a kickoff in the waning seconds of the first half against North Carolina. The Irish had run 203 offensive plays since their last turnover -- a fumble by freshman WR Michael Floyd in the third quarter against Michigan State.
Notre Dame would commit four turnovers over its next 43 plays in the second half against the Tar Heels.
The Irish committed five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles) against the Tar Heels, while North Carolina failed to commit one. The minus-five in turnover margin is the largest for Notre Dame in a game this season and largest turnover margin since Nov 2, 2002 in a 14-7 loss against Boston College.
Notre Dame did not force a turnover in the victory over Washington and has not forced one in two consecutive games. The Irish have not gone back-to-back games without forcing a turnover since meetings with North Carolina and Air Force in 2006 -- a span of 20 games. Prior to this season's matchup with the Tar Heels, Notre Dame had recorded seven interceptions and recovered seven fumbles in its first five games which ranked sixth-best in the NCAA FBS of schools that had played an equal number of games.
NO RUNNING BACKS
Notre Dame opened the game against North Carolina with four wide receivers, one tight end and no running backs. The Irish had not opened five wide, no running backs, since Oct. 22, 2005 against BYU (just the second time under Weis and more than likely in Notre Dame school history). Notre Dame also opened that game with four WRs and one tight end. Brady Quinn proceeded to throw for 467 yards and a school record six touchdown passes that afternoon. Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen set career-highs in completions (31), attempts (48) and yards (383) in the loss to the Tar Heels.
SPREADING THE WEALTHSophomore QB Jimmy Clausen completed passes to six different receivers in the first half alone against North Carolina, including four different receivers for multiple receptions. Clausen completed a pass to a seventh different receiver in the second half.
Clausen completed passes to six different receivers in the victory over Washington (junior backup QB Evan Sharpley completed a pass to a seventh in the fourth quarter). Clausen has now hooked up with at least six different receivers in each of the last three games. In fact, Clausen has connected with at least seven receivers in three of Notre Dames seven games, including a season-high eight against San Diego State.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONSNotre Dame entered the North Carolina game converting on just 33.8% (22-of-65) on third down this season. The Irish proceeded to convert 6-of-8 on third down in the opening 30 minutes. In fact, North Carolina had allowed just 35.4% (28-of-79) on third down prior to the game. Notre Dame limited the Tar Heels to just 2-of-7 in the first half.
The Irish finished the game against North Carolina 10-of-16 on third down conversions which is the most third down conversions by the Irish in the Weis era.
SUPER SOPHOMORESNotre Dame's 2007 recruiting class, which was widely considered one of the top classes in the country, experienced serious growing pains a year ago, but from the early returns from 2008 the experience was rewarding.
The Irish have scored 25 touchdowns in 2008 and 12 have come from sophomores. WR Golden Tate is tied for the Notre Dame lead with five touchdowns. RB Armando Allen has scored three touchdowns, while RB Robert Hughes has a pair. WR Duval Kamara and LB Brian Smith each have one touchdown. When you toss in freshman WR Michael Floyd, freshman TE Kyle Rudolph and freshman DB Robert Blanton, a first or second year player has scored 20 of Notre Dame's 25 touchdowns.
Sophomore Jimmy Clausen has thrown 15 touchdown passes.
The top two running backs are both sophomores.
Tate leads the Irish in receiving yards (565), receptions (tied, 31) and total touchdowns (5). He also ranks second in receiving touchdowns with four.
Allen leads the Irish in rushing yards (360), yards per rush (4.7, among backs with at least 10 carries) and tied for first in rushing touchdowns (3).
Four of the top six players in scoring and six of the top 11 are all sophomores (three others are freshman).
The top three players in total offense and five of the top seven are sophomores.
The top two players and three of the top four in all-purpose yards are sophomores.
Two of the top six and five of the top 16 tacklers on the Irish squad are sophomores (and three others are freshmen).
NOTRE DAME INSIDE THE FRIENDLY CONFINESNotre Dame has opened the 2008 season with a perfect 4-0 record inside Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish prowess at home is even more impressive when you consider Notre Dame did not exactly establish much success inside Notre Dame Stadium in 2007.
The Irish not only dropped their first four games at home a year ago, but would eventually lose their first six home games in 2007.
NOT THAT FAR OFF FROM 2006One can draw quite a comparison between the 2008 Notre Dame team through its first seven games to the 2006 club at the midpoint of the season.
The numbers are quite similar, but what is not similar is the experience and maturity of the respective starting lineups. For instance, 18 of the 22 starters from 2006 were either seniors or fifth-year seniors. This season, just eight of the 22 starters are seniors or fifth-year seniors. In fact, 12 of those starters will have two full years of eligibility after this season ends.
The 2006 Notre Dame squad featured an offense that included a senior QB in Brady Quinn, a junior RB in Darius Walker, a fifth-year senior WR in Rhema McKnight, a senior WR in Jeff Samardzija, a senior TE in John Carlson and an offensive line that benefitted from four more seniors in G Bob Morton, C John Sullivan, G Dan Santucci and T Ryan Harris. Quinn, Walker, Carlson, Sullivan, Santucci and Harris are all currently on NFL rosters. McKnight and Samardzija (who turned down a NFL career for a MLB career) rank as the top-two receivers in school history.
Interestingly enough, the 2008 Irish offensive unit, which includes just two seniors and eight players with at least two years of eligibility following this season, matches up quite well to that experienced group that ranked as one of the top offensive teams in school history.
That comparable trend carries over to the other side of the ball as well. The 2006 Notre Dame defense, which included NFL second-round draft picks Trevor Laws and Victor Abiamiri, third-round selection Tom Zbikowski, fifth-round choice Derek Landri, sixth-round pick Mike Richardson and seventh-round choice Chinedum Ndukwe (all of whom were seniors or fifth-year seniors at the time).
While the 2008 edition does include a pair of fifth-year seniors, Maurice Crum, Jr. and Terrail Lambert, as well as seniors David Bruton and Pat Kuntz (who each will exhaust his eligibility after the 2008 season), but the remaining seven starters include senior Kyle McCarthy (who has another year remaining), two juniors and four sophomores.
QUITE AN EARLY TURNAROUNDNotre Dame opened the 2007 season with five straight losses for the first time in school history. The 2008 Irish opened the year at 4-1, nearly reversing that trend 180 degrees in one season. The four-game improvement over the first five games of a season is the greatest ever by a Notre Dame squad.
In fact, it was the greatest turnaround through five games by an NCAA FBS school in 10 years since South Carolina opened the 2000 season with a 4-1 record. The Gamecocks were 0-5 after five games of the 1999 season.
Interestingly enough, that 2000 South Carolina squad was under a second-year coach that underwent a similar type turnaround in South Bend. His name... Lou Holtz.
Notre Dame now stands 5-2 on the season, which is still four-game improvement from the same point of the season in 2007 when the Irish were 1-6.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKESNotre Dame lost both meetings with Big Ten rivals Michigan and Purdue in 2007. The Irish were outscored 71-19 in those games, including a 38-0 shutout at the hands of the Wolverines.
Notre Dame upended both Michigan and the Boilermakers this season. They outscored the two longtime rivals, 73-38, in the meetings.
The 35-17 rebound victory over the Wolverines is the fifth-greatest turnaround from one season to the next against the same opponent.
OPENERS AN INDICATOR?The 99 previous seasons Notre Dame has won its opener, the Irish went on to post winning records 91 times (91.9%), with four losing seasons and four .500 records.
Notre Dame is now 100-15-5 in season openers, but have they been foretelling of the season ahead? Take a look:
The 15 seasons Notre Dame lost its opener, the Irish posted winning records six times and a losing mark eight times (with one .500 season).
The five seasons Notre Dame registered a tie in its opener, the Irish had four winning records and one losing record.
COACHING IN THE CLUTCH
Knute Rockne owns the best career winning percentage among Notre Dame coaches in games decided by seven or fewer points, at 21-1-5 (.870). Among Irish coaches with 14-plus "close games", the other top winning percentages in tight games belong to Elmer Layden (22-7-3, .734), Frank Leahy (17-5-8, .700), Tyrone Willingham (10-5, .667), Ara Parseghian (13-6-4, .652), Dan Devine (15-9-1, .620), Bob Davie (14-12, .611) and Lou Holtz (20-18-2, .525). Current head coach Charlie Weis owns a .636 winning percentage in such games (7-4).
FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRYNotre Dame has historically recruited from all across the country and 2008 is no different. A total of 29 different states are represented on the Irish roster. Among Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division IA), only Army has more states represented on its 2008 roster.
NOT SO MANY NEW FACESNotre Dame had 28 different players (13 on defense, 15 on offense) register their first career start in 2007 (a total of 16 players made their first career starts the two previous seasons combined). The Irish have had just eight players (DE Darius Fleming, DE Ethan Johnson, RG Chris Stewart, FS Sergio Brown, FS Harrison Smith, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Michael Floyd) make their first start in 2008.
Notre Dame started eight true freshmen in 2007, including HB Robert Hughes, QB Jimmy Clausen, HB Armando Allen, WR Golden Tate, WR Duval Kamara, OLB Kerry Neal, OLB Brian Smith and NT Ian Williams. In comparison, the Irish have started four freshmen in 2008 (DE Darius Fleming, DE Ethan Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph and WR Michael Floyd).
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 208 of its previous 239 games, including 83 of its last 91 contests dating back to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands, the 2005 game at Washington and the 2007 game at UCLA were not sellouts). At Michigan in 2003, the Irish and Wolverines attracted the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of the series that an NCAA attendance record was set. Including the 2006 game at Georgia Tech, the Irish have been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record seven times since 2001. The list also includes: at Nebraska and Texas A&M in 2001, at Air Force and Florida State in 2002, home vs. Boston College in 2002, vs. Oregon State in the Insight Bowl in 2004 (the game set a Bank One Ballpark record for football configuration). Notre Dame and Michigan played before an over-capacity 111,386 at Michigan Stadium in September of 2005. At Purdue in `05, the Irish and Boilermakers played before 65,491 football fans, a Ross-Ade Stadium record (since the renovation of the facility in 2003). Penn State drew the second largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history for the meeting with the Irish last season.
ONLY THE BIG BOYS
Notre Dame is one of just five NCAA Division I-A programs that has never faced a non-Division I-A opponent since the current division setup was established in 1978 (the division's names have undergone a change this year, but the setup is still the same). The four remaining schools that have yet to play a non-Division I-A opponent since the advent of the current format are Michigan State, USC, UCLA and Washington.
CHARLIE AND THE IRISH OFFENSIVE FACTORY
Fourth-year head coach Charlie Weis came to Notre Dame with a tremendous reputation as one of the premier offensive minds in all of the NFL. The Irish saw immediate results in 2005, setting 11 school records, including passing yards (3,963), touchdown passes (32, bested in 2007), total offense yards (5,728) and total points (440). Notre Dame has surpassed the 40-point barrier on 11 different occasions in Weis' 44 games as head coach. Prior to his arrival, Notre Dame had eclipsed 40 points just nine times in its previous 97 contests. In addition, the Irish had 83 separate 100-yard receiving games over its first 116 seasons of football, but Notre Dame has had 25 the past four years under Weis. To put those numbers in perspective, Notre Dame averaged a 100-yard receiving effort every 13 games. Under Weis, the Irish is recording a 100-yard receiving effort every other game.
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