GAME 10: NOTRE DAME (1-8) vs. AIR FORCE (7-3)
DATE: Saturday, November 10, 2007 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 198th 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 246 of their last 247 home games.
TV: NBC national telecast with Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis), Alex Flanagan (sideline), David Gibson (producer) and John Gonzalez (director). NBC will stream a live 30 min. pre-game show (2-2:30 p.m.) and post-game show on NBCSports.com.
RADIO: For the 40th consecutive season, all Notre Dame football games are to be broadcast on approximately 200 stations in 50 states by Westwood One with Don Criqui (play-by-play), former Irish running back Allen Pinkett (analysis) and Jeff Jeffers providing pre-game, halftime and post-game reports. This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 159) and will be streamed live on the Irish official athletics website at www.und.com. All Notre Dame home games may be heard in South Bend on U93-FM (92.9) and WDND-AM (1490). See page nine of this notes package (PDF version) for more information on Irish football radio and television shows.
WEB SITES: Notre Dame (und.com), Air Force (goairforcefalcons.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CSTV Online's Gametracker via each school's respective official athletic websites.
POLLS: Notre Dame and Air Force each failed to receive any votes in either the Associated Press or USA Today coaches polls.
SERIES INFO: Notre Dame and Air Force will play one another for the 28th time on Saturday. The Irish hold a 22-5 (.815) edge in the series, including victories in 12 of the last 13 meetings. Notre Dame has scored 30 or more points in nine of its last 12 games against the Falcons. Two of the seven overtime games in Notre Dame history have come against Air Force. The Falcons won 20-17 in 1996, while the Irish claimed a 34-31 win in 2000 (see All-Time Series Results on page 2).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame All-American candidate Trevor Laws is putting together a record-setting season for the Irish. Laws, who leads the entire country for tackles by an defensive lineman, is on pace for 108 tackles (would become the fourth Irish defensive lineman to ever eclipse 100 in a season). He not only leads the NCAA in tackles by a defensive lineman, but he is also the only DL in the top 100 in tackles.
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 two seasons of the Charlie Weis era in South Bend. Weis (Notre Dame, 1978), 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. The Irish finished his inaugural season with a 9-3 mark and an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame followed that campaign with a 10-3 record last season and another BCS Bowl berth (Sugar). In addition to leading one of three schools to consecutive BCS bowl games, Weis guided the Irish to their most wins over any two-year span since 1993-94. He is 1-0 against Air Force.
AIR FORCE HEAD COACH TROY CALHOUN: Troy Calhoun (USAFA, 1989) ushers in a new era of Falcon football this season as Calhoun replaced the legendary Fisher DeBerry, who retired last season after 23 years as head coach. Calhoun is the sixth head coach in school history and first graduate to hold the position. He brings with him an impressive resume at the collegiate and professional levels that is flooded with success at every stop. Calhoun is fresh off completing his first season with the Houston Texans as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. The 2006 Texans were one of only two NFL teams to triple their number of wins from the previous year. On offense, the Texans had the NFL's leading receiver (Pro Bowler Andre Johnson with 103 catches), the NFL's best quarterback completion percentage (68.4 percent) and quarterback David Carr tied an NFL record against Buffalo with 22 straight completions. Calhoun became a well-rounded NFL coach, working as a defensive assistant, special teams assistant and offensive assistant with the Denver Broncos from 2003-05. He began his NFL coaching career by serving as the defensive assistant under defensive coordinator Larry Coyer in 2003. He was a part of the NFL's fourth-ranked defense. The Broncos' defense ranked seventh against the run and sixth against the pass.
A WIN THIS WEEK WOULD...
Be the fourth straight victory over Air Force.
Improve Notre Dame to 23-5 (.821) in the all-time series with the Falcons.
Improve the Irish to 11-3 (.786) in the all-time series with Air Force in South Bend.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 21-14 overall, 2-0 against Air Force and 5-1 against Service Academies.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame home record to 11-8 (.579).
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 8-2 (.800) in November games.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 6-8 (.429) following a defeat.
Improve an unranked Notre Dame s
uad to 5-3 (.625) all-time against Air Force.
Improve an unranked Notre Dame s
uad to 3-2 (.600) all-time against the Falcons in South Bend.
Improve Notre Dame to 21-4 (.840) all-time against an unranked Air Force squad.
Improve Weis' record to 15-11 (.577) in afternoon games.
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record to 823-277-42 (.739).
Improve the Irish all-time home record to 298-95-5 (.755).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record against the Service Academies to 130-23-5 (.839).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time home record against the Service Academies to 45-8 (.849).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD...
Snap a three-game winning streak over Air Force.
Drop Notre Dame to 22-6 (.786) in the all-time series with the Falcons.
Drop the Irish to 10-4 (.714) in the all-time series with Air Force in South Bend.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 20-15 overall, 1-1 against Air Force and 4-2 against Service Academies.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame home record to 10-9 (.526).
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 7-3 (.700) in November games.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 5-9 (.357) following a defeat.
Drop an unranked Notre Dame s
uad to 4-4 (.500) all-time against Air Force.
Drop an unranked Notre Dame s
uad to 2-3 (.400) all-time against the Falcons in South Bend.
Drop Notre Dame to 20-5 (.800) all-time against an unranked Air Force squad.
Drop Weis' record to 14-12 (.538) in afternoon games.
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record to 822-278-42 (.738).
Drop the Irish all-time home record to 297-96-5 (.753).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record against the Service Academies to 129-24-5 (.832).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time home record against the Service Academies to 44-9 (.830).
NOTRE DAME - AIR FORCE SERIES NOTES
Saturday's game marks the 28th meeting between Notre Dame and Air Force, with the Irish holding a 22-5 series lead. The Irish also own an 10-3 record against the Falcons in Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame has won 11 of its last 12 games against Air Force, including a 39-17 victory in their last meeting on Nov. 11, 2006 at Falcon Stadium. Except for a four-game losing streak against Air Force from 1982-85, the Irish have won 22 of the 23 series meetings with the Falcons.
This year's game marks the first appearance for Air Force at Notre Dame Stadium since Oct. 28, 2000, when Glenn Earl blocked the Falcons' attempted game-winning, 28-yard field-goal as time expired in regulation, clearing the way for Joey Getherall to score his third TD of the game in overtime as No. 19 Notre Dame beat Air Force 34-31.
Notre Dame has scored 30 or more points in nine of its last 12 games against Air Force, averaging 38.9 points per game in those contests.
Two of the seven overtime games in Notre Dame history have come against Air Force. The Falcons won 20-17 in 1996, while the Irish claimed a 34-31 win in 2000. Notre Dame's other OT contests were a 27-20 loss at USC in 1996, a 27-24 loss to No. 1 Nebraska in 2000, a 29-26 victory over Washington State in 2003, a 44-41 loss to Michigan State in 2005 and last week's 46-44 defeat against Navy last week.
Of the five Air Force wins in the series, four came under the guidance of longtime Falcon head coach Fisher DeBerry. DeBerry retired at the end of the 2006 season.
Saturday's game is the second for Notre Dame this season against a service academy. The Irish lost last week to Navy, 46-44, in triple overtime.
NOTRE DAME VS. SERVICE ACADEMIES
Notre Dame has won almost 85 percent of its games (129-23-5) vs. teams from the three service academies (Army, Navy and Air Force).
The Irish had won 15 consecutive games against the service academies (before last week's loss to Navy), and they are 36-2 (.947) against these schools since 1986 (including a 18-2 mark at home). The only defeat, prior to last week, in that time was a 20-17 overtime loss to Air Force in 1996 at Notre Dame Stadium.
More than half (80) of Notre Dame's 157 games against service academies, and more than half of its victories (70) have come against Navy, part of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country.
Notre Dame and Army met every season from 1913-47 with the exception of 1918. During an 11-season span from 1937-47, one or both teams were ranked, including six meetings when either side was first or second in the nation, and back-to-back "No. 1 vs. No. 2" matchups in 1945 and 1946. However, the Irish and Black Knights have played just 15 times since 1947, with Notre Dame winning 14 of those encounters.
NOTRE DAME VS. THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Notre Dame has a 27-7 (.794) all-time record against current members of the Mountain West Conference, with the vast majority of those games (27) coming against Air Force.
The .794 Irish winning percentage vs. the Mountain West Conference is the second best in school history against a major Division I-A conference, topped only by the .884 mark (23-3) Notre Dame has posted against Conference USA.
Today's game is just the seventh for the Irish against a team representing the Mountain West since that league began play in 1999.
The other six meetings for Notre Dame against an MWC opponent came against Air Force in 2000 (a 34-31 overtime win), 2002 (a 21-14 win) and 2006 (a 39-17 win) along with the 2003, 2004 and 2005 meetings with BYU.
The only other MWC team the Irish have faced is TCU (a 21-0 win in 1972).
Other Mountain West Conference teams: Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming.
ON THIS DATE
Notre Dame has played 13 previous games in its history on Nov. 10. The Irish are 6-7 all-time on this date. The Irish have recorded two shutouts on Nov. 10 (1906, 1917). Nov. 10, 1962: Daryle Lamonica tossed four touchdown passes to lead the Irish past Pittsburgh, 43-22. The four passing TDs are tied for the fourth most in single-game Notre Dame history. Jim Kelly chipped in with 11 receptions (fifth-most in school history) and hauled in three of Lamonica's four TD passes that afternoon. Only Maurice Stovall has ever had more touchdown receptions in a single-game. Nov. 10, 1990: Ricky Watters rushed for 174 yards on 17 carries to lead top-ranked Notre Dame past ninth-ranked Tennessee, 34-29. He had a pair of touchdowns, including a 66-yard run.
NOTRE DAME-AIR FORCE CONNECTIONS
Irish defensive line coach Jappy Oliver coached at Air Force for eight years from 1995-2002 under current Falcons' head coach Fisher DeBerry. He was on the opposite sideline in four meetings of the all-time series, including the last time the teams played in 2002.
Air Force and Notre Dame honored Gregg Lewis, the son of Notre Dame secondary coach Bill Lewis, at last year's game by wearing a helmet decal during the game. Gregg was a 1992 graduate of the Air Force Academy and walk-on football player in 1988. He was killed on a training mission in the fall of 1998 while flying helicopters for the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The idea came from Lewis' brother, Geoff, who coordinated with both head coaches to honor his brother's squadron, the "Jolly 38" unit.
Notre Dame's roster features one player from the state of Colorado. The roster of Air Force does not have a player from the state of Indiana.
A number of players from Air Force and Notre Dame either attended the same high school or hail from the same hometown. See the PDF version of this notes package for a complete chart.
NOTING THE NAVY GAME
The game was officially sold out, making it the 197th 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 have played in front of sellouts in 245 of their past 246 home games.
With junior FS Kyle McCarthy earning his first career start for Notre Dame, 25 different Irish players (10 on defense, 15 on offense) have registered their first career starts this season.
The Irish recorded a touchdown on their opening drive of the game for the first time this season. Notre Dame accomplished the feat on four occasions in 2006 - most recently at Air Force (Nov. 11). The score marked the 13th first-drive touchdown in the Weis era.
Navy's initial scoring drive took 19 plays (all rushes), 85 yards and 8:04. The Midshipmen gained five first downs on the drive and converted three third-down plays. It was the longest drive of the season for an Irish opponent. The previous long drive in terms of plays was a pair of 13-play drives (Georgia Tech and UCLA) and both resulted in field goals.
With the touchdowns from freshman running back Robert Hughes and rookie wide receiver Duval Kamara, the Irish have seen five different freshmen score touchdowns this season. Hughes and Kamara joined outside linebacker Brian Smith, wide receiver Golden Tate and quarterback Jimmy Clausen in that distinction.
Notre Dame totaled 21 points, 11 first downs, 85 yards rushing and 170 total yards in the first half. The 21 points were not only a season-high for a half, but it topped the 19 points scored over the entire game against Purdue (9.22). The 11 first downs were more than Notre Dame managed in four full games earlier this season (Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and USC). The 85 yards on the ground are more than the Irish totaled against Georgia Tech (minus-8), Penn State (0), Michigan (minus-6), Boston College (27) and UCLA (46) combined. The Irish have topped 170 total yards in only three previous games (Michigan State, Purdue and Boston College).
Notre Dame finished the game with 235 yards rushing, over 200 yards more than the Irish averaged entering the contest. It was the second most rushing yards in a game for the Irish in the Weis era (275 at Pittsburgh, 2005).
Notre Dame started six freshman or sophomores on offense. Of the 30 players that entered the game as substitutes, 18 were freshman or sophomores. In fact, 31 of the 52 players that saw action are in their first or second year of athletic eligibility.
Notre Dame limited Navy to just 21 points in regulation, the fewest for the Midshipmen this season and fewest since they managed just 14 in the meeting with the Irish in 2006.
Prior to the final minutes of regulation, Notre Dame and Navy each went without the need of a punt (Navy's only punt came with 2:23 left in the fourth
uarter; the Irish had no punts). In fact, the Irish have not punted against the Midshipmen since the meeting in 2004. Notre Dame ran 90 plays over nine drives in Saturday's regulation, 62 plays over 10 drive in the 2006 versus Navy, and 70 plays over nine drives in 2005. The Irish have gone 230 plays (in regulation) against Navy without being forced to punt - dating back to a D.J. Fitzpatrick punt in the fourth quarter of the 27-9 Irish victory in 2004.
Navy went ahead 28-21 following a 16-yard fumble return for touchdown. The touchdown (the second non-offensive TD by a Notre Dame opponent) was the 12th this season for a Notre Dame foe that failed to cover at least 45 yards. It was the 21st scoring drive (field goal or touchdown) for an Irish opponent in 2007 of 45 yards or less. Notre Dame's 2007 opponents now have totaled 14 scoring drives of under 25 yards (six went for touchdowns).
This marks the sixth time in the history of the Notre Dame-Navy series that the game has been decided in the final 2:00 or in overtime (all but one of those games have come in Notre Dame Stadium) ... the previous five all were Notre Dame victories:
Notre Dame now is 2-5 in all-time overtime games (2-4 at ND Stadium), with wins over Air Force in 2000 (34-31) and Washington State in 2003 (29-26). The other ND overtime losses have come versus Air Force in 1996 (17-20), USC in 1996 (20-27; on road), Nebraska in 2000 (24-27) and Michigan State in 2005 (41-44).
Sophomore running back James Aldridge had a career-high 125 rushing yards in the game, besting his 104 versus Michigan State earlier this season. His 32 rushing attempts also a career-high, nine more than his total earlier this season versus UCLA (22).
Senior linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr. registered his third forced fumble of the season. Crum, who had two forced fumbles in the victory over UCLA (Oct. 6), now has four forced fumbles for his career.
Senior strong safety Tom Zbikowski registered his first fumble recovery of the season. Zbikowski now has been involved in a total of 17 turnovers (seven forced fumbles, seven interceptions, three fumble recoveries) during his four-year career. With his first tackle of the game, he moved past Ned Bolcar (1986-89) into 12th place on the Irish career tackles list (now 280, with 10 today). Zbikowski has the most career tackles ever by a Notre Dame defensive back, with the 11 players ahead of him on the list including nine linebackers and two defensive linemen.
Freshman running back Robert Hughes picked up his second rushing touchdown of the season on the game's opening drive. Hughes rumbled three yards to give the Irish a 7-0 lead. He also had a rushing touchdown against Michigan State on Sept. 22.
Freshman running back/kick returner Armando Allen recorded a season-best 38-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter. Allen opened the game with a 29-yard return and added another 29-yard return midway through the third quarter. He averaged 28.8 yards on four kickoff returns. Allen also rushed for a season-high a season-high 91 yards on 16 carries, including a season-long 15 yard rush. Allen has registered four kickoff returns this season of 30 yards or more.
Allen totaled 226 all-purpose yards against Navy on Nov. 3. The 226 all-purpose yards are tied for the 11th most in single-game Notre Dame history. It is also the most all-purpose yards by an Irish player since Darius Walker had 241 at Stanford on Nov. 11, 2005.
Senior tight end John Carlson recorded four receptions covering 40 yards. Carlson's 90 career receptions remain third-most ever by a Notre Dame tight end (two behind his former teammate Anthony Fasano) while his 949 career receiving yards also now rank third, ahead of Dean Masztak's 924.
Senior running back Travis Thomas had multiple rushing touchdowns (3) for the first time in his career. Thomas now has four rushing TDs this season and 11 in his career.
Senior defensive end Trevor Laws had a career-high 15 tackles, pushing his career total to 82 (seventh-most ever by a Notre Dame front-four lineman).
Freshman wide receiver Duval Kamara recorded his second touchdown of the season moments before halftime to give the Irish a 21-14 lead. He then latched onto an eight-yard touchdown pass in overtime, becoming the first Notre Dame freshman since 1992 (Derrick Mayes, vs. Pittsburgh) to have multiple TD receptions in a game. Kamara's previous touchdown this season catch came against Purdue on Sept. 29. Today's 21-yard touchdown grab also was his longest reception of the season.
Senior inside linebacker Joe Brockington recorded 10 tackles in the first half. Brockington has recorded double-digit tackles in four career games with the Irish, including three times in 2007. His 16 total tackles in today's game bested Brockington's career-high of 15, set in 2006 at Air Force.
Freshman nose tackle Ian Williams recorded seven tackles in the first half alone to establish his season high (ultimately finishing with 11). His previous season-high was four tackles (set against Michigan State and Purdue).
Freshman tight end Mike Ragone picked up his first reception of the season late in the second quarter. Ragone became the 15th different Notre Dame player to register a reception this season.
HOW DO THEY STACK UP? Average weight of the offensive and defensive lines:
ND OL 305.0 lbs. vs. AF DL 263.3 lbs.
ND DL 284.3 lbs. vs. AF OL 277.0 lbs. Average height of the receivers and the secondaries:
ND WR/TE 6' 1" vs. AF DB 5' 11 ½"
ND DB 6' 0" vs. AF WR/TE 5' 11"
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 200 of its previous 228 games, including 75 of its last 82 contests dating back to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2000 season (the 2001, 2003 and 2005 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 last year's 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 earlier this season.
Notre Dame did not become the first school in NCAA history to ever play three regular season road games before crowds of 100,000. Both Penn State and Michigan exceeded that mark, but UCLA fell short.
A total of 20 different players have started on offense for Notre Dame this year. Of those 20 players, only six had started in their Irish careers prior to this season. Among the six players, two had started three or fewer games at their position (Jr., FB, Asaph Schwapp - 3, Sr., HB, Travis Thomas - 2).
Through nine games, there have been 99 total starts on the offense. (A breakdown of the starts by class can be found in the PDF version of these notes)
NINTH-BEST IN THE NCAA SINCE 1988
Notre Dame has the nation's ninth best record over the last 20 seasons, or since the start of 1988. The Irish have posted a 164-73-2 record.
YOUTH ON SERVE
A total of 68 different players have seen action this fall for Notre Dame. Of those 68 players, 37 are either freshmen or sophomores. The Irish have played 11 true freshman through their first eight games and five (Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, Golden Tate, Kerry Neal and Duval Kamara) have started.
With freshmen Jimmy Clausen and Armando Allen each starting against Penn State, it marked the first time since freshmen were made eligible in 1972 that Notre Dame started rookies at both quarterback and tailback.
In the game against USC, Notre Dame started two freshmen at wide receiver (Golden Tate and Duval Kamara) for the first time since Oct. 30, 1982, against Navy (Meadowlands). The two freshmen that started at wideout that afternoon were Milt Jackson and Mike Haywood (the current Irish offensive coordinator).
Notre Dame played nine freshmen in the season-opening loss to Georgia Tech. It was tied for the fourth most freshmen to take the field in a season-opener since 1972.
The Irish returned just five senior lettermen and eight junior lettermen. Of those 13 upperclassmen, only six had ever started a game for Notre Dame prior to this season.
Notre Dame returned just 30 letterwinners to the 2007 team. The total is the third lowest (or 117th) in the nation.
The Irish lost 28 lettermen from the 2006 team that finished 10-3 and earned a spot in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The total is tied for the fifth most in the country.
Allen (275) and Hughes (45) are second and third on the team in rushing. Allen is fourth on Notre Dame with 19 receptions for 81 yards. He has also added 26 kick returns for 570 yards (21.9 yards per return). Allen recorded his best career game to date against Navy on Nov. 3. He rushed for 91 yards on 16 carries and added three receptions for 20 yards. Allen also returned four kicks for 115 yards, including a career-best of 38 yards. Hughes, who picked up his first career touchdown against Michigan State on Sept. 22, added his second rushing touchdown against Navy on Nov. 3.
Kamara is third on the Irish in receiving with 24 receptions for 232 yards -- good for 9.7 per catch. He became the first Notre Dame freshman since 1992 (Derrick Mayes, vs. Pittsburgh) to have multiple TD receptions in a game. The 21-yard touchdown grab also was his longest reception of the season. He had six grabs for 68 yards, including his first career touchdown earlier this season against Purdue.
Tate caught three passes for 104 yards and one touchdown at Purdue. He not only became the first freshman to catch a touchdown pass since Maurice Stovall (Nov. 23, 2002 against Rutgers), but also became the first Notre Dame freshman to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game since Derrick Mayes (100 yards on two catches) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992. He has five receptions for 126 yards -- good for an astounding 25.2 yards per grab. Tate also ranks 73rd in the NCAA with a 23.42 yards per kick return.
Clausen has started six games this fall, becoming just the eighth freshman quarterback to start for Notre Dame since 1950. He has completed 81-of-141 (57.4%) for 618 yards and one touchdown.
Williams, Smith and Neal have been major additions to the Irish defense this fall. Neal has started three of the last five games at outside linebacker. He has registered 11 tackles (six solo), including a sack. Neal has added three pass break-ups, two quarterback hurries (stat only tracked in home games) and a 11-yard fumble return setting up an Irish field goal against UCLA. Smith has played in eight games and has registered 15 tackles (six solo), including 2.5 for loss and one sack. He has recorded a forced fumble and became the first freshman to return an interception for touchdown since 1976. Smith raced 25 yards to bring Notre Dame within six points, 20-13, against #4 Boston College. Williams leads all Irish first-year players with 30 total tackles (14 solo). He has a half tackle for loss. Williams recorded a career-best 11 tackles against Navy on Nov. 3.
Ragone has seen action in eight games, mostly on special teams, but he did pick up his first career reception (seven yards) against Navy. Romine played in two games before suffering an injury that has sidelined him the last six weeks.
Walker has handled the kicking duties the entire season. He is 5-of-9 on the season, including a career-best 48 yard kick at UCLA. Walker is the first left-footed kicker for Notre Dame since Harry Oliver in 1981.
MORE ON THE YOUTH
Notre Dame used a total of 61 players in the season opener against Georgia Tech. An incredible 31 of those players were either freshmen or sophomores, including five that started. Just over 50% of the players on the field were in their first or second year with the Irish. On the other hand, Georgia Tech started just one freshmen or sophomore and played only 19 first or second year players. The 31 freshmen and sophomores playing in a season opener stands as the most in Irish history. The previous high for first and second year players in a Notre Dame season opener came during the 1983 and 1989 seasons (29).
MORE ON THE FRESHMEN
Notre Dame used nine freshmen in its season opening loss to Georgia Tech. It was tied for the fourth most used in an opener since the freshman eligibility rule became enacted in 1972. The Irish used 11 freshmen in the 2006 opener against the Jackets. A total of 14 frosh played in the 36-13 win over Virginia in the 1989 Kickoff Classic and 12 saw action in the 52-6 blowout of Purdue in 1983.