GAME 10: NOTRE DAME (5-4) vs. NAVY (6-3)
DATE: Saturday, November 15, 2008
TIME: 12:11 p.m. ET
SITE (CAPACITY): M&T Bank Stadium (70,008); Baltimore, Md.
TICKETS: The game is sold out. It is the 70th sellout in the last 77 road games for the Irish. The only non-sellouts include the 2001-07 games at Stanford, the 2004 game vs. Navy (The Meadowlands), the 2005 game at Washington and the 2006 game at Air Force.
TV: CBS national telecast with Craig Bolerjack (play-by-play), Steve Beuerlein (analysis), Steve Scheer (producer) and Jim Cornell (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), Navy (NavySports.com).
REAL-TIME STATS: Live in-game statistics will be provided through CBS College Sports Gametracker via each school's respective official athletic websites.
POLLS: Neither Notre Dame or Navy are receiving votes in either the Associated Press poll or USA Today coaches polls.
SERIES INFO: Notre Dame and Navy will play one another for the 82nd consecutive year on Saturday, making it the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. The Irish hold a 70-10-1 (.870) edge in the series, but the Midshipmen captured last year's meeting to break a 43-game Notre Dame winning streak in the series (NCAA record for longest streak against one opponent). Notre Dame and Navy have met every year since 1927, playing 51 times at neutral sites and 30 times at Notre Dame Stadium. (see All-Time Series Results on page 30).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Notre Dame has had little difficulty mounting up points (124) and yards (1,351) in its three meetings against Navy the past three seasons. In fact, the Irish have not punted against the Midshipmen since 2004. Notre Dame ran 90 plays in 2007, 62 plays in the 2006 and 70 plays in 2005. The Irish have gone 230 plays 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.
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 6-4 (.600) on the season and make the Irish bowl eligible.
Extend Notre Dame's winning streak over Navy on the road or neutral sites to 24 games -- a span dating back to the 1960 season.
Give the Irish victories in 44 of the last 45 meetings with the Midshipmen, including 25 of the last 26 away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve Notre Dame to 72-10-1 (.873) in the all-time series with Navy.
Improve the Irish to 45-6-1 (.875) in the all-time series with the Midshipmen at a neutral site.
Improve Notre Dame to 18-4 (.818) in the all-time series with Navy in Baltimore and 3-0 (1.000) against the Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 28-19 (.596) overall, 3-1 (.750) against Navy and 5-1 (.833) against Service Academies.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame neutral site record to 2-2 (.500) and games away from Notre Dame Stadium to 13-9 (.591).
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 11-5 (.688) in November games.
Improve Weis' Notre Dame record to 8-10 (.444) following a defeat.
Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 17-5 (.773) all-time against Navy.
Improve an unranked Notre Dame squad to 8-1 (.889) all-time against the Midshipmen away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Improve Notre Dame to 65-6 (.915) all-time against an unranked Navy squad.
Improve Weis' record to 22-15 (.595) in afternoon games.
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record against the Service Academies to 130-23-5 (.839).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record to 830-282-42 (.738).
Improve Notre Dame's all-time record on the road to 290-140-22 (.666).
A LOSS THIS WEEK WOULD...
Drop Notre Dame to 5-5 (.500) on the season.
Snap Notre Dame's winning streak over Navy on the road or neutral sites at 23 games -- a span dating back to the 1960 season.
Give the Irish consecutive losses to the Midshipmen for the first time since 1960-61.
Drop Notre Dame to 71-11-1 (.861) in the all-time series with Navy.
Drop the Irish to 44-7-1 (.856) in the all-time series with the Midshipmen at a neutral site.
Drop Notre Dame to 17-5 (.773) in the all-time series with Navy in Baltimore and 2-1 (.667) against the Midshipmen at M&T Bank Stadium.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 27-20 (.574) overall, 2-2 (.500) against Navy and 4-2 (.667) against Service Academies.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame neutral site record to 1-3 (.250) and games away from Notre Dame Stadium to 12-10 (.545).
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 10-6 (.625) in November games.
Drop Weis' Notre Dame record to 7-11 (.389) following a defeat.
Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 16-6 (.727) all-time against Navy.
Drop an unranked Notre Dame squad to 7-2 (.778) all-time against the Midshipmen away from Notre Dame Stadium.
Drop Notre Dame to 64-7 (.901) all-time against an unranked Navy squad.
Drop Weis' record to 21-16 (.568) in afternoon games.
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record against the Service Academies to 129-24-5 (.832).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record to 829-283-42 (.737).
Drop Notre Dame's all-time record on the road to 289-141-22 (.666).
IRISH TEAM NOTES
KEEP AN EYE ON THE UNUSUAL AGAINST NAVY
If history is any indication, expect the unexpected when Notre Dame takes on Navy this weekend. In six of the past 12 meetings between the Irish and Midshipmen, one of the two teams has scored at least one touchdown on defense or special teams. This recent trend began with the 1996 game in Dublin, Ireland, when Notre Dame defensive end Renaldo Wynn scored on a 24-yard fumble return. In 1999, Navy scored twice in an unorthodox manner, as Chris Oliver recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a TD and David Alexander scored on a 20-yard interception return. In 2000, Irish free safety Tony Driver tied an NCAA record with two fumble returns for touchdowns, both coming less than seven minutes apart in the first quarter at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. In 2001, Notre Dame strong safety Gerome Sapp got his team going with a 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the first quarter. In 2002, Irish cornerback/return specialist Vontez Duff ran back a third-quarter kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown to help the Irish defeat the Midshipmen in Baltimore. Then, last season Chris Kuhar-Pitters scooped up a fumble and rumbled 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Midshipmen a 28-21 lead.
WHO NEEDS A PUNTER?
Notre Dame has had little difficulty mounting up points (124) and yards (1,351) in its three meetings against Navy the past three seasons. In fact, the Irish have not punted against the Midshipmen since the meeting in 2004. Notre Dame ran 90 plays over nine drives in 2007, 62 plays over 10 drive in the 2006 and 70 plays over nine drives in 2005. The Irish have gone 230 plays 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.
LONG DAY AT THE STADIUM
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh played the longest game in Irish history earlier this season. Notre Dame had never seen a game enter the fourth overtime. The Irish dropped a three-overtime game to Navy in 2007. In fact, the Irish have dropped their last three games that have entered overtime.
The game lasted 4:01, which is longest in terms of time since the Michigan State game in 2005. In fact, no other game has ever gone longer since 2002 (when length of time was included on box scores).
Notre Dame and Pittsburgh combined for 160 total plays in the game (the Panthers ran 77, while the Irish ran 83).
The 83 plays for Notre Dame are the most this season and most since the Irish ran 90 last year against Navy.
IRISH GETTING OFF TO A FAST START
For the first time in the last four games, Notre Dame did not put together a scoring drive on its opening possession of the game last week against Boston College (three touchdowns and a field goal), being forced to punt. The Irish have scored on their opening drive five times this season.
The Notre Dame defense once again got off to a fast start. The Irish defense has surrendered just six total first half points over the past three games. Notre Dame shutout Washington in the opening 30 minutes before limiting Pittsburgh to only a first half field goal and holding Boston College to a field goal, with the only Eagle touchdown being on an interception return. In fact, the Irish have not allowed a first half touchdown on defense since the Stanford game on Oct. 4.
Notre Dame has completely dominated both Washington and Pittsburgh in the opening half. The Irish outgained the Huskies, 238-38, in the first 30 minutes. Notre Dame also had 13 first downs, compared to Washington's three. The Irish outgained the Panthers, 240-71, in the first half. Notre Dame recorded 12 first downs to Pittsburgh's five.
The Irish forced the Panthers into three first half punts, including three three-and-out drives. Pittsburgh's longest drive of the first half went for just 48 yards.
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.
Notre Dame exploded out of the gates with a pair of touchdowns to grab a 14-0 first quarter lead 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).
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.
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.
IRISH ON THE DEFENSE
The Notre Dame defense stepped up in adverse conditions to keep the Irish in the game against Boston College. Notre Dame held the Eagles to 3-of-14 on 3rd down conversion attempts while holding the Eagles to 246 yards. This marked the second time in three games that the Irish held their opponent under 250 total yards (124 total yards by Washington on Oct. 25). Notre Dame last held two opponents in a three game span under 250 total yards was during the 2006 season (North Carolina and Army).
The Irish limited Boston College to just 10 offensive points. The Eagles other touchdown came on an interception return. The Eagles only touchdown drive, which covered just 48 yards, followed sophomore WR Golden Tate's muffed punt.
Notre Dame limited Boston College quarterback Chris Crane to just a completion percentage of 40.9% (9-of-22) and 79 yards -- the fewest allowed this year by the Irish.
Notre Dame forced six three-and-outs in the game and nine of Boston College's 14 drives gained seven or fewer yards. In fact, the Irish have forced 15 three-and-outs in last three games.
The Irish did not register a defensive penalty the entire game.
In the final 2007 NCAA stats, Notre Dame ranked 72nd in scoring defense (28.75), 39th in total defense (357.00) and 96th in rushing defense (195.42).
Over the season's first nine games, the Irish have seen major improvements in all three categories.
Over the entire Washington game and the opening quarter against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame's first team defense allowed 61 total yards on 47 plays - good for an average of 1.3 yard per play. In fact, the Irish forced eight three-and-outs on defense in 12 opponent drives.
Pittsburgh did not convert a first down until the 11:50 of the second quarter.
The Panthers had 11 possessions in regulation. Notre Dame forced Pittsburgh into a trio of three-and-outs before overtime. The Irish have now forced nine three-and-outs in their opponents last 20 drives in regulation.
Simply put, Notre Dame registered its top defensive game in recent memory at Washington. The Irish limited the Huskies to only 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 were 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 12 in their last four games.
Notre Dame also limited the Huskies to just nine first downs, but five came 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.
STEPPING UP ON THE SHORT FIELD
Notre Dame defense held Boston College to a field goal in the first half, despite the fact the Eagles started three of their first four drives in Irish territory. On the three drives that began on the Notre Dame half of the field, Boston College failed to score.
The Eagles eventually benefitted from a total of five drives that began inside Irish territory, but Notre Dame limited them to only one touchdown.
Notre Dame's opposition has started 15 different drives this season in Irish territory. The Irish defense has limited their opponent to just six scores (five touchdowns, one field goal) on those 15 possessions. In fact, Notre Dame has allowed just 10 points (touchdown, field goal) on its opponents last seven drives that began inside the 50-yard line.
IRISH MOVING THE BALL UP AND DOWN THE FIELD
Prior to last weekend's surprising performance against Boston College, Notre Dame's offense had grown up so-to-speak over the previous five games. The Irish had eclipsed 430 yards of total offense four times and averaged 444.6 yards per game in the stretch.
Notre Dame gained 459 yards of total offense against Washington. The Irish have surpassed the 450-yard barrier in total yards in three of the last five weeks. In fact, Notre Dame had 430+ total yards over four consecutive 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 PLAYS
Sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen completed just one pass of over 20 yards last week against Boston College.
Clausen now has 32 completions of over 20 yards on the season. He connected on just 13 in 10 games as a freshman a year ago.
The Irish had six passing plays of at least 30 yards in the entire 2007 season. Not only does sophomore WR Golden Tate have more by himself (10), but Notre Dame has 18 as team though nine games.
Sophomore WR Golden Tate had a 42-yard punt return with 3:54 left in the 3rd quarter, the longest of the season for both Tate and the Irish. It was the longest punt return for a Notre Dame player since Tom Zbikowski had a 60-yard punt return in the victory over Stanford in the 2007 season finale.
The five freshmen starters are the most for the Irish since six rookies were in the starting lineup in the 2007 season finale at Stanford.
Robinson became just the fifth freshman to start a game on the Irish offensive line at any point, joining an elite club that includes teammate junior OT Sam Young (the entire 2006 season), Ryan Harris (final eight games of 2003), Brad Williams (vs. Navy and Boston College in 1996) and Mike Rosenthal (vs. Ohio State, USC and Air Force in 1995).
Notre Dame's freshman duo of WR Michael Floyd and TE Kyle Rudolph each established school records for receptions by first year players at their respective positions. Floyd's total is also a record for any position.
Floyd not only holds the rookie records for receptions and receiving touchdowns, but he also surpassed Tony Hunter's previous school record (690) for receiving yards by a freshman.
Notre Dame played a total of nine true freshmen and 13 sophomores in the game against Pittsburgh.
The Irish played 53 different players against the Panthers and 22 have at least two years of eligibility remaining after this season.
The Irish have scored 28 touchdowns already this season and 23 have come from either freshmen or sophomores, including all three scores in today's game. The only touchdowns scored this season by upper classmen were junior RB James Aldridge (3) and senior WR David Grimes (2).
The 23 of 28 touchdowns by underclassmen does not include sophomore QB Jimmy Clausen, who has tossed 18 touchdown passes this season.
Notre Dame not only started two freshmen against Washington, but also played a total of nine true freshmen in the game, including the first career appearance for TE Joseph Fauria.
Washington ran 26 plays in the first half and not one inside the 50-yard line. By contrast, 27 of Notre Dame's 42 plays were run inside Huskies' territory.
Notre Dame's average 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.
Notre Dame's turnover difficulties continued last week in the loss at Boston College. The Irish turned it over five different times (four interceptions and a fumble). That does not include a blocked punt that led to the Eagles only offensive touchdown.
The Irish were minus-five in turnover margin against Boston College, which was the identical spread Notre Dame found itself against North Carolina earlier this season. Notre Dame has registered a minus-five effort in the turnover department just three times since the start of the 2002 season and two have come in the last four games.
The Irish have a minus-13 turnover margin in their four games away from Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame has forced just one turnover (Michigan State), while the Irish have committed 14 turnovers along the way, including a pair of five turnover games (Boston College and North Carolina).
Notre Dame forced four Stanford turnovers in its victory on Oct. 4. Over their last four games, the Irish have forced three turnovers and all three came against Pittsburgh. Notre Dame has not forced a single turnover in three of the four games, including last week at Boston College. The last time Notre Dame failed to force a single turnover three times in a four-game span --- Nov. 3 (Navy), Nov. 10 (at Tennessee) and Nov. 17 (Penn State) of 1990.
After failing to record a turnover in two games against Washington and North Carolina, Notre Dame picked off three passes against Pittsburgh. The Irish had a +3 advantage in turnover margin. In fact, Notre Dame had not lost a game when owning a +3 advantage in the turnover department since Sept. 4, 1999 when the Irish lost at Michigan, 26-22.
Notre Dame did not force a turnover in the victory over Washington and did not force one in consecutive games (also included the North Carolina game). The Irish had 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.
Notre 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.
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 WEALTH
Sophomore 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 five games. In fact, Clausen has connected with at least seven receivers in four of Notre Dames nine games, including a season-high eight against San Diego State.
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' 46 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 27 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.
Freshman WR Michael Floyd and sophomore WR Golden Tate each surpassed 100 yards receiving against Pittsburgh. They are the first Irish tandem to eclipse 100 yards receiving in the same game since Jeff Samardzija and John Carlson both eclipsed the century mark against Michigan State in 2006.
Notre Dame has recorded seven 100-yard receiving games from the wideout tandem of Floyd and Tate this season. The Irish had just one such game in 2007 (Tate against Purdue). Notre Dame had 19 combined in 2005 and 2006.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
Over its last three games entering Boston College, Notre Dame had made major improvements on third down. The Irish had converted 46.9% (23-of-49) on third down. Notre Dame had converted just 33.8% (22-of-65) over its first five games.
However, Notre Dame struggled on third down in the loss to the Eagles. The Irish converted just 5-of-15 (33.3%) last week.
Notre Dame's defense continued its strong play on third down last week against Boston College. The Irish limited the Eagles to just 3-of-14 (21.4%). Notre Dame now ranks tied for 28th in the NCAA FBA in opponents' third down conversion percentage (33.9).
Notre 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.
Notre 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.
Tate leads the Irish in receiving yards (742), second in receptions (43) and second in total touchdowns (6). He also ranks second in receiving touchdowns with five.
Allen leads the Irish in rushing yards (457), yards per rush (4.5, among backs with at least 10 carries) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (2).
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).
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.
NOT THAT FAR OFF FROM 2006
One can draw quite a comparison between the 2008 Notre Dame team through its first nine games, statistically, to the 2006 club at the same point 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.
Beyond age and experience, the most obvious difference between the two squads lies in turnovers.
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 will each 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.
NOTRE DAME AWAY FROM THE FRIENDLY CONFINES
Notre Dame opened its home schedule with four consecutive wins before a loss to Pittsburgh. The Irish, though, dropped their first two road games this season before picking up a victory two weeks ago at Washington. Notre Dame lost another road game last week at Boston College.
Notre Dame is 1-3 on the road this season, despite a defense that has allowed just 259.5 yards per game. The Irish are also limiting their opponents to just over 130 yards per game in the air and 47.6% completion percentage.
Notre Dame's problem has been simple. Turnovers. The Irish have turned it over 14 times in their four road games, while forcing just one turnover.
Notre Dame is 11-7 on the road in Charlie Weis' four-year tenure at Notre Dame. In the eight years prior to Weis arrival, the Irish were just 14-22 (389) in road contests. In fact, Notre Dame recorded only 12 road victories in the previous seven years (1998-2004).
NOTRE DAME WINNING TIME-OF-POSSESSION BATTLE
While Notre Dame's offense has been piling up the yardage this season (averaging 375.0 yards per game), it also has won the time of possession battle in five of nine games this season. Not too much surprise, three of the four times the Irish have not held an advantage in time of possession came in losses (Michigan State, Pittsburgh and Boston College). Overall, Notre Dame averages 31:12 minutes per game with the ball, compared to 28:48 for its opponents.
QUITE AN EARLY TURNAROUND
Notre 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 5-4 on the season, which is still four-game improvement from the same point of the season in 2007 when the Irish were 1-8.
NOTRE DAME'S OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT AMONG THE BEST IN THE NATION
Entering this weekend's action, Notre Dame's 132.75 yards-per-game improvement for the Irish offense this season is rated tops in the nation, ahead of a list that includes Oklahoma, Penn State, Georgia and Utah.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
Notre 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?
Notre Dame is now 100-15-5 in season openers, but have they been foretelling of the season ahead? Take a look:
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.
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 .583 winning percentage in such games (7-5).
FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Notre 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.
2008 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Below is a look at Notre Dame opponents' results from last week. Since 1977, when the NCAA started rating strength of schedule, Notre Dame's schedule has been rated the most difficult five times in the last 30 years (1978, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995).
LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE '08
Every spring after spring drills, the Irish coaching staff votes on the Leadership Committee, which head coach Charlie Weis brought to Notre Dame in 2004. The Leadership Committee consists of players who serve in an advisory role.
IN FRONT OF A FULL HOUSE
Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 210 of its previous 241 games, including 85 of its last 93 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.