Dec. 2, 2015
By John Heisler
Consider the oft-cited injury factor in assessing Notre Dame's 2015 football regular season.
Then take a look at the depth chart for the Notre Dame opener against Texas: It included starting QB Malik Zaire, starting RB Tarean Folston, starting TE Durham Smythe, rookie WR Equanimeous St. Brown, starting LB James Onwualu, starting CB KeiVarae Russell and experienced SAF Drue Tranquill, none of whom were in uniform for the finale at Stanford.
That long list of injuries meant 37 different players started at least once for Notre Dame in 2015.
-- Here are some statistical notes on the Irish after 12 games:
* Notre Dame's 214.8-yard rushing average ranked 24th nationally and rated as the best Irish figure since 1996 (269.5), Lou Holtz's final season as Notre Dame head coach.
* The 34.8-point scoring average ranked 32nd nationally and stood as Notre Dame's best since 36.7 in 2005.
* Notre Dame's 471.5 total offense average rated 25th nationally and the best by the Irish since 477.3 in 2005.
-- Here's where Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer finished the regular season:
* 34th nationally in completion percentage at .634, good for fourth on Notre Dame's single-season list (behind Jimmy Clausen, Tommy Rees and Brady Quinn)
* 23rd in passing efficiency at 151.7, tied for fifth on the Irish season chart
* 42nd in passing yards at 2,600-eighth on the Notre Dame season list
* 216.7 passing yards per game-10th at Notre Dame for a season
* 13.76 yards per completion
* 19 TD passes-tied for seventh on the Irish season list (with Ron Powlus)
* 9 rushing TDs-tied for first on Notre Dame season list (with Tony Rice and Rick Mirer)
* 34th in total offense at 258.3 yards per game-sixth on the Irish season chart
-- Notre Dame ranked tied for first in the nation in plays from scrimmage of 70 or more yards with six (tied with Arizona, Florida State and New Mexico). The Irish also were tied for sixth in plays of 60+ yards (8), tied for 13th in plays of 50+ yards, tied for 19th in plays of 30+ yards and 24th in plays of 10+ yards (203).
-- Irish wide receiver Will Fuller tied for second in receiving plays of 70+ yards (with 2). He was tied for fourth in receptions of 60+ (3), 40+ (8) and 30+ yards (14) and tied for fifth in plays of 20+ yards (20).
-- Notre Dame's cumulative schedule rates 41st in the NCAA toughest schedule rankings (Football Bowl Subdivision opponents only)-with Irish opponents combining for a 67-55 mark (.549). Brian Kelly's crew in 2015 faced #1 (AP) Clemson at 12-0, #7 Stanford at 10-2, #20 Temple at 10-2, #22 Navy at 9-2 and #24 USC at 8-4).
-- There currently are 12 FBS teams with 10 or more wins and this season there were four games with members of that group facing each other-and Notre Dame played in three of the four: Notre Dame-Clemson, Notre Dame-Temple and Notre Dame-Stanford.
-- Notre Dame was the only team in the country that played five teams ranked in the current College Football Playoff poll (versus #1 Clemson, #7 Stanford, #20 USC, #22 Temple and #23 Navy).
-- Thinking every Notre Dame opponent played a perfect game against the Irish in 2015? It was close. The Irish managed only 13 combined interceptions and recovered fumbles, as their foes kept mistakes to a bare minimum. That ranked Notre Dame tied (with Arizona, Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska) for 107th among Football Bowl Subdivision squads in turnovers gained. The only FBS teams with fewer were Mississippi State and Oregon State with 12 each, Stanford and Wake Forest with 11 each and Michigan with 10. The 2015 season marked the third time in five seasons Irish opponents combined for only 13 turnovers (also in 2011 and 2013).
-- Notre Dame defeated four eight-win teams in 2015 (Temple at 10-2, Navy at 9-2, USC and Pittsburgh at 8-4 each)-and no team in the country had more than four.
-- The Boston Red Sox announced Tuesday that the Irish Shamrock Series football game versus Boston College had a total visitor spending impact of $22.2 million in the Boston area-nearly 14 times more than a Red Sox regular-season game that typically generates about $1.6 million.
-- The Notre Dame/Stanford college football game had a 4.7 overnight rating on FOX Saturday night, the network's highest overnight for a regular season college game (not counting conference championships). The previous high was a 4.0 for Michigan State/Oregon early last season.
Overall, the 4.7 is the second highest for any college football telecast on FOX since 2010, the last time it aired BCS bowl games. Only the 2013 Michigan State/Ohio State Big Ten Championship Game had a higher rating in the metered markets (8.4). It is also the 10th-highest overnight of the season regardless of network, and the second-highest for a game involving Notre Dame - trailing only the Irish loss to Clemson on ABC in week five (4.8).
-- Notre Dame's defeat at Stanford Saturday marked the third time in Palo Alto and the eighth time in Irish history that Notre Dame has scored at least 36 points in a game and lost. Here are details on those eight games:
1993-Boston College 41, Notre Dame 39, at Notre Dame
1999-Stanford 40, Notre Dame 37, at Stanford
2004-Pittsburgh 41, Notre Dame 38, at Notre Dame
2005-Michigan State 44, Notre Dame 41 (OT), at Michigan State
2007-Navy 46, Notre Dame 44 (3 OTs), at Notre Dame
2009-Stanford 45, Notre Dame 38, at Stanford
2014-Northwestern 43, Notre Dame 40 (OT), at Notre Dame
2015-Stanford 38, Notre Dame 36, at Stanford
-- Wondering why Notre Dame road games are hot commodities for television? Notre Dame's six away-from-home contests in 2015 were decided by an average of five points per game (a combined 30 points-including two-pointers versus Clemson and Stanford, a three-pointer versus Boston College, a four-pointer versus Temple and a seven-pointer against Virginia). Four of those six games (Clemson, Temple, Boston College and Stanford) were slotted in prime time for television.
-- The 2015 season marks the 12th time in Notre Dame history the Irish have won 10 or more games during the regular season (also 10-1 in 1921, 10-0 in 1930, 10-0 in 1949, 10-0 in 1973, 10-1 in 1977, 11-0 in 1988, 11-1 in 1989, 10-1 in 1993, 10-2 in 2002, 10-2 in 2006 and 12-0 in 2012). In five other seasons (1924, 1970, 1974, 1991 and 1992) Notre Dame won nine games during the regular season and then added a 10th victory in a bowl game.
-- Stanford all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey touched the football 36 times Saturday night (27 rushes, three receptions, one punt return, five kickoff returns)-and Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith was involved in the tackle on McCaffrey on nine of those plays. Elijah Shumate and Romeo Okwara were next at six each. Fourteen different Irish players were involved in tackles on McCaffrey, including nine in the first period alone (when McCaffrey had a dozen all-purpose chances). The Irish held McCaffrey to 99 rushing yards after McCaffrey had hit the 100-yard mark in his last nine outings.
-- Notre Dame's alumni receiving corps combined for 25 catches for 241 yards and three TDs over last weekend in NFL action. Those numbers included seven catches for 50 yards and one TD by Golden Tate (Detroit), 7-53 for Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota), 5-62-1 for Theo Riddick (Detroit), 3-40-1 for Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati), 2-22 for Anthony Fasano (Tennessee) and 1-14 for Michael Floyd (Arizona).
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. Heisler produces a weekly football commentary piece for UND.com titled "Sunday Brunch," along with a Thursday football preview piece. He is editor of the award-winning "Strong of Heart" series. Here is a selection of other features published recently by Heisler:
-- DeShone Kizer: North of Confident, South of Cocky
-- Top 10 Things Learned About the Irish So Far in 2015:
-- Brey's Crew Receives Rings, Prepared to Raise Banner-and Moves On
-- Jim McLaughlin: New Irish Volleyball Boss Is All About the Numbers:
-- Men's Soccer Establishes Itself with Exclamation:
-- Australia Rugby Visit Turns into Great Sharing of Sports Performance Practices:
-- Bud Schmitt Doesn't Need a Map to Find Notre Dame Stadium:
-- Sunday Brunch: Irish Defeat Came That Close to Victory
-- Remembering Bob Kemp: Notre Dame Lacrosse Family Honors Devoted Father
-- Community Service a Record-Setting Event for Irish Athletics in 2014-15: