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Pregame Six Pack: Irish invade Dublin

Aug 31, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

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Football is finally here. And while I wasn’t able to watch South Carolina and Vanderbilt play one of their patented SEC slugfests, it’s good to know that it’s finally time to start talking about the games, instead of all the other rubbish that happens this time of year.

With thousands of fans from Navy and Notre Dame descending on the Emerald Isle, it’s time to finally kickoff the 2012 football season.

As usual here are six fun facts, tidbits, leftovers of miscellaneous musings as the Fighting Irish prepare to play the Midshipmen.

***

1. While the first month of the season has been tough on Notre Dame, the Irish have usually fared well in the season opener.

Nobody is likely to forget last season’s opening game debacle against USF, but overall the season opener hasn’t usually been the problem for the Irish. While most bemoan the front-loaded nature of recent Irish schedules, it’s actually been a good run for opening days in recent years.

Lou Holtz: 9-2
Bob Davie: 4-1
Ty Willingham: 2-1
Charlie Weis: 4-1
Brian Kelly: 1-1

The Irish have won 20 of their last 25 openers, logging a collective 102-16-5 record overall. But it’s been a decade since they’ve gotten out of September unscathed, dating back to that magical start to the Ty Willingham era.

Beating Navy this weekend is the first step. But getting on a roll and getting past Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State will have the Irish right back on the map and in the hunt for a BCS bid.

(Sounds easy, right?)

***

2. Starting away from home might not be a bad thing for rookie quarterback Everett Golson.

Ideally, you’d like your first-time starting quarterback to have the benefit of a home crowd and familiar surroundings. But the last time the Irish went on the road with a first-time starting quarterback things worked out just fine.

In 1994, the Irish started the much ballyhooed Ron Powlus era in Evanston, Illinois and the young quarterback certainly didn’t disappoint. Powlus threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns as the Irish routed Northwestern.

Since 1985, the Irish have debuted 20 quarterbacks. Sophomore Everett Golson will be the 21st. Fourteen of them won their openers, including a string of nine straight from 85-98. Let’s take a quick hop down memory lane…

1985 — Terry Andrysiak, Soph. 37-14 victory over Ol’ Miss.
1987 — Tony Rice, Soph. 35-14 victory over Air Force.
1987 — Kent Graham, Fr. 32-25 win over Boston College.
1990 — Rick Mirer, Soph. 28-24 win over No. 4 Michigan.
1991 — Paul Faila, Fr. 45-20 win over Purdue. (Played only first series.)
1993 — Kevin McDougal, Sr. 27-12 win over Northwestern.
1994 — Ron Powlus, Soph. 42-15 win over Northwestern.
1995 — Tom Krug, Jr. 44-14 win over Air Force.
1998 — Jarious Jackson, Sr. 36-20 win over No. 5 Michigan.
1998 — Eric Chappell, Jr. 10-0 loss to USC.
2000 — Arnaz Battle, Jr. 24-10 win over Texas A&M.
2000 — Gary Godsey, Soph. 23-21 win over Purdue.
2000 — Matt LoVecchio, Fr. 20-14 win over Stanford.
2001 — Carlyle Holiday, Soph. 24-3 loss to Texas A&M.
2003 — Brady Quinn, Fr. 23-10 loss to Purdue.
2007 — Jimmy Clausen, Fr. 31-10 loss to Penn State.
2007 — Evan Sharpley, Soph. 38-0 loss to USC.
2010 — Dayne Crist, Jr. 23-12 win over Purdue.
2010 — Tommy Rees, Fr. 28-3 win over No. 15 Utah.

We’ll find out if Golson’s debut is a footnote in Irish history or the beginning of a new era in Notre Dame quarterbacking.

***

3. If Navy’s passing game is going to give the Irish fits, it’ll have to do it without its two starting wide receivers.

It isn’t just Brian Kelly sitting key starters out for the season opener. Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has left starting wide receiver Brandon Turner home for a violation of team rules. Turner, at 6-foot-4, 225-pounds, was a red zone threat, solid blocker, and also  led the Midshipmen in receiving last season.

It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Turner, who failed his physical readiness test and missed a chunk of training camp. Quarterback Trey Miller will also be missing starter Matt Aiken with a knee injury that he suffered during fall camp. Still learning the intricacies of the triple option attack, Miller will be breaking in two new wide receivers, not exactly the plan heading into the season.

***

4. Even after an embarrassing loss last season, memories of a Navy victory are still fresh in the heads of the Midshipmen.

Last season’s 42-point domination by the Irish didn’t erase the positive memories Navy players had from their shocking 35-17 victory over the Irish in 2010. With Ricky Dobbs running the offense and Alexander Teich bulldozing his way through the middle of the Irish defense, Navy forced Dayne Crist into some bad decisions and the Midshipmen coasted to a 35-17 win.

It’s a victory many players from the team are going to draw on this Saturday.

“It was an awesome game. Offensively, everything was clicking. It just seemed like every play was working and everyone executed,” Howell told the Capital Gazette. “You put that many points and yards up on a high-caliber team and it’s a lot of fun.”

A win by Navy would give the Midshipmen seniors a stunning three victories in four years over the Irish, an accomplishment only done twice in school history (1937 and 1964).

“Beating them one year doesn’t necessarily make it easier to beat them next year. Notre Dame always has an entire roster of big-time players and we need to remember that,” lineman Josh Cabral said. “At the same time, I think we’ve developed a sense that if we go in there and play as hard as we can and execute at a high level we have a chance. Obviously, we have to play perfect football in a lot of areas in order to beat them.”

***

5. It takes quite a bit of work to turn the pitch into the gridiron.

There might not be a more unique stadium than the one the Irish and Midshipmen will battle in this weekend. Dublin’s Aviva Stadium hosts soccer and rugby matches, and will welcome Lady Gaga in a few weeks. But they had to do a little work to transform the stadium into a football field.

***

6. It may not be the easiest place to play a football game, but all the Irish players and coaches are thankful to be playing in Dublin.

Brian Kelly might have caught a little flack for saying he preferred playing his football games in South Bend than Dublin, but it’s clear that this is a great life experience for both players and coaches.

While the logistics and challenges of uprooting a football program and putting them in a foreign country add some complexities to an already difficult upcoming season, team captain Manti Te’o said it best.

“It’s my first time outside the United States,” Te’o told UND.com. “I don’t think you could do this anywhere else but here at Notre Dame. It’s a special place and they give us opportunities to explore not only the states but the world and I’m really humbled to be here and really grateful to be here.”

He’s certainly not the only one that feels that way.

  1. bendario - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    I believe the 1994 ND-Northwestern game was in Soldier Field, not Evanston.

    • nudeman - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:50 PM

      I believe that was also the high poinjt of Powlus’s career
      Jumped the shark in his very first game
      Got progressively worse every year, jut like … never mind

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:16 PM

      I also believe that was the game that caused Beano Cook to predict not 1, but 2 Heisman Trophies for Powlus. That and the Charlie Weis contract extension stand as the 2 biggest examples of “jumping the gun” in ND history.

      Keith, you know I love the pre-game 6 pack but that 5th beer was a little flat. The video saved it, however. Those guys erecting the goalpost sure had some big nuts.

      Anyway, work almost over and kickoff almost here, so all is good. Happy Labor Day to everybody (even you Mr. Asman) and GO IRISH!!!

      Prediction: ND over Navy 42-10 and Golson throws for two and runs for another score. Riddick gets 2 and special teams or the D comes up with the other.

      • nudeman - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:01 PM

        I’ve never been able to figure out Beano. I like his craggy personality and all and he seems like a great guy to have a shot & beer with
        But is he an ND hater? Or fond of them?
        He has no personal history with the program; think he was at Pitt, right?
        But he seems to have some sort of affection for ND

        I remember well the Powlus 2 Heismann comment; don’t know how much, if any pressure that added to him; mostly he was a drop back passer and Holtz had him running the option which was absurd. But frankly, he was a lousy passer too.
        I also remember hearing him talk how much he loved the ND Victory March
        And this one will blow your mind: I remember him RAVING about Matt Lovecchio in a win over USC (I think Lovecchio was probably about 5-9 for 43 yards).

    • 808raiderinparadise - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:23 PM

      I have a great feeling for Everett. but Cierre Woood is such an explosive back and so great to check-down passes and screens to ,I think Golson will miss him a bit. We will see.

    • joeschu - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      It was, and please Dear Sweet Lord in Heaven Above, please please please let it be the last and only time we ever hear EG compared with Powlus. He’s finally off the staff, right? Please tell me I’m right… send him to Kansas too.

  2. canadianndfan - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I too will never forget the opening game debacle vs USF. I was there in the end zone (section 20) with a bird’s eye view of Gray’s fumble, the QB change, turnovers, Personal foul penalities, among other miscues. Oh and the stadium evacuation…not once but twice. That being said that was then and this is now. I can’t remember the last time I was this stoked for a season to begin. All the new blood getting a chance to see the field…a fresh start with Golson….It’s been such a long off season! Can’t wait to see the boys kick it off tomorrow bright and early but especially can’t wait for Sept 22 vs Meatchicken….A game I will be attending…just not in section 20 this year…

  3. norvturnersneck - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Even though it’s not a home field, it isn’t an away game with a noisy crowd. It isn’t a neutral site either. I’d expect many ND fans to get behind our new QB.

    Go Irish!

  4. Andrew Lammers - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Love the blog. Thank you for forgetting Demetrius Jones’ 1st start. Ga Tech in 2007. L. 33-3. Negative 8 yards rushing (9 sacks). Wow.

  5. nudeman - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Wait … ND is opening in Ireland? No way
    WTF is next? Clint talking to an empty chair at a convention?

    Come on, MAN!

    • bb90grad - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:46 PM

      Per Patton Oswalt, the DNC will counter with Tommy Chong talking to a steak. Too funny. Back to football…

      • nudeman - Aug 31, 2012 at 2:59 PM

        Cheech & Chong got me through college
        Just sayin’ …

        If you’re too young to have heard this routine before, have a losten
        The record was actually better

      • bb90grad - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:08 PM

        Nude, I only turn 45 next week, but remember Sister Mary Elephant fondly.

    • NotreDan - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      I felt really sad watching the clips of Clint at the t-bag fest, he’s obviously senile and got played by those d-bags.

  6. 818irish - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    “but it’s clear that this is a great life experience for both players and coaches.”

    Bingo.

    Now take care of business Saturday and there will be nothing but glowing reviews of this experience…

    Go Irish!

    • nudeman - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      1. There is NO WAY they lose this game. If they are as improved as we all have been saying, they won’t/can’t lose this game. So I won’t bother speculating about how I’ll feel or what it will mean for the season if they lose.

      2. I am surprised by all those who are quaking in their shoes on this and other boards about that possibility. MAN THE F**K UP!
      This is THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME we’re talking about, gentlemen.

      3. Golson could have a truly great game against this team. They’re overmatched physically and he could have all sorts of time in the pocket.

      4. Everybody is expecting a breakout performance from GAIII, either this week or next or both. I’d be fine with that, but the guy I’d really love to see emerge is Chris Brown. This kid could be great from all we’ve read. And sounds like he’s faster than hell. Would be great to see K Russell stand out too. Not coincidentally WR and CB is where we need quality play the most.

      5. I still agree with Don’s prediction: 46-17; only problem is that assumes Navy will kick a FG and 2 XPs. Major assumption given their kicking woes.

      Turn up your speakers

      • 9irish - Aug 31, 2012 at 4:54 PM

        You know…I’m not normally a ESPN basher (probably should be), but I just watched an hour-long “College Football Live”…and they didn’t even mention the game. It’s Notre Dame…it IS in IRELAND at 9am tomorrow! didn’t mutter a word. Ah yes, it’s on CBS

      • don74 - Aug 31, 2012 at 5:37 PM

        Nude,

        I am with you. Although there are 3 losses in 5 years I don’t see this one as anything but a W. Not looking ahead, well at least not too much, I think next week will be a tester. Game over after 2nd drive 3rd Q. Heck, if we are going to worry about this one we might as well start the Gunner count down.

      • papadec - Aug 31, 2012 at 10:01 PM

        Ahhhhhhh thank you nude – I always get moist eyed when I hear the Irish Trumpets play. (you have to click on the additional item at the end) GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!

      • idratherbeinsouthbend - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:20 PM

        9irish,

        It’s not as much that ESPN is avoiding the promotion of the ND/Navy game, it’s simply that they don’t want to promote a game on “another” network (as they like to call it).

  7. 818irish - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    I expect them to start slow, but after that… I expect a 46-17 type Irish win. Navy’s offseason has been just this side of terrible.

    I’m most interested in watching the new talent… That’s what will drag my a** out of be at 6:00am tomorrow.

  8. mmcss690 - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Nude, I like your thinking. After last season fans are shell shocked and don’t want to get their hopes up. Gotta get past that and look to the inexperienced but talented Golson for renewed hope. (In Jesus’s name we pray, amen!)

    • ndgoldandblue - Aug 31, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      A letter from the book of Brian to the offensive line, “Lo and behold! Everett shall be your savior.”

  9. TriniND - Aug 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Someone should tell the folks at Aviva that they need to put up a second goalpost before we have another UI-NW Wrigley Field debacle on our hands. I nominate Keith since he’s closest

  10. barneysbullet - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    Any thoughts on the Alan Pinkett debacle?

    Man…I sure will miss him on IMG radio.

    • bernhtp - Aug 31, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      Allen really screwed up. You don’t mess with Notre Dame’s public and immutable identity. Even if getting a few criminals would bring the football team back to elite national contender status, it would do so by losing its identity qua Notre Dame. This is a trade no one that understands Notre Dame could possibly accept, let alone advocate.

    • vegasmark - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      Pat Forde wrote a good column defending ND on Yahoo…
      http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf–notre-dame-won-t-compromise-values-for-wins–so-deal-with-it.html

    • papadec - Sep 1, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      barney – I understand it’s only a one game suspension, and he’ll be back for the Purdue game. Interesting that he got a one game suspension for basically what he was advocating – breaking some rules. I don’t really think he was advocating real criminal behavior – I think he was looking more for attitude like Rees & Calabrese.

  11. irisheyesnate - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    @canadianndfan

    Yeah I was there too. I had 50 yrd line seats 23 rows up behind usf!

    Best game I have ever been to. Seat wise!
    We will pull through tomorrow morning!

    I won’t sleep tonite but, GO IRISH!!!!!!

  12. dbldmr - Aug 31, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    Oh please…please…no politics here. I’m assaulted with it everywhere. I don’t want to read about Obama, Romney or the tea party on this website. We have enough arguments about the quarterback; let’s keep our focus on the Irish. Mark Twain observed that America has no native criminal class except politicians.

    Go Irish!

  13. 10of14 - Aug 31, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    Nude can not sleep; he has begged for the QB change and a win should not be enough for him to get his due. A big win and a HUGE game at the QB spot better happen or he eats crow. Tommy is not my first choice, but I still think he is the best bet. We shall see if Nude gets his due; 23-34 for 299 and 3 Td’s and 1 rushing will convince me and allow me to bow to THE NUDE. BTW, Obama needs to quit smoking.

  14. idratherbeinsouthbend - Aug 31, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Any thoughts on the Michigan State or BYU games?

    From where i’m sitting, MSU is a one trick pony right now on offense….Bell, Bell, Bell…the guy is gonna have to carry the ball 40 times for MSU to win consistently. Front seven was stout against the trickery of Boise State and shut down the run with little effort, but it’s not clear if that’s a product of MSU defense or Boise’s lack of running game

    I think BYU improved from the first snap to the final whistle, but they’re not going to strike fear into the hearts of anybody this year.

    And finally….if your goal is to win a national championship or get to a BCS game, you’ve got to HATE being Boise State. Their loss to Michigan State almost GUARANTEES they can’t reach either of those goals….and it’s only the first week. Their only shot at either of those goals is for Michigan State to win out, and from what i saw tonight, that’s not gonna happen.

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 1, 2012 at 12:03 AM

      I was impressed with the way Bell ran but you’re right they’re going to be rather one dimensional and we should be more stout against the run than Boise State was tonight as I think have a better front seven. The new QB was decent but he’s no Cousins. A couple of his picks seemed to be more the fault of the WR than the QB.

      Boise State must be bummed that they can’t play the BCS buster role that they like so well, but at least they played a well fought game to the end. That feeling sucks. We should know as we’ve been there before……I remember talking to a friend at halftime of the USF game last year who said, “I can’t believe the season is over already.”

      We need a big turn around in our opener and I think we’ll be ok.

      • 9irish - Sep 1, 2012 at 1:51 AM

        MSU looked big….and you’re right, have to jam that running game. Boise St looked like they’ve gone down a peg (well, they were playing on a weird green field). Didn’t see any of BYU.

    • irishfb05 - Sep 1, 2012 at 2:06 AM

      Stanford didn’t look so good either.

      I’ve said all along Michigan State is overrated. The whole big ten is overrated. We dominated mich st last year yet somehow they are 13th….we also dominated michigan athletically just too many turnovers.

      Athletically there are only two teams on our schedule better than us…here is to hoping we finally play up to our potential

  15. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 1, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    Coach O’brien says, “Penn State stands for what is right.” I hope so at this point.

    • 9irish - Sep 1, 2012 at 1:40 AM

      However one would choose to interpret THAT! talk about an impossible situation. I hope the best for them to get out of that mess. I think if somebody like O’Brien had taken over 10 years ago, he would’ve said, “Wait a minute…WTF is going on here!” I think old Joe Pa cashed his chips in quite some time ago.

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