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Pregame Six Pack: There’s no place like home

Nov 16, 2012, 1:07 AM EDT

Kapron Lewis-Moore, Manti Te'o, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin

Saturday ends another autumn of football at Notre Dame. When the No. 3 Fighting Irish run out of the tunnel against 5-5 Wake Forest, a contingent of 29 seniors will be honored for their commitment to their university. Some, like Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert, have carried the flag for the program as they ascended back into the national championship conversation. Others, like walk-ons Blake Brelua and Grant Patton, will be honored for contributions never seen by 80,000 fans.

Every member of this senior class contributed something to the success of the Irish, already 10-0 and heading deeper into uncharted territory. And with a home crowd down to its final opportunity to cheer on this unlikely title contender, Saturday’s game — even if it looks lopsided on paper — is must-see television.

With the Fighting Irish and Demon Deacons set to do battle Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, let’s run through six tidbits, fun facts, leftovers, and miscellaneous musings in the pregame six pack.

***

For Notre Dame, it’s time to protect their house.

An Under Armor slogan hardly belongs in a stadium adorned by adidas, but it’s been a long time since the Irish have projected their own house. If the Irish handle their business Saturday afternoon, the Irish will complete an undefeated home schedule for the first time since 1998.

“One of our goals, a tangible goal for us, was to protect our home field,” said Kelly earlier this week. “We felt, I think everybody in the program felt, that if you want to take that next step in terms of success, you’ve got to win at home.”

It’s been a downright mediocre stretch of football in South Bend for the Irish. As Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated points out, in the post-Davie era (to his credit, Davie sported a .774 winning percentage at home, only a tick worse than Lou Holtz’s .792 clip), Notre Dame Stadium turned into a neutral site, with both Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis struggling to play much better than .500 football at home.

Outside of Willingham’s first season at Notre Dame and Weis’ second year, the Irish have lost multiple games at home in every season since 2000. The ugly days started to become the norm at home, with blowout losses all but ruining the tenures of Kelly’s two predecessors. Willingham couldn’t survive drubbings like the 37-0 to Florida State in 2003 or the 41-16 loss to Purdue in 2004. Disappointing games like Michigan’s shocking upset of the Irish 47-21 in 2006 gave way to embarrassing home train wrecks in 2008 and 2009, when the Irish lost on Senior Day to an abysmal Syracuse team and had a November collapse that included losses to Navy and UConn.

After five home losses in his first two seasons in South Bend, Kelly seems to have righted the ship in the W-L column, even if he’s still tinkering with the formula that’ll help his team play better at home. When asked if he thought it possible to replicate the type of success Bob Stoops has had playing at home in Oklahoma, Kelly was unequivocal.

“Yeah, if I stayed employed here long enough,” Kelly said with a laugh. “That’s the toughest part. If you can stay one place long enough, you’ve got a chance to do that.”

***

Just because Bob Diaco is on the head coaching radar doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere.

As you’d expect from the coordinator of the country’s No. 1 scoring defense, Bob Diaco is getting a lot of mention as the head coaching carousel heats up. With rumored openings soon to turn to vacancies, expect the Irish defensive coordinator to get his tires kicked more than a few times. To his credit, Brian Kelly knows that.

“I want to provide all my coaches an opportunity.  If it advances their career to a leadership position, we want to be able to give them that opportunity,” Kelly said.

It’s been quite some time since an Irish assistant had the opportunity to take a high-profile head coaching job. (I’m excluding Charley Molnar’s UMass hire from this discussion.) Most focus on Barry Alvarez’s departure from Lou Holtz’s Irish staff to take over the Wisconsin program as the perfect succession plan. While that scenario looks to be playing out with Diaco taking on more leadership responsibility with his promotion to assistant head coach, the youthful Diaco still has some learning to do. Not to mention some unfinished business.

“Quite frankly, we don’t spend much time talking about it,” Kelly said. “You know Bob. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t come to Notre Dame to be the head coach somewhere else.  He came to Notre Dame to help win a national championship. We got a lot of the work left.  But if the right situation comes for Bob and he comes to me and asks me to give him advice on it, I certainly will.”

There is a ton to like about Bob Diaco the head coaching candidate. His passion, his energy, and his ability to connect with young people as a coach and a recruiter. That said, he’s far from a finished product, and he still displays some of his struggles with the media, as first shown in his debut season in South Bend, when his post-Navy interview went viral.

Diaco is loyal to Kelly and his family loves life in South Bend. But if a major BCS program comes knocking at the door, that offer might be a tough one to turn down. But with the Irish defense still pointed upwards, there’s no hurry for Diaco to leap at an opportunity. And that’s one of the big reasons I see him staying at Notre Dame for another year.

***

On the subject of staying in South Bend, expect Zack Martin to anchor an elite class of fifth-year players.

Brian Kelly has signed a few coveted six-star recruits in wide receiver Michael Floyd and linebacker Manti Te’o. Both turned down big NFL contracts to return for their final season at Notre Dame. Expect left tackle Zack Martin to add his name to that list, giving Kelly three straight years of keeping an elite player with NFL aspirations on campus.

Martin doesn’t have the upside of a Floyd or Te’o, mostly because he lacks the elite size needed at left tackle to be among the draft’s top picks. But the 6-foot-4, 304-pound senior captain is an integral part of the Irish offense and will win his third-straight Guardian of the Year award along the Irish front. Martin hasn’t allowed a sack since the second possession of the season opener. And he’ll add some much-needed continuity on an offensive line that’ll need to replace Braxston Cave and Mike Golic.

A three-year starter at left tackle already, Martin will have the chance to do some special things for the Irish and continue to carry the leadership torch for the team as they say goodbye to the emotional heart of the Irish.

***

A lot of time will be spent saying goodbye to Manti Te’o. But the Irish did themselves well by recruiting another terrific Hawaiian in Robby Toma.

For a guy who was considered part of the cost of recruiting Manti Te’o, Robby Toma has emerged as a legitimate threat at receiver for the Irish. The diminutive best friend of the Irish’s star linebacker, the 5-foot-9 Toma has been more than just a tag-along, racking up a respectable career line of 56 catches and 596 yards heading into Saturday’s game.

Just as important, he’s stabilized the slot receiver position after Theo Riddick moved back to running back, giving Kelly a player cut from the perfect mold of a teammate.

“It’s enjoyable to go out to practice because he’s always got a smile on his face and he’s always competing. He’s a competitive kid,” Kelly said this week. “Doesn’t matter what it is, he wants to win in it. He has always got something funny to say, a bit of a wise cracker.  I kind of like that about him.

“And he’s a really good football player and helped our football team this year. Great personality. We’re lucky that we were able to get him in our program as well.”

While the highly touted Shaq Evans couldn’t handle the coaching transition that brought Kelly and the spread offense to South Bend, the system, and fresh start, helped Toma thrive.

Not bad for a kid who’s best recruiting attribute was thought to be the fact that he was Manti Te’o’s best friend.

***

Bowl options are beginning to emerge in life after the BCS.

While the Irish are finding out first hand the complications that come along with an undefeated late-season run, the early dominoes are starting to fall in the quest to understand what life will look like in college football after the BCS is disbanded. With Jack Swarbrick signing a scheduling-agreement with the ACC for football and Notre Dame tying into the conference’s allotment for bowls, the Orange Bowl announced a lucrative pact with ESPN that’ll pay out $55 million annually to the participants of the game, pitting the ACC champion against either an SEC or Big Ten opponent, with the Irish also getting the opportunity to play twice in the next 12 years.

“The Orange Bowl qualifies as one of the most prestigious events in college football’s postseason and Notre Dame has played a part in that history, three times playing number-one ranked teams in our five previous appearances,” Swarbrick said. “We are honored to partner with two of the premier conferences, the SEC and the Big Ten, to make certain the ACC will have a top-flight opponent on a regular basis.”

The appearance of being limited to only two games in twelve year has some Irish fans scratching their heads, but the complete bowl picture hasn’t fully emerged. With the four-team playoff likely including the Orange Bowl as one of six bowls in the rotation for the semifinals, just how restrictive this collaboration will be is still being figured out. The Irish have only played in five Orange Bowls in their history with the last time coming 17 years ago, so any inclusion in the game might be victory enough.

***

Seniors staying, seniors going. A quick look as we try and forecast 2013.

We’ve already stated that Zack Martin is set to come back for his final year of eligibility. But after years of running short on numbers across the board, the Irish will need to make some difficult decisions on who will be welcome back for a fifth year of eligibility, with nine scholarship players eligible to apply for a fifth season.

Here’s our snap take on how this will all play out.

Carlo Calabrese — Returning
Tyler Eifert — Heading to the NFL
Dan Fox — Returning
Jake Golic — Graduating
Zack Martin — Returning
Tyler Stockton — Graduating
Nick Tausch — Graduating
Chris Watt — Returning
Cierre Wood — 50/50

I’ve heard conflicting reports on Cierre Wood’s final year of eligibility, but the senior did note on his Facebook page that he was preparing for his final game at Notre Dame. Wood, who despite missing the season’s first two games to suspension and conceding his starting job to Theo Riddick is averaging 6.3 yards a carry, has put plenty on film to show him worthy of an NFL draft pick. That said, he could elevate that spot with a final season that’d have him getting the bulk of carries for an Irish offense that should be vastly improved next season.

With an 85 man limit on scholarships, who stays will also likely be determined by how the Irish finish their recruiting class. The Irish would take the commitment of up to four more players, with that number flexing depending on attrition and medical hardships for Cam Roberson and Brad Carrico. (Tate Nichols’ health is also a true question mark.) It’s also worth adding to the wildcard list Jamoris Slaughter, who is applying for a sixth-year of eligibility after battling injuries for large portions of multiple seasons.

 

  1. yaketyyacc - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:10 AM

    great article Keith. you put us on the practice field, in the coaches office, in the press ox and fill in knowlege that completes a beter game experience. boy are we spoiled. able to watch the Irish on tv every week, to be 10-0 and have Keith Arnold fillling in the rest. thank you Keith Arnold

    • upthera44 - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      Agreed, excellent writing and analysis. Thanks Keith. It sounds like there is a lot of talent and experience coming back next year (esp O-Line) and when combined with the young players, so much potential.

    • ndfaithful - Nov 17, 2012 at 9:52 AM

      Agreed! Great article KA. You’d be undefeated this year too if they kept score in journalism.

      And congratulations to the senior class at Notre Dame. No matter what happens in the last three games, they will go down as a class that brought back the fight in the Fighting Irish. I think they’ve got three more wins left in the tank and I can’t wait to see them finish strong.

      I sure hope ND can come out and get a big win today like the pollsters like. I’d be very happy with a 1 point victory, but I see it more like ND 34, Wake Forest 0. I really don’t think they’ll score today. And somehow, I think we’ll make our 34 points look ugly and the media will grumble and the boys here will complain and life will go on…

      Let’s finish strong at home guys,
      GO IRISH!!!

  2. norcalirish - Nov 16, 2012 at 6:09 AM

    Man, I can’t believe it’s almost over…what a ride.

    I have a good feeling about this game…hopefully I’m right. Moving on, the more I think about it I’m confident that Teo is going to will us to a win at sc. Growing up an sc fan and his last game in college? No way he’s gonna lose.

    Get up big, play everybody, rest up for the team down south.

  3. gilessm - Nov 16, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    It’s my understanding that bowl revenues of ACC teams go to the conference, not the individual teams. The money is then equally distributed. I was told this by an administrator of an ACC school about 2 years ago. If this is still true then I wonder what that means for Notre Dame who won’t officially be a member of the ACC but could represent the conference in the Orange Bowl.

    • bogtrottin - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      the press release stated that ND would get an “undisclosed amount”, but less than what a conference would have received. i’m sure that was a fun negotiation for swarbrick, to settle on what that amount would be.

  4. irishadrian - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    Anyone hear anything on Prestwood ? Any chance he could come back ? Hope he’s ok.

    • bernhtp - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      He’s gone – seems for academic performance – and likely won’t return. Only super-studs that show academic performance elsewhere with a renewed commitment are given another chance. I don’t think that fits Jordan, unfortunately.

  5. dapperdanirish - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Keith, two random questions:

    1) do you hang out anywhere in particular on campus before the game?

    2) What are the chances Tee Shepherd ends up back at ND?

    • dmac4real - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      Answer to #2:

      Zero. From Kelly “That ship has sailed.”

      Also, KeiVarea Russel is everything we wanted Tee to be, so Im not to sad about it all, but it would be nice to have him.

      • nudeman - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Tee has not even played football in at least 2 years

      • dmac4real - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        …….

        What about it?

      • nudeman - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        When the Tee-mania was going on last year, I made an educated guess that he might never play again. It just had bad feel to it.

        He missed his senior year (can’t remember why; might have been a transfer), then the 6 week circus while “enrolled” at ND. It was obvious he was getting little or no direction from any adult in his life and now 2 years have come and gone without him growing as football player, and getting no position or strength training, etc.

        So it’s sad. He has to take some responsibility, but mostly has been very poorly served by his parents/ Now his football career will probably never re-start.

      • dmac4real - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:22 PM

        Ill make a guess that he will play again.

        But it really makes no sense that he isnt enrolled somewhere by now.

    • nudeman - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      1) Re: my feud with another guy here, I own what I’ve posted, aspire to do better and hope my nemesis embraces that idea as well.
      2) Let me take a stab at answering the Tee thing: NFW
      3) Anyone know when they’ll sell those practice jerseys at the bookstore?
      4)How many here voted based on “gifts they will get from a candidate”? Jesus … just when you thought they couldn’t get any dumber …
      5) My #1 choice for a sodium pentothol injection: The USC student manager
      6) NotreDan … vulva updates?
      7) If Tom Hammond got the axe, who’d you want? I’d say Dan Hicks, but he’s married to Hannah (ND Grad) so he prob wouldn’t get it.
      8) ND has a good chance to close the recruiting season strong: AQM &Redfield
      9) You’ve GOT to watch the YouTube clip below. If you thought ‘Bama fans were below the Mendoza IQ line, wow. And you might want to keep the speakers down in the event you’re in a multi racial setting.
      10) Predicted 24-7 ND and will stick with that. But if I was forced to revise it, I’d go 19-7. Betting on a “slog” vs a romp. Either way, 11-0 going into USC.

      THIS VIDEO WAS DELETED BY KEITH… WHO THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY, SCARY, RIDICULOUS, AND ALL THE THINGS EVERYBODY PROBABLY THINKS, BUT ALSO ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT SHOULDN’T BE ON THIS WEBSITE DUE TO ABOUT 12,0000 TERRIBLE WORDS.

      • domer77blowsgoats - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:45 PM

        Great delete Keith

        no need for such videos and statements from him such as “c**t hair” on a public forum

        resorting to vulgarity and profanity only degrades the overall interaction on this board

      • fentocamarillo - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM

        Nude

        A few comments regarding the above.

        #3. They are sold out for the year. Good news for you however, the sweaty jockstraps are still available. That should add to your ongoing collection.

        #4. It’s bad enough putting up with your TR bashing. If you don’t mind please refrain from any political commentary. Here’s a thought, let’s revisit your comment in four years. Then we’ll see if you like being a socialist.

        #5. I am Born and bred in Southern California. While I can’t stand USC, that comment is just stupid. You’re beginning to really stretch for things to say. “Couldn’t get any dumber.”

        #6. Wow I am shocked that you have any knowledge of the female anatomy. Keith, I thought you’re trying to clean this posting site up a bit. Having seen the nude postings over the past couple of days I believe some serious Censorship is in order. “Couldn’t get any dumber.”

        #7. Seriously nude, Happy faces are reserved for children under 12. Please refrain from that in the future. It really doesn’t look right. I mean,you have an image to keep up, right? ” Couldn’t get any dumber”

        Forever Irish.
        Fento

      • nudeman - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        Strange … Fento and Goat consistently show up here at the same time
        That’s “odd” in a UAW sort of way

        Don’t like my posts? I don’t care. Not even a little
        Don’t read them. I’m not here to please you, regardless of the screen name you’re using

        Regardless, I’m not engaging in any more crap
        So knock yourself out on your own

      • onebigloadofcrap - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        i don’t post her often but do read every day … i am sick of the goat and nude feud … nude gets a bad rap here imho … occasionally steps over the line, but is tongue in cheek more often than not … how does the goat complain about vulgarity when his screen ID is so vulgar? “blow goats”? come on dude …nude made a good faith offer to aspire to better or however he put it and goat blasts back with a bunch of toxic bs … am i the only one who caught that … it is pretty obvious that fento and goat are the same person … you don’t really do a very good job of disguising it sir … if you don’t like nudeman posts don’t read them and confine your damn comments to football … go irish, beat wake

      • fentocamarillo - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:05 PM

        Onebigloadof crap,

        Generally, I kinda agree with you, except PLEASE do not mistake me for the goatblower. We are most assuredly not one in the same. BTW, I also am not nudeman.

        I rarely post, as do you, but occasionally I have had enough and need to comment. My apologies if I have offended anyone, but frankly enough is enough from the both of them. The ongoing cheap shots from nude are driving me away from what is otherwise an insightful and enjoyable read. I appreciate all of Keith’s efforts. Lately, however, nude has taken to a new level of vulgarity and, while I am no prude, just pretty much sick of his boorish attempt at humor.

        By the way, nude, if you truly have the need to unveil my identity, just let me know. I have no problem with that. I do not use some cheesy screen name like the aforementioned duo. I am a graduate of the University and my name is Fenton. Sorry to burst your pathetic bubble. Now go hide. Next to bashing 18 year olds, that is your next best quality.

        Fento

      • onebigloadofcrap - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:49 PM

        fenton, i don’t really understand the challenge of revealing my identity so i’ll pass on that thanks … i also don’t find nudesters posts any more vulgar than anyone elses here … a series of events on this board goes like this ; nude poasts something about the game, the guy with the vulgar screen name comes on and blasts nude … nude should leave it there, but blasts back … goat is more often than not overly concerned with nudes posts and is the instigator … i guess that’s it and my last word on this subject

  6. nd78gracehall - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Thanks Keith, as always, informative and helpful.

    Boy, I’d love to see Slaughter return. Don’t you agree that he was probably the next guy after Manti we coudn’t afford to lose on D going into the season? I know Tuiitt and Nix are studs, but we were so young, so thin in the secondary, I thought if we lost Slaughter all bets were off. What a job the coaches have done. That said, we are going to miss Motta (boy did that kid step up this year) and his big hits. Slaughter was that guy the year before and it would be wonderful to have him back.

    Any precedent on the 6th year thing? Does he have any real chance to return?

    Thanks.

    • dudeacow - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      If he doesn’t come back, I’m really gonna miss not being able to make the pun, “wow, he really slaughtered that player with that hit” every time he tackled someone. Great name.

  7. dapperdanirish - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Thanks for the feedback about the Tee question. I share your opinions. Was just curious what others thought.

    I tend to agree with Nude about the feel of tomorrow’s game. I would love to see 35+ points, but feel that 27 is probably the ceiling given the style of offense. I think the D rises to the occasion with a solid day.

    • italianirish - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      I’m hoping we get way ahead early. Not for the “style points” factor, but so we can put in some of those seniors who never got a chance to see the field.

    • oldestguard - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      I don’t think we will change our style of Offense, but I see some of those plays going for big gains and a second half collapse by Wake.

      Seniors of all types will be in, enjoying a lop-sided # 11 win !

      Curious what Oregon will do against the Cardinal.

      • bernhtp - Nov 16, 2012 at 7:46 PM

        Very curious. If Stanford can hold down their offense some – not completely – then I would start getting optimistic against them.

        I will be at the game tomorrow, yelling and screaming like an idiot, as usual.

      • papadec - Nov 17, 2012 at 1:56 AM

        The Oregon/Stanford game is not a time conflict with the ND/WF game. So, I’m looking forward to that double-header tomorrow. The usc/ucla game starts about 1/2 hour before the ND game – So I’ll be able to see part of that. GO IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!

      • bernhtp - Nov 17, 2012 at 8:34 AM

        papa: that’s what timeouts/commercials and remotes are for. You can do both.

        I’m going to be at the game, but my iPhone/LTE actually worked last time (the huge density of people usually kill cell signals). I have a seat in the box where there is TV, but I probably will sit in the stands where it’s not so insulated.

  8. domer77blowsgoats - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    nude nice not engaging by engaging!!

    nor i am this fento character – even i realize nude’s smiley face was his attempt to put the # 8 in brackets… there are much better things to criticize

    consistently at the same time? when was the last time this guy posted? i post almost everyday? BRILLIANT!!

    load – how quickly your observations bore me

    If you read everyday, take a quick peruse through yesterdays posts/comments for some low quality unsolicited attacks – see what i did just there – i pointed to factual evidence…

    in fact ive only ever see you post to attack my comments toward nude – i’ve smelt a rat for quite some time with you sir – maybe time for an exterminator, i just found a great one on Angies List….

    • onebigloadofcrap - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      goat, i am very tired of you both and find you preoccupied with nude … lets just drop this permanently and go on to notre dame football, how about that?

      • onebigloadofcrap - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:58 PM

        and also the reason i blast you is because of your disgusting screen name which is more fitting for a 16 year old … i assume your not in your teens, maybe your 40s or 50s and have a name that speaks of blow jobs … isn’t that a little immature?

      • ibleedirish - Nov 17, 2012 at 7:56 AM

        Whoa. Easy there load. I for one really like bj’s. And I’m quite mature.

    • nudeman - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      Just walked back in the door and saw this – excuse the pun – load of crap

      First, I am not onebigLoadofCrap, but appreciate his (her?) support

      Second, I’m tired of you Goat/UAW/fento; you’re tired of me.

      Third, going forward, ignore my stuff and don’t critique and criticize every post.
      In exchange I’ll ignore you.
      I think everyone else here would appreciate that.

      Ball in your court

  9. getsome99 - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    “OneBigLoadofCrap” has an issue with other’s screen names? Funny.

    • onebigloadofcrap - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      “crap” is hardly in the same league as blowing an animal

  10. bearcatirishfan - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    I think nudeman is nude and goat blows goats. What ya think of them apples?

  11. heisenbyrg - Nov 16, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    I am now dumber for having read (most of) the above comments. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your souls.

    • bernhtp - Nov 17, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      I’m sure you’ve noticed the high correlation between having a strangely provocative userid and making bizarre and personally antagonistic posts. Apparently they missed the title of this blog; it’s about Notre Dame football and not about some really odd alter ego crassly bantering with others having the same psychopathology.

  12. poppajohn818 - Nov 16, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Stay focused and destroy WF then Sunday begin thinking about USC. Play one game at a time. Destroy WF and thanks kids I am really enjoying this season

  13. nchdomer - Nov 17, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    Always enjoy Keith’s articles. Last home game and am looking forward to seeing the campus. A little trivia: What do ND and WF have in common that no other FBS schools have? Answer: Interhall Football. As I understand it, only ND and WF (yes, WF) play full pads and equipment intramural football. Enjoy the day and the game. Fun to be in the hunt in late November. I, for one, feel young again. Go Irish!

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