Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012: Notre Dame Style

[Photo: Notre Dame and Stanford squared off in 2012 in a battle that will not soon be forgotten. Photo courtesy of Troy Breidenbach Photography.]

[] It has been a quite a year for Notre Dame fans. From a preseason team that showed a fair amount of potential to a Cinderella year that has the Irish sitting pretty at 12-0 and headed to the national title game, here are the Top 10 Notre Dame stories brought to you by NoCoastBias in 2012.

10. 2012 Notre Dame Football Predictions

The captains have been chosen, the game plan has been set, and the Fighting Irish will take the field in just three short days. What does the 2012 football season have in store for the Notre Dame faithful? Here are my thoughts and predictions.

9. Notre Dame – Stanford Photo Journal

I must be the luckiest girl ever. First I get sent back to Notre Dame through the “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest to watch the Notre Dame Men’s basketball team upset undefeated Syracuse University. Then, I get the opportunity to do a special project and land myself in the press box for the Notre Dame-Stanford football game, the most exciting win that I’ve seen at Notre Dame in a very long time. Here are some highlights of my epic weekend on Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend.

8. Tweet Like A Champion Today

Social media sites, such as Twitter, really do make the world a much smaller and more intimate place. This is highly beneficial for Notre Dame Football fans that truly stretch from coast to coast and even country to country. Fans are able to communicate with one another and follow accounts of players, coaches, athletic department employees, and bloggers that offer varying and unique points of view on everything Notre Dame Football. With so many Notre Dame affiliated accounts, it’s easy for some to slip under the radar. The following is a compilation of Twitter accounts that every true Fighting Irish fan needs to follow.

7.  Notre Dame Sports Illustrated Cover

We all knew it was coming. Notre Dame is back! On the SI cover that is. The Fighting Irish play USC this weekend during rivalry week and a victory locks up a BCS National Title game berth. The cover looks cool and all but my question is: does the jinx still apply if there isn’t a particular player on the cover?

6. Shamrock Series Uniform

The University of Notre Dame, after teasing us with swatches from the uniform for days, released the alternate uniform that will be worn for the 2012 Shamrock Series game. The Shamrock Series game will feature the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Soldier field in Chicago.

5.  How to be a Better Fan

Greetings readers of No Coast Bias! I, of course, am your Warlord and Soverign Emperor of the (Notre Dame) Subway Alumni; The Subway Domer.

OK, that’s enough pomp and circumstance. Lisa asked me to stop by and chat with y’all, and I promised to behave.

What I want to talk with you today may be a bit out of the normal from what you would think about just weeks away from the season, and you may beat your head into a wall even more violently if you have read Subway Domer or have followed me on Twitter. What I want to discuss, is how to be a better fan. Correction: How to be a better fan of The Fighting Irish.

4. ESPN’s Frank Broyles Award Winner Mishap

Notre Dame’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco won the Frank Broyles Award on Tuesday of this week. The photo of him receiving his award last night, however, was actually that of Notre Dame Football Media Relations director, Brian Hardin.

This error quickly went viral on twitter with the Notre Dame masses hoping that any teams pursuing Bob Diaco will now pursue Brian Hardin instead.

3. Notre Dame Football 2012

Five days … it’s a mere five days until the return of college football, and the Fighting Irish are slated to kick off their season in Dublin, Ireland versus the Midshipman of Navy.

I will have my 2012 Notre Dame Football preview ready shortly, but in the mean time, here is the schedule so that you can mull over the potential  win/loss column stats yourself.

2. Auburn Students Create War Irish T-Shirts for National Championship Game

An Auburn fan, Griff Smith has created a WAR IRISH t-shirt for the National Championship matchup between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their in-state rival Alabama Crimson Tide.  It seems that whenever an SEC team gets into the National Championship game, the other schools in the SEC forget that they hated that team all year and start this ridiculous  ”SEC! SEC! SEC!” stuff so I am happy that the Auburn students got creative and will cheer against their bitter rivals.

And the number one Notre Dame post of 2012 …

1. Manti vs Manziel

For several months leading up to the season, the Heisman trophy was Matt Barkley’s to lose … then he played Stanford…

A new stallion took over when Geno Smith put up video game-esque numbers … the clear-cut Heisman leader then lost 5 straight games.

Collin Klein, of Kansas State, outdueled Geno Smith in their matchup and quickly marched to the top of the Heisman race … then lost to a 4-win Baylor team.

With these quarterbacks, there has been a horde of other players to inch near the top this season, only to be tackled 1 yard shy of collegiate stardom. Read more …

With just a week left until the national title game which matches up a 12-0 Notre Dame team against a 12-1 Alabama, Notre Dame nation is ready to put a wonderful 2012 behind them and greet 2013 with open arms.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Alabama’s Defense: As Good As Advertised?

Photo courtesy of  The Turning Point

(Guest post written by Jake Simons)

What’s Notre Dame’s best chance at winning the 2013 National Championship?

A simple game plan, really. Run the ball …
… and never stop.

Unfortunately, on January 7th, the best rushing defense will be standing in front of the end zone protecting the crystal ball.

But, is Alabama’s rushing defense really as good as advertised?

Sure, they play in the most dominant conference in the country.

Sure, they only surrendered 79.77 rushing yards a game.

But, were the 79.77 rushing yards gained by worthy competition?

I’m not one to decide which players are worthy or not. My lack of credentials will easily back that up. So, I’ll let statistics be the ultimate judge.

On any given Saturday, any given team can execute any given task if given enough preparation. So, instead of looking at how Alabama and Notre Dame fared against their opposition (especially since Alabama played an easier schedule), I’d like to look at the game-changers: the individuals on those teams that perform week-in and week-out … the name-brand players, if you will.
Notre Dame and Alabama face off in the
2013 BCS National Championship.
Photo courtesy of The Turning Point
Let’s look at the five best rushers that each team faced … and we’ll let the statistics ultimately decide who truly has the better rushing defense.

After meticulously siphoning through Alabama’s schedule, I have determined (according to statistics, of course) that the five best runners they faced were:

Denard Robinson – Michigan
LaDarius Perkins – Mississippi St.
Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
Tre Mason – Auburn
Todd Gurley – Georgia

(I refused to include Antonio Andrews from Western Kentucky for obvious reasons.)

The five best runners that Notre Dame faced were:

Gee Gee Greene, Noah Copeland, Keenan Reynolds – Navy*
Leveon Bell – Michigan State
Denard Robinson – Michigan
Stepfan Taylor – Stanford
Silas Redd – USC

*Since Navy had three guys who rushed over 600 yards a piece, I decided to include them all because, well, Navy runs extensively without having a single featured back.

Automatically, from a 5th grader’s standpoint, it goes without saying that Notre Dame has easily faced the better rushing crew. But, I’m trying to keep opinions aside, and show only the facts.

Ergo, Alabama’s opposing speedsters:

Robinson rushed for 27 yards against Alabama, and averaged 117 on the season.
Perkins rushed for 38 yards against Alabama, and averaged 85 on the season.
Manziel rushed for 92 yards against Alabama, and averaged 98 on the season.
Mason rushed for 82 yards against Alabama, and averaged 84 on the season.
Gurley rushed for 122 yards against Alabama, but averaged 97 on the season.

I’ll do the math for you. These five guys averaged 72.2 yards a game when playing Alabama, and averaged 96.2 yards a game on the season. In other words, the most electrifying rushers who faced Alabama gained 75% of their actual per-game rushing output when playing the Crimson Tide.

Here’s how the stars stacked up against Notre Dame:

Greene, Copeland, and Reynolds rushed for 59 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 174 on the season.
Bell rushed for 77 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 137 on the season.
Robinson rushed for 90 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 117 on the season.
Taylor rushed for 102 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 120 on the season.
Redd rushed for 77 yards against Notre Dame, but averaged 91 on the season.

These five units averaged 81 yards a game when playing Notre Dame, but averaged 127.8 yards a game on the season. These name-brand players, who are known for punishing defenses with their speed and agility, only gained – get this – 63% of their actual per-game rushing output when playing the Fighting Irish.

It goes without saying that, not only did Notre Dame face better rushing attacks, but they also did a better job of stopping them (especially considering that Alabama’s best opposing rusher is the fourth best that Notre Dame faced).
I didn’t even mention the fact that Alabama allowed 9 rushing TDs in 27 red zone attempts, while Notre Dame only allowed 2 … in 33 attempts.

To put that into perspective, Alabama’s opponents will score (by rushing) once every 3 times they get inside the 20 yard line.

Opponents of Notre Dame? They’ll score on the ground once every 16 times they reach the red zone.

No doubt Alabama presents yet another challenge, another set of dynamic running backs, for the Fighting Irish. Together, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon average 168 yards a game. In order to hold their opponents to 63% of their actual output, Notre Dame must hold these two to a total of 106 yards.

Likewise, Alabama will be facing one of the best rushing attacks they’ll see all season. Notre Dame utilizes three different running backs in their game plan (Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atkinson III), and also possesses a mobile quarterback (Everett Golson) who can take off for 20 yards on any given play. These four, who see ample playing time during every game, together average 208 yards a game on the ground.

If Alabama’s defense wants to continue their 75% rushing output, they must hold these four to a total of 156 yards.

Can the deadly duo of Lacy and Yeldon present a challenge to Notre Dame’s front seven? Of course.

But, as long as the statistics and probabilities continue to pan out like they have all season, Notre Dame will have, hypothetically, out-rushed Alabama 156-106.

And what happens when Notre Dame runs well? Since 2005, they are 45-2 when out-rushing their opponent …

That’s 45 wins … and 2 losses …

Can the Irish wake up on January 8th clutching the crystal ball?

As long as both teams play like we all know they can…


Thank you to Jake Simons for this piece. Jake Simons currently resides in South Bend, Ind. and is in his second year of teaching 5th grade. Aside from teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lifeskills, Jake imposes his love for the Fighting Irish on young, impressionable minds. His wife often wonders about his devout passion for Notre Dame, to which he responds (in his best Lou Holtz impersonation), “no explanation will suffice.” You can reach Jake at his blog, Gold and Blues Brothers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rally For Notre Dame Scholarships

Are you headed to Miami for the national title game? Looking for something to do that is fun and gives you the opportunity to give back? I've got just the event for you!

Rally for ND Scholarships Fast Facts 

Purpose: Raise money for existing local Notre Dame alumni club scholarships. Date and Time: January 5, 2013 1-4 p.m.

Location: Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six 2301 S.E. 17th Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316. ND Club Host: Notre Dame Club of Ft Lauderdale (represented by Pete Buchanan ’82 and Anthony Fasano ’06).

Admission: 400 donors will be entertained. Donation is $75 per person, accompanied children under 14 admitted free of charge.

Proceeds: $20,000 in Net proceeds will go to local Notre Dame clubs represented by former a player. $20,000 will be distributed to ND Clubs all over the country. At the time of ticket purchase each person will be asked to designate which club they wish to represent.

Entertainment and swag: Donors will receive a swag bag that includes an Adidas t-shirt being created for the Notre Dame football team on their trip to the Championship. Donors will mingle with dozens of Notre Dame legends including: Rick Mirer, Reggie Brooks, Tony Rice, Haley Scott DeMaria, Pete Buchanan, Derrick Mayes, Brady Quinn, Anthony Fasano, Irv Smith, John Carney and many others.

Donations are now being accepted on the Irish Player Charities website (see “buy now” link on sidebar). As part of the donation process, donors will be asked to list the Notre Dame local alumni club of their choice. $50 of the donation will go directly to that club’s local scholarship fund.

How to stay current (and qualify for frequent swag giveaways): 
Twitter @NDPlayercharity

See you in Miami!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Where Are They Now? Devon McDonald

[Photo: Hesburgh Library, Matt Cashore]

[] Devon Linton McDonald was born on November 8, 1969 in Kingston, Jamaica. When he was eleven years old, his family moved to Paterson, NJ where both he and his twin brother Ricardo got involved playing football. Both boys displayed considerable talents, and there was no question football was in their futures. However, Devon and Ricardo ended up taking different football paths after graduating high school; Devon decided to play at the University of Notre Dame while Ricardo opted to attend the University of Pittsburgh (Ricardo was the second ranked linebacker coming out of college in 1992). Both had many successes in college and went on to play in the NFL.

Devon earned his degree in American Studies from Notre Dame. He was the team captain as a senior, an Honorable Mention All-American in 1992, a member of the 1988 national title team and was named co-MVP in the 1993 Cotton Bowl game. While in the NFL he played linebacker for four seasons; three of them for the Indianapolis Colts and one for the Arizona Cardinals.

McDonald currently lives in Indianapolis with his wife Shereasher, and his two daughters Jazzmine and Rachel. He is an ordained minister who is active with Sports World Ministries, an organization that speaks to students about life choices.

Q: Being from Paterson, New Jersey, how did you become interested in playing football at Notre Dame?

Devon McDonald, Notre Dame
A: “When I was eleven we moved to New Jersey and I saw the game of American football for the first time. There was something about all of the hitting that really drew my brother and I into the game. Ricardo and I both started out playing high school football at Eastside High School (the school featured in the 1989 movie Lean On Me), but during our sophomore year our football coach told us that if we really wanted to play Division I football that we should think about transferring to a different high school. My brother Ricardo stayed at Eastside High, and I transferred to the rival high school, Kennedy High School. During my Junior year at Kennedy High School we went 0-8-1. During my senior year at Kennedy High School we went 10-0-1 and were State Champions. So I think I made a good choice.”

“You’re going to have haters in your life, and you’re going to have people who think you can do no wrong, but here’s the difference…what are you saying?”

“So then the colleges came knocking just about every college out there. My mother’s prayer was that first and foremost we got a good education, and then secondly that we’d get to play football.”

“I took four official visits. My first visit was to Iowa. I got there and it was a big drunken party weekend and I thought, this is it, this is my school. My High School coach Frank Bonadies said let’s look at a few more schools. Next we went to Illinois, and then after Illinois we went to Notre Dame. When I got on campus in December it was 65F. I had heard that the west was warmer, and this was the mid west, so this was great! This is how God works.”

“As soon as I got on campus I saw the golden dome, I said to myself, ‘this is it. This is where I want to come.’ I enjoyed the weekend, but it was love at first sight. Rod West was my host on campus that weekend. And then after ND, my final visit was to the University of Miami (FL).”

“Jimmy Johnson was the coach at Miami and they had very heavily recruited me. During my recruiting trip to Miami they took my Mom out, wined and dined her, showed her a good time and she said this is where you are going to school. She didn’t cook for me for a week when I told her that I wanted to go to Notre Dame. The recruiter from Miami told me, ‘Next year we’re gonna kick your (backside).’ And in my mind I’m thinking, wow. So for Notre Dame to beat Miami 31-30 at home the next season, that was big.”

“My twin brother, he chose the University of Pitt, and we beat them every year. Life was good.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge at Notre Dame?

A: “Besides the weather? I didn’t have educated parents so they could not help me with many nuances of college life. They didn’t go to college so I didn’t have anybody to reference – ‘Look out for this.’ They did the best that they could but they couldn’t provide me great direction. My pops loved the sport, but never really got engaged. I called home one day and said ‘I’m hurt’ and his response was, ‘Quit.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t want to quit. I want your advice.’ There was a great deal of pressure put on us both academically and athletically. You had to do well in class, and you had to win.”

“As they say in the NFL … you don’t get paid to play, you get paid to win.”

Q: What is your favorite Notre Dame football memory?
Defensive star Devon McDonald takes
the field before the Penn State game.
(Ed Andrews Collection)

A: “The first ND game I saw from beginning to end was actually the first game of my freshman year — it was at home versus Michigan under the lights. Prior to that, I had watched five minutes of a Notre Dame game during my senior year in high school just so that I could tell the coaches that recruited me from Notre Dame that I watched ND football games.”

“My biggest game at Notre Dame was a Michigan game, I think it was in 1991, when I had 18 tackles against the Wolverines. I hated Michigan. I hated those helmets. Those are some ugly helmets.”

“My last game at ND was pretty great as well. I was the defensive MVP at the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1993 vs. Texas A&M. So I would say those are three of my favorites.”

Q: How do you remember your NFL Draft Day?

A: “I watched the NFL draft at home, expecting that I’d be picked in the second or third round. The Giants had been calling me and asking me questions and that is where I thought I’d end up. When the Giants came up to make their selection, they picked a linebacker from Texas A&M who I had outplayed during the Cotton Bowl game. That made absolutely no sense to me. I had been the MVP and he got drafted before I did? He was a bit smaller than I was and maybe that’s what they wanted. So then the Colts started calling me and I was thinking to myself, ‘The Colts?’ My brother (who entered the NFL the year before me) had told me, the team who’s going to pick you won’t show any interest until the very last second because they don’t want to show their hand.”

“I remember going to see my brother, driving through Indianapolis on my way to Cincinnati, and there was something about Indianapolis that had piqued my interest even then. I just couldn’t put my finger on what, but that’s where I ended up so it worked out.”

“The Colts wound up drafting me as the 107th pick of the fourth round.”

Q: How do you remember your NFL experience? Highs and Lows? What was the highlight of your NFL career?

A: “To be completely honest, the money was definitely one of the highs of playing in the NFL. Money gives you the ability to afford a lot of freedoms that you couldn’t otherwise have. The lows include what comes along with the money…the gold diggers. Not just females, men just as much as women. People come out of the woodwork with business propositions for you. More players get taken than you’d ever know because they will never tell you that they got taken. Some of the guys that I played with on the Colts, they lost millions of dollars being taken by people that they thought were trustworthy. It’s a business; it is not just a game like college is. You have to learn very quickly who you can trust and who you can’t. You have to make sure to surround yourself with good people.”

“I played in the NFL for four years. Three years with Indianapolis and one year with Arizona and then got cut by the Cardinals. I tried to get picked up by another team but it just didn’t work out. I got picked up by an Arena Football team down in Tampa Bay and played for there for two years. It was exciting to still be in the game, but then my next opportunity came and I decided it was time to move on.”

Q: Where did life take you after the NFL?

Former Colt Devon McDonald Dares
 the ‘Square to Make the Right Choices
A: “This life is hard…this life is your choice…you can’t blame anyone else. The more you take responsibilities the better you will do in life.”

“When I was released by the Colts and got picked up by the Cardinals I was at a point in my life where I made a spiritual conversion. I had a spiritual moment in my life out in Arizona that completely changed me and I began to follow Christ. I decided that there has to be more to my life than football. I took a personal training job and looked into buying the club or being a part owner but at the same time I was still trying to get back into the NFL. I went to a NFL combine and I ran the 40 in 4.58 and that was the fastest time I’d ever run. What I didn’t realize was that my pushing myself so hard was weakening my hamstrings. I went to another combine and ran the worst time I’d ever run in my life. I had never felt like I did that moment, as if my hamstring was about to pop at any moment. In 16 years of playing ball I’d never felt that way. I was just devastated.”

“There’s got to be more to life than this.”

“My brother Ricardo knew this player Steve Grant (West Virginia alum) that I played with at the Colts and that he played against when he was at Pitt. He had just retired from the NFL himself and they had reconnected at a Pro Athletes Organization conference. Grant told my brother for me to give him a call because he had a job opportunity that he wanted to run by me. As soon as the President of Sports World and I met, I just knew we were a good fit. He was also interviewing two other Colts players for this organization he was involved with, Sports World Ministries, but he knew right away I was the guy.”

“During the two years that I played Arena Ball in Tampa Bay, I was a Deacon during the year, and then I played football during the Arena season. When the Arena league moved their season from March to January I had to make a decision. Did I want to continue playing football, or was my calling to speak at schools through Sports World Ministries something I believed in more. While I had this need for the limelight, and wanted to prove to the world that I was still a good player, I took a look around at all of the young people that I had a chance to positively impact. That was something I wanted to be a part of, so I gave up football.”

“Our mission at Sports World Ministries is, “to send professional athletes to share personal life experiences with students, helping them to recognize the consequences of their choices while challenging them with the message of hope.” As an ordained minister, the best part of my job is knowing we are making an impact; that we’re encouraging positive choices”

Q: What advice would you give to current student athletes?

A: “Get their priorities in order and know their purpose. When you know your purpose it’s easy to set your priorities straight. It helps you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It is also important to surround yourself with good people. As you go through your journey, you will need to weed out the people who you don’t need to be around. You’re going to lose some people along the way but that’s okay because they are not going where you are going. Be comfortable in your own skin. That’s 90% of the battle of life. I’m fine being me. That’s when you can make more money than you’ll ever hope for. What is the most natural act? Being you. Things become work when you are acting or performing, but be yourself and what comes out will be from the heart.”

Q: What is your favorite Lou Holtz memory?

A: “My freshman year we were down at the Fiesta Bowl playing for the national title, and as we were wrapping up our last practice coach Holtz said, ‘We’re going to practice how to celebrate after we win the national title.’ We all look around at each other, he can’t possibly be serious. Yep, he was serious. We practiced celebrating after the win. Talk about attention to detail. And then, to see it all come true and we all knew exactly what to do after we won. Classic coach Holtz.”

Q: What do you think of this year’s Notre Dame squad?

A: “The reality of this year’s team is that right now they are undefeated…so were we back in 1988…but what does that mean for you individually as a player? We win as a team. The team has a goal, a process, a plan, and a passion. You stick with all of that and follow your goals hopefully to the national title game. They all need to keep in mind that football is going to end, and then have a plan for what will happen to them individually. Have fun, but don’t waste time. That’s why God gave us laughter, but he gave us tears, too. Let’s use all of the gifts that he gave us. While you are having fun, riding the wave, just realize that this window is going to close. You’ve got influence. What are you going to do with it?”

“Manti Te’o is quite the remarkable young man. He could lead a country. He’s not a mean guy, but he plays with such passion. His love makes him aggressive. He loves his team, his teammates, his university, but to the opposition that love comes off as being mean.”

“I didn’t think I looked mean, but I was told time and time again in college and the pros that I looked mean. No one would mess with me. What they didn’t know was that I had hammer toes and that’s why I had that look on my face my feet were hurting (laughs).”

“Much is given in life, and much is required. Look at what this young man (Te’o) has gone through. Two losses in his life in six hours. When I lost my Mom I was so angry. I was angry with my family, with people and with myself. It took me at least a year to get over it. Here he is on a world stage. He’s presidential material for sure. You sense that he’s going to be honest with you, that he’s going to tell you the truth. That it is what it is. He’s a hard worker. All the great qualities of a great leader.”

“What it comes down to when you play on a team like this Notre Dame squad…as a team you become the power of one. You don’t have to light an entire box of matches. You just have to light one and the rest follow.”

I’d like to give Devon McDonald a big thank you for stopping by the blog. If you are interested in supporting Sports World Ministries or bringing a Sports World Ministries representative to your local school, please visit the organization’s website at


 A big thank you goes out to Tyler Moorehead for his editing help & perspective on this story. Tyler is a Senior English major at Notre Dame (& writes for You can catch Tyler on Twitter at — @Tmoorehead627

Friday, December 7, 2012

Where Are They Now? Pat Dolan

[] Pat Dolan is the youngest of eight children from Throop, Pennsylvania, a small town outside of Scranton. Being raised in a devout Irish Catholic family and in an Irish community in Pennsylvania, there were a lot of ND fans who influenced Pat from an early age to attend Notre Dame.

Both of his parents were widowed early in life, his father being left with three children and his mother being left with two of her own, when their parish priest intervened to introduce them and suggested that they marry each other which they did fairly soon after. They had three more children together to make eight, Pat being the baby after his younger brother Paul died as an infant. His older sisters were all nurses and paid for a lot of his clothing when he was in high school and college. Even though he was probably one of the poorest kids on the team at ND, his buddies used to borrow his clothes because his sisters had such good taste, some of which were never returned. Bob Williams (Notre Dame quarterback) showed up at their house in New Jersey years later wearing one of Pat’s shirts that he had tailored to fit his slimmer build!

After a career at Notre Dame that included the unforgettable win over Oklahoma in 1957 that broke their 47-game win streak, Dolan married his high school sweetheart Katie and pursued a career in coaching. They have one daughter, Erin Dolan, and Erin has three children: Connor ND 2012, Mary Fiona ND 2015 and Faelen who is in high school and hoping to be ND 2020.

Q: What lead you to play football at Notre Dame?

A: “Throop, Penn. was a very strong Irish Catholic community and many friends of our family and parishioners influenced me to attend Notre Dame. Not necessarily to play football, but to receive an excellent Catholic education. I was also exposed to Notre Dame football early on when they came to my high school, Scranton Technical High School, when I was a freshman to recruit one of my teammates, Bill Hollenbeck. Bill went on to become a specialist kicker at ND. After that exposure to the Fighting Irish I became much more interested in playing football there. Even though there were many top football programs who were recruiting me, the only other school that I was seriously looking at besides was the University of North Carolina.”

Q: What was the best part of playing football at Notre Dame?

A: “Just playing for Notre Dame, and traveling with the team itself was an amazing experience. We played some amazing teams, and there were some great players that I played with (too many to list Dolan says). I would not trade my time at Notre Dame for anything.”

“One of my best friends on the team was running back Dick Lynch. He went to Phillipsburg Catholic High School in Phillipsburg New Jersey, and I was familiar with the area even before I got to ND because my high school played Phillipsburg High School in football. When we got to Notre Dame Dick reached out to me being that we were from the same area and we became lifelong friends.”

“Dick was the hero in our big upset over Oklahoma in 1957. He was a defensive standout (played defensive back), but he also scored the only touchdown in that 7-0 win over the Sooners which broke their 47-game win streak. Dick went on to have a successful career in the NFL playing for the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.”

“Our quarterback, Bob Williams, and I were also very close. He is the godfather to my daughter, Erin. There is nothing quite like the Notre Dame family. It stays with you forever.”

“I studied Physical Education at ND and played tackle for the offense and defense. Back in those days you played on both sides of the ball.”

Q: What was the media hype like leading up to the Notre Dame – Oklahoma game in 1957?

A: “The media has changed tremendously over the last 50 years, but the hype that the media placed on that Note Dame – Oklahoma match up was still quite intense. What made the story even bigger was the fact that in the previous 48 games Oklahoma only had one loss, and that one loss was at the hands of Notre Dame. And here we were headed into Norman to try and do the same thing that our 1953 counterparts had done when they upset the Sooners in their season debut by a score of 28-21.”

“Oklahoma was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Notre Dame had been 2-8 the season before in 1956 and headed into the Oklahoma game the Fighting Irish were 4-2, but were still not on anyone’s short list as being world beaters by any stretch of the imagination. So here was this nobody team from South Bend coming into Norman and we turned their world completely upside down.”

Q: Did you and your fellow teammates think you had what it took to upset Oklahoma’s apple cart?

A: “When you play for Notre Dame, you think you are capable of anything. That is what our coaches taught us. Go out there, do your best, and good things will happen. And that’s exactly how we ended up doing it.”

Q: What was it like being on the field at the end of the game and being the team that finally broke the streak?

A: “It was an incredible situation. Oklahoma was  No. 1 and undefeated and no one truly expected us to come in there and pull off the upset. It was absolutely unbelievable.  We were supposed to stay overnight in Norman after the game but because of the extraordinary situation they decided to fly us home for the various celebrations that were waiting for us (and to get out of Dodge before the place erupted).”

“As we were flying back to South Bend, the pilots kept announcing to us what the plan was and what was waiting for us when we got home. The towns below us kept turning their lights on and off in celebration of our big win and they even sang the fight song for us on the plane.”

“The airport was loaded with people when we arrived in South Bend, and there was a parade like atmosphere driving down the streets on our way to campus. When we arrived on campus, the students were waiting to welcome us at the circle. It was unforgettable.”

Q: Did you play professional football after your career at Notre Dame?

A: “I could have had a shot at it, but I decided to pursue a coaching career instead. My first coaching stop was at a little high school in Mt Clemens, Michigan, St. Mary’s High School. I coached the football team there for three years.”

“Then I moved to Franklin Township, New Jersey and took a job coaching the football team at Franklin Township High School. I started out coaching the football team and was eventually promoted to be their Athletic Director and stayed there until I retired in 1992.”

“In 1989 we were looking for a new head coach for the high school football team, and my old friend Dick Lynch gave me a call. He knew we were looking for someone, and knew a fellow Notre Dame alum that was looking for a job and suggested that I take a look at him. That alum was Charlie Weis, and we gave him his first head football coaching job. He coached our football team for one year and the team broke the state record for touchdowns that year as well as going to the New Jersey State Championship. Tremendous start to that young man’s career!”

Author’s note … at the end of my delightful conversation with Pat Dolan he asked me if I had ever heard of the Irish Blessing. Well, as an Irish girl, I’m sure I had but I asked to hear it from him all the same. And so I received an Irish blessing from one of Notre Dame’s greats. There truly is nothing like the Notre Dame family. God bless!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I am so grateful that Pat Dolan was able to stop by the blog and walk down memory lane with us. Stay tuned, next up on “Where are they now?” is Notre Dame linebacker, Devon McDonald.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Comparison: Manti vs. Manziel

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Image

(Guest post written by Jake Simons)

For several months leading up to the season, the Heisman trophy was Matt Barkley’s to lose … then he played Stanford…

A new stallion took over when Geno Smith put up video game-esque numbers … the clear-cut Heisman leader then lost 5 straight games.

Collin Klein, of Kansas State, out dueled Geno Smith in their match up and quickly marched to the top of the Heisman race … then lost to a 4-win Baylor team.

With these quarterbacks, there has been a horde of other players to inch near the top this season, only to be tackled 1 yard shy of collegiate stardom.
(Photo: Ray Carlin/Icon SMI)
Johnny Manziel

And then, out of nowhere, this red-shirt freshman boy, beats Alabama with two weeks left in the season to solidify his spot at the top of most Heisman polls.  Fortunately for Johnny Manziel, his team suffered its two losses earlier in the season.  And Mr. Football himself was able to load his team on his back to finish the regular season with better statistics than Tim Tebow and Cam Newton could ever achieve.

That’s saying a lot.  Especially as a red-shirt freshman.

But there has been one player lurking near the top of the water throughout the entire season; a player who has humbly put his team, his coaches, his school, his fan base, his country on his back, to bring a storied program out of two decades of despair; a leader who plays on the other side of the ball.  That player, of course, is Manti Te’o.

So with the regular season of college football in the books, voters must decide between a quarterback with gaudy numbers or an inside linebacker with a resume just as impressive … between a country boy or a Hawaiian man … a freshman or a senior.

How do you even compare the two?  Is it even possible to associate an offensive player with a defensive player?  Is it fair to compare an upperclassman to a frosh?  Is it morally acceptable to compare the best player on a 2-loss team to the best player on the only undefeated bowl-eligible team in the country?

The answer is yes.  It is possible; it is fair; it is acceptable.  Why?  Because the Heisman trophy is about more than who can reach the end zone more times.  It’s about more than who can hold the ball the longest.  It’s about more than breaking records.  It’s about which player can demonstrate diligence, perseverance, hard work, integrity, and excellence on a weekly and daily basis.

Not once a season.  Not twice.  But every single Saturday that player straps up.  Every single day that student wakes up.

It’s no lie that Manti Te’o has been about as consistent a player as possible on Notre Dame’s roster.  He is only the second player in Notre Dame history to record three straight 100-tackle seasons.

It’s also no secret that Johnny Football has put up ungodly numbers in his first season at the helm of the Aggies.

But again, how can you compare the two?  How can you compare a team that has played the 8th hardest schedule in the country to a team that has played the 29th hardest?

Let’s look at consistency.  Let’s look at how Manti and Johnny have stacked up against the best of the best.  Let’s take out the outliers of the easy competition like Boston College and Sam Houston St.  Because let’s be honest, anyone can put up a beautiful stat-line against weak competition (see Case Keenum’s 2011 campaign of 5631 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions against high school-caliber competition … and wasn’t even in the Heisman discussion).

After all, shouldn’t the award go to the player who performs the absolute best at the highest level?

The Aggies have played three teams (Florida, Alabama, and LSU) that still remain ranked in the latest BCS rankings.  The Fighting Irish have also played three teams (Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan) that are still ranked.  So, let’s take a look at how the two stacked up.

Johnny Manziel - QB
vs. Florida (L)    173 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 0 INT      60 RUSH YDS – 1 TD
vs. LSU (L)         276 PASS YDS – 0 TD – 3 INT      27 RUSH YDS – 0 TD
@ Alabama (W)   253 PASS YDS – 2 TD – 0 INT      92 RUSH YDS – 0 TD

Manti Te’o - ILB
vs. Michigan (W)          8 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 2 INT
vs. Stanford (W)          11 TKLS – 0 Sacks – 0 INT
@ Oklahoma (W)          11 TKLS – 1 Sack – 1 INT

Nothing really pops out at you … except for the fact that Manziel is 1-2 against stiff defenses and Te’o is 3-0 against explosive offenses … and that Manti can handle two preseason Heisman hopefuls (Denard Robinson and Landry Jones) and one current hopeful (Stephan Taylor) with ease … and, what the numbers don’t show, is that Manti has led his defense to the top spot in the country, and subsequently, his team to the #1 ranking.

I guess Johnny Football isn’t so football when he plays exclusive competition.

In fact, let’s take this a step further and pretend that these two players’ teams played elite competition every Saturday.  Let’s just see what their projected season would be like against the best of the best.  Consistency against the elite, remember?

(Photo: Mike DiNovo, US Presswire) Manti Te'o
After 12 games against top-tier talent, Johnny Manziel would project to finish the season with …       2808 PASS YDS – 8 TD – 12 INT and 716 RUSH YDS – 4 TD … really, mediocre at best.

After 12 games against similar top-tier talent, Manti Te’o would project to finish the season with …     120 TKLS – 4 Sacks – 12 INT … all that against explosive offenses … and as a linebacker.

This is based solely on statistics.  Nothing else.  No back stories.  No grandmother or girlfriend passing away within a six-hour span (Manti).  No arrests or misdemeanors (Johnny).  None of that.

Back stories aside (though, integrity is a key component to the Heisman equation), who competes at the highest level against the highest level?

In most years, the Heisman trophy has been given to the best player on the best team.  So, why is that suddenly any different this year?  Is it because Notre Dame doesn’t have an elite offensive player?  Why would Johnny Football suddenly ascend to the top of the polls as the leader of a 2-loss team, when Collin Klein’s team, whose resume is just as impressive, only has one?

Defense wins championships.  Everyone can agree with that.  So, why has there never been a true defensive player to win the Heisman?  On December 8th, 2012, history will be made.

Congratulations, Manti Te’o, on your integrity and excellence on and off the field.

Thank you to Jake Simons for this piece. Jake Simons currently resides in South Bend, Ind. and is in his second year of teaching 5th grade.  Aside from teaching Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lifeskills, Jake imposes his love for the Fighting Irish on young, impressionable minds.  His wife often wonders about his devout passion for Notre Dame, to which he responds (in his best Lou Holtz impersonation), "no explanation will suffice." You can reach Jake on Twitter at @G_Double_B


Friday, November 30, 2012

Where Are They Now? Ruth Riley

[]  Ruth Riley is the type of woman that stands out in a crowd. Not just because of her 6-foot-4 ½-inch height, either. Riley helped team USA win a women’s basketball gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, helped her Notre Dame team win a national title and was part of two WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock. The first person to win the MVP award in both the NCAA and the WNBA championship games, Riley comes from humble beginnings. She was born in Ranson, Kansas, but spent most of her childhood growing up in Macy, Ind. Raised by her mother, Sharon Riley, Ruth Riley quickly learned her mother’s creative ways had a way of making her and her brother and sister feel like family was the strongest bond. Faith, hard work and respect were the foundation of her childhood and they are what helped mold Riley into the person she is today. Riley currently splits her time between Chicago, where she plays for the Chicago Sky, and Miami, where her WNBA career began.

Q: What made you decide on Notre Dame? Did the Final Four trip the year before you came influence your decision?
Notre Dame Alum, Ruth Riley
[Photo from Ruth Riley Fan Page]

A: “Notre Dame was the only official visit I took, but the recruiting process was very difficult for me. All of the top women’s basketball programs were recruiting me quite actively, and there was a lot for me to consider. Ultimately, I just knew that Notre Dame was the right fit for me. It was the perfect combination of what I was looking for in a school. A good women’s basketball program, an instant comfort level with the head coach, the opportunity to be the student-athlete I wanted to become and a chance to continue to develop my faith and being so close to home were huge selling points for me. It was important to me that my family had the opportunity to come see me play.”

“I have an older sister, Rachel, and a younger brother, Jake and we are all very close. My sister ran cross country and played basketball, and my brother played football and basketball as well, but my brother and I share a similar passion for basketball.”

“Rachel is not just my older sister, she is my best friend as well. We were always competing against each other for the best grades, so it was only fitting that we ended up both attending Notre Dame.”

“My brother is my other half when it comes to basketball. We grew up playing many heated games of one-on-one, which continues, even today, every time we are together. Although it took him till my junior year in college to first beat me, I must say he is pretty tough competition now.”

Q: You were 25 inches long when you were born, so you were always taller than even the other babies in the nursery. You were 6-foot tall as a 12-year-old and 6-4 1/2 now. How have you dealt with that over the years?

A: “It’s a struggle for sure. At a young age I got a lot of unwanted attention. You get made fun of a lot, which made me become very shy and introverted. When I started playing sports there were high expectations that were placed on me, that I should be very good simply because of my height. This became a big source of frustration for me, because at the beginning I was not very good yet.”

“Playing sports was a great help for me, though, because it helped me to discover that I was not the only tall girl. Especially when I got to college, and I had friends who played on the women’s volleyball team who were actually taller than me, I realized that there were other tall women in the world. This helped me to become much more confident as a woman and as an athlete.”

Q: What’s it like being the first person to win MVP awards in the NCAA Tournament and WNBA Championship?
Ruth Riley raises MVP trophy in
2003 with the Detroit Shock.
[Photo from]

A: “Wow …. I would have thought that Sheryl Swoopes would have held such a record. It’s a huge honor, obviously. It means the work that I’ve put in to being an athlete has paid off; that I’ve managed to perform to my ability, at a high level, when it is needed most.”

Q: You best Notre Dame basketball memory?

A: “This one is kind of a no-brainer … the championship game in St. Louis in 2001. (Riley had 28 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks in the title game. She also made the final two free throws to seal the win over Purdue.) Being able to play in a championship game like that is truly the ultimate accomplishment of your athletic career. I was very blessed to have that be the last game of my collegiate career; so blessed to finish on top like that.”

Q: What was your biggest challenge at ND?

A: “Early on in my career, time management was a big challenge. Trying to maintain a high grade-point average and to excel on the court was very difficult, especially in my first two years. Notre Dame helped me learn how to manage that. They have a great resource system in place for their student-athletes. It is a huge adjustment, making the transition from a small-town high school to a big-time university. Practice, studying, going to class, plus all of the extra time that I personally spent in the gym … it takes some time to figure out how to juggle all of that and remain successful at the same time.”

Q: How do you remember your WNBA draft day?
WNBA player, Ruth Riley
[Photo from Ruth Riley Fan Page]

A: “It was a complete whirlwind. The media coverage that I received and the realization that I was actually going to have the opportunity to play in the WBNA were quite overwhelming. Playing in the WNBA was a dream (and) a goal of mine and seeing that all came true was an ultimate high. It was great to meet some of the other girls at the selection show who were going through the same process. Most importantly, having my mom there made it all complete, because I couldn’t have done it without her love and support!”

Q: What was it like growing up in Kansas and Indiana? What was the culture shock like when you moved to Florida?

A: “It was the perfect time for me. I grew up in a sheltered environment, and college brought me a little bit out of that shell, but to go from South Bend, Ind., to South Beach (in Miami) really opened my eyes to the world. Being introduced to many different people and cultures helped me see the world, and ultimately myself, in a different way.”

Q: You have two years left on your WNBA contract with the Chicago Sky … what has been the highlight of your WNBA career so far?

A: “The two championship wins with Detroit in 2003 and 2006 were definite highlights for me. Something about the 2003 team was very unique. In 2002, Detroit had the worst record in the league. They brought in myself and a bunch of new players, to turn the franchise around and went from worst to first. That very seldom happens in sports, but when it does it is something pretty remarkable to watch, let alone be an active contributor to the success.”

“The opportunity to compete at the highest level of your craft, to compete against the top players of your sport, has to be one of the best highs of playing in the WNBA. My job is to play a game I love, and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it for so long.”

“There are always going to be injuries, or shooting slumps, or losing streaks which can be difficult to overcome, but the highs definitely make up for them.”

“Off the court, the hardest thing is the time you lose with your family and friends. You have to miss weddings, birthdays and holidays because you are on the road or playing overseas. You don’t have the opportunity to spend the amount of time with them that you feel you should, but that is the price that you play to compete at that level.”

Q: You have an NCAA championship, Olympic gold medal, WNBA championship, the Naismith Award as the nation’s top collegiate player and the AP Player of the Year award. Which one was the hardest to win? Which one are you the most proud of?
Ruth Riley, National
Championship Game 2001
[Photo from]

A: “There is something unique about the college game, and the NCAA tournament. Sixty-four teams, one championship and being able to play against the best athletes in your age group … that experience is the most memorable for me. Also because it was the first championship that had ever I won. I had a big role on that team as a leader and they looked up to me to lead them towards accomplishing that.”

“In the pros I didn’t have the same kind of leading role because there were so many good players.”

Q: What was it like being inducted into the Academic All-American Hall of Fame?

A: “It was an unbelievable honor. I did not expect it at all. I feel very blessed that I was able to spend that evening, and share that moment, with my mom. Growing up she did not have the opportunities that I have been given, but she did her best to provide for us in any way that she could. She inspired me to dream big and to believe that I could do anything I wanted. Being able to share that night with her was very special to me.”

Q: You wrote a children’s book “The Spirit of Basketball,” that was given out before one of your Detroit WNBA games. Did you enjoy that experience and do you have any other plans to continue writing?

A: “Writing is something that I most definitely enjoy doing. Currently I have a blog ( and the blog posts that I write about are the things that I am most passionate about. I definitely plan on writing a book pretty soon. I want to tell my life story, but I also want to inspire people and make a difference in the world.”

Q: What are your plans after your basketball career ends?

A: “I still have two more years left and I really don’t know if at that time I will want to sign for another year or whether that will be it for me. My degree from Notre Dame is in psychology. I probably won’t go onto graduate school to continue studying psychology, but my passion is being able to work with people and in that respect I use my psychology degree every day.”

“There are several organizations that I am very active with right now, that will probably be a part of my transition from the WNBA to where my passion leads me next.”

“I want to use my platform to inspire others and to make a positive impact in the world.”


A young mother of 3, already lost 1 child,
is given a net for the first time!
[Photo from]
Nothingbutnets is the UN Foundation’s global grassroots campaign to help eradicate malaria. The NBA/WNBA were founding partners, and likewise I have been a spokesperson since its launch in December of 2006.”

TRIAD Trust: Training to Reduce the Incidents of AIDS-related Deaths

“In June 2007, more than 4,500 orphans and vulnerable children were identified in the surrounding villages of Nkomazi, South Africa. Over 350 households were headed by children ages 16-18 and close to 5 percent of the population between the ages of 18 to 34 were HIV-positive. Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel with TRIAD Trust and take part in their sports programs. Our purpose is to identify and train young adult leaders within remote, impoverished communities so they can independently initiate fundamental health-enhancing behavior change. Through education and empowerment, we intend to create self-sustainable social improvement.”

TRIAD Trust takes a comprehensive approach to reducing the affects and instances of this AIDS pandemic. It targets children and young adults who are most vulnerable to AIDS, and has created programs using sports (basketball & soccer), music, drama, photography, and journalism as an avenue to develop trust and relationships within the community. Our sports programs work to teach the fundamentals of team-building, conflict resolution, sportsmanship, skills mastery, self-esteem, and knowledge of HIV/AIDS and healthy lifestyles. Not only do we work to educate players and coaches about how to prevent contracting HIV, but we work to de-stigmatize those who have the virus.”

No Kid Hungry Campaign

“Most people have mental pictures of starving children in Africa when the issue of poverty and hunger are raised—you might be surprised to learn that there are actually more than 16 million American children who do not have reliable access to the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives. Recently I had the opportunity to represent the NBA/WNBA in Chicago at the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign launch.”

“This is an issue that hits close to home for me, because my family benefited from free and reduced lunch programs when I was growing up. My mom did everything she could to raise my brother, sister and I, often working two jobs while raising us on her own, but sometimes there just was not enough money to go around. The free and reduced lunch program at my elementary school made sure that my siblings and I had a nutritious meal that my mom could not always afford herself.”

“Share Our Strength is a national nonprofit committed to ending childhood hunger in America by making sure that children in need are enrolled in federal programs, it invests in community organizations fighting hunger, teaches families how to cook healthy meals on a budget, and builds public-private partnerships to end hunger on a national and state level. The NBA/WNBA are committed to working with Share Our Strength to connect more than 50,000 youth to free meals this summer across the United States. (”

Q: Do you have any advice for girls who are playing sports in today’s society?

A: “What I would say first is to dream big. Secondly, work really hard to achieve those goals. There is so much opportunity for young girls today. Society pressures you to act or look a certain way and people are quick to tell you that your dreams are not possible … I would tell them to keep working and go for what you want.”

“I am so proud of how far women and sports have come since Title IX was put into place. What I’m most passionate about is the platform that sports and athletics gives women. Without sports, I would have never been able to achieve all that I have achieved. Most people want to do something good, they just don’t make it a priority. Everyone has an area of influence, they don’t realize that all it takes is a little time, so much can be done with just using our time to invest in others. I love the fact that I have a platform in which to inspire other people to help.”

A big thank you goes out to Ruth Riley for stopping by the blog. If you want to learn more about Ruth, please visit her web site Next up on “Where Are They Now?” is Notre Dame linebacker, Devon McDonald.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Notre Dame Undefeated Streak Continues, Defeat BC 21-6

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson throws under pressure from an approaching Boston College defender, Kasim Edebali. [AP photo: Winslow Townson]

[] Notre Dame “shipped up to Boston” and did exactly what they needed to do - take care of business and get another win. In the process they improved their record to 10-0, a mark not seen since 1993. It wasn’t pretty, but at least it wasn’t the heart attack that Notre Dame fans had to suffer through last week against Pitt.

The Eagles were hoping to have a repeat of their upsets over Notre Dame in 1993 and 2002 when they broke Irish hearts and halted Notre Dame’s undefeated seasons. But the 2012 Boston College squad just didn’t have the talent to compete with a scrappy, motivated, hard working Fighting Irish squad.

Notre Dame’s 21-6 victory gave them their third straight win in a series that dates back 37 years. The Irish may not have won tonight in style points, but their undefeated streak continues and with an Alabama loss to Texas A&M their national title hopes are still very much alive.

Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig had a productive day despite the final score of the game. Rettig completed 27 of 43 passes for 247 yards, the ninth time this season he has passed for more than 200 yards. Wide receiver Alex Amidon caught six passes for 84 yards and has a total of 73 catches for 1,157 yards on the season, which breaks the Boston College season record.

Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson won his eighth consecutive game as the starter, completing touchdown passes to John Goodman and Troy Niklas and running one in himself. Linebacker Manti Te’o had another banner day with five tackles and a fourth-quarter interception that brought this total to six for the season, a school record for linebackers. Golson completed 16 of 24 passes for 200 yards, and Irish multi-threat running back Theo Riddick again broke the century mark running for 104 yards and catching six passes for 67 yards.

This 2012 edition wasn’t pretty. There wasn’t much fancy footwork this week or big time plays, but Notre Dame got the job done. And most importantly for Irish fans there was no upset this year in "The Holy War." Just two Catholic teams with very different seasons.

While Notre Dame revels in their 10-0 record, 2-8 Boston College has to now figure out what they need to do to rebuild this team and bring it back to relevance. The Eagles have beaten just one FBS team this season, and the two ranked teams they faced prior to Notre Dame — Florida State and Clemson — beat them by a combined 58 points.

In the past four seasons, the gap has grown between Boston College and elite teams both in the ACC and around the nation. The Eagles are barely competing in the ACC and rapidly sinking into irrelevance nationally.

Now Brian Kelly has to keep his Irish squad focused for one final home game against Wake Forest next week, and a season finale against the Trojans in Los Angeles. Both other undefeated teams have tough tests ahead, with the Oregon Ducks facing Stanford and Oregon State, and Kansas State taking on Baylor and Texas. Notre Dame fans will have a lot to cheer for in the next few weeks if they want a chance at the national title spotlight.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Notre Dame – Boston College Preview

[Photo]: Stephan Savoia, File/Associated Press - FILE – In this Oct. 2, 2010, file photo, Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig (7) looks to pass in his first start against Notre Dame in Boston.

[] The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame “ship up to Boston” this week to play the Eagles of Boston College at 8pm ET on ABC,  Saturday, Nov 10.

You may wonder why a 9-0 Notre Dame team (favored by 19 points) is matched up with a 2-7 Boston College team in prime time? Well, for whatever reason, the Eagles of Boston College have a great knack for knocking Notre Dame down from high places. The last three times Notre Dame faced Boston College while ranked in the Top 10, the Irish came up miserably short. And in the last 20 years, Notre Dame has been undefeated twice heading into November match ups against Boston College. Both times the Eagles crushed the Irish hopes and chances of winning the national title.

Keep your eye on Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood on Saturday. In the past five games the senior running back has gained 442 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. Wood does a great job at following his blockers and running in between the tackles. He leads an Irish three-headed rushing attack, also featuring Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III, that’s averaging more than 200 yards on the ground per game. With Boston College’s run defense being ranked 116th in FBS, Notre Dame will surely use this to their advantage and utilize their running game to its fullest potential.

Boston College wide receiver Alex Amidon will be a top target on Saturday and the Irish defense will need to make sure to contain him. Amidon has averaged more than 115 receiving yards per game this season and ranks in the top 5 nationally. He is known for his precise route-running and Irish cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson must be prepared to defend explosive bursts and double moves from Amidon. He has six 100-plus yard games, which ties the school record. He was the ACC receiver of the week against Clemson on Oct. 1, with 193 receiving yards that week. This is the most yardage for a BC pass-catcher since Doug Flutie connected with Gerard Phelan for 226 yards in their 1984 victory over Miami (including the famous last-second Hail Mary pass).

Golson and company yet again find a way to win in overtime versus Pitt last Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. Photo: Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images
While Notre Dame has an excellent arsenal of passing targets for quarterback Everett Golson including wide receivers Robby Toma, TJ Jones, and tight end Tyler Eiffert,  DaVaris Daniels could also shine big on Saturday. The sophomore wide receiver is coming off his top game of the season with seven catches for 86 yards against Pitt. Not only did Daniels snag a crucial catch in OT of the Stanford game, he hauled in a clutch 45-yard catch on a game-tying drive in the final minutes of the Pitt game last week. In Coach Brian Kelly’s press conference on Tuesday, Kelly said that Daniels continues to improve with his route running.

Boston College will put all hopes of beating the Irish on Saturday on the shoulders of their quarterback, Chase Rettig. The Eagles have found themselves trailing in far too many games this season, relying on Rettig’s arm to try to close the deficit. In the last three games, Rettig has averaged more than 39 pass attempts per game. During the same stretch he also averaged more than 300 yards passing per game. Turnovers haven’t been much of a problem for Rettig in 2012, but he threw three last week in the Eagle’s loss to Wake Forest.

The key to an Irish win on Saturday is going turnover free. The Irish are 9-0 under Coach Kelly when they don’t commit a turnover, and they are 23-4 in their last 27 games when having a turnover free game. Notre Dame did its best to lose last week against the Pitt Panthers, committing three turnovers in that game.

The winner of Saturday’s match up  receives two trophies: the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl and the Ireland Trophy, both of which honor the schools’ shared history and tradition.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

No. 4 Notre Dame Hangs On, Beats Pitt in 3OT

[Photo: Mike DiNovo US Presswire]

[] Notre Dame’s hopes to get a chance at a national title were almost crushed last night by the Pittsburgh Panthers. Instead the Panthers were left stunned with a loss of their own, and the Irish went on to celebrate another check in the win column.

Panther running back Ray Graham shined almost as brightly as the golden dome yesterday, rushing for a total of 172 yards on 24 carries. The Panthers had several opportunities to put away the unbeaten Irish, but just couldn’t get the job done. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson scored on a quarterback sneak play in the third overtime to give Notre Dame a 29-26 victory after Pitt threw away a 14-point lead.

“We had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of them enough,” Pitt  head coach Paul Chryst told the media after the game. “That’s what this game comes down to.”

The Panthers (4-6) increased their lead to 11 points in the third quarter when Pitt linebacker Eric Williams intercepted Irish backup quarterback Tommy Rees at midfield. Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri then completed a 43-yard pass to tight end J.P. Holtz for a first down, and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Holtz to go up 17-6. The Panthers further increased their lead to 20-6 later in the third quarter on a 21-yard field goal by kicker Kevin Harper.

The Panthers were hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2002 Boston College team which beat an 8-0 Notre Dame also at Notre Dame stadium. But the Panthers somehow could not find a way to finish the job.

“A couple times I thought we had it sealed, but that’s why you play to the last whistle. You never know what’s going to happen,” Pitt linebacker Joe Trebitz told the media after the game.

Pitt appeared to have the upset in hand when cornerback K’Waun Williams intercepted a Golson pass in the end zone. But the Irish defense came to the rescue and held Pitt’s offense. Golson then returned to complete a 45-yard pass to wide receiver DaVaris Daniels at the Pitt 5. Golson followed that up with a 5-yard touchdown pass to running back Theo Riddick. Then Golson ran in the two-point conversion himself, sending the game into overtime tied 20-20.

The Panthers’ big chance to win the game came in the second overtime when one of the Pitt defenders hit the ball in Cierre Woods hands squarely with his helmet and Wood could not hang on to the ball as he attempted to dive into the end zone. The ball was recovered by Pitt safety Jarrend Holley in the endzone, and Pitt got the ball back. Unfortunately, their subsequent drive ended in a missed 33-yard field goal by Pitt kicker Kevin Harper.

“We missed a field goal, that’s why we lost the game,” Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri told the media post game. “It came down to a special teams play, we didn’t make the play. Give credit to Notre Dame for being able to finish it off.”

The Irish survive another nail biter, moving on to 9-0. [Photo: James Brosher, South Bend Tribune]

Notre Dame finally secured the win in triple overtime on a series of Riddick rushing plays, and a one-yard rushing touchdown by Golson himself.

This is yet another home game that the Irish have narrowly escaped defeat. All five Notre Dame home games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less (with two going to overtime), while their four away games have been decided by an average margin of 28 points.

Kelly has been urging his team to play better at home, but yet again they continue to make mistakes. He told the Irish they had to play better against Boston College, Wake Forest and Southern California.

As one of few remaining undefeated teams left, everyone is trying to pull the big upset against Notre Dame.

“I told them that they have to understand that everybody they play against will play their absolute best. Next week BC will play out of their minds against us. Wake Forest will. They can’t just highlight certain teams on their schedule because they will play their best,” Kelly told the media post game. “I think that’s a lesson learned.”

Notre Dame faces the Boston College Eagles next week, who are 2-7 on the season. However, no Boston College team should be dismissed. They have broken the hearts of Irish fans on far too many occasions to be overlooked. Coach Kelly needs to find a way to keep his squad focused and to not underestimate any team on their remaining schedule.


Friday, November 2, 2012

No. 4 Notre Dame to Face Pitt Panthers at Home

Jeff Samardzija's first career touchdown came against Pittsburgh on this diving catch to open the 2005 season. [Credits: AP]

[] No. 4 Notre Dame returns to South Bend this week to face another common rival the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Irish and Panthers have met 67 times, with Notre Dame holding a 46-20-1 advantage. Pitt is actually the fifth most common opponent ever for Notre Dame behind Navy, Purdue, USC and Michigan State.

Notre Dame has beat the Panthers in the past two meetings, but this series has been close in recent years with seven of the last eight meetings being decided by eight points or fewer.

This is one of my favorite rivalries, personally, as I was born in Pittsburgh, and my father’s first Notre Dame game as a child was a Notre Dame-Pitt game in Pittsburgh.

Here is a little history behind this classic rivalry.

The series first began in the year 1909.

The first ever meeting between the two teams ended in a 6-0 Irish win.

The first five meetings ended in four Panther losses and one tie. In 1932 the Panthers earned their first victory over the Irish with a 12-0 win. It was the first of three consecutive shutout wins for Pittsburgh over Notre Dame.

In 1936, for the first time both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh entered the contest as ranked opponents. The ninth-ranked Panthers prevailed in this contest, beating the seventh-ranked Irish 26-0.

Frank Leahy’s first meeting with Pittsburgh in the fall of 1943 was a 41-0 victory. This win was the start of eight straight wins for the Irish over the Panthers. During this streak, the Irish would go on to outscore the Panthers 302-15.

In 1952 the Panthers ended Notre Dame’s eight-game series win streak with a 22-19 upset over the eighth ranked Irish.

After two previous wins over the Panthers, in 1966 Ara Parseghian’s top-ranked Irish crushed Pittsburgh 40-0 on their way to winning the national championship. The win was the third game in Notre Dame’s 11-game winning streak over the Panthers from 1964-74.

Dan Devine’s first crack at the Panthers in 1975  ended with his ninth-ranked Irish losing 34-20 to an unranked Pittsburgh squad. Panther legend Tony Dorsett rushed for an opponent record 303 yards in the Pitt win.

In the following year’s match up in 1976 Dorsett rushed for 181 yards to lead Pittsburgh to the 31-10 win and to the eventual national title.

In 1982, freshman Allen Pinkett scored on a 76-yard touchdown run to help Notre Dame upset Dan Marino and the #1 ranked Pittsburgh Panthers by a score of 31-16.

With starting quarterback Terry Andrysiak hurt, sophomore backup Tony Rice made his first appearance in 1987 and lead an Irish rally that just fell short as Pitt held on to get the 30-22 victory.

In 1988, a couple of red-zone fumbles helped the eventual national champion Irish hold on and beat Pitt 30-20.

In Coach Lou Holtz’s next to last  home game at Notre Dame (1996)  the Irish cruised to a 60-6 over the hapless Panthers.

The Panther’s send out old Pitt Stadium in style 1999 as they beat  Notre Dame 37-27.

In a rare shining moment during the 2003 football season, Julius Jones rushed for 262 yards in helping Notre Dame beat Pittsburgh 20-14.

Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame debut came in 2005 against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, the Irish continued on to dominate the Panthers, winning by a score of 42-21. Jeff Samardzija caught his first career touchdown with an incredible diving catch.

It took 99 years for the Irish and Panthers to play their first overtime contest (2008).  The Panthers came out victorious  after four overtimes by a score of 36-33 when Brandon Walker’s final field goal attempt went wide.

And finally, last year (2011) Jonas Gray ran for a career-long 79-yard touchdown to give the Irish the lead early, but it would be a late fourth quarter touchdown pass from Tommy Rees to Tyler Eifert that would secure the 15-12 win for Notre Dame.

The Irish faithful are looking forward to the game against Pitt on Saturday, hoping to see a game that gives the Irish a little breathing room compared to last week’s match up against Oklahoma. A win over the Panthers would improve Notre Dame to 9-0 for the first time since 1993. It would also give the Irish nine straight victories to open a season for the 16th time in school history.

Notre Dame enters this week ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. It equals the highest Irish ranking during the BCS era since Notre Dame was No. 3 in the standings released the weeks of Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, 2002.

Notre Dame is 9-0 under Brian Kelly when they don’t commit a turnover in a game. The Irish have played three  turnover-free games so far this year, including road games at No. 10 Michigan State and No. 8 Oklahoma.