First Look at Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Here are Notre Dame's stats from their impressive win at Pitt Saturday, plus Josh Turel's preseason breakdown of the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame's stats in their 42-21 victory at Pitt his past Saturday.

The Irish Offense:
-- Overall: 502 yards, 33 first downs, 10-15 on 3rd down; 1 turnover (int).
-- Rushing: 275 yds on 50 carries (5.5 ypc), led by Darius Walker's 100 yds on 20 carries.
-- Passing: 227 yds on Brady Quinn's 18-27 (8.4 yards per pass) with 2 TD's and 1 int.
-- Receiving: the ball was even spread around, with TE Anthony Fasano making 4 catches (42 yards) and 3 each for Rhema McKninght (51 yds), Jeff Samardzija (34 yds), Darius Walker (52 yds).

The Irish Defense:
-- Overall: gave up 323 yards, 4-14 on 3rd down; forced 1 turnover (int).
-- Rushing: gave up 103 yds (3.3 ypc)
-- Passing: gave up 220 yards on 20-35 passing (5.5 yards per catch); had 1 int.

Special Teams:
-- 2 KR for 35 yds (Justin Hoskins from Grand Rapids had 1 return for 24 yds)
-- 1 PR for 23 yds (Tom Zbikowski)
-- 3 punts for 45.7 yd avg. (D.J. Fitzpatrick)


Josh Turel's preseason breakdown of the Irish.

September 10th, 2005 at the Big House
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2004 Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Charlie Weis (1st year)
Returning Starters: Offense: 11, Defense: 3

The Notre Dame Offense:

Junior Brady Quinn returns at quarterback and has reportedly progressed well so far under new Head Coach Charlie Weis. Quinn had an up and down sophomore season, completing 54% of his passes for 2,586 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The area of concern is the lack of depth at the position.

Running back Ryan Grant is departed but Darius Walker is a capable runner. Walker isn't big or exceptionally fast but he's very elusive and quick, rushing for 786 yards last year (the Irish frosh record) along with seven touchdowns. Junior Travis Thomas will backup Walker while senior Rashon Powers-Neal will return at fullback.

The receivers are a pretty solid bunch led by Rhema McKnight, who caught 42 passes for 610 yards and three touchdowns last year. McKnight isn't much of a game breaker, but Weis is hoping senior Maurice Stovall might be that type of player. Stovall, who has excellent size and speed, has been plagued by inconsistency and dropped passes thus far but could break out this season. Matt Shelton proved he could make plays last year, averaging 25.8 yards a catch to go with his six touchdowns. Also look for Jeff Samardzija to see time in the spread sets Coach Weis plans on running from time to time.

The tight ends are a talented bunch: expect Anthony Fasano to start and Marcus Freeman to see time in multiple tight end sets; both are excellent receiving options.

The offensive line should be solid with all five starters returning. The group is talented but they struggle from time to time especially on the interior and only opened the way for 127 '04 yards rushing per game. Tackles Mark LeVoir and Ryan Harris are the most talented along the line, while center John Sullivan is a developing star. Dan Stevenson and Bobby Morton return at guard for their senior seasons. Depth is lacking, which has been an issue the past few years.

The Notre Dame Defense:

Despite losing three starters on the defensive line (Justin Tuck, Kyle Budinscak, and Greg Pauly) the front trench should be okay. At defensive end is Victor Abiamiri, a pass rushing specialist who will finally start full time and should develop into a star. Chris Frome and Travis Leitko will battle for the other end spot and likely split time. Tackle Derek Landri returns after a breakout junior season and will be key inside. Trevor Laws replaces Greg Pauly at the other tackle spot and could emerge there; Laws is athletic for his size and uses sound technique. The defensive line lacks depth.

Linebackers Mike Goolsby and Derek Curry have graduated but star Brandon Hoyte returns. Hoyte is the returning tackle leader with 74 in 2004, including eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Corey Mays will get one of the starting linebacker jobs and has experience. Chinedum Ndukwe moves from the secondary to take over Notre Dame's new hybrid linebacker position named "apache" which is similar to Michigan State's "bandit" position.

Tom Zbikowski is the lone returning starter in the secondary. Zbikowski isn't overly big at 5'10 but he is a hard hitter who makes plays, including 70 tackles last year as a sophomore. Freddie Parish should get the nod at free safety. The Irish lost corners Dwight Ellick and Preston Jackson and don't have many promising replacements. The secondary will be the biggest key for the Irish after ranking 116th nationally, surrendering 23 passing touchdowns last season, and allowing a 58.2 completion percentage.

DJ Fitzpatrick returns to handle the kicking and punting duties which he did a solid job of in 2004. Fitzpatrick was 11 of 15 on field goals along with a 41.8 yard punt average. The loss of Carlyle Holiday means the Irish will need to find a new return man as well.

Preseason Prediction: Coming off their opener on the road to Pitt, the Irish should have more than they could handle at the Big House. Michigan 31, Notre Dame 21

Revised Prediction: after watching last week's games, this one looks like a shoot-out. Michigan 38, Notre Dame 35.

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