Regular season Game 7 of 12 brings MAC opponent Western Michigan to South Bend. Saturday's matchup will be the third meeting between the programs and the first since the 1920 – it will also mark Notre Dame's first contest vs. a MAC foe since that 1920 win over the Broncos (described below).
Western Michigan enters the contest at 2-3 with losses to Michigan State, Toledo and Idaho and wins over Nicholls State and Ball State (last week).
1 – Game in the first half of the 2010 season in which the Irish did not commit a turnover: last Saturday vs. Pittsburgh. The Irish lost a fumble vs. Purdue, Michigan State (2), Stanford and Boston College (2) while suffering an interception vs. Michigan (3), Michigan State, Stanford and BC.
2 – Fumbles recovered by the Irish this season. The number is one shy of the total recovered by Bob Diaco's Cincinnati defense in 13 games last season. The 2010 Notre Dame defense has forced three fumbles while Irish opponents have forced 10 and recovered six of those errors through six games. Brian Kelly's Bearcats lost an NCAA-low two fumbles in 2009.
3 – Touchdowns allowed by the Irish red zone defense over their opponents last 12 red zone drives. Diaco's D has enjoyed red zone success for the bulk of the season, holding 19 opponent forays inside the 20-yard line to just seven touchdowns. It's nothing new for this roster of Irish players: the same group enjoyed red zone success over the first five games of 2009 as well, limiting those opponents to nine TD in 18 red zone trips.
4 – Notre Dame players that have scored three touchdowns this season to tie for the team lead: Dayne Crist (rushing), Michael Floyd (receiving), Theo Riddick (receiving) and Kyle Rudolph (receiving) pace the squad through six games. Only Michael Floyd has scored twice in a single game while Theo Riddick has scored in three of his last four outings. Rudolph has the longest TD score, a 95-yard thriller that gave the Irish a late lead vs. Michigan. It ranks as the second longest TD from scrimmage in team history behind a Joe Howard 96-yard reception from Blair Kiel in 1982.
5 – Rushing touchdowns by the Irish this season. Three have come courtesy of quarterback Dayne Crist while senior tailback Armando Allen produced the remaining pair with two-yard carries vs. Purdue and Boston College. The total is tied with Charlie Weis' 2008 squad for the third-lowest number of rushing scores through six contests over the past decade. Weis' 2007 group managed just three rushing touchdowns in the first half of that season while Tyrone Willingham's 2003 squad hit pay dirt just four times via the ground.
The high-water mark for the decade? Weis' 2005 squad, which notched 13 rushing TD through six games en route to a 9-2 regular season.
6 – Turnovers committed by the Broncos in their Week Three loss to Toledo. The Broncos lost seven turnovers in their four other contests to date to rank No. 102 nationally in the unenviable category. (The Irish have lost 12 turnovers to rank tied for 92nd).
7 – Consecutive wins by Brian Kelly-led teams vs. MAC foes. Kelly has not lost to a MAC opponent since his Central Michigan Chippewas dropped a November 17 defeat at Northern Illinois. The Notre Dame program is 4-0 all-time vs. the MAC, defeating Akron and Miami-Ohio in 1909 and 1910 and Western Michigan twice as noted above. Saturday will be the program's first meeting vs. a MAC opponent in 90 years, though Miami-Ohio was slated to inaugurate the expanded Notre Dame Stadium before being replaced with Georgia Tech in the 1997 opener.
8 – FBS players with more tackles than Irish sophomore Manti Te'o through six games. Te'o leads the nation entering Week Four but has since dropped to No. 2 and now No. 9 after 10 and 5-tackle efforts at Boston College and vs. Pittsburgh. Averaging 11.5 tackles per game, Te'o has accumulated 34 solos and 35 assisted tackles through six contests.
9 – Turnovers forced by the Western Michigan defense over the last two contests. The Broncos have benefitted from a head-shaking 22 turnovers this season; a number that matches the team's 2009 season total. WMU has notched four interceptions while recovering five fumbles in its previous two weeks vs. Ball State and Idaho.
10 – Successful fourth down conversions in 19 attempts by the Western Michigan offense this season. The number ranks second nationally, trailing only the option offense of Georgia Tech with 11 conversions (in 20 tries). Notre Dame is 0-3 in fourth down conversion attempts this season and rank as only one of five programs not to convert a fourth down yet this year. (A.P. No. 5 Nebraska is technically last at 0-1 and is one of two ranked teams – along with No. 18 Wisconsin – to fail to convert at least one fourth down try.
11 – Touchdown passes by Dayne Crist over the first six weeks and his first six career starts. Crist reached the number faster than any quarterback in Irish history. Should he match that number over the final six games, Crist will rank No. 5 all-time on the program's single season touchdown chart behind Brady Quinn (2006, 2005) and Jimmy Clausen (2009, 2009).
12 – Consecutive foes to lose in their first trip to Notre Dame Stadium between 1981 and 2009. Bobby Bowden's Florida State Seminoles upset Gerry Faust's No. 20 ranked Irish 19-13 in October 1981.
Following that defeat, Colorado, Mississippi, Boston College, BYU, Vanderbilt, Rutgers, West Virginia, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Washington State, San Diego State and Nevada all fell to the Irish in their inaugural visit to South Bend. Randy Edsall's Connecticut Huskies snapped the streak on Senior Day last November with a 33-30 OT win.
Bonus Stat: 95 – Points allowed by Western Michigan vs. Notre Dame in the programs' two previous meetings. The Irish won both: 53-0 in 1919 and 42-0 in the 1920 rematch.
On the HorizonIrish players that could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Broncos:
Armando Allen: Needs 8 receiving yards to supplant Darius Walker (2004-06) for 4th place on the position's receiving yardage list. Allen could finish as high as No. 2 on the position's career list, though first place is likely out of reach:
- Joseph Heap 1137 (1951-54)
- Bob Gladieux 947 (1966-68)
- Jim Morse 902 (1954-56)
- Darius Walker 816 (2004-06)
- Armando Allen Jr. 809 (2007-)
Last week, Allen moved past Rocket Ismail (1988-1990) into 5th place on the program's all-purpose yardage list. He trails only Julius Jones (5,462), Autry Denson (5,327), Allen Pinkett (5,259) and Tim Brown (5,024) on the all-time list. Allen has amassed 4,247 all-purpose yards thanks to the early portion of his career in which he totaled 1,360 kick and punt return yards.
With 2,078 career rushing yards, Allen needs 197 rushing yards to move into 10th place on the program's career rushing list.
Darrin Walls: With 19 career pass breakups, Walls needs two to move ahead of Ralph Stepaniak (1969-71) and the legendary Todd Lyght (1987-1990) into fifth-place on the program's career list. With seven pass breakups over the last six regular season games, Walls would overtake Shane Walton (1999-2002) for third-place in program history.
David Ruffer:Set the program record with 16 consecutive successful field goals in last week's 23-17 win over Pittsburgh. Ruffer's record-setter was a 50-yard boot; that tied him for the sixth-longest field goal in team history. It was the program's first successful 50+ yard try since 2003.
Michael Floyd: Needs one touchdown to pass Tom Gatewood (1969-71) for 5th place on the program's career list. Gatewood caught 19 TD over a three-year span. Floyd tied Gatewood with a 1st Quarter TD grab on Saturday and appeared to pass the Irish legend with a 44-yard catch-and-run in the 4th Quarter but the score was called back due to offensive pass interference on sophomore slot receiver Theo Riddick.
With his next reception, Floyd will tie program tight end king Ken McAfee (1974-77) for 9th on the program's all-time list. Floyd has caught 127 passes in 22 career games. A four-reception game would elevate Floyd from No. 10 to No. 7, passing McAfee, Derrick Mayes (1992-95) and Maurice Stovall (2002-2005) on the program's career list.
Likewise, Floyd can move into 8th place on the program's reception yardage list if he totals a season-best 133 receiving yards Saturday vs. the Broncos.