Fighting Irish Facts (Part IV)

With a trip to the post-season and a victory in a bowl game, Brian Kelly would move to within one victory of Lou Holtz’s ND record of five bowl conquests.

• The last time Notre Dame finished better than .500 against the pointspread at home was in 2002 when Tyrone Willingham’s first Irish team was 4-1 as the home favorite and 1-0 as a home underdog. From 2003-14, the Irish were 28-44-3 against the pointspread at home.

• In the last seven seasons, FBS teams have reached the 40-sack total 54 times, including 12 teams last season, which is a high-water mark during that timespan. The last time Notre Dame had as many as 40 sacks in a season was in 1997 when head coach Bob Davie’s squad – with defensive coordinator by Greg Mattison -- recorded 41, led by Bertrand Berry’s 10 and Renaldo Wynn’s nine. Tyrone Willingham’s first two Irish teams (2002-03) – coordinated by Kent Baer – recorded 37 sacks each of those seasons.

• With his 1,094 yards receiving in ’14, Will Fuller became the fifth player in the last 10 seasons to exceed 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd each had two 1,000-yard seasons and TJ Jones one (2013). That makes eight times in the last 10 seasons that an Irish player has gone past the 1,000-yard mark. Prior to 2005 when Samardzija gained 1,249 yards on 77 catches, a Notre Dame player cracked 1,000 yards just twice – Jack Snow in 1964 and Thom Gatewood in 1970.

• In 2014, 30 FBS programs averaged at least 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. The last time Notre Dame averaged at least five yards per tote was 1996 – Lou Holtz’s final season as head coach – when the Autry Denson-led running game accounted for 2,965 yards (269.5 per game) and 5.2 yards per carry. The 2012 team, which averaged more than 200 yards during the regular season and finished at 189, averaged 4.87 yards per carry, the closest to 5.0 since that ’96 season.

• Since the start of the Lou Holtz era in 1986, Notre Dame is 23-6 in season-openers. Holtz was 9-2 in openers with losses to Michigan in ’86 and Northwestern in ’95. Bob Davie was 4-1 with a 2001 loss to Nebraska. Tyrone Willingham was 2-1 with a ’04 loss to Brigham Young. Charlie Weis was 4-1, falling to Georgia Tech in ’07. Brian Kelly enters the ’15 season with a 4-1 mark in openers with the lone blemish versus South Florida in ’11.

Four of those six opening losses – Michigan in ’86, Northwestern in ’95, Georgia Tech in ’07 and South Florida in ’11 – were in Notre Dame Stadium.

• Texas, Notre Dame’s season-opening opponent on Sept. 5, has not lost the first game of the season since 1999 – Mack Brown’s second season as head coach – when North Carolina State defeated the Longhorns in Austin, 23-20.

• In 2015, Notre Dame does not play a team from the Big Ten. That’s the first time since 1916 the Irish have not played a Big Ten representative. Notre Dame played Michigan State in ‘16, but the Spartans did not join the Big Ten until 1950.

• Notre Dame is expected to make its sixth straight appearance in a bowl game this season. That’s the longest streak since Lou Holtz took teams nine straight times (1987-95) to post-season play. All nine were played on either Jan. 1 or 2.

• With a victory in a bowl game this year, Brian Kelly would raise his record in post-season play at Notre Dame to 4-2. The record for bowl victories with the Irish is held by Lou Holtz with five, followed by Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine with three apiece.

The two bowl victories in a row by Kelly (Rutgers in ’13 Champ Sports and LSU in ’14 Music City) is the most in a row by an Irish coach since Holtz won three in a row versus Florida in the Sugar Bowl (’92 season) and Texas A&M in back-to-back Cotton Bowls (1993-94 seasons).

• Since the end of the Lou Holtz era (1996), 18 Notre Dame football seasons have transpired. Notre Dame has landed in the final Associated Press poll seven of those 18 seasons, including just two top 10 finishes – 2005 (No. 9) and 2012 (No. 4). Other ranked Irish teams were 1998 (No. 22), 2000 (No. 15), 2002 (No. 17), 2006 (No. 17) and 2013 (No. 20).


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