Next week, Notre Dame welcomes No. 11 Michigan to South Bend to continue the historic rivalry. But looking back on the Nittany Lion contest, there were a few notable stats that stood out.
*The Irish were deadly in the red zone. They went six times and came away with points six times, racking up 34 points. But a few mistakes cost them from being perfect.
In the first quarter, after getting down to the Penn State 10-yard line, Notre Dame was called for holding. They eventually settled for a 35-yard field goal by Carl Gioia to make it 3-0. It was the same story in the second quarter when a false start turned a 3rd-and-10 at the Nittany Lion 12 into a long 3rd-and-15. Gioia had to come out once again for a field goal and connected for his second made kick of the afternoon. Head coach Charlie Weis mentioned these penalties in his Sunday press conference as "drive killers." The good news is that the Irish scored touchdowns the next four times they entered the red zone.
On the season, Notre Dame has scored points on 8-of-9 trips inside the red zone with the only failure coming when Gioia missed a 36-yard field goal against Georgia Tech. The Irish have scored touchdowns on six of these possessions. A veteran group, such as the Irish offense, usually finds that killer instinct close to the goal line. They'll take a four touchdown streak inside the red zone into the contest with the Wolverines on Saturday.
*Add two more touchbacks for Bobby Renkes. The senior kickoff specialist nailed two back into the end zone without a return. For the season, Renkes has three touchbacks in 10 attempts. Compare this to last season when D.J. Fitzpatrick and Gioia combined for 10 in 81 attempts.
*It's becoming old hat but Notre Dame controlled the time of possession statistic once again, a staple of Weis's offensive play calling. At halftime, the Irish held a 19 minutes to 11 minutes advantage over the Nittany Lions. In addition, they had run 45 plays and racked up 296 yards of offense in contrast to Penn State's 23 plays for 127 yards. Through just two games, Notre Dame is 13th in the nation in time of possession. Their opponent on Saturday, Michigan, is even better. The Wolverines rank 7th in the category.
*Maurice Crum, Jr. was all over the field on Saturday. The junior linebacker registered 14 tackles (ten solo, four assisted), including three for losses. He also forced Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli to fumble, which Tom Zbikowski scooped up and took 25 yards to the house. The bigger stat is that the 14 tackles ties the most ever under Weis. Last season, Corey Mays racked up 14 tackles in the win over Navy. Weis made mention of Crum's performance at his Sunday press conference. It appears that he's settling nicely into that middle linebacker spot.
*A quick look ahead to Michigan next week: although they've played Vanderbilt and Central Michigan, the Wolverines have allowed just 29 yards per game on the ground. That's good for 4th in the nation. They rank 3rd in sacks (five per game) and fifth in tackles for losses (9.5 per contest). Running back Michael Hart has broken the 100-yard barrier in both games as the rushing game averages 249 yards per contest. Hart, along with sophomore Kevin Grady and freshman Brandon Minor, provide Michigan with stellar depth at the running back position.