News and Notes: 10/03/2006

*For the first time this year, Notre Dame will not be going into a contest facing an undefeated team. The Irish played Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue all when they had no losses. Notre Dame goes from one extreme to the next as they welcome in Stanford to South Bend this weekend.

The numbers don't lie for the Cardinal. It's been a tough year for head coach Walt Harris. Injuries and a bad defense appear to be the major factors in the winless 2006 campaign so far. Irish head coach Charlie Weis will have to use another way to get his team ready for the Stanford contest.

"I don't lie to our players," Weis said. "I don't use a ploy that's not a fact. For the last five weeks, that's been a fact. It wasn't overrated. It was a fact. Now you don't have that one. You don't use that one. You don't try to conjure up something that doesn't exist.

There's still two different tacts. One is our game from November. That's number one. Two, you can make a cut-up tape of this team and show them why we should be concerned. In addition, you can challenge your guys to step up their level of play and see if they can be more consistent because we have not shown that yet."

One of the stats is puzzling on the surface. The Cardinal's offensive line leads the nation with 147 career starts. This usually translate into an efficient unit in both running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Not the case this season. Stanford is 101st in rushing offense in the nation, one spot below Notre Dame. It's even worse in giving starting quarterback Trent Edwards some time to throw the ball. The Cardinal are 115th nationally in sacks allowed, letting opposing defenses total 4.2 a contest. One reason for the low rushing yards and high sack count might be the fact that Stanford's defense is one of the worst in the country and allowing opponents to rack up big early leads. The comeback mode is something familiar to the Irish this year.

"We've been there, done that," Weis said. "When you get down in the game, you're throwing it a lot more than you want to be throwing it and people start teeing off on you. Sometimes the game is a question of circumstance and you have to see how it goes."

*There's some news on the injury front. Bob Morton could be ready to go this weekend. The offensive lineman was participating in drills at practice on Tuesday. David Grimes was running quite smoothly as well. The wide receiver missed the Purdue game and his status is up in there. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden was working with the first group of defensive backs during individual drills. The senior appeared to have a slight limp in his step but Weis said last week that he's close to 100 percent.

It was a little different for Travis Thomas and Asaph Schwapp in practice. Both were in pads on Tuesday but neither participated fully in individual drills, especially when side-to-side movement was involved. Schwapp has been out for three games after getting hurt in the Penn State contest. As for Thomas, the senior injured himself in the last play in the win over Michigan State. Joe Brockington filled in for him last weekend vs. Purdue and could do the same this week if Thomas's condition does not improve.

"First of all, I thought he was pretty solid," Weis said of Brockington last Saturday. "You didn't really notice him getting exploited. The biggest thing you probably noticed was when he dropped the interception, which he took a lot of ribbing from his teammates. You didn't really notice him too much and that's important for a guy getting a lot of meaningful reps for the first time."

*Trophy alert: the winner of the Notre Dame-Stanford contest receives much more than the satisfaction of beating a rival. The victor also gets the all-important "The Legends Trophy." It's a combination of Irish crystal and California redwood. The trophy was presented for the first time in 1989 by the Notre Dame Club of the San Francisco Bay area and the word is that it really stands out in a display case.

*The Irish have a winning record against nine of the ten schools in the Pac-10. The most wins have come versus USC (42-30-5) while Notre Dame holds a 14-6 mark over Stanford, including five straight at home. Can you name the one school that the Irish have a losing record against in the Pac-10? Those pesky Oregon State Beavers, who have blitzed Notre Dame twice in bowl games in the only meetings between the universities.

*Stanford had 16 returning starters back for the 2006 season, including ten on offense. But of these 10, seven have missed time because of injuries. Fullback Nick Frank was forced to retire with a cervical spine injury, center Tom Mattran has not played in 2006, go-to-guy wide receiver Mark Bradford has sat out the past three contests and maybe the rest of the year with torn ligaments in his foot, and wide receiver Evan Moore (out the last two games), tight end Matt Traverso (has played on and off in 2006), offensive guard Josiah Vinson (didn't play early in 2006) and running back Anthony Kimble (missed last week's UCLA game) all have been dinged up. That's quite a list for any team. It's forced Harris to use six freshmen extensively this season, three on offense and three on defense.

*Some Irish fans might remember this name: Stanford running backs coach Buzz Preston coached under Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame from 2002-2004.

*Last week it was released by the NCAA that the Irish scored a 95 in football for their Graduation Success Rates. Close behind them was Stanford with a 94. The only two schools better than Notre Dame in football were Boston College with a 96 and Navy with a 98. For the record, Michigan scored a 71, USC and Ohio State tied with a 55, Florida State had a 52 and Texas was dead last among top-25 teams with a 40.

*The pep rally for this weekend's game will be held at the Joyce Center on Friday, October 2nd. The team enters the arena at 6:30 p.m. EDT. There is a Notre Dame-Marquette volleyball game before the pep rally. Fans can purchase combination tickets good for both events. These will be distributed beginning at 3 p.m. at Gate 10 of the Joyce Center. If you choose this option, fans must go to the volleyball game and won't be permitted into the pep rally if they pick up the tickets and leave. If any tickets are left, they'll be distributed beginning at 5 p.m. Friday at the ticket windows on the east side of Notre Dame Stadium.

*One final bad statistic for the day (there will be more to come during the week for Stanford): the Cardinal have lost 14 in a row to top-25 teams. Their last win over one was back in 2001 when they defeated No. 4 UCLA 38-28.


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