Irish give one away; face Sun Devils
Notre Dame handed a win to Oklahoma last week and with the loss, the Irish not only dropped out of the Top 25 rankings in both major polls, but also just about ended any chance of getting a major BCS bowl game.
Giving up two interceptions 20 seconds apart in the first 70 seconds of the game and a third later in the first half, spelled doom for the Irish. They don't have the type of offense to recover quickly from giving up such an early lead and the defense is still struggling.
Tommy Rees, who continues to regress as the season goes on, was just nine of 24 passing for a mere 104 yards with the three interceptions - all of which led to Oklahoma scores.
Add to that a defense that yielded 450 yards to the Sooners - 212 rushing and 238 passing. Rees has now been labeled by the South Bend press as "Turnover Tommy."
Despite those negatives, the Irish were still in the game. ND pulled to within six, 27-21, with 14:10 to go in the game. But the final three ND possessions were three and outs while the Sooners offense continued to move the ball against the very slow Irish defense.
Last week I said the Irish had to establish a running game to keep it close. Well, ND found a running game last week but I never envisioned the three interceptions. Helping to up the rush total was the 80 yard run by runningback George Atkinson III. ND finished with 220 yards rushing for a game total offense of 324 yards. The 220 is a season high for the Irish.
Today the Irish host Arizona State in a home away from home game at Arlington, Tex., in the Cowboys' super stadium. The game is part of the Shamrock Series in which the Irish play a home game away from South Bend to help the ND program maintain its national appeal. Arizona State has come on in recent weeks, jumped into the Top 25 at position 22 in the AP and 24 in the coaches list, and last week ran all over Southern California en route to a 62-41 win. The Sun Devils enter the game at 3-1 with other wins over Sacramento State, 55-0; and Wisconsin, 32-30. The lone loss was to Stanford, 42-28.
The Sun Devils are led by QB Taylor Kelly, who has completed 105 of 171 passes with four interceptions and 11 touchdowns, and has thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his starts this year. Top running back is Marion Grice, 274 yards on 65 carries and eight scores so far this season. Grice leads the nation in scoring with 18 points a game. His four receptions for TDs is number one in the nation for a running back. Top receivers are Jaelen Strong, 433 yards on 31 catches and two scores and DJ Foster 258, 22 and one. Grice has caught 22 for 183 yards. Defensively Chris Young, OLB, leads the team in tackles.
Notre Dame leads the series, 2-0, with the last meeting on Oct. 9, 1999, (48-17).
The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV with a airtime of 7:30 p.m. Kickoff should occurr about 7:45 p.m.
IRISH NOTES:Some other ND stats for the game. Atkinson ended with 148 yards on 14 carries and one score. The rest of the rush yards were spread between Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel, and freshman Tarean Folston. TJ Jones caught four for 42 yards and Troy Niklas two for 43 yards....Arizona State is averaging 44 points a game and will be a real challenge for the ND defense, which continues to give up big yardage to opponents. The ND defense gave up 400 yards against Purdue, and 460 to Michigan. Michigan State is the only opponent under the 400 mark but the Spartans are looking pretty sad as the season rolls on....The Oklahoma win was the first over the Irish since the 1950s and put the series record now at 9-2 in favor of ND....Starting sophomore DE Sheldon Day, who missed the Michigan State game due to injury, did not play against Oklahoma despite the fact head coach Brian Kelly said he would play. Senior NG Kona Schwenke filled in, moving over from his bakckup spot.....Freshman WR William Fuller made his first start Saturday and caught one pass for 11 yards....ND is one of three FBS (former Division I) schools who have never played a FCS opponent (that's former Division II). The others are UCLA and USC....The roof will be closed tonight on the AT&T Cowboys stadium due to the threat of rain in the area....According to the South Bend Tribune, today will mark the 13th time in college football history that USC and Notre Dame have come up on a team's schedule (in either order) in consecutive games. No team has ever beaten both in order....QB Andrew Hendrix has been taking extra snaps at practice this week indicating Kelly and the staff is getting him ready for more playing time if Rees falters - again....Freshman running back Greg Bryant, a five-star recruit from Delray, Fla., will pursue a medical redshirt this year and won't play any more this season....ND is bringing in its biggest group of recruits for tonight's game. Some estimate 65 recruits, mostly high school juniors, will be at the game. ND has officially invited 26 prospects to the game....Cowboys stadium will have 72,000 seats available for tonight's game. It can hold up to 100,000 with extra temporary seats and standing room tickets sold. No extra seats have been set up and no standing room tickets will be sold. As of yesterday, 67,000 tickets have been sold for the game according to media reports. Arizona State was alotted 15,000, the Cowboys allotted 3,000 for local sales, and the rest were sold by ND....Tonight's game is one of those that come up in a season that is labeled a turning point in a season. If ND wins, they will go to 4-2 with a week off heading into the second half of the season and a shot at a high level BCS game. A loss would put the program back to pre-2012 and people will question if Kelly has really brought the program back to elite status. Arizona State is favored by five and a half points, which should tell you what the bookies think of the Irish. Kelly and staff has a lot of pressure tonight for a win. In my preseason picks I have the Irish winning a close game. I now consider it a toss-up to a slight edge to the Sun Devils.