football Edit

Notre Dame By The Numbers In 2018: 25 To 21

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Jerry Tillery was a focal point in the improved pass rush last year. Can it continue to be better in 2018?
Bill Panzica

25 This year will mark the Silver Anniversary (25 years) of the last time Notre Dame won a major bowl, which is classified as The Big Six now. Over that span, more than three dozen other schools have won at least one.

In the previous 25 years from 1969 (when Notre Dame rescinded its past bowl ban) through 1993, the Fighting Irish won 10 major bowls — the most in college football.

Other than the national title drought, there is perhaps no single stat that better enumerates or defines the football slump since then.

24 Sacks recorded by the Notre Dame defense last season, an appreciable improvement from the 14 (second fewest among Power 5 schools) in 2016 and an upgrade from No. 117 to No. 83 nationally. Especially notable is the total from the defensive line improved drastically from three to 16.5, led by the 4.5 by Jerry Tillery, who moves from nose guard to three-technique this year to better utilize his one-on-one skills.

23 Passes defensed (20 breakups and three interceptions) by current junior cornerback Julian Love last season, shattering previous school records in breakups and passes defensed and earning second-team All-America honors from Sports Illustrated.

It will be virtually impossible to put up such figures again this season while opponents might be more apt to attack classmate Troy Pride Jr. on the other side. The speedster Pride, who finished seventh in the 100 meters at the ACC Outdoor Championships last week (10.56, after running a 10.50 in the qualifying heat), had the best spring among the Irish corners, per the coaching staff.

22 The 269-yard rushing average per game last year that was seventh in the country was the best at Notre Dame in 22 years, or Lou Holtz’s last season as the Fighting Irish head coach in 1996. When you include bowl games, it also marked only the third time since 1997 that Notre Dame finished above 200 yards rushing. The others were 207.6 in 2015 and 208.1 in 1998.

There have been only three times in history Notre Dame finished in the Associated Press top 10 (1957, 1964 and 2005) with less than a 200-yard rushing average, and in 1957 and 1964 they averaged 190.9 both times.

21 Games played by Notre Dame in the month of November the past five years, or since the 12-0 regular season in 2012. In those 21 games, the Fighting Irish are 9-12: 2-2 in 2013, 1-4 in 2014, 3-1 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016 and 2-2 last year. They have also lost the regular season finale, either at Stanford or USC, a school-record five straight years.

This year’s November slate isn’t much easier, traveling first to Northwestern (10-3 last year), hosting Florida State, playing Syracuse (which upset Clemson last season) in Yankee Stadium, and then heading out to revenge-minded USC.

Tomorrow: 20 to 16.


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