When Notre Dame turned the football over five times against South Florida in last year's opener, you thought it couldn't get much worse.
But it did, and then remained on a negatively steady pace the rest of the season.
The Irish turned it over five more times the following week against Michigan (to Michigan's three), and after four weeks, Notre Dame was an abysmal minus-10. Over the final nine games of the season, the Irish were another minus-five.
The final tally: 12 fumbles lost and 17 interceptions; six fumbles recovered and eight interceptions for an atrocious minus-15.
Of the many encouraging signs in Notre Dame's 50-10 victory over Navy in Dublin Saturday, one of the most satisfying was its plus-three turnover margin against the Midshipmen, leaving the Irish tied for fourth nationally after one week.
"I think you get what you demand and we've demanded it since January," said Irish head coach Brian Kelly Sunday. "All the times that we've gotten together with the media, we've talked about the emphasis of taking great care of the football."
Notre Dame forced five fumbles against Navy Saturday after forcing just 12 all last season. The three fumbles recovered were exactly one-half of the number pounced upon by Irish defenders in 13 games in 2011. Only four other teams in the country had as many as three fumbles recovered this past weekend.
The Irish won the turnover margin in just three games last season - Purdue (plus-one), Air Force (plus-two) and Maryland (plus-one). Over the final seven games, Notre Dame lost the turnover margin in six of them, including a minus-three against USC. Even in victories over Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Navy, Wake Forest and Boston College, the Irish were a collective minus-six.
"Even on the sack when Everett (Golson) didn't see (the defender) coming, we talked at great lengths about how to protect the football," Kelly said. "You get what you demand and our kids are really understanding how important it is to take care of the football."