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Sep 29, 2011

Game Preview: Purdon't!

After a rough September, the Fighting Irish look to welcome in a new month on Saturday night by traveling through the "Crossroads of America" to take on Purdue / Pur-don’t / Pur-won’t / Pur-hasn’t-in-a-while / Pur-probably-never-will.

Last time we graced Ross-Ade-Stadium with our presence, it took a game winning touchdown catch by Kyle Rudolph to somehow escape West Lafayette with a win.  While that was a memorable game for me personally, (Rudy made the catch about 3 feet from where I was standing on the sideline, Golden Tate stole my leprechaun hat, wore it for the Alma Mater, then repayed me in Cheesy Fries at Reckers when we got back to campus at 4am - Cheesy Fries were not on the menu then, but they are now - you're welcome) it ended up way too close for comfort against a clearly inferior opponent.  Even so, that was then, and this is now.  We have a new coach, a new team, and Pur-don't Pur-won't be able to hang with us any more if we play up to our potential.

Pur-don't has produced a few curious soundbytes leading up to Saturday night's prime time matchup on ESPN. (Yes, two unranked opponents with 3 losses between them play at 8pm on ESPN - I love when that network bows down to us.) For starters, Pur-don't linebacker Joe Holland, the son of a son of a Domer, stated that he is extra pumped (Boiler up! Woot! Woot!) for this one because, in his own words, Notre Dame "didn't recruit me like Purdue did." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm guessing that Joe, who played high school ball at Bishop Chatard in Indy, sits in the same boat as many of his teammates who also hail from the great state of Indiana but were passed over when it came to scholarship letters sent out from the Golden Dome. But wait... there's more! Joe didn't stop there. He went on to say that "the stage is definitely set" and "it would mean a lot for our team to get this one..." Is it just me, or does someone from Pur-don't attempt to make this game out to be more than it is every single year? Sorry, but this is not the battle for the Jewelled Shillelagh (we will be defending our magic stick on October 22). This is the battle for the plain old regular Shillelagh... which is just not as sexy or exciting (befitting of our rather bland opponent, no?). The fact of the matter is that while Pur-don't attempts to hype up their Hoosier-ness, the vast majority of our players have lived most of their lives with no connection whatsoever to the miraculous state of Indiana. We will treat this game just like any other game: Go in, take care of business, get the W, and come back to campus for some Cheesy Fries.

You may be wondering why I am being so mean to the second best football team in the state that I have called home for the past 6 years (sorry Ball State, oh and I think they might play football at IU too...). In all honesty, it's because my last visit to West Lafayette wasn't all Lucky Charms and Cheesy Fries. Not only were the locals less than friendly, (Thanks for spitting on me and my sweet ND backpack!) but Pur-don't Pete was... well... pardon my French... a giant Pur-douche. All I did was beat him in a dance-off on national television and then tell him that he would have to get on my level before he could consider himself an "in-state rival." How did he react? At halftime he got in my face as he revealed the t-shirt he was wearing under his goofy costume, which featured a boilermaker performing a lewd act on a leprechaun. After his own cheerleaders berated him in disgust, I thanked him for being such a gracious host and went on my way. That's all I have to say about that...

Sorry Petey, but I've seen bigger...
... and so has this kid.

OK, back to the game at hand.  Pur-don't comes into this week at 2-1, but don't let their record fool you. Their wins have come against Middle Tennessee and Southeast Missouri State, while their sole loss came at the hands of mighty Rice.  Thus far, they rank 181st nationally in terms of strength-of-schedule, while Notre Dame ranks 5th.  Even more telling than these stats were the statements made by Pur-don't head coach Danny Hope, who said that a win over the FIghting Irish "would be a signature win."  Really?  He's looking for a signature win against an unranked opponent with a 2-2 record?!  Then, as if that wasn't ridiculous enough, Danny did a total 180 by saying, "If things don't work out right, it's not the end of the world... but a win on Saturday could change our world in some ways."  Not the end of the world?!  Dude... you're a football coach!  And your last name is HOPE!  Let me quote Chris Berman on this one with a hearty "C'MON MAN!"  Don't get me wrong, I have always been a big fan of Danny's mustache swag, but how can anyone take a coach who says something like that seriously?

What he lacks in "Hope,"
he makes up for with pure style.

Luckily for us, Pur-dont's biggest strength can be found in its running game, which ranks 11th nationally.  They are currently averaging an astounding 258.7 yards per game on the ground (keep their opponents in mind, though) behind a talented and experienced offensive line.  Unfortunately for them, no real passing offense (73rd nationally) has been able to surface as a reliable counterpart to their rushing attack.  This bodes extremely well for us, as our defensive front continues to prove that it is the rock upon which our entire team is built.  We held MSU to under 50 yards rushing, we stopped Pitt's Ray Graham from breaking the century mark after he averaged 140 yards over his first 3 games, and we will do much of the same on Saturday night.

The real key to this game will be whether Pur-don't can force us into passing situations by shutting down our running game (they have held opponents to 2.8 yards per carry thus far, albeit against an incredibly weak schedule) and how Tommy Rees reacts when those situations do arise.  If "Tommy Turnover"can overcome his chronic case of fumbles and picks, he should be able to shred a secondary that even had trouble against the likes of Rice, Middle Tennessee, and SE Mizzou State (an unranked FCS team).  The begnning of the game will most likely be emotional and filled with energy, but in the end I'm pretty confient that Pur-don't probably Pur-won't...

Score Prediction:
Fighting Irish: 31
Pur-don't: 3

Offensive MVP:  "Tommy Turnover" will finally turn it around and quiet the crass critics currently calling for Crist by shredding the opposing secondary into Rees's Pieces.  Look for him to light up the night sky over West Lafayette.

Defensive MVP: Manti is about to do something big... maybe even ESPN Top-Ten worthy.


Sep 26, 2011

Kelly Quotes:

"It was a tough, blue-collar kind of day and that's what was required of everybody... that's what we got out of our team and it was enough to win and get out of here."

-Brian Kelly, following a 15-12 victory over Pitt

Sep 22, 2011

Game Preview: Punish Pitt

Students in Dillon Hall (little brother of Alumni Hall)
urge the Fighting Irish to show no mercy against Pitt

The Fighting Irish began to turn the corner last week with their first win of the season over #15 MSU. With a win over Pitt this week, they can complete that turn around and set the stage for a 4 game winning streak going into the prime-time matchup against U$C under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium on October 22. 

Three foes stand between them and their West Coast rivals, and while they should be able to take care of business against Purdon’t and Air Force with relative ease, they will have their hands full against a fierce squad of Pittsburgh Panthers led by first-year head coach Todd Graham. Unfortunately, the Fighting Irish faithful remember Graham all too well as then head coach of Tulsa when the Golden Hurricane swept into South Bend to escape with a narrow upset victory last year. While Graham is still ironing out the details of installing his up-tempo spread offense at Pitt, he has the luxury of leaning on another Graham to carry the load of his offense. Running back Ray Graham presents a dual threat out of the backfield with flashes of brilliance between the tackles as well as his ability to contribute in the passing game. So far this season, he has amassed a team-leading 419 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns on 79 carries. Those are scary numbers, especially considering that last time the Fighting Irish ventured into Heinz Field, they got torched by star running back Dion Lewis. To avoid dejavu, a much improved defensive front will have to repeat the dominating performance they had last week when they limited MSU to under 50 yards rushing after the Spartans had averaged over 175 in their first two games. 

In addition to Graham, the Fighting Irish defense will have their hands full with the two most physically daunting wide receivers they will have faced thus far this season in Devin Street and Mike Shanahan. While Pitt’s quarterback Tino Sunseri believes himself to be a potent weapon in Graham’s system, describing his performance last week in a ND-at-Michigan-like meltdown against Iowa as “my greatest game I played yet,” he has only managed to throw 3 touchdowns while accounting for 4 interceptions and 2 fumbles. 

Thus, the key to success on the defensive side of the ball will clearly involve containing Graham and forcing long passing situations on third down, when Bob Diaco can unleash stud freshman pass rushing specialist Aaron Lynch against a weak offensive line that has given up 12 sacks already this season. 

The Fighting Irish offense will be going up against a Pitt squad that Brian Kelly calls “smart, tough, and physical.” Apparently they run extremely complex schemes that may force Kelly to dumb down the offense for Rees this week “so he doesn’t have to read a million different coverages.” Even so, Rees is going to have to step up and have a big game against a secondary that was embarrassed by Iowa last weak, giving up 399 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns. 


Both Tommy Rees and Michael Floyd will have career days against a secondary that is still licking its wounds after getting shredded in the fourth quarter of their last game. The Fighting Irish secondary will give up a few big plays on jump balls against a physical receiving core, and Graham will break a few impressive runs, but the defensive front will come up big when it counts in order to ensure that Ol’ Notre Dame wins overall. 

Fighting Irish: 37 
Panthers: 31 

Offensive MVP: Michael Floyd – Expect Mike to have his way with the Pitt secondary similar to the way Golden Tate did last time the Fighting Irish played at Heinz Field. They can try, but they just can’t defend him. 

Defensive MVP: Aaron Lynch – The hype surrounding this freshman phenom will continue to grow, as another sack and another forced fumble cause a sudden increase in demand for #19 jerseys at the Hammes Bookstore.

Added Bonus Material:  4 minutes of ND owning Pitt:
(check out the stud in green at the 2:49 mark)

Sep 19, 2011

Kelly Quotes:

"...I didn't think we were loud enough on the last couple of drives in our stadium.  We really gotta get that cranked up, and that's a challenge to our all of our fans.  When we're at home we really need to crank it up and make it a loud place.  I think we can do better..."

Sep 18, 2011

To the Victor go the Spoils

Not only did Saturday mark the first win of the season for the Fighting Irish, but for the first time since 1996 Notre Dame is now in possession of all four "Rivalry Trophies" that are awarded annually to the winning team in the series with MSU (Megaphone Trophy), BC (Ireland Trophy), Purdue (Shillelagh Trophy), and U$C (The Jewelled Shillelagh).

The Fighting Irish celebrate with the Megaphone Trophy
 after reclaiming it from MSU.

A star-studded weekend included appearances by ND Alumni Regis Philbin and Condoleezza Rice, 2009 grad and professional fighter Mike Lee (who emerged victorious from the first professional boxing match ever held on campus), the Hollywood father-son duo of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (the two life-long Fighting Irish fans attended their first game while on tour promoting their latest film "The Way"), the 1966 National Champion Notre Dame Football Team, and their fearless leader Ara Parseghian.

Mike Lee wins by unanimous decision

Everyone in Notre Dame Stadium was treated to an impressive showing during which the Fighting Irish finally lived up to their potential, easily handling the #15 ranked team in the nation.  With that elusive first W of the season under their belts, the Boys in Blue and Gold look to continue their winning ways on the road in Pittsburgh next week, before ensuring that the Ireland Trophy remains at Notre Dame when they travel across the great state of Indiana to face Purdue.

"The Way" is a highly recommended powerful film written by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen

Sep 16, 2011

Game Preview: Stomp Sparty

I am at a loss after that ridiculous start to the season.  Rather than attempt to make sense of it all, I'm going to do the only thing left to do: let Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" take the pain away:

Score Prediction:

Irish: 27
Sparty: 17

Game Ball Predictions:

Offensive MVP: Michael Floyd
Defensive MVP: Manti Te'o

Sep 13, 2011


On Friday, September 16, undefeated light heavyweight fighter and 2009 Notre Dame graduate Mike Lee will be fighting in the first professional boxing match ever held on campus. Lee will be headlining a six-bout charity night starting at 9pm ET in the Joyce Center, which has been dubbed “Fight Like a Champion.” Keeping with the Notre Dame spirit of service to others, all proceeds will go to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend. Tickets for the event are available through the Notre Dame Ticket Office online, by phone (630 400-6380), or at the door on fight night.

Upon graduating as a three-time Bengal Bouts champion, Lee won the 2009 Chicago Golden Gloves competition before joining forces with Top Rank Boxing and professional trainer Ronnie Shields, who once worked with boxing legends Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker, Arturo Gatti, and Juan Diaz. Since turning pro, Lee has amassed an unblemished 6-0 record, 4 of which he ended by knockout.

I recently caught up with Lee for an Irish Creed Exclusive in anticipation of his upcoming fight:

TheNDleprechaun: First off, can you give us a rundown of the fight night Notre Dame is hosting on September 16? What can fans expect to experience when they attend? 

MIKE LEE: The fight night Sept 16 will be starting at 9pm in the JACC the night before the home football game vs Michigan St. This is the first professional boxing event in Notre Dame's history, so it is very special to me. It is a charity event and my foundation (Mike Lee Foundation) will be personally donating $100,000 to the Robinson Community Learning Center and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. I would tell fans that they can experience some top-tier professional Top Rank prospects on this card. Anyone who hasn't been to a live boxing match needs to experience it first-hand. The atmosphere in the building on a fight night is amazing.

TheNDleprechaun: You've gone on to remain undefeated since the last time we interviewed you. Can you share what this means to you and how it affects your mindset as you prepare for each fight? 

MIKE LEE: Staying undefeated is my main goal right now. I understand that naturally there is a target on my back, but without the pressure I wouldn't perform as well as I have. I love intensity and energy on fight night and being undefeated only pushes me harder. The fear of failure is a huge motivating factor for me.

TheNDleprechaun: You have quite a following here at Notre Dame, including Coach Kelly who has been known to send shoutouts your way via twitter. How does it feel knowing so many members of the Notre Dame family continue to follow your career? 

MIKE LEE: Having so much support from the Notre Dame community is
HUGE for me. I have spent time with Coach Kelly (who is a big boxing fan) and it is so cool for me to see him give me a few shoutouts on twitter and to hear that he is following and supporting my career. He is an awesome guy and exactly the type of coach that Notre Dame needs. He is a true motivator.

TheNDleprechaun: Given the rich boxing culture at Notre Dame, and the legendary sports tradition that goes along with the Fighting Irish name, what does it mean to represent your alma mater in the first professional fight ever to be held on campus? 

MIKE LEE: It means so much to me to represent my alma mater in this huge homecoming and be part of an event where I get to do what I love in the ring and help out the Notre Dame/South Bend community in the process. Everyone will see on Sept 16 how hard I have trained, how explosive my style has gotten and how bad I want to impress the fans. I guarantee they are in for a great show!!

Thanks Mike, good luck, and we look forward to seeing you in action on September 16! 

Irish Fans: This is an event you WILL NOT want to miss! If you plan on coming to campus for the football game this weekend, come out Friday night to witness history as Mike Lee shows us the true meaning of the words Fighting Irish!

Sep 9, 2011

Game Preview: ND @ UM

Well, Week One was bizarre... and that's all I have to say about that.  Luckily, nothing cures the hangover of a loss like beating the Pure Michigan snot out of some skunkbears.  Even better, the entire sports world will get to watch us do it during prime time tomorrow night under the lights.

I'm expecting our defense to continue its solid play, with a few added turnovers as a bonus.  Team Captain Harry Smith will return to his ballhawk ways, and if Denard doesn't learn how to tie his shoelaces by tomorrow night Manti just might knock him out of his cleats.

On the offensive side of the ball, I am hoping to see a much heavier dose of Two Oh.  I look forward to watching him steamroll the yellow bellied skunkbears all night long, and I can't wait to see him flash his Leprechaun gloves into the camera after his first touchdown of the season.

Oh yeah... I forgot one thing... It's TOMMY TIIIIIME!!!  The legend that is Tommy Rees will continue to grow in yet another epic venue, as the Sophomore extends his streak to 5-0 as a starter.

Score Prediction:

Irish: 34 (+10 style points for the shamrocks on our helmets)
Skunkbears: 20 (-10 style points for the ugliest helmets in football)

Game Ball Predictions:

Offensive MVP:  Tommy Rees
Defensive MVP: Harry Smith

These kids know whats up.


Sep 2, 2011

Game Preview: USF @ ND


To celebrate the first game of the 2011 Notre Dame football season, I went out and got a new pet:

Leprechauns > Bulls

He was a little heavy, so I decided to let him go.  I did, however, convert several of the lovely ladies on the USF cheerleading squad into Fighting Irish fans:

USF ladies love the Irish

Since even their own cheerleaders are now rooting for us, I'm predicting an all-around dominant performance by our boys in Blue & Gold tomorrow.  The Bulls will come out strong riding a lot of emotion in the biggest game any of their players have ever played in, but their high spirits will wear down as our O-line outmuscles their weak and inexperienced defensive front.  Look for Cierre Wood to break several long runs against tired defenders late in the game on his way to a career day.

Score Prediction:

Fightin' Irish: 34
Bulls: 10

Game Ball Predictions:

Offensive MVP: Cierre Wood
Defensive MVP: Manti Te'o


Sep 1, 2011


Two days ago, we released Part I of our IRISH CREED EXCLUSIVE with your Official 2011-2012 Fightin' Irish Leprechaun. 
Today, we present Part II:

But first, a very important public service announcement from Leprechaun Mike for all Fightin' Irish fans who plan on attending any home games this year:

TheNDleprechaun: What is the best part about being the face of your university during your senior year?

MIKE: It really is such a great honor to represent Notre Dame, especially during my senior year. I love being able to give back to the University that has given me so much. To do that in a special way as the Leprechaun in my final year and as a result to be a part of the amazing history we have here is the best part.

TheNDleprechaun: Who is your favorite mascot other than yourself?

MIKE: I’m going to go back to when I was younger growing up in Minnesota and say Crunch the Wolf, the mascot for the Timberwolves. I remember seeing Crunch sliding down the arena stairs and then later doing all sorts of crazy flip dunks off of trampolines. He always seemed to be moving and having a great time. I might have to pull a few tricks from his book when basketball season comes around!

TheNDleprechaun: Who is your least favorite mascot and why?

MIKE: Haha wow, how to answer this question without picking a fight… let’s just say green looks better on Leprechauns than it does on other mascots (especially those that we might play early on in the season). I’ll leave the rest for our football team to sort out on the field.

TheNDleprechaun: Coach Kelly brought extra energy to the pep rallies last year, but they still haven't been able to capture the Fighting Irish spirit of old. What is the best way to fix the rallies? Do you have anything special planned for our rallies this year?

MIKE: This year I’ve been really fortunate to work with a great team who are really passionate about continuing to improve the rallies. You’re right, Coach Kelly definitely brings that extra energy and you can expect even more of that this year. We’ve also realized that what made rallies special in the past was the sense of the Notre Dame family that they evoked. We are ND, we are a community, and we really focused on that when planning the rallies this year. We’ve got some great things in the works and you’re definitely going to want to be there to say you were a part of it!

TheNDleprechaun: We finally beat $C last year, and now we host them for the first night game in Notre Dame Stadium in over two decades. What is the best way for our fans to make sure they contribute to our team's success on that potentially season-defining night?

MIKE: The Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh is going to be HUGE this year. For a lot of Irish fans, this is the game that they’ve been looking forward to ever since it was first announced as a game under the light of the Golden Dome. What we need Irish fans to do is to come out to campus and simply bring the energy. The passion we all feel for ND football is going to light up the night, and we’ll show the nation just what Notre Dame is all about! 

TheNDleprechaun: How do you feel about Dr. Lou's dilemma concerning the matchup between his team and his son?

MIKE: I love Coach Lou, and so does the rest of Notre Dame. He has always been, and will continue to be the biggest supporter of Our Lady’s University. I can understand his dilemma in choosing this weekend. When it comes down to it though, it doesn’t matter who he chose, it’s going to be all Irish!

TheNDleprechaun: Finally, what one message would you like to share with the Fighting Irish Faithful as we get ready to kickoff the 2011 football season?

MIKE: Buckle up, Irish fans. This is going to be the greatest season of Irish Football yet! I know you’ve heard all the hype, and this Saturday we get to prove we’re better then all of it. Let’s GOOOOOOO IRISH!!!

Thanks Clashmore, and may the Luck of the Fightin' Irish be with you this year. I love the enthusiasm, and I'm glad you're keeping the feud alive between us Leprechauns and certain green-clad phonies with foam muscles.

(IRISH FANS: You can follow Mike on Twitter
@FightinIrishLep for an inside look on his year as the Leprechaun)

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule

2012 Notre Dame Football Schedule
DateOpponent / EventLocationTime / Result
09/01/12vs. Navy Dublin, IrelandW, 50-10
09/08/12vs. PurdontNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-17
09/15/12at SpartyEast Lansing, Mich.W, 20-3
09/22/12vs. SkunkbearsNotre Dame, Ind.W, 13-6
Shamrock Series
10/06/12vs. Da UChicago, Ill.W, 41-3
10/13/12vs. TreesNotre Dame, Ind.W, 20-13 (OT)
10/20/12vs. BYU Notre Dame, Ind.W, 17-14
10/27/12at Oklahoma Norman, Okla.W, 30-13
11/03/12vs. Pittsburgh Notre Dame, Ind.W, 29-26 (3OT)
11/10/12at Backup College Chestnut Hill, Mass.W, 21-6
11/17/12vs. Fake Worest Notre Dame, Ind.W, 38-0
11/24/12at U$C Los Angeles, Calif.W, 22-13
1/7/13vs. AlabamaBCS CHAMPIONSHIP
(Miami, Florida)
L, :(