Notre Dame weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
1:00
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame would like to forget its opening weekend as quickly as possible. The No. 16 Fighting Irish were sloppy in a 23-20 loss to South Florida that has fueled the school's critics who thought the Irish's BCS goals were unrealistic.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was for Notre Dame:

The Good: Notre Dame's defense allowed just one touchdown despite being put in tough spot after tough spot by the offense and special teams. The Irish held USF to 2-of-14 on third downs and limited the Bulls to 254 yards of total offense.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJonas Gray's goal-line fumble was just one of five turnovers the Irish committed against South Florida.
The Bad: No one expected to see a group Brian Kelly called as focused as any he has ever coached turn the ball over five times in its debut. The Irish will need to hope those first-game jitters are out before a prime-time showdown this weekend.

The Ugly: Mother Nature takes the cake here. The first and second delays in more than a century of Notre Dame football resembled those of a baseball game, complete with the "time of the game" stat being announced at the end. (It was 5 hours, 59 minutes, for the record). The delays totaled 2 hours, 53 minutes, and it couldn't have been easy for either side to start and stop again after waiting the entire offseason for the games to begin.

Turning point: Jonas Gray's opening-drive fumble at the USF 1 was picked up by Kayvon Webster and returned 96 yards for a touchdown. Kelly said afterward that a culmination of mistakes did his team in, not the first one. But watching the other team go up 7-0 after you drove 76 yards in eight plays over four minutes can be demoralizing early.

Call of the day: It would have been easy for Skip Holtz to invoke himself in the pregame hoopla surrounding his return to Notre Dame. But the USF coach said his players would be the ones between the stripes on Saturday, and so he made it about them. They returned the favor by delivering a victory that ranks right up there in the brief 15-year history of the program.

Next Up: The Irish renew the rivalry with Michigan when the two teams meet under the lights at 8 p.m. ET Saturday for the first time in Michigan Stadium history. "College GameDay" will be in Ann Arbor and you can bet it will be an atmosphere unlike any the Big House has ever seen. The Wolverines, like the Irish, dealt with rain delays themselves in their opener before their game was called at the 1:23 mark of the third quarter, up 34-10 on Western Michigan. An 0-2 start going into a Week 3 matchup with co-Big Ten champ Michigan State is something Notre Dame will look to avoid at all costs.

Matt Fortuna | email

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