Notre Dame Football: Duke Johnson

ACC upset watch: Week 11

November, 5, 2013
The No. 1 game on this list came to fruition last week, as Boston College knocked off Virginia Tech and snapped a five-game losing streak to the Hokies. The Upset Watch is back this week, with two ranked teams making an appearance ... and no, one of them is not Florida State:

1. No. 23 Notre Dame at Pitt -- Last year, Notre Dame was ranked No. 3 and that’s exactly how many overtimes the Irish needed to beat the Panthers, 29-26. Notre Dame trailed 20-6 in the fourth quarter -- in South Bend -- and had three turnovers. In 2011, Pitt pushed Notre Dame to the fourth quarter before losing, 15-12. Is this the season the Panthers finally break through? Pitt will have home field advantage, and the Irish are banged up defensively. Last week’s win over Navy came with a price, as linebacker Ben Councell is out for the season with a left knee injury and defensive lineman Kona Schwenke is out for Saturday's game with a high-ankle sprain. Sheldon Day aggravated a high-ankle sprain he had suffered earlier this season but may be ready to play against Pitt. The past five games in this series have been decided by an average of four points, and two of them have gone into overtime.

2. Virginia Tech at No. 11 Miami -- Both of these teams are trying to rebound from disappointing losses, and yet both still have everything to play for. The Coastal Division will be on the line when the Hokies travel to South Florida this week. Miami is the only team left in the division that can get to Charlotte by winning the rest of its remaining games. If the Hokies win, they’re right back in the race, despite back-to-back losses to Duke and Boston College. Virginia Tech has turned the ball over eight times in the past two games, but Miami will be without its top offensive player in injured running back Duke Johnson. Neither team is flawless, and both are playing with embattled quarterbacks trying to carry their respective teams on their shoulders. This is going to be a gut-check game for both programs, but Virginia Tech has more to prove. The Hokies have made improbable comebacks before. Can they do it again?
Between Manti Te'o's 2012 run and Jadaveon Clowney's 2013 promise, so much of the conversation surrounding the Heisman Trophy has been the seemingly inevitable moment when a pure defensive player will capture the trophy. Te'o was the closest to ever do it, gaining 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points in losing to Johnny Manziel in 2012. And Clowney's monstrous hit of Michigan's Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl has set the stage for a season in which Clowney will likely have the opportunity to play himself into serious Heisman contention.

But the award has still belonged to players on the other side of the ball, and a recent well-regarded preseason watch lists only re-affirms that.

The Heisman Pundit, Chris Huston, has released his initial 30-man watch list for the 2013 award, and Notre Dame has one representative on it: Everett Golson.

Golson enters his third year at the school and second year as the starter, this after a 12-1 season that saw him amass 2,703 yards of offense, score 18 total touchdowns, complete 58.8 percent of his passes and turn the ball over 10 times.

The Irish return eight starters from what was the nation's second-best scoring defense in 2012, including potential first-round picks Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, but the quarterback is the man that has the chance for the biggest spotlight.

In fact, Clowney is the only defensive player among the 30 listed on the watch list, as there are 19 quarterbacks, eight running backs and two wide receivers.

Video had surfaced this offseason of Clowney sacking Golson on the first play of the 2010 South Carolina High School League AAA title game, a game that Golson's Myrtle Beach team ended up winning. Golson, much more comfortable entering his second season in the spotlight, gave a confident and complimentary answer when asked early this spring if he was quietly rooting for the fellow Palmetto State native to win the Heisman in 2013.
"I hope he does, but at the same time, I think I'm pushing for the same thing," Golson said. "I know it's maybe a goal some may say is a little bit far-fetched, but I want to be the best competitor I can be. So I want to see him do great, but I also want to be there at the same time."

As for other familiar names on Huston's list? Oklahoma's Blake Bell, Michigan's Devin Gardner, Stanford's Kevin Hogan and USC's Marqise Lee are all players Notre Dame will face this year. Miami's Duke Johnson, Alabama's A.J. McCarron and T.J. Yeldon, meanwhile, all played against the Irish last season.

Notre Dame week 5: Did you know?

October, 5, 2012
Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info for these nuggets.
  • Notre Dame is allowing nine points and forcing 3.3 turnovers per game, both of which rank in the top three in FBS. Miami’s offense has scored at least 38 points in four of five games. Against NC State, the Hurricanes scored a season-high 44 points, and Stephen Morris passed for an ACC-record 566 yards. That is eight more points and 149 fewer passing yards than the Irish have allowed for the season.
  • Morris has completed 10 passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield in his last two games. Morris had 13 such completions in his first 14 games at Miami. One reason for the improvement has been the emergence of sophomore receiver Phillip Dorsett, who has caught six of Morris’ 10 completions on throws of 20 yards or more.
  • Notre Dame’s last two opponents, Michigan and Michigan State, completed a combined 2 of 10 throws of 20 yards or more downfield with no touchdowns and a pick.
  • Morris has completed at least 60 percent of his passes when opponents send five or more pass rushers in every game this season. He has six touchdown passes against the blitz. In his first two years at Miami, Morris did not throw any touchdowns in 39 pass attempts against five or more rushers.
  • True freshman Duke Johnson ranks fifth in FBS with 184 all-purpose yards per game. He averages a team-high 16.3 yards per play on screen passes. His seven receptions on screens are tied for most on the team this season.
  • Miami averages 35.6 PPG this season and Morris has thrown for 1,002 yards in his last two games, with seven touchdown passes. Morris has two of the top five total yardage games in school history, both of those games coming in the last two weeks.
  • The Hurricanes have trailed by at least seven points in all four of their wins.
The 4-0 and ninth-ranked Irish return from their bye week to clash with the 4-1 Hurricanes in their annual Shamrock Series game, this one at Chicago's Soldier Field. The two last met in the 2010 Sun Bowl, a 33-17 Notre Dame win, but this is their first regular-season game since 1990.

When Miami has the ball: Beware of Stephen Morris and the rest of the Hurricanes' playmakers at the skill positions. Morris threw for an ACC-record 566 yards in last week's win over NC State, including 271 in the first quarter alone. Miami has eclipsed 600 yards of offense in each of its past two games, totaling 86 points. Notre Dame's passing defense ranks 19th nationally but has yet to face an offensive attack with the explosive weapons that Miami has. The question is if Miami will have the chance to let those guys shine. The Hurricanes young starting offensive line will be going against one of the best defensive fronts in the country one week after losing fifth-year senior Ben Jones, who left his first career start at right tackle with a knee injury and is out Saturday.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Has Everett Golson put a forgettable performance against Michigan in the rearview mirror? Brian Kelly said this week that Golson had a bit of a shoulder issue that has since been cleared up. The Irish will need more out of their signal caller, who once again will be facing a big opponent on a big stage. Fortunately for him, Miami's defense is ranked 91st or worse in four major categories -- rushing, passing, total and scoring. This could be the perfect opportunity for Golson to answer several lingering questions over the past two weeks, and he and the rest of the offense needs to play within itself.

Intangible: Duke Johnson has made as big of an impact as a freshman can through his first month in college. He averages 6.9 yards per carry, has rushed for five touchdowns, caught one score and has returned a kickoff back for a score. But he managed just 19 rushing yards in Miami's loss to Kansas State, which has the nation's No. 14 rushing defense.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Miami 14


Notre Dame To Hold Out Another Player Due To Probe
Matt Fortuna discusses Eilar Hardy being held out of practice and games as Notre Dame continues its internal investigation into academic misconduct.


Friday, 8/29
Saturday, 8/30