Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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46 PRESEASON 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI GETTING TO THE STARTING LINE Notre Dame has played against much more renowned opponents in opening games than the 2020 Duke Blue Devils, who are coming off a 5-7 record and are only 10-22 the past four years in the Atlantic Coast Con- ference. However, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the 2020 opener might be as anticipated as any in Fighting Irish annals. After a spring and summer in which doubts were cast that there would be any college football at all this year, which was heightened by the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences canceling their fall seasons, just reaching the starting line for the Sept. 12 opener and the ability to play football at all would be considered a form of victory in itself. Originally, the game at Notre Dame Stadium was slated for Oct. 31, the "warm-up act" prior to the Nov. 7 showdown at home with preseason No. 1 Clemson that promised to have College Football Playoff implications. Instead, the other three Power Five leagues have adopted a mostly con- ference-only model for the 2020 cam- paign in an effort to have any hopes of a football season (the ACC and Big 12 are expected to play one non-con- ference foe each). This included the ACC taking in Notre Dame as a full- time member for a slate that features a 10 regular-season league contests. In order to accommodate the sched- uling format, Duke was moved from Halloween to Sept. 12, the latest date for a Fighting Irish opener in 30 years. It will be one of the most unique game-day experiences ever at Notre Dame Stadium since its opening in 1930. In keeping in line with social dis- tancing protocols, tailgating is pro- hibited. While the University of Notre Dame has not announced what the attendance limitation will be, it might be restricted to only the stu- dent body, faculty and some season- ticket holders. Whatever the deci- sion, the current 77,622 capacity for seating might be hard pressed to be more than 20,000. For the record, the lowest atten- dance ever in Notre Dame Stadium for a football game was 6,633 on Oct. 15, 1932, a 62-0 rout of Drake. It came two years after the edifice opened, and it was also at the height of the Great Depression when even a football ticket was too much of a luxury at a time of dire need for bare necessities. The game versus Duke also could mark the fewest to attend an opener at Notre Dame since head coach Frank Leahy's debut on Sept. 27, 1941, when 19,567 were officially counted in the 38-7 victory versus Arizona. This year, attendance figures are ir- relevant. Just the fact that "the games go on" is a refreshing diversion, pro- vided no calamities arrive from it. HOW MUCH RUST? Another aspect of the pandemic is it resulted in only one spring prac- tice at Notre Dame and much more makeshift summer team workouts. Furthermore, three consecutive prac- tices from Aug. 19-21 were canceled after the school switched to online courses only earlier in the week. The hope was to flatten the COVID-19 curve enough to resume attending courses in regular classroom settings on campus by September. Opening games generally can be ragged before reaching what is re- ferred to as "mid-season" form, but it probably is even truer this year. How rusty a football team might look with less practice time and repetition will be a point of interest. Notre Dame has proven to be ex- tremely sharp, especially on offense, right out of the gate in recent years. In last year's 35-17 opening game victory at Louisville, Notre Dame scored a touchdown on its initial pos- session of the season for the fourth consecutive year. GAME PREVIEW: DUKE Top STorylineS Sophomore wide receiver Jalon Calhoun — with 46 catches for 420 yards (9.1 yards per reception) and four touchdowns — was the leading pass catcher for an offense that lacked speed and explosiveness last year. PHOTO COURTESY DUKE ATHLETICS

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