Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2022

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

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8 DECEMBER 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME There Is A First Time For Everything By Tyler Horka How does two trips to Southern California in as many months sound, Notre Dame fans? If commercialized beaches and heavy interstate traffic endured dur- ing the Fighting Irish's trip to Los Angeles for the rivalry versus USC is off-putting, why not give the Golden State another whirl in a less congested city for a Holiday Bowl appearance in San Diego about a month later? Notre Dame has never played in the Holiday Bowl. Traditionally, it was a game with tie-ins for the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. Now, it's an ACC vs. Pac-12 matchup. Notre Dame can take the spot of an ACC team if its record is within one game of the ACC team that would have otherwise been picked. The Holiday Bowl has not been played since 2019. COVID canceled it in 2020 and 2021. What better way to usher it back into the rotation than with the biggest brand in college football playing in it for the first time ever? Sure, it's played at PetCo Park — a baseball stadium. But it's not like Notre Dame hasn't played in baseball venues before. Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park ring a bell? The opponents present intriguing prospects, too. Odds are the Dec. 28 game will be against UCLA, Washington or Utah — all of which are teams that have been mainstays in the polls in 2022. Any of those three would prevent a tough challenge to head coach Marcus Freeman and the Irish to close out the season, and that's the way it should be. The Gator Bowl Vs. The SEC Is Perfect By Todd D. Burlage Playing in the Gator Bowl won't provide the same anticipation or excite- ment as a trip to a New Year's Six Bowl or, obviously, the Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff would have. But given the way this up-and-down Fighting Irish season played out, a bowl game Dec. 30 in Jacksonville, Fla., is an appropriate re- ward. After starting this season 3-3 — and with games still to come against Syracuse, Clemson and USC — bowl eligibility remained uncertain for an unpredictable Notre Dame team that had already lost to Marshall and Stanford as a prohibitive favorite in both games. Instead, the Irish and first-year head coach Marcus Freeman righted things, won three straight games to become bowl eligible, and never looked back. A trip to the Gator Bowl did not fit into Notre Dame's preseason plans, but it certainly would fit into its midseason hopes when nobody knew which way this season was going to go. A game in a second-tier bowl against a quality opponent — such as Arkansas from the SEC — is probably best for an Irish program that's still finding its way under a first-year head coach. The Razor- backs and Fighting Irish begin a home-and-home series in Fayetteville, Ark., in 2025, with the return date in South Bend in 2028. This potential Gator Bowl matchup would provide both a preview to a fu- ture series and a measuring-stick game for Notre Dame against the SEC. That said, nobody will be interested this time next year in a December bowl game. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHICH NON-NEW YEAR'S SIX BOWL GAME WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE NOTRE DAME PLAY IN? A summer camp visit to Notre Dame in June 2016 was so im- pactful, Jayson Ademilola said he felt there was no reason to wait to commit to the Fighting Irish. So, during the drive back home to Jersey City, N.J, after their visit, Jayson and his twin brother Justin called back to South Bend and offered their pledges before their junior season at St. Peter's Prep. Jayson said it remains the best decision he has ever made. The graduate student defensive tackle became an Irish defen- sive staple and a budding NFL Draft pick, after a breakout 2021 season that spilled into a solid encore performance in 2022. Through 11 games this season, Ademilola had 24 tackles with 3 for loss and 2.5 sacks. A deeper rotation along the Irish defensive line this season cut into Ademilola's production numbers some from 2021, but not his value. Last season — even while playing most of it with a shoulder injury he had surgery on this offseason — Ademilola led all Irish defensive linemen in snaps (594) and quarterback pressures (43). He also ranked fifth on the team in tackles (49) and third in sacks (3.5). BGI: How special has it been playing alongside your brother Justin the last five seasons? Ademilola: "It's something I can't describe. The only thing I can say is that we're blessed to have this opportunity playing together. This is something that I will cherish forever. Maybe in the future, we'll be able to play with each other again in the NFL." BGI: How would you describe your evolution here as a player and a leader on this team? Ademilola: "It started years ago when you start having goals that you wanna reach, and you want to be remembered in the program, what you want your teammates to look for. I feel like I am the big brother of the team. It's a great feeling." BGI: Do you have any spe- cial memories? Ademilola: "The memories that I think about each and every day — from the first day that I came on campus to now — every single day I remember each second of this campus. It's been great." BGI: What did you enjoy most while playing here? Ademilola: "Just really be- ing around the guys in the locker room, that's where the best memories come from. We may fight on the field. But once you get in the locker room, we're all going out to eat together, we're all doing the fun stuff together." BGI: What did your time at Notre Dame mean to you? Ademilola: "It meant a lot. All of the differ- ent challenges and obstacles, it was a sense of renewal that when it's all said and done that you accomplished all the bumps in the road and made it through." — Todd D. Burlage Five Questions With … GRADUATE STUDENT DEFENSIVE LINEMAN JAYSON ADEMILOLA Ademilola had 24 tackles with 3 for loss and 2.5 sacks through 11 games this season. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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