Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 23, 2015 Issue

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

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the most by a true freshman since his position coach — Autry Denson — ac- complished that feat in 1995. ROMEO OKWARA CONTINUES HOT STREAK It has been a great month for senior defensive end Romeo Okwara. When Notre Dame headed into its Oct. 10 matchup against Navy, Okwara had compiled 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in the first 44 games of his career. Over the last five games, Okwara has been a completely different player. In Notre Dame's 28-7 victory over Wake Forest, Okwara set career highs with five solo tackles and three sacks. He also tied his career high with three tackles for loss, which he set two weeks prior during Notre Dame's 24- 20 win at Temple. That production gives Okwara 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks in the last five games. His rise has been a godsend to a Notre Dame defense that has other- wise struggled to slow down opposing offenses. It is not often that a player goes through three and a half seasons with little production, only to break out midway through his senior season. Okwara, however, is not your typical senior. "It's one of those things where he came onto campus as a 17-year-old that just really was a raw player, raw football player," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Okwara, who was actually 16 when he arrived at Notre Dame. "He has grown in a very short period of time this year into the kind of football player that I think has a huge growth potential in front of him. "We're just seeing that maturation process kind of come together." Okwara has played with far more confidence over the last month, a clear sign of the maturation Kelly has talked about. His progress was slow and steady over the last two seasons, with Okwara gaining strength and show- ing himself to be a solid run defender. Over the last month, Okwara's game took off, and he has turned into Notre Dame's most disruptive defensive player. Considering he plays on the same unit with All-American junior line- backer Jaylon Smith and standout se- nior defensive tackle Sheldon Day, that is quite an accomplishment. For Notre Dame, it gave the defense the kind of presence and production it needed — but had not received — from the end MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Freshman running back Josh Adams' 98-yard scoring run was Notre Dame's 11th touchdown of at least 50 yards this year, which is a school record. The 1988 team had 10 touchdowns of at least 50 yards. • Notre Dame now has two touchdown runs of at least 90 yards this season — C.J. Prosise also had a 91-yard scoring run against Georgia Tech Sept. 19. In its previous 126 seasons of football, Notre Dame had just two runs that long. • Notre Dame has had at least one 100-yard rusher in eight of its 10 games this season. • The Irish are now 138-59-3 all time against teams currently in the Atlantic Coast Conference. • Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith led the Irish with 14 tackles, tying his career high, which he had done three times previously.

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