Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

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

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Page 40 of 55 SEPT. 12, 2016 41 tion pass, Notre Dame cornerback Luther Bradley diagnosed the play from the start, intercepted the pass and raced for a 99-yard touchdown. Another interception by Bradley on the next series set up a short field and the 17-0 win. Sports Illustrated put Notre Dame on its cover after those two road vic- tories in five days with the headline "Devine Week For Notre Dame." This year 's quick turnaround af- ter the opener shouldn't be nearly as difficult as the one 41 years ago, but it can't be downplayed either as irrelevant. IDENTITY CRISIS The only other time Nevada has played the Irish was in the 2009 opener at Notre Dame Stadium. The game was promoted as a poten- tial upset special because the Wolf Pack possessed a veteran team led by College Football Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault and a rising su- perstar quarterback in junior Colin Kaepernick. The two would lead Nevada to prominence the following year (2010) with a 13-1 record and a fi- nal No. 13 ranking in the Associated Press poll, but Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis' final team at the school faced virtually no resistance in its 35-0 victory. This time, one of Weis' assistants, 2005-09 Irish special teams coach Brian Polian, is the fourth-year head coach of Nevada, and the buzz of a potential upset is virtually non-exis- tent. Polian was 18-20 after his first three seasons in Reno, although there were some notable upsets, namely versus Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars (24-13) and at BYU (42-35) in 2014. Such victories made defeats last sea- son to 2-10 teams such as UNLV and Wyoming all the more frustrating. "They haven't found the iden- tity," summarized Chris Murray, the beat writer covering the Wolf Pack for The Reno Gazette-Journal. "There really isn't one trait where you can say, 'This is what we're going to do, and every time we hit the field this is what we can count on.'" If it's a case of playing up or down to the level of the competition, Ne- vada could make it more competi- tive than expected in Notre Dame Stadium. A good part of it also will depend on the mindset of the Irish team after its trip to Austin. TWO BE OR NOT TWO BE? W h e n B r i a n K e l l y i n d i c a t e d Aug. 17 that he was going to use both junior DeShone Kizer and senior Ma- lik Zaire at quarterback, it was with the caveat that it might be just for the opener at Texas and "we'll see what happens against Nevada." The opportunity for both to play against the Wolf Pack should be available, but whether any definition of roles crystallize prior to hosting Michigan State Sept. 17 might remain somewhat unsettled. This is the type of game where both might be able to play well enough to keep all options open, or where some more separation might happen to help form a clearer iden- tity on offense. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: NEVADA Sophomore safety Asauni Rufus and the Wolf Pack should have a difficult time slowing the Irish offen- sive attack. PHOTO COURTESY NEVADA FOOTBALL Predictions Corey Bodden: Notre Dame 45, Nevada 13 Nevada lost a lot of 2015 starters from their front seven and will have a very difficult time stopping the Irish on offense. The Wolf Pack can run the ball, but it will not be nearly enough. Bryan Driskell: Notre Dame 45, Nevada 17 Nevada returns a veteran offensive line and a pair of talented backs, but Notre Dame's size and speed will be too much for the Wolf Pack. The Irish offense will dominate the line of scrimmage to lead a blowout win. Matt Jones: Notre Dame 44, Nevada 20 Notre Dame's powerful offensive line paves the way for the running game early, and the Irish cruise to a big first-half lead. The Wolf Pack score twice late to make the score respectable. David McKinney: Notre Dame 49, Nevada 10 This one is a lock for Notre Dame, which cruises to an easy victory. Look for the offense to score with the ease it did against UMass last year. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 49, Nevada 17 Both Irish quarterbacks are likely to make enough plays to continue the debate of how much to utilize them.

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