Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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Page 14 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2016 15 UNDER THE DOME 45 Years Ago: Sept. 18, 1971 During a 50-7 opening-game rout of a Northwestern team that would finish as the Big Ten runner- up to Michigan, Notre Dame intercepts a school-record-tying seven passes (a mark that still stands). Three of them are picked off by safety Ken Schlezes, while safety Mike Crotty and cornerback Ralph Stepaniak return their picks for 65- and 40-yard touchdowns, respectively. The dominant Notre Dame defense also recovers two fumbles, and All-American end Walt Patulski blocks a punt to set up the game's first touchdown. Sports Illustrated — which picked the Irish as the preseason No. 1 despite the graduation of quarterback Joe Theismann — covers the game and defends its choice of the Irish. Its game headline is "A Cheerleader Could Run This Team." Head coach Ara Parseghian rotates quarterbacks Pat Steenberge and Bill Etter, who complete only 9 of 27 passes between them. 20 Years Ago: Sept. 14, 1996 For only the third time in Notre Dame Stadium's 66-year history — and now 86 years — a Fighting Irish player returns the game's opening kickoff for a touchdown. Junior cornerback Allen Rossum achieves the feat with a 99-yard return against Purdue to spark a 35-0 victory against the Boilermakers and head coach Jim Colletto, who would be hired as the Fighting Irish offensive coordinator a few months later. The only other two times, to this day, that Note Dame returned an opening kickoff at home for a score were George Melinkovich's 98-yard return versus Northwestern in 1932 and Terry Brennan's 97-yard score against Army in 1947. 5 Years Ago: Sept. 17, 2011 Notre Dame avoids becoming the third football team in its school history to begin 0-3 (the 2001 team 10 years earlier was the first and the 2007 unit that began 0-5 was next) with a 31-13 victory over No. 15 Michigan State, which would finish No. 10 in the Associated Press poll with an 11-3 record. Two newcomers steal the show. Freshman running back George Atkinson III returns a kickoff for an 89-yard touchdown to provide a 14-3 cushion in the first half. He joined Fighting Irish luminaries Al Hunter (1973), the first 1,000-yard rusher in a season at Notre Dame, Allen Pinkett (1982) and Raghib "Rocket" Ismail (1988) as Irish freshmen to score on a kickoff return. On defense, freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch, who didn't play a snap in the previous week's 35-31 loss at Michigan, records a remarkable six quarterback hurries and forces a fumble by quarter- back Kirk Cousins on another hit coming off the edge. To put that stat into context, no Notre Dame player the previous year was credited with more than five QB hurries the entire season. Senior cornerback Robert Blanton also has an outstanding game, including sealing the outcome with a fourth-quarter interception return of 82 yards. — Lou Somogyi Anniversaries In Notre Dame Athletics History: Sept. 14-20 Check out the ALL NEW Everything You Need To Know Before The Game! Blue & Gold Report, your weekly game preview digital newsletter, is emailed every pre-game Wednesday during the season. It has the latest information on the Irish's upcoming opponent, and it includes rosters, stats and depth charts that can be printed on 8½-by-11 paper. ✦ Complete opponent preview ✦ Depth charts and rosters and stats ✦ Quotes and videos from pressers ✦ Read it on your computer or mobile device Get on the mailing list at Cornerback Robert Blanton helped lead the Irish to a 31‑13 win over No. 10 Michigan State in 2011. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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