Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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40 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI TRAP GAME? Notre Dame's visit to North Caro‑ lina State has all the "trappings," so to speak, to the 2016 season that its trip to Virginia did in 2015. The Fighting Irish trek to Charlot‑ tesville last year was their first, and it was one of the most anticipated football games ever at the school founded by Thomas Jefferson. That game was "supposed to be" one of the easiest ones on the Notre Dame slate. Virginia had finished under .500 six of the previous seven seasons while totaling a 31‑54 record (including 11‑25 from 2012‑14), plus head coach Mike London's job status was in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the Irish had just crushed Texas 38‑3 in their season opener and had the look of a national title aspirant. Yet it was the Fighting Irish who found themselves on the cusp of de‑ feat in the closing seconds. They lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire to a season‑ending injury during the third quarter and trailed 27‑26 before then redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer found junior wideout Will Fuller on a 39‑yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to pull out the victory. Virginia ended up 4‑8, resulting in the firing of London at the end of the season, but that one particular day at home against Notre Dame, Charlot‑ tesville was rocking. Likewise, this will be Notre Dame's first trip ever in football to Raleigh — the only previous meeting was North Carolina State's 28‑6 Gator Bowl win over the Irish on Jan. 1, 2003 — and it has been awaited with similar immense anticipation, despite the sub.‑500 record for head coach Brian Kelly's team. It is the Wolfpack's most heralded non‑conference contest since Ohio State came to town in 2004. Further‑ more NC State's football team will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first game in Carter‑Finley Stadium, exactly 50 years to the day, for the Notre Dame weekend. The celebra‑ tion will include donning its throw‑ back uniforms from the 1980s, which includes a red diamond "NCS" logo on a white helmet. The Wolfpack hasn't quite fallen on the same hard times that Virginia has over the past decade, but it is aching for a momentous victory at home after throwing scares into first defending national champion Florida State — with Jameis Winston at quar‑ terback — in 2014, and then even‑ tual national runner‑up Clemson last year, before losing by identical 56‑41 scores both times. The confluence of those factors make this a dangerous road trip, as does the need for fourth‑year head coach Dave Doeren to post a mar‑ quee win. That brings us to … NEEDING A 'BRAND NAME WIN' Back in 2013, Doeren was on Blue & Gold Illustrated's short list of po‑ tential Notre Dame head coaches in case Brian Kelly opted to leave — a thought that was prompted by his January 2013 interview with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. With strong Midwestern roots, Do‑ eren earned buzz in the college football ranks when he led Northern Illinois to an 11‑3 record in 2011, and then fol‑ lowed that up with a 12‑0 regular sea‑ son in 2012 (like Kelly at Notre Dame) and the Mid‑American Conference's first trip to the Bowl Championship Se‑ ries, where it lost 31‑10 to Florida State. North Carolina State hired Doeren to replace Tom O'Brien. After a 3‑9 debut in 2013, he improved the Wolf‑ pack to 8‑5 in 2015 and optimism was high that in year three the Wolfpack could break through, especially with veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett (now a temporary starter with the New England Patriots) at the helm. However, Doeren's stock dropped with a disappointing 7‑6 season. North Carolina State was 7‑0 against teams that either had los‑ ing records or were in the Football Championship Subdivision (such as William & Mary and Eastern Ken‑ tucky), and 0‑6 versus opponents that finished above .500. GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA STATE Top STorylineS Carter-Finley Stadium will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with the Oct. 8 meeting against Notre Dame. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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