Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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Page 12 of 63 MAY 2018 13 UNDER THE DOME Former Notre Dame defen‑ sive lineman Kona Schwenke (2010‑13) died April 22 at age 25 in his sleep in his hometown of Laie on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. An autopsy reportedly was pending. One of the first players to commit to then first‑year head coach Brian Kelly in his initial recruiting class in February 2010, Schwenke followed the path of fellow Hawai'i natives Manti Te'o and Robby Toma, both of whom signed with the Fight‑ ing Irish the previous year. Schwenke played all four seasons at Notre Dame, in‑ cluding two starts for the 12‑1 team in 2012 and seven as a senior in 2013 when he was credited with 23 tackles. His playing time increased his final season after injuries to future NFL Draft picks Louis Nix III (third round) and Sheldon Day (fourth round). "Kona meant a lot to everyone he came across," Toma told Honolulu KHON2 sports director Rob DeM‑ ello. "If you needed help, Kona was always there. We were taught grow‑ ing up to leave things better than you found them. Kona left Laie, Hawai'i, and Notre Dame better than he found it. "The amount of people reaching out in support of Kona and his family is amaz‑ ing and truly shows the amount of love people have for him. I always considered him as a brother, and I am truly grateful for the time I got to spend with him grow‑ ing up. He will always be with us and will always be missed." In May 2014, Schwenke received his Arts & Letters degree in anthropology. A s a n u n d r a f t e d f re e agent, Schwenke spent the next three years either trying out or working as a practice squad player in the NFL with Kansas City, New England, New York Jets, Oakland and Seattle, where he was waived in August 2016 after suffer‑ ing a torn ACL. Most recently Schwenke participated in the Spring League, a developmental and pro football‑scouting event. Dur‑ ing an April 8 showcase, two weeks prior to his death, he caused a fumble in a game against 2012 Heisman win‑ ner Johnny Manziel. NOTRE DAME-ALABAMA TO MEET IN 2028-29 OPENERS In its continuing emphasis to schedule Southeastern Conference football teams during the regular season, Notre Dame announced April 19 a two-game home-and-home series with Alabama in 2028-29. The Fighting Irish will host the Crimson Tide on Sept. 2, 2028, and then travel to Ala- bama on Sept. 1, 2029. Notre Dame holds a 5-2 all-time edge in the series, and this will be the third time the two will meet in a home-and-home during the regular season. Three other showdowns took place in bowl games with the national title on the line. The first two contests occurred in the 1973 Sugar Bowl and the 1975 Orange Bowl with the late Ara Parseghian as the Notre Dame head coach. The Irish defeated 11-0 Alabama teams both times, 24-23 and 13-11, respectively, the former to capture the national title. The most recent bowl meeting was on Jan. 7, 2013, when No. 2 and 12-1 Alabama crushed No. 1 and 12-0 Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship held in Miami. The first two regular-season meetings were in 1976 (a 21-18 Irish win at home) and 1980 (a 7-0 victory by the visitors in Birmingham), with Dan Devine as the Fighting Irish head coach while Alabama legend Paul "Bear" Bryant finished 0-4 versus Notre Dame. The next two regular season home-and-home meetings occurred in Lou Holtz's first two seasons at Notre Dame in 1986-87. Alabama was coached by Ray Perkins in 1986 and Bill Curry in 1987. No. 2 Alabama ended its 0-4 frustration against the 1-2 Irish with a 28-10 victory in Birmingham on Oct. 4, 1986. The following year No. 7 Notre Dame posted the largest margin of victory in the series with a 37-6 conquest of No. 10 Alabama on Nov. 14, 1987. Among other SEC schools Notre Dame has recently scheduled are Georgia (2017 and 2019), Vanderbilt (2018), Arkansas (2020 and 2025) and Texas A&M (2024-25). Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Kona Schwenke, shown here with his parents on Senior Day prior to the 2013 BYU game, died suddenly in his sleep April 22. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA NEW RULE ON KICKOFFS There is opinion that because the kickoff is the most dan- gerous and violent play in football, it will eventually be elimi- nated someday to make the game safer. Maybe a first step has occurred this year. A 2018 rule change in college football will allow kickoff return men to fair catch a kick inside the 25-yard line that would automatically give the receiving team possession at its 25. According to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, that likely will eliminate the "pooch kick" as a strategy. The objective there is to boot the kickoff high and toward the sideline around the 10-yard line to provide a better chance to bottle up the return man inside the 20-yard line on the return. Beyond that, Kelly doesn't believe the rule will be a game- changer. Kickers will now just have greater opportunity to boot the ball out of the end zone for an automatic touchback. "When you think about it being applied practically, it's not going to be as big of a deal as many people have worried that it might be," he said. "Once you take away the pooch kick with the fair catch be- ing the 25-yard line, I don't know that we're going to see it actually quite a bit. We'll have to work on [our return men] in terms of making decisions from probably the goal line to the 5-, 10-yard line. We'll have to settle on what that 'sweet spot' is for us tactically." Kona Schwenke: 1992-2018

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