Gastelum: Breaking down Notre Dame’s road success (Nov. 9)
Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, November 8, 2012
Road sweet road.
It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But to this Irish team, road trips seem to be met with the same enthusiasm as field trips for a bunch of elementary school kids.
For good reason, these numbers don’t lie.
At Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish have been survivors. Count the four total overtimes, the inability to break 20 points in four quarters of play and the late-game-heroic wins against Purdue, BYU and Pittsburgh.
At [insert anywhere away from South Bend], the Irish have been conquerors. Count the two total touchdowns given up all season, ability to score 43 fourth-quarter points and two wins over top-10 teams – the Irish snapped then-No.10 Michigan State’s 15-game home winning streak while then-No. 8 Oklahoma had only lost four times in Norman since 1999.
At Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish have outscored their opponents 99-76, with an average margin of victory of less than a touchdown: 4.6 points.
Away from South Bend, the Irish have outscored their opponents 50-10. Wait. Sorry, that was just the Navy “game” in Dublin. The real figure is a whopping 141-29, with an average margin of victory of four touchdowns: 28 points.
With the way the Irish have been putting up points this year, 141 points sounds more like Mike Brey’s territory than that of Brian Kelly’s.
Turnovers killed the Irish last year (how’s that for an understatement?). This year, the Irish have been incredibly efficient: only one of the Notre Dame’s 11 turnovers have occurred away from the hallowed, Jumbotron-less grounds of the House that Rockne Built. That came from Everett Golson in Dublin when the game was already over, which means after the first quarter.
And now for the stat-heavy portion of today’s column.
At home, the Irish average 19.8 points per game, 3.9 yards per rush, 372 yards per game, have four rushing touchdowns and score touchdowns in just 36 percent of their red zone trips.
On the road, the Irish average 35.2 points per game, 5.9 yards per rush, 445 yards per game, have 11 rushing touchdowns and score touchdowns in 57 percent of their red zone trips.
Just ogle those numbers for a second. Compare, contrast, shock and awe.
Maybe Notre Dame is too welcoming. We know that Notre Dame is one of the friendlier places for opposing fans, but maybe the memo was accidentally sent to the players as well.
In search of an answer, I put in my Sherlock Holmes pipe and went to work on the Notre Dame veteran minds that have been there, done that and seen it all.
“Search me, I wish I knew,” graduate student guard Mike Golic Jr. said.
So I asked the right guard whether the Irish simply liked to wear the white road jerseys.
“To be honest, especially with the big guys, the white makes us look fatter. We are not really partial with the white jerseys. Granted the new TechFit is tight in all the right places, but white is not flattering for the big guys.”
So the quest moved to another Viking-bearded fifth-year senior: captain Kapron Lewis-Moore.
“Golic’s right, you do want to look good on the road,” he said.
Maybe the hotel beds are comfier?
“Nah it’s all the same. I just don’t know what it is. There are not as many distractions,” Lewis-Moore said.
Moving down the line, I found junior defensive tackle and team funnyman Louis “Irish Chocolate” Nix, but all I got was a more-than-personal response.
“One guy at Oklahoma called me fat,” Nix said. “He was fat himself. I didn’t like that. I was thinking in my mind that we should stick together.”
Then, finally, an answer (sort of) from senior offensive tackle and captain Zack Martin.
“The nap midday,” Martin said in reference to Northwestern. “All the away games are at night, so we get to nap a little bit. That’s it.”
Makes sense, but surely, senior all-everything linebacker Manti Te’o would have the truth wrapped up like the Heisman Trophy.
“I want to experience something new,” the captain said. “So it’s: ‘How do you guys make your prime rib’ and ‘are your mashed potatoes good?’ But no, it’s about the ranch. Michigan State makes the best ranch. If the Michigan State hotel can call me, please tell me what ranch that is. It’s the ranch!”
So in summary, the road warriors are self-conscious in white, undistracted, motivated by fat jokes, sleepy and hungry.
But all jokes aside, this Notre Dame team is far from one when faced with adversity. The point is, no one really knows why. There is just something special about going into another team’s building and sticking it to them against all odds.
Each of the three Irish captains ended their light-hearted monologues with the same words, and maybe the real answer to their success on the road: “It’s us against the world.”
Somehow, someway. Against the world, against all odds.
Contact Andrew Gastelum at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.