Sophomore tight end Troy Niklas joined a long list of Irish players to record career firsts Saturday
A quick look at some interesting notes from Notre Dame's 50-10 victory over Navy in Ireland to start the 2012 season:
• There were 21 Notre Dame players that saw game action for the first time in their careers, including 14 that took the field at some point in the first quarter. Sophomore wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who did not play in 2011, hauled in his first reception and finished with two catches for 49 yards. Though he’s played in 12 games at outside linebacker last fall, sophomore tight end Troy Niklas also recorded his first catch — a 29-yarder in the third quarter that set up a three-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore George Atkinson III that gave Notre Dame a 33-10 lead. Freshman wideout Justin Ferguson also registered his first catch in the fourth quarter and senior slot receiver Robby Toma added his first rushing touchdown. Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell was the first freshman in Notre Dame history to start at that position in a season opener.
• Notre Dame rushed for a total of 293 yards, it’s highest total since 2003 at Stanford (320). The program has won the last nine games when it put up at least 200 yards. The last time the Irish were on the losing end despite hitting that mark was in 2007 against the Midshipmen. Senior running back Theo Riddick ran for a team-high 108 yards (two touchdowns) on 19 carries, followed by Atkinson III, who tallied 99 yards and two scores on nine takes. Had Atkinson III been credited with one more yard, it would have been the first time two Irish players reached the century mark in the same game since 2002 (Rashon Powers-Neal and Ryan Grant).
• Sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt’s 77-yard fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter was the third longest in school history and the longest since Steve Lawrence had a 79-yarder in 1985. Frank Shaughnessy holds the program record with a 107-yard return against Kansas in 1904. Neither was 303 pounds like Tuitt. In the last 17 meetings between Notre Dame and Navy, there have been eight total defensive touchdowns scored by the two teams. Tuitt’s was the first since Toryan Smith blocked a punt for the Irish and took it to the house in 2008.
• Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson became the 21st signal caller to start for Notre Dame since 1985. During that span, Notre Dame has gone 15-6 in games directed by a first-time starter under center.
• Notre Dame scored 50 points in its opener for the first time since 1983 when the Fighting Irish trounced Purdue 52-6.
• Each of the last six games a Brian Kelly coached squad has played with a first-time starter at quarterback it has won. With Golson’s performance against Navy, Kelly is 3-0 with newbies at QB at Notre Dame (Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees in 2010).
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