SOUTH BEND — The assumption when seven teams showed up on the 2019 Notre Dame football schedule with a bye week before their matchup with the Irish was that all byes are essentially good byes.
At least based on the outrage/bewilderment from the Notre Dame fan base.
But are they?
The seven head coaches whose teams get an extra week of prep time for ND this season have a collective winning percentage of .531 in all games at their current schools. However, their percentage drops to .508 in games immediately following an open date.
The first of those seven games takes place at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, when acting head coach Saga Tuitele leads New Mexico (1-0) against the seventh-ranked Irish (1-0) in the first-ever football matchup between the two schools.
Among the seven bye-enhanced coaches, USC’s Clay Helton has the best record after an open date (3-0), while Boston College’s Steve Addazio brings up the rear at 2-6.
Lobos head coach Bob Davie, an absentee at his Saturday reunion with the team he coached from 1997-2001 as he recovers from an undisclosed medical condition, is 4-4 following a bye.
In Saturday’s Notre Dame Stadium matchup, both teams had this past Saturday off. And Irish head coach Brian Kelly is a post-bye week overachiever.
Kelly’s overall winning percentage at Notre Dame, without extracting NCAA-mandated vacated games, is .701. His 10-1 record at ND in the game immediately following an open date translates to a .909 winning percentage.
That includes victories over three ranked teams. The Irish have a second bye this season, and it precedes their Oct. 26 clash at Michigan.
Acting vs. Interim
Bob Davie didn’t receive credit for his first head coaching victory almost 23 years to the day from Saturday’s New Mexico-ND matchup, because he was an acting — and not interim — head coach when he took over for Lou Holtz for a Sept. 16, 1996 road date at Vanderbilt.
Holtz missed the game, a 41-0 Irish romp, while recovering from neck surgery but added a win to his coaching record, nonetheless.
The NCAA differentiates an acting coach as one named when a team has a head coach that for some reason can’t perform the head coaching duties for a brief time versus an interim coach — named when there is no full-time head coach.
Kent Baer coaching Notre Dame’s bowl game at the end of the 2004 season after head coach Tyrone Willingham was purged qualifies as an example of an interim coach.
So Saga Tuitele, who turns 40 years old the day after his ‘acting” debut, will have to wait to start his own won-loss record.
Davie by the numbers
Notre Dame will be the ninth Top 25 team New Mexico has faced during the Davie regime, with the Lobos 0-8 in the previous such matchups. Overall, Davie is 34-54 in his eighth season at New Mexico.
The losing streak against ranked teams extends to 13 when you include Davie’s Notre Dame tenure.
Davie’s most recent win over a ranked team came in game three of the 2000 season in a game in which Gary Godsey was making his first — and ultimately second-to-last — start at quarterback for the Irish.
Godsey’s counterpart at QB in a 23-21 victory over 13th-ranked Purdue? Drew Brees.
Arnaz Battle, ND’s starter for the first two games of that season, suffered a long-term wrist injury prior to the Purdue game. Godsey, recruited as a tight end, gave way to freshman Matt Lovecchio after his second start and moved back to tight end and finished his career at that position.
• It doesn’t take long typically to figure out how New Mexico games are going to finish.
The Lobos are 25-14 under Davie when leading after the first quarter, 5-5 when tied, and 4-35 when trailing.
• The Lobos managed 39 points in an eight-point victory over FCS school Sam Houston State in their Aug. 31 opener. That’s despite some numbers that would suggest an offensive struggle.
New Mexico went 1-of-15 on third down against SHS and punted nine times. New Mexico’s defense was subjected to 95 offensive plays in the hottest kickoff temperature for an opener in school history (97 degrees).
The son also rises
While Bob Davie takes in the ND-New Mexico from a distance, son Clay Davie will do so in person — and in a working capacity.
He’s in his fifth year as tight ends coach for the Lobos after spending three seasons as an offensive grad assistant. Prior to that he spent a couple of seasons as a graduate assistant with Arizona State, crossing paths with ND’s current wide receivers coach, Delvaughn Alexander, but missing Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long by a season at ASU.
The younger Davie started his high school career locally at Penn and finished at Pinnacle High in Phoenix, graduating in 2006. He played for three years at Arizona State after graduation as a long snapper.
The Avery Davis experiment
If you’re keeping score, the 5-foot-11, 202-pound junior from Cedar Hill Texas has evolved from a quarterback to a running back/wide receiver hybrid to a cornerback and this week back to a running back during his time at Notre Dame.
He has yet to impact a game significantly at any of those spots, but it’s not because of lack of speed or a strong internal motor.
With No. 1 running back Jafar Armstrong out until likely later in October with an abdominal tear, don’t assume Davis is nothing more than a safety net.
Among the five backs looking to ease Armstrong’s absence, Davis most accurately mimics Armstrong’s skill set. Whether he can mimic his production has yet to be seen, but Davis should eventually, if not sooner, get a look to see what he can do in that regard.
In terms of experience, senior Tony Jones Jr., has a lockdown on that. But Davis — a spring flash in 2018 on offense — has more career carries than Jahmir Smith, C’Bo Flemister and Kyren Williams combined (22 to 18) and more career receptions as well (5 to 2).
He is also the fastest running back of the five who could see action on Saturday.