Notre Dame football: Younger brother holds his own

ERIC HANSEN
South Bend Tribune

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- They talked almost every day just like they always do, just not about the obvious.

“How’s your week? How’s school going? Things like that,” Notre Dame freshman defensive end Isaac Rochell said matter-of-factly earlier this week.

How’s your week?

Saturday was the first time Rochell lined up against his older brother, Matt, Air Force’s starting left offensive tackle, in anything but a high school board (one-on-one) drill.

Their matchup was hardly at the epicenter of Notre Dame’s 45-10 victory at Falcon Stadium Saturday after-noon, but little brother did get at least a couple of bragging-rights plays on his slightly smaller sophomore sibling and the rest of the Falcon line. He finished with a career-high four tackles.

That included a key third-down tackle that forced a field goal try when it looked like Air Force quarterback Nate Romine would slither through a seam up the middle for a first down.

“(My family) definitely has been excited, even like when I first committed to Notre Dame,” said Isaac, who had to trade his allotted tickets for other Irish games to get enough for all of the family members who were in Colorado for the game.

“They knew that there was a time coming that we would play each other, so they’ve been excited about it for years.”

Isaac was the much more highly recruited of the two coming out of Eagles Christian Landing High School in McDonough, Ga. Matt’s only FBS offer, in fact, came from Air Force.

“I’ll treat it just as a regular game,” Isaac said coming into the matchup. “I’m just treating it like he was a normal lineman for a normal team.”

Pro-tential

In draftcountdown.com analyst Scott Wright’s latest NFL mock draft, released on Saturday, the arrow is pointing up for three Notre Dame players.

Irish junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt is projected to be the eighth overall pick, and go to the Atlanta Falcons. Senior nose guard Louis Nix is slated to go to Tennessee with the 12th pick, and fifth-year senior Zack Martin projects as the 23rd pick in the first round, joining forces with former Irish All-America linebacker Manti Te’o of the San Diego Chargers.

Nix has yet to officially declare for the draft, as he retains a fifth-year option, but has strongly hinted this will be his last season for Notre Dame. Tuitt confirmed Wednesday that he is undecided.

Wright’s top three projected picks are Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr — the latter the son of former Notre Dame running back Tony Brooks and nephew of former Irish All-America running back Reggie Brooks.

Personnel matters

*Irish freshman running back Greg Bryant made the travel roster for Air Force, but did not suit up or play.

*Senior linebacker and Littleton, Colo., product Danny Spond served as Notre Dame’s fourth captain Saturday. He joined season captains Zack Martin, Bennett Jackson and TJ Jones.

Spond retired from foot-ball in August because of recurring hemiplegic migraines, which seemed to be brought on by contact.

*Senior guard Chris Watt suffered a strained knee in the second quarter, according to ND coach Brian Kelly, but he did return to play briefly in the second half be-fore Kelly started substituting liberally at all positions.

Not returning were outside linebacker Ishaq Williams and defensive end Sheldon Day, both of whom finished the game in their sweats. Kelly said he did not have the specifics of their injuries and hoped to have them Sunday.

*Kevin Carr, at right guard, saw his first college action Saturday. He is a walk-on from Nashville, Tenn.

Notable numbers

*Freshmen Corey Robinson and William Fuller each garnered a TD pass against the Falcons, marking just the third time in history two Irish freshmen have recorded TD receptions in the same game.

Golden Tate and Duval Kamara did so in 2007 against Purdue, and Rocket Ismail and Derek Brown accomplished the feat during the 1988 national title run, also against Purdue.

*Notre Dame’s 45 points were the most scored by an Irish team since the 50 it amassed against Navy in the 2012 season opener.

*The Irish went turnover-free Saturday, and Kelly improved to 13-0 at ND when his team does not commit a turnover.

*Air Force lost its fourth home game of the season Saturday, the first time seventh-year Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has presided over more than three in a given season.

Squibs

*A familiar face in the Falcon Stadium crowd was former Irish defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, a rookie for the Baltimore Ravens who continues to rehab from a knee injury suffered during the BCS National Championship Game loss to Alabama, Jan. 7 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

*Of all the places you expected a flyover at the end of the National Anthem ... but there was not one Saturday.

*Air Force coach Troy Calhoun is one of 12 FBS coaches leading their alma mater. The others are Ruffin McNeill (East Carolina), Paul Hayes (Kent State), Don Treadwell (Miami of Ohio), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Bill Blankenship (Tulsa), Matt Wells (Utah State), Sean Kugler (UTEP) and Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech).

Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaac Rochell (90), center, rushes past his brother, Air Force offensive linesman Matt Rochell (72), during an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, at Falcon Stadium in Air Force Academy, Colo. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER