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  • Writer's pictureBlake Holzgrafe

SEPTEMBER 2, 2023: Notre Dame Fighting Irish v. Tennessee State Tigers at Notre Dame Stadium



Notre Dame Stadium

Notre Dame Fighting Irish


Tennessee State Tigers

Welcome to the 2023 Notre Dame football season home opener. The opponent is the first Football Championship Subdivision in the history of Notre Dame Football. The Tennessee State Tigers open their 2023 season under third year head coach Eddie George whose won/lost record stands at 9-13 season as he enters his third season as the Tigers Head Coach. 2022 saw Tennessee State win 4 of 11 games, and winning 2 of 5 games in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Before we delve into the Tigers football fortunes against the Irish, perchance I ought to address a question that might be running through your head. What is the world is Oprah Winfrey doing on the first page of this Notre Dame football prognostication? She my friends is a 1987 graduate of Tennessee State University who has done very well with her post-degree career, would you not agree? “ ‘O’, yes!”

While I do not know if she plans to be in Notre Dame Stadium for the game, if she is, I suspect you will not find her in the seats allocated to Tennessee State by the ND Ticket Office, but rather in one of the Premium Boxes where she can enjoy the game (Spoiler Alert!) despite the pounding the Tigers will receive.

Analysis of the Tigers football roster reveals two players with similar uniform numbers and the very same given name. Now, this might not be unusual if the given name was “John”, “Sam” or “Michael”, but in this instance the given name is “Romello” and the players are O lineman Romello Tarver (#55) and O lineman Romello Watson (#56). “Romello”, by the way, as a word, has a distinctive definition, at least according to the Urban Dictionary, a compilation of slang terms that may not necessarily be found in the latest edition of Webster’s. Urban Dictionary defines “Romello” as a sexy boy that gets all the girls, is usually a leader and not a follower, and is a “beast” in bed. It says here, however, that they will not be a “beast” on the gridiron!!

The first time a FBS team plays a FCS team occurs only once. And this is it for the Irish! For those with limited memories, the first time the Michigan Wolverines played an FCS team was to open the 2007 season at home in The Big House” against the Mountaineers of Appalachian State. The Wolverines entered the game ranked #5 in both the Writers’ Poll and the Coaches’ Poll. Las Vegas would not even post odds. What was overlooked by fans everywhere was the fact that Appalachian State was the 2-time defending FCS Champion. 2007 was to be the last year before the Mountaineers graduated to the FBS. They had won 6 games against FBS opponents.

Tennessee State is not the defending FCS Champion, much less the 2-time defending FCS Champion. Nevertheless, as Coach Lou Holtz would tell his players, regardless of who the opponent was. “They give scholarships, too!”

Tennessee State has turned out some mighty fine football players over the years. Remember this guy?

Ed “Too Tall” Jones was the first pick in the 1974 NFL draft. Tennessee State can produce players, ‘nuf said!

The Tennessee State QB is Draylin Ellis (#7). As the returning starter, he is hoping to improve on a 2022 54% completion rate. 2022 also saw him “sling the rock” for 1,807 yards, 8 TDs and 6 INTs. With those statistics, might he, in fact, have been throwing rocks instead of footballs? Will he be able to get the Tigers “rollin’”? It says here that the only “Rock ‘n Rolling” by Tennessee State on the field of the stadium that “Rock” built, will be by the acclaimed Tennessee State Marching Band. Known as the “Aristocrat of Bands”, these lads and lasses will be performing at half time. Don’t miss it!

Which Pope will appear in Notre Dame Stadium on September 1, 2023. Will it be this guy?

For those who do not recognize him (shame on you!), this South American native now resides in Vatican City and goes by Francis.

Or will it be this guy?

For those who do not recognize him, this Dinwiddie, Virginia, native goes by K’Vaughan Pope. A high school linebacker originally recruited to The Ohio State University


He entered the Transfer Portal to Tennessee State where he was named by the Big South-OVC Association as one of 6 Tennessee State players to watch coming into the 2023 season.

K’Vaughan is #4.

The answer to the question is NEITHER POPE will be seen at Notre Dame Stadium for this game, as K’Vaughan has been “released” from the Tigers’ roster. Or, as it would be said in baseball performance terms, “K got K’d.” Francis, by the way is visiting Mongolia!!

The other pictured “players to watch” are the aforementioned QB Ellis (#7), Senior DL Terrell Allen (#9), the Green boys, Grad LB James (#1) and Junior Safety Josh (#6), and Junior Safety, Bryce Phillips (#0).

At 6’ 0” and 275 lbs, Terrell Allen is likely a “wee bit” undersized going up against the Irish O-line with these measurements

6’ 7 ½” 322

6’ 5 ½” 303

6’ 3” 306

6’ 4 ½” 314

6’ 6” 310

While size alone does not dictate success, size and talent will usually prevail over undersized and talent.

The Tigers do have size in Cameron Smith (#96) who checks in at 6’ 3” and 380 lbs. Now, if Cameron has talent, the size and talent rule may work against the Irish .

The Big South-OVC Association is an amalgamation of two conferences, the Big South Conference and the Ohio Valley Conference. Even at the FCS level conference alignments, the times “they are a changing.

It says here the “stable” of Irish RBs will be “off to the races” behind the Irish lads up front.

Estime (#7)

Payne (#3)

Love (#12)

Ford (#22)

Price (#24)

One Irish player who did not participate in the season-opening Navy game will be filling some mighty big shoes for the Irish. 2022 saw Harvard Grad Transfer Jon Sot perform brilliantly as the Irish punter. Was that due in part to the outstanding Irish Special Teams coach who is now performing the same duties with the Indianapolis Colts? It would be outstanding if every Irish possession ended in a score by the Irish. The other way Irish drives could end are by expiration of the half, a turnover, a missed field goal, or a punt. We don’t want any turnovers or missed field goals and do not totally control the clock, so perhaps it will be important to see if Bryce McFerson (#14) can punt like his brother, Evan McFerson, who punts for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Regardless of Bryce’s participation, it says here the Irish will prevail to the tune of

Notre Dame 55

Tigers 0


OMG, I did not even mention “Sam the Man”. Oh well, just remember he is good!

Here are the answers to your Irish Trivia Questions for last week.

  1. Notre Dame prides itself on affording its students an opportunity to study abroad during their undergraduate careers. The 2023 Irish football team is being afforded an opportunity to play one of its football games abroad. This will be the third time the Irish have played a football game in Ireland. But Ireland is not the only place the Irish have played a football game abroad. How many other Irish football games have been played abroad? Where was/were the game(s)? Who won the game(s)? Who did the Irish play in the game(s)? The Irish ventured to Tokyo, Japan, to challenge the Miami Hurricane in the Mirage Bowl. The Irish prevailed in this 1979 game 40 to 15.

  2. Which of these players won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the Irish or Middies? Wayne Hardin, Knute Rockne, Roger Staubach, Johnny Lujack, Rick Forzano, Doc Blanchard, Joe Theismann, Joe Bellino, Tim Brown, David Robinson, Leon Hart. Roger Staubach, Johnny Lujack, Joe Bellino, Tim Brown and Leon Hart. Doc Blanchard won the Heisman while playing for Army.

  3. Can you name the brothers, one of whom captained the Navy football team and later became the Superintendent of the Naval Academy and the other of whom captained the Notre Dame football team later winning a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs? Navy’s Tom Lynch and the Irish’s Jim Lynch.

Here are your Irish Trivia Questions for this week.

  1. What is the largest crowd the Irish have played in front of? There is a supposedly official number and an estimated number. Can you identify either the official number game and the estimated number game by location and opponent?

  1. Seven Notre Dame football players have been awarded the Heisman Trophy. Since 1935, four Notre Dame football players have finished second in the Heisman voting. Can you name them?

  1. Kent Baer was the Irish head coach for one game in 2004. The Irish lost. Baer’s winning percentage of 0.00% is the all-time worst among all Notre Dame head coaches. Can you name the Irish head coach with the highest winning percentage?

And, of course, our hearts forever . . .

. . . Love, thee Notre Dame!

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