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Finke takes on leadership role for Irish

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Chris Finke knows where the Notre Dame passing game needs to be. And it is nowhere close yet.

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The Fighting Irish (2-0) have won both their games, scoring 24 points in each to beat Michigan and then Ball State. Notre Dame has 467 total receiving yards but just a single receiving touchdown - Finke's startling grab against the Wolverines - and quarterback Brandon Wimbush has four interceptions.

''You can't throw three interceptions and win games that are going to be vital to the team's success,'' Wimbush said. ''So we've got to clean up on all parts.''

Finke is eager to help.

The former preferred walk-on from Dayton, Ohio, had zero scholarship offers coming out of high school. He established himself as a contributor, earning a scholarship his sophomore year and became the team's punt returner and an option at receiver. Now in his senior season, Finke knows he can provide leadership and set an example for his younger teammates. He added 20 pounds to his 5-foot-10 frame in the offseason - and he built himself up mentally, too.

''Knowing that I was going to be one of the older guys in the receiver room I was just working on being able to hold myself accountable as a guy that younger guys could look up to and being someone who was reliable for the team knowing that I would have to step into a bigger role,'' he said. ''Just trying to solidify the mental aspect of football and getting the football IQ better and just taking all the coaching points that were given to me.''

With five catches and 95 yards so far this season, Finke has almost surpassed last season's totals (six catches, 102 yards). The catch against Michigan got a lot of attention because Finke essentially went over a defensive back to take the ball away in the end zone.

''If you go up for a ball with the thought in your head that I'm going to get, it's going to happen more often than not,'' he said.

Even with a solid start, Finke said he knows there are many things to improve if the Irish want to be College Football Playoff contenders.

''We can do a lot better in a lot of areas,'' he said. ''We have really big goals here to graduate from the University of Notre Dame and win a national championship.''

Regardless of stats and who's making the catches, Finke just wants to see the team get better each week. The Irish are home against Saturday against Vanderbilt (2-0). The Commodores have the nation's 19th-ranked defense in the early going this season, allowing only 3.97 yards per play and 8.5 points per game.

''However many opportunities it is I get in a game I want to take advantage of them,'' Finke said. ''I'm not trying to be a selfish guy. Whoever the action is going to is who it's going to. If it's coming to me, great, if it's going to Miles (Boykin) or Chase (Claypool))or if we're running the ball really well one week then great. Whatever it takes to get the job done.''

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/tag/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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