Notre Dame’s Defense Continues To Show Title-Worthiness
Notre Dame made a statement to the rest of the college football world on Saturday night in Oklahoma: you had better start talking about the Irish as national championship contenders.
Notre Dame is now 8-0 after battling through a schedule that was deemed the nation’s toughest at the start of the season. How have the Irish done it? Defense, defense, defense.
The Irish front seven is littered with future NFL players, but they are unquestionably led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o, who has thrust himself squarely into the Heisman race as a defensive player. Against the Sooners, he paced the defense with 11 tackles, a brutal sack on Landry Jones, and a beautiful interception that will only continue to add to his formidable reputation.Te’o is now tied for second in the country in interceptions (5) and is top-ten in fumble recoveries as well (2). Only Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas has individually created as many turnovers for his team as Te’o.
But this defense is more than just one amazing player. As a team, it has been clamping down on opposing offenses week in and week out:
It all starts with limiting the opponents rushing attack. Navy’s triple-option, MSU’s Le’Veon Bell, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor can all attest that running against the Irish is no joke. In fact, the Irish surrendered their first rushing touchdown of the season to the “Belldozer” Blake Bell in the Oklahoma game. That’s right, Notre Dame was actually a little bit disappointed in its rush defense in a game where it only gave up 15 yards on the ground — that’s how good of a unit this is.
Combine that rush defense with the pass-rushing abilities of Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, and Kapron Lewis-Moore, and you see why this defense only allows single digit points per game on the season. The Irish are 27th nationally in sacks, but even when they haven’t taken the quarterback down, they’ve managed to make opposing signal-callers rush throws and make mistakes. Despite an extremely young secondary (of which three-fourths of the current Irish starters actually began as offensive players), Notre Dame has 13 interceptions on the season, good for eighth in the country. Consider that question answered.
While Saturday’s win in Oklahoma was a major statement to the rest of the country, it was status quo for the Notre Dame defense. Don’t expect anything different from this group as the Irish continue to fuel national championship aspirations in South Bend.