Irish defense locks down after streak ends

Irish defense locks down after streak ends
October 21, 2012, 1:13 am
Share This Post

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Midway through the second quarter, BYU did something no team had done in well over a month: score a touchdown on Notre Dame's defense.

Riley Nelson found a wide-open Cody Hoffman in the Notre Dame end zone with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter, snapping Notre Dame's streak of not allowing a touchdown at 17 quarters (plus an overtime period).

After a Tommy Rees pass went through the hands and off the facemask of DaVaris Daniels for an interception, BYU marched 30 yards and scored again, this with with 6:07 remaining in the half. From afar, the turnaround compared to a pitcher losing a perfect game and crumbling soon thereafter, but coach Brian Kelly didn't see any sort of mental breakdown in his team's defense.

"I went over to the sideline sand there wasn't one guy pointing a finger," Kelly said. "It was about, let's just communicate out here. They felt like they let some plays outside the defense -- I know a couple of times they felt like they should have been there. And then I think (defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) made a couple of nice adjustments on their quick screens and we started to roll the coverage a little bit.

"They knew we were going to make a couple of adjustments and they needed to clean up a couple things. I went over there twice and really felt a good energy with the defense."

The response from Notre Dame's defense was to lock down in the second half. After allowing BYU to gain 200 yards in the first half, the Cougars gained just 43 in the final 30 minutes of the game, allowing Notre Dame's offense to score 10 points to take the lead back and win.

"I hope a lot of people out there realize that we're not going to give up," defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had 1.5 sacks in the game, said. "We had an opportunity to give up in the first half, be like this team scored on us, first team to score on us. We could've gave up, but we didn't."

Tuitt admitted Notre Dame's defense came out sluggish, and eventually BYU took advantage of that. But Kapron Lewis-Moore said he didn't see anyone panic, and eventually the resiliency of Notre Dame's defense -- led by Manti Te'o -- materialized.

"It just shows the kind of character we have, not only on defense but as a team," Te'o said. "Coach Diaco really came in and helped us to settle. We just had to settle and play our brand of football."

That brand of football is one that's led Notre Dame's defense close to the top of the defensive heap at the FBS level. Entering Saturday, the Irish had the second-best scoring defense in the nation, only behind the all-world D residing in Tuscaloosa.

"It goes back to the saying, defense wins championships," Te'o explained. "I think our defense, we want to do whatever it takes to win and those 14 points upset us a lot. So I think it just goes to show how far our defense has come."