SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After Stephon Tuitt earned the game ball for terrorizing Cody Kessler in Notre Dame's 14-10 win over USC, nose guard Louis Nix said he figured his defensive line-mate could've played better.
The initial reaction was that the generally jocular Nix wasn't entirely serious. After all, Tuitt recorded two sacks, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and one pass breakup. But Nix wasn't joking, and his assessment was one Tuitt agreed with on Wednesday.
"When you watch the game (at first) you say 'oh, I made plays,' but when you go back and watch film, I look back at the plays I could've made (even more)," Tuitt said. "That's the stuff I look at. So every game I go out there I look at the stuff I could be better at."
After weeks of sluggish play and poor results, Tuitt looked like his old self in Notre Dame's wins over Arizona State and USC. Neither team could block him consistently, and his re-emergence has Notre Dame's pass rush getting back to the success it had in 2012.
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Tuitt didn't make excuses for his slow start, saying the hernia surgery he underwent after last season was just a "little setback." Coach Brian Kelly has made it out to be more significant, explaining how it kept Tuitt from working out his core in the summer and how he's only recently begun to round back into shape.
There's no controversy here over Tuitt's willingness to play, no darts thrown his direction from his head coach. Tuitt said dealing with the injury taught him to "actually step up and be a man," a lesson he reflected on after seven up-and-down games.
"I'm a very tough person," Tuitt said when asked what he's learned about himself. "I've got a lot of courage, and I've got a lot of love for my team. I'm just extremely blessed to be in the situation I'm in."