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Goolsby leads defense by example

Pat Leonard | Monday, November 8, 2004

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Mike Goolsby’s third-quarter touchdown did more than add points.The score gave Notre Dame a lead it would hold the rest of the game to upset No. 9 Tennessee. It was Goolsby’s first career touchdown. And with these factors and the adrenaline created by a capacity 107,000-plus crowd, Goolsby didn’t even think to shuffle his feet in the end zone?”I can’t dance,” Goolsby said.He may not dance, but he changes games.Goolsby led all tacklers in Saturday’s game with 14 tackles, eight solo. His interception proved to be the difference in earning Notre Dame’s first road win over a top-10 opponent in eight years.”We were talking in the hotel last night about how this was going to be one of those games where it was going to be a big-time game coming down to big-time players,” Goolsby said. “It’s just great to be a part of it.”Goolsby was one of those great players Saturday.On Sunday, the Walter Camp Football Foundation named Goolsby its National Defensive Player of the Week. Along with his 14 tackles, Goolsby had two tackles for a loss and one sack as the Irish beat their first top-10 team on the road since a 27-24 victory at No. 6 Texas on Sept. 21, 1996.But the interception loomed largest.”That was a huge play, because with that we had a chance to start to gain control of the football game,” head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “What was really spectacular was that the pressure on the quarterback came with a three-man rush, and Mike was there to step up and make the play.”The defensive line played particularly well Saturday. Justin Tuck made eight tackles and recorded two sacks. Nose guard Derek Landri finished with four tackles and one for a loss, and also provided the primary quarterback pressure that led to Goolsby’s interception.But Goolsby – joined by the tandem of linebackers Brandon Hoyte (11 tackles Saturday) and Derek Curry (eight) – has been arguably the most productive player on the defense this season.Coming into the Tennessee game, Goolsby led Notre Dame in tackles with 70. The closest Irish defender behind him, free safety Quentin Burrell, had 52. Goolsby’s third-quarter interception, then, satisfied a team frustrated by dominant offenses.”It feels good to be more aggressive on defense and not just sit back and let them take your defense apart,” Goolsby said. The senior gave credit to his defensive coaches’ aggressive game plan, as well, while defensive coordinator Kent Baer understood his leader’s contribution.”Goolsby did a nice job,” defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. “We were in man coverage there, and he did a nice job of jumping the [running] back. The quarterback probably shouldn’t have thrown the ball, but that’s part of football.”Opponents now know they should find the number 41 before any play – run or pass.