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Terrail Lambert: Lambert still remembes 2006 highlights

Ken Fowler | Thursday, November 15, 2007

Terrail Lambert was improving, but then Michigan superstar receiver Mario Manningham came to Notre Dame Stadium and showed up the entire Irish defense.

It was the third game of Lambert’s junior season, 2006, and it was a humbling experience.

A week later, Lambert became a star.

Notre Dame entered the fourth quarter trailing Michigan State by 16 points in East Lansing, Mich. A season of hope appeared ready to turn into a season of false expectations.

Then the Irish defense had its say. Notre Dame found itself down by four with less than three minutes left when Lambert intercepted Drew Stanton’s pass and scampered 27 yards for a touchdown and a three-point lead.

Two minutes later, Lambert sealed the deal with an acrobatic interception on a tipped desperation pass on the right sideline.

“It really didn’t sink in until maybe a couple of days after,” Lambert said. “It’s a really euphoric experience.

“I just remember running with the ball in my hands. It just like magically appeared in my hands,” Lambert added with a laugh. “And I’m running down the sidelines. I can’t hear the crowd, I can’t hear anything, but I could have heard a pin drop. It’s crazy. I had my heart pumping on my way to the end zone.”

Since the final two games of last season, however, it’s been a tough ride.

The eleven losses in 12 games is weighing on the team, including Lambert.

So what does the senior – who has a fifth year of eligibility remaining – want from what could be his final game in Notre Dame Stadium?

“First and foremost, ending the season on a good note,” Lambert said. “Individually and collectively, we want to leave with a good taste in our mouths.”

Collectively, the Irish pass defense has improved in 2007. Notre Dame is No. 5 nationally in pass defense when measured in yards per game. In terms of pass efficiency defense, the Irish are 46th in the country.

Even if not great, that’s a far cry from the porous Irish secondary of Lambert’s freshman season.

Still, many of the starters on the 2004 squad were critical in Lambert’s development.

“One I bonded with most quickly was probably Freddie Parrish. … He took me under his wing, showed me the ins and outs,” Lambert said.

Parrish, who transferred to Stephen F. Austin, played in 21 games with the Irish and had 24 tackles.

Another one of Lambert’s role models was Dwight Ellick, a senior in Lambert’s freshman season.

Now, Lambert is working with a corps of younger defensive backs. Sophomore Darrin Walls is starting opposite Lambert, and freshman Gary Gray and sophomores Raeshon McNeil and Munir Prince are working their way into the playing rotation.

So Lambert spends a lot of time teaching, if not always explicitly. Still, that doesn’t mean he can’t have some fun.

“Pretty much just enjoying the ride,” Lambert said of his final games of the season, “trying to take everything as it comes.”