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Football: Defend and Contain

By Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Since surrendering 35 points and 450 yards of offense in a loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 28, No. 25 Notre Dame’s defense has come alive.

In wins over Arizona State, USC and Air Force, the Irish defense forced six turnovers, picked up eight sacks and allowed less than 16 points per game. Notre Dame (6-2) has not given up a point in the third quarter during the three-game winning streak, and the Trojans and Falcons did not muster any second-half points.

After the Oklahoma loss, Irish coach Brian Kelly said the defense was solid despite its performance against the Sooners.

“I think our defense is solid,” Kelly said on Oct. 2. “I don’t think they’re spectacular, but I think it’s a solid defense that we can win with. We uncharacteristically gave up two big plays that we’re not accustomed to giving up. We’re solid as a defense. We’re not spectacular, but we’re solid.”

Since then, the Notre Dame defense has contained three dynamic offenses that have each put up at least 40 points in a game this season.

Kelly said the signs for a better defense were apparent to him.

“I felt the fundamentals were in place,” Kelly said on Tuesday. “I thought that we were beginning to play the kind of run defense necessary to keep us in every ballgame. And we were starting to get some really good play on the edge of our defense, which is so important to everything that we do in the 3‑4 defense. So there were signs that were pointing in that direction. Now you’ve got to put it all together. But I was very confident that the markers were there, and they were pointing in the right direction.”

The Irish will now look to slow down Navy’s triple option a week after shutting down the Falcons. Kelly said the Midshipmen (4-3) run a different system than Air Force did.

“But Navy runs the triple option better than anybody in the country,” Kelly said. “I mean, it’s what they do. And they have so many variations off of it, just little variations that make a huge difference, splits, the preciseness of how they run it may not to the untrained eye look like much, but it’s a real big difference.”

Injuries update

Kelly said senior nose guard Louis Nix’s status for Saturday’s game is still up in the air. Nix missed the Air Force game with knee tendonitis. Kelly said Nix was “progressing” but still “questionable.”

Sophomore defensive lineman Sheldon Day is “probable” for Navy, and Kelly said Day has been suffering from a bone bruise.

Junior linebacker Ishaq Williams will miss Saturday’s game with a knee injury after leaving the Air Force game early.

Kelly said sophomore safety Elijah Shumate was “moving around well” and that he’ll practice. Shumate’s role has not been determined, according to Kelly.

The Irish offensive line will look more like the unit that started the game Saturday than the one that closed the win over Air Force. Graduate student left guard Chris Watt was “probable,” Kelly said, while sophomore right tackle Ronnie Stanley was supposed to practice Tuesday.

Golson talks to SI

In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples, suspended Irish quarterback Everett Golson said he was kicked out of Notre Dame because he cheated on a test.

Golson, who was suspended for the semester because of the transgression, said watching the Irish play without him has been a tough experience.

“I’ve never had so many mixed emotions in my life,” he said to Staples. “I’m constantly watching the game and getting excited. It’s still that sense of, well, you’re not there. Seeing those guys just going out there and battling every week and me not being a part of that, that really kind of hurt me.”

Golson said Notre Dame’s losses were even tougher to deal with.

“I felt like I maybe could have been there, trying to do my best to help the team win so it hurts,” Golson said.

Golson has been working out in San Diego with renowned quarterbacks coach George Whitfield during his absence from school. He said the training has been “ridiculously good for me” and that people should expect a different Golson when he returns to South Bend in January.

“[I'll be] a more polished individual,” Golson said. “That goes for on and off the field. I know a lot of people are more focused on me actually getting on the field. I’m more so focused on getting back in the classroom since that’s where it happened.”

Golson said he did not choose to go to a junior college or even another school because he wanted to finish what he started at Notre Dame.

“My heart was set on going back to Notre Dame, not necessarily to prove to anybody but really, just doing it for me,” he said. “That’s something that I started, and I didn’t want to run away from it and go to a JUCO or go to another school. I was going to face it.”

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu