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Touchdowns bring back memories

Matt Lozar | Tuesday, December 2, 2003

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Against Brigham Young, the Notre Dame defense returned to its dominance of 2002. At Stanford, the defense finally found the end zone.Building off its impressive performance in the last home game, the Irish scored two touchdowns, only allowed 20 rushing yards, recorded seven sacks and simply dominated the Cardinal offense all night long. But the key Saturday night was those 14 points scored by the defense as it finally got the monkey off its back. “It’s about time. It’s the one thing we haven’t done this year,” Notre Dame defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. “It was nice to get a couple of scores. It’s good to see those kids fly around and have some fun because anytime you play hard it gives you a chance to have fun.”Capping off an impressive first half by a high-octane Notre Dame offense, cornerback Dwight Ellick forced a fumble with less than a minute remaining and safety Quentin Burrell picked up the loose ball. With a number of players just watching as if the play was over, no whistles were blown and Burrell took the fumble, ran down the sideline and made a couple of Stanford players miss en route to a 65-yard touchdown return. “It felt real good,” Burrell said. “On Thursday we have a fumble drill where we try to score and those things that we do [in practice] finally paid off.”In the third quarter, linebacker Brandon Hoyte forced the defense’s second fumble of the game, and safety Garron Bible took the fumble 44 yards for the defense’s second score on the night.The calling card of last year’s Irish defense reemerged at Stanford, something Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham would like to see more of, but knows it’s something you can’t count on every week. “I thought that was a real plus and as our guys continue to get stronger, we’ll be able to make some plays of that nature,” Willingham said, “Those are things that you see once every ball game or once every couple ball games, and we were fortunate last year to get them last year to get them almost every game. “Would we like to get back to that? Yes, indeed.”The big-play ability displayed by the youthful secondary meshed well with the relentless pursuit of the defensive line. Virtually every time Stanford quarterback Chris Lewis went back to pass, somebody on the defense hit Lewis hard.As those hits keep coming, the secondary can just sit back in its coverage and make the big plays like it did Saturday.”It helps us so much and makes it so much easier,” Burrell said. “You see when the quarterback is scrambling because of the defense line turnovers come so much easier. My hat goes off to them.”The leader of that pass rush on the defensive line once again was Justin Tuck. For the second game this season, Tuck had three and a half sacks. Early in the game, he set the tone by constantly getting to Lewis.Saturday was Tuck’s second game this year with three and a half sacks, the other was against Pittsburgh, and the junior has 13.5 on the season.At Stanford, Tuck and the rest of the defense’s success might have been the result of something picked up in the film room. “We had two weeks to prepare for them, our formations sets, their offensive line, we did a good job of reading their stances and knew what was coming,” Tuck said.Regardless of the great scouting report, simply put, Tuck was unstoppable”He’s really unbelievable. I’m not sure there are too many guys that can block him. He was geared to have a great day today and he really did,” Baer said. “No matter what the protection they had in, they couldn’t block him. It really helped us.”