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Irish defense focuses on adjustments for Nevada

| Friday, September 9, 2016

A year ago, when Notre Dame opened its season against Texas, the defense put forth a masterpiece, holding the Longhorns to just one field goal.

But the story was different this year, when the Longhorns offense, led by the quarterback tandem of freshman Shane Buechele and senior Tyrone Swoopes, dropped 37 regulation points on the No. 18 Irish (0-1) in a 50-47 double-overtime win.

This week, with a visit from Nevada on deck, the Irish defense knows where it needs to make changes.

One of the defense’s rough patches against now-No. 11 Texas (1-0) came in the tackling department, with key missed tackles hurting the Irish effort. Junior linebacker Greer Martini said the team made progress this week in practice in the build-up to Saturday’s game.

“I think that week-by-week we’ll get better,” Martini said. “But I definitely think we’re a lot better this week.”

Irish junior linebacker Greer Martini finishes out a play during Notre Dame's 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday. Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer
Irish junior linebacker Greer Martini finishes out a play during Notre Dame’s 50-47 loss to Texas on Sunday.

Another key issue for the Irish defense Sunday was giving up big plays; senior defensive Isaac Rochell knows Notre Dame needs to limit those moving forward.

“[Preventing] explosive plays is a big thing, we’ve gotta cut that out,” Rochell said. “And then just doing the little things right.”

Senior cornerback Cole Luke acknowledged the secondary’s going to get burned a few times, but that the team’s younger cornerbacks have to put mistakes behind them.

“It’s gonna happen. That’s your position,” Luke said. “You play corner, if you mess up, it’s exposure. We’re the most exposed position on the field and I don’t take that lightly.

“ … You’re in a battle with yourself. That’s pretty much it. It’s gonna happen, you’ve gotta move forward.”

A silver lining from Sunday’s performance was the effort the Irish defense turned in — and it’s a reason why he has confidence in the group moving forward.

“One of the big positive takeaways was effort and that was there,” Rochell said. “We’ve gotta keep having that. So with elite effort and doing what you need to do, our defense will be fine.”

Martini echoed Rochell’s sentiments on big plays.

“That’s the cancer of the defense, the explosive plays,” Martini said. “We want to get rid of them.”

Martini also pointed out the play of junior linebacker Nyles Morgan, who recorded 13 tackles in his first start since 2014.

“Nyles is a beast. He played really well,” Martini said. “He’s really physical, he made a lot of plays for us.”

Rochell praised his teammates’ approach this week, and wanted to make sure the Irish were taking an approach that stressed winning, rather than not losing.

“Everybody’s done a great job this week of understanding the goal hasn’t changed,” Rochell said. “Everybody’s worked extremely hard; I don’t need to do anything extra. Guys get it. We’ve told guys already what the goal is and that it hasn’t changed. You don’t want to overemphasize, ‘We can’t lose, we can’t lose.’ Let’s go win. Let’s go dominate.”

With a young secondary, Luke has been thrust into a leadership role this season — and he’s just now getting adjusted to it as the Irish hit an early rough patch.

“It was a role that I wasn’t very comfortable with at first, at the beginning of camp,” Luke said. “But it’s just something they’ve been pushing on me so much I’m kind of getting used to it. I’m pretty comfortable in that position.”

At the end of the day though, a victory remains the best way to get the Irish season back on track.

“I’m still pissed, obviously. Everybody’s still pissed,” Luke said. “But the one way that you can get rid of that disappointment and that negative energy is to just go out this Saturday and obviously get a ‘W.’”

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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