Howard Cross III clinches Notre Dame win, secures dominant defensive effort
Madeline Ladd | Monday, October 2, 2023
Graduate student defensive lineman Howard Cross III arguably had the game of his career this past Saturday in Durham, North Carolina against No. 17 Duke.
The Paramus, New Jersey native has been with the Irish for five seasons and has been a consistent defensive presence in all six matchups this season. This game, though, Cross broke out. He was a disruptive force, especially when the Irish needed him most. Cross was responsible for the clinching strip sack that turned the ball loose from the hands of Duke quarterback Riley Leonard and into those of senior linebacker Marist Liufau. This would end the game and allow the Irish to claim their thrilling 21-14 victory.
“It’s ecstatic, there’s really no other feeling like it,” Cross said. “That’s what every guy in my position chases, is that feeling of everybody looking at you, everybody so proud of what you’ve done. It just goes to show what we’ve worked on. I couldn’t have done what I did without the rest of my D-line.”
Though they were not able to be as explosive against a motivated Duke offense, the defense — led by Cross — was able to keep Leonard at bay despite his mobility. It was the practice that paid off, according to Cross.
“Like with any running quarterback, as I’m sure we are going to see a lot for the rest of the season, we practiced all week,” Cross said. “In the game there was nowhere for him to go because we had eyes on him wherever he could’ve gone.”
Cross led the defensive charge with a career-high 13 tackles, three of them solo and 3 ½ of which were for a loss. This game also marked the second in his career where he finished with double-digit tackles. Cross had 33 total tackles at the end of last season. He currently sits leading the team with 35 after this game just halfway into the slate, showing the improvement he’s made this season.
He also played the entire game while dealing with a sinus infection. Cross humorously remarked “I’m not going to touch anything,” at the post-game press conference.
“I am not going to lie to you, I have a really bad sinus infection,” Cross said. “There were like three or four plays I was like, I can’t breathe, like I don’t know what’s going on, but I just kept going, and I looked at my dad in the stands which I do every game. All I saw was keep moving, if you want to feel better run it out.”
He embodied the defense’s ability to power through, to execute when it mattered. Cross’ two forced fumbles — his first pair of the season — were difference-makers with regard to the outcome of the game.
“That’s how great defenses are made,” Cross said. “When the chips are down, and you don’t really know what’s going to happen, what are you going to do with the hand that you have? We went out, we played our hearts out and when it mattered, we made the stop.”
Cross will prove beneficial as the Irish prepare for the second half of their schedule, especially with opponents like No. 9 USC on the horizon.