Emptying the notebook following Notre Dame’s 17-14 victory over BYU on Saturday night.
Defensive end Stephon Tuitt shrugged off the end of Notre Dame’s streak of 17 quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. Sort of.
“Still not a rushing touchdown,” Tuitt quickly pointed out, reminding everyone that the Irish have yet to allow a TD on the ground this season.
Kapron Lewis-Moore said the Irish defense wasn’t fazed by the first score, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Riley Nelson to a preposterously wide open Cody Hoffman in the back of the end zone. BYU scored again 2:18 later after a Tommy Rees interception.
“I don’t think it was shell-shock, we’ve just got to keep believing in ourselves,” Lewis-Moore said. “They scored a touchdown and we just had to make the necessary adjustments. It doesn’t hurt the confidence at all. Everybody on the defense feels like we’re a great defense.”
Outside linebacker Danny Spond had a strong game for the Irish, breaking up two passes, getting a tackle for a loss, and sealing the victory with an interception with two seconds left in the game.
“He’s been so consistent,” Brian Kelly said. “We don’t even take him off in nickel — I don’t know if you guys know it, he plays corner. Here is a guy that’s playing corner in our nickel package and running with the No. 2 (receiver). … He has been physical at the point of attack. Teams that have wanted to get outside — I could go on and on. The kid has been tremendous. He’s been an unsung player on our defense and we appreciate him.”
Fellow linebacker Manti Te’o agreed
“It’s huge,” Te’o said of Spond’s play. “You saw him come up big at the end and you can see him just get better and (he) continues to help our team win.”
Cougars miss their chances
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall lamented several missed opportunities that could have swung the game in the Cougars’ favor.
“I was proud of our team, we were one or two plays short from being able to come away with a victory,” he said.
The biggest of those chances came in the fourth quarter, right after Notre Dame had taken a 17-14 lead on George Atkinson III’s 2-yard touchdown run. On first down from the Irish 46-yard line, Hoffman somehow got some 10 or 15 yards behind the entire Notre Dame secondary. But BYU quarterback Riley Nelson missed him badly, short and to the right.
The Atkinson touchdown was another chance to make a play. Safety Joe Sampson had Atkinson 1-on-1 just inside the goal line, but Atkinson made a nifty move to get past him cleanly on the third-and-goal play.
“I think plays like that are what I was referring to — when one or two plays away from coming away with the win,” Mendenhall said. “Those would be two good examples, where Cody was open and we did have an unblocked player at the point of attack that just didn’t make the tackle.”