For this Notre Dame football team, the defense continues its dominance, and is truly one of the nation’s best after five weeks of play.
It is hard to find any negatives with the defense five straight wins to start the year. Too many people get caught up after one big play here and there, and I simply don’t like to view things in that manner. No team or player is perfect, and this defense is a special group. They lead the NCAA in defensive pressures from the EDGE spots, and Jerry Tillery is an early candidate for every defensive award you can think of.
Instead of ranking the units on an individual basis this week, I’ve decided to rank the unit as a whole. Overall, I think that side of the football deserves it.
Early on in the game, it looked like Stanford might put some good numbers and make this game a shootout, but after 14 early points, the Irish defense stiffened. The Cardinal offense managed only 3 points from the 10:36 mark on in the 2nd quarter. It was quite the opposite of their second half performance at Oregon the week prior.
Is it fair to call the Notre Dame front seven the best in college football? Long are the days of Brian VanGorder and his mishandling of uber-talented athletes. It started with Mike Elko, but now Clark Lea and his defensive staff have done a tremendous job getting the most out of their players.
Jerry Tillery is having his best year yet. Te’Von Coney and Drue Tranquill have improved on already incredibly successful careers. Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara lead the country in QB pressures as a trio. In this game against Stanford, they added to that total with another 2 and 2.5 sacks. Julian Love and Alohi Gilman in the back end have been just what the Irish need, and Love is now the Notre Dame record holder for most pass break-ups in a career–and he’s just a junior. It’s widely impressive stuff what the defense has pulled off so far.
In this game specifically, it’s hard to give the team anything less than an A++. As mentioned, the first quarter or so, it looked like it might be a shootout, but from there on out it was complete dominance on that side of the football. KJ Costello is a very solid college QB with a possible future in the NFL. The Stanford WR trio of Arcega-Whiteside, St. Brown (UGH), and Irwin is one of the tops in the country with great size, and their tight ends Colby Parkinson and Kaden Smith only add to that. Notre Dame made that offense look much worse than it actually is.
The trio of Drue Tranquill, Coney, and Asmar Bilal showed great pursuit in the run game, stymieing Love and the offensive line for much of the game. And the secondary, outside of a few missed tackles and chunk plays limited Stanford to a measly 174 yards passing.
It’s difficult to see a better offense than Stanford’s on the schedule, therefore, the defense should continue to have no issue. They just need to stay healthy. Tranquill will now deal with a broken hand for most of the year, and every time Kareem goes down my heart stops. Just remain relatively healthy, and these types of performance will continue.