Notre Dame football: Top 3 defensive performers from the Sun Bowl

The Notre Dame football team had a heck of a showing in Friday's Sun Bowl tilt, but who were the defensive players that stood out from the rest?
Tennessee State v Notre Dame
Tennessee State v Notre Dame / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Notre Dame football team played about as well as one could have hoped against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl on Friday. While their defensive performance didn't surprise head coach Marcus Freeman, it was still one of the best outings of the year, even if Oregon State was undermanned.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won the game 40-8 and while the game wasn't always a blowout, it never really looked like the Beavers were going to be able to get anything close to momentum.

Despite that dominant outing, sometimes raw stats don't always show the whole story. That's why we're going to take a look at the absolute best performances based on what Pro Football Focus has graded out.

Howard Cross III leads the way for Notre Dame football

Howard Cross III has had a great 2023 season and he capped it off with a dominating game against the Oregon State Beavers. According to PFF he was the top graded performer with a whopping 90.1 total rating.

Cross only had two tackles, but one of those was a sack. He also just managed to create havoc with his pass rush, coming up with 3 hurries. He clearly put the fear into OSU's heart and acted as a roadblock even if he didn't make the stop.

Jordan Botelho

Botelho was second on the Notre Dame football team according to PFF with a total rating of 80.2 in the Sun Bowl. That's the good news. The better news is that after he earned lineman of the game thanks to 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, he announced he was returning for one more season.

Christian Gray

Gray is one of those guys that has just kept his head down and done his work all season long. he finished the 2023 campaign with an 81.1 overall grade and posted a 75 in the Sun Bowl. That grade was thanks to 3 tackles, a pass defended and he allowed just eight yards through the air.

Gray's pass defense has been fantastic all year, but he took it to another level on Friday and helped the Notre Dame football team to a season ending blowout and 10th victory of 2023.