The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 28, 2021 1:00 am

Irish defense living up to coordinator's vision

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame's defense creates havoc.

That's what first-year defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman desires, and the No. 5 Irish (10-1) have executed that vision, racking up 38 sacks in their first 11 games. That's the most quarterback takedowns of the Brian Kelly Era and just three short of the all-time Notre Dame record of 41.

“We always focus on execution, that's what we strive for, not perfection,” said linebacker Bo Bauer, who had 44 tackles, five for loss, and 11/2 sacks entering Saturday night's matchup against Stanford. “We just want to be high-level executors. Over the course of the year, in a new defense, you get more comfortable with it. Your level of communication and execution goes up.”

This is what Notre Dame hoped for when the Irish brought in Freeman in January to replace Clark Lea, who had taken the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. Freeman was one of the offseason's marquee hires, spurning LSU to come to South Bend, but the Irish defense foundered in September, giving up four plays of 60 or more yards in its first two games under the former Cincinnati defensive coordinator.

But the defense has grown significantly late in the season and had not given up a touchdown in its last three games entering Saturday. In those three games, the Irish defense has outscored opposing offenses 12-9.

“Honestly, I kind of expected it to happen,” Bauer said of the improvement. “If you do all the work, work as hard as our guys do, you see how much they care about the game, it was inevitable.”

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