Game Observations: Notre Dame Defense Is Dominant In Win Over Wisconsin (2022)

Notre Dame's defense turned in its second dominant performance in a row over a Big Ten foe as the Irish blasted the Wisconsin Badgers by a 41-13 win in a game the Irish were a 6.5-point underdog.

How dominant was the defense? The Irish defense outscored Wisconsin by itself, as the unit returned a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter for touchdowns, outscoring the Badgers 14-13 in the game.

Here's my initial thoughts on the performance of the Irish defense from the win.

*** Marcus Freeman's defense has improved each week, and this performance was absolutely brilliant. The Irish defensive coordinator used a multiple attack against the Badgers, showing four-down linemen at times and there were even snaps where the Irish had five defensive linemen on the field in base down situations.

*** Notre Dame was geared towards shutting down the ground game and they certainly did just that, holding Wisconsin to just 74 yards on the ground. Wisconsin could never get anything going on the ground, which was a driving force behind the win.

*** Freeman knew his unit was undersized compared to Wisconsin, but it was also faster and more athletic, and he used that to his advantage in this game. Notre Dame's defensive line beat the Wisconsin blockers off the ball all game long. They won with speed, leverage and excellent block destruction technique.

*** Even more impressive is that Mike Elston's unit was playing without nose tackle and team captain Kurt Hinish, who missed the game with a concussion. His replacement, Howard Cross III, made a smooth transition into the starting lineup. Despite weighing just 275 pounds Cross was tasked with manning the nose position and he played arguably the best game of his career. Cross used his quickness to win off the ball throughout the game, but even when he was put into situations where he had to anchor I was impressed with how well he held up. Cross was disruptive against the run all game long and he also had a couple of nice inside pass rushes.

*** Sophomore Rylie Mills also had a strong performance for the Irish defense. He was quick off the ball and battled hard against the Badgers. He was disruptive in the pass game, executing a number of strong power moves that allowed him to make life uncomfortable for the Wisconsin quarterback. He forced an early incompletion on Wisconsin's second drive that helped shut down the drive. I had Mills down for three impactful pressures in the game.

*** Hinish being out also gave junior Jacob Lacey a chance to get more action and he played very well. Lacey combined with Myron Tagovailao-Amosa to blow up a 4th-and-1 run in the first half that set up the Irish offense for a game-tying drive early in the game. Lacey battled hard against the Badgers and was stout at the point of attack despite also being just 275 yards. I was impressed with his physicality, but when he needed to shoot a gap he did, and he graded out quite well.

(Video) Post-Game Show: Notre Dame Falls To Marshall

*** Wisconsin seemed to focus on Jayson Ademilola for much of the game buy they still couldn't contain him. His ability to occupy blockers allowed the linebackers to run free all game, but Ademilola also made his fair share of plays. He had a sack in the game and a run game stop behind the line. On his sack he got his facemask yanked but Ademilola kept powering through and stripped the ball from the Wisconsin quarterback. Isaiah Foskey recovered it and that turnover set up the score that put Notre Dame up 27-13. Ademilola also sniffed out a third-down screen in the second half, and Foskey had one in the first half that forced a punt.

*** We got to see what a defense with Foskey and Jordan Botelho looked like, and it was impressive. Botelho played all over the field, lining up on the edge as an end and also taking reps off the ball as a linebacker. His motor proved impactful as a pass rusher.

*** Foskey and Tagovailoa-Amosa were outstanding at setting the edge throughout the game. They were physical and were a big reason Wisconsin couldn't stretch out their runs.

*** I had linebacker Drew White marked down as having arguably the best game of his career, and that was before he intercepted a late fourth quarter pass that he returned for a touchdown. White was all over the field against the Badgers and played much better than his numbers (3 tackles). White blew up Wisconsin blockers, ate up gaps and played a key role in the Badger run game not having anywhere to go. What made this such a great game for him was what he did in the pass game, as White was highly effective in coverage and he also had a pressure in the game.

*** Rover Jack Kiser bit up and got beat deep for a 41-yard gain, but outside of that I thought he played quite well. Of course he put the game away with a 69-yard pick six in the fourth quarter. But Kiser showed very good route recognition outside of that one mistake. Not only did he jump the throw that he returned for a score, Kiser was all over the Wisconsin backs and crossing routes in the pass game. He also broke up a pass on an edge blitz where he used his speed to quickly get into Mertz's face.

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*** Cornerback Cam Hart was brilliant for the Irish. His two interceptions were truly impressive plays, as Hart showed great route recognition on both plays. He also showed the ability to plant, drive quickly on the ball (great burst) and he did a phenomenal job on both interceptions of beating the Wisconsin receiver to the football. Both interceptions led to Notre Dame points. His first interception set up a touchdown that gave the Irish a 10-3 lead and his second led to a field goal that made it a 27-13 game in the fourth quarter.

*** Cornerback Clarence Lewis did not have as good of a performance. Wisconsin picked on him quite a bit. Lewis gave up a 22-yard gain on Wisconsin's first drive because he was late reacting to the ball, he got beat on a pair of slant routes, including one for a touchdown and he got beat on a double move in second quarter that could have gone for a very long play, perhaps a touchdown if the quarterback didn't miss the throw. Lewis bit on the throw and then tried to reach and grab instead of opening and running once the receiver went deep.

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Does Notre Dame have good defense? ›

Notre Dame football ranked a top-10 defense.

10 overall, thanks to their rare blend of talent on the field, and an elite coaching unit on the sidelines.

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Defensive line

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Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame spread: Badgers -6.5. Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame over-under: 44 points.

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Due to Notre Dame's historic success, they've generated rivalries with a handful of teams in college football. The USC Trojans are the Fighting Irish's primary rival. However, Notre Dame also have rivalries against the Navy Midshipmen, the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans.

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BS - Boundary Safety - This is the safety that will line up to the boundary side. From what I've gathered the Irish will be versatile with its safeties, but in the base defense they will go field vs.

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Notre Dame won't be joining the Big Ten any time soon. It is time for the Big Ten to stop waiting. Sports Business Journal reported Notre Dame "should expect around $60 million from a new TV contract" which would be a substantial increase from the $25 million the school gets from NBC through 2025.

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