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Notre Dame Postgame - Grading the Defense

Let's take a look at how the Penn State defense and special teams did on Saturday.

Special Teams

Take away the Zbikowski punt return and they played an absolutely phenomenal game. Kevin Kelly was booming kickoffs five yards deep in the endzone and he nailed his only field goal attempt from 37 yards. Jeremy Boone averaged 43 yards on his six punts and pinned two of them inside the 20 yard line. Jerome Hayes showed tremendous poise to not retaliate after Travis Thomas sucker punched him. Derrick Williams had the big return for a touchdown that sparked the team to life. And of course don't forget A.J. Wallace's big kickoff return in the second half.

Grade: 9 out of 10

Defensive Line

Once again a tremendous game by the young defensive line. Not only did they hold their second straight opponent to zero yards rushing, they combined for 3.5 sacks. Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans are becoming absolute terrors on the outside. And Jared Odrick was getting good penetration all night. I'm really impressed with how there isn't one guy on this line the opponent can focus on shutting down. Everyone is contributing in a big way.

Grade: 10 out of 10


Yawn. Another game another dominating performance by the linebackers. Connor was a beast with 12 tackles, 1 sack and 2.5 TFL. I particularly enjoyed watching him destroy Clausen in the second half. Lee and Sales also pitched in with 1.5 sacks as the talented trio terrorized Clausen and the Irish running backs all night. Can anybody remember a missed tackle? I can't.

Grade: 10 out of 10

I'm in yer backfield, planting your overhyped doods.

Defensive Secondary

For the most part they played a great game. They played a little loose in the first quarter missing some tackles on some of those screen passes. In the second half things got a little sloppy. Justin King got a pass interference called against him on a play I thought looked like good tight coverage. He made up for it with the pick in the fourth quarter, but truthfully that should have been a Notre Dame touchdown as the guy was wide open. This wasn't their best game, but the strength of the front seven pressuring the quarterback masked it.

Grade: 7 out of 10

Defensive Coaching

I wasn't pleased when they came out playing the cornerbacks ten yards off the ball to start the game. With a freshman quarterback in his first start and a weak set of receivers I would think you would want to really pressure them to earn every yard. This was part of the reason why those early screen passes were so successful as the corners had to come up from 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage to make the tackles.

The linebackers came out blitzing with their ears pinned back and Weis made them pay with the screen passes. Credit the coaches with making adjustments and slowing down the rush to take away those short throws.

Overall it was a great gameplan. They were aggressive with the blitz on the young quarterback and kept the Irish offense off balance all night. My only knock is the soft coverage at the beginning of the game.

Grade: 9 out of 10