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State of the Irish – Michigan State

Sep 16, 2012, 2:46 PM EDT

We are back … and so is our relevance (at least according to Kirk Herbstreit). The Irish stifled the Spartans of Michigan State by a score of 20-3 in a game which resulted in a laundry list of “for the first time since” notes. Notre Dame was given the platform to validate themselves to the rest of college football and the Irish delivered. Led by their captain, Manti Te’o, who had one of the toughest weeks of his life, the defense held strong and the offense played good, clean football. Irish fans now have genuine hope that this could be the year. Personally, I look forward to the fact that going into the majority, if not all, of the remaining games this season, I’ll expect an Irish victory, a feeling that I haven’t had about ND football in while. But back to the blog … here are three things I learned:

1) Irish defense is BCS caliber: If I learned one thing this weekend, it is that Bob Diaco is an outstanding coach. The level of intensity in which the defense played was unreal. All week the media outlets were praising Le’Veon Bell and the Michigan State offensive line. Turns out both were no match for the Irish front seven that limited the vaunted Spartan ground game to just 50 yards rushing. Opponents are only gaining 3.4 yards per rush against the Irish and Notre Dame hasn’t given up a rushing touchdown yet this season. Games are won in the trenches and that is where the Irish are strongest. Thank you, Bob Diaco for building a BCS defense in South Bend.

2) Elijah heralds an era of relevance: Elijah Shumate was one of a handful of freshmen who delivered huge performances for Notre Dame. Shumate had two huge pass break-ups on third downs to halt Michigan State drives. Freshman defensive end Sheldon Day added a sack and nearly caught an interception while starting freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell added a tackle and a pass breakup. These three freshmen represent the youth of the defense that will only get better over their time at Notre Dame.

3) The Prince has been crowned: Sporting a Justin Tuck facemask, Prince Shembo was just as disruptive on Saturday night as Justin Tuck is on Sundays. Shembo collected nine tackles (two of which were for a loss), a 7-yard sack, and two quarterback hurries. The announcers were calling his name all night as Shembo took over the stage and dominated the Spartan offensive line. Offenses now have to worry about Louis Nix, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Stephon Tuitt and Prince Shembo along with a multitude of other stout Irish defensive line reserves. I have two words for those offenses: Good Luck.

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