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Notre Dame Football

Brian Kelly Impressed with 3rd Down Defense, But Wants More

October 19, 2020

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stated he wanted his defense to improve on third-down following the Louisville game. 

That might have been a little overstated looking back as it was more about specific drives than the big picture. 

"If you look at what we've done defensively, we're really good at third-down defensively," stated Kelly. "There were a few plays that we needed to get off the field in the third quarter specifically. 

"Comprehensively, third-down has not been an issue for us. It was a key third-down here or there, not getting off the field in that third quarter." 

Kelly is 100 percent right as Notre Dame is one of the top programs on third-down in the entire country. 

Entering Saturday's game with Pitt, the Fighting Irish have allowed just 11 conversions on third-down this season (53 attempts). 

The .208 conversion rate is good enough to rank No. 2 in the country as the Irish only trail Oklahoma State at .163 and it's worth noting the Cowboys have played in just three games. 

Kelly would like to see the Irish improve at certain times during the game on third-down. 

"Defensively, it's the first and third quarter, the coming-out drives of the third quarter in particular, that we're diving a little bit deeper in," explained Kelly. "But we're playing really good defense. When you limit your opponent to 45 plays, you would expect a high efficiency there."

Notre Dame has also improved its run defense this season. It might not be elite, but the Irish held up well against Louisville's high-powered attack in the 12-7 win over the weekend. 

The Irish held Louisville to 96 rushing yards and most importantly, Javian Hawkins, was limited to 62 yards on 15 carries.

Kelly gave credit to his interior defensive line and made sure to highlight the sophomore tandem of Jacob Lacey and Howard Cross III. 

"We took away their best play, which is the outside zone play," said Kelly. "I was very pleased with the run defense. I really liked the play of Lacey and Cross being in there without Myron (Tagovailoa-Amosa). Kurt's (Hinish) been banged up a little bit, but played hard for us. I've got to say we're really pleased with Cross' play and the two young guys with Lacey. 

"Both of those guys contributed greatly to our success in stopping a really good offense, in particular an outstanding back and quarterback in their run game. Those two guys did a really, really good job."

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