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Notre Dame Football

'Annoyed' Hamilton spearheads surging Irish defense

September 18, 2021
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It was a matter-of-fact statement, certainly not delivered with the tone of a warning shot.

Simply, Kyle Hamilton let it be known that he was aggravated.

“Annoyed,” technically.

Notre Dame's wunderkind safety had tired of the questions that surrounded the revamped Fighting Irish defense through two games of the Marcus Freeman era; two wins by six total points and a pair of rather forgettable fourth quarters for the unit.

“There was a bunch of question marks around our defense, especially this past week,” Hamilton told reporters post-game, “and it was a little annoying. Just seeing the work that we put in this summer. I understand it was the first two games with a new defensive coordinator, and we were 2-0.

“We were sitting in a good spot, we just had to come out and let everybody know what we're about. Not just to prove that to everybody else but also to ourselves.”

In a game in which it didn't allow a point the final 22 minutes and change, Notre Dame's defense appeared to take a Hamilton-sized stride forward in Saturday's 27-13 win against Purdue in front of 74,341 fans inside Notre Dame Stadium.

The Boilermakers were forced into a pair of late-game interceptions – Hamilton notched his third of the season and eighth in 27 career games – as well as limited to a scant 57 net rushing yards.

“Confidence is sky-high right now,” said Hamilton, who finished with 10 tackles and broke up two passes in addition to the pick, “and the scary part is I think there's a lot more room for improvement.

“Need to get back to work this week. Celebrate this win tonight and come back Sunday and the rest of the week and try to refocus.”

Notre Dame's defense likewise improved within the game, as it has continued to attack in the hyper-aggressive scheme of first-year coordinator Marcus Freeman. After Purdue converted three of its first four third downs, the Boilermakers were just 1-for-12 the remainder of the game.

And that aggressive approach by the Notre Dame defense? It resulted in three more sacks as part of their five tackles for losses.

That's now 13 sacks on the season and 25 TFLs; the Irish also added eight quarterback pressures against the Boilermakers.

“The biggest thing for us is we understood when it comes to second half we let up a lot of points the first two weeks,” said senior defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, who noted the Irish defense met as a collective unit Friday night with Freeman to chart the path forward. “We understand we have to finish, and that's what we tried to do.”

After playing far from perfect but securing game-defining stops in the first two weeks at Florida State and against Toledo, the Irish saw this performance as a needed boost.

Though Purdue churned out 19 first downs and possessed the ball more than 34 minutes, it was held without a touchdown in three of the four quarters – and scored its only TD after a pass interference penalty on the Irish sustained a drive with first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

“Obviously Coach Freeman's (defense) is really aggressive,” Hamilton said. “We're going to give up big plays at times because of how aggressive we are. We're a plus-minus defense. I think that we have a lot more pluses as we get more comfortable with it. That's no knock on Coach (Clark) Lea, because he had a really sound defense as well.

“But I think the guys are really buying in at this point and this is a really big turning point for us going into the rest of the season.”

 
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