NOTRE DAME — Louis Nix III likes being on the field at the end of football games.
To hear Notre Dame big bear of nose tackle talk, it’s not just a preference, it’s an expectation. The defense is supposed to finish the job. It didn’t matter that quarterback Tommy Rees had been knocked out of Saturday’s game by USC — a job had to be done.
“Tommy has nothing to do with the defense, but we always expect that something might go wrong,” Nix said after a difficult 14-10 victory over the Men of Troy on Saturday, Oct. 19. “You expect that we’ll be the last ones on the field to win games. We say that throughout practice, we say that throughout camp … we’ll always be the ones to go out and win the game. And we’ll continue to do that no matter what.”
USC wound up with 21 offensive snaps in Irish territory and only had a missed field goal to show for it. After converting its first two third-down opportunities, the Trojans converted none in its their last 11 tries.
Starters and backups. Veterans and rookies. Head coach Brian Kelly liked the complete view.
“Well, I think we saw a great pass rush when we needed it. We played a lot of players. A lot of freshmen were on the field,” Kelly said. “I looked up one time and I was like, man, we’ve got a lot of guys out here. And they were just making plays, playing hard, competing.
“Romeo (Okwara) is out there, and you’ve got (Devin) Butler and (Cole) Luke and Joey Schmidt, you’ve just got a lot of guys. Max Redfield played today. I think we’re really starting to get that confidence that maybe at times we were lacking, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
Notre Dame certainly needed all the defense confidence it could muster, especially in the second half with Rees on the sidelines. Offensively, Irish managed only 47 second-half yards and their special teams continually allowed the Trojans quality field position with poor kick coverage. USC averaged 25 yards per punt return.
“Our identity is established already. We know what we have to do to win games,” ND linebacker Carlo Calabrese said of the defense. “Every time we get on the field we know we have to do a great job. Each player. That’s what we did today.”
“That’s our mindset always. We’re up by four points. It was like, ‘Who cares?’ We’re just going to do our thing,” linebacker Dan Fox said. “More games mean more confidence.”