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Sunday, November 6, 2011
What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 10

By Matt Fortuna

1. Third quarters belong to the Irish: Notre Dame has outscored its opponents in the third quarter this season by a 63-13 count. The Irish scored touchdowns on their first two drives to open the second half Saturday night, propelling them to a 24-17 victory. Seven of those 13 points they surrendered, by the way, came on USC's fumble return for a touchdown two weeks ago.

2. Sudden-change defense is still great: This has gotten lost as Notre Dame has slowly cut down on its turnover plague from early in the season, but the Irish defense sure knows how to respond when its back is against the wall. Following Josh Bush's interception return and the first-and-goal Wake Forest faced shortly afterward, Harrison Smith came up with a huge forced fumble that Gary Gray recovered, turning the momentum as it looked like the Demon Deacons were set to tie the game.

3. Second-half adjustments on D proves vital: The nickel packages used in the third and fourth quarter, which featured safety Jamoris Slaughter in a hybrid-like role, played a big part in slowing down Wake Forest's offense, particularly its short passing game. The Irish defense pitched a shutout over the final 30 minutes after giving up 17 first-half points.

4. D-line doing all it can: Hats off to Stephon Tuitt, who became the linchpin of the line for much of Saturday night. Aaron Lynch was hobbled, and the team was already without ends Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore again. Tuitt, the freshman, had a huge first-and-goal sack for a loss of 11 on Wake Forest's final drive, and he was big against the run as well.