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Sunday, October 25, 2009
What we learned from Notre Dame, Week 8


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

What we learned from Notre Dame in its 20-16 win over Boston College:

1. The defense is opportunistic, if not good: On the plus side, Notre Dame held the Eagles to just 16 points and shut down running back Montel Harris. On the minus side, this is a Boston College team that had totaled just 21 points in its previous two road games, and rookie Dave Shinskie became the latest quarterback to set a career high against the Irish defense, which gave up 10 passing plays of 20 yards or more.

Notre Dame made quite a few personnel changes on defense, including starting Sergio Brown at safety and moving Harrison Smith from safety to linebacker. In the end, three interceptions and five total turnovers saved the team's bacon.

"I think the defense is on the rise,” coach Charlie Weis said. “I think that that's the most important thing. I think that we are getting better at certain things every week. A lot of these guys are getting more experienced. Coaches are tweaking some personnel, and I think that our best football is yet to be played.”

2. When in doubt, go to Golden Tate: It was a frustrating day for the Irish offense, as Boston College's defenders tried to keep everything in front of them, and Weis instructed Jimmy Clausen not to take shots downfield. The result was just one offensive touchdown into the fourth quarter. But with Notre Dame trailing 16-13, Clausen found Tate on a pass that was nearly tipped, and Tate shake-and-baked the rest of the way for the 36 yards winning score.

That's three straight 100-yard receiving games for Tate, who's been magnificent since Michael Floyd got hurt.

3. Roby Toma was not just a Te'o throw-in: Rival fans accused Notre Dame of giving receiver Toma a scholarship just because he was the high school teammate and best friend of stud recruit Manti Te'o. Well, Toma proved his value by catching two passes for 13 yards in his first career game Saturday, pressed into action because of Robby Parris' injury. Even if Toma had been merely a recruiting enticement, he might have been worth it. Te'o continues to improve at linebacker and recorded nine tackles -- two of them for loss -- against Boston College.