- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Louis Nix has a pretty straightforward reason for why Notre Dame has struggled getting to opposing quarterback this season.
"We're just not getting there fast enough, maybe," the nose guard said. "There's been times we had a lot of hits on the quarterback and we've touched the quarterback a few times and been in his face. Guess we're not getting to the ball fast enough."
The Irish have three sacks through five games, a 0.6 per game average that has them ranked 119th nationally out of 123 possible teams. Last year they tallied 14 through five games (2.8). They finished with 34 on the year (2.62), tied for 22nd overall.
Notre Dame brought back two of its three starting defensive linemen from last year's dominating front, plus Sheldon Day, who saw extended time as a true freshman in 2012. Day had two sacks through five games last year, with the departed Kapron Lewis-Moore tallying half of one during the early part of last fall and the now-sidelined Tony Springmann (ACL) notching one.
Day has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, with Kona Schwenke moving to the outside to replace him.
"I think if you're looking at how we have pass rushed in the past, you're probably looking at a group of guys that has not been more than three‑ or four‑men rush," coach Brian Kelly said. "We're not a group that sends five and six consistently. We generally play coverage. When we've needed to add pressure, we've done a pretty good job, and then this past weekend we bring five and we give up a lane and the quarterback is able to convert.
"I think it's been a mixed bag. At times it's been better over the last couple weeks, but it needs to continue to get better, no question."
Tuitt tallied 12 sacks last season, 1.5 shy of Justin Tuck's school single-season record, and leads the team right now with two.
Irish opponents have attacked the perimeter early and often through five games this season, doing what they can to take the defensive line out of the game as much as possible.
Nix evaluated the defensive line's performance so far as "decent," echoing Kelly's comments earlier this week that the Irish have been less-than-superb at taking care of the "ordinary things" on the field.
"We're not happy with ourselves, and we know we can be a better team," Nix said. "That's why we're out here now trying to work."
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6hMatt Fortuna and Gerry Hamilton