A third of the way through the season, and following a 17-13 win over visiting Michigan State on Saturday, we know these two things about the 2013 Notre Dame football team:
"We're going to step up to the challenge and we're going to do what it takes," said junior running back Cam McDaniel, who scored the game-winning touchdown early in the fourth quarter. "We're going to come together as a unit, when it's on the line, and we're going to make it happen."
The ND defense had its best performance of the year. The unit held Michigan State to 254 yards of total offense and came up with a crucial interception for the third game in a row.
"That thought and that confidence that we can make big plays, we're big play capable," senior captain and cornerback Bennett Jackson said of Matthias Farley's third quarter pick. "When you run to the ball and you show great effort, you're going to make those plays."
"The pass rush was better, there was more pressure, we were on body a lot better," said head coach Brian Kelly. "You could sense a feeling of confidence that that defense is starting to come together."
The Spartans, meanwhile, were flagged ten times for 115 yards in penalties, including a five pass interference calls that aided a misfiring Irish offense.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was asked by a reporter if he had ever had that many defensive interference calls go against his team.
"I've been coaching thirty-plus years," Dantonio replied. "No, never."
Notre Dame needed the help. Tommy Rees had his worst game of the season, completing just 41 percent of his passes for 142 yards and a touchdown to fellow-senior TJ Jones.
"We needed to take our shots with the way Michigan State was playing," Rees said of his many overthrows on deep balls. "Obviously we want to hit those. But we found a way to get the ball in the endzone at the end."
The Irish have now won ten games in a row at home, their longest streak since October 25, 1997 to August 28, 1999.
The team will try to make it eleven in a row next Saturday against Oklahoma.