Shembo sets, gives Notre Dame the edge
Until, that is, the movie "Paranormal Activity 4" came out.
"It's too scary," said ND junior outside linebacker Prince Shembo, who broke rank and stayed home. "I don't watch scary movies."
Ironic, it is, because you can make a case that he, himself, has become a scary movie of sorts when opponents flip on the video of No. 55.
Late in games he laughs sinisterly between plays for no apparent reason, sneers across the line, does everything mentally and physically to break his opponents' will, he says.
"When a guy's not showing no fear at all, eventually someone's going to crack," the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Shembo said. "It depends who's going to crack first."
Oklahoma's fifth-ranked scoring offense or Notre Dame's second-ranked scoring defense?
Neither one of the overpowering units has seen anything that complete, that overwhelming staring at them from the other side of the line of scrimmage this season.
They'll meet in Norman, Okla., Saturday night with ESPN's College GameDay crew, an ABC national television audience and a crowd that has been warned to be "hospitable" to Notre Dame by Oklahoma president David Boren all adorning what is essentially an elimination game from the national title snapshot.
It will be the first trip to Norman for the fifth-ranked Irish since Ara Parseghian's 1966 team crushed the Sooners, 38-0, on the way to the national title that season. This incarnation of Oklahoma checks in at 5-1 and is ranked No. 8.
Shembo, for one, is hoping the Oklahoma fans disobey Boren's quasi-edict.
"I like when all the people are against us," he said.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, in turn, likes how Shembo reacts to us against the world.
His season-high nine tackles and two sacks came the last time ND played a true road game -- a 20-3 capsizing of then-10th-ranked Michigan State on Sept. 15 that launched the Irish toward their current residency in the BCS top five.
Shembo figures to be a key figure in Saturday's Oklahoma matchup. Sooners senior quarterback Landry Jones has been shaken by intermittent pressure this season, ranking a modest 37th in passing efficiency nationally largely because of protection issues.
"As long as I get in the quarterback's head, you've got to watch out," Shembo said. "I may not get the sack, but I'll make you throw the ball fast and get a pick. It feels good."
Shembo is thriving statistically, home or away this season, at his natural cat linebacker position, a year after Kelly moved him to drop 'backer just to get his best athletes on the field.
His 27 tackles in seven games in 2012 are just four short of what he achieved in 13 games last season. And his eight quarterback hurries, tied for the team lead, are six more than he had all of last season.
More rushing the quarterback and fewer drops in coverage, Kelly admits, constitute a better fit for Shembo's skill set. So is "setting the edge" on defense, something Shembo does well and that doesn't show up in his own stat column.