SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Defensive end Stephon Tuitt wants to learn a little about the history of the great Notre Dame defenses. Then he wants to rewrite the record books along with his teammates.
"We want to be great. To be honest, I want to break the history books. I want our name to go down for doing things that past teams haven't done," Tuitt said. "I just really just want to play on a great defense. A great defense. Like completely lock-down and shut-down with a head-banging mentality."
The seventh-ranked Irish (5-0) are on pace to have one of the best Notre Dame defenses in recent memory heading into their game Saturday against No. 17 Stanford (4-1). They have given up three touchdowns, the fewest in the nation, and haven't given up a TD the past three games — the longest such stretch by an Irish defense since 1980.
The Irish are second in the nation in scoring defense (7.8 points a game), fourth in red zone defense, 10th in pass efficiency defense, 13th in total defense, 17th in rush defense and 20th in sacks. Tuitt has six of Notre Dame's 20 sacks.
"Sacks are like an energizer. Once you've got one, you can't stop," Tuitt said. "You just keep going. I get really excited because I know during the summer I was working really, really hard to increase my pass rushing skills to get some of the pressure off of the defense and make some plays for them. It's really exciting for me."
He had two sacks apiece against Navy and Purdue, then one each against Michigan State and Michigan before being shut out for the first time against Miami.
Coach Brian Kelly said the drop in Tuitt's sack numbers doesn't mean a drop in production.
"His numbers didn't show a productive player, but he was outstanding for us in what we asked him to do against Miami," he said. "This is how he was graded out by the defensive coaches and in my observation as well. He was very, very effective for us in what we asked him to do on Saturday."