Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said one of the biggest keys for the defense to improve is for the players to be able to play with confidence.
That has been a focus at practice this week as the Irish prepare to play Purdue at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.
"That is one thing I think we have been lacking on defense," junior safety Harrison Smith said of confidence. "We all know we have the talent to play with everybody. We know our coaches are coaching us to play with everybody. We just need to take it onto the field and play like that."
Notre Dame (2-1) has given up an average of 22.7 points, 149.3 rushing yards, 249.3 passing yards and 398.7 total yards in its first three games.
Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said getting players to play with confidence has been his MO for 29 years, and it comes down to making plays.
"We got to do a better job against the run. We got to do a better job against the pass," Tenuta said. "We got to play sound defense. We got to start making plays, that's something we haven't been able to do. We've gotten ourselves in trouble, and we don't rally the troops. We got to rally the troops."