Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that there are two players on defense that he is reluctant to take off the field – linebacker Manti Te'o and safety Harrison Smith.
If keeping those two players on the field means the same results from the first five games through the rest of the season, Te'o and Smith may never get a break.
And that would be fine with them.
"It's definitely special when you are part of it," Te'o said. "Obviously, you are in the middle of the whole thing. You are in the middle of this whole change. It is definitely a good experience for me, and it is something I look forward to continuing and I'm excited that I'm part of this team."
The Irish are 31st in total defense, giving up 321.6 yards per game, 26th in scoring defense, giving up 18.6 points per game, and 19th in rushing defense, giving up 91.2 yards per game.
The rushing defense has been particularly impressive not just because of the yardage total, but also because the Irish have allowed just one rushing touchdown.
"Everybody doing their job," Smith said of why the defense has been so strong against the run. "I mean, I've played up front (as a linebacker), so I kind of know how you get gashed and how you stop the run. And when you have a defense like ours where everybody is expected to fit in a certain spot and stay in that spot, it is hard to do that. I mean, it sounds easy, but when you're out there and the ball carrier is running inside of you and you see him, you want to jump in there. But you have to stay outside, because the guy behind you is counting on you staying outside.
"So it's little things like that, like trusting your teammates and then just being aggressive and tackling well as a full team are things that just come with playing with each other and counting on one another."
If the defense continues to play at its current level, Te'o could watch replays of games form this season and compare it to what he has always been a fan of.
"I've been a fan of good defenses," Te'o said. "I know what it takes. I know what it looks like. I've watched it from the stands. I've watched great defenses from the stands. It's always comforting to be part of something special. I think are defense is doing a good job and creating something special."