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Irish Insights

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Not there yet, other notes

Notre Dame won its last four games after a 0-2 start.

The Irish (4-2) have dismantled their last two opponents defeating Air Force 59-33 Saturday at home after whipping Purdue 38-10 on the road last week.

Notre Dame hasn't had a turnover in those two games, has 1,111 offensive yards in the two wins and has created three turnovers by its opponents in the last two weeks.

Still, coach Brian Kelly says his team hasn't arrived, but it is getting closer at the Irish enter a bye week before playing host to USC in a night game Oct. 22.

"We have made progress to the level where we know what it looks like on the other end, but there's still so many areas to iron out," Kelly said. "We have got to get more consistent in special teams. We have glimmers of really good play. We have got to, obviously, tighten things down defensively with our younger guys and then just play with more consistency.

"Four in a row is not enough for this group, you know, but I like the direction that we are going."

Finding Riddick

After not having a catch in last week's win over Purdue, slot receiver Theo Riddick played a major role against Air Force (3-2) on Saturday.

The junior had a team-high 83 receiving yards on eight catches, and he turned a short pass into a 24-yard touchdown late in the first half that gave the Irish a 42-16 lead at the break.

"He's such a dynamic player, getting the ball in his hands, good things happen," said quarterback Tommy Rees, who threw for 261 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. "There was a little more options to give him the ball, and all week him and I did a good job of staying on the same page and making sure we connect and he did a great job for us."

Good start

Notre Dame has taken the ball away from its opponents on the first play of the first Irish defensive series in the last two games.

Cornerback Gary Gray picked off Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush on the first Boilermakers' offensive play last week, and safety Jamoris Slaughter ripped the ball away from Air Force's Asher Clark on the Falcons' first offensive play Saturday.

"When you make big plays on defense, it is always a big momentum builder, especially for the offense," Slaughter said. "It gives them good field position."

Slaughter also tipped a pass by Falcons quarterback Tim Jefferson and was able to catch it while falling during the second quarter. The senior finished with six tackles, a forced fumble and the interception.

"As a guy that plays with him every day, I already know what he brings to the table," safety Harrison Smith said. "There are things that guys do that are huge that people don't see in stats. You know if you don't make the play, you don't notice that person. There are a lot of times when he'll make a play that causes something else and someone else will get the credit when it was him.

"I think today was just showing what he is capable of and what he brings to this defense."

Something new

Notre Dame added another dimension to its offense Saturday as sophomore quarterback Andrew Hendrix was tossed into the mix a few times in place of starter Tommy Rees.

Hendrix complete 4 of 4 passes for 33 yards, and he ran for 111 yards. In the fourth quarter, Hendrix broke free for a 78-yard run that looked like a sure touchdown until he tripped up at the 2.

"It helps to have another dimension out there," Rees said. "Whatever helps the team helps me. So end of the day, he did a great job, and I couldn't be happier with the outcome."

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