Notre Dame is 4-0 for the first time in a decade after the No. 11 Irish defeated No. 18 Michigan 13-6 on Saturday night, and Notre Dame is doing it with defense.
The Irish have only given up three touchdowns this year, and no one has scored a TD on them since the Boilermakers' Caleb TerBush hit Antavian Edison for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 2:12 left in the Irish's 20-17 win Sept. 8.
"That brings a lot of excitement for the defense to make some plays," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We're going to continue to do what it takes to help our team win and help put our offense in the best situations to put points up on the board and just do our best to keep the opponent's offense out of the end zone."
Notre Dame's defense made plenty of plays Saturday night as it forced six Michigan turnovers.
Te'o intercepted two of Denard Robinson's passes, and cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Bennett Jackson and safety Nicky Baratti each had one interception. The Irish also forced Robinson, who threw five picks, to fumble once.
"It's our preparation, and that gives you confidence in the game to go out and play with reckless abandon," safety Zeke Motta, who tipped the ball on Te'o's second interception, on a defense that limited the Wolverines (2-2) to 161 rushing yards and 138 passing yards.
"Focused, obviously, but you know your preparation is going to get you to where you need to be."
Notre Dame just gave up a second field goal in the fourth quarter, cutting its 13-3 lead to a touchdown with 3:27 to play, and the Irish had the ball at their 25-yard line.
That's when it was time to turn to running back Theo Riddick and tight end Tyler Eifert.
Riddick took back-to-back hand offs a total of 6 yards, giving Notre Dame a third-and-4 situation at its 31.
That's when quarterback Tommy Rees, who replaced starter Everett Golson in the second quarter, found Eifert, a Bishop Dwenger grad, for a 38-yard completion to Michigan's 31. The catch was Eifert's first of the game and all but sealed the win over the Wolverirnes.
"We had a check and we saw what we were looking for, and we trusted Eifert to get open and make a play, and he did just that," Rees said. "We completed it, and that pretty much sealed the game for us."
It wasn't completely sealed as Notre Dame faced third-and-8 with too much time left for Michigan to run a few plays to try and tie the game.
That's when it was time to go back to Riddick. The senior back picked up the needed eight yards and then Rees took a knee to finish the clock.
Notre Dame gave Riddick the ball five times on its final drive after the Irish had Riddick run the ball seven time for 24 yards and catch two passes for 13 yards on the second-to-last drive that set up Kyle Brindza's second field goal of the game.
"We're riding the guy that's hot, and he ran physical, picked up some big first downs for us, and Cierre had a good run for us in that one drive, too," coach Brian Kelly said of Riddick. "But, yeah, he was the guy. The guy that's in the game running the ball effectively, we're usually going to go with that guy."
Te'o, whose grandmother and girlfriend died last week, finished with eight tackles and two interceptions Saturday night as many in the crowd wore leis to honor the Laie, Hawaii, native.
Te'o will return home during the by week next week.
Motta said it was great to see so many people support the senior captain.
"I thought it was great," Motta said. "I thought it was awesome. It was pretty much astonishing to me to see pretty much the whole stadium filled up with leis. It shows how much ND is a family."