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Notre Dame's defense leads the way

Notre Dame has put together defensive performances during its 5-0 start that allows for the early talk of BCS bowl games and even a spot in the national championship game.

The No. 7 Irish are giving up only 7.8 points per game. That puts them behind only Alabama (7 points per game) nationally.

Notre Dame hasn't given up a touchdown in its last three games, never trailed in a game and hasn't a given up a rushing touchdown this season.

As good as the Irish have been defensively, coach Brian Kelly believes they can do even more after having to face the variety of offenses Notre Dame saw in its first five games.

"Think of what (defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) has had to defend in the five weeks," said Kelly, whose team went from defending against a running quarterback in Michigan's Denard Robinson three weeks ago to Miami's passing quarterback Stephen Morris.

"Option offense (Navy), a run first with the quarterback in Purdue. Michigan State, a grind-it-out, great running back. It's been an outstanding performance to date, and we've seen it all. Now we just need to build on it."

The Irish will have plenty of chances to build on what they've done as they enter a stretch of playing No. 17 Stanford (4-1), BYU and No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1).

"I think for us, it's continuing getting that consistent performance week-in and week-out and not having any lapses," Kelly said. "You've seen a pretty disciplined group where there's very few breaks, very few penalties, and their assignment correct.

"So the challenge for us is to continue to do this week-in and week-out, and that's not easy to do. It takes intense preparation. It takes everybody committed to the task at hand, and not swaying at all and saying, 'Hey, we've arrived.' Because once you've think you have in this business you are going to be lost."

The Journal Gazette's Assistant Sports Editor Tony Krausz covers The University of Notre Dame. Krausz, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a native of St. Louis, has been assistant sports editor since October 2005. Prior to joining the JG, he worked at two papers in Mississippi covering high school and college athletics.