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Irish turn red zone into dead zone

Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III may have let slip the secret to being a great defense in the red zone.

The 6-foot-3, 326-pound sophomore believes stopping opponents inside the Irish's 20-yard line comes down to the desire to be well hydrated.

"You get sick of being on the field for so long," nose guard Louis Nix III said. "Something tells you, 'Just get off.' You just get tired. You are so tired, you are ready to go and sit on the bench and get some water and these guys are trying to score, so you have to stop them before you can get some water.

"If you want water, you have to stop them."

Pressed if more than the desire for a drink of water helps defenders be strong in the red zone, Nix responded, "No, you just have to want the water," he said with a big smile.

Whatever the reason, Notre Dame has been very stingy in the red zone this season.

The No. 5 Irish (7-0) have the second-best red zone defense in the NCAA, which counts both touchdowns and field goals. The Irish are only giving up points 52.6 percent of the time opponents have reached their red zone.

Oregon leads the nation by only giving up points 51.7 percent of the time, but the Ducks have also allowed opponents inside their 20 29 times compared to the Irish only allowing 19 red zone trips this season.

Notre Dame's defense inside their 20 become more impressive when you just look at the number of touchdowns and points given up in the red zone.

The Irish have only given up four touchdowns in the red zone, and opponents average just 2.4 points per red zone trip against Notre Dame, which has forced offenses to settle for field goals six times this year.

"I think the mentality is wherever we are, we want to get a stop, and especially in the red zone," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We understand where the end zone is, it's very close, and we're just trying to limit points, and obviously a touchdown is worth a lot of points. So for us, when we're in the red zone we understand that we have to tighten down and understand where we're at on the field."

Notre Dame's red zone defense will be tested by a very efficient Oklahoma red zone offense when the Irish travel to play the No. 8 Sooners (5-1) on Saturday.

The Sooners are tied for first in the nation in red zone scoring, putting up points on 32 of their 33 red zone trips. Oklahoma has scored 25 touchdowns and converted seven field goals inside the opponents' 20.

"You don't have a lot of room for error down there," linebacker Danny Spond said. "First-and-10 is now first-and-goal, if you don't stop them, they are scoring points. And that is the last thing that we would ever want.

"We defend our goal line like it's our life."