SOUTH BEND – Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore arrived at Notre Dame when the defense was a liability.
The first defense Lewis-Moore, a fifth-year senior and captain, played in after sitting out his freshman season was ranked No. 63 in scoring defense, giving up 25.9 points per game, and 86th in total defense, giving up 397.8 yards per game.
But in his final season with the Irish, the 6-foot-4, 306-pounder is part of a defense that is tied for first in scoring defense and ranked in the top 10 in four other categories as the No. 3 Irish (10-0) prepare to play host to Wake Forest (5-5) in the home season finale Saturday.
Its awesome, said Lewis-Moore, who has 31 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks, of the Notre Dames defensive resurgence.
The one thing that keeps me going is you cant forget where you came from. The thing about those lows when we first got here and seeing this thing grow and this program grow is something amazing.
It has been an amazing turnaround for Notre Dame in the three years since coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco arrived in 2010.
From 2007 to 09, the Irish gave up an average of 25.5 points and 360.7 yards. In the three years since, Notre Dame has given up an average of 17.9 points and 335.5 yards.
The defense has peaked this season, keeping Notre Dame in the national title hunt as it is ranked third in the BCS standings behind No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon entering the weekend.
The Irish are holding opponents to 11.1 points per game, tied with Alabama for first in the nation. Notre Dame is also ranked No. 6 in rushing defense (95.9 yards per game), No. 8 in total defense (295.2 ypg), tied for No. 9 in sacks (3.1 per game) and No. 10 in passing efficiency defense (104.7).
Linebacker Danny Spond, who has 33 tackles, said the defense has thrived because the players are following the rule of making up 1/11th of the defense and focusing on their job only in the scheme.
That 1-of-11 system is something that a great defense has to have everyone buy into, and if you dont accept that, if you dont accept your role of being 1-of-11, you will be trying to do someone elses job or something and there is a gap then in the defense where you are supposed to be. And Murphys Law, every single time, the offense will exploit that every time, Spond said. We play like a family out there. Thats how we treat each other on and off the field..