|LM Otero / Associated Press|
|Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns to help the Irish upset Arizona State.|
It may not look like it because of the 37-34 final, but Notre Dame's defense did a good job Saturday night in the Irish's victory over Arizona State.
The Irish shut down Arizona State's rushing attack and made the Sun Devils one-dimensional. Arizona State managed just 65 rushing yards, less than half of what the Sun Devils were averaging coming in (144.2). Nose tackle Louis Nix III, considered one of the top three or four interior linemen in the nation, did his job particularly well, taking up space and engaging two blockers on seemingly every play. Nix is a fourth-year junior who has started each season. Nix (6-2, 357 pounds) is an elite run-stuffer who has the quickness, strength and athleticism to also be a disruptive force.
Notre Dame's pass rush also was dominant, coming up with four sacks, equaling the Irish's total from the first five games. Arizona State had allowed six sacks in its first four games. Irish senior outside linebacker Prince Shembo had three sacks; he had none coming in. He also had seven tackles.
Shembo was a full-time starter for the first time last season and responded with 7.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries. Shembo (6-2/258), who runs well, has 16 sacks in his career. He has evolved from a pass-rush specialist to a well-rounded linebacker, though he can get better in coverage.
Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly struggles when he faces consistent pressure, and while he threw three touchdown passes, he also tossed two picks. The final TD pass came with 11 seconds left and the game basically over. By shutting down the run, the Irish basically put the game in Kelly's hands. It turned out well for Notre Dame.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.