POPE: Notre Dame hopeful defensive line will be intact Saturday
By LaMond Pope 713-2691 or email@example.com November 5, 2013 11:46PM
The lead changed hands nine times in Saturday’s 38-34 victory against Navy, a school record. The previous record was seven, which was set Dec. 31, 1973 against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and matched Nov. 12, 1983 against Penn State.
Outside linebacker Ben Councell will undergo surgery after suffering a torn ACL, ND coach Brian Kelly said. Councell suffered the injury against Navy. Councell appeared in all nine games and had 15 tackles this season.
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Running games could be key in ND-Pittsburgh game. post-trib.com/sports
Updated: November 6, 2013 2:40PM
SOUTH BEND — Sheldon Day, Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt haven’t started the same game on Notre Dame’s defensive line since Oct. 5 against Arizona State.
The three last played in the same contest Oct. 19 against USC. Day and Nix have missed two games this season because of injuries.
The Irish have had to make some adjustments. But the team has still found a way to win four consecutive games.
The trio might — and let’s stress might — be together Saturday at Pittsburgh.
“We’re hopeful about Louis being able to play a role this weekend,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to see more of Sheldon. He will continue to practice and see where that takes us.”
Injuries have become a major issue for Notre Dame’s front seven. But Kelly isn’t anticipating any drastic changes.
“Isaac Rochell, Jarron Jones, Justin Utupo, Anthony Rabasa are going to have to do some things for us, but the guys that have been in our defensive meeting room are going to have to be those guys that step up and perform in roles that are expanded,” Kelly said.
And the return of Nix will help.
Nix missed the Air Force and Navy games because of knee tendinitis. Kelly said Nix would practice Tuesday. Nix had PRP treatment, and will undergo surgery after the season, Kelly said.
“The tendonitis is real, the tendonitis that he has will require the similar surgery that (running back) Greg Bryant had, so this is something that is chronic and will require attention at some point,” Kelly said. “After the USC game he was in real pain and it was a real situation for him, coupled with the fact that the worst thing is to get reinjured the next week or the week after.
“So this was a decision that, talking to Brian Ratigan, our team surgeon, and (athletic trainer) Rob Hunt it was best that he get a PRP, which puts you out for two weeks, which mitigated the pain that he had with the tendonitis, which now will allow him to go back in and play the game the way he can play it. We don’t want him hobbling around and putting himself in harm’s way. He feels good about it, and he knows he can help the football team.”
Nix has put in the time, Kelly said, to avoid any conditioning issues.
“I normally would be concerned about the volume and maybe I am a little bit,” Kelly said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s been in at 7 in the morning, and that’s really early for most people, and Louis would admit that’s really early for him, too.
“He’s really worked hard in these last couple of weeks to stay fit. He had a jug of water with him (Tuesday), hydrating, I think he’s committed to giving everything he can. He’s committed to getting himself back here and doing the best he can to help our football team.”
Day has been hampered by an ankle injury. He didn’t play against Michigan State and Oklahoma and has been limited in other games. Tuitt has started each game.
Tuitt leads the team with five sacks. He also has 34 tackles. Nix has 22 tackles and Day has 15.
“It has been difficult. We played some good stretches of football, other than maybe the last drive against Arizona State, and USC. We put together some good football against some very good offensive football teams and never getting those three guys on the field at one time says a lot to the group coming together,” Kelly said. “Then you lose (linebacker) Jarrett Grace (for the season), and we continue to play. I would like to look at the development of some of the players that have come in and played really good football.
“... We’re looking at this weekend hopefully getting at least those three guys on the field at the same time. At what level of health, we will see where it is. I think everybody at this time of the year isn’t at 100 percent, but I think we’re getting close where we may get all three of them on the field at one time.”