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Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Linebackers leaders of Irish D

A chain hung around their collective necks as they huddled after the game, a symbol of the tight bond that unites this team and its defense. And after Saturday's win over Washington, that same chain could represent the leash that linebackers Mike Goolsby, Derek Curry and Brandon Hoyte latched on the Huskies.The trio sparked an Irish defense that allowed only three points and 112 rushing yards against a Washington team that tallied 31 points in their previous game against UCLA.Goolsby led Notre Dame with seven total tackles while Curry and Hoyte had six each. Hoyte also forced a fumble and broke up a pass while Curry had one fumble recovery. Their energetic physical style all season has impressed coaches and raised the level of their teammates' play. Saturday, Curry knocked the helmet off Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell early in the third quarter and energized the rest of the defense. "I'm pleased with how they're playing," Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. "They had some good hits today and I think they're playing really solid."Notre Dame defensive end Kyle Budinscak said the linebackers are one of the keys to the defense. "Those guys fly around and they're so emotional," he said. "Not only are they leaders, they get the job done. Knowing that those guys are behind [us], we're very confident."Even preseason All-American Justin Tuck is spurred on by the enthusiasm and hard-hitting play of the linebackers.  "Just feeding off people like [Derek Curry], who is the most energetic person I've ever seen on the field, is a great thing," he said. Curry, who devised the idea of placing a chain on the sidelines and in the locker room to symbolize how close the Irish defensive unit is, has embraced a leadership role this season."We know that since we call the huddle the whole defense is going to be looking at us to see how we react," Curry said. "When you've got guys like [Goolsby] and Hoyte to be there with you it just makes everything easier."Though the trio may make most of the tackles, they don't take most of the credit."To be honest, a lot of it really doesn't have to do with us as players," Curry said. "Our defensive coaches do an excellent job with the game plan. All we have to do is go play."        Goolsby credits the defensive line for putting him in the position to be successful."As a linebacker, from my perspective, [the front four] gives us so many opportunities to make plays," Goolsby said. "I'm grateful to have the guys that we've got in that rotation. They're doing a [heck] of a job."With Goolsby and Curry in their final year of eligibility, their bruising, energetic style of play might result from the realization that after this season they will never again don the blue and gold."We talk a lot about this being our last go round and having fun while we're doing it and just playing as hard as we can for one another," Curry said.  Goolsby echoed the words of his friend and teammate. "We've been through a lot together. [After the game] we were just talking about how much we love each other," he said. "That's why we play the game is to get wins like this. It was just great to enjoy it with these guys."