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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Tuck sets career sack record at ND

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With his sack of Erik Ainge in the second quarter of Notre Dame's 17-13 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, Irish defensive end Justin Tuck made his mark in the record books.Tuck's sack gave him 23.5 for his career, breaking Kory Minor's record of 22.5 sacks."That was a fun matchup," Tuck said. "We knew that their strength was the offensive line and that one of our strengths was the defensive line."The Kellyton, Ala. native would add another sack later in the game, allowing him to increase the record in front of over 20 family members and friends who made the trip up to Knoxville to watch Tuck play.Something to proveNotre Dame's two wins over ranked opponents in the 2004 season have both come immediately after losses to unranked opponents.The Irish defeated then-No. 7 Michigan Sept. 11, after losing to BYU the week before. Notre Dame fell 24-23 to Boston College two weeks ago, but was able to bounce back with a big win over the No. 9 Volunteers Saturday."It's always against human nature to want to prove people wrong, and to do something they don't expect," Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said. "I hope we have the ability to go with the grain as well as against it."Stopping the runNotre Dame's defense held Tennessee to 58 net yards rushing and a 1.5-yard average per carry for the game.The win Saturday marked the sixth time this season that the Irish have held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards in game. Notre Dame is 3-3 in those games."Shutting down their running game was the main thing we wanted to do," Irish defensive back Dwight Ellick said. "When you shut down a team's rushing abilities you make them one-dimensional. "We wanted to come in here and dominate the line of scrimmage and shut down the run, and we feel like we did that."Making a standThe Irish did not allow Tennessee to convert any of its three fourth-down conversion attempts in Saturday's game, a fact that proved a major difference in Notre Dame's defeat of the Volunteers.Notre Dame's first fourth-down stop came with 7:37 in the second quarter and the ball on the Irish 35-yard line. Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-7 and the Irish took over possession of the ball. The team's biggest stop might have come in the fourth quarter, with the score 14-13 in favor of Notre Dame and the Volunteers driving. On fourth-and-one from the Irish 34-yard line, Tennessee quarterback Rick Clausen handled off the ball to running back Gerald Riggs, Jr., who was hit immediately by linebacker Brandon Hoyte and ended up short of the first-down marker."That might have been the game," Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. "We had a pretty good idea what they were doing and [Brandon] really stepped and made a big play right there."The Irish immediately took over and drove down the field for a 39-yard field goal by D.J. Fitzpatrick, giving Notre Dame a 17-13 lead. Notre Dame's final fourth-down stop came on the final Tennessee drive of the game, when Clausen's pass to Jayson Swain on fourth-and-18 fell incomplete with 1:22 remaining.Game captainsCaptains Saturday for the Irish were Tuck, running back Ryan Grant, linebacker Mike Goolsby and offensive lineman Mark LeVoir.