The only thing that kept the Blue Devils from staying at zero was a late fourth quarter touchdown run by Zack Asask. Other than that final drive, when most of the starters were on the sidelines, the defense dominated the Duke offensive attack.
Blue Devils offense won't be mistaken for the 2007 New England Patriots. Duke came into the contest 108th in scoring offense, 116th in total offense and 119th in rushing offense. But Notre Dame didn't allow the Blue Devils to bust out and held Duke to 232 yards of offense, which is 34 yards underneath their season average. The Blue Devils also only converted 4-of-16 on third downs and didn't allow Duke any chance for a comeback.
"I think the defense played well the whole game," head coach Charlie Weis said. "Even giving up the shutout at the end of the game, you don't want to give up a shutout, but I would rather get those kids in the game than worry about the shutout.
"But I think that they did a really good job even when the few times there was a play -- they played stout right off the bat, got off the field and turned the ball over a couple of times, and I thought really they were the ones, the defense in the second quarter, they are the reason why were in position to go in."
Notre Dame was also opportunistic when the chances presented themselves. Late in the second quarter, with the score at 0-0, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis fumbled the ball on third down. Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws recovered it for the Irish and five plays later, Jimmy Clausen hit David Grimes for a 25-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Notre Dame lead.
Not to be outdone, on the next series, Jomar Wright caught a pass from Lewis and fumbled the ball. Fifth-year senior Ambrose Wooden fell on the ball and three plays later, Clausen found Duval Kamara for a 25-yard touchdown with four seconds left before halftime to give the Irish a 14-0 advantage heading into the locker room. Two turnovers translated into 14 quick points, more than enough against the overmatched Blue Devils offense.
"We had a good game plan and we were executing well," fifth-year senior Tommy Zbikowski said, who totaled five tackles against Duke. "I think guys just want to make sure we got this win and played hard and we knew we would match-up with them pretty well."
***Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan is the only opposing quarterback to complete 60 percent of his passes or more against Notre Dame. Ryan also is the only signal caller to throw for more than 255 yards. Coming into Saturday, the Irish were fifth in the nation against the pass. Notre Dame held Lewis to 16-of-33 for 121 yards and zero touchdowns and sacked him twice.
***Junior safety David Bruton recorded his first career fumble recovery late in the second quarter.
***Trevor Laws keeps creeping closer to history. The fifth-year defensive end recorded six tackles and a sack on the afternoon and leads the team with 104 stops. In the process, Laws passed Jeff Weston and Melvin Dansby and is tied with Ross Browner on the single season list for most tackles by a front four lineman. The fifth-year senior has one more game to catch Steve Niehaus, who recorded 113 tackles in 1975.
"It was a good feeling," Laws said of the victory on Senior Day. "I just really wanted to go out with a win. Our whole team was focused on one thing that was the most important was the win and we got it. It all came through for us."
***Notre Dame has instituted a wedge consisting of a few offensive linemen on kickoff returns a couple of weeks back. One of those players got a rare change to return a kick when the ball was squibbed on the opening kickoff of the contest. Sophomore Eric Olsen, who started the game at right guard, scooped up the ball and returned it for nine yards. Olsen is back on the unit with classmate Dan Wenger, who started at center in place of John Sullivan.
"It was kind of funny because that play, that return was designed to go out other way," Weis said of Olsen‘s return. "And the first play, I had the screen called for left formation because we were running the ball to the right-hand side, so he kind of messed the play call up. But he said he's showing his lacrosse versatility from when he was in high school. He's showing his true athleticism. I think that was his comment."
***Ian Williams became the 27th different Notre Dame player to start their first career game this season. Williams is also the seventh freshman to start. The freshman nose tackle, playing in place of the injured Pat Kuntz, totaled three tackles on Saturday.