"I'm very critical about my guys, how we play. In my mind, all I look at is how can we get better," Crum said at his weekly press conference Thursday. "Obviously there have been some plays that have been made, but I really just focus on trying to get better week in and week out. I think guys have done a really, really good job of studying tape and taking coaching and applying it week in and week out to make themselves better."
Bruton says that it is his job to make sure that he keeps the defensive backs in the game mentally.
"With the secondary, I just try to keep us in line, you know, keep our heads straight," said Bruton. "At times we're going to get beat, that can take a shot at your confidence. I take it upon myself, along with Terrail (Lambert), to just keep guys' heads up, just go out there and make the next play. Not everything's going to go your way, but at the end of the day, if you make more plays, you have a better chance to win."
One statistic that has not gone Notre Dame's way so far is the number of sacks. Despite a high volume of blitzes each week, through three games, the Irish still have only one sack and Crum and Bruton offered some reasons why.
"Maybe our timing is not down or maybe we're not hitting it fast enough or guys just maybe are unsure of where they should be. It could be a combination of things, pass rush moves, better steps, better angles could allow you to get there faster," Crum said. "Obviously, there's always things that we can do to help to put ourselves in a better situation."
Bruton also pointed to timing as a reason why the Irish have failed to get home on blitzes and talked about reading the offense better as a way to fix that.
"You can just use motion to help time the snap count. Some quarterbacks use the hand when they're in the gun," he said. "You can tell if the quarterback, on film, if they double cadence, maybe get the defensive linemen to jump off. Just a lot of factors come into play when you're trying to time up a blitz."
The secondary has also been called upon to blitz, but Bruton said that the defensive backs need to be better in coverage to give the front seven more time to get there.
"In the secondary, we've got to play tighter coverage to force the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer," he said.
It's important for defenders to be able to disguise who's coming and when.
"Sometimes you want to be down there showing the blitz and step back in coverage because you never know when a blitz is going to be called," Bruton said. "(At times) you actually have to line up and get down in that position and actually come."
While it may not show up in the sacks column on the stats sheet, Notre Dame's pressure has prevented quarterbacks from getting into any type of groove.
"We played teams that went with that quick game, three-step passes," said Bruton. "It kind of limits our opportunity to actually get there because the ball's out so quick."
Crum said that the heat changes what opposing offenses can do.
"They can't do necessarily what it is they want to do," he said. "They're trying to scheme based upon what it is that we do. Therefore, we're dictating to them how they're going to play."
Bruton and Crum have also bought in to defensive coordinator Corwin Brown's philosophy that being put in difficult situations provides defenses with opportunities.
"Football is football. At some point in time your back is going to be up against the wall and you're going to be in a situation that you haven't planned for," Crum said. "You can look at it one of two ways, you can look at it like, ‘Aw, man.' Or you can look at it as we've got an opportunity to make something happen."
"He instilled in us this mentality to just get the ball back," said Bruton. "We would like to leave them to no points, but that's not always the case and three points at times is a win. He's done a great job instilling that in all of us."
The defensive captains have spent all week watching film on Purdue and said that the Boilermakers' spread offense is different from San Diego State and Michigan because Purdue relies on the pass and run equally.
"They're able to move the ball running it even when they spread out the field," Bruton said. "They make big plays in the passing game and what I've seen throughout on film is just their consistency."
"They're good at what they do and they've been doing it a long time," said Crum. "Balance is the key."
The Purdue offense may be different from other spreads, but it is not what the Irish saw last week in East Lansing and it should give Notre Dame another chance to get after the quarterback.
"The spread offense, again, it allows so much space and so many different ways that you can attack it," said Crum. "We have to use that space to our advantage."
Bruton cautioned that Notre Dame needs to make sure that it is not hurt by that space.
"The space we can use to our advantage, but we've also got to be aware it can be an advantage to them," he said. "It forces us to play out in space a lot more. Tackling can definitely be an issue in space because you're going to be one-on-one a lot."
Purdue running back Kory Sheets is one player that can be dangerous in space and he proved that with his game-winning touchdown run against Central Michigan that featured one of the sweetest jukes of the year.
"It's the job of a free safety, you've got to make the open-field tackle," said Bruton. "It was a good move, don't get me wrong. Shook him right, shook him left, right, left, right, then broke to the left, he did it all in that one play. He showed his game-changing speed. But as a safety, you've just got to close the distance, just make the sure tackle by any means. Whether it's a horse collar or just barely getting the shoestring, you've just got to get them down."