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Simplification is the best game plan for Notre Dame’s Te’o

(MCT) — CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Manti Te’o established early on that the simple approach was the way to go and deep thinking on the football field often can be a hindrance.

On the fourth play from scrimmage during Notre Dame’s game Saturday night with Boston College at Alumni Stadium, the Irish linebacker put his head down, blew through the Eagles line and made a beeline for quarterback Chase Rettig. The result was a hurried pass that came nowhere close to intended receiver Alex Amidon and a forced punt.

On the ensuing series, the Irish marched 95 yards — their longest drive of the season — for a touchdown to grab an early lead on the Eagles and set a decisive tone for the evening.

“Everybody did their job, Te’o said after the Irish’s 21-6 victory. “Nobody really stepped out of the framework of the defense. Even though there were some reverses, screens and a lot of those types of plays we kept them out of the end zone.”

Coach Brian Kelly was impressed with the job Te’o and the defense did.

“He’s the leader of our defense,” he said. “We got frustrated at times (Saturday). Some of our kids got frustrated. They have to be able to keep their composure and they have a leader out there in Manti who is keeping the guys under control. When you need a big play he’s going to be around the football.”

He certainly was in the fourth quarter when his interception of a deflected pass was his sixth of the season, a school record for linebackers.

Te’o was intent to make up for a low-key performance the previous week when the senior finished with seven tackles and wasn’t much of a factor in Notre Dame’s 29-26 triple-overtime victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 3 at South Bend, Ind. That performance may have a put dent in Te’o’s long shot Heisman Trophy hopes, but it didn’t stop the fourth-ranked Irish on their quest for a national title as they improved to 10-0.

Te’o had no problem identifying the problems against Pitt.

“Just thinking too much, trying to do too much (and) not just keeping football simple,” Te’o said. “Football is a simple sport. (If) you try to complicate it, you’re going to end up not doing too well.”

Against Boston College, the Irish bent a little but did not break in the first half as they limited the Eagles to a field goal and 137 yards of total offense with Te’o recording two tackles.

The defense did a whole lot more reacting to what the Eagles were doing than anticipating — a change from the Pitt contest.

“(We were) trying to ... anticipate plays, guess on plays (and) a lot of different scenarios,” Te’o said of playing the Panthers. “When we started to settle down, that’s when we started to make some plays. That was our lesson right there. When we started playing within the defense, that’s when things started to work out.”

Much has worked out for Te’o this season as he entered Saturday’s game as the only defensive player in the FBS averaging 10 tackles per game while also hauling in at least three interceptions (five).

In the first nine games of the season, Te’o had 42 unassisted tackles, 45 assisted, 51/2 tackles for loss and a sack-and-a-half — all while being the inspirational leader of the defense.

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