08:45 AM ET 12.29 | A November surge for the Irish defense could be a sign that Notre Dame is morphing back into an elite team. "That's one of the reasons I want to get on the field to play this game Friday," Irish sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o said via telephone after Tuesday's practice. "A lot of people are thinking about 2011 and what that season can be like. I want to win this game and show people this is who we've become." What the defense became in November, against the likes of Utah, Army and USC, was almost a polar opposite of what it looked like early in the season. ... Projected over an entire season ND's November numbers would place it as the nation's No. 4 rushing defense (93.3 yards per game), No. 6 in third-down defense (31.3 percent conversions), No. 2 in first downs allowed (12 per game), No. 2 in total defense (233.3 yards per game) and No. 1 in scoring defense (7.3 points a game).