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September 23, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Weeks removed from the uncertainty over whether he would play football again, Danny Spond turned in the best performance of his college career.
Spond faced the difficult task of containing Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson from the most intricate position within the Notre Dame defense, the recorded seven tackles plus a forced fumble in a 13-6 victory.
Considering migraines debilitated Spond for most of the past six weeks, a win has hardly tasted sweeter.
"At that time I didn't know what to think," Spond said. "I just wanted to be as healthy as I could, just be a normal college kid again. Be a functional human. Once things started working and I started getting everything back step by step. I just worked my position right into this role again and here we are."
Notre Dame improved to 4-0 thanks in part to the consistency with which Spond performed at the dog linebacker position, a spot he has solidified over sophomore Ben Councell.
Spond started the game with a 15-yard pass interference penalty. Otherwise he proved a steady hand in setting the edge against Robinson and often turned his runs back inside toward teammates.?
Through the week of preparation Spond knew containment would be his main priority.
It paid off in the form of just 90 rushing yards for Robinson to go along with 138 yards passing and five total turnovers. Spond forced one of the biggest when he stripped Robinson in the red zone.
"Denard is such an electric player," Spond said. "Every time he touches the ball he has that capability of scoring, so you've really got to be on your keys out there and be able to contain him and slow him down and get him to cut back a little bit to slow that speed down. That's something we really had to work on all week and really get to master."
The spotlight might have shown more brightly on other defensive players as cornerback Bennett Jackson led the team in tackles, Manti Te'o posted two picks and the defense notched three sacks, but Spond's effort didn't go unnoticed.
Te'o has seen continual improvement from Spond and understands just how daunting the drop position can be.
"Every position is important," Te'o said. "His position is difficult. He's out in space sometimes. Sometimes he's attached to the box. You have to be versatile and have to be able to do multiple jobs. Danny's a hard worker. He's a very smart player. He comes to work every day trying to get better."
Spond will go into the bye week carrying the confidence of a strong performance and extra work. The junior hopes to carry it all through Notre Dame's bye week and toward Miami.
"I think at any position you can't think," he said. "You've got to be comfortable with where you're at. At that dog position especially, you've got some tough responsibilities to do at time. Instinctual, once you can get that mastered and kind of get a feel for the game and know what you have to do and how the team is playing against you you'll feel a lot better."?
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