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November 21, 2013

'Not my best moment'

Sheldon Day forced himself to watch it.

The play didn't look any better on video than it did live.

As much as the sophomore defensive end capitalized on Notre Dame's second bye week to heal his reoccurring sprained ankle for good, his fumble non-recovery at Pittsburgh that helped bust Notre Dame's BCS hopes benefitted from a week off too.

"That was not my best moment that I've had in my career," Day said, "but it's just a bad moment I guess."

The snap in question came early in the fourth quarter of a tie game with Pittsburgh facing third down near midfield. Prince Shembo put heat on Panthers' quarterback Tom Savage, hitting him as he began his throwing motion. The ball ricocheted out of Savage's hand as Day touched it twice, batting it away.

Running back Isaac Bennett recovered and Pitt punted.

Two plays later Tommy Rees got picked off by Ray Vinopal, who returned the errant pass to the five-yard line. The Panthers powered in for the game-winning touchdown from there.

Day said defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn't force him to review the film of the fumble, which led to Brian Kelly fuming at defensive line coach Mike Elston on the sidelines. Day watched it of his own volition and admitted teammates busted on him for the gaffe. Day was featured on Monday Night Countdown and SportsCenter's Not Top 10.

"Thank you for bringing that to my attention," Day laughed.

The mental mistake cut against a strong performance by the sophomore, who held up on his high ankle sprain suffered against Purdue that essentially benched him for a month. Day posted five tackles and three stops for loss against Pitt.

Day also led Notre Dame's line with 63 defensive snaps, one off his season-high and the first time somebody other than Stephon Tuitt paced the position. Tuitt was ejected in the second quarter for targeting, with Kona Schwenke and Ishaq Williams already out and Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell suffering sprained ankles during the game.

Day said the plan going into Heinz Field was for him to load up on snaps, although he lost count.

"Honestly didn't have a number but I knew it was going to be a lot," Day said. "(The ankle) felt good. Not that much soreness, definitely (less) than I have been in the past."

On Saturday against BYU, Notre Dame's first choice defensive line may finally get a chance to show off what it's capable of delivering when fully fit. Day, Tuitt and Louis Nix will likely play for the final time together in Notre Dame Stadium. Day will return to the Irish next season but Nix and Tuitt could declare for the NFL draft, a prospect the sophomore has tried to avoid contemplating.

For now, Day will savor what time he has left with Nix and Tuitt, which has been less than he'd hoped this season.

In the last seven games they've logged just 23 plays together. Those snaps amounted to just 61 yards allowed by Notre Dame's defense and no points.

"We reminisce on just the little things about how we all could have played together and things like that," Day said. "Definitely a good feeling having everybody out there participating in practice, felt good."

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