Play with fire long enough and eventually, you get burned. Following yesterday’s ugly 24-13 loss to the #7 Cincinnati Bearcats, Notre Dame might as well be covered in third-degree burns. In what had been building for weeks, Notre Dame finally ran into an opponent that would not let them off the mat after making several crushing mistakes in the 2nd quarter.
In just the 4th top ten match-up at Notre Dame Stadium since the end of the Lou Holtz era, Notre Dame came out of the gates looking like a well-oiled machine. The Irish offense quickly involved Michael Mayer on the opening possession, targeting him four times as the team deftly covered 69 yards. However, facing 2nd and goal on the Bearcat 6 yard line, Jack Coan panicked in the face of a free rusher and flung a pass into triple coverage that was intercepted by Ahmad Gardner. In what would become a theme of the day, the defense was immediately tasked with stemming the tide. Answering the call, Notre Dame held strong after the miscue and forced a Bearcat punt. Neither offense was able to gain any traction during the remainder of the 1st quarter as the teams continued to trade punts. Seeking to find some sort of spark, Tyler Buchner was inserted for a possession late in the quarter. Yet, what quickly became obvious was that Cincinnati would be not caught off guard by Buchner’s run-first approach as they neutralized the freshman quarterback without blinking.
Early in the 2nd quarter, Buchner dropped back to pass on 3rd and 7 from the Irish 25-yard line. Myjai Sanders found his way to the backfield in short order and hit Buchner as he was about to throw. The jarring hit caused Buchner’s pass to come up well short of his intended target, who was nonetheless double covered, allowing DeShawn Pace to return the pass 27 yards to the Irish 8-yard line. The Bearcats took advantage of the second Irish miscue as Desmond Ridder hit Leonard Taylor for a 1-yard touchdown on 3rd and goal. Adding fuel to the fire, Chris Tyree fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing Cincinnati to regain possession at the Irish 17-yard line as the game suddenly was going sideways in a hurry for Notre Dame. Again answering the call, the Irish defense admirably held the Bearcats to a 23-yard field goal on the drive as Notre Dame fell behind 10-0 with 10:32 left in the 2nd quarter. The Irish offense continued its struggles as they ended the half with drives of 24, 15, and 5 yards. If it hadn’t been obvious enough to the coaching staff the past several weeks, the truth was staring them in the face as the game inched towards halftime: Jack Coan paired with the ineffectiveness along the offensive line could not take Notre Dame where it needed to go in this game. To make matters worse, Cincinnati added another touchdown near the end of the 2nd quarter, covering 80 yards in 5 plays to take a commanding 17-0 lead into halftime.
As the teams returned to the field to start the 2nd half, Brian Kelly informed the TV audience that Jack Coan would remain the starting quarterback in the 2nd half. However, after Cincinnati missed a 30-yard field goal on their opening drive of the half, Drew Pyne trotted onto the field. Pyne hit pass plays of 15 yards and 17 yards on back-to-back plays on the drive to move the Irish to the Bearcat 35 yard line. Inexplicably, Tyler Buchner came in for a single play, drawing hearty boos from the crowd. Buchner was stopped for no gain, and Pyne quickly returned to the field to loud cheers from the crowd. However, the momentum of the drive stalled and the Irish turned the ball over on downs. Cincinnati’s offense went right back to work, picking up four first downs as they began to move in for a kill shot. The Irish defense came through with another decisive turnover as Isaiah Foskey sacked Riddler for a 10-yard loss. On the sack, Riddler lost control of the ball, and Drew White picked up the loose ball, returning it to the Bearcat 38 yard line. Pyne needed all of 4 plays to help the Irish find the end zone, with Kyren Williams capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to get the Irish on the board with 1:19 left in the 3rd quarter. As the stadium came to life, the Irish defense continued to hold serve and forced a quick three and out as the game moved into the 4th quarter.
Failing to take advantage, the Irish offense quickly went three and out, giving the ball right back to Cincinnati. On the ensuing possession, the Bearcats missed a 37-yard field goal, continuing to leave the door open for Notre Dame to come storming through. Pyne continued to display his moxie as he directed an 8 play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped with a beautifully thrown ball to Braden Lenzy in the right corner of the end zone. Though Jonathan Doerer missed the extra point, Notre Dame drew closer at 17-13 with 8:20 left in the contest. As the crowd’s hope for a miraculous comeback continued to grow, Desmond Riddler and the Cincinnati offense failed to cooperate. The Irish defense simply could not get the Bearcats into 3rd down on the most important drive on a day in which they held Cincinnati to 2/11 on 3rd down conversions. The backbreaking play came when Riddler hit Leonard Taylor for 36 yards to move the Bearcats to the Irish 17-yard line. Two plays later, Riddler ran in a 6-yard touchdown to give Cincinnati an insurmountable 24-13 lead with just over 5 minutes to go. After the Irish turned the ball over on downs, Cincinnati ran out the clock, snapping Notre Dame’s 26-game home winning streak, and ending any hopes for a return trip to the College Football Playoff.
-Michael Mayer-8 receptions, 93 yards
-Braden Lenzy- 4 receptions, 61 yards, 1 touchdown
-Drew Pyne- 9/22, 143 yards, 1 touchdown
-Drew White-4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
-Jay Bramblett-6 punts, 46.3 average yards per punt, Long of 52 yards
Crazy Stat of the Day
-Jonathan Doerer missed his first extra point since his first career attempt in 2018. The miss broke a streak of 127 straight made extra points.
Questions Moving Forward
-What direction will the staff opt to go at the quarterback position?
-Will we see a youth movement at the wide receiver position?