All week long, people all over both sides of this game thought the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Wisconsin Badgers were going to play a low-scoring (kind of ugly) game.
And it was kind of that way for most of the game, and then the ugliness got pretty for Notre Dame with a 31 point 4th quarter that helped the Irish beat Wisconsin, 41-13.
On the second play of the game, Jack Coan was sacked for the first time of the day — don’t worry though — he was sacked 4 more times before he was knocked out of the game.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It didn’t last long as Wisconsin used 5 plays to go 26 yards to grab an early field goal to go up 3-0. Notre Dame tried to counter that FG with a 15 play drive that ended with a missed 41 yard attempt from Jonathan Doerer.
The Irish defense really stepped it up after that, and after a failed 4th down attempt from the Badgers, Notre Dame drove the ball 45 yards on 16 plays for a 51 yard FG by Jonathan Doerer. Ugly indeed.
Very quickly, however, Cam Hart stepped in front of a Graham Mertz pass for the interception and the Irish offense took the field. On the fifth play after the interception, Jack Coan found Kevin Austin for a 36 yard touchdown strike to put the Irish up 10-3 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the half. The Irish would get two more chances before halftime, but accumulated a total of -5 yards on 4 plays.
The second half saw Notre Dame and Wisconsin exchange punts, but then Wisconsin finally broke through with some plays and drove the ball 56 yards on 4 plays (that included a long shovel pass from Graham Mertz to Chez Mellusi) and it ended with a Mertz to Kendric Pryor touchdown pass — and now it’s 10-10 and the game is a game.
Jack Coan was knocked out of the game after one of the many sacks on him twisted up his leg. He took off for the lockers to get checked, and Drew Pyne came in to play quarterback. He did a few good things on his first drive, but the Irish still had to punt the ball away. Notre Dame got the ball back, and Pyne returned to the field — only to fumble the ball after getting crushed from the blind side. Wisconsin turned a short drive into another field goal, and now it’s 13-10 Badgers.
And then some magic hit Soldier Field. On the kickoff after the field goal, Chris Tyree took it 96 yards for the touchdown to put the Irish back up 17-13. Three plays into the next Wisconsin drive, and Jayson Ademilola strips the ball out of Graham Mertz’s hands and the Irish recovered. Rather than bring a returned Jack Coan back onto the field, Notre Dame sent Drew Pyne back out on the short field, and 6 plays later Pyne hit a wide open Kevin Austin for a 16 yard touchdown — Austin’s second of the day.
Wisconsin couldn’t muster much of a fight after that. They attempted a 52 yard field goal, but missed. And after forcing an Irish punt and with less than 5 minutes in the game, Mertz threw his second interception of the day to Cam Hart — who got his 2nd interception of the day.
With 3:10 left in the game, Jonathan Doerer connected on his second field goal of the day to make it 27-13 — which essentially iced the game — but the fun didn’t end there. Jack Kiser picked off Graham Mertz in the flats and took it 66 yards for the touchdown. AND THEN Drew White got himself an interception and returned it FOR ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN TO MAKE IT 41-13.
With this win, Brian Kelly now has 106 wins at Notre Dame — which makes him the all-time winningest head coach in Irish history.
We will have much, much more on OFD about this