It was a game that felt more and more unpredictable as the week went along, and it certainly started out as a wild prelude to a wild game that ended with a 45-38 Notre Dame win over South Carolina.
The South Carolina Gamecocks won the toss and took the ball — and then they went 75 yards on 10 plays with a really crisp drive that ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass from Spencer Rattler to Xavier Legette. Notre Dame was forced into a 3 and out punt on their next possession, as Tyler Buchner looked very rusty.
The Irish defense was looking lost against the Gamecock gameplan, but they were able to force a fumble and recover it at midfield to get the ball back to the Irish offense. While Buchner’s arm had some rust, his legs looked pretty good. The Irish took a short drive down to the 15, and then Tyler Buchner ran it in to tie the game at 7 a piece.
South Carolina went right back into their bag of tricks on the next drive. After stalling out on Notre Dame’s 23 yard line, the Gamecocks broke out a fake field goal play and Kai Kroeger hit Hunter Rogers for a 23 yard TD strike.
It was basically a disaster for the Irish on the next drive. Facing pressure in his face, tyler Buchner had a pass that was tipped, and then picked off by DQ Smith and ran back for a touchdown to make it 21-7 in the first quarter.
Notre Dame answered with a 10 play drive that ended with a Blake Grupe field goal, and SC countered with a 12 play drive that ended with a Jeter field goal.
On Notre Dame’s next drive with just over 5 minutes left in the half, Buchner found Logan Diggs out in the flats, and Diggs took it 75 yards for a touchdown to pull within 7 points.
Notre Dame forced a punt by the Cocks to get the ball back with about 2:30 left in the half, but were pinned back deep after Buchner was sacked twice. SC was on the business end of two personal foul flags on the punt, and despite pushing the ball downfield — the half ended with a Benjamin Morrison interception.
Notre Dame and South Carolina exchanged punts after halftime, but then the Irish tied things up with an 11 yard touchdown run by Tyler Buchner to cap off a 68 yard drive — a really good looking drive.
South Carolina fought back on their next drive and Spencer Rattler found Xavier Legette again in the endzone to go back up a touchdown. Honestly, it should have been overturned on review as Legette’s foot was out of bounds — but they confirmed the call on the field from the booth. Benjamin Morrison was knocked out of the game just two plays prior, which likely helped the cause for the Cocks.
Disaster hit again for Notre Dame on the next possession. On the third play, Buchner tried to shovel a pass to Jayden Thomas (who had a great game at WR) but it bounced around and was picked off by SC.
Then the Irish turned on the juice.
Notre Dame forced four 3 and outs in a row against the Gamecocks in which SC “gained” -19 yards. During that stretch, Tyler Buchner hit Braden Lenzy for a 44 yard touchdown on a one play drive to tie the game, and then Logan Diggs went 39 yards to put the Irish up 38-31.
Don’t worry... it gets even wilder.
Notre Dame put together a beautiful drive on the ground to get down inside the 10, but on 1st and goal, Tommy Rees calls a pass and Tyler Buchner throws a pick six that goes 100 yards to tie the game at 38.
Notre Dame got the ball back and went back to the ground to move it downfield. Chris Tyree picked up a huge first down on a pass from Buchner to help put the Irish deeper into SC territory and at least closer for a possible field goal. Tommy Rees rolled the dice (again) on 3rd down, and Tyler Buchner comes off of play-action to find Mitchell Evans all alone for a 16 yard touchdown to put Notre Dame up 45-38 with 1:38 left in the game.
South Carolina was ready to make this tough. The Gamecocks moved the ball down the field quickly and were aided by a personal foul call on Jaylen Sneed. With 38 seconds left Rylie Mills got to rattler and forced an intentional grounding call to make it 3rd and 21. A personal foul on SC on the next play forced a 4th and 36.
Notre Dame forces the deep incompletion — and that’s the game.
More to come on OFD.