Irish Discover Turnovers in Win

Notre Dame had intercepted only one pass this season until the light went on Saturday in the JMA Wireless Dome. The Fighting Irish started the day with a pick-six by Brandon Joseph and demoralized the Orange in the fourth quarter with a diving grab by linebacker Marist Liufau. The latter play put a fork in a Syracuse comeback attempt led by backup quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson. The icing on the cake followed soon after when Clarence Lewis blocked yet another punt for Notre Dame. Audric Estime cashed in with a touchdown on the next play that drove the orange-clad fans to the exits.

It took the Irish just seven seconds to score seven points. On the first play from scrimmage, Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader threw a slant pass right into the arms of Joseph, who returned it 29 yards for the score. It looked like the game would be competitive when the Orange rebounded with the help of 30 yards in penalties against Notre Dame to march in for the tying touchdown. A missed tackle by Cam Hart on third down kept the drive alive. Shrader hit Oronde Gadsden two plays later to make it 7-7 just four minutes into the contest.

Errant passes, penalties, and a missed field goal kept Notre Dame off the scoreboard for the rest of the opening period. Meanwhile, the Irish defense settled in and stuffed the Syracuse attack. Estime and Logan Diggs took charge in the second quarter and led a 55-yard march to paydirt. Diggs capped the scoring drive with a three yard burst.

J.D. Bertrand and Isaiah Foskey rose to the occasion and ensured that the Orange could not answer. Notre Dame kept misfiring on offense, however, both by penalty and poor throws by Pyne. His interception a few minutes before the half prevented the Irish from extending their lead. Safety Ja’Had Carter returned the ball inside Irish territory and gave his team a chance to tie the game before halftime.

The Irish were having none of it and shut down the threat. Bertrand batted a fourth down pass by Shrader and the Irish took over with 1:18 remaining. Pyne suddenly caught fire. A 37-yard pass to Michael Mayer and another 11-yard toss to the All-American put Notre Dame inside the five yard line with 22 seconds on the clock. Pyne then hit Jaden Thomas with a scoring strike for a 21-7 edge at intermission.

Del Rio-Wilson was inserted for Syracuse to start the second half. He immediately elevated the Orange with his speed and strong passing arm. The teams traded field goals in the third period before Del Rio-Wilson moved his team through the air into the red zone. Tucker finished a six-play drive by running untouched into the end zone from four yards out. The Irish advantage was cut to 24-17 as the game moved to the final stanza.

The visitors began the final quarter with a three and out. Momentum was clearly on the the side of Syracuse as they took over and ripped off a quick first down. A Del Rio-Wilson pass on the next play was tipped by Notre Dame’s Howard Cross. The ball fluttered tantalizingly in the air as Liufau dove for it near midfield. His interception reignited the Irish, who scored moments later on an 11-yard Estime run.

Estime stiffarmed a defender to the ground and ran over him

The Orange faltered on the ensuing possession. A dropped pass by Gadsden and a sack by Foskey sent Max Von Marburg into punt formation. He never had a chance. Lewis flew in from the left edge and smothered it for the fifth Irish block of the season. Notre Dame took over at the Syracuse two yard line and Estime wasted no time in extending the lead to 38-17 at the 7:47 mark.

Del Rio-Wilson hit D’Marcus Adams for a concession touchdown late in the period to make the score a bit more respectable. Notre Dame subsequently tacked on a field goal after Mayer recovered an onside kick attempt for the 41-24 finish.

Despite a few more head-scratching moments from the Irish offense, the victory featured excellent perfomances by a number of players. Estime was obviously on a mission after fumble-itis earned him two weeks in the doghouse. He finished with 123 yards and two scores while Diggs chipped in with 85 yards and one touchdown. Notre Dame outrushed the Orange by 246-61. The Irish offensive line was dominant while wide receiver Deion Colzie emerged with three important receptions.

Defensively, Foskey, Bertrand, Joseph, Liufau, and Jordan Botelho (two sacks) turned in notable performances. Joseph had a second interception late in the game but it was nullified by an offsides penalty. The rest of the secondary did not play particularly well but were gifted with several dropped passes by Syracuse. Tackling remains an issue, especially among the cornerbacks. Freshman Ben Morrison had a few breakdowns in coverage.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:

  • Can the Irish linebackers corral Shrader when he decides to run? Bertrand and Liufau were clearly spying on both Orange quarterbacks and were effective in limiting that part of their game.
  • Will Notre Dame’s offense be able to repeat last week’s fast start? No, but Joseph was even faster on defense.
  • Can the Irish receivers beat man coverage by the Orange defensive backs? Occasionally, but Pyne had trouble finding them with precious few exceptions.
  • Which offensive line will do the best job of protecting its quarterback? Notre Dame did a great job and has become very solid in this aspect of the game. Hopefully this will carry into next week.
  • Can Pyne find secondary receivers and make accurate throws? No. Pyne missed wide open check down opportunities and repeatedly threw the ball into coverage. He was nine of 19 for 116 yards on the day. Absent the final drive of the first half in which he was three of four for 51 yards and his only touchdown, Pyne was six of 15 for 65 yards and an interception.
  • Will the Notre Dame special teams continue to provide significant contributions? You bet. After a dozen years of special teams mediocrity under Whatshisname, I can get used to Brian Mason’s rowdy bunch.
  • Which tight end (Mayer or Gadsden) will dominate? Both had good catches to help their team but the defenses were paying a lot of attention to them all day long. Gadsden had multiple dropped passes that hurt Syracuse when the outcome was still in doubt.
  • Can the Irish maintain their poise in a loud, hostile environment? The Irish had five penalties in the first quarter before settling down. The defense came to play. They drove Shrader out of the game and held Tucker to 60 yards. As for the hostile environment, it was mostly a Dead Man’s Party aside from a few moments in the third quarter.

At 5-3, the Irish can feel good about themselves. More players are demonstrating improvement and the offense is developing options other than Mayer. Pyne remains the limiting factor here, but he’s the only option so the team will go as far as he can take them. Two high profile games remain, and it sure would be nice to win at least one of them.

59 thoughts on “Irish Discover Turnovers in Win

  1. Looks like a 7-5 team w/ the limited QB play and terrible playcalling by OC/ Defense also has tendency to give up
    scores on ensuing drives after our scores.
    I see a blowout loss to clemson, wins vs. Navy, b.c. and a close loss to USC

    • I disagree, if Syracuse played them that close, “if the right D shows up’
      we’ll have a game. 🤙☘️

  2. Why do 20-point leads with more than a quarter to go feel like tie games?
    Is there a team that gives its talent advantage away more than ND (penalties, unemotional 3-and-outs, easily giving up momentum, etc.)?
    Is there a defense that’s easier to score on than ND’s when ND has a lead?
    If Cam Hart tried to tackle Chris Tyree, what would happen?

    • If Hart tried to tackle Tyree, Hart would come up with an armful of air and Tyree would get knocked over by the breeze.

    • Hart’s arm tackle was pathetic. He didn’t even attempt to break down and wrap the runner up. He wraps him up there, it sets up 4th down. Instead, they get a fresh set of downs and go on to score. When I see these lame attempts at tackling, I just literally want to scream at the player and his coach. When I teach youngsters how to tackle, I teach them how to break down and wrap the man up.

      When I see Bertrand leading any with his head, the same. When I played, the only time I ever left my feet was when lunging low to wrap up the legs of the runner, but I lead with my shoulder.

      What happened to the days of solid tackling technique??

      • Irish in the South says:

        Just need to focus on the basics in tackling…Driving through the guy, not stopping until he’s on the ground. Seems our guys are out of position sometimes and miss the direct line on the opponent, allowing the opponent to break the tackle.

  3. In my view the Irish could have run the ball all day with impunity, but the OC as a former QB, insists on putting the ball in Payne’s hands. What gives?

    • Freeman cannot help but see this, and appreciate the limitations this puts on the team, and by reflection the potential effects on his status as head coach. Rees has GOT to go.

    • The sumo tactic was averaging 6 yards/carry. I was also asking myself why they needed to stop running the ball. Rees’ decision to run from the cops and get caught demonstrates his horrible reasoning capabilities.

      • Start against Clemson with the classic Lou opening play from scrimmage. Go deep! Asking ND to play smart and win big games is like asking for the facts in Paul Pelosi’s episode with nudist BLM Qanon dude.

  4. Great defensive play, good running attack, bad passing attack… Didn’t get my 400 yards to win any game, but the defense won the day.

    Now that we beat a good team on their home turf, the Irish need to do the same at home and finish the season on an upbeat note. Win at least one of the two [powers left on the schedule (Clemson or Southern Cal) and it will be a satisfactory season for the coach and he can upgrade the team with an aggressive recruiting year.

    Go Irish- finish strong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. The biggest question is going to be QB development/recruiting. What the consensus about taking a grad transfer QB? I cant believe Carr is going to be ready to contribute next year (as a should be HS senior) even if he reclassifies.

    • There can be no rational answer that does not include a grad transfer QB. Otherwise, it’s a criminal waste of talent throughout the team, offense and defense. Carr, assuming he comes (which is in no way guaranteed, and I believe will be tied to whether ND’s offense shows significant improvement next year), will not be a significant factor before the 2025 season at the earliest, his sophomore season.

  6. It’s great to see you win against the rain team but we left so many points on the board but it’s really bothersome. A little better team would’ve beaten us. We have a horrible red zone offense. Drew Pine cannot start on most FCS teams. He has no future at Notre Dame. He’s basically completely worthless. Even when he has seven or eight seconds to throw, he stares at one eceiver before throwing a bad ball. There’s no future with him. I honestly believe we would be better off starting the freshman and taking our chances. The only quarterback That I can remember at Notre Dame as bad as Pyne was Tommy Rees. The only thing worse than our red zone offense is our red zone defense. We have not kept the team out of the end zone this year

    • I disagree Drew Pyne is worse than Tommy Rees was, in case that means anything. Which brings me to the Joe Montana commercial where he said he worked his way down to 7th string. Do the Irish have anyone down there they can find?

      • I don’t believe that Pyne is substantially worse than Rees was, but he certainly is no better; in essence he is QB Rees 2.0, and his OC is the original who is chromosomally and irretrievably welded to the pass-happy Kelly spread system we labored through for 12 years. With a strongly run-based offense and a restriction of Pyne to play action passes only, he is serviceable as QB, while understanding that we will not be able to compete well with complete teams like OSU, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan (UGH! HATE to type that!), probably USC and some others, until we have a highly skilled QB.

    • “. . . basically completely worthless” is what I call expressing your opinion very clearly. The Kelly hangover persists in the Irish backfield. Here’s hoping Coach Freeman doesn’t have the same trembling-with-inadequacy problem re recruiting great high school quarterbacks. There must be at least one qualified five star who will see the obvious: that being Notre Dame’s starting quarterback is an amazing and opportunity for the present and for his future all the way. “Notre Dame” is a magic sound.

  7. I think it is worth mentioning Coach Freeman running down the sideline screaming at an apparent bad flag. Finally some in-game coachlike emotion.

    • Irish in the South says:

      Agreed. We finally saw him express some anger, and for good reason. It seems MF wanted our offense to continue with the quick cadence near the goal line and the refs interrupted play to allow defensive substitutions.

  8. Very happy with the win. Unfortunately next week’s opponent, Clemson, is ranked #7 nationally against the run. We need to find a way to transform Pyne into . . . wait I was going to type Montana but then I realized I was delusional and in need of serious meds. I would settle for Kevin McDougal or Rusty Lisch or Terry Andrysiak, hell even Cliff Brown or Blair Kiel, or Rick Slager. SOMEBODY!

    • Irish in the South says:

      I understand Steve Angeli can play in 4 games and still be red-shirted. Is he ready? I don’t know why we wasted one of his 4 games by putting him in to hand off to the RBs.

  9. This is a work in progress – a good win on the road against a good team and they were clearly superior. I didn’t think they had much of a chance against Syracuse but I was completely wrong.
    That being said – we need a turn the corner game – beating a team which is favored over us, and beating Clemson would qualify.
    As I’ve said – this team is a few years away.

    • Irish in the South says:

      In Reese‘s defense, he has limited resources to work with. Pyne is far from what we need. Reese has to design plays that Pyne can handle.

      • I tend to agree. My previous comment: I remember little Charlie on the sidelines with his clipboard. Learning how to execute a “decided schematic advantage” from big Charlie. Just can’t beat those Golden Memories!

  10. Very nice summary John!! Great win by the Irish!! Always feels good when you beat a rank team on their home turf!! ND will need to have a good passing game besides their solid running game to have a chance to beat Clemson!! Go Irish BEAT Tigers!!!!

  11. The Irish got enough lucky breaks to win comfortably. They were due for some good fortune. Other than that, I am very cautiously optimistic that Coach Freeman’s re-mold of this team into a power running team with a physical defense is beginning to take hold. He has a long way to go but this is a beginning. Having Jim Tressel as a mentor is paying dividends. More than anything, Freeman needs time and he needs wins to build his own confidence as well as the team’s. Vannie, I have 2 questions: 1) Do you think AD Swarbrick will allow Freeman to bring in his own offensive coordinator, someone experienced in running a power offense? and 2) What kind of a quarterback is best suited to running a power attack…a dual threat guy or an accurate drop back guy who is adept are reading defenses? Thanks for your expertise.

    • I’ll try to answer your questions.

      I don’t believe Swarbrick will allow Freeman to fire Rees. If Rees wants to move on after this season, they won’t chase him with more money. Freeman will then be allowed to hire whomever he wants, as long as that person can pass through ND’s HR department.

      I would prefer a quarterback that is accurate and can read defenses. ND’s offensive lines should always provide good pass blocking, so the quarterback does not have to be an athlete who just runs around back there and has a scattergun arm. Ideally, a good pocket passer should have enough mobility to sidestep a rush and roll out to extend plays, but he doesn’t have to run for 50+ yards per game. Ultimately you want a balanced offense that can run and pass with a high degree of proficiency.

      Think about a more athletic version of Jimmy Clausen or a more accurate version of Brady Quinn. Of course, I would take Aaron Rodgers if he wants to give up his $50MM salary to go to grad school at ND.

      • Grad transfer Brennan Armstrong from UVA? Believe he has covid-year eligibility remaining.
        Tanner McKee from Stanford?

        • Both would be an improvement over the status quo. I’d prefer McKee but he is more likely to opt for the NFL draft. He was sure running for his life last night against UCLA. He would do much better behind our offensive line.

      • The ability to read defenses and go through progressions is something that can be coached, right? Or do some QBs just not have it? This also assumes our QB coaches can teach it, which is the biggest question.

        • It certainly can be taught but some QBs take longer to recognize coverages and process what they see. Pyne takes too long to decide that Mayer isn’t open and too long to locate the next option. Pyne should improve with time and game experience but it hasn’t been the case with him so far this year. The level of frustration we see from Rees tells me Pyne is not applying what he has been taught in practice to live game action.

          The great ones (Brady, Manning, Rodgers) run through progressions in a nanosecond. The ND line has given Pyne a tremendous amount of time in the pocket without pressure, especially in the last few weeks. He still holds the ball, has a bad case of happy feet, and ends up making a poor decision.

    • Swarbrick is one reason we have to tolerate Rees and less than 5 star QBs. Even Liincoln finally had enough with McClellan and sacked him for Grant. Unfortunately, ND does not have a Lincoln in the oval office.

  12. Good win for the kids and the coaching staff. Luckily the team that showed up at North Carolina showed up in the Carrier Dome. I shudder to think which team will show up to play Clemson this week and home games are not this team’s strong suit. If ND shows up like they’d rather be

    Pyne is definitely not the QB of the future and still struggles to see the field and find open receivers to keep drives alive and the defense on its heels. ND should probably consider getting a QB in the transfer portal after the season.

  13. Irish in the South says:

    Happy with MF and what he means to our program and our university. I believe he is best for the University long term and we will be proud of his accomplishments. But, one can’t help but wonder what our record would be this year under BK, who most disliked personally. Probably 7 and 1 with a loss to Ohio State. Remember, he could not win the big games.

  14. John – as always a tremendous recap. Irish did what they had to do and that was run the football and control the clock. Just as the game was about to change pass deflected and interception was huge. tackling in the secondary is a concern and inexperience at one defensive corner is being exposed. The QB situation is shaky but Rees airing the guy out with f bombs and demands isn’t the way to go as Pyne lacks confidence. Need to get him more run/pass options – move out of the pocket – there is yardage to be gained when no recievers are open. The inexperience of the coaching staff has been a factor – players need to be coached -this was a concern from the start. I will say a much more physical approach on the offensive and defensive lines as well as an attack mode on special teams was refreshing to see. A real shame this team wasn’t prepared every week.

    • Coach,

      I agree there are opportunities for Pyne to pick up yards, but the coaches have undoubtedly told him to curb any running instincts after what happened to Buchner. Pyne is not big or strong and could get obliterated on any given hit. It pains me to say it but the team cannot afford to lose him this season. He was crushed on a sack yesterday and I didn’t think he would get up.

      • I remember that play. I thought he was dead. I also thought the pass protection yesterday was outstanding. There were times, including the play mentioned above, when Pyne had 5 or 6 seconds to find a receiver and couldn’t. I’m not sure who is the more limiting factor for this offense, Pyne or Rees.

      • Angeli was more impressive than Pyne during the Blue&Gold game and, given the opportunity, he would probably be a more effective performer now. At least he should be given an extended role.

  15. The next most important recruit is the QB in the transfer portal that we so desperately need at this point.

  16. If ND can play the rest of their games on the road perhaps they might win out. Swarbrick needs to get on the horn with the Clemson AD and ask if the upcoming game can be rescheduled in Death Valley.

    ND has been a terrible home team this year but have been a surprisingly good road team. Since 2017 Kelly was lights out at home but often struggled on the road especially against ranked teams.

    • I think there’s something to this – the whole “better on the road” thing. Remember, back about 2017, Kelly did away with a lot of the “pre-game” things the team was asked to do those home game weekends. Angered a lot of old timers, but guess what, it worked. I’m wondering if Freeman didn’t get conned into “bringing back our traditions” and that’s what’s happening. I can think of no other explanation for this Jekyll and Hyde team (home and road).

  17. ☘️#50💪 says:

    Hopefully we hit the Transfer Portal for a QB instead of taking another step back with Buchner or a Freshman for next year. Watching Pyne’s play in person is GAWD awful and GUT wrenching! With Clemson coming next week, ND Stadium NEEDS to be ROCKIN’!!!! Loud music, intimating crowd noise…..none of this rah rah BS!!!! Time for the ND crowd to do their part!!!!!! Lastly, THANK YOU for beating the crap out of SU yesterday. I’ll be wearing my IRISH stuff all week to remind the Orange fans who WON! 😎😁☘️🏈💪

  18. The sad fact is that if we even had an average FBS quarterback we would be 7-1. Maybe 8-0 if we scored at least once in the second half against OSU. I believe we are moving in the right direction with tough defense and power running game. And please, please, please can we feature Estime in the back field. The kid is so special and has so much heart.

    • My only problem with Estime is his knack for fumbling the ball in crucial situations. The fumble late against Stanford cost ND the game, a game that they had finally taken control of, too. He played great yesterday, though. I do like him…. reminds me of Bettis.

  19. I thought Joe Tessitore started out with a decidedly pro Syracuse enthusiasm but settled down as the game progressed and went in our favor. I hope and pray that TR will not call the A-B-C offensive play scheme against Clemson. I am very surprised that the opening line has us as an underdog by only 4.