Tyree Ignites Irish Explosion

Chris Tyree’s 96-yard kickoff turn early in the fourth quarter erased a 13-10 deficit and triggered a 31-point scoring barrage as Notre Dame buried Wisconsin by 41-13 on Saturday in Chicago. The Irish offense tacked on an additional ten points later in the period to extend the lead to 27-13 before linebackers Jack Kiser and Drew White ended the stunning comeback story with a pair of interception returns for touchdown in the final minutes. Cornerback Cam Hart pitched in with two interceptions on the day as the Irish defense shut down the Badger attack.

The ending and final score overshadowed the tense, low-scoring contest that took place during the first 45 minutes. The teams traded field goals before Jack Coan hit Kevin Austin with a 36-yard scoring strike late in the first half. Neither team could establish a running game and both quarterbacks struggled with accuracy under a heavy pass rush.

Jacob Lacey and the Irish defensive line kept Mertz in check

The scales tipped toward Wisconsin in the third period. The Badgers finally broke through when Graham Mertz hit Kendric Pryor on a pair of slant passes during a 56-yard march. The second one covered the final eight yards for a touchdown to tie the game at ten.

Notre Dame lost Coan to an ankle injury during the ensuing series. Backup Tyler Buchner was still not available due to a hamstring injury suffered two weeks ago, so Coach Brian Kelly turned to Drew Pyne. The Irish had gained possession near midfield and were hoping to retake the lead. Unfortunately, the sophomore immediately ran into problems when he fumbled the ball while being sacked. Wisconsin recovered and appeared to have the upper hand.

Mertz moved the Badgers into scoring position, but he went to the well once too often as a third down slant to Pryor fell incomplete in the red zone. Collin Lasch came on to boot a 27-yard field goal for a 13-10 Wisconsin advantage one minute into the final stanza.

Notre Dame fans were openly worried how their team would score against the tough Badger defense without Coan or Buchner. Tyree’s return came at a perfect moment in time that will long be remembered in Irish lore. The score not only reenergized the defense, but Pyne also rose to the occasion when he returned to the field. The Irish sacked Mertz on third down during the next Wisconsin series. Jayson Ademilola forced a fumble on the play and Isaiah Foskey pounced on the ball for Notre Dame.

Pyne came on to lead a crisp scoring drive that he capped with a strike to Austin for a 24-13 lead. Hart picked off a pass two plays later as Mertz and Wisconsin began to implode. Jonathan Doerer tacked on a short field goal to give his team a more comfortable two touchdown cushion with only three minutes remaining.

Then things just got stupid. Mertz tried to rally the Badgers through the air, but that just isn’t the preferred method of travel for this ball control offense. Kiser picked off a telegraphed sideline pass and outran everyone down the Wisconsin sideline for 66 yards into the end zone. White added insult to injury seconds later with by bringing back another wounded duck for a 45-yard score.

Fortunately for Badger fans, most had left the stadium at 27-13 with three minutes left and did not see the final 14-point insult from the Irish defense.

It was literally a total team performance by Notre Dame despite tough sledding for the offense for most of the afternoon. Special teams obviously answered the call with Tyree leading the way, but punter Jay Bramblett also deserves credit for a few outstanding punts when the game was tight. He averaged 46 yards and hit one for 72 yards late in the first half to help preserve the 10-3 Irish advantage.

Avery Davis, Michael Mayer and Austin also made clutch plays during the game. The entire defense deserves recognition for five turnovers and many stellar plays beyond the two late touchdowns. The line picked up the slack for injured leader Kurt Hinish and held the Badgers to 78 yards rushing.

Pyne completed six of eight throws for 81 yards and a score after Coan was 15 of 29 for 158 yards and a touchdown. The much maligned offensive line got off to another shaky start but battled back to enable Coan and Pyne to make critical throws. The did surrender six more sacks, so the growing pains continue.

Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:

Will the Irish be able to run for 100 yards? Actually, Notre Dame’s net rushing total was 108……inches. They were underwater for most of the game due to the sacks before finally creeping into plus territory. Thank goodness the Irish did not need to kneel down at the end of the game.

Can the Badgers’ offense stay in its comfort zone by running the ball successfully? Not at all, thanks to Howard Cross, Jacob Lacey, the Ademilola twins and a host of other Irish warriors.

Will Buchner have a positive impact on the Irish offense? No, but he was cheering loudly for Pyne when the sophomore took advantage of his chance.

Which team will be able to score touchdowns once inside the red zone? Each team had one red zone touchdown and one short field goal. Notre Dame found plenty of other ways to score, though.

Can Notre Dame contain the Badger defensive front and pick up blitzing linebackers? Not very well. Without Tyree’s game-changing return, we’d be discussing a completely different story line.

Will Mertz be able to complete passes downfield? Mertz hit just 18 of 41 for 240 yards, but he completed four more to Notre Dame defenders. He’s definitely not ready to be a guy who can lead a team to victory by chucking it 40 times.

Can Austin, Lenzy and Michael Mayer take advantage of the Badger secondary? Yes, they stepped up with several big plays. Coan did miss Lenzy at least three times on deep shots when the speedy wideout was open.

Will Rees call any screen passes to neutralize Wisconsin’s defensive aggression? Not one screen pass all day. Unbelievable.

Which team will do the best imitation of the Bears? By the end of the game, Chicagoans could not see any difference between Wisconsin and the Bears.

The Irish stand tall at 4-0 no matter how they arrived at this point in their journey. Things get ugly at times but it became fun today to watch the growth in this team and the energy they bring to the field. He’s certainly not Knute Rockne, but Kelly deserves credit for piecing things together each week and finding a way. Next week’s matchup with Cincinnati promises to be another adventure. We can hardly wait to see it.

39 thoughts on “Tyree Ignites Irish Explosion

  1. Can we play “Jump Around” after every 3rd quarter? I don’t think Wisconsin is going to ever want to hear that song again after that 4th quarter beat down by the Irish.

    • I’ve been critical of Kelly especially for having too many 4th qtr collapses causing too many close calls.
      So good job yesterday.
      That 4th qtr was “The most beautiful site these eyes have ever seen.”

    • It’s too scary to believe that they’ve already stopped growing. We’re still in September.

      Don’t worry, the Oline has to get better because it certainly can’t get worse.

  2. Awesome win for the Irish!! Great to see Chris Tyree take one to the house!! Reminded me of the Rocket vs Michigan……SPEED!!!!! Go ND beat Bearcats and congratulations to Coach Kelly on win #106!!!!

  3. My score prediction was pretty close but the 2 last minute pick sixes did me in! The Irish are gritty but the offense can not prosper with Coan as a pocket passer with no pocket and no real ability to escape. Pyne showed what a little mobility can achieve. ND defense was good but Mertz was in way over his head. A good quarterback would have led to a much different out come. I would like to be a fly on the wall in the coaches meeting room this week. They need a plan B on quarterback for the Cincinnati game and I think they know it despite what Kelly said after the game.

  4. Irish in the South says:

    A good win on a team effort. But OL definitely must improve. Cannot allow the sacks and forced fumbles,,,Would cost us the game against a better team. Defense showed up in a big way compared to our first three games. Pyne showed some poise, mobility, quicker release and will be a good one. Coan seems to know his place as mentor to two younger QBs with different skills than his. I am encouraged about tis team and the future.

  5. Great team win. Tyree changed the game with his electric kickoff. Can’t believe they hadn’t returned a kickoff since 2016!!!

    I hate to mention this after a big win but Jack Coan is the third best QB on this team. He’s so immobile that either of the other QB’s are a better fit behind this shaky line.

    Overall, a great scene at Soldier Field! 4-0 with a top 10 matchup up next. Go Irish!!

  6. Interesting game, interesting team. Freeman’s lessons are obviously taking effect as shown by the pick sixes – they smelled blood and struck, a good thing to see.

    The O-line is a serious concern which makes it a good thing that there are good receivers on the team.

  7. A repeat of my remarks from last week. Coan misses some big play passes again this week. I still don’t get why we don’t defer the kickoff, when our defense is unquestionably better and more consistent than the offense. For the second week in a row 3 and out that cost us poor field position and led to 3-0 deficit.

    • Winning the coin flip and electing to receive drives me nuts. In the NFL, the team receiving the ball first to start the game win 48.8% of the time, which is why NFL coaches always defer to take the ball in the 2nd half. Kelly just likes having the ball first. I don’t think he is a good in-game strategist. Another example – getting a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty was not a good move by a head coach.

      I’m not a huge fan of Kelly, but on the other hand, I like him A LOT more than Davie/Willingham/Weis. And with the recent uptick in recruiting (possibly the head coaches most important job to oversee), who know – maybe he will end up being one of the greats.

      • Watch this clown, Kelly for 11+ seasons……Not a fan of Kelly’s either (personally, he’s arrogant) as a coach, he’s marginal at best. IMO, his teams have won in spite of his game preparation (lack thereof), inability to make in-game adjustments, and lack of production/focus on Special Team (sans Tyree’s kick return yesterday) and optimal use of his personnel.

      • One thing Kelly deserves credit for is having 3 quarterbacks ready to play, which isn’t something that could be said in past years.
        So he has that going for him.

  8. Yikes. So much negativity on the board this morning, after an awesome win. No need to belabor the offensive line struggles. It is getting tiresome. Everyone is well aware of them, and ND is playing its best available players, who are doing all they can to improve each week. Everyone knew that this was going to be a year of transition for the offensive line, after losing four starters. And how about giving the Wisconsin defense some credit, as they have one of the best rushing defenses in the country.

      • Speciously.
        But I think the team is better than it’s performing. This Irish team is strong and lively and has no quit, and here’s hoping it jells this Saturday.

  9. I do not blame all of the offensive line struggles on the players. I think Jeff Quinn has to take some responsibility. Offensive line was a strength under Harry Hiestand. Even when there was change over there was gradual improvement. That’s called coaching and it’s not happening now.

  10. If you told me that ND would explode for 3 yds rushing while giving up 6 sacks but win 41-13 I would have called you a crazy super fan. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the defense and special teams would outscore the offense 21-20. Without the KO return and pick sixes the final score would have been 20-13 and much closer to Vannie’s prediction of 20-17.

    Kudos to Marcus Freeman and the defense. They are the strength of this team at the moment and if not for their performance the past two weeks ND could be 2-2. A Catholic priest has successfully exercised the Van Gorder demon that was lurking inside Marcus Freeman.

    The O-line is just atrocious. Rees’s play calling was very questionable. He kept calling for long passes that put Coan at risk of sack and runs the ball wide against fast defenses like FSU and between the tackles against stout defenses like Wisconsin. Rees needs to get more creative in the coming weeks.

  11. I wonder if the wind made it difficult but not impossible to hit WRs downfield. Also wonder if Lenzys speed is difficult to gauge. You have to throw a lot farther or a lot sooner when tossing downfield to him. He’s always open but the timing is rarely in synch.

    • That’s what practice is for. It’s not like they are just now learning how to play football. Most have been at it since they were 6 or 7. Before salaries went through the roof and coaches had to justify them by doing a savant thing, quarterbacks actually called plays. Etcetera etcetera.

  12. Coan’s lack of mobility is problematic, as is his slow delivery. Pyne came in an looked like he was made for the moment, despite giving up the fumble after the left tackle pulled his matador routine that was atrocious. Payne’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly and throwing absolute bullets really impressed me. Should be lots of QB controversy going forward.

  13. Pine deserves to start as he handles the pass rush much better thab Can and throughs a better pass. Remember, he would have been our starter this Fall, if Coan hadn’t transferred. He deserves the chance to lead the irish, if Buchner is not ready to lay. Dump Coan, he lacks pocket presence, accuracy, and doen’t deserve to lead this team, based on his performance to date. Pine throughs a much better baa, and, it was unfortunate that he got hit just as we was throwing the ball. Oerall, a much better performance than Coan. Dump Coan for Pine or Buchner and we can all rest easily.

    Rabid Fan

  14. I am not asking this question as a criticism — well, it is kind of is a criticism — but simply out of curiosity.

    Does anyone know the last time Irish rushed for as a few as three yards in a game?

    Also, does anyone know when the Irish rushed for three yards and still won by four touchdowns?

  15. Coan may be a great quarterback behind last year’s OL. But, he is just a statue in the backfield and looks like he doesn’t possess the ability to evade quick pressure. I honestly thought that Coan was faking the seriousness of injury (at first) so he could give Kelly an excuse to take him out in front of his former fan base. Pyne looks like a better fit given the current OL situation. If the OL comes around later in the season, I’d give Coan another look at starting, but Pyne seemed to really jump start that offense when he came in. However, it’s easy for some to get thrown in at a moment’s notice and play at a high level. Now that he has all this positive PR, let’s name him starter against UC and see how he handles the pressure. I’d take that gamble if I were Kelly.

  16. Wisconsin is a good defensive team and their front seven are very good. I was never a Coan fan while he was at Wisconsin but he has looked better at ND. Pyne looks like a keeper to me but he does not look the part at 5’11”. Same old story. If you are bigger you have to prove you cannot play. Small guys have to be that much better. Not a pro prospect and maybe that is a problem on the recruiting front. I remember a small guy in the 70’s that was a national champ……..Tom Clements.

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