No. 12 Notre Dame entered Saturday as a nearly touchdown underdog against No. 18 Wisconsin but walked out victorious after a dominating defensive performance and some heroics from a speedster wearing No. 25 and a backup quarterback.
With the 41-13 win that Wisconsin actually led at one point of the fourth quarter, Brian Kelly became the winningest head coach in the history of Notre Dame football, passing Knute Rockne.
What were the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s impressive win that came despite many obstacles?
5. Kyren Williams the Pass Blocker
When Notre Dame had their biggest win in over a quarter century last fall against No. 1 Clemson it wasn’t just Kyren Williams the runner but Kyren Williams the pass blocker that was instrumental saving Ian Book time and time again. On a day that running the ball felt impossible it was again Williams picking up blitzes left and right that did wonders as the offensive line was so overmatched.
4. Defense Absolutely Balled Out
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I don’t care who you’re playing, who their quarterback is, or any of it. You can’t go into a game and simply expect a defense to not allow a touchdown. The Notre Dame defensive line was lights out great as was the Irish defense as a whole for really the entire game besides the first possessions of both halves. You simply can’t sit around waiting for them to create a late turnover each week.
3. Coan vs. Mertz
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It’s not often you see a quarterback transfer from a program he made double-digit starts at and go on to start against them. Storylines wrote themselves all week and understandably so but the quarterback play in this game was largely awful.
If Graham Mertz is the answer to anything then you better hope that question doesn’t get asked. However, Jack Coan got a lot of praise for his first half for simply not being Mertz, despite missing throws consistently and nearly throwing a pick-six to start the game. I know the offensive line did no favors all afternoon but Coan was off far too much well before the hits started to pile up and eventually forced him out.
2. Chris Tyree's Spark
Down 13-10 after allowing ten-straight Wisconsin points and having their third string quarterback in the game it felt like Notre Dame’s backs were against the wall.
Then Chris Tyree took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown to put the Irish in front and immediately hand “Old Mo” a blue and gold shirt. It was the shot in the arm that the Irish needed at that exact moment and seemingly took the air out of the building for Wisconsin.
The defense continued to play great but Pyne getting to take his second series with a 17-13 lead instead of by trailing did wonders.
1. Drew Pyne
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I’ve thought for a long time that he just reminds me of Ian Book. Not that they’re the same player but everything you hear and their story. Pyne was essentially forgotten about after Tyler Buchner committed to Notre Dame yet during the spring his name just wouldn’t go away in the quarterback competition. He may not have won it but you heard plenty of good things.
You can not ask Drew Pyne to have done more than he walked in and did Saturday. His first drive flipped field position, he was gifted a special teams score (more on that to come), and followed those up with a touchdown drive where he found a safety blanket in Kevin Austin that certainly helped things out.