South Bend, Indiana–The pre-season number #5 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish came into week 3 of the 2022-23 season with a surprising 0-2. Losing a tremendously hard fought 21-10 road defeat to the hands of number #3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes followed by a shocking home upset loss to the unranked Marshall Thundering Herd 26-21.
Not only did the Irish lose the game, they also loss starting QB Tyler Buchner who’s likely out for the season after suffering an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. The Irish will be leaning on junior QB Drew Pyne in search of the Irish 1st victory. Pyne made his season debut late in the second half versus the Thundering Herd, finishing 3/6 for 20 yards and 1 touchdown. After two games the Irish are in “MUST WIN MODE!”
The Leading rusher for the Irish was QB Tyler Buchner with 24 carries for 62 yards 2.6-yard avg. and 2 Touchdowns, that type of productively rushing the football will not win many football games. As a team, the Irish had a combined 67 carries for 206 yards 3.1 yards avg. and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore RB’s Audrie Estime and Chris Tyree need to establish sustained dominance with physical and elusive running style for a one-two combo to give the Irish defense longer breaks on the sideline.
All-American Tight-End Michael Mayer was living up to the hype with 13 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown. He will be the first TE off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. In two games, the Irish defense only recorded 4 sacks and no turnovers. First year head coach Marcus Freeman will be in search of his first career victory against the 2-0 California Golden bears.
The Fight Irish struggled out the gates offensively with 4 straight 3 and outs and one loss fumble by QB Drew Pyne. Defense controlling to the line of scrimmage held the Golden Bears 43 total yards on the ground and three straight three and outs with one missed FG in the 1st quarter of play.
The Cal Bears offense capitalized off a fumbled snap and recovery by the defense, scoring an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jack Plummer to J. Michael Sturdivant. The Fighting Irish answered back with their own 21-yard touchdown pass from Pyne to RB Chris Tyree tying the game at 7 apiece. The Bears QB Jack Plummer began to settle in, driving his team down the field for a FG to up the lead 10-7 going into the half.
Second half, the Irish came out playing inspired defense with a sack forcing a three and out. The offense seemed to have sense of urgency with an up-tempo offensive philosophy moving the ball with ease and getting it in the hands of playmakers Audric Estime, Chris Tyree, and Braden Lenzy on the drive capping off with 1 yard touchdown plunge from Estime to take a 14-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter.
The see saw battle continued with the Bears storming down the field scoring a 1-yard touchdown QB sneak by Cali’s Jack Plummer. The Fighting Irish offensive line as a unit began to assort its physicality at the point attack opening holes for Estime and Tyree to run through, control the clock and chew up yards ending the drive with a tying 47-yard FG by Blake Grupe.
Fourth quarter started out with Jacob Lacey, recording his second sack of the game, and forcing a 3 and out, giving the Irish great field position in a 17-17 nail bitter. Pyne threw to All-American Tight End candidate Michael Mayer for a 6-yard touchdown to move out in front, yet again 24-17. Cal’s Plummer would not go down without a fight making serval big plays with his legs converting on a 4th and 8 on a 16-yard run.
The Fighting Irish shut them down on a 4th and 10 right outside the red zone for massive sack by Isaiah Foskey making a turnover on downs. The MVPs of this game were the big guys up front LT Joe Alt, LG Jarrett Patterson, Center Zeke Correll, RG Josh Lugg, and RT Blake Fisher, allowing no sacks and 145 yards rushing and dominating Cal’s front four in the trenches.
The game was in doubt late in fourth quarter with under a minute left, Golden Bears QB Plummer threw a late interception that was overturned due to a targeting penalty by ND’s Bertrand to continue the drive. The Irish defense stopped the final play by knocking the ball down in the zone to secure the win. It was completely refreshing to witness first year head coach Marcus Freeman get a monumental first victory of his career 24-17 in front the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans!