South Bend, Ind.–Quarterback Drew Pyne led ND offense. The sophomore finished 14-for-28 for 205 yards and two scores. Logan Diggs was the feature back on the ground, setting new career bests with 130 yards on 28 rushes. Chris Tyree added 43 yards on 10 attempts and Pyne rushed three times for 30 yards.
The Irish was able to secure a 44-21 victory over the UNLV Rebels. Notre Dame improve to 4-3 on the season, while the Rebels fall to 4-4.
The contest was the Irish’s Cleats for a Cause game. ND wore special edition cleats with the logos of four non-profit organizations from the South Bend community. ‘Cleats for a Cause’ will support the South Bend Center for the Homeless, the Boys and Girls Club of St. Joseph County, the YMCA of Greater Michiana and Cultivate Food Rescue. The game-worn footwear will be auctioned off with all proceeds equally distributed among the four charities.
It was just the second victory in four home games this season for the Fighting Irish.
The Irish’s average starting field position for the game was at its own 46, and ND started 7 of 15 drives in UNLV’s territory.
“We needed this. We needed this for our confidence,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “We are a good team that doesn’t always play that way. It’s our job as coaches to get our team to perform this way.”
The Irish hadn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown in its first six games, being outscored 27-6, but scored two on Saturday and kicked three field goals by Blake Grupe to jump out to a 23-7 advantage. The Rebels (4-4) on the other hand lost their third straight and have been outscored 96-40 in the first quarter.
Mike Mayer caught six passes for 115 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, Isaiah Foskey blocked two punts to set up a touchdown and a field goal to set the tone for the Irish.
In the second quarter the Irish and Rebels went blow to blow before ND found the pay dirt. Joseph punt return started the Irish on the UNLV side of the 50 as three-straight rushes moved ND forward 11 yards. Pyne scrambled for 21 yards to put Notre Dame down at the one yard line. Tight end Mitchell Evans carried for his second time of the drive, taking the snap and diving in for the score. Grupe hit the point after and the Irish took a 30-7 lead with 4:10 remaining to the break.
UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said the Rebels need to play better.
“Blocked punts and turnovers and lack of execution are going to be hard to overcome on the road against a good team. I think our guys understand that,” he said.
The Rebels opened the second half scoring on their second possession. UNLV went 76 yards on nine plays, capped by a Harrison Bailey two-yard score to trim the lead to 30-14 with 8:06 in the third.
ND offensive line and Diggs took over on the Irish’s next series, scoring in 13 plays, picking up 61 of 62 yards on the ground. The drive drained 7:10 off of the clock, as Tyree took it in from the eight-yard to extend the lead to 37-14. The seven-plus minute drive was the longest for the Irish offense this season.
The Rebels showed fight as they drove 75 yards on 11 plays to score a touchdown on a Jordan Younge-Humphrey one-yard plunge.
Courtney Reese led UNLV with 142 yards rushing on 11 carries, including runs of 74 and 47 yards to set up UNLV’s first two touchdowns.
The score set up an onside kick attempt that was recovered by the Irish’s Deion Colzie as Notre Dame took over inside UNLV territory for the seventh time of the game. ND went 46 yards, Diggs running for 33 of those yards before Pyne flipped to Lenzy in motion for a four-yard score to extend the lead to 44-21.
The Irish forced a UNLV punt and knelt the ball on its next possession to secure the win.
The Irish outgained the Rebels 428 yards to 299 yards.
“We just got home. It wasn’t that they had something particular that we’re going to exploit. Every week we feel like we can take advantage of our punt team,” Freeman said. “Those are game-changers.”
Foskey had three sacks, including on fourth-and-9 from the Notre Dame 49-yard line early in the third quarter. Foskey said the blocked punts were key to the win.
“I felt like it was very important,” he said. “We had a lot of momentum and gave the ball back to the offense in the plus-territory, which is great for the whole team.”
UNLV: At San Diego State on Nov. 5.
Notre Dame: At Syracuse on Saturday.