The good, the bad, the ugly: Bye week

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There is no football game this weekend. For a Notre Dame football team that just played three-straight tight games, that’s a good thing. (For Irish fans, it’s a victory as well. Go buy a pumpkin and get outside in the fall weather.)

As promised, let’s look back at the first eight weeks of the season. Notre Dame sits at 6-1, with a place in the College Football Playoff still very much in play.

 

THE GOOD

Everett Golson. For all the grumbling about Golson’s turnovers the past few weeks, it might help to take a step or two back and evaluate what Notre Dame’s quarterback is doing from distance.

He’s thrown for nearly 2,000 yards. He’s tossed 19 touchdown passes against six* interceptions. He leads Notre Dame in rushing touchdowns. And he’s doing it with a receiving corps led by two true sophomores, an entire pass-catching unit that had exactly one total catch from Golson before this season.

While nobody wants to see Golson cough up another football while running with it, he displayed a really solid grasp of how best to run in this offense against Florida State, squirting away from pressure, moving the chains and getting down on the ground before he needed to get hit, understanding the best play is the one where you’re not crunched by a 250-pounder.

One more thing to consider: Golson is CLUTCH. (All-Caps Necessary.)

It’s shown itself in two-minute drills, with the Irish deadly on their final drive heading into halftime. And obviously, it’s made plays like Ben Koyack on 4th down for the win against Stanford possible. And Corey Robinson on 4th-and-18 possible. And Corey Robinson on 4th-and-3 for the win against Florida State possible.

In his second full season as a starter, Golson is playing at the level of an All-American candidate. While he hasn’t been perfect, let’s not forget that he’s the engine of this offense.

 

The Kids on the Defense. Looking over the two-deep depth chart in August, there were a lot of people scratching their heads. Who is this kid? We’re gonna do what with that kid? 

But credit Brian Kelly for knowing exactly what he had. And while most of us probably thought he was being optimistic about a situation that didn’t have a solution, the head coach’s comments from August sound pretty spot-on:

“I’m watching them every day. I’m going against them every day. I’m liking it. I know when you have holes. I’ve been around long enough. I know when you look at them and go, ‘That’s not very good.’ Now they’re young. We might cut a gap loose. We may be in the wrong gap. But it’s not because we’re not ripping and roaring up the field. It’ll be fun but they’re gonna cause a few moments of coach VanGorder throwing his hat on the ground. I’m sure of that. But the thing is, it’s a physical group. It’s a physical group.”

That Notre Dame’s defense is getting key contributions from true freshmen Andrew Trumbetti, Daniel Cage, Kolin Hill and Grant Blankenship up front is pretty amazing. That Drue Tranquill, a recruit some Irish fans didn’t even want as part of this class (or only wanted if he was willing to play linebacker), is playing major snaps as a key piece of the secondary is incredible.

Down to a man, this defense is performing at a really impressive level. But the fact that kids who were playing last season on Friday nights are now such a critical part of the defense is one of the great surprises of the season.

 

Dealing with adversity. If there’s anything that should have you feeling optimistic about this Irish team putting their difficult loss to Florida State behind them, it’s the fact that this group has ignored the noise surrounding them since August, when news of an academic scandal exploded.

With five teammates hanging in limbo for two months as the university dug into a thorough investigation, it would’ve been easy for a young team missing some key leaders to be distracted. But that didn’t happen.

And with KeiVarae Russell pledging to return to Notre Dame in the summer and Ishaq Williams likely right behind him, the players who made their mistakes have moved on, even if they disagree with their punishment. That allows the team to do the same thing.

 

Joe Schmidt, Linebacker. I’m making the clarification here because Joe Schmidt, the underdog story, has already been beaten to a pulp. Yes, we all love the story. And it’s been told wonderfully multiple times. But I’m more interested in the middle linebacker that won a starting job and is the unquestionable leader of the defense.

After Jarrett Grace suffered a devastating leg injury that still threatens his career, many hoped blue-chip freshman Nyles Morgan would be able to step in and contribute early. But Schmidt has quieted any and all doubters, putting together a tremendous season that has him on pace for triple-digit tackles to go along with multiple interceptions and forced fumbles.

At this point, Schmidt’s a lock not just to return for a fifth year, but to have a ‘C’ on his jersey. He’s the type of player that’s so incredibly valuable not just because he’s the nerve center asked to relay Brian VanGorder’s signals to the defense, but also because he’s a walking testimonial to hard work and achievement every step he takes inside the Gug.

If you’re a scholarship player feeling buried on the depth chart, just take a look at Schmidt. It took until his senior season, but he’s the guy getting his opportunity on the field, leading the team and playing at a high level. Schmidt did that through hard work, and his example will no doubt be used every time the Irish coaching staff is pursuing a preferred walk-on or a five-star recruit.

The best player will play. And that’s why Schmidt is on the field, recruiting ranking be damned.

 

Will Fuller & Corey Robinson, future stars: It’s hard to talk about one sophomore wide receiver without the other. But with a depth chart with little in front of them, both Fuller and Robinson have shown themselves to be stars-in-the-making, with Fuller nearly there and Robinson making his bid last Saturday.

The duo are unlikely game-breakers. Nobody wanted Robinson on their roster until Notre Dame became the first program to offer the raw San Antonio athlete with good very good bloodlines. Fuller was an anonymous three-star prospect who had an offer from Penn State, but came to Notre Dame after a sneaky senior season in the Philadelphia Catholic League helped his profile rise.

Fuller is third in the NCAA with eight touchdown catches this season. After serving as a deep threat specialist last year, Fuller has shown himself to be electric with the football in his hands. His work on screen passes has turned three yard gains into 30, making the quick game a crucial component of the offense. He’s also drawn his share of pass interference penalties, earning 15 yards by beating defensive backs and forcing a penalty.

Robinson’s breakout against Florida State was a long time coming. We’ve seen his skills since spring practice videos after his early enrollment, helping Irish fans understand the term “catch radius” after looking at his gumby arms stretch and stick to just about every football thrown his way.

Even with a fractured thumb, Robinson has been an efficient pass catcher. He’s gotten his high-point opportunities lately, posterizing a Florida State defensive back and rendering a Syracuse defender helpless in one-on-one coverage on a fade route for a touchdown.

For as good as these two have been, a look into the near future should have Irish fans salivating. The juniors will likely pair with Golson again in 2015 in an offense that should be even better.

 

Brian Kelly, Program Builder. Another year, another data point that shows Jack Swarbrick hired the right guy to take over the Notre Dame football program in 2010. While two consecutive eight-win seasons weren’t the type of immediate success people hoped for, that Kelly has won 27 of his last 33 games — and is doing it now with an insanely young team — has the Irish on the verge of another golden era.

When you look at a head coach, wins and losses are important. But so are the decisions that go into building a program. As Kelly has had to adjust his coaching staff, we’ve seen those decisions play out wonderfully. After two seasons, Kelly had to replace Charley Molnar, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. He did that by making the unorthodox decision to move Chuck Martin to offensive coordinator, shifting Mike Denbrock and Tony Alford to allow the promotion of Scott Booker, and bringing in Harry Hiestand from Tennessee. All three of those moves have paid large dividends.

Having to replace both Martin and Bob Diaco after last season, Kelly once again hit a home run. The decision to bring Brian VanGorder in from the NFL has been an immediate program-changer. And the move to turn the offense over the Mike Denbrock while going back to calling plays has been an incredibly smooth transition, with Kelly still in control of the football game as a head coach while also scripting the offensive game plan beautifully.

Adding to his prowess as a football coach, Kelly was forced to serve as the voice of the university during the academic investigation, while six-figure administrators sat quietly to let the head coach do their work. We’ve seen how that’s gone at other programs.

For as long as he’s at Notre Dame, Kelly’s name will always be in the conversation when NFL job openings arise. But with an elite team set to take the field in 2015 and a foundation for beyond them already soundly in place, there’s nothing but good times ahead inside Notre Dame Stadium.

 

Quick Hits:

* Comeback player of the year candidates: Offensively, it’s easily Golson. But on defense, look closely at Matthias Farley. The move to cornerback during spring practice had many thinking it meant Farley was going to be buried on the depth chart. Instead, he’s been one of the key playmakers on the defense.

* Not many coaching staffs would take an off week and reshuffle their offensive line, moving four starters into new jobs. But credit goes to Kelly, Denbrock and Harry Hiestand for knowing they had a problem and addressing it immediately.

* There isn’t free agency in college football, but how important has Cody Riggs been to Notre Dame? While the Gators go down the toilet, the Florida transfer is at Notre Dame playing major snaps at cornerback, building his NFL resume and getting a graduate degree that’ll help him with life after football. That sure sounds like a win-win scenario to me.

* Nobody likes a three-man platoon at running back. Thank god Tarean Folston did his best to end it last weekend. Expect the sophomore to get the lions share of opportunities, though Greg Bryant will have his chances against a Navy defense that’s giving up over 180 rushing yards a game.

* Brian VanGorder. From anonymous NFL assistant to social media hero to Broyles Award front-runner.

 

THE BAD

Attrition in the secondary. A position group that looked to be one of the strongest on the roster all of a sudden is nearing red-line, emergency status. Captain Austin Collinsworth’s career at Notre Dame might be over, a fifth-year all but washed away after a knee injury and shoulder dislocation crushed his final season. While many wanted to see what a pairing of Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate looked like, nobody wanted to see it happen this way.

Backup safety Nicky Baratti might have to call it a career after his shoulder gave out again, this time on a relatively mild collision on his first play into the game against Purdue. Without Eilar Hardy because of the academic probe, the Irish are down to Drue Tranquill at safety, a position group that went from overflowing to vacant in a matter of months.

Cornerback is not much better. Losing No. 1 coverman KeiVarae Russell hurt the Irish, but Cole Luke and Cody Riggs have done a great job filling in. But behind them, Matthias Farley has been forced into a somewhat difficult fit at nickelback, as we saw Florida State take advantage of a few athletic mismatches for the converted safety.

Behind them is sophomore Devin Butler and freshman Nick Watkins. While it hasn’t been announced, the absence of seniors Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown likely is a courtesy to allow the duo a chance to play out their eligibility at another program next season. That means if anything happens to Luke or Riggs, this secondary is only getting younger.

 

The Academic Investigation. Nothing about this was good. That the Irish would have another season self-sabotaged because of academic issues was painful enough. But to lose three key starters among the five players? That’s attrition that at the time looked like a season-changer.

While the particulars of the investigation are still confidential, the timeline that it took to come to a conclusion put a very bright light on an Honor Code process that’s supposed to both protect the students involved and also be transparent. The length of the process turned five football players into Scarlet Letter wearing members of the Notre Dame community, harm that this administration seemed obtuse about until it was too late.

While the revelations at North Carolina serve as a reminder that these type of problems — and the investigations that follow them — are critical to get right (even if it does take a lot of time), there are lessons to be learned here for all parties involved.

 

Quick Hits:

* It’s hard to put the offensive line or the running game in the bad category, but without last week’s game in Tallahassee, they were in there.

* For as good as Kyle Brindza has been this year, he’s had a habit of snap-hooking a few kickoffs out of bounds. That’s a mistake that’s put opponents on the 35-yard line three times this year. This is pretty nit-picky, but for a game trying to earn the nickname of “Unreturnable,” the standards go up.

* The offensive line play continues to get better. But the big, ugly, hide-your-head misses that we’ve seen the past few weeks have to be eliminated.

* The defense against North Carolina’s tempo attack. Get ready for Arizona State to try the exact same thing.

* Yes, we can put Everett Golson’s fumble issues here. That’s probably appropriate.

 

THE UGLY

Pick Plays and Conference Clarifications. While most “objective” observers continue to stress that the correct call was made on Notre Dame’s 4th-and-3 touchdown against Florida State, it’s still slightly comical for me to take those people seriously.

Would you have been happy with Michael Jordan getting called for a push-off against Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz? Or how about an umpire ending a classic playoff baseball game on a balk call? Or you must still a big fan of the ref that threw the controversial pass interference call that gifted Ohio State a title against Miami. After all, the letter of the rulebook states very clearly that…

Regardless, the play is over with. But that doesn’t make someone a conspiracy theorist for digging into the play, breaking down the situation and wondering aloud about the controversial call. Epic football games shouldn’t be decided by ticky-tack calls, especially when it wasn’t as clear-cut of a judgment call after watching multiple angles and understanding what Florida State’s defensive backs were doing. And that’s what this looks like. Especially now that the ACC has flip-flopped on the actual offender and acknowledged missing another clear-cut, letter of the law unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that should have kept Notre Dame’s offense on the field with a fresh set of downs.

Don’t expect Brian Kelly to send ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads a Christmas card, especially after his clarification video. Nor should we expect to see crew chief David Epperley or back judge Pat Ryan on the field for a Notre Dame game again this season. (Not unless you really want to see BK turn purple.)

 

 

 

Friday at 4: Notre Dame’s QB room creates a friendly trust that has been crucial to Pyne’s success

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LAS VEGAS — No one would fault Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner if there was some friction to their relationship. The two Notre Dame quarterbacks spent the better part of a year competing against each other to be the new Irish starting quarterback. Some competitive animosity would be human nature.

Instead, the two give each other a hard time about a shared guilty pleasure. Pyne insists Buchner get his rehab work done before practice because he trusts the sophomore’s reads on the junior’s passing mechanics and wants that feedback every day, especially as Pyne readies to face the first ranked team of his starting career, against No. 16 BYU in Las Vegas on Saturday (7:30 ET; NBC). They have continued a trend of thorough tightness in Tommy Rees’ quarterback room.

Start with that shared guilty pleasure. Asked this week on the ND on NBC Podcast what his allowed luxury is, Pyne initially tried to feign innocence.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t think of anything right now.”

And then an acknowledging pause struck Pyne. His eventual admission gradually slid from a rarity to a frequency, and he dragged the injured Buchner down with him.

“Tyler and I have a little bit of a sweets problem,” Pyne said. “Not a problem. But once a day probably, twice or something, if we see a small piece of candy, we’ll have it.”

Perhaps that is trivial but think back to the quarterback competition that divided the Notre Dame locker room and played a significant role in the 2016 faceplant under Brian Kelly. Neither Malik Ziare nor DeShone Kizer would have ever offered something so playful about the other.

“He and I know that there’s nothing that can get between us that can impact the team in a negative way,” Pyne said back in early August when Buchner was named Notre Dame’s starter. “… Tyler and I are really good friends, we’re best friends. We watch film together, we hang out together, we play golf together.”

Go back a year and both learned from Jack Coan how to approach the job professionally, each citing Coan’s dedication to sleep in 2021 as something they were trying to mirror in 2022’s preseason. Go back a year before that and Pyne still regularly cites Ian Book drawing inspiration from Irish mixed martial artist Conor McGregor’s mountains of self-confidence. Book was one of the first people to reach out to Pyne with encouragement when he took over for Buchner after the latter sprained his shoulder and ended his season against Marshall.

And go back to Book’s time stepping in for Brandon Wimbush a month into the 2018 season. Wimbush handled the situation so well, no one blinked when it leaked before the College Football Playoff that he intended to transfer away from Notre Dame after the season.

Credit should go to Rees. He may get — and deserve some of — plenty of criticism for his play calling. He may be partly at fault for the Irish lacking any receivers in the junior or senior classes on the current roster. But Rees’ delicate handling of the quarterback room amid three touch-and-go situations in six seasons has helped Notre Dame avoid a 2016 repeat.

Trace that back to Rees’ time as a freshman in 2010, working under offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, who would cede the position to Mike Sanford Jr., who lasted just the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

“When I got here, Dayne Crist put his arm around me,” Rees said in August. “He was tremendous as a young quarterback, as a mentor, as a friend. We used to joke he was an older brother to me when I was here.

Andrew Hendrix and I, I was in his wedding. We were extremely close. We came in together and are still close to this day. I was supported by guys all around me that really were good, and then when I had the opportunity with Everett (Golson), I wanted to give back the same way that the older guys did it for me.”

The culture of Rees’ quarterback room has turned each quarterback competition into fertile ground for a trusting friendship.

Pyne pointed out, only he and Buchner know what it was like to go through that competition this spring and summer. They studied each other more than anyone else did, because they had more at stake, even more than the coaching staff.

Buchner is beginning to get in some workouts after shoulder surgery, and Pyne actively insists they not overlap with practice.

“I want him behind me telling me what’s going on in the defense,” Pyne said this week. “I want him to see things and come to me.

“The other thing great about him is he tells me technique-wise what I need to do because he’s seen me throw so many times, he’s seen how I’m looking with my eyes, he knows what kind of player I am. He does that to help me, tells me stuff like that every single day. I’m very thankful to still have him, and he’s in great spirits and helps the whole team.”

At some point, Rees and the Irish will need to toe this quarterback competition again. There will be plenty of wonder if one will transfer for more playing time, as is both common in college football nowadays and the appropriate move for passers who have shown their abilities on such a big stage. Pyne will have a diploma and three seasons of eligibility remaining after this year. Buchner will have three seasons, as well, though he’ll be at least a year from that diploma.

That is then, though. For now, any Pyne and Notre Dame success, including against BYU, can trace some credit back to Buchner, standing behind his friend on each practice snap and critiquing Pyne’s form, as only a friend can do.

If he does not do it in practice, he’ll do it as they sneak some sweets around the football facilities.

Things To Learn: Notre Dame needs to find a fast start for a change of pace vs BYU

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LAS VEGAS — “We’re going to get there and be very strategic on what we do,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said Monday referencing the Irish trip to Sin City to face No. 16 BYU (7:30 ET; NBC). And he wasn’t referring to always splitting on aces and eights. But let’s be clear, always split on aces and eights.

He was referring to Notre Dame skipping the Strip and heading straight to Allegiant Stadium for a brief visit today before an early bed check.

But he may as well have been discussing how the Irish need to start Saturday night. In perhaps an unexpected twist, Freeman has stopped preaching about Notre Dame’s finish to games even though the Irish blew second-half leads in his first three games as head coach. While the Irish clearly did not know how to finish, focusing on that failure overlooked the bigger picture.

“All of a sudden you sit here and you talk about finishing, finishing, finishing, but you go back and evaluate and there are plays in the first quarter that we weren’t executing the way we were supposed to,” Freeman said. “That’s where me as the leader said, ‘Hold on, take all the emphasis off of finishing and really look at every play of the game.’”

Your psyche may want to focus on your net losses when you get up from the blackjack table, but the third hand after you sat down was just as important as the last. (Don’t change your bet amounts throughout a sitdown at a table. Keep those wagers consistent.)

Notre Dame’s fourth-quarter collapses at Ohio State and against Marshall overshadowed the Irish mistakes early on, but there were Irish mistakes early on.

Against the Cougars, those first-half missteps should be more avoidable than usual. Maybe it has been a lack of focus as BYU looked ahead to this game, maybe it was disrespect for two inferior opponents in Wyoming and Utah State, maybe it was a coincidence. But it cannot be argued that the Cougars led the Cowboys only 14-10 at halftime two weeks ago and were tied with the Aggies at 17 last week. Despite beating UConn to open the season, Utah State should be universally disparaged as one of the worst teams in the country. Keeping up with BYU bode only poorly for the Cougars.

And then BYU outscored the Aggies 21-3 through the first 29 minutes of the second half. (Okay, that’s a lie. It was really 28 minutes and 51 seconds, but rounding up to 29 minutes there was as unaggressive as not splitting 10s. Really, why ruin a delightful hand?)

If once is an incident, twice is a coincidence and three times a pattern, then the Cougars have a pattern of starting slowly, reaching halftime at Oregon trailing 21-7 (as part of a 41-20 loss), three weeks in a row BYU has come out of the gates slowly. No thought of looking past the Ducks can be offered for that; there was no disrespect to a top-25 team.

The Cougars’ weakness meshes well with Notre Dame’s new emphasis.

“It’s not about finishing. It’s about finishing on every play,” Freeman said. “You have to make sure you execute on play one, no matter if you’re up or down, as you do in the fourth quarter.”

(No matter if you’re up or down, stick to basic blackjack strategy.)

This is more than simple coach-speak. Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees had shown adeptness with the opening scripts in the past. Eight of Notre Dame’s 13 opening drives last season resulted in quality possessions. (Quality possession: Either a score or a first down inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.) Those created 31 points on five scores, a missed field goal, a turnover on downs and a costly interception inside the red zone against Cincinnati.

This year, only one opening Irish possession has resulted in a quality possession, a field goal in the season opener. But before the idle week, Notre Dame responded to its opening three-and-out with 10 consecutive quality possessions. To be clear, the Irish had only 11 genuine possessions in that 45-32 win. (“Genuine” ignores the final possession running out the clock.)

There is no rationale blackjack equivalent to that kind of hot streak. Heaters don’t last that long. Because when relying on cards dealt randomly, there is no force paving the way like Notre Dame’s offensive line, and there is no open highway like the Tar Heels’ defense.

“That’s what our identity has to be,” Freeman said. “We have to be able to run the ball. It’s not always going to be explosive, 10-15 yard gains, but if you’re able to move the ball with consistency and stay on track and stay in rhythm, it opens up everything in your offensive pass game.

“It’s great to see. It’s a testament to our offensive line. It starts with them. … Our offensive line continues to get better and better and better, which is really helping our run game.”

If there is any one thing to learn from this rendition of the Shamrock Series, it is if the Irish success running the ball two weeks ago was more because of North Carolina’s problems or because of Notre Dame’s development. In this unnecessary and forced analogy put into usage solely because how often does a writer have an excuse to so broadly discuss blackjack, the escalation facing the Irish is the equivalent of testing your counting abilities on an eight-deck shoe at Circa after working only with two-deck shoes in Treasure Island.

That may go badly. BYU has given up plenty of rushing yards this season, but it is leaps and bounds better than North Carolina. Count those decks wrong and you will be dissuaded from ever counting cards again.

In both cases, that should not be the takeaway. The takeaway should be returning to fundamentals, playing each hand smartly, finding holes in a good defense even if there are not as many available as there were against Gene Chizik’s unit.

“Sometimes it takes failures to really evaluate how you’re leading,” Freeman said Thursday. “It shouldn’t take that, but for me, after the Marshall game, I said hold on, let’s really look at how I am as a leader, where I can improve. …

“One of those parts was hold on, let’s stop worrying about finishing. That’s more outcome driven. ‘Let’s finish this game, we’re up in the fourth, finish the game.’ Let’s really evaluate every single play and make sure we’re executing.”

The final score matters most, just like the chips in your hand when you get up from the table. But Notre Dame needs to focus on the early hands in Las Vegas to better position itself for late in the game. That has been missing this season, and after two weeks of focusing on it, there is little excuse left for the Irish to drag their feet early at Allegiant Stadium.

How to watch Notre Dame vs BYU tomorrow and the Irish all season; TV, Peacock info for 2022

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The 11th rendition of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series will feature the Irish against the No. 16 BYU Cougars on Saturday, October 8, at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. Live coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock. See below for additional information and how to watch/stream the Notre Dame vs BYU game.

Notre Dame has never lost in the Shamrock Series, its not-quite-annual trip to a neutral site. The university hosts the game and makes an event of the weekend, and the football program has delivered each and every time, be it against a ranked Arizona State in Dallas or against No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field in Chicago.

The Irish (2-2) are now not only coming off an idle week, but are also just two weeks removed from beating North Carolina 45-32. Notre Dame set season highs in points, rushing yards (287), total yards (576), and first downs (35). Junior quarterback Drew Pyne finished with a career-best 24-for-34 for 289 yards and three touchdowns. After an ugly start to the season, Notre Dame’s offensive line allowed just one sack, which enabled running backs Audric Estimé and Chris Tyree to have their best performances of the season. Estimé finished with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns while Tyree added 80 rushing yards and a touchdown and RB Logan Diggs ran for 50 yards. Head coach Marcus Freeman credited the victory to the offensive line’s performance.

“I think it’s a testament to our offensive line,” Freeman said. “It starts with them. I don’t care what running back you have back there, if your offensive line isn’t executing, blocking, to the way it has to, nobody’s gonna be able to run the ball. Our offensive line continues to get better and better and better, which is really helping out our run game.”

The BYU Cougars (4-1) are coming off a 38-26 victory over Utah State last Thursday night. Led by quarterback Jaren Hall, who has thrown 142 straight passes without an interception, BYU is making gradual progress toward a possible New Year’s Six bowl in its last season as a football independent before joining the Big 12.

 According to Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake, Hall is an exemplary leader both on and off the field.

“He is a perfect example of what it means to be a BYU football player,” Sitake said.
The quarterback position at BYU always gets a lot of public attention, and Jaren does a tremendous job handling both that spotlight on him from outside the program and the important role he plays within our program as a leader on our team. But he really settled into his role.”

How to watch Notre Dame vs BYU:

  • Where: Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas
  • When: Saturday, October 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Live Stream: NBC and Peacock

2022 Notre Dame Football Schedule:

  • Notre Dame at Ohio State – Saturday, Sept. 3  – 7:30 PM on ABC
  • Notre Dame vs. Marshall – Saturday, Sept. 10 –  2:30 PM on NBC
  • Notre Dame vs. California – Saturday, Sept. 17 – 2:30 PM on NBC
  • Notre Dame at North Carolina – Saturday, Sept. 24 – TBD
  • Notre Dame vs. BYU (Las Vegas, NV) – Saturday, Oct. 8  – 7:30 PM on NBC
  • Notre Dame vs. Stanford – Saturday, Oct. 15 – 7:30 PM on NBC
  • Notre Dame vs. UNLV – Saturday, Oct. 22 – 2:30 PM on Peacock
  • Notre Dame at Syracuse – Saturday, Oct. 29 – TBD
  • Notre Dame vs. Clemson – Saturday, Nov. 5 – 7:30 PM  on NBC
  • Notre Dame vs. Navy (Baltimore, MD) – Saturday, Nov. 12 -12:00 PM on  ABC/ESPN
  • Notre Dame vs. Boston College – Saturday, Nov. 19 – 2:30 PM on NBC
  • Notre Dame at USC – Saturday, Nov. 26 – TBD

How to watch Notre Dame Football on Peacock:
Become a monthly or annual subscriber to Peacock Premium to watch all of our Premium sports, including Notre Dame football. Once you’re signed up, you can find LIVE coverage in the Browse section of the Peacock app and on PeacockTV.com

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices does Peacock support?
You can enjoy Peacock on a variety of devices. View a list of supported devices here.

Notre Dame senior defensive tackle Jacob Lacey ends season, to enter the transfer portal; secondary injury updates

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Notre Dame lost some defensive line depth during its idle week when senior tackle Jacob Lacey chose to end his Irish career, confirmed by head coach Marcus Freeman on Thursday. Lacey will enter the transfer portal after the season when the portal window opens, but to preserve a year of eligibility, he has ended his season now.

“Lacey was a great player,” Freeman said. “Lacey did a lot of great things for us, but it’s a deep position. He made a decision that ultimately he felt was best for him and we respect it. We love Jacob, and the best thing about it is he leaves with a degree in his hand.”

Thanks to the universal pandemic eligibility waiver glossing over his 11 games in 2020, Lacey has two seasons of eligibility remaining and will be immediately eligible wherever he ends up in 2023. He ends this season with five tackles, all made against Cal, including two sacks. He finishes his career with 35 tackles in 37 games with 6.5 for loss including 2.5 sacks.

To some degree, defensive line depth made Lacey’s job that day easier but also made his season prognosis more dubious.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever, just knowing we probably have 11, 12 guys that can run out there and be as good, if not better, than the guy that was just in front of them, depends who’s hot that day,” Lacey said following Notre Dame’s first win of the season. “It’s fun to see the way we all execute no matter who’s on the field.”

That just will not be Lacey moving forward.

Fifth-year Jayson Ademilola and senior Howard Cross have led that charge from the interior this season, with Cross second on the team with 23 tackles. Harvard graduate transfer Chris Smith made three tackles against Ohio State, part of his five on the season, and his name was the first one Freeman mentioned on who will play more without Lacey around.

“It’s just a position that’s extremely deep,” Freeman said. “The defensive tackle position right now is one of the deepest positions we have on our team. Chris Smith will play a little bit more. (Sophomore) Gabe Rubio will play a little bit more. (Sophomore) Jason Onye has moved from scout team to getting reps with the defense.”

But Notre Dame also does not always need two defensive tackles, instead relying on a three-man front, not to mention ends Isaiah Foskey and Rylie Mills both have the size to play on the inside on clear passing downs.

A consensus four-star prospect in the class of 2019, Lacey was Notre Dame’s first commit of the class, pledging in July of 2017. The Kentucky native chose the Irish over finalists Clemson, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State and Tennessee.

While he played in 11 games during the pandemic season of 2020, he was fighting a balky shoulder the whole time, and he struggled a bit with coronavirus in the preseason. By playing in 11 of 12 games, Lacey camouflaged how much those items hampered him.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t very frustrated going through that year, battling through that injury,” Lacey said in November. “I’m glad I didn’t just stop playing. I’ve definitely grown a tremendous amount from that. It allowed me to drop weight and focus on gaining muscle, things I needed to do from the beginning, just really rehabbing, focused on things I should have done before coming to college.”

RELATED READING: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter

SAFETY DEPTH
Freeman expects both fifth-year safety DJ Brown (hamstring) and junior safety Ramon Henderson (ankle) to be active on Saturday against No. 16 BYU in Las Vegas (7:30 ET; NBC) after being hampered two weeks ago at North Carolina.

Freshman specialist Bryce McFerson has also finally overcome a groin strain that has bothered him since the week before the opener, but walk-on Zac Yoakam has so ably handled kickoff duties, that Notre Dame is going to let McFerson focus on improving his punting. He will not usurp Harvard transfer Jon Sot there, by any means, so it distinctly sounds like McFerson may preserve a year of eligibility this season.