Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 12 Tyler Buchner, sophomore starting QB

Tyler Buchner
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Listed measurements: 6-foot-1, 215 pounds.
2022-23 year, eligibility: A sophomore, Buchner has three seasons of eligibility remaining after appearing in 10 games last season.
Depth Chart: Barring injury, Buchner will be Notre Dame’s starter at Ohio State in 39 days. Disabuse any notions of a preseason quarterback competition. If Irish head coach Marcus Freeman claims one exists, recognize it is a competition in name only. Junior Drew Pyne will be Buchner’s backup this season.
Recruiting: Unlike the quarterback recruitments of the last six months, Buchner made life simple and drama-free. He committed to Notre Dame nearly two years before he could sign, and despite the typical list of powerhouses chasing the No. 112 overall player in the class and the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback, he never wavered from that commitment.

Buchner took the field for the first time in the second game of his freshman season, working in a sub-package role even if former Irish head coach Brian Kelly insisted that was not the case. Buchner’s first career snap featured him taking the snap around the right side of the line for a 26-yard gain from deep inside Notre Dame’s own territory, part of rushing seven times for 68 yards against Toledo to help spur a stagnant Irish offense. He also completed all three of his pass attempts that afternoon, gaining 78 yards largely due to a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown courtesy of Chris Tyree.

He would not work as more of a passer than a runner until starter Jack Coan utterly struggled at Virginia Tech, leading to Buchner starring for two quarters. While he ran 12 times for 67 yards and a score, he also threw for 113 yards and a touchdown on 6-of-14 passing.

But two of those eight incompletions were interceptions, and then a sprained ankle forced Buchner to the sideline. Coan led a game-winning drive, spawning the largely-successful “Hurry Up Jack” offense. With that momentum, Buchner’s role diminished through the end of the season, to the extent that he did not even play in the Fiesta Bowl.

2021: 10 games; 21-of-35 passing for 298 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. 46 carries for 336 yards with three more touchdowns.

Buchner did not get a cut of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ pay raise this winter, but Buchner and the rest of the quarterbacks publicly calling for one in order to retain Rees was one of the more notable moments in the chaotic first week of December for Notre Dame football.

A knee injury and then the pandemic robbed Buchner of what would have been years of starting experience in high school. Instead he started for only one season and threw 439 career passes in high school. Adding in 35 pass attempts last year helped his growth, and he showed both progress and mistakes reading live coverages, but that was all only a start.

He is, in every way, still a very young quarterback. Even Buchner realizes development is ahead of him, including in his throwing motion.

“Throwing-wise, it’s my front shoulder,” he said this spring of needed progress. “Keep my front shoulder tight and keeping a good base. Really using the ground to get as much power as I can into the throw.”

Buchner likely noticed that need in film study, something he takes to eagerly, partly because his brain works in a way one might not expect from a college freshman or sophomore. In November on the ND on NBC Podcast, when Jac Collinsworth asked Buchner what he would do for a career if he could not play football, the then-freshman responded with a very practical yet ideal answer.

“If in a purely hypothetical world I played in the league and had enough money, I would retire, teach high school history and be a high school football coach,” Buchner said. “… I just really love history. It’s one of the things in school I’ve always had a passion for. I’ve always been interested in those classes.

“I think you can learn a lot from history, not make the same mistakes people did. I think it’s fun looking at — it’s kind of like watching film, honestly, in football. You’re [looking over] everything that happened and the strategy and the things people did. You can learn from that, or that worked well, do that again.”

Some of that same logic probably also plays a role in Buchner’s occasional online poker hobby.

“After Buchner’s effective Blue-Gold showing, Kelly would not rule out finding a way to get the freshman on the field this fall, but that should be viewed more as vernal coachspeak than reality.

“Five quarterbacks previously enrolled early during Kelly’s 12 springs at Notre Dame, and only Rees ever found genuine playing time in his freshman season, a necessity created by a late-season injury to Dayne Crist. (The others: Everett Golson, Gunner Kiel, Malik Zaire, Drew Pyne.)

“The Irish have two quarterbacks to consider in Coan and Pyne, both with more and more recent playing time than Buchner at any level. Well, perhaps not more recent for Coan, but leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl counts by magnitudes.

“Buchner will have plenty to work on this fall, simply in reestablishing muscle memory and learning the entire offensive playbook. Whatever helps get that done, he should focus on, and then Notre Dame fans can also look forward to him impressing in a few blowouts throughout the season, spurring unnecessary but inevitable debate about why he isn’t already playing more. …

“Irish fans may be scarred by Phil Jurkovec’s great recruiting hype followed by absolutely no production at Notre Dame, scars now brought back to the sunlight by hype surrounding Jurkovec and Boston College this summer, but Buchner is not Jurkovec. The comparisons should not continue, simply because one-to-one comparisons hold little merit in any such conversation given the obvious nature of the sample size.

“Buchner’s time will come in South Bend; as of 2022 his primary competition will be Pyne, who aside from a year’s head start under Rees, has little advantage over Buchner. Until Clark can make it through 12 months without a knee concern, that will be his dominating storyline.

“In 2022, Buchner and Pyne will be a quarterback competition worth fretting over, unlike this summer. If Pyne is the better quarterback, that will be a good thing for the Irish, because it will mean he has continued to develop at a rapid rate. If it is Buchner, however, well then all things are going according to plan.

“‘We are trying to build something toward the future,” Rees said in April. “That’s where our focus has been with Tyler.’”

First, do not sprain an ankle walking down the stairs again. Maybe do not take phone calls while walking down the stairs. Doing so cost Buchner the 2022 Blue-Gold Game. He certainly would have played if the game had been more than an exhibition, but the brief scare still underscores the concerns of leaning on a mobile quarterback.

Buchner will be exposed to hits in 2022. He will seek out some of them.

If Buchner stays healthy, he should be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback throughout the season. A rash of interceptions a la that Virginia Tech showing could force Pyne into action, but the only defenses that should strike genuine fear into Buchner are also the games in which his big-play potential will be most vital. (Ohio State, BYU, Clemson. Something could also be said for Cal’s traditionally stout defense, but that offense should be so woeful, the Irish defense might outscore it.)

Furthermore, Freeman’s primary offensive input this spring was to preach against turnovers, only natural given a former defensive coordinator knows how much a focus they are on the other side of the ball. Presuming that harping got through to Buchner this spring, he should keep Notre Dame largely on task this fall.

There will be mistakes. He has not seen enough live action to think otherwise. If he averages an interception per game, the question will be if he can produce twice that in touchdowns, passing and rushing combined.

That may seem a low bar, but frame Buchner’s success around the Irish offense’s success. If he scores twice per game, and a running back gets into the end zone once each week — let’s add two field goals for modest measure — that is a quick 27 points per game. Last year’s relatively high-scoring offense averaged 35.2 points per game, and this exercise got nearly within a touchdown of that while asking for the bare minimum from Buchner and discounting any defensive scoring.

That is all to say Notre Dame will not need Buchner to be a world-beater. If he succeeds twice as often as he fails, the Irish should be in good position. Anything worse than that, though, and Notre Dame will have reason to fret both in 2022 and moving forward.

If Buchner achieves that modest suggestion, then he will start in 2023 with hefty expectations heaped upon him. A modestly successful sophomore season for an Irish starting quarterback would inevitably lead to Heisman conversations next August.

Such is the yoke carried by that specific position.

It would be undue hype, most likely a year early.

Perhaps that is the way to view Buchner: He hardly started at quarterback in high school. He played a specific sparkplug role as a freshman. He should strike a balance between dynamic and serviceable in his first season as a collegiate starter. That gradual progress would lead to a breakout in 2024.

From Blake Grupe to Braden Lenzy, the offseason countdown begins anew
No. 99 Blake Grupe, kicker, Arkansas State transfer
No. 99 Rylie Mills, junior defensive lineman, a tackle now playing more at end

No. 98 Tyson Ford, early-enrolled freshman, a defensive tackle recruited as a four-star end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, sophomore defensive tackle, still ‘as wide as a Volkswagen’
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, a junior defensive tackle who tore his ACL in March
No. 91 Josh Bryan, sophomore kicker
No. 91 Aiden Gobaira, early-enrolled freshman defensive end, four-star recruit
No. 90 Alexander Ehrensberger, junior defensive end, a German project nearing completion
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, sophomore tight end
No. 87 Michael Mayer, junior tight end, likely All-American
No. 85 Holden Staes, incoming freshman tight end
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, junior tight end
No. 83 Jayden Thomas, sophomore receiver, former four-star recruit
No. 80 Cane Berrong, sophomore tight end coming off an ACL injury
No. 79 Tosh Baker, one of four young Irish offensive tackles
No. 78 Pat Coogan, sophomore center, recovering from a meniscus injury
No. 77 Ty Chan, incoming offensive tackle, former four-star recruit
No. 76 Joe Alt, sophomore starting left tackle
No. 75 Josh Lugg, sixth-year offensive lineman, likely starting right guard
No. 74 Billy Schrauth, early-enrolled freshman offensive guard coming off foot surgery
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, senior offensive tackle-turned-guard
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, sophomore offensive tackle, former Auburn pledge
No. 68 Michael Carmody, junior offensive line utility man
No. 65 Michael Vinson, long snapper, ‘Milk’
No. 65 Chris Smith, defensive tackle, Harvard transfer
No. 59 Aamil Wagner, consensus four-star incoming freshman offensive tackle
No. 58 Ashton Craig, incoming freshman center
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, fifth-year defensive tackle, coming off shoulder surgery
No. 56 Joey Tanona, early-enrolled offensive guard coming off a concussion
No. 56 Howard Cross, senior defensive tackle with heavy hands, and that’s a good thing
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year offensive lineman, three-year starting center, captain
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, senior defensive tackle, now lighter and a starter
No. 54 Blake Fisher, sophomore starting right tackle, ‘ginormous’
No. 52 Zeke Correll, senior center or perhaps left guard
No. 52 Bo Bauer, fifth-year linebacker, Ironman
No. 50 Rocco Spindler, sophomore offensive guard
No. 48 Will Schweitzer, sophomore end-turned-linebacker
No. 47 Jason Oyne, sophomore defensive end-turned-tackle
No. 44 Junior Tuihalamaka, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, consensus four-star recruit
No. 44 Alex Peitsch, junior long snapper
No. 42 Nolan Ziegler, early-enrolled freshman linebacker, Irish legacy
No. 41 Donovan Hinish, incoming freshman defensive tackle, Kurt’s brother
No. 40 Joshua Burnham, early-enrolled freshman linebacker-turned-end
No. 34 Osita Ekwonu, senior Vyper end coming off an Achilles injury
No. 31 NaNa Osafo-Mensah, senior defensive end
No. 29 Matt Salerno, fifth-year receiver, punt returner, former walk-on
No. 28 TaRiq Bracy, fifth-year starting nickel back
No. 27 JD Bertrand, senior linebacker recovering from a plaguing wrist injury
No. 25 Philip Riley, sophomore cornerback
No. 25 Chris Tyree, junior running back, possible Irish bellcow
No. 24 Jack Kiser, senior linebacker, second-year starter
No. 23 Jayden Bellamy, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 22 Justin Walters, sophomore safety
No. 22 Logan Diggs, sophomore running back with a shoulder injury
No. 21 Jaden Mickey, early-enrolled freshman cornerback
No. 20 Jadarian Price, early-enrolled freshman running back with a ruptured Achilles
No. 20 Benjamin Morrison, freshman cornerback
No. 18 Chance Tucker, sophomore cornerback
No. 18 Steve Angeli, freshman QB, Blue-Gold Game star
No. 17 Jaylen Sneed, early-enrolled linebacker, Rover of the future
No. 16 Brandon Joseph, Northwestern transfer, preseason All-American, starting safety
No. 16 Deion Colzie, sophomore receiver
No. 15 Tobias Merriweather, freshman receiver, forever a memorable recruitment
No. 15 Ryan Barnes, sophomore cornerback
No. 14 Bryce McFerson, freshman punter facing a Harvard challenge
No. 13 Gi’Bran Payne, freshman running back, late recruit
No. 9 Eli Raridon, incoming freshman tight end with a torn ACL

Drew Pyne to transfer from Notre Dame; Tyler Buchner reportedly a bowl possibility


Notre Dame may start its third quarterback of the season in its bowl game after junior Drew Pyne announced he will transfer from the program on Friday. A graduate, Pyne has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

ESPN’s Pete Thamel first reported Pyne’s intention to transfer, with Pyne soon thereafter taking to Twitter to confirm as much.

“One of my proudest honors is to have been a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame,” Pyne wrote. “… It’s time for me to take on a new challenge, and I will be entering the transfer portal.”

Pyne took over as the Irish starter after sophomore Tyler Buchner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the second week of the season. Pyne went 8-2 as a starter, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

His final action at Notre Dame may have been Pyne’s best game of his career, throwing for 318 yards and three touchdowns at USC while completing 23 of 26 passes, the second-most accurate game in Irish history.

He appeared in two games in 2021, stepping in for Jack Coan when he struggled against Wisconsin and Cincinnati. Keeping Pyne to minimal appearances in 2021 was intentional, preserving a season of eligibility for him.

That eligibility will now be used elsewhere.

Without Pyne, Notre Dame will have freshman Steve Angeli and possibly Buchner available in the bowl game, a location and opponent to be announced on Sunday. Football Scoop’s John Brice reported Friday afternoon that Buchner will play in the bowl game, though perhaps that optimism should be measured throughout practice this month.

Regardless, the Irish are expected to pursue an incoming transfer quarterback this month. With names like Texas’ Hudson Card and Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong already in the transfer portal, Notre Dame will have a few options to chase.

That is why Pyne’s transfer makes sense, even if he spoke earnestly about the bowl game following that 38-27 loss in Los Angeles.

“I think we have a lot to play for,” he said. “We’re going to be in a bowl game, I want to send all the seniors out the right way. We have a lot to play for. We have another game, I’m going to prepare as hard as I can for that and finish the season off on a positive note.”

Reversing course from those words is understandable given they came minutes after a competitive game, and the last week has shown Pyne how quickly the quarterback transfer market will move.

In the game of musical chairs that is quarterbacks moving across the country, Pyne waiting until after the bowl game to transfer could serve only to leave him with fewer destinations as options. Not that Pyne may have been looking at Iowa, but the fact that one Power Five starting gig appears to have already been filled by Michigan transfer Cade McNamara presumably underscored the rapid nature of this process.

Understandably, Pyne needs to make the most of this opportunity, coming off a strong season as Notre Dame’s starter but knowing he is unlikely to start for the Irish in 2023. Depending on the level of transfer joining the Irish and Buchner’s health, it was distinctly possible Pyne would be Notre Dame’s third quarterback next year.

For someone who grew up as a Notre Dame fan, specifically a Brady Quinn fan, assuredly this decision was not an easy one for Pyne.

He had a lengthy and notable offer sheet coming out of high school, but Pyne at his best this season would not draw interest from the likes of Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU as he did three years ago. It may be more pertinent to point out he is a Connecticut native, so schools in the northeast could be most logical for his landing spot.

The Irish should also have quarterback commit Kenny Minchey in the pecking order this spring, expected to sign with Notre Dame on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s QB room creates a friendly trust that has been crucial to Pyne’s success
Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 10 Drew Pyne, junior quarterback

Notre Dame adds a fourth receiver commit to recruiting class, helping a roster need


Notre Dame is addressing its most glaring roster deficiency with a numbers approach. The Irish had only five true scholarship receivers for much of this season, a number they will nearly match in next year’s freshman class alone after adding a fourth receiver commitment on Thursday. Consensus three-star receiver Kaleb Smith (Rick Reedy High School; Frisco, Texas) announced he will join Notre Dame’s class, and he should sign with the Irish on Dec. 21 when the early signing period begins.

Smith was committed to Texas Tech for more than nine months before he backed off that pledge in early November. Marcus Freeman does not welcome official visitors who are committed to other programs, so if Smith wanted to take an official visit to South Bend to watch Notre Dame play Clemson, he needed to open up his recruitment.

The Irish 35-13 win against the then-No. 4 Tigers assuredly helped tip the scales away from his homestate Texas Tech.

Otherwise, Smith has hardly been recruited by anyone. The only other Power Five program to chase him was Baylor when current Notre Dame receivers coach Chansi Stuckey was there.

Listed at only 6-foot and 168 pounds, it is easy to pencil in Smith as a slot receiver, but he is also willing to go up in the air to get the ball. His highlight footage features him repeatedly and astonishingly open.

His size, or lack thereof, will make Smith unique among the quartet of incoming signees. By snagging four receivers in this class, the Irish are proactively fixing an undeniable roster problem. In last year’s Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame had only four receivers available. Through most of this season, in part due to injuries to Avery Davis and Joe Wilkins, the Irish had a total of six receivers available, including former walk-on Matt Salerno.

While Braden Lenzy will not return for the Irish in 2023, current sophomores Jayden Thomas, Deion Colzie and Lorenzo Styles should all come back, along with current freshman Tobias Merriweather. With these four commitments, a position group of eight may allow Notre Dame to have a genuine two-deep.

If signing four receivers in a class and seven in two years seems like an unsustainable influx, keep in mind two things. First of all, the Irish desperately need to find receiver depth. Lenzy was famously and admittedly exhausted at the end of that Fiesta Bowl faceplant 11 months ago. One more injury this season would have further crippled Notre Dame’s passing game in 2022. Secondly, the one-time transfer allowance will make departures from the program both more common and more alluring to the players. Natural attrition will occur.

RELATED READING: A third four-star receiver commitment, Jaden Greathouse, elevates Notre Dame’s class of 2023 from good to Great
Four-star receiver Rico Flores Jr.’s commitment gives Notre Dame some receiver hope for 2023
Four-star Texas receiver Braylon James gives Notre Dame needed offensive piece in class of 2023

CB Cam Hart out for Notre Dame’s bowl game, but will return in 2023

Notre Dame v North Carolina
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Perhaps earlier than expected, Notre Dame has already received good news this offseason. Senior cornerback Cam Hart will return for a fifth year in South Bend, though he will not put on pads for the Irish in any bowl game, he announced Tuesday evening.

“Due to a shoulder injury that I sustained during the Boston College Game [sic], I could not participate in our final regular season game and will not be able to participate in this year’s bowl game,” Hart wrote on Twitter. “Consequently, I believe my time here isn’t necessarily complete. Choosing to attend the University of Nore Dame has been the best decision I’ve ever made in my entire life.

“In light of that, I’ve decided to return for a fifth season and look forward to taking the field with my brothers in 2023!”

Hart’s 2023 return should give the Irish four returning cornerbacks with starting experience, only fifth-year nickel back Tariq Bracy a notable departure from this year’s cornerbacks group.

Note: The use of “should” is not meant to imply anything about other possibilities. The conditional verb is chosen as recognition of the constantly changing rosters in college football in 2022.

Hart took part in Notre Dame’s Senior Day festivities before facing Boston College, which suggested he was at least considering jumping to the NFL. This quick announcement indicates the injury ruled out that thought process, though the injury had plagued him at points earlier in the season.

A shoulder injury first flared up for Hart this year in the spring of 2022, costing him spring practices. A concern had previously cost him some of 2019, as he adapted from playing receiver in high school. He nonetheless played in 11 games in 2022, starting 10 and making 25 tackles with three for loss and breaking up four passes.

His passes defensed fell from nine in 2021, along with two interceptions, in part because opposing quarterbacks were less enticed to test the increasingly-experienced cornerback. His 6-foot-2 ½ length made Hart something just short of a shutdown cornerback.

With current freshman Benjamin Morrison surging to close this season and classmate Jaden Mickey stepping in for Hart at USC, Notre Dame should enjoy a plethora of tested cornerbacks in 2023. (Current junior Clarence Lewis is the aforementioned fourth.)

In many respects, this will allow the Irish defense to begin the 2023 season with the same calm it had in 2022, when Hart, Lewis and Bracy provided experienced pass defense.

“You have three older veteran corners that can really play at any moment, which makes you feel good,” head coach Marcus Freeman said in August. “Those three guys can play those two corner spots and I don’t feel there will be a drop off with any of them.”

There are a few key decisions left on Notre Dame’s defense — most notably, defensive end Justin Ademilola and safety Brandon Joseph could return in 2023 — but most of them may come after any Irish bowl game. Hart’s choice was presumably expedited by his apparent exclusion from the bowl game due to this injury.

2020: 8 games; 3 tackles, 2 passes defended.
2021: 13 games, 10 starts; 42 tackles with four for loss, 9 passes defended and two interceptions.
2022: 11 games, 10 starts; 25 tackles with three for loss, 4 passes defended.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame 99-to-0: No. 5 Cam Hart, senior cornerback, second-year starter

Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s offensive shortcomings again highlighted by an explosive counterpart

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There are two ways to look at USC’s 38-27 win against Notre Dame on Saturday, and they both tie back to the Trojans’ being the best Irish measuring stick.

USC beat Notre Dame in a way that underscores how short-handed the Irish always were this season. When Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams began to cement his status as the Heisman frontrunner with a performance that will be long remembered, Notre Dame had no way to consistently counter him.

“We didn’t stop them,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said simply enough.

Without the offensive skill position players needed to match Williams’ explosive play for explosive play, Notre Dame needed its defense to play perfectly, clearly an unfair ask against a Lincoln Riley offense.

“USC is a great team,” Irish quarterback Drew Pyne said. “That was a really good team we played out there. They’re going to go on and do great things for the rest of their season. Caleb Williams is a great player.”

If the Irish had not had junior tight end Michael Mayer — eight catches on nine targets for 98 yards and two touchdowns — they may not have been able to stay in even vague distance of the Trojans. Three heaves to Deion Colzie gained 75 yards and three first downs, but each felt like Pyne was hoping more than anything else.

Notre Dame still made it a game, but the discrepancy in offensive playmakers stood out in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

And while both programs will undergo some turnover — most notably Mayer for the Irish; receiver Jordan Addison and running back Austin Jones will both likely be at the next level next year, among Trojans’ contributors this weekend — Notre Dame will need to close that gap to compete with USC next season.

The variance of a schedule may keep the Irish from too staunchly improving on their 8-4 record this year, but a certainty is that Williams will be ready to dazzle again in South Bend on Oct. 14, 2023.

Notre Dame right now does not have the offensive firepower to keep up with such a dynamic attack. As soon as the Irish gifted the Trojans chances to take a lead, their running game was mitigated and Notre Dame’s best hopes were reduced to Mayer and those heaves to Colzie.

Williams can dance his way through any defense, perhaps shy of Georgia’s. Even if the Irish secondary had been fully healthy, Williams’ rhythmic scrambles still would have broken down the defense. If Utah helms him in this weekend, it may be as much due to a USC letdown as it is to any Utes’ scheme. His stardom is an extreme, but this is college football in 2022, again aside from Georgia.

Many will instinctively point to Pyne’s shortcomings, ignoring how well he played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He made two mistakes, yes, but one of them (the cross-body interception) came as Notre Dame was more and more desperate and the other (the fumbled exchange) was in part a result of the Irish abandoning their ground game as they fell further behind.

Pyne finished 23-of-26 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Every version of breaking down those stats yields praise for Pyne. A reality of a loss and a reality when the opposing quarterback broke through as a national star, no time was spent in postgame press conferences discussing Pyne’s efficient night.

But it was, regardless.

His final incompletion, the interception from Notre Dame’s own red zone, also overshadowed the second-most accurate day in Irish passing history, but it was an understandable mistake. Notre Dame was trailing by two scores with only five minutes remaining. Wasting a play on a throwaway was low on Pyne’s priority list.

If Pyne had established more of a season-long rapport with Colzie, maybe he sees him down the left sideline as highlighted by Kirk Herbstreit on the broadcast. If Braden Lenzy is a bit less worn down by a season-long receiver shortage, maybe he is able to charge into Pyne’s ill-advised pass rather than try to settle in for a low catch. If … maybe, if … maybe.

Only twice this season has USC managed as few as 31 genuine points — discounting the short-field touchdown in the final three minutes courtesy of Pyne’s pick, though not all that necessary given the Trojans fell short of 40 points just twice in their first 11 games. Oregon State and Washington State had the luxuries of facing Williams before he had reached the peak of his powers with this new, transfer-obtained complement of receivers.

The Irish defense did its part against USC. Notre Dame’s offense just could not match the star of the season.

Williams will star again next year. The Irish defense will most likely still be stout. Those truths this season will carry over. Notre Dame then has to wonder only if its offense can develop and/or find more playmakers, a known need this entire season and now the pressing concern entering the offseason, a need emphasized by the Trojans’ offense, the foe that should again define 2023.