Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 78 of 83 MARCH 2021 79 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK I n his third season with the Mil- waukee Bucks, former Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton has remained a steady presence off the bench. Despite missing a few games due to a groin injury, he was averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 43.0 percent from the field — all numbers that align with his previous production in Milwaukee — as of Feb. 6. Where Connaughton has shown a significant uptick is from long range. Launching a career-high 3.4 three-pointers per contest, he was connecting on 41.5 percent of his attempts. During a 126-114 loss to the Charlotte Hornets Jan. 30, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard made 5 of 8 shots from beyond the arc on his way to a season-high 15 points. Outside of his sophomore sea- son, when he shot fewer than one three-pointer per game, this is a career high. Connaughton is in the first season of a recently signed three- year deal with the Bucks. "I don't think I've hid the fact that I like being a Milwaukee Buck," Con- naughton said prior to the season. "I wanted to stay. Obviously, there is a business side to it, so you have to listen and field calls and offers from other teams, but I've enjoyed my time here and I think there's a lot of unfinished business here." WITH PACKERS LOSS, FIGHTING IRISH MISS OUT ON SUPER BOWL LV With the Green Bay Packers 31-26 loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game Jan. 24, the Fighting Irish were shut out of the Super Bowl for the second time in three years. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and cornerback KeiVarae Russell both saw action in the title contest, but were unable to help the Packers advance to the big game. While playing offense and special teams, St. Brown fin- ished with one catch for 10 yards and two tackles. Per- haps his most notable play came when he was unable to secure a throw from star quar- terback Aaron Rodgers on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter. The pass appeared to be tipped by a Tampa Bay defender, but it is one the usually sure-handed St. Brown no doubt wishes he had back. Russell joined St. Brown on the special teams unit and re- corded his first tackle since he was a member of the Cincin- nati Bengals in 2018. Even after St. Brown and Russell's playoff exit, there was still hope one former Notre Dame player could appear in Super Bowl LV and add to the 44 championship rings won by Irish alumni. However, such anticipation died once run- ning back C.J. Prosise, a late-season pickup by the Buccaneers, was cut from the team's practice squad. Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck represented Notre Dame in the league's ultimate game. Heck — who started at tight end before becoming an All-American left tackle and captain for the 1988 national champs and spending 12 years in the NFL as a player — was also on the sidelines when the Chiefs defeated San Francisco last year. ✦ OFFENSIVE LINE DOMINANCE CONTINUES Indianapolis Colts left guard Quenton Nelson has been tabbed as an NFL All-Pro in each of his first three seasons in the league. The only other player who has accomplished that feat in the last 30 years was Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders. According to Pro Football Focus, in 1,946 NFL pass-block- ing snaps, Nelson has allowed just three sacks and is con- sidered a superior run blocker. But Nelson is far from the lone former Notre Dame of- fensive lineman to make an impact in the NFL this season. In total, Fighting Irish offensive linemen played more than 5,300 snaps, the most by any collegiate program. And that's with Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin and Baltimore Ra- vens tackle Ronnie Stanley missing significant chunks of the campaign after suffering season-ending injuries. — Andrew Mentock Connaughton was attempting a career-high 3.4 three-pointers per contest and was connecting on 41.5 percent of his long-range shots for the Bucks as of Feb. 6. PHOTO COURTESY MILWAUKEE BUCKS Pat Connaughton Is Excelling From Long Range

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