Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

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24 OCT. 8, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT With the score tied 14-14, midway through the second quarter against North Carolina, the Irish offense immediately responded to a Tar Heel touchdown with a dominant 8-play, 75-yard drive, capped by sophomore tailback Audric Es- time's 1-yard touchdown plunge to give the Irish a 21-14 advantage. It was a lead that they would not relinquish. The Notre Dame defense stiffened after Estime's score, forcing a three-and-out. The Irish capitalized by closing out the half with a field goal and took a 24-14 lead to the locker room, along with the benefit of receiving the second half kickoff. The Notre Dame offense came out hot in the second half led by a stout running game, and sandwiched a North Carolina turnover with two touchdown drives to cap a 24-0 run that ex- tended the Irish lead to 38-14. It's hard to pinpoint one turning point to Notre Dame's commanding performance against the Tar Heels. But in a first-quarter dogfight that turned into a fourth-quarter pillow fight, Notre Dame's swift and dominant response to the Tar Heels' knotting the game at 14 is significant. STATS OF THE GAME There are plenty to choose from in this cat- egory after Notre Dame enjoyed one of its most balanced offensive performances in a decade. Led by the 17 carries for 134 yards and 2 touch- downs by sophomore tailback Audric Estime, Notre Dame had three tailbacks combined to tally 42 carries for 264 yards (6.2 yards per carry) and 3 touchdowns. Illustrating its run game domi- nance, Notre Dame extended its lead to 45-20 in the fourth quarter on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that included no passes. Through the air, Irish junior quarterback Drew Pyne was confident and controlled, finishing 24- of-34 passing for 289 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Pyne spread things around with six different Irish recording multiple catches. Notably, four different wide receivers — an area of concern and minimal production so far — com- bined for 10 catches and 112 yards. But, perhaps most importantly and impres- sively, an Irish team that has ranked near the bot- tom of the NCAA in third-down conversions went 8 of 14 (57.1 percent) in the category against North Carolina. PYNE TIME When Pyne made his first career start against California Sept. 17, first impressions were un- impressive. He completed only 3 of his first 8 passes in the first quarter against the Bears, with most of his misses missing badly both long and short. Settling down after an earful from Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, Pyne became a differ- ent player and completed 14 of his final 15 passes to lead a 24-17 Irish victory. Pyne parlayed his strong finish against Cal into a full four-quarter performance against North Carolina that included a six-possession stretch with 5 touchdowns and a field goal. In the same way former Irish great Ian Book did in 2017, Pyne made good on his first career road start at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. Book, during his Tobacco Road debut five seasons ago, threw for 146 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions with a 92.1 QB rating. Not to be outdone by his mentor, Pyne during his first road start at North Carolina went for 289 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 171.1 rating. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY TODD D. BURLAGE THE IRISH OFFENSIVE LINE After struggling early in the season — as evidenced by Notre Dame ranking just 101st nationally with 117.7 yards rushing per game through its first three games — this unit excelled against North Carolina. The Fighting Irish finished with 287 yards rushing on 51 carries (5.6 yards per attempt) and 3 touchdowns. The Irish offensive line also limited the Tar Heels to only 1 sack and 2 quar- terback hurries. QUARTERBACK DREW PYNE Making his second career start, the Irish junior quarterback played well, spread the ball around and showed much promise for Notre Dame fans to be excited about. Pyne finished 24-of-34 passing for 289 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. At one point from late in the first quarter to early in the third, Pyne led the Irish on six straight scoring drives. RUNNING BACK AUDRIC ESTIME Living up to his bruising but nimble reputation, the Irish sopho- more became a one-man offensive show at times in the second half. Estime finished with 17 rushing attempts for 134 yards (7.9 yards per carry) and 2 touchdowns. TIGHT END MICHAEL MAYER A familiar name on this list, the Irish junior tight end quietly led Notre Dame with 7 catches for 88 yards and 1 touchdown. Mayer's work was especially critical in the first half when the Irish found themselves in what looked to be a dogfight. His 10-yard scoring grab in the first quarter tied the game 7-7. DEFENSIVE TACKLE RYLIE MILLS The junior strong-side defensive end paced an Irish defense that held the high-powered Tar Heels offense to 367 total yards (180 below its season average) and 32 points (19 below its average). Mills finished with 5 tackles, 2.5 stops for loss and 2 sacks. GAME BALLS BY TODD D. BURLAGE Junior tight end Michael Mayer finished with a team-high 7 receptions for 88 yards and 1 touchdown. PHOTO BY KAYDEE GAWLIK

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