Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

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Page 26 of 55 OCT. 8, 2022 27 DREW PYNE SHAKES OFF ANOTHER SLOW START Drew Pyne, his coaches and his team- mates might have been the only people with a Notre Dame affiliation who didn't have the dreaded, sunken, hopeless "Oh no, not again" feeling at roughly 3:54 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 24. That's around the time when 2 of the Notre Dame junior quarterback's first 3 pass attempts of the day against North Carolina were spit back at absurd an- gles off the hands of Tar Heel defensive linemen. Cue up the Deandre Jordan "Ewwww" gif if that's still a thing. It was ugly. Pyne had a shaky start a week prior against California, too. He threw two balls into the turf on out routes and air mailed junior tight end Michael Mayer on a sk i n ny post. He m issed short throws short. He missed long throws long. Against UNC, the ball wasn't even getting past the line of scrimmage. Pyne rebounded against Cal. But he was at home, and he didn't have the pres- sure of putting up points with an offense on the other sideline far feebler than the one he was up against in Chapel Hill. Was Notre Dame about to get boat raced by the boys in blue? Were the Irish in for another long day offensively against a North Carolina defense that is as unsat- isfactory as the offense is exemplary? Nope. Pyne came around. Again. And this time, he was even better. Was he surprised by completing 24 of 34 pass at- tempts for 289 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions? Certainly not. "S o m e t h i n g I 've a lw a y s t a l k e d about, and Coach [Marcus] Freeman always says it, is, 'One play, one life,'" Pyne said. "No matter what happens on the last play, whether it's good or bad, you've got to move on to the next one because you can't dwell on it. I re- ally focused on that today. "For the couple bad plays I had, I just thought about one play, one life. Go onto the next play. Try my best to exe- cute and do my job and get the team in a good position to succeed on that play." Freema n wasn't su rprised either. Not one bit. "You saw last week in the first half, Drew makes the right decisions," Free- man said. "It's never a decision-mak- ing issue. It's the execution. Early in the game last week, he wasn't execut- ing the way he would want or we would want. But today, he continued to make good decisions. "He executed and put the ball where it needed to be. He had some guys make some plays. He's going to always be prepared. He's going to always know what to do with the ball. The continu- ous challenge for him is to execute the right way." I n two ga mes as the Notre Da me starter, Pyne has connected on 41 of 57 (71.9 percent) throws for 439 yards w ith 5 touchdow ns and 0 intercep- tions. Not bad for the third-year player who lost the offseason qua rterback competition to a younger signal-caller who had not started a football game at any level since 2019. Pyne's physical limitations are not lost on anybody. It was easy to dog him when those passes were batted down right off the bat. He's 5-11½ with a knot on his head. How's he supposed to see past a mass of human trees and get the ball downfield? Well, ask Russell Wil- son. Or Drew Brees. Or Kyler Murray. That's not to say Pyne will ever emu- late any of those past and present verti- cally challenged (relative to the height of other professional players at their posi- tion) NFL superstars. But to discount Pyne because of his stature is missing the mark. And to assume he was going to have a bad day based on two unsuccess- ful attempts on Notre Dame's first drive of the game was foolish, too. One play, one life, after all. "Slow start, fast start, no matter what my mentality is always going to be the same when I'm on that field," Pyne said. INITIALLY FRUITLESS PLAY TURNS INTO TOUCHDOWN ON SECOND TRY It looked like a harmless incompletion in the moment. Most of the 50,500 fans in Kenan Stadium — and perhaps even some players and coaches — had surely forgotten just a few minutes later. Notre Dame began its response to North Carolina's tying second-quarter touchdow n w ith junior quarterback Drew Pyne firing a pass out of bounds, seemingly intentionally. Two Tar Heels defenders rushed at him on a designed rollout, and when he saw no receiver open or no chance to turn the corner as a runner, he threw it away. Live to fight another down. T he Irish did just that, picking up 5 yards on the next play, converting a NORTH CAROLINA GAME NOTES BY TYLER HORKA AND PATRICK ENGEL In two games as the Notre Dame's starting quarterback, Pyne has connected on 41 of 57 (71.9 percent) throws for 439 yards with 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. PHOTO BY KAYDEE GAWLIK

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