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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Defense Shines In Blue-Gold Game

May 1, 2021

Anybody hoping to see Jack Coan or Drew Pyne become the star of Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game and show why they deserve to be the quarterback under center when Notre Dame opens up at Florida State on Sept. 5th, saw those hopes dashed by new Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s unit.

With Coan and Pyne at the controls, the Notre Dame offense showed some ability to move the ball down the field, but the Irish defense showed tons of ability to tighten up and make the necessary plays to get off the field during the annual scrimmage, which caps spring practice.

Meanwhile, much-ballyhooed freshman Tyler Buchner made the most of his opportunities in the second half and was the only quarterback to engineer touchdown drives, helping the Blue Team come away with a 17-3 win.

"I think all of them have work to do, but there are takeaways,” Brian Kelly said of his quarterbacks. “I don't know that anybody went into this game expecting one guy to dominate in this game. We knew there were some things to work on because you don't have a full rotation of your players that you want. Your offensive is split up. Your running backs are split up. Your receivers are split up. You're not putting your quarterbacks in the best of situations. 

"We wanted to see decision making, management of the game and how the quarterbacks handle themselves in the pocket and out of the pocket. What kind of throws are they making - on platform throws - some of the things they need to work on. 

Pyne, who didn’t play in the second half, finished 11 for 23 for 146 yards and the interception. Coan finished 18 for 32 for 197 yards and an interception while Buchner completed 6 of his 9 passes for 140 yards with a rushing touchdown.

Lawrence Keys pulled in five catches for 115 yards while Braden Lenzy caught five passes for 88 to lead the Blue Team. Avery Davis led the Gold squad, grabbing five passes for 84 yards.

Chris Tyree had 43 rushing yards on 10 carries for the Blue while Kyren Williams had just 16 rushing yards on three attempts.

Buchner got his first extended duty in the second half and opened the third quarter with three consecutive completions for 68 total yards before running seven yards for the game’s first touchdown, giving the Blue Team a 10-3 lead early in the third quarter.

Coan got the Gold Team moving on his first drive of the second half with 17-yard and 16-yard connections to Davis on back-to-back plays. After C’Bo Flemister picked up a first down, Coan hit Matt Salerno with back-to-back completions for 12 and 13 yards, respectively. But Coan’s fade to Joe Wilkins on 4th and Goal from the 6-yard line fell incomplete and the Gold Team turned it over on downs.

Backed up, Buchner and the Blue Team went three and out to end the third quarter while Coan and the Gold Team failed to picked up a first down on the ensuing drive, turning the ball over on downs around midfield.

A deep 37-yard toss from Buchner to Lenzy got the Blue Team down to the one-yard line and Leo Albano dove in for a score to give the Blue Team a 17-3 lead to complete the scoring with a second-half running clock.

Both squads registered eight sacks in the first half and a turnover while limiting the offenses to a combined three first downs on 15 third-down attempts. The Gold Team finished with 138 total yards in the first half while the Blue Team had 156 total yards.

"We weren't going to leverage positions,” Kelly said of his defense. “We weren't going to be scheming up our offense in this game. We're asking our guys to do some things they hadn't necessarily done in the spring. I thought they did some really good things individually. We played some press on the outside and we got our safeties involved. What was pretty clear is that we've got depth on the defensive line, we can rush the passer and we're going to play with some physicality. 

"All in all, I don't know if there was one particular guy I would point to, but this spring, in my eyes, we have a defense that plays fast and physical. Some guys are going to stand out a little bit more in this style than maybe they had in the past and that's what we were expecting. 

On the first play of his second series, Pyne took his first deep shot of the game and Ramon Henderson was flagged for pass interference against Lenzy and would complete a four-yard pass to Mitchell Evans to convert on fourth down.

Tyree busted a 16-yard run and followed up with an 18-yard reception to set the Blue Team up inside the red zone. Two plays later, Tyree had an eight-yard carry to set up 3rd and 2 from the 8-yard line, but was taken down for a three-yard loss one play later.

Jonathan Doerer converted a 27-yard field goal to give the Blue Team a 3-0 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Coan responded with three straight completions on the Gold’s next drive, including a 24-yarder on a sprintout to Davis. Justin Ademilola ended the first quarter with an 8-yard sack of Coan on third down to force a punt.

Buchner came in for Pyne first two plays on the Blue Team’s third drive of the game, but went three-and-out.

Coan opened the next series with a 22-yard deep strike to Davis and then connected with Williams on a 14-yard swing pass on third down. But Coan was picked off by Shayne Simon three plays later to bring that drive to an end.

After an incompletion and a sack, Pyne hit Lenzy for a 22-yard pickup on 3rd and long. Two plays later, Pyne again connected with Evans for a 32-yarder to push the Blue Team into Gold territory. Kelly eventually let the Blue Team go for it on 4th and 15, but Pyne and Lenzy weren’t on the same page and the drive ended with an incompletion.

The Gold Team gained just eight yards, going three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but the Blue Team would give it back three plays later, when Justin Walters picked off Pyne, giving the Gold the ball back at the Blue’s 40-yard line.

Coan missed Davis for a touchdown in the end zone. After rushing for six yards, Coan was sacked on third down. Harrison Leonard’s 37-yard field goal tied the game 3-3 two minutes before the half.

Pyne hit Keys for a 41-yard completion to Keys to give the Blue Team a chance in the final minute, but after spiking the ball to stop the clock, three straight incompletions ended the drive and the half.

Coan was 11 for 17 for 136 yards and a pick in the first half.

Avery Davis caught three passes for 51 yards to lead the Gold Team along with Joe Wilkins who caught two for 35 and George Takacs who had three catches for 35 yards.

Keys pulled in a pair of passes, including the 41-yarder, for 53 yards while Lenzy had three for 33 yards and Evans had two for 36.

Tyree finished the first half with 37 rushing yards on nine carries and 16 yards on two catches. Williams picked up 16 yards on three rushes and another 20 on two receptions.

The game’s opening three drives were brought to finishes by the Irish’s third-down defense, on both sides.

Coan opened up the game with a 32-yard deep strike to Wilkins, but the Gold team failed to get another first down and Jayson Ademilola was credited with a sack to end the drive on third down. The Blue squad converted a pair of first downs on its opening series, including a 12-yard pick up from Pyne to Keys, but its drive was also stalled by a third-down sack, this one by Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.

Once again, Coan opened up the second series with a deep pass, this one a 25-yard strike up the seam to George Takacs to get to midfield. But once again, the series ended with a third-down sack.

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