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Notre Dame Football

Badgered into submission: Notre Dame rips Wisconsin

September 25, 2021
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CHICAGO – With less than 10 minutes left Saturday inside Solider Field, and Notre Dame about to kick off after it had scored its second touchdown in a row, Wisconsin punter Andy Vujnovich stood on the west edge of the stadium turf and practiced his punting motion.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, was busy reveling in the game's decisive momentum-swing along the east sideline.

Then, the Badgers immediately had two players battle for the ensuing kickoff.

Maybe they should have studied more of the Fighting Irish's special teams. Or found a way to better defend Kevin Austin.

Notre Dame scored 31 unanswered fourth-quarter points and rode an oppressive defense to a 41-13 win against the No. 15/18 Badgers before 59,571 in the Shamrock Series.

The No. 10/12 Irish (4-0) scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

“Great victory for our guys today, so proud of their resilience,” said Brian Kelly, who topped Knute Rockne on Notre Dame’s all-time wins list with his 106th victory.

Chris Tyree raced 96 yards virtually untouched after Wisconsin had taken a brief 13-10 lead moments into the fourth quarter, and after Jayson Ademilola forced a Graham Mertz fumble that Isaiah Foskey recovered, backup-quarterback Drew Pyne marshaled the Irish offense 46 yards in just six plays, punctuated with his strike to Austin on a slant.

Jack Kiser and Drew White also recorded game-icing, fourth-quarter pick-sixes.

“We went to a field return, so we were able to move (Tyree) back to the field,” Kelly said. “Brian (Polian) at the half said, ‘Listen, we're going to try to go to the field return. It's going to be an all or nothing situation.’ You're stretching your blocking out longer, that's where you tend to see a holding or something like that.

“We were able to catch a crease.”

What did that do for the Irish?

“When they played ‘Jump Around’, it seemed like they thought that was our theme song I've gotta check that with our guys,” Kelly joked.

Pyne helped rescue the Irish off the bench in lieu of the injured Jack Coan, who absorbed five of the six sacks allowed by Notre Dame.

Pyne entered for his first action of the season and immediately connected on 6-for-8 passes for 81 yards, the touchdown and a scintilating 201.3 quarterback rating.

It was a contest flush with unheralded performers who stepped up for the Irish. In addition to Coan’s work, true freshman offensive lineman Joe Alt logged significant time at both fullback and left tackle, Andrew Kristofic (guard) and Jordan Botelho (linebacker) both started on their respective sides of the ball.

Wisconsin, ranked 15th in the USA Today Coaches Poll and favored by oddsmakers in this game by almost a touchdown, instead sputtered throughout the game.

The Badgers (1-2) did not convert a third down until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter; they finished just 1-for-15 on third- and fourth-down conversions.

Wisconsin also lost the turnover battle, with Mertz four times picked off, including the house-calls from Kiser and White, in addition to Mertz's lost fumble.

Though the Badgers outgained Notre Dame, 314-242, it was Notre Dame which executed at a higher level, committed just one turnover and found a way to retool its lineup on offense and defense.

The Irish opened with Kristofic at left guard – part of a carousel of linemen who played throughout the matinee affair. Tosh Baker started at left tackle but also gave way at times to Alt, while Prince Kollie and Justin Walters were among Irish defenders who logged starting roles on special teams units.

Additionally, freshman wideouts Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Deion Colzie both played meaningful offensive snaps.

Notre Dame also got 51 and 37-yard field goals from Jonathan Doerer, whose first kick evened the game at 3-all and whose second boot lifted the Irish to a 27-13 edge deep into the fourth quarter.

 
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