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Notre Dame Football

Lenzy: Major focus we don't lose at home

October 2, 2021
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There have been, of course, stellar matchups along the way.

Top-ranked Clemson.

Twice, the University of Southern California.

Twice, Florida State.

A 2018 season-opening tilt against top-15 Michigan to kickstart what became the first of two College Football Playoff journeys in the past three seasons.

In other words, Notre Dame's 26-game home winning binge includes an ample array of Power 5 pelts, to go along with the likes of Bowling Green, New Mexico and South Florida.

The consensus top-10 Fighting Irish (4-0) might get their stiffest test to date when equally top-10 and undefeated Cincinnati (3-0) invades Notre Dame Stadium. Kick is 2:30 p.m. (NBC).

“It's definitely a major focus that we don't lose at home,” said senior wideout Braden Lenzy, who was starring at Tigard Senior High School (Oregon) when the Irish last lost at home to Georgia in September 2017. “It's always a focus to win, but specifically at home. It's more about pride and more about the heartstrings of Notre Dame. You want to protect your house.”

Lenzy never has experienced a home loss with the Irish – but he recalled the experience of the players' summer work inside their home cathedral to guard against defeat.

“Summer workouts when we'll do workouts in the stadium,” Lenzy said. “There's a lot that kind of goes into it and come that time. I think Thursday practices, we practice in the stadium when we have a home game, we make sure that we're aware, when we're here, it's an absolute win. This is non-negotiable.”

Lenzy has traversed every step inside the Irish's home as part of those workouts – and logged a circuitous route across campus as well.

All in the name of strength coach Matt Balis' foundational work for season preparation and home security.

“When we did the stadium steps my freshman year, we did like every single step and then did a middle of the field workout after,” said Lenzy, who recalled rising around 4:30 a.m. to prepare for those training sessions. “Then we did a history 3k or 5k where we would run to different points around the campus of Notre Dame and different team leaders had to speak about whatever. So you would run to the Grotto and the leader would speak about the Grotto. It wasn't in any convenient order. You had to like zig-zag. Those were both my freshmen summer. It was crazy.”

Added graduate-transfer offensive lineman Cain Madden, “That process was hard. Coming in with Coach Balis, he's a different animal now. Coach Balis, he's a great guy and his staff, oh my goodness. Nothing but great words about all those guys in that room. It was hard, it wasn't easy, but it was fun. It was really run to get around the team and see them work and see how hard they work. It opened my eyes up and helped me realize I made a good decision.

“They (Notre Dame's veteran leaders) tried to warn me (about Balis) but I was being hard-headed. Like, 'No, no way. I've already been through this.' They tried to warn me and I didn't listen. And I should have listened.”

PYNE PREVIEW

Lenzy wasn't remotely surprised last week when sophomore Drew Pyne helped engineer Notre Dame's 41-13, come-from-behind win against Wisconsin in the Shamrock Series at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Rather, Lenzy had seen Pyne perform time and again on the practice field.

“All the time. We do a lot of two-minute drills and thru camp he excelled,” Lenzy said.

In fact, Lenzy pointed to Pyne as something of a college football unicorn – a highly regarded former four-star prospect who didn't win the starting job and elected to remain in the program.

“I think there's just this weird idea in college where if you get beat at a position it means you had a bad camp or whatever,” Lenzy said. “At Notre Dame, everyone is good. If you're third string you're very good. (Pyne) played at a very high level, could have been a starter at a lot of places. To his credit, a lot of other quarterbacks – especially now – probably would have left.

“Instead he stayed and he won us a game. Who knows if he would have left we might have been in a really bad situation.”

Pyne could get the start again today for the Irish as they host the Bearcats. Coan has been limited this week with what coach Brian Kelly termed was a soft-tissue injury, and he's expected to test his ankle/leg this morning to see if it's feasible for him to be in the starting lineup.

If Coan cannot go, after starting the Irish's first four games, Pyne would get the first start of his Notre Dame career – and his first start since December 2019.

MARSHALL MATTERS

As Madden has adjusted to his first season with the Irish and his sixth at the collegiate level, he's found something of a kindred spirit with him on the Notre Dame coaching staff.

Assistant offensive line coach Trevor Mendelson, like Madden, played at Marshall University along the offensive line.

“Coach Mendelson's been awesome,” Madden said. “He was a walk-on at Marshall also, so we kind of had that same history.

“Having him here, telling me, explaining the offense a little better, breaking it down, him and Coach (Jeff) Quinn has been doing a great job when I first got here helping me through the transition of learning the offense and learning those concepts and the way they think. It's been helpful.”

Notre Dame in spring snared Mendelson away from his on-field coaching position working with the tight ends group at Richmond University. He also had experience on Dave Clawson's Wake Forest staff.

 
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