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Notre Dame Football

Luck runs out: Irish home streak snapped by Bearcats

October 2, 2021
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The streak is over.

For Notre Dame, anyway.

Cincinnati? The upstart and soon-to-be-Big-12-bound Bearcats, already a consensus top-10 team, continued their surge Saturday at the expense of the host Irish.

Cincinnati raced out to a 17-0 halftime lead, withstood Notre Dame's fourth-quarter rally and prevailed, 24-13, inside a sold-out Notre Dame Stadium.

The loss – the Irish's first at home in more than four years, since a narrow setback to Georgia – snapped the program's 26-game home winning streak.

“Everyone's just hurting about our loss right now,” said versatile defender Isaiah Foskey. “It sucks to lose. Sucks to lose at home and lose our streak. It's something we have to keep growing from. We have Virginia Tech next.”

After one-third of their season unfolded with victories despite glaring issues, the Irish on Saturday had a multitude of shortcomings laid bare: they continued to struggle running the football, failed early in the red zone, lost the turnover battle and, terminally, dug themselves a hole from which they could not recover.

Cincinnati outgained Notre Dame and was flagged for less than half the Irish's 51 penalty yards.

“When you play a good opponent, you have to match your play with a high level of competency in terms of the mundane things,” Brian Kelly said. “We didn't take care of the basics today. And all we needed to do was be efficient at the basics today and we weren't efficient at the basics.”

Cincinnati got scoring strikes in the first half when Desmond Ridder hit Leonard Taylor from a yard out in a money-down goal-to-go situation and later when Ridder connected with Tre Tucker from 27 yards.

Tucker, twisting and turning, seemed to mislead Irish safety Kyle Hamilton, who was in decent position to make a play but saw Tucker instead cut under, snag the ball and prance unscathed into the end zone.

It could have been worse for Notre Dame. Cole Smith missed two field goals for the Bearcats, as well as the 23-yarder Smith connected and three extra points.

Notre Dame returned Michael Carmody to the left tackle position initially, but Carmody at times was abused by the Bearcats' pass rush and the Irish again turned to true freshman Joe Alt. Tosh Baker, the second-year tackle, was unavailable due to concussion protocol.

The Irish mustered a scant 84 net rushing yards on 28 tries; their longest run of the day came on their first play from scrimmage, when Kyren Williams scampered 16 yards for a first down.

But that drive ended with a Jack Coan interception at the goal line.

Notre Dame played all three quarterbacks – Coan, Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne, who logged the lion's share of second-half work.

But the trio was 23-for-46 for just one touchdown – Pyne's toss to Braden Lenzy – and saw both Coan and Buchner picked off, setting up Cincinnati on short fields.

The Irish trimmed their margin to 17-13 late in the fourth quarter, after they scored 13 unanswered points on Williams' 3-yard rush and Lenzy's acrobatic, 32-yard snare in the right boundary of the end zone.

“I told the guys it's the 24-hour-rule,” said Irish linebacker Drew White. “Same as a win. We've got a lotta wins around here, and it's 24 hours. Guys are going to be down. We'll be in tomorrow watching film. We're not going to feel good about it. We're going to be ready for Virginia Tech. We can't let one game define the rest of our season. We need continue to battle and come back.”

 
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