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Notre Dame Football

Tyler Buchner Resilient in Notre Dame's Gator Bowl Comeback Win

December 30, 2022

Tyler Buchner arrived on Notre Dame’s campus known for his electric playmaking and gaudy stats following one of the most productive high school seasons in football history. 

It might have taken until the final game of his sophomore year for fans to see his ability to make plays - good and bad - but Buchner got the job done to move the Irish to 9-4 on the year. 

Notre Dame topped South Carolina in Friday’s Gator Bowl 45-38 and Buchner accounted for seven touchdowns in the game. Yes, five were for the Fighting Irish and two were Gamecock interception returns for touchdowns, including the 100-yard pick-six to tie the game with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter. 

It was a poor play call and a poor decision, but Buchner didn’t hang his head. The sophomore quarterback went to work. Buchner led the Irish on a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped off with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Evans for the game-winning score. 

“It was one of the plays we've had dialed up all week in bowl prep,” Buchner said of the touchdown to Evans. “We run a lot of duo, so it's like a run concept. We decided to put a little play-action off it.

“We were going to sneak the tight end out the backside and thought it would be open. It was a great call by Coach (Tommy) Rees. I know someone talked about it earlier how J.T. (Jayden Thomas) was open. The thought on that was it's kind of a shot or nothing, so Mitch was covered, throw out of bounds, and if not, give him a chance and try to score a touchdown.”

The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder finished the day 18-of-33 for 274 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions through the air while adding 61 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground. 

It was an up and down performance, but one you would expect from someone making their third collegiate start. The ability to bounce back after some tough plays shouldn’t be downplayed as some questioned Buchner’s mental makeup entering the game. 

“The interceptions were tough,” stated Buchner. “That goes along with rust and goes along with making mistakes. I think being able to bounce back from that is something that -- credit to our offensive line, our wide receivers, our tight ends, our coaches putting me in good spots. It really comes down to every single person on the staff, from the head coach all the way down to the managers, they're so supportive, they help me in every single facet of life and it showed in today's game.

“Every single person on the sideline supporting me, there for me, and that kind of support goes a long way in a 20-year-old's head. Throws two picks for a touchdown, it wasn't that fun, but when you have such a great group of guys around you, such a great support staff around you, it makes things a lot easier.” 

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman was pleased with his quarterback’s ability to not only rebound after some backbreaking turnovers, but to find a way to get on the field following his week two injury. 

“He's special, man,” explained Freeman. “I told him after the game that there's many different examples we use, but Tyler Buchner is an example of a guy that had a bumpy road. The way he finished off this season, his first year, having a chance to start, and the ability to just really tune out all the noise and focus on, you know what, his job. That's within a practice, within a season, within a game. That's why I'm proud of him.” 

Buchner didn’t take the moment for granted, but he also wanted to make sure he finished the 2022 season off right for those who did play the entire season. 

“I play football because of the games,” Buchner stated. “It's only so fun working out, doing all this stuff. Getting hurt, not so fun. Just having this opportunity to go back out there for one last time this season with people that I love, my teammates, it's just an unbelievable opportunity, and I'm happy we came out with a win.” 

The win gives Notre Dame much-needed momentum heading into the offseason and also positive vibes for Buchner following a challenging year. 

“Obviously as everyone can see, there's a lot of room for me to improve,” said Buchner. “The game we played was great. We won the game, and I couldn't be happier, but for me personally, I didn't play to the standard I wanted to play. I think I accounted for two extra touchdowns that I didn't mean to account for.

“That's not the standard I hold myself to. This off-season I'm going to continue to work as usual, put my head down and I'm going to do it with my brothers. We're continuing to improve and we're going to be a great team.” 

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