Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) scores a touchdown against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams leads No. 6 USC past No. 15 Notre Dame

Caleb Williams rushed for three touchdowns and passed for another, and No. 6-ranked Southern California completed its best regular season since 2008 with a 38-27 win over rival and No. 15-ranked Notre Dame on Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12), already locked into next Friday’s Pac-12 Conference championship game, maintained their prospects of playing in the College Football Playoff with an emphatic win to cap the regular season.

USC jumped ahead less than five minutes into Saturday’s contest when Williams connected with Tahj Washington on an 11-yard touchdown, and the Trojans led from wire-to-wire thereafter.

Notre Dame (8-4) threatened in the second quarter when Drew Pyne threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Michael Mayer.

The Fighting Irish pulled to within 10-7 on that score, but gave up the first of Williams’ rushing touchdowns on the ensuing USC possession. The 5-yard end-zone jaunt just 34 seconds before halftime pushed the Trojans’ lead back to double digits — and it never again dipped back into single digits.

USC — and specifically Williams — quickly answered any Notre Dame rally effort throughout the second half, pushing its lead to 17 points on three occasions in the third and fourth quarters. Williams ran for scores of 3 and 16 yards, the latter slamming the door on the Fighting Irish with 2:35 remaining.

Raleek Brown opened the second half with a 5-yard touchdown run for the Trojans. Austin Jones, meanwhile, buoyed the USC rushing attack with 154 yards on 24 carries to support Williams’ 35 yards.

Williams finished 18-of-22 passing for 232 yards and spread his completions among nine pass-catchers. Jordan Addison led the way with 45 yards on three receptions.

Pyne went 23-of-26 passing for 318 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the loss, including a second to Mayer in the game’s closing moments. He was intercepted by Calen Bullock in the fourth quarter.

The Irish rushed for just 90 yards on 26 carries.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer (87) dives for the pylon as Boston College Eagles defensive back Josh DeBerry (21) defends in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 18 Notre Dame dominates from 1st play in 44-0 shutout

No. 18 Notre Dame scored on its first eight drives and cruised to a 44-0 win over visiting Boston College on a snowy Saturday nonconference action at South Bend, Ind.

Audric Estime rushed for two touchdowns and Logan Diggs had a team-high 122 yards and a score on 15 carries, leading the Fighting Irish (8-3) to their fifth straight triumph.

Notre Dame finished with a 437-173 advantage in total yards. The count was 336-81, including 214-1 on the ground, in the first half.

Freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison intercepted three of BC quarterback Emmett Morehead’s passes. Isaiah Foskey became Notre Dame’s all-time sacks leader, taking down Morehead for his 25th to end the opening half.

Quarterback Drew Pyne went 13 of 25 for 156 yards and one touchdown.

For BC (3-8), which has lost five of six, Zay Flowers had 46 receiving yards and Alex Broome rushed for 25. Morehead ended 9-for-22 for 117 yards and was sacked four times as the Eagles turned the ball over five times.

On defense, Vinny DePalma had a game-high 12 tackles.

After Diggs ran for 51 yards on the opening play from scrimmage, the Irish got stopped in the red zone and settled for Blake Grupe’s 26-yard field goal.

It was 10-0 in less than three minutes. Morrison picked off Morehead to end the Eagles’ first series prematurely, leading to a Diggs 1-yard score on his fifth consecutive carry.

An eight-play, 81-yard drive resulted in the second straight Notre Dame touchdown and a 17-0 lead. Pyne went 6-of-7 on a drive that finished with a 1-yard TD to Matt Salerno with 4:15 left in the first.

BC’s Donovan Ezeiruaku broke up a third-down pass, holding Notre Dame to a 41-yard field goal to begin the second quarter.

Grupe was called upon again at 8:27 before halftime, hitting from 46 after a penalty and Pyne’s scamper coming up short of a first down.

Estime (7 yards) and Chris Tyree (12) rushed for TDs in the final 3:04 of the first half.

Aside from two of Morrison’s interceptions, BC fumbled twice and punted twice in the first half.

Following another Morrison pick, Estime ran to the left for a 6-yard score with 8:54 to play in the third.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2022; Syracuse, New York, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) runs over Syracuse Orange defensive back Alijah Clark (5) in the second quarter at JMA Wireless Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame hands No. 16 Syracuse second straight loss

Audric Estime and Logan Diggs combined for 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns as visiting Notre Dame knocked off No. 16 Syracuse 41-24 on Saturday afternoon.

Estime (20 carries, 123 yards) ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and Diggs added 20 carries for 85 yards and one score for the Fighting Irish (5-3), who outrushed Syracuse 246-61.

The Orange’s Garrett Shrader completed just 5 of 14 passes for 35 yards before exiting with a concussion in the second quarter. Carlos Del Rio-Wilson came on and was 11 of 22 for 190 yards. Both players threw one touchdown and one interception.

Sean Tucker ran for 60 yards and a touchdown for Syracuse (6-2), which has dropped back-to-back games.

Notre Dame dominated the first half, outgaining Syracuse 225-73 en route to a 21-7 advantage at intermission.

The first play from scrimmage was intercepted by Notre Dame’s Brandon Joseph and returned 29 yards for a touchdown. The Orange answered by taking their next possession 53 yards in seven plays for the tying score — a 13-yard TD pass from Shrader to Oronde Gadsden II — but the Fighting Irish scored the next 17 points to take control.

Midway through the second quarter, Diggs capped an 11-play drive with a 3-yard TD run to create a 14-7 edge for the visitors.

Late in the half, Syracuse failed on a fourth-and-7 from the Notre Dame 39. That set up good field position for the Irish, who found the end zone six plays later as Drew Pyne found Jayden Thomas for a 3-yard score with 17 ticks left until halftime.

After Notre Dame kicked a 31-yard field goal midway through the third quarter, Syracuse began to mount a mini-comeback. Andre Szmyt made a 54-yard field goal and Tucker capped the next Orange possession with a 4-yard TD run, making it 24-17 late in the third quarter.

However, Estime scored back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdowns to seal the outcome.

First he sliced untouched up the middle for an 11-yard score. Notre Dame then blocked a punt and Estime plunged in from 2 yards out for a 38-17 cushion.

The hosts pulled within 38-24 with 5:44 remaining, but they got no closer.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Logan Diggs (3) gestures after a first down in the second quarter against the UNLV Rebels at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Consecutive blocked punts help Notre Dame to easy win

Defensive end Isaiah Foskey blocked two punts in a two-minute span of the first quarter to set up two scores and spark Notre Dame’s 44-21 victory over UNLV on a warm Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind.

Foskey also registered three sacks as the Fighting Irish (4-3) salved the sting of the previous week’s home loss to Stanford with a well-rounded victory.

Drew Pyne threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, Logan Diggs rushed for a career-high 130 yards in his first 100-yard rushing game and tight end Michael Mayer caught six passes for 115 yards and a score.

For UNLV (4-4), which played without starting quarterback Doug Brumfield (concussion) and top running back Aidan Robbins (knee), senior Courtney Reese rushed for a career-high 142 yards and Jordan Younge-Humphrey plunged for two touchdowns as the Rebels rotated Cameron Friel and Harrison Bailey at quarterback.

UNLV went 0-for-12 on third-down conversions against Notre Dame’s defense, while the Irish offense was 9-for-17 on third downs.

After managing just 14 points against Stanford, Notre Dame produced 23 points in the first quarter to slow the rising stress levels in South Bend.

Audric Estime capped the game’s first drive with a blast through right tackle for a 12-yard score. Blake Grupe booted a 43-yard field goal to stake the Fighting Irish to a 10-0 lead at the 10:06 mark of the first quarter.

UNLV responded with Reese’s 74-yard slalom down the left side that set up Younge-Humphrey’s 2-yard touchdown run on the option to pull the Rebels within 10-7 at 9:10.

Notre Dame’s special teams set up the next score as Foskey rushed in untouched and swatted punter Marshall Nichols’ drop to the ground before Nichols could boot it away. That set up the Irish at UNLV’s 20-yard line and Pyne found Mayer for a 20-yard score to push the lead to 17-7 with 6:24 left in the first.

Mayer’s 15th career touchdown catch tied Ken MacAfee’s Notre Dame all-time record for a tight end.

The Irish forced UNLV into another 3-and-out, which led to another Foskey punt block that gave Notre Dame possession at UNLV’s 14. Grupe finished the brief drive with a 27-yard field goal to make it 20-7. Grupe added a 46-yarder to boost the margin to 23-7 at 1:18 of the first.

Tight end Mitchell Evans added a 1-yard touchdown sneak to give Notre Dame a 30-7 margin with 4:10 left in the half.

Blessed with a 23-point second-half lead, Notre Dame turned conservative and stuck to its ground attack. UNLV earned the only score of the third quarter on backup quarterback Bailey’s 5-yard bootleg at the 8:06 mark.

That pulled the Rebels within two scores at 30-14, but Notre Dame wore down the Rebels defense and regained a 37-14 lead on Chris Tyree’s 8-yard blast with 11:59 left in the game.

Younge-Humphrey answered with a 1-yard touchdown blast on fourth-and-goal to cut UNLV’s deficit to 37-21 with 8:02 to go. Cornerback Clarence Lewis recovered the Rebels’ ensuing onside kick to blunt the visitors’ momentum.

Notre Dame clinched matters with Pyne’s 4-yard shovel pass to man-in-motion Braden Lenzy with 2:55 to play.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Casey Filkins (2) briefly loses the football as Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Marist Liufau (8) defendsin the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinal down Irish to snap FBS losing streak

Stanford snapped an 11-game losing streak to FBS opponents behind Tanner McKee’s 288 yards on 26-of-38 passing in a 16-14 win Saturday over Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind.

The Cardinal (2-4) last beat an FBS team on Oct. 2, 2021, when they outlasted Oregon 31-24 in overtime.

Notre Dame (3-3) gained possession with 2:30 left following a punt, but the Fighting Irish could not advance beyond its 25-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.

Drew Pyne was sacked and threw consecutive incompletions to end the possession with 1:04 left.

Pyne completed 13 of 27 pass attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown.

Notre Dame managed to overcome a 13-0 deficit in the third quarter by putting together consecutive touchdown drives.

Audric Estime’s 10-yard scoring run capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with 6:22 left in the third quarter.

Tobias Merriweather, a true freshman, made a 41-yard touchdown reception – the first catch of his career — on a pass from Pyne that completed a six-play, 60-yard possession with 14:53 remaining.

Stanford regained the lead, 16-14, on Joshua Karty’s 43-yard field goal with 10:20 remaining.

Notre Dame then sustained a drive that included the Fighting Irish converting on a fourth-and-2 situation at its 46 with Logan Diggs’ 6-yard run.

They got to the Stanford 43 before Estime ran for 22 yards but fumbled.

Stanford’s Jonathan McGill made the recovery at the Cardinal 21 with 6:35 remaining.

Karty made field goals of 45 and 42 yards previously to help Stanford take a 13-0 lead.

The Cardinal scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game when Casey Filkins ran into the end zone from 2 yards.

Filkins rushed 91 yards on 32 carries.

Stanford overall had only 97 yards rushing on 42 carries with the longest run nine yards.

McKee’s production, particularly throwing to Michael Wilson and Elijah Higgins, led the Cardinal.

Wilson had nine receptions for 66 yards and Higgins caught five passes for 81 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) looks to pass in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Improved Notre Dame meets No. 16 BYU at Las Vegas

Notre Dame is riding a two-game winning streak into Saturday’s clash with No. 16 BYU at Las Vegas for one simple reason: The Fighting Irish have been focused on playing more complete games.

The commitment has helped Notre Dame rebound from a 0-2 start where it lost leads against Ohio State and Marshall in back-to-back weeks and sent the Irish tumbling out of the AP Top 25 poll after starting the season as a top-10 squad.

The Irish (2-2) put together their most complete game offensively two weeks ago in a 45-32 win over North Carolina. They racked up 576 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per play against the Tar Heels after being held under 400 total yards in each of their first three contests. Defensively, Notre Dame held North Carolina to just 66 rushing yards.

“I wanted to make sure our focus is on every play of the game and not just finishing in the fourth,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said.

Playing a more complete game is also a concern for BYU.

The Cougars (4-1) needed third-quarter surges to overcome sluggish starts in back-to-back wins over Wyoming and Utah State. Against Utah State in particular, BYU ran only 19 plays in the first half compared to 52 for the Aggies.

Once the Cougars started sustaining drives, they were able to pull away. In the third quarter of an eventual 38-26 victory over Utah State, BYU ran 22 plays and averaged 9 yards per play.

Starting strong has become a greater emphasis going into the game at the home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

“That’s the whole focus is us playing at our best and that’s my job as head coach is to make sure we get there,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.

Saturday’s game is the 11th edition of Notre Dame’s Shamrock Series, which started with a 2009 contest against Washington State. Notre Dame has never lost a Shamrock Series game, which functions as a de facto home game designed to bring Irish football games to alumni and fans in other parts of the country.

“The Shamrock Series is what makes Notre Dame unique,” Freeman said. “It’s one of our distinctions.”

BYU and Notre Dame are meeting for the ninth time. The Irish hold a 6-2 lead in the series. The contest also culminates a six-game contract between the schools, originally signed when the Cougars became an FBS independent in 2011. Two games were played at South Bend, Ind., in 2012 and 2013 – both Notre Dame victories. The Irish bought out three of the final four games after forming a scheduling alliance with the ACC.

The Cougars enter the game as a slight underdog by oddsmakers despite facing an unranked Notre Dame squad.

“I like the underdog mentality all the time, so no matter what the situation is, we know we are going against a great team,” Sitake said. “Notre Dame hasn’t played its best football yet, but you can see the talent and the flashes of great players. But we haven’t played our best football either.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) is sacked by Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Rylie Mills (99) in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Pyne has career day as Notre Dame knocks off North Carolina

Drew Pyne established career-bests of 289 yards and three touchdowns as Notre Dame beat North Carolina 45-32 on the road in Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon.

The win is the second straight for the Irish (2-2) after they started the season with a pair of losses. The Tar Heels (3-1) sustained their first blemish of the campaign.

Pyne — who completed 24 of 34 passes — was just one part of Notre Dame’s explosive offense attack that gained 35 first downs, which is the most for an Irish team in a single game since 1996. The Irish ran 51 times for 287 yards, a 5.6 yards per-carry average. Sophomore running back Audric Estime paced the ground game with a career-high 134 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

Estime is the first Irish back to rush for more than 100 yards in a single game since Kyren Williams did so last year against UNC, and Notre Dame’s 576 yards of total offense is the most they’ve had in a single game since having 591 in a 2019 win over New Mexico.

UNC’s Drake Maye threw for five touchdowns and 301 yards, but the Heels were plagued by mistakes.

The Tar Heels miscues included a fumble and nine penalties — one of which was an unsportsmanlike call against coach Mack Brown. North Carolina also had an ineffective run game that gained just 66 yards on 28 carries, an average of 2.4 yards per rush.

UNC did score first as Maye found Josh Downs on a 4-yard touchdown strike, but then Notre Dame scored 38 of the game’s next 45 points. The Heels scored one touchdown in the third quarter and two in the fourth, but couldn’t close the gap on the scoreboard in a meaningful way.

This was the third straight game that North Carolina gave up more than 420 yards of total offense.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s defense logged three sacks, three pass breakups, three QB hurries, and seven tackles for loss which added up to minus-30 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) during the second half against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive-minded North Carolina up next for Notre Dame

Fresh off its long-awaited first win of the season, Notre Dame will hit the road to face North Carolina on Saturday at Chapel Hill.

After falling in the season opener at Ohio State, then absorbing a stunning home loss to Marshall, the Fighting Irish (1-2) rebounded last week with a 24-17 win over Cal.

Key in Notre Dame’s first win of the season was the pressure its defense was able to apply on Cal quarterback Jack Plummer. The Irish racked up six sacks and five other QB hits. The pressure didn’t result in any turnovers, but Notre Dame kept Cal to just 4 of 15 on third down conversions and 1 of 3 on fourth down.

“Overall, I’ve been pleased, but is there a lot to improve at? Absolutely,” first-year Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “That goes from every level of defense.”

Irish quarterback Drew Pyne also was sharp against Cal, completing 17 of 23 passes for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Backfield mates Audric Estime and Chris Tyree combined for 140 rushing yards on 35 carries, an average of 4 yards per-carry.

North Carolina is 3-0 to start the season but has historically struggled against the Irish. Notre Dame is 20-2 all-time in the series and is currently riding a four-game winning streak against the Tar Heels going back to 2014.

UNC has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, averaging 51.3 points per-game — a mark that is tops in the ACC and fourth-best in FBS. The leader of that attack is redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye, who has thrown for 930 yards and 11 touchdowns, tied for the FBS lead.

The Tar Heels’ problem has been their defense. The unit, coached by first-year defensive coordinator Gene Chizik — a former national championship-winning head coach at Auburn — has given up 37.7 points per game, which ranks 119th out of 131 FBS teams.

“Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job of stopping them on first down,” Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown said. “We’re still not doing as well on early downs, and that’s where you force your turnovers. … I’m proud of the progress we’re making on defense, but we still have a lot of work that we can do.”

UNC defensive back Don Chapman is expected to play against Notre Dame, Brown said. Chapman missed UNC’s previous two games after being arrested on Sept. 8 and charged with domestic criminal trespassing, assault, and misdemeanor battery of an unborn child.

–Field Level Media