The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the UNLV Rebels 44-21. They led 23-7 after the first quarter, and the game was never closer than 16 points after that point.
Here are five key moments and trends from the Irish victory.
Notre Dame offense gets off to fast start
Notre Dame needed a strong start today, and in its first possession of the game, junior quarterback Drew Pyne and the offense drove down the field. Sophomore running back Audric Estime punched it in for the Irish on a 12-yard run. The drive started off inconsistent but was rescued by two long passes. One was caught by junior tight end Michael Mayer along the sideline for 23 yards. The other was a third-down reception hauled in by sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas, down the middle for 37 yards.
After big run, Irish defense locks down
UNLV’s first score of the game came on the heels of a 74-yard sprint by running back Courtney Reese. Two plays later after Reese was tackled at the one-yard line by senior linebacker J.D. Bertrand, quarterback Cameron Friel’s pitch to running back Jordan Young-Humprey became a touchdown for the Rebels. Reese's run was the biggest play of the game for either team and accounted for more than half of UNLV’s yards at halftime.
Special teams sparks Irish to big halftime lead
At the end of UNLV’s next possession, Isaiah Foskey blocked UNLV’s punt and Notre Dame took over at the UNLV 20. Mayer and Pyne connected for a slash route through the endzone for the Irish’s second touchdown. The Notre Dame special teams unit was clearly reading the punter very well as Foskey and linebacker Prince Collie both made contact with the football for the second blocked punt of the game for the Irish. After an apparent touchdown pass to Mayer in the endzone was overturned, the Irish settled for a field goal. A 12-yard Brandon Joseph punt return set up their final touchdown of the half, putting Notre Dame up 30-7.
Ugly tackling mars decent defensive performance
Both of UNLV’s quarterbacks struggled to complete passes all day, with accuracy being one of the bigger issues. Courtney Reese had the two really big plays for the Rebels with the 74-yard run and then a 47-yard gain up the middle, both resulting in touchdowns. Tackling was ugly for Notre Dame. There were numerous times that a decent gain could have been prevented by more focused tackling. Better teams will turn these decent gains into really large ones.
Unbalanced playbook continues to haunt Irish
Running the ball is great but Notre Dame’s playbook is severely unbalanced. Pyne completed only 12 of 26 passes today against a pretty bad UNLV defense. Getting open didn’t seem to be a big problem for receivers. Instead, there was miscommunication downfield and drops that speak volumes about the lack of chemistry between Pyne and his receivers not named Michael Mayer. Better teams will and have been able to key on Mayer to make Pyne throw elsewhere, and the offense may not respond well to how more talented defenses decide to position themselves.
The Irish take on Syracuse on the road next week on Saturday, October 29. Game time is TBD.