My final thoughts on Notre Dame's convincing victory over Wisconsin.
1. It’s the little plays that count. If Kevin Austin doesn’t make a shoestring grab going out of bounds on 3rd-and-6 at the Wisconsin 41 with 10:41 left, I’m not sure we’re looking at a 41-13 Notre Dame blowout over Wisconsin. The play went for seven yards. The pass wasn’t great but the reception was spectacular. In retrospect, Austin’s play gave quarterback Drew Pyne a boost of confidence. Pyne had been sacked on a blindside rush by a Wisconsin player on an earlier series, causing a fumble that led to Wisconsin taking a 13-10 fourth quarter lead. Pyne hit Austin for a 16-yard touchdown pass three plays later. He was the feel-good story for the offense, which struggled mightily under the weight of an offensive line that is just not very good right now.
2. Pyne finished 6 for 8 for 81 yards passing with a touchdown and the fumble. He’s listed as the second-string quarterback but Pyne is really the third-stringer. Tyler Buchner is the second option and Jack Coan is the starter. You can make the case that ND has three good options at QB. Not many teams can say that. Pyne gets ignored because he doesn’t look the part. He’s a shade under 6-foot, but he’s got a good arm, he can run for yards if needed and he’s scrappy and he might just get to start next week against Cincinnati.
3. Brian Kelly said he didn’t want a quarterback controversy. Okay, then, let’s go with quarterback murkiness and examine his record at predicting who's going to play after injuries. Buchner has an issue with his hamstring and Coan has a sprained ankle. Kelly said after the win that he was “optimistic” that Coan would return against Cincinnati because it was a “soft tissue” injury. However, he made it sound like on Thursday that Buchner would be ready to play, noting that he was running at the sprint speed he wanted him to run. Buchner wasn’t available. It can take a month or so to get back from a strained hamstring. Left tackle Michael Carmody has missed three full games with a sprained ankle. Coan isn't a lineman but they aren't going to rush him back. I’m just saying to stay tuned on this one.
4. After a game against Purdue, where he dropped three passes, Kevin Austin, a senior, came charging back, catching six passes for 76 yards. Two of those catches went for touchdowns. The first one was a 36-yard pass from Coan. It’s what seniors do. Kelly noticed though he said Austin can improve.
“We got better play. I wish he didn't stumble on the screen or he scores, but he comes right back and makes a shoestring catch that was a huge play for us to keep that drive alive, which ultimately we scored a touchdown on. He's a big-play guy for us,” Kelly said. “We needed his performance and we got the kind of performance that he's capable of. There needs to be some consistency across the board at that position, but we'll get it. We've got to do a little bit better job of shaking some guys loose in other ways. But like I said, we'll get back and figure out how to do that this week.”
5. Finally, Notre Dame getting 6.5 points against the Badgers was just insane. I can’t say that I knew the Irish were going to win but that line was just crazy from the start.
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