Instant Observations: Did Notre Dame find a QB amid loss to No. 7 Cincinnati?

Eric Hansen
ND Insider

Bottom Line

No. 9 Notre Dame may have found a long-term QB solution on Saturday amid losing a top 10 showdown, a realistic path to College Football Playoff contention and its 26-game home winning streak.

Undone by three first-half turnovers and limited production from a first-half QB tag team of Jack Coan and Tyler Buchner, the Irish cratered against No. 7 Cincinnati and its No. 2 pass-efficiency defense nationally, 24-13, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

► Scoring:Cincinnati-Notre Dame scoring summary

Sophomore Drew Pyne started at QB in the second half, and the move did spark at least some long drives and points. 

But it wasn’t enough to keep UC from taking down the highest-ranked road opponent in its history. The previous best was a 45-44 victory at No. 14 Pitt in 2009 in the last game of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s three-year run as Cincinnati’s head coach.

Jeff Quinn served as interim coach for UC’s Sugar Bowl loss to Florida that season as Kelly took the ND job roughly three weeks before that game.

UC quarterback Desmond Ridder's six-yard scoring run with 5:08 left sealed ND's first home loss since Sept. 9, 2017 against Georgia (20-19).

Big Picture

Saturday felt like a College Football Playoff elimination game for the loser, given neither one has any ranked opponents left on their respective schedules. UC doesn’t necessarily have a clear path to the playoff if it keeps winning, but at least the Bearcats kept themselves in the conversation.

Questions Answered

Notre Dame figured to be a team playing its best football in November. The question was whether the Irish would win the race against time to be good enough in October to keep themselves in the CFP picture. They did not, and October is just beginning. The Irish may have a new answer at QB.

Questions Lingering

Would Pyne being the starting quarterback best mitigate the Irish offensive line’s chronic growing pains? … With freshman Joe Alt coming in relief at left tackle and playing extensive high-leverage snaps in the second half, is he the long-term answer there? 

My Game Balls Go To

Offense: Tight end Michael Mayer. The sophomore had a game-high eight catches for 93 yards.

Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer (87) celebrates after picking up a first down during the Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Defense: Defensive end Isaiah Foskey: The junior collected three tackles, with a sack and a forced fumble that led to the first Irish TD. 

The Road Ahead

Notre Dame (4-1) looks to regroup next Saturday on the road against Virginia Tech (3-1), with a bye week to follow.