Drew Pyne starts the second half for Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati

Tyler James
ND Insider

The first half didn’t go well in any aspect for Notre Dame football. The No. 9 Irish trailed No. 7 Cincinnati by a 17-0 margin

Looking for a spark, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees turned to backup quarterback Drew Pyne to lead the offense. Pyne led ND into Cincinnati territory on his drive, but the Irish failed on downs as Pyne went 2-of-5 for 32 yards.

Pyne entered last week’s 41-13 victory over Wisconsin in the third quarter when starting quarterback Jack Coan injured his left ankle. He led one touchdown drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. and finished 6-of-8 passing for 81 yards. Pyne also lost a fumble when sacked by the Badgers. 

For subscribers:Can QB Drew Pyne transcend his rescue role as Notre Dame's backup?

NBC color analyst Drew Brees suggested a quarterback change early in Notre Dame’s last drive of the first half. That drive ended with Coan sacked for a 7-yard loss on third-and-10 from Cincinnati’s 41-yard line. 

"To me, this is a last chance opportunity for Jack Coan,” Brees said on the NBC telecast. “They've got great field position. They really need to go down and get some points here. And they need to show that this offense has a little bit of spark, has some efficiency, can move the football.  

“If they're not able to do that here, I think you're forced to go with a guy like Drew Pyne, who created such a spark for you last week. I think the guys rallied around him. At this point, you gotta do something." 

Notre Dame’s Jack Coan (17) throws during the Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

After gaining 69 yards on the opening drive of the game, which ended with Coan throwing an interception to Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner, the Irish only managed 75 yards on the next six drives in the first half. 

Coan finished the first half 14-of-22 passing for 114 yards with one interception. Tyler Buchner rushed for 8 yards on three carries, but his two passes were incomplete and one was intercepted by linebacker Deshawn Pace. 

Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.