In Georgia's Stetson Bennett IV, Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne has a 'great mentor'

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — Newly elevated Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne has been in touch this week with Georgia counterpart Stetson Bennett IV, but that’s nothing unusual.

“We’re actually good friends,” Pyne said Tuesday after practice. “It was just normal talk. We kind of talk every single day.”

In the wake of Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, Pyne will make his first career start on Saturday at home against Cal-Berkeley. Bennett, who turns 25 in six weeks and led the top-ranked Bulldogs to the national championship in January, has been a trusted resource for Pyne since they met a three summers ago at QB Country in Nashville.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) heads to the locker room after a NCAA college football game between Samford and Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Georgia won 33-0.

“He’s a great mentor to me and role model,” said Pyne, a redshirt sophomore from New Canaan, Conn. “We kind of talk, Snapchat and stuff, every day, every other day. We just talk about ball.”

This week’s conversation might be a little more detailed in terms of managing what figures to be an emotional experience for Pyne.

“I asked him a few things for advice,” Pyne said. “I might talk to him later this week and get some more advice heading into the game … mentally and preparation-wise.”

Passed over exactly one month earlier in a truncated camp battle with Buchner, Pyne has long drawn inspiration from Bennett’s circuitous path to glory.

This summer at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana, their bond grew even stronger. They drove to the airport together and “had a great conversation,” Pyne said.   

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“His story is unbelievable,” Pyne said in early August. “He grew up loving Georgia. I grew up loving Notre Dame. For all the stuff that he’s battled through and to be where he’s at today and lead a Georgia team to a national championship -- which they also haven’t won in 30-some years – the guy who’s always been doubted is something that he and I always push each other toward.”

Bennett, a former walk-on and junior-college transfer who ended a Georgia title drought of 42 years, is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. Pyne is listed at half an inch taller and 8 pounds heavier.

Bennett had to wait his turn behind Jake Fromm and outlast several competitors, including USC transfer JT Daniels, now at West Virginia.

“We’ve shared our stories,” Pyne said. “We’re similar statures. We’re similar people in how we battled through everything. He’s had so much success, so I’m excited to watch him this year.”

Saturday, after the Bulldogs play their noon game at South Carolina, Bennett will get a chance to watch his Snapchat buddy in the Midwest.

'No excuses' for fourth-quarter fades

Al Golden knew the question was coming. As soon as he heard “fourth quarter,” he started answering.

“Not good enough,” the first-year defensive coordinator said. “Simple as that. We have to get it corrected. That’s on us. That’s what we have to get fixed.”

After seeing his Irish defense surrender late touchdown drives of 95 and 94 yards in losses to Ohio State and Marshall, respectively, Golden and his defensive staff have their point of emphasis.

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“We’re trying to work on finishing better, executing in the fourth quarter, tackling better, to be quite honest,” he said. “Those are the three things. Just finish, whether that includes playing through the echo of the whistle (or) whatever you have to do. There’s no excuses. We didn’t tackle well enough – period.”

Perhaps it will help to have Manti Te’o back on campus Saturday. The 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up, a star linebacker and spiritual leader for an Irish team that reached the BCS Championship Game, will join his alma mater for the pregame Victory Walk from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Chris Tyree ready for liftoff

With 1990 Heisman runner-up Raghib “Rocket” Ismail due in town this weekend for a speaking engagement, it seems like a good time to get another No. 25 going.

Chris Tyree, the junior speedster entrusted with the Rocket’s old number, has been limited to just 12 touches for 65 combined yards on offense through two games.

“Chris is somebody that we explicitly trust,” offensive coordinator Tommy Rees said. “I have nothing but trust in Chris Tyree. I love that kid. We have to find a way to highlight his ability. That’s my job.”

Chris Tyree, 25, walking to Notre Dame football practice on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 at Labar Practice Complex.

Tyree, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Wisconsin with Ismail in attendance last September at Chicago’s Soldier Field, had a 32-yard return against Marshall that looked promising until he was tripped up. Averaging 5.0 yards per carry, Tyree has been a third ground option behind Audric Estime (19 carries) and Logan Diggs (11).

“We have three backs that we think can all help us win,” Rees said. “It’s hard to play three backs. That’s just the truth of the matter.”

Tommy Rees knows the feeling

Saddled with the nation’s 14th-worst scoring offense at 15.5 points a game, tied with Boston College and former Irish confidant John McNulty, Rees knows frustrations are high among the fan base.

Now in his third season in the role, Rees said he was willing to accept all the blame if it took pressure off his players.  A Notre Dame quarterback himself from 2010-13, Rees was the starter on the last Irish team to drop its first two games in 2011.

“I’ve been in harder times here before," he said, "personally and as a team."

His advice to the current players?

“Surround yourself with people that care,” he said. “Try to block out as much noise as you can.”

Notre Dame responded in 2011 with four straight wins and took eight of its next nine games after that miserable start.

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino and on TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.

California (2-0) vs. Notre Dame (0-2) 

  • When: Saturday at 2 :30 p.m. 
  • Where: Notre Dame Stadium (77,622), South Bend, Ind. 
  • TV/Radio: NBC/Peacock, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Notre Dame favored by 11 points 
  • Series: Notre Dame leads series 4-0 
  • Last meeting: ND 41, Cal 8, Sept. 23, 1967 in South Bend