'Go out and be Drew': How Drew Pyne settled in to lead Notre Dame football past Cal
SOUTH BEND — Marcus Freeman tried everything in the first half, from tapping Drew Pyne on the shoulder, to yelling at his quarterback in an attempt to get his quarterback into a rhythm.
Nothing seemed to work, so Freeman, who won his first game as Notre Dame's head coach in Notre Dame's 24-17 win over Cal, ultimately settled on getting Pyne to relax, go out and "be Drew Pyne".
Trailing at the half for the second home game in as many weeks, Pyne, making his first college start, led Notre Dame to a come-from-behind win with touchdown drives, two of which came in the second half.
"He is a warrior, man," Freeman said of Pyne. "He is a competitor. He's a great example for everybody in that locker room because you never know when your number is going to be called, and Drew Pyne always prepared as a starter.
"To see him get his opportunity, I'm really happy for him."
Pyne threw touchdowns to running back Chris Tyree (21 yards) to tie Saturday's game at seven in the second quarter, and then capped a seven-play, fourth-quarter drive with a 6-yard touchdown to Michael Mayer, which put the Irish up 24-17.
"Drew just continued to battle," Freeman said. "He continued to make good decisions, and he finished the game for us."
Just over a month after Tyler Buchner was named the Irish starter, Pyne was fluxed into action when the sophomore quarterback injured his left shoulder against Marshall, causing him to likely miss the rest of the season.
It wasn't always pretty, but Pyne's 17-for-23, 150-yard and two touchdown day was enough to lead the Irish to their first win.
"I think deep down in my heart, the way I was raised by my parents to never give up," Pyne said. "I did not start off to hot, but in my head I never gave up. That is how I'm going to be throughout the rest of my life and my career."
It's how Pyne had to operate against Cal, after the Irish didn't record a first down in the first quarter under his command and had only 57 passing yards at halftime.
Still Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees continued to trust Pyne, getting more of Notre Dame's playmakers in space on the perimeter for easier completions.
That ended up changing the complexion of Notre Dame's offense. Freeman and Rees could have easily taken the ball out of Pyne's hands and hoped the Irish run game would be enough to win. But sticking with Pyne proved to be the right decision.
"I'm just very thankful I have two coaches on the offensive side of the ball and my head coach that truly believe in me," Pyne said. "That is what got me going."
Notre Dame's running game gets some results
Even as his offensive line struggled in its first two games, Freeman was still committed to Notre Dame's run-first mentality, and it finally payed off against the Golden Bears.
The Irish rushed for a season-high 140 yards on 41 carries (another season-high), almost doubling their 79 rushing yards against Ohio State and surpassing last week's 130 yards against the Herd.
"We wanted to come into the game emphasizing the run game from the jump," said running back Chris Tyree, who caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. "I think whether Tyler (Buchner) was in or not, I think we are going to be able to run the ball. You saw that today and we took advantage of it"
Tyree, who entered Saturday with only nine carries and got the start, finished with 64 yards on 17 attempts, providing a nice change-of-pace out of the backfield along with Audric Estime, who led Notre Dame with 76 yards on 18 carries, and a one-yard touchdown which gave the Irish a 14-10 lead in the third quarter.
Pyne also finished with seven rushing yards, all of which came in the second half, when the Irish began imposing their will on the line of scrimmage to turn the momentum in their favor.
Notre Dame finished with 99 rushing yards after the break.
"I felt like that was our goal coming into the game was to run the ball, be dominant and we did that successfully," Estime said. "That gave us a lot of momentum and powered us to win this game."
The biggest concern for Notre Dame is Isaiah Foskey's health going forward. The Irish's star VYPER walked off the field on his own power after injuring his left shoulder making a tackle on Cal's DeCarlos Brooks in the third quarter. Foskey was in-and-out of Notre Dame's last handful of defensive series, and was favoring his shoulder after sacking quarterback Jack Plummer on a fourth-and-10 from the Irish's 22.
Media members were also originally told Foskey would be available for postgame availability, but ended up not showing.
Three plays after Foskey went down, fellow defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola needed assistance off of the field, though he returned in the fourth quarter, combining with Foskey on a third-down sack of Plummer.
Freeman noted that running back Logan Diggs missed practice on Thursday with an illness and didn't play on Saturday. Chris Tyree and Audric Estime combined for 140 rushing yards on 35 carries and one score (one-yard touchdown by Estime)
Chris Smith, who missed the second half against Marshall after injuring his elbow right before halftime, recorded one tackle playing with an arm brace.
In Notre Dame's first two games, cornerback Ben Morrison had seen playing time as a backup to Clarence Lewis. When the Irish defense ran out for its first series it was Morrison on the field and not Lewis.
Lewis later entered the game, and almost came up with a game-clinching interception if it wasn't for a targeting penalty called on JD Bertrand. However Lewis, a junior, saw his 19-game starting streak come to an end against the Golden Bears.
Fellow freshman cornerback Jaden Mickey also got in his third game, both on defense and special teams.
Tobias Merriweather made his much-anticipated debut in the second quarter at wide receiver, checking in for a couple of plays. Tight end Eli Raridon also had playing time for the second consecutive week.
As did Junior Tuiahalamaka, who checked in for a play on defense at linebacker and Zac Yoakam, who handled Notre Dame's kickoff duties for the third game this season.
Freshman can play in four games before burning their redshirt eligibility.