Quick hits: Never a dull moment for Notre Dame in the shadows of the Las Vegas Strip

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

LAS VEGAS Three quick thoughts and other news, notes and anecdotes as Notre Dame returned to college football game action for the first time since Oct. 24 on Saturday against No. 16 Brigham Young, a game won by Notre Dame, 28-20, at Allegiant Stadium. 

∎ Looks like the guy can play some quarterback. 

Remember when Drew Pyne took over for injured Tyler Buchner to start the season’s third game — at home against California? Remember how poorly he played those first few series? It left everyone wondering where all of this was going — not only for Pyne, but for the offense. For this program. 

Guess Pyne’s just fine after going 3-0 as a starter in which he’s won a game at home, won a game on the road and won a game at a neutral site against a ranked team following Saturday’s success. 

Notre Dame vs BYU highlights:Notre Dame football vs BYU: Live scores, results and highlights from Las Vegas

After Pyne’s third touchdown pass — and second to all-everything tight end Michael Mayer — he had completed 19 of 23 passes for three scores — and no picks. He had a quarterback rating of 204.9. (hint: that’s good). Notre Dame was up 25-6 and rolling. 

Mayer’s really good, but Pyne can play. We saw it again Saturday. 

Oct 8, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) celebrates after throwing a pass for a touchdown in the second quarter against the BYU Cougars at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

∎ That Notre Dame defense just has to be better. Has to be. The group's too talented (supposedly) and experienced (supposedly) to get shredded at crucial moments the way it was shredded Saturday.

Tempo from the Brigham Young offense, some poor tackling - you can't let a guy run for 19 yards on third-and-18 deep in BYU territory — and busted coverages saw this one go from a laugher to one Irish fans had to sweat out. Like, really sweat out.

Notre Dame was up 25-6 and seemingly on cruise control. Then, a big BYU pass play (53 yards Jaren Hall to Kody Epps) for a touchdown. Then, another big drive (10 plays., 87 yards) before a Chris Brooks score from 28 yards out, and it was suddenly 25-20 and all the momentum was with the guys from Provo.

Notre Dame's defense looked so determined and almost dominate the first half. Not so in the second.

∎ It’s a different world out here in the desert. How different? You can’t take five steps off your arriving flight at Harry Reid International Airport before seeing slot machines and video poker consoles. There are more in baggage claim at an airport that also features a fully-stocked … liquor store where you can shop as you await your luggage. It all has the feel of a nightclub – there are a few around these parts – than an airport. 

Yes, when you land, you quickly realize where you are. Distractions and diversions are everywhere. So were Irish fans on a 95-degree day on Friday. Notre Dame fans were everywhere along the Las Vegas Strip, with several calls of “Go Irish!” amid the mayhem. Bellagio, the school’s official headquarters, was a circus of blue and gold long before noon on Friday. 

Worth noting

If you’re going to host an annual game, you better dominate that annual game. Notre Dame certainly has when it comes to the (somewhat) annual Shamrock Series game. Heading into Saturday, Notre Dame was 10-0 in the series, which commenced with a 40-14 victory over Washington State on Oct. 31, 2009 in San Antonio. 

Saturday marked the third straight game in the series that Notre Dame has faced a ranked opponent. Last year, Notre Dame beat then-No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field.  In 2018, it beat then-No. 12 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium. 

Allegiant Stadium is the eighth venue utilized in the series. Notre Dame has twice played at the Alamodome, Yankee Stadium and Solider Field. With its 12 regular-season games already accounted for in 2023, Notre Dame will not play a Shamrock Series game. 

By the numbers

1: Through the first five weeks of the college football regular season, no team among the 131 in Football Bowl Subdivision had a better strength of schedule rating than Notre Dame. Prior to Saturday’s game out here, Notre Dame had five ranked teams on its schedule — No. 2 Ohio State, No. 5 Clemson, No. 6 USC, No.1 6 BYU and No. 22 Syracuse.  

2: Brigham Young is the second ranked team Notre Dame has played this week – with three more to go. 

21:32: Time of possession for Notre Dame in the 30-minute first half. Brigham Young couldn’t get anything going on offense (and trailed 18-6 at intermission), but it rarely had the ball. Thanks, Irish. 

29: Mayer has caught at least one pass (and often way more) in each of his 29 collegiate games. 

141: Mayer’s 24-yard touchdown catch was No. 141 of his career — the new standard for Notre Dame tight ends. His catch broke the previous school record for a tight end (140) set by Tyler Eifert. Felt like Mayer would get 100 catches just on Saturday. He was that featured/open/needed/targeted. 

259-67: Yardage differential between the teams at halftime. Heavy advantage, Notre Dame. 

2004: Last time Notre Dame lost to Brigham Young. Remember that one? Former coach Tyrone Willingham wanted a game before Notre Dame faced Michigan, so it moved up the BYU game to the opener. Didn’t work out the way (20-17 loss) the Irish planned. Same can be said for Willingham, who wound up finishing 6-6 in what would be his final season in South Bend. 

62,742: Announced crowd at Allegiant Stadium, a sellout and a stadium record for a college game. Saturday was the first time Notre Dame has played in the billion-dollar plus stadium. It shouldn’t be the last. There was a buzz about town in the days leading up to kickoff. It carried over. 

Up next

Hey, look, a home game! Notre Dame was scheduled to return from southern Nevada in the early morning hours of Sunday with preparation to start later that day for a home game Saturday Oct. 15 against Stanford. It will be Notre Dame’s first home game in a month, since the Sept. 17 game against California — Notre Dame’s first win of the season. 

After opening with three of five away from home, Notre Dame will play three of its next five and four of six at home. 

Stanford also is one of the two night games this season at Notre Dame Stadium, though with the Cardinal’s recent run, this one is more deserving of an afternoon kick. Can we make it noon? No? OK, 7:30 p.m. it will be for Stanford (1-3 prior to Saturday’s late kick vs. Oregon State), which has dropped the last three to Notre Dame by a combined score of 128-55. 

Remember when these schools used to be rivals? The games competitive? What happened to all that? 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.