Notre Dame football makes (relatively) easy work of UNLV on Saturday
SOUTH BEND — Three quick thoughts and other news and notes and anecdotes following Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and UNLV, won by Notre Dame, 44-21, in front of 73,165 at Notre Dame Stadium.
∎ What a weird one this was, but when it comes to Notre Dame football playing at Notre Dame Stadium this season, that's pretty much par for the course. Home games = weird games. Nothing is normal. Saturday wasn't.
See Marshall, California, Stanford and for longer than expected, this one against UNLV.
The way Notre Dame moved the ball and stopped the ball and played in the first half, it felt like this one was already over. Then you look up not even midway through the third quarter and it was a two-score game (30-14). It felt like Notre Dame should have about 24 more points than it did — but Drew Pyne missed a couple touchdown tosses and Blake Grupe doinked a field goal off the left upright and before anyone realized it, this one was waaaaaay closer than it really should have been.
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Especially after Notre Dame had to punt after a UNLV scoring drive.
Why? Goes back to Notre Dame's record coming in — 3-3. Good teams, really good teams, jump all over an overmatched opponent and give them little life. Average teams (i.e. Notre Dame) let less-than-average teams hang around. This one should've been over early in the second half. It wasn't.
That's the way this Irish team, this Irish season, rolls. It would've been a surprise had the Irish just dropped a big hammer early and kept pounding away.
Notre Dame looked and felt in control for almost all of Saturday, but really, was it? You sure?
∎ UNLV (4-4) may have an average record, but it’s not really good at football. That's it. That’s the observation. The Rebels were in over their collective heads almost from the start on Saturday. Forget their one chunk play — a 74-yard run — this one was over almost from the moment it started.
UNLV couldn’t move the ball, couldn’t stop the ball, couldn’t punt the ball, allowing two blocked punts and 23 points …. and that all was in the first quarter.
Saturday was the first time the teams have ever met, and maybe, the last. Unless of course Notre Dame needs an excuse to get back to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a stadium the Rebels call home. Now, that would be OK.
∎ Yeah, it was fall break for the Notre Dame student body and yeah, Saturday’s opponent was one that wasn’t going to be a big draw in terms of fan travel/interest, but seeing so many empty seats at Notre Dame Stadium on a Chamber of Commerce kind of afternoon was a little disheartening.
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But that’s what you get for a football program that had dreams of going back to the College Football Playoff, and instead was 3-3 at the halfway point in the season. Fall days like Saturday – endless sunshine, nice breeze, temperatures in the 70s — offer a whole lot to do outside.
For some, watching football wasn’t really one of them. The announced crowd was only about 4,000 shy of an official sellout. That might've been generous. Judging by the way the place emptied early in the fourth quarter, the day was too nice to spend most of it at Notre Dame Stadium.
Saturday marked only the second time since 1991 that a Notre Dame home game was not broadcast by NBC on traditional linear television. This one, like with last year’s home game against Toledo, was offered only on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. If you didn’t have streaming service capabilities, you couldn’t watch this one.
Not there was really much real drama after, oh, the coin toss.
Parking Notre Dame home games on a streaming service is the way of the broadcast world, and something that likely will continue in 2023. No word yet, but the Sept. 16, 2023 home game against Central Michigan — ugh! — has Peacock written all over it. You’d think so too would the home game against Tennessee State, but that’s Notre Dame’s home opener. Probably want to keep that one on good, old NBC.
By the numbers
∎ 1: Irish vyper defensive end Isaiah Foskey became the first player in program history to block two punts in one game (stats dating back to the 1937 season). Foskey smothered both punts in the first quarter.
∎ 2: Number of punts blocked by Notre Dame over the first six games, and number of punts blocked by Notre Dame in the first 10:14 Saturday.
∎ 3: Hours it took to play the first quarter. Not really. It was 55 minutes, but it felt like F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
∎5: Career 100-yard-plus receiving games for Irish tight end Michael Mayer, who went over the century mark long before halftime Saturday. He made five catches for a team-high 108 yards late in the second quarter.
∎ 6: Number of three-and-outs the Irish defense forced the Rebels into over their first seven drives. The other ended in a UNLV touchdown.
∎ 23: Points scored in the first quarter by Notre Dame, which had scored six the first six games.
∎ 74: Degrees at kickoff, a little better (OK, a lot) than the previous week when it was 24 degrees cooler.
∎ 75: Yards the Irish covered over the opening 2:25, which ended in an Audric Estime 12-yard touchdown run — the first touchdown the Irish scored in the first quarter this season. In the previous five games, Notre Dame gained a total of 71 yards in its opening drives.
∎ 93: Yards gained by Notre Dame before UNLV managed its first positive play, but it was a big one — 74 yards on a run by Courtney Reese.
∎ 287: After a total of 301 yards of offense against Stanford, Notre Dame tallied 287 — in the first half — against UNLV.
Notre Dame actually has been better collectively away from home this season, and the Irish get another shot at road success next week in a visit to No. 14 Syracuse (6-1), which lost (27-21) Saturday to No. 5 Clemson. This one will mark the first time since 2003 that Notre Dame has played on campus at the Carrier Dome — now known as JMA Wireless Dome and not really a dome in the traditional sense, but we digress.
Back then, Notre Dame lost 38-12. A struggle to get the charter plane started afterward — true story — was the least of the Irish issues.
The Syracuse game still is in need of an official kickoff time, which should be set by Sunday. It’s either noon or 3:30 p.m., with noon the likely leader in the clubhouse. Unless it’s 3:30...lol.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.