Notes: How Prince Kollie, Drew Pyne shook off the pain to stay in for Notre Dame

Mike Berardino
ND Insider

SOUTH BEND — His lower left leg throbbing in pain, Notre Dame linebacker Prince Kollie initially feared the worst on Saturday against UNLV.

“I thought it was serious at first,” the sophomore reserve said Tuesday after practice. “It was a really, really, really bad pain. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

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Team athletic trainers came out to help Kollie in the first quarter after he knocked the inside of his left shin on the helmet of the Rebels’ punter. Teammate Isaiah Foskey was credited with his second game-turning punt block in a matter of minutes, but to add insult to injury, Kollie actually tipped the ball first.

“He was more concerned about saying he blocked the punt, not Foskey,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said Monday. “I was making fun of him on the field: ‘You’re all right. Get up, man.’ You would’ve thought he’d be out for longer than a series, but he bounced back.”

Notre Dame linebacker Prince Kollie (10) and Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (7) block UNLV punter Marshall Nichols (90) the Notre Dame vs. University of Nevada NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

X-rays taken in the locker room were negative, and Kollie ended up playing a career-high 38 snaps in the win, including 23 on special teams.

“(The pain) was just lingering until finally it went away,” Kollie said. “When I was able to walk, I was like, ‘OK, I’m fine. I’m fine.’ Regardless, (even) if I’m not fine, I’m fine. That’s how I approach it.”

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Kollie, who missed two weeks during training camp with the first diagnosed concussion of his playing career, continues to wear the Guardian helmet cap during practice.

“At first I didn’t like it because I thought it looked weird,” he said. “But considering I got a concussion, it’s probably best for me to wear it. You really don’t feel it. No concussion since, so it’s been beneficial.”

Drew Pyne's close call

Quarterback Drew Pyne had to be helped to his feet by his offensive linemen after taking a hard hit on his 21-yard scramble Saturday.

Pyne, who sat out for three plays while the medical staff evaluated him for a possible head injury, practiced Tuesday and was in good spirits.

“It was probably the hardest I’ve ever gotten the wind knocked out of me,” he said. “When I was on the ground, I couldn’t really breathe too well. I got up, and obviously, it looked like a helmet-to-helmet (hit). We have a great training staff, and they just wanted to make sure I was all right, which I was. I was completely fine, head-wise. The O-line was helping me breathe.”

Oct 22, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) is helped up after a hard hit in the second quarter against the UNLV Rebels at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Watching up in the coach’s box was fellow quarterback Tyler Buchner, knocked out for the season with a sprained left shoulder after a hard tackle on a scramble against Marshall on Sept. 10. That collision happened at the same end of Notre Dame Stadium as Pyne’s hit on Saturday.  

“I think he's handled it fantastic,” Pyne said. “He's a very positive kid, and he comes into practice every day with a smile. I think he's handled it the best he possibly can.”

Pyne, a year ahead of Buchner in school, credits Buchner with keeping him on track during practice.

“I'll come over and talk to him because we kind of have the same set of eyes,” Pyne said. “I think we see things the same way. He's a great resource for me because he knows how I throw. He knows everything about my motion, my strengths and my weaknesses, and I know about his.”

Joe Alt measures up

Sophomore left tackle Joe Alt, set to make his 16th consecutive start on Saturday at Syracuse, might still be growing.

“I think I’m up over 6-8 now,” Alt said. “I know it doesn’t say that in the program. I haven’t checked recently, but before the season I was up over 6-8.”

Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) celebrates his touchdown with Notre Dame offensive lineman Joe Alt (76) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Still listed on the official roster at 6-foot-7 5/8, Alt said he and redshirt sophomore tackle Tosh Baker, listed at an even 6-8, decided to settle the issue of who’s the tallest player on the current team.

“I measured in the summertime because I was just curious,” Alt said. “Me and Tosh are very similar in height. Someone said that I was taller, so I said, ‘Hey, let’s measure and see if I actually did grow.’ I ended up being a little taller, so that was pretty cool.”

Listed at 317 pounds, Alt said he’s playing at 315. Starting right tackle Blake Fisher is the heaviest player on the team with a listed weight of 327 pounds.

Shrader the shredder

After struggling at times to contain big-bodied scrambling quarterbacks such as California’s Jack Plummer and North Carolina’s Drake Maye, the Irish defense is in for another challenge this week against Syracuse.

At 6-4 and 228 pounds, Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader has rushed for 371 yards (3.7-yard average) and six touchdowns, often on designed runs. He averages 3.3 yards after contact while forcing 21 missed tackles and fumbling just once.

“He’s really good as a runner, and he’s a big man,” Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden said. “Just imagine like, (Notre Dame tight end) Mitch Evans or whoever, a tight end-sized guy running the ball. I mean, that’s what you’re dealing with.”

Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader (6) runs with the ball in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Clemson on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Shrader, who led the Orange with 71 rushing yards on 21 carries in last week’s 27-21 loss at No. 5 Clemson, has exceeded that yardage total in wins over N.C. State (16 carries, 81 yards), Purdue (17-83) and Louisville (16-94).

“He’s a physical, downhill runner,” Golden said. “He’ll spin on contact. He’s got a very good stiff-arm. There’s some lead blockers sometimes on him, which causes some issues. What they’re doing with him is fantastic for them.”

Follow Notre Dame football writer Mike Berardino on Twitter @MikeBerardino.

Notre Dame (4-3) vs. No. 16 Syracuse (6-1) 

  • When: Saturday at noon EST 
  • Where: JMA Wireless Dome (49,057), Syracuse, N.Y. 
  • TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Syracuse opens as a one-point favorite  
  • Series: Notre Dame leads 7-3 
  • Last meeting: Notre Dame won 45-21 in 2020 at Notre Dame Stadium