Nov 6, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Navy Midshipmen running back Carlinos Acie (25) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety DJ Brown (2) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Kyren Williams helps No. 10 Notre Dame cruise past Navy

Kyren Williams ran for two touchdowns and No. 10 Notre Dame recorded a key fourth-quarter safety in a 34-6 win over Navy on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Jack Coan went 23-for-29 passing for 269 yards and one touchdown, and Kevin Austin Jr. had six receptions for a career-high 139 yards for Notre Dame (8-1). Williams gained 95 yards on 17 carries.

Midshipmen starting quarterback Tai Lavatai sustained a neck injury during the second quarter and did not return. Xavier Arline replaced him and only had 18 passing yards and 8 rushing on eight attempts. Fullback Isaac Ruoss ran for 73 yards on 22 attempts for Navy (2-7).

The Fighting Irish outgained the Midshipmen 430-184.

Navy kicker Bijan Nichols connected on a 49-yard field goal with 3:03 left in the opening quarter after consecutive sacks on first and second down lengthened the distance. The Midshipmen appeared to have control when it forced a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, with John Marshall sacking Coan on fourth-and-four from the Navy 19.

The Fighting Irish managed a 24-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer on the next drive, then forced a three-and-out. With 2:46 left in the half, Williams became the first player to find the end zone with a 1-yard run at the end of an 11-play drive, making it 10-3.

Notre Dame forced another three-and-out to fit in a five-play, 95-yard before halftime. After Williams runs of 10 and 12 yards, Coan aired it out to Austin down the left sideline for a 70-yard touchdown in the final minute of the half.

The Midshipmen opened the third quarter with a 14-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up 9:36 of game time, but settled for Nichols’ 21-yard field goal.

Early in the fourth, Notre Dame pinned Navy at its 1-yard line on a Jay Bramblett punt. Two plays later, Arline attempted an option pitch to his running back in the end zone but the ball hit the turf. He landed on it, absorbing a safety and avoiding an Irish touchdown.

Leading 19-6, Notre Dame poured it on with another stellar drive. Williams scored a 20-yard touchdown on a run that included two cuts, a juke and a spin move to slide through the defense. He fumbled at the 1 but recovered the ball in the end zone, and on a rollout Coan tossed a completion to Braden Lenzy for a two-point conversion.

Freshman Logan Diggs added a late 8-yard rushing score.

The Irish played without midseason All-American safety Kyle Hamilton (knee) for the second straight game. Receiver Avery Davis suffered a left knee injury during the fourth.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Nana Osafo-Mensah (31) in the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Kyren Williams runs wild as No. 11 Notre Dame tops UNC

Kyren Williams ran for 199 yards on 22 carries Saturday night as No. 11 Notre Dame used its highest-scoring game of the year to hold off Sam Howell and North Carolina 44-34 in South Bend, Ind.

Williams got nearly half his yardage on one play, an electrifying 91-yard touchdown run that saw him avoid a 5-yard loss and then race down the left side with 14:27 left in the game for a 38-27 lead.

After Howell’s only major mistake, an interception, led to a Fighting Irish field goal, he drew the Tar Heels (4-4) within seven on a 31-yard scoring jaunt. But Notre Dame (7-1) sealed the outcome with a drive of nearly six minutes that resulted in Jonathan Doerer’s third field goal, a 21-yarder with 1:37 remaining.

Howell completed 24 of 31 passes for 341 yards with a touchdown while adding 101 yards on 18 rushes. Josh Downs was his favorite target, catching 10 balls for 142 yards.

Irish quarterback Jack Coan was 16 of 24 for 213 yards with a touchdown. The teams combined for 1,087 total yards.

Notre Dame opened scoring at the 3:25 mark of the first quarter when backup quarterback Tyler Buchner found Avery Davis with a 7-yard touchdown pass. North Carolina answered on the second quarter’s first play on Ty Chandler’s 3-yard scoring run.

After the teams swapped field goals, the Irish grabbed a 17-10 lead on Coan’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Austin with 1:23 left in the half. The Tar Heels lashed together a two-minute drill and got a 26-yard field goal from Grayson Atkins to draw within 17-13 at halftime.

Chandler sped 53 yards on the fifth play of the second half to give North Carolina a brief lead, but Notre Dame got a 21-yard touchdown run from Coan and a 1-yard plunge from Logan Diggs for a 31-20 advantage with 4:56 left in the third quarter. Howell lofted a 33-yard scoring strike to Antoine Green just over two minutes later to slice the margin to four.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) looks on during the game agains the Florida State Seminoles at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Howell, UNC aim for upset of No. 11 Notre Dame

When the season started in September, North Carolina’s visit to Notre Dame was looked at as a potential big game.

That still holds true, but just for one team. While the No. 11 Fighting Irish have held up their end of the bargain, going 6-1, the Tar Heels started the season as a Top 10 team but quickly identified themselves as a pretender instead of a contender.

At 4-3 with losses to three sub-.500 teams in Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State, North Carolina qualifies under any objective measure as one of the nation’s biggest disappointments.

After a 45-42 win in the Tar Heels’ last game, Oct. 16 against Miami, North Carolina coach Mack Brown was reduced to praising his squad for merely winning — period.

“One thing this team hasn’t done this year is win a tough game at the end,” he said.

That’s something Notre Dame has done more than once. Last week’s 31-16 home victory over Southern California sort of qualifies in that department, if only because the Irish nearly frittered away a 24-3 fourth-quarter lead before backup quarterback Tyler Buchner sealed the outcome with a 3-yard touchdown run in the last five minutes.

Notre Dame is 3-0 in games decided by three points (Florida State, Toledo, Virginia Tech) and trailed 13-10 in the fourth quarter before using three non-offensive touchdowns to blow out Wisconsin 41-13.

It’s not always been pretty for the Irish, but except for a 24-13 home loss to now-second-ranked Cincinnati, they’ve found a way to win games.

“They have a skill of focus and that skill is one where they have confidence,” Kelly said of his players. “They understand what’s important at the time. They’ve lacked some concentration at times, and we’ve seen that in some spotty play, but they’re working on that and they’re getting better at it. So, when you have the skill of focus and are able to kind of really lock into the moment, it’s allowed them to excel in pressure moments, because adversity does not affect them.”

While the Irish were outgained 424-383 against the Trojans, they also played an efficient, clean game. They were flagged for just four penalties and committed up only one turnover while giving up just one sack.

Quarterback Jack Coan hit on 20 of 28 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown, taking advantage of an up-tempo attack that appeared to catch USC off-guard.

“Certainly they weren’t expecting Hurry-Up Jack to be up there,” Kelly said of his team’s change in tactics. “He’s been less than that all year. It was still about matching personnel for them. It was certainly something they weren’t prepared for.”

North Carolina will have to be ready for multiple quarterbacks. Buchner and Drew Pyne have also taken critical snaps for Notre Dame as Kelly has played situational football to the hilt. Buchner led the clinching touchdown drive last week, and Pyne starred in a relief role during the win over Wisconsin.

The Tar Heels have no such rotation under center. Sam Howell is their man, and even though North Carolina’s record isn’t what many thought it would be, Howell has thrown for 1,851 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions while running for another 494 yards and five scores.

Josh Downs has been the top target, catching 60 passes for 837 yards and eight touchdowns. However, the Tar Heels’ defense has been poor lately, giving up at least 35 points in four of the past five games.

The Irish have dominated the all-time series, winning 19 of the 21 meetings, and one of the Tar Heels’ victories (from 2008) was vacated. Notre Dame beat North Carolina 31-17 last November in Chapel Hill.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jack Coan (17) passes during the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

USC looks to break recent run of futility at No. 13 Irish

No. 13 Notre Dame and Southern California saw their longstanding rivalry take a one-season break due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The schools had met in every season since World War II before the hiatus, and they get back on the same field Saturday when the Trojans visit the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind.

USC (3-3) has lost four straight road games in the series, its longest skid since dropping seven straight in South Bend from 1983-95.

The Trojans could use a big victory during a season that has been overshadowed by the firing of Clay Helton after a loss to Stanford in Week 2.

Donte Williams is serving as interim coach while athletic director Mike Bohn works on making a hire to lead the program.

Even so, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly sees the Trojans’ talent and he’s not feeling at ease.

“USC is going through a coaching change. We understand that, but this team plays extremely well against Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “It’s a rivalry game, and they’ve played very well on the road. I’m sure that’s because they can get away from the distractions that they’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

“So, we expect to get the best version of USC, which will be a very good football team.”

Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai made it clear his team plans to go into South Bend and come out with a victory.

“There’s a lot of history behind this game,” Malepeai said. “We’re putting it on our shoulders to make sure we get that job done.”

Both teams are coming off a bye. Notre Dame (5-1) beat Virginia Tech 32-29 in its most recent game while the Trojans lost 42-26 to Utah.

The Fighting Irish’s lone blemish this season was a 24-13 loss to then-No. 7 Cincinnati on Oct. 2.

Kelly said that Jack Coan would be the starting quarterback against USC but that Tyler Buchner also would see action.

Coan began the season with 366 yards and four touchdowns against Florida State but has seen his yardage drop in all of the ensuing games. He threw for 108 yards against Virginia Tech while splitting time with Buchner (113 yards).

“Jack Coan continues to be the guy that we feel like gives us the best chance to win, and a mixture of him with Tyler Buchner,” Kelly said. “I think right now, as we look at it, it’s probably in my mind that Jack will start, and we’ll continue to get Tyler more playing time.”

On defense, Notre Dame weak-side linebacker JD Bertrand (58 tackles), elite pass rusher Isaiah Foskey (5 1/2 sacks) and free safety Kyle Hamilton (three interceptions) are playing well.

The trio will be looking to slow down the dynamic USC duo of quarterback Kedon Slovis and wideout Drake London.

Slovis has passed for 1,519 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. London has arguably been the best wideout in the country with 64 catches for 832 yards and five scores. The reception total ranks second nationally and the yardage ranks fourth.

There is also the possibility that freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart will be available. He replaced an injured Slovis against Washington State on Sept. 18 and passed for 391 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions before tearing the meniscus in his right knee.

If Dart is cleared, offensive coordinator Graham Harrell said he might use both quarterbacks.

“Kedon has been really sharp. The ball is jumping out of his hand. He’s doing a lot of good things,” Harrell said. “We’ll put whoever out there that gives us the best chance to move the ball at that point and use our guys as best we can.”

USC has allowed an average of 43 points in its three setbacks and 11.7 in its three victories.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats tight end Leonard Taylor (11) celebrates after a touchdown in the second quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Cincinnati passes first big test with win at No. 9 Notre Dame

Desmond Ridder threw for two touchdowns and ran for the game-clinching score Saturday as No. 7 Cincinnati passed perhaps its biggest regular season test, stopping No. 9 Notre Dame 24-13 in South Bend, Ind.

In improving to 4-0, the Bearcats set themselves up for a legitimate chance at an undefeated season that might make them the first Group of Five school to crash the College Football Playoff.

Ridder completed 19 of 32 passes for 297 yards and made just one mistake, losing a fumble in the third quarter that the Fighting Irish (4-1) converted into their first touchdown. They drew within 17-13 with 8:20 remaining when backup quarterback Drew Pyne hit Braden Lenzy for a 32-yard scoring pass.

But Ridder had the answers when Cincinnati needed them. He led the team on a 75-yard touchdown drive, covering the last 6 yards on a run around left end with 5:08 left in the game.

While Ridder led the Bearcats expertly, Notre Dame used three quarterbacks that all struggled with an aggressive, hard-hitting defense. Starter Jack Coan played most of the first half and hit 14 of 22 passes for 114 yards and two interceptions.

Pyne played the second half, completing 9 of 22 passes for 143 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter in which Notre Dame controlled the ball for nearly 11 minutes and outgained Cincinnati 92-38, the Bearcats used two Irish turnovers to take command.

Coan forced a pass over the middle under pressure that Deshawn Pace intercepted and returned 27 yards to the 8. Three plays later, Ridder play-faked and lofted a 1-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Taylor with 12:09 left in the first half.

Chris Tyree then muffed the ensuing kickoff and Wilson Huber recovered at the 17. Ridder’s touchdown pass to Jerome Ford was nullified for an ineligible man downfield, forcing Cincinnati to settle for Cole Smith’s 23-yard field goal.

The Bearcats made it 17-0 with 40 seconds left in the half when Ridder and Tre Tucker hooked up for a 27-yard scoring strike, capping an 80-yard drive that lasted just over a minute.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) runs for the locker room after the Bearcats win in the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game between the Indiana Hoosiers and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The Bearcats won 38-24.

Cincinnati Bearcats At Indiana Hoosiers Football

No. 7 Cincinnati takes role of favorite at No. 9 Notre Dame

A pair of top-10 teams will put their unbeaten records on the line Saturday afternoon when No. 7 Cincinnati visits No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame (4-0) is coming off a dominant 41-13 win over then-No. 18 Wisconsin in Chicago. The Fighting Irish climbed three spots in the rankings after the victory, in which they scored 31 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Now comes another difficult challenge against Cincinnati (3-0), which is coming off a bye week after a 38-24 win over Indiana. That followed blowouts of Miami-Ohio and Murray State and sets up the American Conference team as a slight favorite over the traditional powerhouse.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly coached at Cincinnati from 2007-09 and still holds the program in high esteem.

“They are deserving of where they are ranked,” Kelly said. “From our perspective, this is the best team we’ve played to this point.”

Part of why Kelly believes that is the performance of Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, the reigning American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year. Ridder has passed for 748 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three games this season.

“He’s a playmaker,” Kelly said. “He’s very talented in all phases offensively. He’s very athletic, he makes plays with his feet, he’s accurate with a strong arm. He’s a really good quarterback with lots of experience. He’s played a lot of winning football.”

Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell is intent on keeping his players focused before they head to one of the iconic venues in all of college football.

“It’s big, we’re not going to lie to you,” Fickell said. “Once the thing is kicked off, you can’t let all of the emotions about what was going on affect you. You can’t let it drain you. …

“It’s a big game any time you play Notre Dame. They’re a top-five program, not just all-time but over the past five years. This just happens to be the year that both teams are really good and ranked high, but you can’t spend all of your emotions worrying about what’s going on.”

Notre Dame listed Jack Coan as No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback, offering a strong signal that he should be able to return after sustaining a leg injury last week against Wisconsin. The Fighting Irish listed sophomore Drew Pyne as the backup signal-caller and Tyler Buchner at third string.

Coan has passed for 986 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions on the season. He has been helped by a productive ground game led by Kyren Williams, who has 244 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Yet, the Notre Dame offense has been balky, and the Irish trailed Wisconsin 13-10 in the fourth quarter before Chris Tyree ran a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown. The Irish padded the score with two late pick sixes.

Previously, they had to go to overtime to fend off Florida State (41-38), rally with a late touchdown to overcome Toledo (29-23) and needed 10 fourth-quarter points to put away Purdue (27-13).

As for the Bearcats, Ridder’s top target through the air has been wideout Tyler Scott, who has seven catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns on the season. He is averaging 24.6 yards per reception. Alec Pierce leads Cincinnati with nine receptions.

Running back Jerome Ford, who transferred from Alabama before last season, leads the Cincinnati rushing attack with 300 yards and six touchdowns. He is looking for his third game in a row with multiple rushing touchdowns.

This is the first meeting between the programs since 1900, when Notre Dame won 58-0.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. (4) receives a pass for a touchdown against Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Faion Hicks (1) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Late uprising fuels No. 12 Notre Dame past No. 18 Wisconsin

Kevin Austin Jr. had a pair of touchdown receptions, Chris Tyree scored on a 96-yard kickoff return, and No. 12 Notre Dame relied on 31 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to storm to a 41-13 win over No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday in Chicago.

It was a historic afternoon for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who surpassed Knute Rockne as the winningest coach in program history with his 106th victory.

Jack Coan, who transferred from Wisconsin, got the better of his former team by completing 15 of 29 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown for Notre Dame (4-0). Coan left in the second half with an apparent leg injury and was replaced by Drew Pyne, who completed 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Kendric Pryor had six catches for 69 yards and a touchdown to lead Wisconsin (1-2). Graham Mertz struggled against the Fighting Irish defense, completing 18 of 41 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Wisconsin grabbed a 13-10 lead with 14:14 left in the fourth quarter. The Badgers marched deep inside the red zone but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Collin Larsh.

The advantage did not last for long.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tyree scored on an electrifying 96-yard return to give Notre Dame a 17-13 edge. He fielded the ball along the right sideline, weaved through the middle of the field and eventually outraced a pair of Badgers along the left sideline.

The Fighting Irish made it 24-13 when Pyne hit Austin for a 16-yard touchdown with 9:34 remaining. It was Austin’s second score of the day and third of the season.

After a 37-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer made it 27-13, the Fighting Irish added a defensive touchdown on a 66-yard interception return by Jack Kiser.

Drew White capped the scoring with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:09 remaining, ending a miserable day for Mertz and the Badgers’ offense.

Notre Dame built a 10-3 lead at the half.

Wisconsin struck first early in the first quarter on a 37-yard field goal by Collin Larsh.

The Fighting Irish evened the score at 3-3 on a 51-yard field goal by Doerer.

Notre Dame seized a seven-point lead 4:48 before halftime when Coan found Austin for a 36-yard touchdown strike.

Wisconsin pulled even at 10-10 with 9:53 left in the third quarter. Mertz connected with Pryor for an 8-yard touchdown on a slant route across the middle.

–Field Level Media

Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer (13) warms up prior to the start of an NCAA football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Purdue Vs Notre Dame Warmups

Jack Coan propels No. 12 Notre Dame past Purdue

Jack Coan threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns as No. 12 Notre Dame pulled away for a 27-13 win over visiting Purdue on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind.

Kyren Williams had a rushing and receiving touchdown for Notre Dame (3-0), which posted its biggest win of the season. Avery Davis led Fighting Irish receivers with five catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Jack Plummer completed 25 of 36 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown for Purdue (2-1). Milton Wright had the lone touchdown reception for the Boilermakers.

It was the 105th win at Notre Dame for head coach Brian Kelly. He tied Knute Rockne as the winningest coach in school history.

Notre Dame’s defense frustrated Purdue for much of the afternoon. The Fighting Irish finished with three sacks, five tackles for loss, two interceptions and eight quarterback hurries. Defensive back Kyle Hamilton helped set the tone with 10 tackles, one interception and two pass break-ups.

Purdue opened the scoring with 10:01 left in the first quarter. Mitchell Fineran made a 34-yard field goal.

Notre Dame got on the scoreboard with 13:51 to go in the second quarter. Coan zipped a pass to Williams, who scampered 39 yards for a touchdown.

The Fighting Irish increased their lead to 10-3 on a 28-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer with 8:49 left in the half.

Purdue pulled within 10-6 early in the second half on another 34-yard field goal by Fineran,

Coan connected for another big passing touchdown with 9:59 remaining in the third quarter. He completed a pass to Davis, who sprinted into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown to make it 17-6.

The Boilermakers answered with a 2-yard scoring pass from Plummer to Wright with 7:08 left in the third quarter. That cut Purdue’s deficit to 17-13 entering the fourth.

Notre Dame stretched its lead to 20-13 on a 30-yard field goal by Doerer with 10:54 remaining.

Williams padded the Fighting Irish’s advantage to 27-13 with 6:05 to go. He took a handoff and sprinted through the middle of the offensive line, breaking a pair of tackles on his way to a 51-yard touchdown.

Williams finished with 12 carries for 91 yards to lead Notre Dame.

–Field Level Media