Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Michael Mayer (87) scores a touchdown against Southern California Trojans defensive back Max Williams (4) during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame standout TE Michael Mayer to enter draft

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer said Wednesday he will enter the 2023 NFL Draft, in which he’s projected to be a first-round draft pick.

He revealed his decision in an interview with ESPN and added he won’t play in the upcoming Gator Bowl.

Mayer spent three seasons at Notre Dame and leaves with three school career records for tight ends — yards (2,009), catches (180) and touchdowns (18). He set the season record for touchdowns by a tight end (nine) this year. He is third on Notre Dame’s all-time receptions list, regardless of position.

“I’ve really enjoyed my experience at Notre Dame,” Mayer told ESPN. “The first reason I picked Notre Dame was the NFL; it was on my mind a very, very long time. I saw a lot of good tight ends in the NFL from Notre Dame. That was one of the main reasons I went there.”

Mayer was a five-star recruit from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, ranked as the No. 2 tight end in the Class of 2020 by the 247Sports composite.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Mayer had at least one reception in all 36 games he played at Notre Dame. This season, he had 67 catches and 809 yards.

When No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) meets No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30, the Irish also will be without starting quarterback Drew Pyne, who entered the transfer portal.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) prepares to take the snap against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame QB Drew Pyne tags out before bowl game, enters transfer portal

As Notre Dame finalizes a practice schedule for an upcoming bowl game, the Fighting Irish can add a new starting quarterback to their plans moving forward.

Starting QB Drew Pyne said in a Twitter post Friday that he’s out at Notre Dame, opting to enter the transfer portal where he’s sure to be a popular option.

“One of my proudest honors is to have been a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame,” Pyne wrote. “I have been blessed to be among great coaches and teachers and play with teammates I consider brothers. Our bonds will be lifelong. Now, it’s time for me to take on a new challenge, and I will be entering the transfer portal. While I’m excited about what lies ahead, I want to thank the entire Notre Dame community for their support. I am forever grateful for the experience and memories.”

Pyne had 22 touchdown passes and six interceptions with an 8-2 record in 10 starts (11 games) in 2022. He has three years of eligibility remaining and had a number of high-profile offers before the Connecticut native chose to head to South Bend, Ind., over Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma and Michigan.

A two-time HS state champion, Pyne replaced Tyler Buchner as Notre Dame’s starter in September after the Fighting Irish opened the season 0-2.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) throws against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

CFP berth, Heisman could be on line as No. 6 USC faces No. 15 Irish

Sixth-ranked Southern California looks to close out its best regular season since 2008 and stay alive for the College Football Playoff when it hosts No. 15 Notre Dame on Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (10-1) capped their Pac-12 Conference slate with a dramatic, 48-45 win at crosstown rival UCLA last Saturday. The back-and-forth contest likely bolstered the Heisman Trophy candidacy of USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who finished with more than 500 total yards in the win.

Williams heads into the final regular-season week ranked sixth in the nation in total passing yards (3,480) and tied for fourth in passing touchdowns (33) while having been intercepted just three times.

His 345.1 yards of total offense per game ranks fourth nationally. Statistics alone do not tell the full story of Williams’ importance to USC’s success, however, which Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman touched upon in his weekly press conference.

“He’s one of the few guys I’ve seen continuously break tackles,” Freeman said. “Guys have their hands on him and he continues to stay up. That can be devastating to a defense. That can make you try to do something outside of what your responsibility is on defense — ‘I want to make a play and I’m going try to rush around this guy instead of staying on him.’

“You have to stay in the rush lanes, but you can’t play cautious.”

The Fighting Irish (8-3) have surged on the back half of the schedule thanks primarily to their defense.

After opening the season 0-2, which included a confounding home loss to Marshall, then falling against a down Stanford team on Oct. 15, Notre Dame has mounted a five-game winning streak that includes a 35-14 rout of Clemson on Nov. 5.

The Fighting Irish defense is holding opponents to 20.2 points per game, tied for No. 27 in the nation, and has been especially good against the pass. Opponents have thrown for 186.8 yards per game against Notre Dame (16th in the nation) and have just 16 touchdowns against nine interceptions.

Although exactly even in the turnover battle on the season, the Fighting Irish are a combined plus-7 over the past four games. They may need to continue that trend against the nation’s best team in regard to turnover margin.

At a whopping plus-21 for the season — including plus-3 last week at UCLA — the Trojans have a season-long margin that is seven better than the next-most productive team (Duke at plus-14).

USC can expect a challenge to that turnover success, particularly trying to move the ball on a Notre Dame defense yet to allow an opponent 400 yards of offense in a game this season.

Trojans coach Lincoln Riley said, “They’ve got good players at all levels. You can tell they’ve recruited there for many years and they’ve built a talent base. I don’t see a ton of weaknesses with that group. They’ve got guys who can rush the passer, they play well in the secondary. … The margins are thin with a group like that.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Drew Pyne (10) reacts after a touchdown in the third quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Upset-minded Boston College visits No. 18 Notre Dame

No. 18 Notre Dame will look to extend a four-game winning streak and continue its dominance in the annual Holy War rivalry game against Boston College on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

The Fighting Irish (7-3) have rebounded well after an 0-2 start. Offensively, things have clicked with Notre Dame scoring at least 35 points in each contest of the streak, including a 35-32 win last weekend against Navy.

Boston College (3-7) has had a largely forgettable season but made a statement with a 21-20 upset win at then No. 16 NC State last Saturday.

Emmett Morehead threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds remaining to Joseph Griffin Jr. to clinch Boston College’s first win over a Top 25 team in eight years.

To get another upset, the Eagles will have to reverse their difficult history against Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish have won eight straight in the rivalry. In each of the past three meetings, they scored at least 40 points and each game was decided by at least two touchdowns. The last time Boston College beat Notre Dame came on Nov. 8, 2008, a 17-0 Eagles’ victory.

Notre Dame fended off an upset attempt last week against Navy. The Irish had a big lead at halftime and eased up, watching a blowout turn into a close game as the Midshipmen rallied and cut the score to a field goal with 1:21 remaining.

“One thing you know about Navy is they’ll never quit,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said after the game. “We had to match their urgency throughout the entirety of the game. We did the first half. We did not have the urgency and the execution that we needed to finish the game the way we wanted to.”

Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne accounted for five total touchdowns against Navy and has been clicking lately. He has completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,547 yards, with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Pyne has also been spreading the ball around effectively. Tight end Michael Mayer is his most frequent target with 54 receptions for 647 yards and seven TDs, but the Irish also have four other players with at least 16 receptions.

Morehead is a redshirt freshman who made just his second career start for Boston College in the win against the Wolfpack. He completed 29 of 48 passes for 330 yards and a trio of touchdowns.

Despite his inexperience, Boston College coach Jeff Hafley said he had full trust in Morehead, who guided a two-minute drill to perfection late in the upset.

“I didn’t want him to be tight and he wasn’t,” Hafley said after the game.

Boston College is locked into a losing season, but because there may not be enough bowl-eligible teams at 6-6, the Eagles still have an outside shot of winning out and reaching the postseason.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Braden Lenzy (0) toss a Navy Midshipmen defender during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Pyne leads No. 20 Notre Dame to decisive win over Navy

Drew Pyne accounted for five total touchdowns as No. 20 Notre Dame defeated Navy 35-32 in Baltimore on Saturday afternoon.

Pyne completed 17 of 21 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns. He also added a rushing touchdown for the Fighting Irish (7-3), who have gone 6-1 since opening the season with back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Marshall.

Pyne and Notre Dame scored all 35 points in the first half and seemed to be in cruise control in the second half as Navy furiously pushed back but had its comeback bid ended after it failed to recover an onside kick with 1:21 remaining.

Daba Fofana rushed for 133 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown for Navy (3-7). The loss locked in a losing season for Navy, which will need to win out and get outside help for any hope of bowl eligibility this season.

Notre Dame’s offense clicked early. On the opening drive, Pyne connected with Audric Estime on a 30-yard touchdown pass. Pyne then connected with Braden Lenzy on a 38-yard pass that made it 14-0 with 4:28 remaining in the first quarter.

Fofana countered for Navy with a 36-yard rushing touchdown with 2:19 remaining, making it 14-6 after a missed extra point.

Notre Dame then outscored Navy 21-7 in the second quarter to seemingly take full control of the contest.

Pyne connected for passing touchdowns of Chris Tyree and Jayden Thomas, while also adding his own 11-yard rushing score. Even with a 2-yard touchdown run by Navy’s Xavier Arline, the halftime score had ballooned to 35-13.

Bijan Nichols did connect on a 26-yard field goal in the third quarter for Navy, which made it 35-16.

A change-of-pace pass led to a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter for Navy, cutting the deficit to 35-24 as Mark Walker ran uncovered down the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown pass from Arline.

Arline was later injured and left the game in the fourth quarter, and backup quarterback Maasai Maynor capped another Navy scoring drive with a 20-yard strike to Maquel Haywood with 1:21 remaining, setting up an onside kick that Notre Dame snuffed out to seal the win.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman talks to defensive lineman Justin Ademilola (9) in the first quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Notre Dame out to justify return to rankings vs. Navy

There were a few bumps in the road, but now first-year coach Marcus Freeman has Notre Dame rolling.

The Fighting Irish thoroughly dominated then-No. 4 Clemson last week in a 35-14 home victory. That was enough for them to appear at No. 20 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week after being absent from last week’s debut.

Notre Dame will begin the home stretch of its schedule against Navy on Saturday in Baltimore.

Notre Dame (6-3) took ugly losses to Marshall and Stanford earlier in the season, but it was more impressive and well-rounded in wins over North Carolina, BYU, Syracuse and now Clemson, each of whom has spent some time in the AP or CFP rankings this year.

Notre Dame ran down Clemson’s throats, gaining 263 yards on the ground. Logan Diggs had 114 yards on 17 carries and Audric Estime added 104 yards plus a touchdown on 18 carries. Estime leads the team with 662 rushing yards (5.7 per carry) and nine scores.

Estime and the Irish are preaching focus to avoid a letdown against a lower-caliber opponent.

“We don’t really try to look at an opponent, we just try to focus on our job and doing what we do,” Estime said. “We can’t just play down to a team, we’ve got to play to our standard. And if we play to our standard every week, I feel like we should handle business no matter who the opponent is.”

The Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium is the site of this season’s rivalry game with Navy (3-6), which alternates between Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend, Ind., and a variety of mostly neutral sites. The game was set to be played in Dublin, Ireland, for the third time in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic nixed those plans.

But Baltimore is close to the Naval Academy’s base in Annapolis, Md., and the game represents an important tradition for Navy football and one of a number of recruiting-pitch bullet points for coach Ken Niumatalolo.

“Obviously there are a lot of people that want to play Notre Dame,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re grateful for a chance to play such a historic program. We wish we would have a couple more W’s on our side of the ledger. Considering the history, it’s a really special game.”

Navy last won the annual meeting in 2016, 28-27 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Fighting Irish hold a 78-13-1 lead in the all-time series.

The Midshipmen are coming off a 20-10 road loss to Cincinnati, the two-time defending champions of the American Athletic Conference. Navy racked up 176 yards on the ground but allowed two big touchdown passes from Ben Bryant to Tyler Scott.

With Tai Lavatai injured, Xavier Arline started at quarterback for Navy and split time with Maasai Maynor. Arline gained 87 yards on 12 carries and Maynor picked up 81 yards on three completions. Arline figures to start again vs. Notre Dame.

“I thought Xavier played a really good game. I’m proud of him,” Niumatalolo said. “Thought he performed well in a hostile environment, did a lot of good things and super encouraged with his play as we make this stretch run.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney calls plays during the second half against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Clemson hits Notre Dame, finally at full strength

Dabo Swinney took his own measurement of Clemson this week ahead of the debut of the College Football Playoff rankings and determined the Tigers were as close to full strength as they’ve been all season.

Asked where he thought his team might be ranked before Tuesday night’s initial CFP rankings, Swinney had a quick response.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said.

The Tigers came in at No. 4, giving them a path to the CFP semifinals with the softest schedule among the top four. Saturday night’s trip to Notre Dame could be the biggest obstacle between now and January.

The Atlantic Coast Conference favorites are coming off a bye week after a 27-21 win on Oct. 22 at home against previously unbeaten Syracuse. They finish the year with three straight home games against Louisville, Miami and South Carolina, all of which they should be favored in by at least two touchdowns.

Clemson (8-0) would also be a solid favorite in a projected ACC title game against No. 17 North Carolina. Take care of business the next five weeks and it could earn a spot in the semifinals, but there will be many more prove-it moments available to the class of the SEC: Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

“It has no relevance at this point,” said Swinney of the rankings. “The only thing I’m interested in is trying to win in South Bend. That’s all that matters.”

The Tigers will probably want to get off to a cleaner, better start than they did against Syracuse. The Orange established a 21-10 third quarter lead before Clemson rallied behind backup quarterback Cade Klubnik to score the game’s final 17 points.

But according to Swinney, starter DJ Uiagaleiei’s job isn’t in danger.

“As far as DJ, DJ’s our starter, DJ’s our leader,” Swinney said minutes after the Syracuse game. “Nothing’s changed there.”

Uiagaleiei struggled through his worst game of the year against Syracuse, going 13 of 21 for 138 yards with two interceptions. He’s thrown for 1,803 yards with 17 touchdown passes and four interceptions while rushing for a career-high 350 yards.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish (5-3) appear to have found themselves after an 0-2 start. They’ve won five of six, including last week’s 41-24 rout at No. 16 Syracuse that saw them combine 246 rushing yards with a defense that collected four sacks and a game-opening pick-six.

Notre Dame got 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Audric Estime, plus another 85 yards and a score from Logan Diggs. Brandon Joseph sparked the defense with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown on the game’s first play.

“Really, really proud of our guys,” said first-year coach Marcus Freeman. “That’s a big win. It was really good to see this team battle.”

Freeman has characterized this squad as a good team that doesn’t always play like it. Two Top 25 wins last month with a home loss to a 3-5 Stanford team that at one point lost 11 straight games to FBS foes over two seasons validate that claim.

Estime and Diggs have combined for 989 yards on the ground, but the Irish need more from quarterback Drew Pyne. He was just 9 of 19 at Syracuse for 116 yards.

Clemson owns a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series, with the teams splitting two games in 2020, when Notre Dame was an ACC member and reached the championship game before losing to the Tigers in Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

Aug 19, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; A general overall view of the Los Angeles Rams logo at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Fanning, part of touted Rams D-Line of ’70s, dies at 69

Former Notre Dame All-American defensive lineman Mike Fanning, who went on to play 10 years in the NFL, died at age 69.

The University of Tulsa, where Fanning had worked in the athletics department for 13 years, confirmed his Sunday death.

Cause of death was not revealed.

“We are saddened by the news of Mike’s passing,” athletic director Rick Dickson said in a statement Monday. “He was a tremendous football player at Notre Dame and in the NFL and carried that competitiveness and work ethic into everyday life. He was such a likeable person who worked to help TU athletics achieve success.”

A Tulsa, Okla., native, Fanning went on to star at Notre Dame, making 164 career tackles. The Los Angeles Rams made him the ninth overall selection in the 1975 NFL Draft, and he earned all-rookie team honors that season.

In 1979, he was part of a Rams team that lost in Super Bowl XIV to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played on a defensive line that included future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer and Larry Brooks.

He played eight seasons with the Rams, followed by a year each with the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks.

Fanning tallied 43.5 sacks in 137 career games.

–Field Level Media

Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) runs the ball on a play that was called back during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Notre Dame Vs Stanford Football

No. 16 Syracuse, coming off loss, faces resurgent Notre Dame

No. 16 Syracuse suffered its first loss last weekend, but the Orange don’t have much time to dwell on that defeat, as Notre Dame will visit the city Saturday for the first time since 2003.

In their most recent game, the Orange (6-1) led No. 5 Clemson by 14 points in the first half before a fourth-quarter collapse resulted in a 27-21 setback. The Orange were doomed by 10 penalties and a late interception, plus their 3-of-11 third-down conversion rate didn’t help.

“I think this team is focused,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said earlier this week. “These guys are different. The culture of this team after seven games is different than the culture that has been on any other team. They are showing it in their record, and they’re showing it on how they play, and they’re showing it on how they go about their work.”

The Orange will need to be ready for a Fighting Irish team that has won four of its past five games, most recently a 44-21 rout of UNLV last week. Tight end Michael Mayer had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Isaiah Foskey blocked two punts for Notre Dame (4-3).

“Listen, it wasn’t perfect,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “We know that. That’s the reality of football. It’s never perfect. There’s a lot of things that you’re going to look and want to correct, but overall they played a really good game.”

Drew Pyne threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, while Logan Diggs chipped in 130 rushing yards as the Irish notched their second-highest point total of the season and their largest margin of victory.

“We needed this. We needed this for our confidence,” Freeman said. “We are a good team that doesn’t always play that way. It’s our job as coaches to get our team to perform this way.”

Notre Dame lost its most recent road meeting with Syracuse, 38-12, in December 2003. The past six meetings have taken place either in South Bend, Ind., or at neutral sites in New York or New Jersey. The Irish are 5-1 in those past six meetings with the Orange.

That said, this version of Syracuse appears to be different than in recent years. Babers’ squad has knocked off Louisville, Purdue and North Carolina State and had a great opportunity to defeat Clemson.

One of the issues for the Orange in their defeat to the Tigers was a shortage of carries — five — for star running back Sean Tucker.

“That’s something that should not happen,” Babers acknowledged. “I agree with everyone else. He should have more carries than that in a football game. That has been addressed.”

Tucker and quarterback Garrett Shrader each have six rushing TDs this season, while Oronde Gadsden II is Shrader’s favorite target with 37 catches for 593 yards and five scores.

Mayer is the top receiving threat for the Irish with 44 catches for 526 yards and six TDs. The Irish have three running backs with between 70 and 80 carries, led by Audric Estime (79 carries, 435 yards, six TDs).

“We’re not going to be a one-running-back team,” Freeman said. “You can’t. Not against the teams we play, the physicality, how many times we run the ball.”

–Field Level Media

Notre Dame safety Xavier Watts (26), safety Brandon Joseph (16) and safety Houston Griffith (3) celebrate during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Notre Dame Vs Stanford Football

First-ever meeting between Notre Dame, UNLV set for South Bend

Depending on the perspective, this is either the best time or the worst time for UNLV to travel to South Bend, Ind., to get its first chance to play Notre Dame.

On the plus side for the Rebels, the Fighting Irish (3-3) have lost two of their three home games this season, including last week’s 16-14 stunner to Stanford.

(To put those two home losses into context — and just how much of an outrage it has inspired — former head coach Brian Kelly won 30 of his last 31 games at Notre Dame Stadium dating back to September 2017.)

“It’s been a long 48 hours trying to figure out what the heck happened on Saturday, and why we didn’t execute the way we have been previously and what we have to do to fix it,” first-year Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said Monday.

“You’re evaluating everything. Why haven’t we played as well at home? Why haven’t we played as well, really, versus maybe opponents that haven’t been ranked as high? And it starts from the top-down and looking at everything we do. The way we prepare. The way we motivate. What we do on game days. What we do at home versus what we do away. There is not just one answer because if there was, we would fix it.”

On the minus side for UNLV (4-3, 2-2 Mountain West), the Irish have lost two of their three home games this season, and that has inspired them to dig in and try to grow throughout this week’s practices.

“It’s a lot easier to do that, maybe, when you’re down,” Freeman said. “Because nobody wants to lose.”

UNLV should have the same mindset because it heads to Indiana after suffering a 42-7 loss to Air Force and a 40-7 loss to San Jose State.

The Rebels didn’t have starting quarterback Doug Brumfield (68.4 completion percentage, 1,231 yards, eight touchdowns) last week against Air Force due to a concussion, then top running back Aidan Robbins (591 yards, eight touchdowns) went out early in the second quarter with a knee injury.

UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo announced Monday that Brumfield is day-to-day with his concussion. He did not offer an update on Robbins.

“We need to get healthy as a team, that’s obvious,” Arroyo said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys in starting, contributing roles that we need to get developed as quickly as we can.”

–Field Level Media