Notre Dame and Logan Diggs pass UNLV 44-21


Notre Dame (4-3) started fast and the Irish beat UNLV (4-4) 44-21 on a sunny afternoon in South Bend.

Still, Saturday was a mix of good, bad and everything in between for Marcus Freeman’s team. The Irish took care of business, but also showed a lack of growth on the attacking side of the ball against a poor UNLV defence.

Example: Notre Dame’s first quarter ended with 23 points with two blocked clearances from Isaiah Foskey, which the staff wanted. The bad was the next 18 plays for a measly 51 yards (punt, TD, FG, FG) and while the end result was good, it still left a lot to be desired as Tommy Rees’ offense left points on the picture.

The red zone offense needs to improve, especially when you get two blocked clearances in a quarter. Freeman admitted he’s been a bit aggressive in recent games going for fourth down, but on Saturday it was a point to take points when given the chance.

“I told coach (Tommy) Rees if it’s a 4th and 2, I’m going to kick it,” Freeman said. “We really wanted to try to get points on the board and momentum for our team. I told them, great job taking care of the ball. If we get three points here, it’s good momentum for our team.

The good was Notre Dame running back Logan Diggs as the second carried 28 times for 130 yards on the day, but the Louisiana native was quick to give credit to those around him.

“We just have a lot of confidence,” Diggs explained. “It’s very contagious. The O line, the tight ends, everyone feeding off each other. One person is successful, the whole team is successful. If one person does it, everyone feels it.

“I feel like Coach Freeman instilled in us the strength of unity and we took the opportunity to get to know each other and create a real bond.”

The attack fed on Diggs as he raised his game as Audric Estime fumbled for the second game in a row and the Irish staff moved up to No.3.

“Audric handles the ball very well,” Freeman said. “Unfortunately, he missed the ball in each of the last two games. I heard Coach Rees and Coach McCullough kind of say, “Hey, put Logan in the game now. Let’s go with Logan.’

And yes, Freeman appreciated Diggs’ second-half efforts as a workhorse, but also the whole offense because they were able to gain yards when it mattered most and when UNLV knew it was coming.

“I think the best part is when UNLV knows you’re going to run the ball, the ability to keep running the ball and I don’t think we threw it away this last series,” Freeman said. . “It’s big. It’s something I believe in. We have to find ways to get positive yardage and we managed to do that late in the game.

Overall, Notre Dame’s offense left much to be desired outside of the run game as Drew Pyne went just 14 of 28 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Michael Mayer again led the way with six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.

There’s enough building to prepare for a great road trip to Syracuse and Freeman knows his team has work to do, but he’ll be able to coach his team after a home win.

“Look, it wasn’t perfect,” Freeman said. “We know that. That’s the reality of football. It’s never perfect. There’s a lot of things you’re going to look at and want to fix, but overall they played a really good game. Power — on all three phases There was some work to do on all three phases, but there were some really big highs today on all three phases, and it was good to see, special teams at the attack through defense. They all played very, very well on points, and they all played on points less well that we need to improve.

“That’s the reality of football. This is where we are as a team. We have to keep improving, right? You talk about the ebb and flow of a season to get us to this point where you see it in a game. You see it in the series. For them to get a win like this is really nice for them, for me and for this program.

Defensively, the first half was very good with a minor error as UNLV running back Courtney Reese escaped for a 77-yard run that closed Notre Dame’s lead at 10-7 after the second. Rebels training.

Al Golden’s defense responded by forcing six straight 3-and-outs before Clarence Lewis forced and recovered a fumble after two plays on the next drive. Isaiah Foskey finished the first half with his second sack from quarterback Cameron Friel.

Foskey finished the game with all two blocks, five tackles and three sacks, which was easily the best game of the season and potentially his career.

“That’s what you expect from Isaiah Foskey,” Freeman said. “He can be a dominant football player, and we will need him, especially in the coming weeks.”

Reese’s first big run, Freeman saw why it hit as it was a play the Rebels hadn’t filmed, but Reese’s 47-yard run in the second half caught the coach’s eye- chief because it was due to a lack of execution.

“They hadn’t shown the run pattern where they shot the cross because I watched it on the replay and they shot the cross,” Freeman explained of the first run. “The middle defender didn’t get past the top of the block. It was one you had to prepare. We were on base defense.

“The second was just poor execution, and ultimately it’s on us, but we can’t have them. Our end of the field has to take advantage of the ball and keep it inside of them. These are critical errors that we can’t commit if you want to be a champion team.

Notre Dame’s red zone defense has been lacking for most of the year and it was no different on Saturday as UNLV went 3 for 3 on touchdowns.

“You obviously don’t want them to score,” Freeman explained. “There are some things we need to sort out and I’m sure we’ll go back and look at it to see what the issues were.”

Foskey echoed his head coach as he believes there were enough positives to build on on Saturday to build momentum, but the Irish must continue to want to be more consistent across the board.

“We need to be more consistent on offense and defense,” Foskey said. “You see, in defense we left some big points, but it’s something we have to be intentional with the little things. That’s what we’ll be heading to Syracuse with.

Notre Dame’s special teams arrived in force when the Irish needed them most. Foskey had his two punt blocks in the first quarter, Brandon Joseph returned three punts for 42 yards, Jon Sot averaged 43.5 yards per punt and Blake Grupe finished 3 for 4 on his field goals.

Freeman was very pleased with his special teams units led by coordinator Brian Mason. Notre Dame now has four punt blocks on the year and the pressure on the bettor will continue to build.

“Coach Mason did a great job with all of our special teams phases. Every week we were block aggressive. We had two before this game. We just got back. It wasn’t that they had some in particular that we were going to exploit. Every week we feel like we can take advantage of a clearing team. Coach Mason is doing a great job of executing the game plan and today we have could get two.

“It’s game changes, momentum changes and capitalizing and getting points – I don’t think both times we had touchdowns, but getting points is huge. The week Last we didn’t.It’s part of the guarantee that we are able to perform.

Michael Mayer has made many SCTop10 catches in his career, but Saturday’s may have been the best. A UNLV defender was called for a pass inference on a ball deep in the middle, but Mayer managed to reach out and roll him up for one of the most ridiculous catches you’ve ever seen.

“I have to watch it first,” Mayer said. “I mean, I was pretty much all over there. Sometimes I don’t really remember things. There are traps and tricks. So I have to watch it. I’ll get an answer for you later, but that’s up there for sure. There is no doubt”

And yes, Mayer also added that he didn’t even see the ball go in which adds another layer to the player.

“I don’t think I saw the ball to be honest,” laughed Mayer. “I kind of reached out and hoped for the best. It’s a route that me and Drew have practiced a lot, we’ve practiced a lot in practice. It’s just one of those things where it’s a Kind of like, okay, it’s me against the linebacker. Drew knows there’s a good chance, if he throws that thing, I’m going to catch him.

“He believed in me and he threw him up there, and I found a way to catch him. It was a cool piece. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can’t wait to watch it.

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