Brian Kelly is now the all-time Notre Dame leader in victories, putting No. 106 within the books Saturday against a Wisconsin team that collapsed in ghastly fashion within the fourth quarter at Soldier Field, leading to a 41–13 Irish win. the very fact that a man who arrived in 2010 as a flowery offensive strategist got this milestone victory with three non-offensive touchdowns is ideal because Kelly has become, in particular else, a man who wins games by any means necessary.
Notre Dame put 41 points on the scoreboard while rushing for 3 yards. Notre Dame won departure with its third-string quarterback playing most of the last half, coming in when the sport was up for grabs. Notre Dame hung 31 on the Badgers within the fourth quarter while only running 12 offensive plays. Then it celebrated by blasting Wisconsin’s favorite song, “Jump Around,” within the postgame room. Is the 4–0 Fighting Irish good? Eh. They’re never great. At No. 12 entering the day, they’re overrated. If they somehow wander into the school Football Playoff again this season, it could end in another avert-your-gaze blowout.
But after another weekend of upset carnage, 4–0 is 4–0. Say this much for the Irish: they found ways to beat the middling competition that they faced this September. (Purdue is that the only opponent so far that features a Power 5 victory on its résumé.) A poorly coached Notre Dame team would have lost a minimum of one among these September games, whether it had been the overtime escape against horrible Florida State or the white knuckler against Toledo or this slog at Soldier Field, which Irish trailed 13–10 before blowing it open within the fourth. Notre Dame isn’t poorly coached. Kelly could rather be on his thanks to a fifth straight season of double-digit victories together with his most flawed team since 2016.
“Everyone’s trying to peg teams early,” Kelly said. “Like, who are they? We’re still trying to work ourselves out. I just know we have a resilient group that believes they’re getting to win.” Kelly said it’s been a fun process of discovery watching the pieces close with this team. He’s skilled in four offensive tackles and three QBs and sometimes every facet of the team has looked bad—and then looked good. It has, at the very least, not been dull. “We’ve got an extended thanks to going still,” Kelly said. “But I’m having fun coaching them. We’ll be better in November. … Last year we knew what we had. [This year] we’re trying to work it out as we go.”
Really, the Irish got to be better in October. Because Cincinnati involves South Bend next Saturday. The Bearcats are far and away from the simplest team Notre Dame has faced so far, and maybe the simplest team they’ll face all season. The Irish did Cincinnati an enormous favor by pulling this game out, because they now present a juicier target for a team that needs all the eye-catching wins it can get. Notre Dame is going to be both highly beatable and highly ranked, the right combination. Who plays quarterback for the Irish therein game is going to be a stimulating question. Kelly has had roughly 1,000,000 QB controversies in his career, and he did his best to squash what would be the newest one.
“Jack Coan is our starter,” Kelly said. “If he’s physically able, he’ll be our starter against Cincinnati.” It’s unclear whether he is going to be physically able, though. Coan went out with an ankle injury early within the third quarter, although Kelly said his x-rays showed no fracture which there isn’t the customary swelling of a high ankle sprain. He’s hopeful Coan is going to be available, but that remains to be seen. Backup Tyler Buchner was a scratch with a hamstring issue, so it had been up to third-stringer Drew Pyne to enter the fray behind a leaky offensive line and against a vicious Wisconsin defense. Pyne came into the sport having attempted three career passes, but did good work against the Badgers: 6 of 8 for 81 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.
Pyne was bumped down the depth chart by the arrival of Coan from Wisconsin, but as Kelly noted, he didn’t choose the transfer portal. Pyne stuck around, paid his dues, got his chance and walked out of Soldier Field with a slice of Notre Dame glory. you’ll tell it meant something to him; when he left the sector , he rotated for one last check out the stadium, soaking it in. Pyne’s efficiency rating (201.3) was nearly double Coan’s (108.9). And both were way better than the guy Wisconsin chose as its QB over Coan, Graham Mertz (81.61). He’s had a brutal start to the season, and it bottomed out here.
Mertz threw four interceptions, the last two of which were returned for touchdowns, and lost a fumble. For the season he now has six picks and one TD. “To put it all on Graham, that might be unfair,” coach Paul Chryst said after this debacle. “I think there are tons of areas we’d like to be better.” That’s true. Special teams surrendered a kickoff return touchdown. The Wisconsin secondary gave up a couple of big plays within the pass. The running backs made nobody miss and didn’t have a run longer than 10 yards. But come on. Mertz’s play within the Badgers’ two losses has been miserable. Chryst has little choice at now but to offer someone—anyone—else an opportunity. He’d clearly like to have a Drew Pyne on the pine to plug into the lineup.
One thing about Kelly through the years: his backup QBs are nearly always able to perform when given the chance—which one reason why he’s had numerous QB controversies. Despite this promising performance from Pyne, you’ll understand why Kelly didn’t hesitate in declaring his support for Coan. a man making his first career start against Cincinnati’s defense wouldn’t be ideal. If Irish can upset the Bearcats—yes, it might be upset—the remainder of the schedule looks manageable. Virginia Tech, USC, North Carolina, Navy, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Stanford have all been beaten a minimum of once. It would be the foremost Brian Kelly thing ever if one among his more flawed teams somehow slaloms through the season undefeated. But give the winningest coach in Notre Dame history credit for even getting this far with an ideal record. He earned that sideline Gatorade bath Saturday.