SHAMROCK SERIES: Notre Dame beats #16 BYU in Las Vegas, 28-20
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Drew Pyne threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, Michael Mayer caught 11 passes for 118 yards and two scores and Notre Dame won its third straight by beating No. 16 Brigham Young 28-20 on Saturday night.
The game was the 11th edition of Notre Dame’s annual Shamrock Series and marked the first time the Irish faced a fellow FBS Independent since a 44-6 victory over Army in 2016.
The Irish opened 0-2 under first-year coach Marcus Freeman with losses against No. 3 Ohio State and at home to Marshall before their win streak.
“It was hard fought,” Freeman said. “This group just continues to battle. They get better each week. We’re finding a way to get better. You see the outcome today and I’m really happy for this team. I love coaching this group.”
BYU (4-2) was led by quarterback Jaren Hall, who was 9 of 17 for 120 yards passing with two touchdowns. Chris Brooks rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries, including one touchdown, while Kody Epps caught four passes for 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Notre Dame improved to 11-0 all-time in its Shamrock Series, in front of an announced gathering of 62,742, the largest crowd for a college athletic event in Nevada history.
“This was a home game for us, the fans showed out,” Mayer said of the pro-Notre Dame crowd.
Trailing 25-6 early in the second half, the Cougars made things interesting by scoring 14 unanswered points to make it 25-20.
After Brooks cut Notre Dame’s lead to five with a 28-yard touchdown scamper, Cougars linebacker Max Tooley picked off Pyne and put the ball back in the BYU’s hands. But the Cougars couldn’t capitalize and went three-and-out.
Blake Grupe’s 20-yard field goal gave the Irish an eight-point lead. BYU then drove into Notre Dame territory but had its drive halted when defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola dragged Cougars running back Lopini Katoa down on 4th-and-1.
Notre Dame set the tone early when TaRiq Bracy intercepted Hall on the first offensive play from scrimmage. The Irish’s ensuing drive stalled at the BYU 8-yard-line and they settled for a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Cougars’ defense came up big on Notre Dame’s second possession, and BYU specialist Hobbs Nyberg returned a punt 42 yards to the Irish 26. Seven plays later Hall found a wide-open Epps in the flat to give BYU a 6-3 lead.
The Irish would answer in the same corner of the end zone early in the second quarter when Pine hit Mayer for Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the night.
Later in the quarter, the Cougars’ defense held the Irish on a 4th and 1 at the BYU 4-yard line. But on the next play, Notre Dame’s Jack Kiser sacked Hall on first down for a safety, to extend the lead to 12-6 and give the Irish the ball with a little more than six minutes left in the half.
Pine, who completed 22 of 28 passes, capitalized and drove the Irish downfield before hitting Jayden Thomas on an inside-fade route in man-to-man coverage for a 30-yard touchdown strike. A two-point conversion failed and the Irish took an 18-6 lead at the half.
BYU: Playing the home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders marked the second time BYU played at Allegiant Stadium after opening the 2021 season with a win over Arizona there. BYU is now 4-3 in NFL stadiums under coach Kalani Sitake, while the Cougars dropped to 14-5 when playing in Las Vegas.
Notre Dame: Six of Pine’s first seven completions were to Mayer, the sixth being the second-quarter touchdown that put the Irish back in front. The catch also gave Mayer the all-time reception record by a tight end with his 141st career reception.
“Today’s not about me, today’s about the team getting a big win,” Mayer said. “The offense played great, the defense played great, we came to (Las) Vegas and got a W and that’s all that matters.”
BYU: Returns home to host Arkansas on Saturday.
Notre Dame: Will play the first of back-to-back home games on Saturday against Stanford.
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