California vs. Notre Dame – Game Recap – September 17, 2022

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman finally got his first win. It wasn’t easy.

Drew Pine passed for two touchdowns and 150 yards in his first career start and Notre Dame overcame a slew of mistakes to hold on and beat California 24-17 on Saturday.

Freeman was asked what was going through his mind when two potentially game-winning drives were overturned, one on a fielding penalty and the other when Cal quarterback Jack Plummer was sacked before fumbling.

“It was a conversation between me and God and a conversation between me and myself to focus on what matters,” Freeman said.

The way the Irish have played this season has many Irish fans praying and talking.

The Irish (1-2) outscored Cal (2-1) 10-0 in the fourth quarter to avoid becoming the third Notre Dame team to start a season 0-3. The Irish, who started the season at No. 5, had blown the lead three times, this time making sure there would be no letdown in the second half.

“I found a way to finish,” Freeman said. “I’m proud of these guys. You know what, it’s hard to win football games. This is difficult. You saw it in the first three games. This is difficult.”

It wasn’t over until the last play, as the officials overturned two plays that looked to be decisive for the Irish, giving the Bears a last-second chance. On fourth-and-13 from the Notre Dame 35, Cal’s Jack Plummer threw the ball into the end zone. The ball ricocheted off several players and Bears receiver Jeremiah Hunter almost scooped it up, but the ball fell to the turf.

It was a familiar feeling for the Bears, who had five losses by seven points or fewer last season.

“It’s shocking. We had chances to win. Too many mistakes. One or two more games,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.

Notre Dame quarterback Chris Tyree said it was tough to watch.

“They almost gave me a heart attack there, man,” he said. “It’s really exciting football to watch, especially when it comes down to the wire like this. It will be a moment we will never forget.”

Linebacker Jacob Lacy, who finished with five tackles and two sacks, said the Irish defense was focused on finishing the fourth quarter.

“This is all we work for. That’s one of our keys to winning, ending in the fourth quarter. We talk about it every week. We failed a few times, but now we are on the right track.”

The Irish opened a 24-17 lead with 9:16 remaining on a 6-yard pass from Pine to Michael Meyer, Meyer’s second catch of the day. The touchdown was set up when Pine threw a short pass to defensive end Odrick Ezitime and he sprinted for a 36-yard gain before fumbling at the 6-yard line.

The Bears got to the Notre Dame 22 midway through the fourth quarter, but could get no closer. Plummer threw three straight incompletions before being sacked by Isaiah Foskey for a 10-yard loss with 6:30 left.

Cal got the ball again at its own 7-yard line, but on third-and-10, Jack Plummer was sacked for a 5-yard loss. Notre Dame appeared to have tied the game when cornerback Clarence Lewis picked off a pass from Plummer, but the Bears got another chance when JD Bertrand was called for a tackle.

Pine, who has been playing since Tyler Buechner suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week, was 17 of 23 passing. In addition to the pass to Mayer, Pyne threw a 21-yard TD pass to Tyree. Tyree, who had just 12 touches through the first two games, rushed for 64 yards on 17 carries and had five catches for 44 yards. Estim added 1 yard rushing and 76 yards rushing on 18 carries

Plummer was 16 of 37 passing for 184 yards, including an 18-yard TD pass to J. Michael Sturdivant. Jaydn Ott was held to 33 yards on 13 carries.

Pine struggled a bit at first. His first pass to Tyree was short and he overthrew a few receivers and caused the receivers to drop a few passes. A snap hit Pyne in the mask, but he recovered and handed off to Estime for a 7-yard gain. On another play, he signaled to his back to move when the ball was snapped.

Freeman said he will take some time to enjoy the victory.

“If you don’t take a minute to enjoy these things, you’ll regret it,” he said. “That’s what I keep reminding myself is to enjoy the win.”

THEY GO TO VICTORY

Plummer said the Bears would have gone for two points and the win if the last pass had been caught.

“If we scored there, we were going for two, trying to get out of there,” he said.

A NICE STADIUM

Irish fans booed Notre Dame twice late in the second quarter as the fouls piled up. Loud cheers of “California!” could be heard, marking the second week in a row that the visitors started chanting loudly.

THE EXECUTION

Cal: Plummer, a Purdue transfer who lost his starting job with the Boilermakers last season after a 27-13 loss to Notre Dame, showed the Bears he can make big plays, but not enough for the upset.

Notre Dame: Irish need to cut down on mistakes if they want to be competitive. Receiver Braden Lenzi had a false start on third-and-1, which led to Pine’s sack on the next play. Right tackle Blake Fisher was also called for a false start on third-and-3. Late in the second quarter, as the Irish drove into California territory, linemen Jarrett Patterson and Zeke Correll were called for false starts on consecutive plays to stop the drive.

NEXT

Cal: The Bears open the Pac-12 season Saturday at home against Arizona.

Notre Dame: The Irish play at North Carolina on Saturday.

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