With apologies to Charles Dickens, for Drew Pyne Saturday, it was the worst of times, but after a little “hard coaching” it was the best of times. Indeed, the Drew Pyne who started the game bore little resemblance to the Drew Pyne that finished.
Pyne was at his best when he finally settled down and turned a beyond shaky start into a solid if not spectacular performance. The effort was just enough to defeat an upset minded Cal team that never flinched in a back-and-forth game, not settled until the final play.
In fact, the exhale of some 70,000 ND fans in the stadium Saturday when Jack Plummer’s “Hail Mary” on the game’s last play finally hit the turf, was practically audible.
Pyne’s shaky start was so bad that visions of freshman back-up Steve Angeli may well have been dancing in the collective minds of many Irish faithful, some of who booed the Irish as they left the field at halftime, the Irish trailing 10-7.
Pyne started the game misfiring routine passes to open receivers, bobbling snaps, fumbling and leading an offense that made a habit of false starts on third and short. In all the Irish went three and out on their first four possessions and did not notch a first down until the 13:36 mark of the second quarter.
Apparently though, Pyne’s early problems were not anything a little “hard coaching” both from head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, couldn’t cure. Freeman acknowledged his tactic post game when asked, “I kind of ripped his butt a little.” Rees’s own ire at Pyne was clearly on display to TV viewers worldwide from his perch in the ND coach’s box. Video of Rees’s “to the point” phone call to Pyne on the sidelines, quickly made the rounds of social media outlets. Regarding this double dose of “hard coaching”, Pyne apparently took no offense, “I respond well to hard coaching,” he said postgame.
Pyne did respond, and with the help of an offensive line that looked much improved over week one and two by providing Pyne the comfort of a decent running game, and time to throw the football, Notre Dame’s newly anointed QB1 suddenly showed poise, escapability and some passing accuracy.
Pyne settled down and zeroed in on Chris Tyree with a TD strike from 21 yards out at the 8:54 mark of the second and then to Michael Mayer from seven yards out midway through the 4th to give the Irish the lead for good. In all, Pyne enjoyed some relative “best of times” as he turned his game around and finished 17-23 for 150 yards and 2 TDs. Perhaps more importantly he threw no interceptions.
Just how happy was Drew Pyne to earn a victory Saturday? When asked to comment on what the post- game with his team mates was like, he said, “that locker room is something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
The version of Drew Pyne on display Saturday after an inauspicious start, moving forward, gives the Irish a chance to develop a workable identity. Apparently it took a few weeks for offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to get through to his talented line that had underperformed against Ohio State and Marshall. The improvement of the offensive line was obvious both in opening running lanes and pass protecting. The Irish got push all game long and rushed for a respectable 147 yards. They did give up 2 sacks, but most of the day Pyne had all the time he wanted to throw the football.
Run the football, pass when you need to and play good defense. That is a recipe that can work.
The book on Pyne going into Saturday’s game, had been outstanding leadership skills, but questionable physical skills. Pyne in practice viewings and limited game stints looked to be a somewhat more accurate passer than Tyler Bucher, but he lacked the explosive running ability of Buchner. On the intangibles side however, nearly everyone that matters agrees, Pyne is a selfless leader, dedicated to the cause and well liked by his teammates. He wears a wrist band that reads “Make History” as in “win a national championship at Notre Dame and we’ll make history”. Known to visit the Grotto on a regular basis, Pyne grew up a Notre Dame fan and wears the number #10 as a tribute to Brady Quinn.
Marcus Freeman has expressed on several occasions his confidence in Pyne and his appreciation for Pyne’s over the top preparation habits. Commenting on the week leading up to Pyne’s first start Freeman said, “We had to kick him out of the office a couple times. Go home, get some rest, stop watching film. But that’s who Drew Pyne is. He’s an ultimate competitor. He’s going to prepare the right way, and this is going to be a momentum builder for him.”
Short of stature at 5-11 1/2, and sure we are comparing across eras, but, hey he is as tall as Tommy Clements, and Clements did indeed, “Make History.”
Why not Drew Pyne?
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