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5 key moments from Notre Dame’s victory in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, New York — Saturday afternoon, Notre Dame football notched its fifth win of the season, dispatching Syracuse 41-24 on the road. Here are the five key moments that defined the game

Brandon Joseph starts the Irish off early, Orange respond

It took one play from scrimmage for Notre Dame to get on the scoreboard. Senior transfer safety Brandon Joseph read a short pass by Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader perfectly and snagged his first interception of the season. Racing 29 yards to the endzone, the score marked Notre Dame’s first touchdown against a Power Five opponent of the season in the first quarter. The snag and score by Joseph would set the tone for a rough first half for Shrader, who went 5 for 14 for 35 yards to go with the pick. He was replaced by Carlos Del Rio-Wilson after halftime, potentially due to an unspecified injury reported by ABC. 

It didn’t take long for Syracuse to counter the Irish’s early score. Garrett Shrader bounced back from his early interception to put together a perfect second drive, going 3-3 with 31 yards and a score. It was tight end Oronde Gadsden II who hauled in the touchdown, beating Notre Dame’s mismatched freshman corner Benjamin Morrison to make a comfortable grab in the endzone to tie the game at seven.

Notre Dame leans on ground game, controls second quarter

The Irish offensive line put forth one of its most dominant performances early on against the Orange, consistently creating both push and free holes for Notre Dame’s running back stable to exploit. Tommy Rees and the Irish offense leaned heavily on that stable on the team’s first drive of the second quarter, giving touches to all three running backs. Notre Dame ran the ball 10 times total on an 11-play scoring drive, culminating fittingly in a three-yard touchdown by sophomore Logan Diggs. The Irish’s 25 first-half rushes marked the most they had attempted in the first half of any contest this year.

With just two minutes left in the second half, it felt like Notre Dame had just ceded all momentum to the Orange. Junior quarterback Drew Pyne threw an interception to give Syracuse a chance to tie late in the half. But a stalled drive and a failed fourth down attempt on a bold call by Syracuse coach Dino Babers resulted in Notre Dame getting the ball back with a minute and change to work with. The Pyne and Mayer pitch and catch got back to work, this time with more success. The quarterback-tight end pairing connected for a pair of catches for a combined 48 yards to set the Irish up on the Syracuse three. Pyne promptly found sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas for the score to give the Irish a comfortable two-score lead heading into the half

Syracuse gains momentum heading into the fourth quarter

After bringing in Del Rio-Wilson at halftime, the Orange offense found its groove. After a field goal brought the Irish lead back to 14, the former Florida transfer guided Syracuse into position with a series of completions through the heart of the Irish defense. He found Damien Alford for a gain of 23 and then D’Marcus Adams for a gain of 30. After that, running back Sean Tucker then trotted into the Irish endzone untouched for a four-yard score to bring the game back to a one-score contest.

Irish defense stops the bleeding early in the fourth 

After a quick three and out to start the fourth quarter, Notre Dame turned to its defense to help keep the Irish in the lead. And Al Golden’s unit delivered, with senior defensive lineman Howard Cross getting a hand up to deflect an effort from Del Rio-Wilson. With the wobbling throw hanging in the area as anyone’s game, senior linebacker Marist Liufau got underneath the ball and picked off the pass to set the Irish offense back up near midfield with a fresh set of downs. This time Notre Dame would move more efficiently, with sophomore running back Audric Estime eventually charging into the end zone for an 11-yard score to restore the 14-point Irish lead. 

Special teams come up big to extend Notre Dame lead late

After a strong defensive possession, the Orange were forced to punt from deep in their own territory. The Irish special teams unit broke through with a big play of their own, however, and Clarence Lewis’ blocked punt set Notre Dame up on the Syracuse two-yard line. On the very next play, Audric Estime leaped into the endzone to establish a commanding three-score lead that the Irish wouldn’t relinquish. The block was Notre Dame’s fifth on the season and marked the third straight game Brian Mason’s special teams unit forced a blocked punt.

With the win, Notre Dame now moves to 5-3 and will start preparations for its biggest home game of the year, with undefeated No. 5 Clemson coming to South Bend next Saturday, Nov. 5.

Contact J.J. Post at jpost2@nd.edu.

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