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Jayden Thomas steps up for Irish when it matters

After some key departures at wide receiver last season and a couple of injuries, there were a lot of question marks surrounding Notre Dame’s wide receivers this season. In Saturday night’s win over No. 16 BYU, it was sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas that stepped up for the Irish. Thomas finished the night with 74 yards, which included a highlight reel touchdown catch at the end of the first half.

On a crucial third and three with the Irish already up 12-6, junior quarterback Drew Pyne heaved the ball up to Thomas at the goal line. Thomas had to work his way back to the football, and he made a stellar catch with a defender in his face to complete the 30-yard reception. Thomas had to pin the ball against the defender to complete the catch, which was his first touchdown reception of his career. That play capped a 10-play, 79-yard drive for the Irish that took just over five minutes.

Pyne acknowledged that he under threw the ball on that play, and he was ecstatic when Thomas still made a play on the ball.

“Jayden went up there and made a play. I under threw it, and he went up there and made an unbelievable play,” Pyne said.

Thomas had another key catch early in the fourth quarter. BYU had a lot of momentum after scoring two touchdowns to move within five of the Irish, and the Irish offense desperately needed momentum. On the first play of the Irish drive, Thomas answered the call with a 32-yard reception over the middle to get the Irish back on track.

Pyne credited Thomas’ success on Saturday to his work ethic.

“He has worked really hard,” Pyne said. “He worked really hard, and he deserves that.”

Pyne said he knows that Thomas will be a huge part of the Irish offense the rest of the season.

“I’m so proud of him, and we are going to need him to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s going to play a big role for us in the future,” Pyne said. “All of our receivers I really trust and I am so happy for him.”

Head coach Marcus Freeman discussed how Thomas’ emergence as a reliable wide receiver has benefited the team.

“To see Jayden make some of those catches that he made today was huge for the confidence of our wideouts room and for the confidence of our quarterback to be able to spread the ball around. It was really good to see that,” Freeman said.

The Irish receivers made some outstanding catches on Saturday night, and Freeman understands the importance of these catches going forward.

“Credit to those wideouts they made some big catches. Those are catches that we need. We need guys that make the quarterback look good. It’s too often that the quarterback gets too much blame and too much praise,” Freeman said.

Freeman praised offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ preparation and game plan on Saturday, which allowed Thomas to be successful.

“To get the results, you have to prepare the right way,” Freeman said. “That’s what I love most about what Coach Rees and that offensive staff has done. They have really challenged themselves to practice at a higher level and perform at a higher level.”

Contact Nate Moller at nmoller2@nd.edu.

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