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Irish Insider: Cal 2022

Rep by rep: It’s Pyne Time

“Find the better way”: Captain Bo Bauer talks leadership, ownership ahead of Cal

Golden, Rees coordinate plan for major changes

The Observer predicts Cal vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s keys to victory against Cal

Moller: Freeman Era teetering on the brink of disaster

Maggie Klaers/The Observer
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The Observer predicts Cal vs. Notre Dame

Emily DeFazio, Associate Sports Editor

I am not sure where to begin in predicting Saturday’s outcome; I have few words left after having to eat so many of them last week. The Irish would have to win out in order for my 10-2 season prediction to be correct, and with USC and Clemson still left to take on, I have my doubts.

The offense was already struggling, and the loss of sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner is a tough pill to swallow. I have mixed feelings about junior quarterback Drew Pyne stepping in. It is certainly his time to shine, but he will have to do just that. Interceptions like Saturday cannot happen moving forward. However, this is an opportunity for Rees to structure a solid game plan that involves more than just the run game. Pyne has proven he can pass the ball well, and he should be allowed to do so.

I am counting on those sporadic moments of greatness he posted on the field last year to grow now that he is securely in the QB1 position. Utilize juniors Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman for some tight end touchdowns Saturday. Should the offense rally under this new leadership, and the defensive line tighten up their play, I see the Irish coming away with their first win of the season. Albeit a close one.

ND 24, Cal 17

Nate Moller, Senior Sports Writer

Notre Dame Stadium is usually one of my favorite places in the world. But it was far from it last Saturday. The Irish looked truly awful throughout most of the game. With Freeman being 0-3 as a head coach, this game feels like a must-win. Without Buchner at quarterback, that will make getting a win much more difficult. Cal is by no means a strong power five team. But they have shown that they can close out games, which is something Notre Dame has yet to do. Running back Jaydn Ott has averaged an impressive 6.5 yards per carry this season. Stopping his production will be key for the Irish.

If the Irish are going to win this game, the offensive and defensive lines need to be much better than the mess that was Marshall. If Pyne doesn’t have time to pass and the run game can not be established, the Irish could be in trouble yet again. I think this is going to be a sloppy game. And while it may not be a good win, I do expect Notre Dame to find a way to get into the win column. A late Michael Mayer touchdown gives the Irish just enough offense to edge out the Golden Bears.

Notre Dame 14, Cal 13

Liam Coolican, Associate Sports Editor

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the Irish’s struggles, look no further. Not only did I predict the team would go 11-1 and make the CFP, I also wrote last week that “Notre Dame doesn’t lose trap games.” The good news is, my predictions, much like Notre Dame’s fortunes, can’t get much worse. Drew Pyne clearly wasn’t ready to come into the game last week, but he showed flashes of brilliance last year and I believe he can be a solid, if not spectacular, quarterback at this level. However, the Irish do have to adjust their offense substantially to play to Pyne’s strengths rather than Buchner’s in just a week’s time.

It might be another slow start for the Irish as the offense takes time to get used to Pyne under center. But the defense will keep them in the game against a lackluster Cal offense. Notre Dame should be more fired up and better prepared than they were a week ago. Pyne will get rolling in the second half, and the defense will come up with a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter. It may take a late score, but the Irish will pull this one out.

Notre Dame 24, Cal 17

Mannion McGinley, Assistant Managing Editor

The Irish have started the season 0-2 for the first time since 2011. Seeing as that’s as many losses as I predicted on the season as a whole, the Irish are not where I expected them to be. Losing Buchner on top of that was just salt in the wound. There’s potential in the change up though, especially this week. Cal may be 2-0, but the Irish need the win and this is the space to get it. Plummer is a quarterback the Irish D-line knows, and knows well. They need to get to him just as they did when he played for Purdue.

In terms of Irish offense, it’s not perfect. But Pyne’s structure may be the answer to ending the passing touchdown drought. Both UC Davis and UNLV were able to score through the air on Cal. This should mean the Irish can as well. The defense gets the takeaway they’ve been striving for. And while it’ll be tight, some of the pieces finally come together. At the risk of losing any credibility, Irish win. 

Notre Dame 21, Cal 17

Madeline Ladd, Associate Sports Editor

To be honest, I’m not sure what to say here after the devastation last week. Coupled with the loss of Buchner, there are a lot of question marks going into this weekend. However, though Notre Dame is down, they are not out. They will certainly be coming into the weekend hungry, and the changes made on offense may prove to be beneficial.

But Cal’s defense is no joke. The Notre Dame offense, now led by Pyne, will need to get it together in order to come out with the victory. I predict that Pyne will be efficient and throw for two TD’s. I see junior running back Chris Tyree with more action on the ground as well. The defensive line will control the weaker Cal offensive line, not fading in the second half as they have in the previous two games. This is a game well within the Irish’s wheelhouse and I think they can pull off the win. But it certainly won’t be pretty.

Notre Dame 17, Cal 13

Aidan Thomas, Sports Editor

Gross. I predicted Notre Dame to go 10-2 this season, which, I guess, is technically still in play. However when you lose a game that I personally ranked seventh-hardest on the schedule and start 0-2, that 10-2 dream is on very thin ice — but still alive.

The Irish currently have no semblance of an offense. They’ve scored just 31 points, blowing a bevy of opportunities over the first couple of weeks. Untimely penalties, missed open deep shots, interceptions and no running game have thwarted the Irish offense at nearly every turn. Now they turn to longtime backup Pyne to make things right.

He must do so against a Cal defense that is stiff against the pass but has experienced struggles against the run. The lead back for each Cal opponents this year averages 7.1 yards per carry. The Irish need to assert themselves in the trenches and dominate a below-average Cal offense. Notre Dame must win ugly this year. Hopefully, that trend starts on Saturday.

Notre Dame 24 Cal 13

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Notre Dame vs. Cal: The history of the matchup

While Notre Dame has strong rivalries with other California universities like USC and Stanford, Notre Dame and Cal will meet on the football field for just the fifth time in history this Saturday. These foes each share a mutual rival in the Stanford Cardinal. In addition, both schools are academic powerhouses that boast strong athletic programs. Before the series is renewed on Saturday, let’s examine the previous matchups on the gridiron. 

October 10, 1959: Notre Dame 28, Cal 6

The inaugural meeting between Notre Dame and Cal was on the west coast, with 68,500 fans packing Memorial Stadium. The Irish had a great start to the game, recovering a fumble on Cal’s first play from scrimmage. Quarterback George Izo threw a 27-yard touchdown pass two plays later to put the Irish up 7-0. The Irish defense was swarming to the ball the whole day, forcing a total of six turnovers.

Late in the first quarter, the Irish’s other quarterback, Don White, engineered a touchdown drive to expand the lead to 14-0. In the second half, the offensive drives began to stall out for both sides. The Golden Bears couldn’t get any offense until late in the fourth quarter after a 56-yard run play eventually led to a five-yard touchdown catch to make it 21-6.

After another touchdown by the Irish, the clock ran out a few minutes later. It was an important game for the Irish, needing to rebound after an upset loss to Purdue the previous week. The Irish struggled in 1959 but ended the season on a high note, beating two ranked teams in Iowa and USC to finish at an even 5-5. Cal finished 2-8 in the last season of the Pete Elliott era. 

September 24, 1960: Notre Dame 21, Cal 7

The second meeting between Notre Dame and Cal opened the season for both schools. This was also the first time the Golden Bears would take the trip east to Notre Dame Stadium. Leading the Bears after Pete Elliott’s dismissal was head coach Marv Levy. Levy is today more commonly known for his later tenure as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, making four straight Super Bowl appearances but failing to win all four. However, 26 years before he took the job with the Bills, he was the head coach of Cal.

Notre Dame got on the board first as a result of a short field due to a Cal fumble. But Cal responded with a sustained drive that eventually led to a touchdown. Cal outplayed the Irish in the first half, holding the Irish to a 7-7 tie at the intermission.

But Notre Dame came out of the break with a strong drive highlighted by a long kick return and a 33-yard touchdown run. Later in the third quarter, the Irish blocked a Cal punt and took it to the house to finish the scoring.

However, the Irish still had major concerns after the opening win. The passing attack was never able to get going, and the team seemed inexperienced. These would prove to be valid, as the Irish finished with a lowly 2-8 record. Cal finished only marginally better, going 2-7-1. Strangely, both teams beat their main rivals (USC and Stanford, respectively) in otherwise terrible years. 

September 18th, 1965: Notre Dame 48, Cal 6

During the five-year intermission between the second and third games of the series, Notre Dame football had lost its identity but found it again. After three subpar seasons where the Irish never finished better than 5-5, they hired the first non-Notre Dame graduate since Knute Rockne: Ara Parseghian.

Parseghian instantly turned Notre Dame football around. The team was 9-0 going into the final game of the 1964 season, boasting the number one ranking. However, USC upset the Irish to dash any national title hopes. Expectations were sky high for 1965, and they opened with Cal, who finished last in their conference in 1964.

The Irish rolled to a 48-6 win, amassing 381 yards on the ground. Cal head coach Ray Willsey said, “We have no excuses for this fiasco.” The Irish were up 9-0 after the end of the first quarter, but the lead had ballooned to 28-6 by halftime. Turnovers again plagued Cal, leading coach Parseghian to remark that “Cal was most unfortunate; it yielded field position on turnovers all day.”

Cal went on to go 5-5. The dominant win propelled Notre Dame to the number one ranking, which they would relinquish a week later in an upset loss to Purdue. The Irish ended up finishing 7-2-1 on the season. 

September 23rd, 1967: Notre Dame 41, Cal 8

The Irish again opened up their season facing the Golden Bears, this time in defense of their 1966 national championship. Notre Dame finished 9-0-1 in 1966, beating every opponent except No. 2 Michigan State, who they infamously tied 10-10.

The Irish lost 11 starters from the team the year prior, so new players had to step up. The Irish stepped up to the task, dispatching the Bears. Quarterback Terry Hanratty completed 15 passes for 203 yards and two scores. But he also lost a fumble and threw two interceptions. Receiver Jim Seymour and captain Rocky Bleier each caught touchdown passes. Cal Quarterback Barry Bronk had an awful day, completing just 2 of 20 passes and getting picked off twice.

By the time the fourth quarter hit, the reserves were in. Cal scored late in the fourth, upsetting gamblers who had backed the Irish as 35-point favorites. The Golden Bears had another middling season, going 5-5. For the second time, Notre Dame lost in an upset to Purdue the next week while carrying the number one ranking. The Irish finished 8-2, their other loss coming to USC.

When the game kicks off on Saturday it will be the first game in the series in 55 years. Cal has been dominated by the Irish in all four previous outings, mainly because they lost the turnover battles by wide margins. The 2022 Irish defense, which has not forced a turnover this season, surely is going to try to make history repeat itself.

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu