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Catch of the year?: After slow start, Braden Lenzy enjoys shining moment

Irish graduate student wide receiver Braden Lenzy shocked the nation Saturday afternoon with his circus catch in the first quarter of play against Navy. M&T Bank Stadium held its breath as junior quarterback Drew Pyne launched the ball 38 yards to an endzone-bound Lenzy. Navy cornerback Mbiti Williams Jr. appeared to be in a perfect position to defend the ball. Well, he was in a perfect position. Until Lenzy pinned the ball against the defender’s back to snatch it away with one hand.

Not only was it an unbelievable catch, but it was also another touchdown that extended Notre Dame’s lead over the Midshipmen to 21-6. Lenzy’s feat also placed Pyne in a more comfortable position in the pocket. With 234 passing yards in the first half, Pyne was making good reads, completing all but two of his 16 first-half passes. That early, substantial lead allowed the Irish to ultimately defeat Navy despite looking slow and disengaged in the second half. 

If you have not seen this pivotal moment rotating throughout highlight reels yet, it is certainly one to watch. Lenzy’s catch is all over headlines of major sports outlets. It even clocked in at number one on SportsCenter’s top 10 of the weekend.

Lenzy’s shining moment is well-deserved. The Oregon native has had a slow start to the season and experienced. several disappointments in his career. Lenzy only had 128 yards total in his first seven appearances of the season. Compare that to Lenzy’s performance against Navy, where he amassed five catches for 67 yards in the first quarter alone, and it is evident how far he has come. Pyne commented after the game on Lenzy’s work ethic and how it was truly his time to shine.

“Braden’s a guy that, all season, runs as hard as he can,” Pyne said. “He’s a guy that, in practice, always has a smile on his face. I felt like I gotta give him a shot. I scrambled out there and he beat his man by a couple yards. I saw that and I said I’m going to give him a chance so I threw it up and he made the unbelievable catch. I’ve never seen anything like it in my whole life. I’m so happy for him and he’s going to continue to keep getting better.” 

Taking a look at Lenzy’s career, this catch comes at a pivotal time in the graduate student’s final year. Lenzy had a huge season in 2019 and was thought at the time to be the next big star for the Irish. His unique speed and chemistry with former Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book (’19) made him an explosive asset in the running and passing games, capable of a game-breaking play at any moment. He was frequently used offensively in the backfield, something Notre Dame could benefit from this season.

However, Lenzy failed to back up his breakout campaign with a disappointing 2020 showing. Lenzy suffered a hamstring injury in summer camp and then reaggravated it during the year. He finished with only seven catches on the season.

Lenzy figured back and better than ever in 2021. But he never developed chemistry with quarterback Jack Coan (’22). Even though he ended the season with 32 catches, he didn’t play as prominent a role in the offense as expected. Nevertheless, his seven-catch performance in the Fiesta Bowl ignited hopes and he returned in 2022 with unfinished business. 

With the disappointing and uneven performance by the offense this season, perhaps Lenzy’s catch of the year will ignite the Irish the rest of the way.

Contact Madeline Ladd at mladd2@nd.edu