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Notre Dame vs. UNLV: 5 key moments and trends from the Irish victory

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the UNLV Rebels 44-21. They led 23-7 after the first quarter, and the game was never closer than 16 points after that point.

Here are five key moments and trends from the Irish victory. 

Notre Dame offense gets off to fast start 

Notre Dame needed a strong start today, and in its first possession of the game, junior quarterback Drew Pyne and the offense drove down the field. Sophomore running back Audric Estime punched it in for the Irish on a 12-yard run. The drive started off inconsistent but was rescued by two long passes. One was caught by junior tight end Michael Mayer along the sideline for 23 yards. The other was a third-down reception hauled in by sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas, down the middle for 37 yards.  

After big run, Irish defense locks down

UNLV’s first score of the game came on the heels of a 74-yard sprint by running back Courtney Reese. Two plays later after Reese was tackled at the one-yard line by senior linebacker J.D. Bertrand, quarterback Cameron Friel’s pitch to running back Jordan Young-Humprey became a touchdown for the Rebels. Reese’s run was the biggest play of the game for either team and accounted for more than half of UNLV’s yards at halftime. 

Special teams sparks Irish to big halftime lead

At the end of UNLV’s next possession, Isaiah Foskey blocked UNLV’s punt and Notre Dame took over at the UNLV 20. Mayer and Pyne connected for a slash route through the endzone for the Irish’s second touchdown. The Notre Dame special teams unit was clearly reading the punter very well as Foskey and linebacker Prince Collie both made contact with the football for the second blocked punt of the game for the Irish. After an apparent touchdown pass to Mayer in the endzone was overturned, the Irish settled for a field goal. A 12-yard Brandon Joseph punt return set up their final touchdown of the half, putting Notre Dame up 30-7. 

Ugly tackling mars decent defensive performance

Both of UNLV’s quarterbacks struggled to complete passes all day, with accuracy being one of the bigger issues. Courtney Reese had the two really big plays for the Rebels with the 74-yard run and then a 47-yard gain up the middle, both resulting in touchdowns. Tackling was ugly for Notre Dame. There were numerous times that a decent gain could have been prevented by more focused tackling. Better teams will turn these decent gains into really large ones. 

Unbalanced playbook continues to haunt Irish

Running the ball is great but Notre Dame’s playbook is severely unbalanced. Pyne completed only 12 of 26 passes today against a pretty bad UNLV defense. Getting open didn’t seem to be a big problem for receivers. Instead, there was miscommunication downfield and drops that speak volumes about the lack of chemistry between Pyne and his receivers not named Michael Mayer. Better teams will and have been able to key on Mayer to make Pyne throw elsewhere, and the offense may not respond well to how more talented defenses decide to position themselves. 

The Irish take on Syracuse on the road next week on Saturday, October 29. Game time is TBD.

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Observer staff predicts Notre Dame vs. UNLV

Aidan Thomas – Sports Editor

The Irish enter as massive favorites, which, to the best of my understanding, means this game is going to be a very annoying and unnecessary heart attack. UNLV has lost their past two games to Air Force and San Jose State by a combined score of 82-14. This week, they’re without their starting running back and quarterback. This shouldn’t be close. Which means it will be close? I don’t know anymore, I’m completely confused. Irish by a decent amount, but not to cover feels like the most on-brand thing to predict in an unpredictable season. 

Notre Dame 30 UNLV 7 

Liam Coolican – Associate Sports Editor

This is a must-win game for Notre Dame if they hope to be bowl-eligible. It is a strange position for the Irish to be in, midway through the season, to even be discussing bowl eligibility instead of the CFP rankings. But with six games left on the docket, three of which are against Syracuse, Clemson and USC, the Irish would do well to win the other three games if they plan to play in the postseason.

To put it nicely, UNLV is not a good football team and has a case to be the easiest win on the schedule. The gap in talent is astronomical, but nothing is certain anymore with this edition of Notre Dame football. The Irish will get this one done. It won’t be an easy game, but the defense will make a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter and escape with a win. 

Notre Dame 23 UNLV 14

Madeline Ladd – Associate Sports Editor

Notre Dame has looked rather rough at home this season, though the UNLV Rebels have not inspired much excitement recently either. The Irish enter this weekend’s matchup as huge favorites against the injury-ridden Rebels. UNLV will likely play without their quarterback, who has fallen to an ankle injury and is also currently in concussion protocol.

The Irish should have this matchup, though that is also what I said last weekend. They have to come out fast, ensuring Pyne gets his receivers the ball and returns to being the confident and accurate quarterback we saw against BYU. A strong performance by running back Audric Estime will also be key to the win. I think the Irish can make it happen and improve their at-home win record, but this is no game to feel comfortable with. 

Notre Dame 45 UNLV 10

Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor

I have no idea how to make my predictions going forward. In the games the Irish have been the easy favorite, they falter, whereas in the games that are supposed to be more of a fight they come out on top. Losing to Stanford was hard to watch. This is all the more reason that Notre Dame has to come out guns blazing despite the expectation of a secure win.

The Irish need a solid victory at home to carry momentum forward, as every home game this season has been a loss or a last-minute nail-biter. The Irish must capitalize on the fact that UNLV is ridden with injuries while playing as though this is the toughest opponent they will face this season. Notre Dame needs some Sin City energy from Pyne and his receivers in South Bend.

Notre Dame 28 UNLV 14

Mannion McGinley – Assistant Managing Editor

The wins and the losses this season don’t make sense. For some reason when the easy games come around, the Irish can’t get the offense off the ground, and the defense can’t follow through. Here we go, however, into another game with a devastatingly big spread with seemingly ample room to make some plays happen on both sides of the ball. But the Irish have done little with these opportunities this season.

The key word is ‘should’ in this game. At this point, I’ve made most of my predictions with “the Irish will” but now it’s “the Irish should.” In theory, the Irish should take over with several touchdowns over UNLV, but they won’t cover the spread. Especially with the UNLV starting quarterback and running back off the field, there should be plenty of room for the Irish to succeed and they’re capable of it. They just need to get it done. 

Notre Dame 28 UNLV 10

Nate Moller – Senior sports writer

Last week was probably the most painful game I have ever watched as a Notre Dame fan. The offense was lethargic from the start and failed miserably to get the job done late. Drew Pyne’s performance was simply unacceptable, and he will have to be better going forward. The Irish now face another game that they should win, but as we have all seen, that doesn’t mean much. I don’t think the Irish will play sensationally in this one, but I think they’ll do enough to get back to over .500 against a subpar UNLV team.

Notre Dame 24 UNLV 13