It was either going to take a defensive touchdown or a special teams score. Notre Dame two of the former and one of the latter, and it got a runaway 41-13 victory over Wisconsin at Soldier Field on Saturday as a result.
The No. 18 Badgers (1-2) took a 13-10 lead over the No. 12 Fighting Irish (4-0) on a short field goal early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Chris Tyree returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the north end zone to give Notre Dame the lead — one it would not relinquish the remainder of the game — with 14:01 remaining.
One moment, Wisconsin fans shook the stands as “Jump Around” by House of Pain played through the stadium speakers. The next, they were silent and still. Tyree’s touchdown completely shifted everything in the blue and gold’s favor.
Before the score, Notre Dame had punted and lost a fumble on its last five drives. The Irish offense didn’t have much going for it, and starting quarterback Jack Coan was pulled from the game with an apparent injury.
Sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne led a six-play, 46-yard drive that culminated with his touchdown toss to senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. on Notre Dame’s first drive after the Tyree touchdown. Austin Jr. had a 36-yard touchdown grab from Coan in the first half that put the Irish ahead 10-3 at the time.
Notre Dame was victorious in spite of another feeble performance in the ground game. The Irish finished with three rushing yards. It was tough sledding for junior running back Kyren Williams, who ran 18 times for 33 yards. Tyree had two carries for six yards. Coan and Pyne combined for a loss of 35 yards because of Wisconsin’s six sacks.
The Wisconsin defense was good. The Notre Dame defense was better. The Irish limited Wisconsin sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz to 18-of-41 for 240 yards. Notre Dame junior cornerback Cam Hart intercepted him twice to record the first two INTs of his career.
Junior linebacker Jack Kiser picked Mertz off and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown to increase the Irish advantage to 34-13 with just over two minutes remaining. Senior linebacker Drew White had a pick six of his own moments later to put a bow on the Irish victory.
The Badgers ran for over 500 yards in their first two games but could only muster 70 yards on 27 carries against Notre Dame’s improving defensive front. The Irish pounced on the Badgers defensively from the start and didn’t let up all day.
Wisconsin 3, Notre Dame 0
• Scoring play: Collin Larsh 37-yard field goal
• Drive: five plays, 26 yards, 1:54
Wisconsin 3, Notre Dame 3
• Scoring play: Jonathan Doerer 51-yard field goal
• Drive: 16 plays, 46 yards, 6:29
Notre Dame 10, Wisconsin 3
• Scoring play: Jack Coan 36-yard pass to Kevin Austin Jr.
• Drive: five plays, 51 yards, 2:18
Notre Dame 10, Wisconsin 10
• Scoring play: Graham Mertz 8-yard pass to Kendric Pryor
• Drive: four plays, 56 yards, 2:01
Wisconsin 13, Notre Dame 10
• Scoring play: Larsh 27-yard field goal
• Drive: nine plays, 30 yards, 3:44
Notre Dame 17, Wisconsin 13
• Scoring play: Chris Tyree 96-yard kickoff return