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Pyne to the Portal, Did ND Let Wrong QB Go?

by Murray O'Connell

Photo Courtesy of Sportswire, Getty

Drew Pyne ruined my week. No this doesn’t have anything to do with his play on the field or any tough loss this season. You see, after workshopping my idea with my editor, I was all prepared to write a piece on why I think Drew Pyne should be named the starter for the Irish next season. I know, I know, for some that would have been a difficult thought to imagine, myself included, but that was kind of the point. However, with Pyne announcing last week that he would be leaving Notre Dame and entering the transfer portal, well now I got nothing to give my editor, and you see how Drew Pyne has ruined my work week.

My plan was to impress readers with some research and stats that Pyne attributed last season while starting for Notre Dame. For example, Pyne finished with a 64.6% completion record, throwing for 2,021 yards, 22 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions, and finished with a passing rating of 155.3

To compare that to some Notre Dame quarterbacks of the past (with a minimum of 254 passes attempted) Pyne sits at the top of some very successful quarterbacks.

Brady Quinn 134.4

Ian Book 147.0

Jimmy Clausen 137.2

DeShone Kizer 147.7

Tommy Rees 133.5

Nationally speaking, with his 155.3 passing rate, he leads some prominent names as well.

Stetson Bennent, Georgia 154.6

DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson 135.3

Spencer Rattler, South Carolina 141.4

When he was on, Pyne was a precision passer. Against Boston College on this particular play, Pyne does an exceptional job. He has great pocket presence, keeps his eyes downfield despite the pressure, and has good accuracy on the run, putting the ball exactly where it needed to be.

Video Courtesy of NBC Sports

Against USC, Pyne again shows great footwork during play-action, he’s able to thrust his arm forward into oncoming pressure, and threads the needle to Michael Mayer for a big gain.

Video Courtesy of ESPN

Admittedly, it took a while for the team to finally click like it needed to this year. Blame should be shared equally amongst a first year head coach, an inability to adapt to second half changes from the opposition, second half defense collapses, an offensive line that took a few games to find solid footing, and poor play by Pyne.

It perhaps started the second half against Cal, but the Irish managed to find their identity, peaking with games against North Carolina, BYU, and the epic slaughtering of Clemson. Were there still some obvious issues that needed to be addressed along the way? Of course, even Georgia has some hedges that need to be trimmed. However, when this team was clicking, it was doing so in part to Pyne’s play.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Cashore, 247Sports

Pyne’s leadership, his billionaire-strut swagger, and the intangibles he creates cannot be denied and deserve credit for a lot of the success the Irish had this year. Led by Pyne this team actually became a force, doing things that have not been seen in South Bend in a very long time.

Twice, with insurmountable odds stacked against him, Pyne has been asked to save a season. Against Wisconsin in 2021, the Irish found themselves tied late in the third with starter Jack Coan suffering an injury and injured backup Tyler Buchner unavailable on the sidelines. Pyne delivered, sealing the 41-13 victory and keeping the Irish playoff hopes alive.

After suffering a season ending shoulder injury from Tyler Buchner in the second game of the 2022 season, Pyne was again asked to step in, and for the remainder of the season he not only kept the Irish competitive, but at times, dominant. The Irish would finish 8-4 and a Gator Bowl birth, after what seemed like a hopeless and lost season back in September.

Photo Courtesy of Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire, Getty

However, with every precision pass to Mayer, there were batted down passes at the line of scrimmage, missed open receivers, the late interception against Marshall, and the second half fumble against USC while the Irish had momentum in their favor.

The USC game also probably best illuminated the sentiment behind why more than a few Irish fans were happy to see Pyne go. He was no Caleb Williams, he was not an elite quarterback. When you size Pyne up to the nation’s best passers and examine their passing rate, there is quite a gap between them and Pyne.

Drew Pyne, Notre Dame 155.3

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee 175.5

Caelb Williams, Southern Cal 167.9

Max Duggan, TCU 165.5

This is ultimately what I believe made Pyne so hard to cheer for by some fans. His only crime was that as of last season, he was not elite.

Here lies my point, yes Pyne certainly suffered through some growing pains. Yes there were passes he would love to take back. Yes he probably locked onto Mayer too often. But what if this was his growing pains season? What if, just like Freeman, this was the season he needed to fail at a little, to help him grow better for next season. Irish fans are willing to give Freeman a pass after year one, why not to Pyne?

Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

This was a team willing to play for Pyne. Other than his offensive coordinator, never did you see anybody on this team even give him a side-eye glare. Pyne was their leader. With him leaving, that sense of cohesiveness they worked so hard to complete throughout the season is now gone forever.

Irish fans need not forget, Pyne was a 4 star recruit in high school. He was recruited by Alabama. He received an offer from Alabama when he was in the 8th grade. Nick Saban watched, who knows how many hours of film on him, and wanted Pyne to play for him at Alabama. Nick Saban, 7 national championships, THAT Nick Saban wanted Drew Pyne to play quarterback for him at Alabama.

Photo Courtesy of @QBCountry

What if some experience, some time working with a proper quarterbacks coach, and his natural maturation was what Pyne needed to become elite next year? Truth be told, he already has significantly more experience leading the Irish than Buchner, and can also boast that he has played more playoff teams, Alabama in 2021 and Ohio State in 2022. Buchner can’t claim that.

I’m sure Tyler Buchner is a classy kid and a great representative of Notre Dame, but when was the last time he finished a complete season? His senior year in high school was eliminated due to Covid. In his two seasons at Notre Dame he has completed less than 50 passes. He was used very sparingly his freshman year and lost his sophomore season due to injury.

Will Irish fans have to suffer through his growing pains next year? Will whatever transfer portal quarterback the Irish bring in hit the ground running, or will it take time to adapt? How much time: the off season, one game, several games? Are Irish fans patient enough to let next year’s quarterback actually have time to figure things out? Can anybody with 100% certainty say that Buchner or the transfer quarterback will be ahead of Drew Pyne 2.0?

No. Which is why Pyne should have been QB1 in 2023. Marcus Freeman had the wrong conversation with the wrong quarterback. In my opinion, he should have told Pyne, we will bring in a transfer to challenge you, you will get first crack at the job, you’ve earned it, but I’m going to play the man that gives us the best chance at winning a national championship whether that be you or another quarterback.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Whether loved or hated, Irish fans must agree that Pyne led this team with class and was a great ambassador for the university. Even though 4 games didn’t end the way Notre Dame fans wanted, never once did anybody see Pyne quit. He laid his body on the line time after time for his team. He did his f#?$ing job, and he deserves our respect for that.

Pyne’s only crime is that he is not Caleb Williams. After seeing the infamous message he wrote on his fingernails for the Notre Dame game, I’m more than ok with that.

What I’m not ok with is Pyne ruining my work week. Thanks for nothing Drew!


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