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Notre Dame survives Cal for first win of Marcus Freeman era

Sep 17, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) runs the ball in the second quarter against the California Bears at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

First-time starter Drew Pyne threw 6 yards to Michael Mayer for the tie-breaking score with 9:16 remaining Saturday afternoon and Notre Dame recorded the first win of the Marcus Freeman era with a 24-17 victory over California in South Bend, Ind.

Audric Estime ran for a 1-yard score in the third quarter and Blake Grupe kicked a 47-yard field goal in the opening seconds of the fourth as the Fighting Irish (1-2) rallied from 7-0, 10-7 and 17-14 deficits to win for the first time after losses to Ohio State and Marshall.

Purdue transfer Jack Plummer had a touchdown pass and a 1-yard TD plunge, the latter coming with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter and giving the Golden Bears (2-1) their final lead at 17-14.

But after struggling offensively in the first half, Notre Dame got its ground game going after the intermission, with Estime running up 76 yards on 18 carries and Chris Tyree 64 on 17 attempts.

Notre Dame outrushed Cal 147-112, with Plummer accounting for 34 of the visitors’ yards, mostly on scrambles.

Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish defense, which saw Cal outgain the hosts 184-118 in the first half, stepped up big-time after halftime, limiting the Golden Bears to just 112 more yards. Notre Dame finished with a 297-296 advantage in total yardage.

Cal did get one final opportunity to draw even, but Plummer’s desperation pass into the end zone from 35 yards away as time ran out was deflected, then went in and out of the hands of prone wideout Jeremiah Hunter, triggering a Notre Dame celebration.

Pyne, starting in place of injured Tyler Buchner, overcame a shaky start to go 17-for-23 for 150 yards and two TDs. Tyree was his favorite target with five catches, 44 yards and the one touchdown.

Plummer finished 16-for-37 for 184 yards and one touchdown. Hunter had five catches for 66 yards for the Golden Bears, who were facing Notre Dame for the first time since 1967.

Thanks mostly to its defense, Cal dominated the first half and could have led more than 10-7 if not for an untimely penalty.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Golden Bears scored on an 18-yard pass from Plummer to J. Michael Sturdivant and a 34-yard field goal by Dario Longhetto.

In between, Notre Dame’s Grupe missed a 45-yard field goal attempt, but Cal was called for lining up offside, resulting in a first down.

Two plays later, Pyne connected with Tyree for a 21-yard TD that drew the hosts even.

–Field Level Media