SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame's 26-game home winning streak came to an end this afternoon and its hopes for a College Football Playoff berth likely went with it.
The ninth-ranked Irish made a valiant comeback down the stretch of the second half, but a 17-point halftime deficit was too much and No. 7 Cincinnati left Notre Dame Stadium with a 24-13 victory, loudly announcing its College Football Playoff candidacy along the way.
Notre Dame fell apart in the second quarter, turning the ball over twice in rapid succession – a Tyler Buchner interception and a Chris Tyree fumble of a kickoff – and setting the Bearcats up deep in Irish territory on back-to-back possessions. Cincinnati cashed in with 10 points on those two drives and later added an 80-yard touchdown drive in just 1:08 late in the second quarter that culminated in a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Desmond Ridder Tre Tucker over the head of All-American safety Kyle Hamilton.
The Irish comeback happened with backup quarterback Drew Pyne under center. The Blue and Gold made the switch at halftime after starter Jack Coan was ineffective in the first half. Pyne went 9 for 22 for 143 yards and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Braden Lenzy that Lenzy caught nearly one-handed with a defender draped over him, slicing the deficit to 17-13.
Cincinnati put the game away with 5:08 left when Ridder capped a six-play, 75-yard drive with a 6-yard run around the left side.
- The last time Notre Dame lost at home was Sept. 9, 2017, a 20-19 defeat at the hands of then-No. 15 Georgia. The streak had been the longest since 1950 and the second-longest active streak in the country behind Clemson's 30.
- Cincinnati (4-0) has won 12 straight regular-season games and has beaten Indiana and Notre Dame already this season.
- The Irish drove the length of the field on their opening possession, going 69 yards to the Cincinnati 6, but Coan threw a costly interception, falling away off his back foot as a tackler dragged him down. Ahmad Gardner pulled down the lame-duck throw for the Bearcats.
- Notre Dame controlled the ball for close to 32 minutes, including more than 19 minutes in the first half. Cincinnati outgained the Irish just 385-341, in a sign of how essential the turnovers were.
- Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams gained 16 yards through a huge hole up the middle on the first play of the game. After that, Irish running backs ran 16 times for 49 yards as the offensive line continued to struggle to open holes.
- Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce, whom Irish coach Brian Kelly compared to former Irish and Homestead receiver Ben Skowronek this week, had six catches for 144 yards.
- Notre Dame's first score came late in the third quarter and was set up when Irish defensive end Isaiah Foskey strip-sacked Ridder and Drew White picked the ball up and rumbled 20 yards to the Cincinnati 40. Williams scored the touchdown on a 3-yard run around the left side.
- Kelly led Cincinnati from 2006 to 2009, putting together an undefeated regular season in '09 before taking the Notre Dame job; Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens held the same positions at Cincinnati within the last few years and Mickens played corner at Cincinnati for Kelly. On the opposite side, Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock is a long-time friend of Kelly's and was on staff at Notre Dame in a variety of roles, including offensive coordinator and associate head coach, from 2010 to 2016. In addition, former Irish receiver Michael Young transferred to Cincinnati prior to the 2020 season and caught four passes for 36 yards this afternoon.
- Notre Dame will be back in action next week with a road matchup at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia against Virginia Tech (3-1). The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network. The Hokies have beaten North Carolina, Middle Tennessee and Richmond, but lost to West Virginia on Sept. 18. They'll be the third straight Notre Dame faces that will be coming off a bye. The Irish beat Virginia Tech in 2018 and 2019.