CHICAGO – Brian Kelly's hair was sticky.
After the coach's 12th-ranked Notre Dame team intercepted four passes in a 41-13 pasting of No. 18 Wisconsin at Soldier Field on Saturday, linebacker Drew White and defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa doused Kelly with green Gatorade to celebrate the 12th-year coach's 106th win with the Irish. The victory moved him past Knute Rockne, making him the all-time wins leader in program history.
“I get more joy in watching the development of Drew Pyne going in there and Chris Tyree,” Kelly said. “That's why I do this. You don't do it for 31 years because you're trying to beat Knute Rockne's record. No disrespect to Knute.”
Pyne and Tyree being at the front of Kelly's mind in that moment made sense because they played integral parts in the Irish victory, which ran the program's record in Shamrock Series games to 10-0.
Tyree made perhaps the biggest play of the game, returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put Notre Dame (4-0) ahead 17-13 after the Badgers (1-2) had scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to go in front.
Tyree, starting on the right side of the field, angled through a huge hole on the left side, after which he turned on the speed that made him the top all-purpose running back in the country coming out of high school. When he found paydirt, it completed Notre Dame's first kick return for a touchdown since 2016.
“We know he has game-breaking speed,” Irish wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. said of Tyree. “For him to show that on display, it was a reminder for all of us on the sideline that this is the type of game it's going to be and that's the type of game we need to have to beat a team like (Wisconsin).”
Notre Dame's defense made the lead stand up on Wisconsin's next possession, forcing one of its five turnovers when defensive end Isaiah Foskey pounced on a bouncing ball that defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola had forced loose with a big hit of Badgers quarterback Graham Mertz. The fumble set up the Irish in Wisconsin territory.
Pyne made the turnover hurt, completing a 22-yard pass to tight end Michael Mayer to put the ball in the red zone and then hitting Austin on a shallow post for a 16-yard score, the first TD toss of the redshirt freshman's career. That made it 24-13 with 9:34 left and the victory was all but sealed.
“I'm always trying to be the guy to go in and try to make plays happen,” said Austin, who had six catches for 76 yards. “Having Drew in and not Jack in the moment, it was the same type of conversations we've had: 'Trust your throws, trust me, trust all the receivers that we're going to make a play.'”
Pyne, Notre Dame's backup quarterback, was in the game because starter Jack Coan, a Wisconsin transfer, was hurt on a sack in the third quarter and had to leave the action.
Pyne completed 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards in relief.
Austin, who was held without a catch in Notre Dame's win over Purdue on Sept. 18, also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass along the sideline from Coan in the second quarter that gave the Irish a 10-3 halftime lead.
Notre Dame's defense put an exclamation point on the game with a pair of pick-sixes in a 1:12 span in the final three minutes. Linebacker Jack Kiser, the 2018 Indiana Mr. Football, had the first, undercutting an out route and going 66 yards the other way, and White grabbed the other after a pair of tips, zigzagging 48 yards to complete the scoring.
The late interceptions were mostly gravy, but the pair of picks that cornerback Cam Hart had, which led to 10 Irish points while the game was still tight, were not. Neither was Notre Dame holding the Badgers, who came in picking up 263 rushing yards per game, to just 74 yards on the ground and 2.6 per carry.
“I wouldn't say it was expected, but this was nothing new to us,” Hart said. “That's what we do every day, go out there and have fun, play together. It's finally on display to the outside world. ... I don't think anyone in the locker room doubted we could play to this level.”
Note: The Badgers' offensive line featured Bishop Dwenger graduate Joe Tippmann starting at center. The redshirt sophomore, who won a Class 4A state championship with the Saints in 2018, has started since Week 1 for Wisconsin's offensive line.
1. Brian Kelly (2010-) 106
2. Knute Rockne (1918-1930) 105
3. Lou Holtz (1986-1996) 100
4. Ara Parseghian (1964-1974) 95
5. Frank Leahy (1941-1953) 87