football Edit

Notebook: JD Bertrand puts damper on otherwise outstanding defensive outing

Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand (27) tries to bring down North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye.
Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand (27) tries to bring down North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. (© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Head coach Marcus Freeman’s tone turned to disappointment.

In a game where so many things went right in Notre Dame’s 45-32 road victory over North Carolina on Saturday, one thing that went wrong will carry forward two weeks. Senior linebacker and captain JD Bertrand was flagged for and disqualified by a fourth-quarter targeting call.

Bertrand will miss the first half of Notre Dame’s matchup with BYU on Oct. 8. The Irish (2-2) have a bye next week, And Bertrand, seemingly, will have a lesson with Freeman, a former Ohio State standout linebacker, on tackling legally.

“It’s targeting,” Freeman said of Bertrand’s tackle. “And you can argue all you want, but as I told JD on the field, it's our job to learn from that situation. And so, it's an entire game he’s missed now, where he missed the first half of this game, and he’s going to miss the first half of the next game.

“And so, we have to learn from it, and we have to change, or you're going to continue to get targeting penalties, no matter if we agree or disagree. And so, we have to understand it. That's the way the refs call it.

“So, we have to practice different ways to tackle it. You’ve got to make sure you're not leading with your head. One is safety, but two, you need to be on the field. So, we have to look at that and study and say how would we practice — for him, in particular — a better way to make sure that doesn't happen again.”

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A host of Notre Dame defenders take down North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye.
A host of Notre Dame defenders take down North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

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Until the California game Sept. 17, tackling had never been an issue for Bertrand.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker led the Irish with 101 tackles (63 solo) while starting in all 13 games last season. Before last week’s blemish, Bertrand had recorded 17 tackles this season.

Bertrand even made up for last week’s error, which erased a potential game-clinching interception against Cal, by causing Notre Dame’s first turnover of the season, Saturday. On North Carolina’s first offensive play of the second half — and Bertrand’s first snap — he pressured North Carolina (3-1) quarterback Drake Maye, resulting in a fumble recovered by Justin Ademilola.

In Bertrand’s absence, Irish linebackers combined for 16 of the team’s first-half 38 tackles. Marist Liufau had five tackles in the opening half, more than doubling his total (2) in last week’s entire game against California. After Bertrand returned in the second half, Liufau only assisted on a sack in the third quarter.

Liufau’s next form of assistance appears to be helping Bertrand work through his tackling skills.

"It's scary, though. You never want to slow down,” Liufau said. “JD plays fast and physical, and it's always hard when you have to miss a half. I went through it my sophomore year. So, it's obviously tough on him, but we just got to see what we can do to fix it."

Other Irish on the mend

Notre Dame came in and out of Saturday’s game with several injuries.

Following a knee injury in last week’s practice, tight end Kevin Bauman was declared out against North Carolina and entered the stadium on crutches. Postgame, Freeman confirmed Bauman tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2022 season.

In addition to Bauman, safety Ramon Henderson was ruled inactive pregame with an ankle injury. Before the game, Henderson was sporting a brace on his right ankle.

During the game, offensive tackle Blake Fisher and safety DJ Brown suffered injuries. Fisher was poked in the eye in the second half, but it was of no concern to Freeman afterward. Meanwhile, Brown did not play in the second half due to a hamstring strain.

“Hopefully, he'll be back,” Freeman said of Brown. “We've got a bye week, so we’ve got some time.”

Hash Marks

- In his first road start, quarterback Drew Pyne hit new career-highs in pass completions (24), pass attempts (34), passing yards (289) and touchdown passes (3). Pyne found three different receivers — Logan Diggs, Michael Mayer and Lorenzo Styles — on his three scores.

Pyne’s three touchdown throws were the most in a first road start since Ron Powlus II connected on four against Northwestern at Soldier Field in 1994.

- Under Pyne’s direction, the Notre Dame offense compiled 576 yards and 35 first downs. That latter is one off the school record of 36 set against Army in 1974.

- Saturday was the second time under Freeman that Tommy Rees’ offense has exceeded 500 yards. In Freeman’s debut, Rees conducted the Irish offense to 552 yards in the Fiesta Bowl versus Oklahoma State.

- Audric Estimé’s 134-yard rushing mark not only was the first game of 100 yards or more in his career but the first time an Irish running back exceeded triple digits since last season’s North Carolina game on Oct. 30; Kyren Williams registered 199 yards.

- Besides Estimé, running back Chris Tyree rushed for 80 yards. The last time two Notre Dame players rushed for 80 yards or more was against Boston College in 2017; Brandon Wimbush and Josh Adams each eclipsed 200 yards that day.

- By Michael Mayer reaching the end zone, he moved into sole possession of second all-time in ND history in career tight end touchdown receptions (12). And with seven catches Satrurday he's second on that list too with 135. Ken MacAfee is first in touchdowns (15), and Tyler Eifert is the leader in career tight end receptions (140).

Career games active Notre Dame players 
All-time rank Player Games played

T-2

LB Bo Bauer

55

3

S Houston Griffith

53

T-4

OL Josh Lugg

52

T-14

DL Jayson Ademilola

48

T-14

CB TaRiq Bracy

48

Five Notre Dame players rank within the top 15 in career games played.

- Defensive end Isaiah Foskey claimed sole possession of ninth all-time in the ND record books in career sacks with 18.5, passing Pro Football Hall of Famer Bryant Young.

- After not playing in last week’s game, running back Logan Diggs posted new career highs in receiving yards (65) and all-purpose yards (115).

- Freshman tight end Holden Staes made his first career start. Fellow freshman Benjamin Morrison started his second straight game at cornerback.

- With the victory, Notre Dame has won 25 consecutive regular-season games against ACC opponents and five straight against North Carolina. The Irish lead the all-time series against the Tar Heels 21-2, including a 7-2 advantage at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Box Score: Notre Dame 45, North Carolina 32

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