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Leftovers & Links: On Chris Tyree’s choice, Notre Dame’s left tackles, and an injury update

Wisconsin v Notre Dame

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 25: Chris Tyree #25 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs a kickoff back for a touchdown between Jack Van Dyke #22 and Alexander Smith #11 of the Wisconsin Badgers at Soldier Field on September 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Notre Dame defeated Wisconsin 41-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Chris Tyree had a choice to make. Notre Dame’s halftime change in kickoff return play calls unintentionally gave him one.

Rather than catch the kickoff and head toward the nearest hash mark and eventually that sideline, the “field return” sent Tyree across the field. As he reached the 20-yard-line early in the fourth quarter on Saturday at Soldier Field, two creases opened up for Tyree. The corner vantage point of the press box in an NFL stadium provided the perfect view of Tyree’s paths. His initial angle out of the corner of the field aligned precisely with the press box’s view of the field.

He could either cut up field, closer to would-be tacklers but also with more room to maneuver, or he could cut toward the far sideline, assuring him the edge but perhaps opening up an angle for a lone Badger.

By the 24-yard-line, Tyree stuck his foot in the ground with his mind made up. He would fake toward the sideline one more time, to both help Irish receiver Matt Salerno (No. 29) with his block of Wisconsin cornerback Dean Engram (No. 6) and to throw the Badgers kicker off-balance, but Tyree was headed up the middle.

(Focus on right about the 11-second mark.)

Tyree’s deke turned around Engram and sent Wisconsin kicker Jack Van Dyke grasping, springing him for the dramatic 96-yard kickoff return touchdown that should be remembered as the winning play in the top-20 tilt, the Notre Dame 41-13 rout more accurately reflected by that 17-13 score.

If Tyree had headed toward the sideline — an if that obviously will never be confirmed, but let’s give the unexpected perk of that corner view some credence — he would have gained plenty of yards and put the Irish (4-0) into excellent position, but he probably would not have scored. A few Badgers would have had a chance at catching him thanks to the downfield angle. Geometry lessons called that the hypotenuse, correct?

Tyree faced a choice, and his instincts propelled Notre Dame to a dramatic win, one that propelled the Irish back into the top 10, at No. 9, before facing No. 7 Cincinnati (2:30 ET; NBC).

Notre Dame may play three left tackles against Cincinnati alone, something the Irish have not done in competitive time in recent entire seasons. (Makes note to research if that has happened at any point in Brian Kelly’s 12 years at Notre Dame.) Kelly said sophomore Michael Carmody is at 95 percent, as of Monday, as he comes back from a sprained ankle. Carmody was the first replacement for freshman left tackle Blake Fisher (meniscus), and after he went down, sophomore Tosh Baker stepped in, spelled Saturday by freshman Joe Alt.

The latter substitution was planned before the Irish so struggled with Wisconsin’s defensive front.

“The plan was to get Joe in,” Kelly said Saturday. “Joe was going to play both, as the power tight end in our 13 package, and he was going to play some tackle, as well, and give Tosh a bit of a breather.”

Note: Alt wears No. 76 as a left tackle and No. 35 as an H-back/tight end. No, it is not typical for an offensive lineman to change numbers in-game, but it is required due to NCAA number requirements still being rather strict around offensive lines. (And discussing jersey numbers, that was sophomore Vyper Jordan Botelho in No. 12, his first extended action of the season and thus a jolt to the eyes with the new digits.)

Playing multiple left tackles is no coach’s ideal, nor is playing three quarterbacks in contributing roles within four games. Notre Dame is far from a finished product, and Kelly knows as much.

“We’re still trying to figure ourselves out,” he said. “... I just know that it’s a resilient group that believes they’re going to win. That, in itself, when you have a group of football players that — there’s some talent on this football team. It’s young, there’s some inexperience, but there’s such a strong commitment to their preparation, they work so hard in preparing, and then they’re gonna win.”

That belief was clear from the in-house highlight reel released Monday afternoon.

“You put those things together, now you got to go make plays,” Kelly said.

Tyree did.

In rapid-fire, from Kelly’s Monday media availability …

— “The quarterback situation is such that if [Jack Coan] is healthy, Jack will be our starter.” The Irish will have a better idea of Coan’s health after Tuesday’s practice.— Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner “felt really good [Sunday] in treatment” as he recovers from a bothersome hamstring.— Fifth-year defensive tackle Kurt Hinsh remains in the concussion protocol after missing the Shamrock Series tilt on Saturday.— Kelly said senior running back C’Bo Flemister will be available this weekend, the fifth game of the year. Flemister has not dressed on a Saturday yet this season.

Chris Tyree’s kickoff return sparks Notre Dame to blowout of Wisconsin, 41-13Things We Learned: A ‘freer,’ but ‘not perfect’ Notre Dame on display for the worldHighlights: Notre Dame 41, Wisconsin 13 — Chris Tyree’s kickoff return, Cam Hart’s interceptions

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