Drew Pyne's time as Notre Dame football's starting quarterback arrives

Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman had a difficult talk with New Canaan’s Drew Pyne in the preseason.

Pyne was not going to be the starting quarterback to begin the year.

But that came with a caveat.

“I’ve never been part of a program where we haven’t used more than one quarterback during the course of a season,” Freeman told reporters this week. “I didn’t know when his time was going to come, but I knew it was going to come at some point and here it is.”

The time is now for Pyne.

A 2020 graduate of New Canaan High, Pyne has been named Notre Dame’s starting quarterback, replacing Tyler Buchner, who was injured in a 26-21 loss to Marshall last Saturday.

Pyne’s first game as the No. 1 quarterback will be against California at Notre Dame (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., NBC).

It’s a moment for which Pyne has been waiting and working.

“My mindset has never changed since the moment I got here,” Pyne told reporters. “Always be prepared and as ready as possible for any point when I need to help the team.

“I’m not here for personal accolades or stats or anything, I’m here to do whatever I can to help my team win. I think the guys know that I truly play for them. That’s the reason that I take this so seriously.”

Pyne is New Canaan’s all-time leader in several passing categories, including yards (9.411), touchdowns (105), completions (701) and attempts (2nd). He ranks in Connecticut’s top five in all those categories, and is one of just six state QBs to reach 100 TD passes in their careers.

“He’s been waiting for this,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “ It’s a great opportunity for Drew. I talked to him a few times this week and just as long as he manages the game and doesn’t try to do too much, I think he’ll be fine.This is why he went there to begin with and now, he has the opportunity to win the job and hopefully keep it.”

Dante Correnty, who was New Canaan’s offensive coordinator while Pyne was at the school, said Saturday’s game will be the “first start of many to come for Pyne.

“It’s just the beginning for a great QB, an unparalleled leader, and most importantly, an incredible young man,” Correnty said.

Denis LaPolice, a long-time New Canaan Youth Football board member, said Pyne has been an inspiration to the younger players.

“You talk about somebody to aspire to and admire, who better than Drew?,” LaPolice said.“On Friday nights at a New Canaan football game, afterwards or before, watching all the youth kids circle around him was always pretty cool.

“There’s no doubt he energized our youth program. There were some kids who looked up to the idea that ‘I want to play football for New Canaan’ and No. 10 had a lot to do with it.”

LaPolice son’s Zach, now with Cornell football, was in the same graduating class as Pyne and played wide receiver, catching a dozen TD passes as a senior.

“I tell everyone he made Zach a better football player,” Denis LaPolice said. “They had a special connection and Drew has that ability to make the people around him not only play better, but feel better.”

Buchner, Notre Dame's starter, suffered a high-grade sprain in his left, non-throwing shoulder and is projected to be out four months after undergoing surgery. He could miss the rest of the season.

The injury occurred in the fourth quarter against Marshall, and Pyne came in to complete 3-of-6 passes for 20 yards with one 5-yard touchdown pass and an interception. He also rushed three times for 16 yards.

For his career, Pyne is 18-for-36 for 244 and three touchdowns. He saw significant time in a win over Wisconsin and a loss to Cincinnati after replacing then-starter Jack Coan in both games.

While Notre Dame’s offense has struggled to maintain consistency in its two losses to start the season, Freeman said he doesn’t see the schemes or approach changing much with the move from Buchner to Pyne.

“I don’t see the offense in terms of the entire package changing because of Drew being at quarterback,” Freeman told reporters. “But I do see us trying to look and say where can we be more efficient as an offense.

“We’re still going to be able to do some of the QB runs that we were able to do with Tyler, and obviously the passing game, we’ll continue to enhance it, and figure out ways to be more consistent in it.”

It’s been a whirlwind of attention and emotions this week for Pyne, but for his part, he said he’s been doing what he always does: Preparing for what’s ahead.

“It’s an honor to be able to help this team win,” Pyne told reporters. “It’s easy to fall into a trap and have this all affect me in many different ways, but I’m focused on one thing and that’s preparing as hard as I can for Cal, and practicing as hard as I can to be able to have success this weekend.”

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports