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Notre Dame Football: Marcus Freeman VS The Triple Option

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He got off to a bad start, but figured it out

Marcus Freeman and Bo Bauer notre dame football Notre Dame Athletics

Of the many things to be happy about with the hiring of Marcus Freeman as the defensive coordinator of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was his past experience against the triple option. It has become a bulletpoint when speaking about Freeman and the 2021 Notre Dame season — one that I used the other day.

But how did that really go for Marcus? Just facing the triple option is completely different than stopping it, and we’ve seen what happens to defensive coordinators that fail to prepare for this annoyingly efficient offense. So I dug up some very basic stats from Freeman’s time with the Cincinnati Bearcats in games that they played against the option.

Marcus Freeman VS The Option

Year Team Score / Result Rushing Yards Rushing TD AVG Rush 1st Downs 3rd Down Eff. 4th Down Eff. YR AVG Rushing YR AVG Score
Year Team Score / Result Rushing Yards Rushing TD AVG Rush 1st Downs 3rd Down Eff. 4th Down Eff. YR AVG Rushing YR AVG Score
2017 Navy 42-33 L 569 5 7.9 31 6-8 0-0 351.4 (2) 30.5
2018 Navy 42-0 W 124 0 2.4 13 3-13 0-3 276.1 (5) 25
2020 Army 24-10 W 182 0 4.2 18 3-13 0-2 273.0 (4) 26.8

Yeah so that first year — lord have mercy. The Navy Midshipmen had an explosive team in 2017, and flexed its option muscles against the Bearcats and 1st year DC, Marcus Freeman. Navy racked up 569 yards on the ground while averaging 7.9 yards per carry. It is about as perfect of a performance as you’ll find with the option. The Middies even got themselves a passing touchdown in the first quarter.

Freeman got two more chances against the option to redeem himself, and even though neither the 2018 Navy team or the 2020 Army squad was as explosive as the 2017 Middies, the stats show a clear improvement on the defensive side of the ball for Cincinnati. Freeman did what makes him one of the hottest coaches in the game right now — he evolved, and made his team better.

Navy is far from being the most important game on the schedule, but it does require a great deal of attention and detail to defend against the option. Clearly, Marcus Freeman understands this, and will have Notre Dame ready to go after a year off from the tricky ground attack.