Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman met with journalists Thursday following the team’s loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes and before the first Irish home game of the season against the Marshall Thundering Herd. He went over last week’s stumbling blocks, dropped some names, and told what’s fueling the Irish going forward.
Next Week’s Opponent
On the threat of the Thundering Herd, Freeman said, “I think they’re an extremely well-coached team. You don’t see them making a lot of mistakes, and it’s a credit to Coach Huff and his staff. Defensively, they’re aggressive. They’re attacking.” Freeman pointed out the Thundering Herd’s aggression on special teams and underscored the need to protect the Irish punter. Freeman said, “...they almost rushed every punt last week. They almost blocked a couple of them.”
A First on the Field
Freeman had not initially realized the game would mark the first meeting of two Black head coaches at Notre Dame stadium, but said upon hearing, “What a great representation it is for minority coaches… You work hard, you do things the right way, there’s no cap to where you can go with this profession of coaching.” Freeman said he hopes the focus will be on the game, but reiterated the importance of the matchup.
An Injury Update
On Jarrett Patterson’s status following a right foot sprain, Freeman said, “Jarrett has practiced every day. We are expecting him to play on Saturday unless something crazy happens in the next 48 hours. He’s had a good week of practice… The offensive line group has had a really good week… They’re challenged; they were not happy with their overall performance in the Ohio State game.”
Not Brian Kelly’s Kind of Execution
On Irish kick and punt return, Freeman said, “It starts with kickoff return. We have to improve our execution on the kickoff return.” He admitted the team “overthought” the procedure in the Ohio State game and explained, “The execution of it wasn’t what you wanted. To start two series inside the 20-yard line that you had a chance to return the ball is not up to our standard. We’ve worked on it. I think we have a really good plan.”
On the mindset and demeanor of the defensive line following a frustrating game, Freeman said, “I would hope they’re just like their coach and that they're hungry and they're not satisfied with the performance of last week... They’ll follow after coach (Al) Washington’s lead.” He went on to underscore the need to execute going forward and said last week’s game “has to be the floor.”
Balancing his Messaging
On staying consistent with his messaging and reacting to last week’s frustration as he tries to solidify an Irish identity in a new era, Freeman said “It starts on Monday. You have to revisit that game... The next challenge is to prepare better than you did the week before... It’s not that difficult to motivate a team to prepare when you know you have the number two team in the country coming up on Saturday... Does it matter who we play or does it matter what standard has been set?”
The Irish QB
As for Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner, Freeman said, “I was really pleased with his decision-making in the last game. The ability to... not turning the ball over is so important. As I challenged Tyler and the entire quarterback room, we have to continue to make plays... No matter if we’re up three or down four, we have to make those plays. We left a lot of plays on the field where we didn't execute where we expect to execute.”
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