Pretend for a moment you were an alien from outer space and out of curiosity you wanted to look into this Notre Dame football team you’ve been hearing about. (This is my story and clearly real life). Now, if said alien were to listen to fans and/or many media members associated with the team, the impression gained would be fairly negative at the moment. Any outsider may think based off of recent commentary that this Irish football team is struggling...possibly a .500 record or even worse. The concerns would appear to be many...Is Coach Marcus Freeman in over his head? Is the offense too conservative? Is it time to already look for a replacement for offensive coordinator Gerad Parker? Is the schedule set up for failure? Ahh yes, one would not have to look far to find areas for concern. However, I think we should take a moment to look at some areas that I’m excited about moving into the second half of the season.
Sam Hartman. If you haven’t become a believer in this man by now I don’t know what to tell you. The heart shown by Hartman on his 95-yard game-winning drive to beat Duke last Saturday was something truly special. Irish fans have not seen a leader on and off the field like him in quite some time. At least a quarterback who can also put up numbers the way that he can when given the green light to let it rip. Sure the last two games he hasn’t lit up the sheet statistically but he was also facing two of the best defenses in the country. (Ohio State and Duke are both ranked in the top ten nationally in total defense). I personally wouldn’t want anybody else under center with the challenges that await.
Speaking of those challenges, the remaining schedule should be a reason for excitement. As a Notre Dame fan, all we want in a football season is to have a chance at getting into the college football playoff. Well through the first 6 games of the season the Irish sit at 5-1 with probably the best loss in the country. While the last-second loss to Ohio State stings bad (and will for quite a while) this team has to realize that all its goals are still within their grasp. This, in part, is because of the strength of the remaining schedule. The Irish play a ranked Louisville team this coming Saturday night on the road followed by an enormous clash with top-ten-ranked USC in two weeks. If they can somehow come out of those two games with W’s I truly believe a playoff berth will be on the line in Death Valley against Clemson on November 4th. While this schedule appears daunting, if the staff and team are able to navigate it with success then all the lessons learned along the way will be worth it.
Lastly, I want to mention the youth of this team and how they all continue to step up when called upon. While we question personal usage at times, the fact that these guys are coming in ready to compete is something not seen in a very long time in South Bend. Jeremiah Love, Jaden Greathouse, and Rico Flores have been nothing short of phenomenal this season given what has been asked of them as freshmen. In my opinion, the mix of veterans and newcomers has been quite refreshing. It’s great to see the likes of Hartman, Audric Estime, Jayden Thomas, Chris Tyree, and Mitchell Evans helping to show this group of youngsters how to lead a program. Yes, the future is bright in South Bend.
Everything that this team wants is still within their grasp. Keep pushing and looking forward at what's in front of them and not at what was potentially lost two weeks ago. This coaching staff is still young (in years and HC experience). Will there be bumps along the road? Of course. Will there be questionable decisions and game plans? I’d be surprised if there wasn’t. But I also believe in coach Freeman and what his vision is for this program and the plan he has in place to get there.