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Two Reasons Why Notre Dame Beat Oregon State

Weekly Column Looking at Two Reasons Why...

Coach Marcus Freeman raises the Sun Bowl trophy after the Notre Dame’s 40-8 win versus Oregon State
Photo Credit: Fred Assaf

It’s been a great first run covering the Irish football team this year, and as always, thanks to Josh and the team at One Foot Down for giving me this outlet to share my thoughts on the Notre Dame squad. And I am glad I am writing this column because if you have been reading my articles all year, I only write after the Irish win their matchup, and anything but a victory in the Sun Bowl would have been a tough way to end the year.

The Irish came to play in El Paso on December 29th and thoroughly dominated the Beavers of Oregon State to the tune of 40-8 to finish the season 10-3. Certainly it was not the bowl game that a lot of us expected, and it was not the exact players we all thought we would see in our 13th game of the year, but the team was ready to go and we came out, won our 10th game and finished the year on a high. And with all that has happened over the last month or so within the Notre Dame football program, we all cannot help but be excited for the prospects that lie ahead with the 2024 season.

By now, those of you who follow me, you know the drill. We are going through our countdown to eleven regular season (now including the postseason plus one ;)) wins for our Irish and with victories in ten out of our thirteen games, our original “Eleven Reasons Why...” column has now moved to “Two Reasons Why...” with wins over Navy (11), Tennessee St (10), NC State (9), Central Michigan (8), Duke (7), Southern Cal (6), Pitt (5), Wake Forest (4), Stanford (3) and Oregon State (2).

Unfortunately we will never get our “One Reason Why...” column this year, but that doesn’t mean that this year wasn’t a success and something the Irish can build upon as we head into 2024. And with that being the case, let’s get after it, and for the last time in this Fighting Irish 2023 season, in no particular order...

#1 - Notre Dame’s Offense and Defense Shined

In a game where there were a lot of “newish” faces taking center stage, Notre Dame played a complete game on offense, defense and special teams. Steve Angeli made his case to be the starter in 2024 as he finished the day 15-19 for 232 yards and three TDs. It was a really good first start for Steve, and while I think it will be tough for him to be the starter next year, he proved that he is capable and willing to lead the Irish to victory each Saturday.

Jadarian Price and Jeremiyah Love both shined at RB as they each scored TDs with JD going over 100 yards rushing and Jeremiyah showing his explosiveness (Gary Danielson take note please) on a nice catch and run for a score.

The retooled offensive line showed out well and while it might not be the same starting five that we will see down in College Station in August, it was a glimpse into the future as we saw a cohesive unit do a good job in both pass and run blocking throughout the afternoon.

Last but not least within the offense, the receivers stepped up with a fully healthy Jayden Thomas catching four passes for 59 yards and a TD, and Jordan Faison winning the MVP of the game following his five catch, 115 yard and one TD performance. Anyone else excited to see Mr. Faison suit up for the Blue and Gold with his lacrosse stick in Arlotta starting in February? Sign me up!

On the defensive side of the ball, the Irish gave up one TD on the day, forced a safety, stopped a fake punt and only gave up two rushing yards to the Beavers. It was a complete and suffocating performance from a unit that was only missing a few starting players due to opt outs, but also afforded some of the youngsters the chance to get some good time and reps for the future. A special shout out to those veterans who led the team on the day - JJB, Cross, Mills, Botelho, Kiser, Bertrand, Morrison, Brown and Watts. These players stepped up, showed leadership and came to play for their 13th game this year as members of the Fighting Irish.

#2 - Marcus Freeman’s Leadership Won the Day

Bowl games these days have changed from the days of our youth and it has become the norm to see shells of teams play in these lesser bowls. And that can make it tough on coaching staffs to get buy in and get teams to play up to a high level. Kudos to Coach Marcus Freeman and the entire Notre Dame coaching staff for getting the effort they were looking for and for getting the team to play to their full ability and potential. The squad could have easily folded with a lot of opt outs and transfers, but the culture that CMF has created definitely won the day as the team came prepared, focused and was ready to go at the opening kick. This was a culture win for Notre Dame and the team believed in the message from CMF and it was evident on a sunny Friday in Texas. This is fully Marcus Freeman’s team and they play in his mold - tough, physical and unwavering with a “one play, one life” attitude.

Summary:

A lot of us expected a Notre Dame team that would challenge for the playoffs this year, and even if that was not going to be the reality after our second loss of the season, we all thought a New Year’s Six Bowl would certainly be in the cards. It was not to be and while there were some really fantastic wins on the year, there was also three demoralizing losses that will define the second season under Marcus Freeman’s leadership.

The 2023 Fighting Irish will be remembered for a team that “could have been” as Notre Dame had a championship caliber defense and an offense that scored at a prolific pace in almost all the games, but faltered in three big matchups.

College football seasons don’t always play out the way we think they will and while there will be lots of questions around what happened this year, there are still some really large bright spots and players that we will forever remember from this team. We can take the memories made and still look back with some fondness on what happened this past fall.

But we all WANT more and we are hopeful that with some new faces being added to the mix in 2024, that the Irish will make the 12 team playoff and that we are seeing a home playoff game in December at Notre Dame Stadium. And if that thought doesn’t get you excited around next year, then I don’t know what will.

Okay folks, signing off for now around ND football, thanks for joining me on the ride this year. See you all soon, Notre Dame lacrosse is right around the corner and we have a national championship to defend. “Time to be Great” AGAIN.

Go Irish!