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It Wasn't Pretty, but the Irish Were Victorious

Updated: Oct 4, 2022


Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

The Notre Dame football team earned their first win of the season last Saturday, defeating the California Golden Bears. This was not a dominating performance, but the team came out in the second half with the intensity and enthusiasm fans have been waiting for under Coach Marcus Freeman. Hopefully, this can be something the team builds on moving forward. Coach Marcus Freeman had this to say at his Monday press conference:


“It's really good to see, not just the overall outcome of being victorious, but guys that are graded out at winning performances. We got to continue to focus on execution, we got to continue to practice better, continue to clean up the mistakes, and build off of the momentum after one game. We have to build off of this.”


During the first half of Saturday’s game, fans witnessed what they have seen all season: poor execution, foolish penalties, and a lackluster offense. Drew Pyne, the wide receivers, and the offensive line were not getting the job done during the first half of the game. However, after halftime, this team came out with the energy, enthusiasm, and competitive spirit needed to win football games. The offensive line, Pyne, and the running backs looked to get something going on offense, and they did. As a fan, it was exciting to see the offensive line push the defensive players backward as they sought to establish a running game. This offense appears to be showing glimpses of what it can be moving forward.


Players of the Game


Jacob Lacey

Lacey played his best football in a Notre Dame uniform last Saturday. He was responsible for 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss, and sparked the Irish defense in the second half. Lacey has earned more playing time moving forward and fans hope the defensive line can build off this performance.


Chris Tyree

Last week, fans and the media were wanting to see Tyree have more of an impact on the game, and he delivered against the Golden Bears. Tyree ended with 17 carries for 64yards, 5 receptions for 44 yards and 1 touchdown, 2 kick returns for 34 yards, and gave this Irish offense a spark when they needed it most. Tyree must be a central part of this offense moving forward.


Audric Estime

Like his counterpart, Estime provided the Irish offense with the perfect “bulldozing” complement to the “speedy” Chris Tyree. Estime ended the day with 18 carries for 76 yards and 1 touchdown, 3 receptions for 43 yards, and was able to drain the clock to close out the fourth quarter on Saturday. Estime and Tyree gave this Irish offense an identity they can build off of moving forward.


Areas of Concern


Wide Receivers

For the third week in a row, the wide receivers did not play well on Saturday. They did not appear to block well, fight for the catch, or play with any sense of urgency that fans desperately want to see. It also appears that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees may be asking some of the receivers to play positions that they are not best suited for. The logical answer would be to get some of your taller and younger receivers more playing time. When asked about this, Coach Freeman had this to say at his Monday press conference:


"Deion Colzie is still fighting his way back from the injury. I would foresee him getting more and more opportunities. Tobias Merriweather was a guy that we wanted to play even more than we did. All of a sudden, when the game is as close and the game's on the line, you're gonna play the people right now you trust the most. What does that mean? Guess what, our coaches have to earn more trust in Tobias. We got to be better coaches so that we can have more trust in Tobias and Tobias has to meet the coaches halfway and make sure he's doing the exact things he needs to do in practice, there is a trust factor that we know Tobias is in there and he's gonna get the job done. He's playing some plays and I know he'll continue to play more and more. But I think both sets of coaches and players have to find a way to continue to gain trust in each other."


Linebackers

For whatever reason, the linebacker play has been less than ideal for Notre Dame through the first three weeks of the season. It is possible that fans put too high of pressure on this group going into the season, but it is puzzling as to why experienced veterans are not playing well. In particular, Jack Kizer and JD Bertrand both played much better last season, so why are they showing signs of regression? Is it possible that they are being asked to do too much? Are they not allowed to just go play? Fans are left wondering and the call for younger players to see playing time is already happening. In response, Coach Freeman had this to say about his young linebackers:


"Sneed and Ziegler are probably still a little bit away right now. Junior played a little bit on Saturday. I can see him getting more and more reps. Prince Kollie is another guy that will continue to get more and more reps as we move forward. Those opportunities come from practice. That's been my challenge to those guys that might not be playing as much as they want. What are you doing in practice? Those guys have to continue to gain that trust in practice. They're extremely talented players that I know will help us. How soon? We'll see.”


Final Take

Notre Dame fans can take a sigh of relief as the Irish captured their first victory last week, but a lot of work is needed to make this a better football program. Let us hope that the coaches will take these issues seriously and address them in the coming weeks. Despite these issues, perhaps Irish players have found that competitiveness and identity that has been missing, and we will see this team keep battling and improving for the rest of the season.


I would like to end with something that continues to come up and readers might find interesting. In response to a question about making it easier for students to transfer to Notre Dame, Marcus Freeman said:


"It's a process that we're in constant communication with our admissions, faculty here at Notre Dame, and with multiple head coaches of athletic programs. It's not just football. Right now, it's a period in college sports where transfers and transfer portals are a big part of roster enhancements. Our people here at Notre Dame want us to be in a position to be successful, but at the same time, we want to make sure we protect the integrity of the education here at our university. Nobody is going to just win this. We have to work together to do what's best for both parties. It's a process that we continue to have discussions about and look to enhance it."


Go Irish!


Photo Credit: @ndfootball on Instagram

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