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New Post Season New Results? Can Marcus Freeman Win His First Bowl Game?

By Mike Stacey|Writer|Twitter @MikeStacyIT

Credit: Sports Illustrated


This Friday at the Gator Bowl will be Marcus Freeman's second attempt at a post season victory in his short tenure with Notre Dame as a head coach. Back in January of this year, which feels like years ago to me, Marcus Freeman was not only preparing for a NY6 bowl game in Phoenix but was also trying to calm the storm that Brian Kelly left behind after he took a plane out of South Bend like a thief in the night. I may have never been on a bigger emotional rollercoaster during that time as a Notre Dame fan and as all of you know, that is saying something. From the rage that stemmed after feeling stabbed in the back by Kelly, whose decision to leave was only compounded by a decision to make all of his players gather at the crack of dawn for a 2 minute goodbye speech, to the pure adrenaline induced euphoria felt when Freeman was named the HC, with all of his players embracing him like he was the second coming. (The video of him being introduced to the team still makes me want to run through a wall) It was a time like no other for the ND program and I could not wait to see what came next.


Fortunately, what came next was a major opportunity. When the Irish found out they were playing Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl it came with a renewed energy. Marcus Freeman, who had not been the coach for more than a month, had the opportunity to do what Brian Kelly had never done in his 11 year tenure at Notre Dame, win a NY6 bowl game. And how sweet would that be? An opportunity to show the coach who ditched his team for greener pastures exactly what he was missing. The excitement among Notre Dame fans and the program itself was palpable. When the tickets went on sale I looked at my wife and said, "We're going." Okay, so I actually politely begged her and used the fact my birthday was coming up on December 31st to further lobby for permission. After some groveling, she said yes and we bought our tickets. I was ready to witness history.


At least I had good seats!


The game could not have started any better. The Irish jumped all over OK State and soon found themselves up by 3 scores. I remember looking around the stadium, with a big grin on my face, thinking that Notre Dame was going to soon be on top of the world with Freeman leading the way. Exciting thoughts raced through my head thanks to what I was seeing on the field and an adequate amount of alcohol. Will we win it all next year? How many total will Freeman get in his era with the Irish? two? three? ten?! This was one of the best birthday trips I could have asked for, it was perfect.


Credit: Tenor


And then the second half happened....


After giving up an inexcusable TD drive to end the first half, Oklahoma State seemed to build off of that momentum, and quickly. A 21 point lead in the first half was completely erased and turned into a deficit by the 4th quarter. Notre Dame looked like a different team came out of the tunnel and all of the joy was quickly sucked out of State Farm Stadium for Irish fans. An old familiar foe had reared his ugly head, a big bowl game loss. Notre Dame would move to 0-8 in BCS/NY6 bowl games. Yikes...


Fast forward to this season, and although the let down from the bowl game definitely hurt, it didn't slow down the momentum coming into the year as Marcus Freeman and staff were HOT on the recruiting trail and the Irish entered the season as a top 10 team. However, a difficult 0-2 start quickly derailed any playoff hopes and the rest of the season was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, including a huge win at home over Clemson and ending with a convincing loss to rival USC. (Hurts to type that) Recruiting has followed a similar pattern, seeing Notre Dame's top 3 class lose some top prospects on signing day (I still think Bowen may announce he just signed with ND. Just joking, sort of?) leading to the Irish dropping to the bottom half of the top ten in most recruiting class rankings.


If Notre Dame has had an issue so far during the Freeman era it has been consistency. Now don't get me wrong, I have faith in Marcus Freeman and think he has done a good job with all things considered.(First year coach, QB injury, Illegal recruiting aka NIL...) However, this bowl game can be a big step forward. No, it is not a playoff game or even a NY6 game, but it is a bowl matchup with an SEC team who finished the season with back to back big wins over Tennessee and Clemson. This win can be a step in the right direction towards consistency moving forward. This can be a moment where we look back and say Marcus Freeman started his reign of terror on December 30th and didn't look back. After a tumultuous year that was difficult to navigate, lets go into 2023 on a high note. Get a post season win to close out the year. Go Irish! Beat SC!

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