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Notre Dame Rides the Estime Train to Victory!

📷 credit: Irish Tribune

Notre Dame dominated the number sixteen team in the country last Saturday behind a solid rushing attack and improved defense, as the Irish defeated Syracuse 41-24. The Irish opened the game with a Brandon Joseph pick-six, but little did Irish fans know that this would seem the tone for the rest of the game. The Notre Dame defense played one of its best games of the defense behind strong performances from JD Bertrand, Isaiah Foskey, and the rest of the defensive line. The offense relied on a strong comeback game from Audric Estime. Despite impressive performances from the Irish offense and defense, the best unit on this team was special teams, who had another blocked punt on Saturday. Coach Freeman had this to say at his press conference on Monday…

"It wasn't perfect and that's the game of football, but in all three phases, you saw some really good things and that's what you want to be able to do and truly play complementary football and control the clock. We won the turnover margin. Those are some of the challenges that each week you try to present to your team and it was good to see us accomplish that. The message to our guys is to continue to embrace who we are, embrace our identity, enhance the things that we're doing, and truly try to work at the deficiencies that we're having. That's a challenge every single week. As we move forward to this week, we obviously know we have a huge challenge ahead of us. A well-respected football program and coach, and a great football team that's coming into Notre Dame Stadium. Our team will be ready to roll. We're excited for the opportunity to play Clemson.”

Players of the Game

Brandon Joseph

2 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 touchdown

JD Bertrand

5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries

Coach Freeman had this to say on Monday…“I would say JD Bertrand probably sets the standard. He probably doesn't want to hear me say it, but I don't know if he has as much ability as everybody in that room, the linebacker room, but he maximizes what he can be because of the way he prepares, the way he takes care of his body, the preparation, he's a guy that is on a timer and times when he goes to sleep, how many hours he goes to sleep, and what he puts in his body. A guy I remember similar to that was probably AJ Hawk. I'm not saying JD Bertrand is AJ Hawk, but he maximizes his god-given abilities and you're seeing the rewards of it in the game."

Audric Estime

123 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns

Coach Freeman had this to say on Audric’s bounce-back game…“I think it's really important as a coach to make sure players know you believe in them. That's the one thing that never wavered with Audric, the belief in him being productive and the things he can do as a running back. Belief and work in practice are two different things. We had to be very intentional about the things we did with ball security with him in practice. This week in practice we did some different things in terms of ball security with Audric, and with all the running backs, and coach McCullough brought some different ideas. It was really good.”

Offensive Line

Coach Freeman had this to say about the challenge that lies ahead for the offensive line against Clemson…“You're gonna go against the best. There are a few schools that have elite defensive lines, and this is one of them. Across the board, they are so deep and talented, and disruptive. It's not just one guy. It's gonna be a big challenge. Our offensive line is playing at a high level and they are getting better, but let's measure ourselves against the best. Across the board, I can name every single one and they got NFL defensive linemen across the board that's going to be a huge challenge. But I know our guys are ready. They're excited.”

Bright Spots

Young Players Receiving Snaps

Specifically, coach Freeman singled out Jordan Botelho on Monday…“Jordan Botelho got the opportunity to play in the game and with that opportunity, he was productive. But that doesn't have anything to do with this week. The message will be the same thing. Your playing time will be determined by how you practice. I think what he sees is, well, if I practice, I'm going to get an opportunity, with an opportunity to show them how good I can be, but there is no room, as I've said this before, there's no room for gamers. We need great practice players. That's what our team needs them to be.”

Special Teams Has Become the Best Unit of the Team

Coach Freeman had impressive comments to make about his special team's coordinator, Brian Mason…“Mason has those qualities in terms of work ethic, intelligence, and the ability to connect with players that you see here 10 or 11 years later that to me in my mind, he's one of the best. He does a great job because of his work ethic, his intelligence, and of his ability to teach and relate to players. You can have all these thoughts in your head, but if your players can't go out and execute it and have a belief in what you're presenting, you're not a great coach. You might be really smart, but coaches are as good as their players can perform. That's what really continues to make my belief in Brian Mason so strong. He's continuing to get better."

Areas of Concern

Red Zone Defense

This continues to be an area that presents problems for the Notre Dame defense. Despite not allowing a lot of trips to the red zone, they continue to have issues defending against it. Irish fans have to hope defensive coordinator Al Golden can figure this problem out soon in order for this to be a more well-rounded unit.

Quarterback Play

Coach Freeman said this about Drew Pyne’s recent quarterback struggles…“He’s got to improve. He's got to improve his accuracy. But there's a whole bunch more that goes into that. We got to continue to improve our protection. It is not just the offensive line. Protection can be with running backs. People are in the throwing lane. I wrote down a couple of notes as we were watching the film as an offensive staff and just saying, okay, we gotta get the running back here to step up or step out of his way so the quarterback has a lane. Then the other thing is we got to, at some point, if we're not running the ball, we're going to throw it more. Right now we are running the ball pretty well. If we don't run the ball well, I think it will force us to take more opportunities in the passing game."

Final Take

Notre Dame is coming off one of its best games of the season, but there will not be much time to celebrate. The Irish will need to play even better this coming Saturday as they face Clemson. Let us hope they can improve on their weaknesses and continue to maximize their strengths. In light of the recent win, coach Freeman said this in preparation for the week ahead…

“Victories do two things for you. One, they give you a great feeling. Anybody in this room that has been victorious, no matter what you've done, you get a feeling, an emotional feeling of being victorious. The other thing is it builds confidence. Those two things are important. That's the chase that we all have, to chase that feeling of being victorious, but also that confidence. That's what losing sometimes does, is it takes away confidence. You obviously don't get the feeling, but you take away confidence. But there are a lot of lessons you learned from failures. That's what I told our team. The challenge is to, within a win, we know we're going to get that great feeling of being victorious, you're going to gain confidence, but can you take some of those lessons that you learned from failures, the ability to be selfless, the ability to be urgent in fixing our mistakes, the ability to be really intentional in our work, all those things really come to fruition when you lose, so the challenge for us is to continue to be able to have victories and to get that reward, but also continue to have that sense of urgency that you have during the failures. What would a win like this do for our program? It's going to continue to help us gain confidence in what we're doing, and who we are, but it's also that emotional feeling that you get when you're victorious. I have a belief in what we're doing. I think what I have learned in these eight games is that it's never as you plan. You have those bumps in the road that you have to kind of figure out and really learn as a leader. This is what you thought you should do, now how do you adjust? It's not just trusting the process. How do you fix it to get the results that you want? Yeah, would a win vs. Clemson help me build confidence in the things we do? Absolutely! That's what the victories do.”

Go Irish!

📷 credit: Irish Tribune


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