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Onward, Notre Dame

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

By Ken Karper

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I could not think of a better quote to describe how all Notre Dame fans were feeling from the night of November 29th to the final snap of the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl. The mayhem of Brian Kelly leaving, wondering if we would get left out of the playoff because of it. The frantic job search to find the next coach of the University of Notre Dame. The players coach getting hired to that position just a few days later warmed our hearts and calmed us down, and reminded us to believe in Notre Dame. The absolutely electric first half of the bowl game against Oklahoma State (OSU). Lorenzo Styles touchdown, Chris Tyree touchdown, back to back Micheal Mayer touchdown passes, and Jack Coan throwing the game of his life, it was a magical start to the Freeman Era. Until it wasn’t. The Oklahoma State Cowboys brought the rain storm in the second half causing our offense to completely shut down until the final five minutes. The fast paced Mike Gundy offense was firing on all cylinders. The Irish didn’t stop fighting however, as a late touchdown brought us within two points and a chance at an onside recovery would have certainly given us a chance at a Jason Deorer field goal. It didn’t, and it sure is a shame and not the start Irish fans were looking for in the Freeman Era. It stung, as a lifelong Notre Dame fan I can’t lie to you and tell you that my New Year's Day of football was pretty much ruined after that final snap. After a month of thought and debrief on the game lets take a look at the Fiesta Bowl loss and just how it affects the outlook for the tough 2022 season. Let’s begin with the elephant in the room. How does this affect Marcus Freeman’s stock at Notre Dame. Now let's answer that plain and simple. It doesn’t. Throwing Freeman under the bus for losing to a good OSU in a New Year’s Six bowl, first start as head coach, two of his best players not playing, and also playing with the stakes of being the first ND coach to win a New Year's Six bowl in decades. Brian Kelly lost to Tulsa in his first year, let's not start talking about how good the Freeman hire really was till we give him at least three seasons under his belt. Anyone that actually watched that game could tell that this Notre Dame team was more prepared

and ready to play a competitive game of football than (I might get heat for saying this) any of the major bowl games that Brian Kelly took us to. We have to be honest the game Marcus Freeman directed was way better than the game we would have gotten with Brian Kelly coaching. With the coaching out of the way let's look at the players returning next season. Notre Dame has got a lot of momentum rolling into the 2022 season from a players standpoint with players like Isaiah Foskey, Braden Lenzy, Avery Davis, the Ademilola brothers, Cam Hart, Tyler Buchner, Logan Diggs, Chris Tyree, and of course Micheal Mayer and many others. We are also grabbing some great players from the transfer portal, the big one being Brandon Joseph who will instantly take over Kyle Hamilton's position. Two other players that enough people aren’t talking about are punter Jon Sot, and kicker Blake Grupe. Notre Dame special teams haven’t been the same since Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsom graduated and was another big reason as to why we lost in the Fiesta Bowl. So it is a huge breath of fresh air to have some proven special teams players helping us next year. So for the most part a lot of the line up will stay the same of course with some new faces that will emerge be it freshman phenoms sophomores and juniors that have grinded hard in the offseason and get a chance to play, and then of course the quarterback. I mean it’s got to be Buchner right? But let's not forget about Drew Pyne, the man who is the only offensive reason the Cincinnati game was not a shutout and also the man that came in for an injured Jack Coan against Wisconsin and threw two touchdowns helping us get the win. I personally think the job will start with Buchner for that first fateful match up against Ohio State University in the HorseShoe. This game will set the tone and pace of the season, you could also say that it is the most important game of the year as the winner of this game can almost guarantee a spot in the playoffs. It will not only be a game that will decide if Buchner is the real deal or not, it will also speak to Freeman and his staff as to how they can prepare for a war against an always talented Ohio State team in a hostile environment. I find it almost odd however, that for once I don’t feel worried if Notre Dame is going to be prepared for the game. If I’m being completely honest I think I feel that way because of the Fiesta Bowl loss. Marcus Freeman said it himself, “the honeymoon phase is over.” We were honestly all fools for forgetting that this game he’s coaching is college football, literally anything can happen. Yeah you can lose, crazy stuff like blowing a 28-7 lead is going to happen, it's just the nature of the cruel, cruel, sport. It was a wake up call saying “hey, just because you like your

new coach you’re still in the real world, losing is just going to happen” but if there is one man that I believe is going to get Notre Dame back on track it is Marcus Freeman, why you might ask when he’s only been wearing a Notre Dame logo on his shirt for about a year now? Because no one is more hurt and ready to get revenge for that Fiesta Bowl loss than Marcus Freeman, and no one will have this team more prepared to do it than him. My father said something to me after the Fiesta Bowl that kinda stuck with me, I think it is a perfect mentality to have for the 2022 season. I said, “So where do we go from here? This is a pretty tough loss to get over especially for the player” He said. “where we’ve always gone. Onward.”

Photo by IndyStar -

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