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What Can a Young Irish Coaching Staff Learn From the Ok State Loss?

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

I start every game watching with absolute, insane intensity. Literal edge of my seat, studying each of the 12 matchups that happens on every down.

All 24 players in motion. Every inch of the 30 yards in the current television frame. Mathematically calculating if the down was a win or a loss for my boys in blue and gold. ‘Sure he threw it away but it saved a sack, that’s a win.’ ‘Three yard gain on first down we’ll take that.’ ‘The Oline is getting a push that’s a good sign.’ Spitting angry at any subtle distraction or needless, nearby chatter. Scarcely daring to blink, sneeze or cough for fear I might miss a key element or telltale sign of what the rest of the game will look like. With the score 21-3 I am quite a different sight. Just 13 minutes in and I’m an entirely different person. Some might even call me pleasant.

Laidback, chillin’ in my chair, actually taking a bathroom break, briefly glancing at text messages. What’s this?? He’s laughing, drinking water and breathing normal? No sweaty palms or remote hurling?

Its quite a rarified feeling for Notre Dame fans in big games. I can say I’m not very natural at it yet. Its gonna take some practice...hopefully I get the chance to. I realized that this same reaction was being mirrored by many of my fellow Irishmen and women across the country. Including those with headsets and clipboards on the sidelines at the 2022 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

Michael Mayers scores for the Irish as they go up 28-7

Tommy Rees had his feet up, texting friends back in less than two minutes. Freeman was passing the dip. All the disappointment from the Brian Kelly abandonment. All the excitement from the unlikely hire. All the momentum from keeping together one of the nations top recruiting class.. led to this exact moment. Everything we hoped it would lead to, it led to. ...in the first half. The second half would prove to sing a different tune. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, the coaching staff seemingly said with their second half adjustments, or lack there of. Which is fine, unless the other sides fixes whats broken on their end and turns out superior than yours. The refusal to play either Tyler Buchner or Drew Pyne for even one down in the second half is by far the most mind-boggling decision of the game. It was a proven recipe that bailed out the Irish on multiple occasion that season. In fact, it was arguably the reason Notre Dame was in this bowl game in the first place. A lost to Toledo and the Irish would be out of the top ten in a blink. It almost felt as if Tommy Rees was sticking it to the man, a man Rees felt inhibited his decision making for far too long, and wanted to prove that staying with a QB, who was much like himself, was better than playing a flavor-of-the-week QB to replace him, much like Everett Golson did in Rees’ tenure at Notre Dame. That sticking-it-to-the-man proved to be costly, as one single successful drive by Tyler Buchner would have won us the game.


Head Coach Marcus Freeman, in his head coaching debut, looks on in disbelief as OSU rallies from 21 points behind to defeat Notre Dame

The Kansas City Chiefs, in Irish fashion, blew an 18 point lead to the Cincinatti Bengals in the NFC Championship. In the first half, Mahomes was on fire. The defense was unbudging. Then BOOM, an entirely different team shows up for the final two quarters. What is it about confidence that so easily slips into overconfidence? What is it about overconfidence that makes us lose sight of the little things that it takes to win? This is Super Bowl MVP Mahomes we’re talking about here, so don’t feel too bad, Coach. It happens to the best of us. They say the best way to learn to punch is to take ten punches. And in the words of Rocky Balboa, Freeman, it’s not about how hard you can punch but how hard you can get punched and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

Brandon Lenzy reaches for a pass just beyond his finger tips as the Irish fall 37-35

And although this may be a cliche motivational speech, it’s also a very insightful recipe for victory. It’s not always about winning the first three rounds but about learning how to take a knockout punch in the fourth and not lose ground. How to absorb having the momentum taken from you and responding with the aggressive intensity required to take it back.

Making risky calls and fiery adjustments to win back the moment.

Its clear that Freeman put too much trust in a young, and far too trigger- happy, Tommy Rees in allowing him to make the game altering calls. Freeman allowed the emotions of having an early lead in his debut get the best of him. But this was his very first game, not only as a head coach but as the head coach of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl one month after he got the job.

Some may say Freeman has a lot to learn after watching this game but I believe he learned a lot from this game itself. You can’t let up for one second or before you know it, you’re the one playing from behind. Others may say Freeman should learn from Brian Kelly. Kelly never blew a big lead. True but then again, he never had a big lead to begin with so I say we’re in a much better place than we’ve ever been before.



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