Pokes Foil Freeman’s First Rodeo

Oklahoma State spotted Notre Dame a 28-7 lead before roaring back to defeat the Fighting Irish by 37-35 in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Marcus Freeman’s head coaching debut started well, but he and his staff had no answer to strategic adjustments by the Cowboys that exposed glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame’s win drought in major bowl games continues for at least another year as the Irish end the season at 11-2.

Jack Coan threw an unfathomable 68 passes, completing 38 for 502 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, his lack of mobility and a costly fourth quarter interception outweighed those statistics. Leading 28-14 at intermission, Notre Dame failed to score a point in the second half until a concession touchdown in the final minute. Meanwhile, while the Irish defense was being torched. The secondary did not cover the Cowboy receivers and they made matters worse by missing countless tackles.

Notre Dame started fast with a touchdown on its first possession as Coan hit Lorenzo Styles from 29 yards. Later, Coan beat an all-out Cowboy blitz by lofting the ball over the middle to Chris Tyree, who streaked in untouched from 53 yards to make it 14-0 midway through the first period.

Oklahoma State settled down as Spencer Sanders drove his team for its first score later in the quarter. The Irish stuck to the air and answered midway through the second as Coan found Michael Mayer in the end zone. As halftime approached, Coan and Mayer hooked up again to extend Notre Dame’s advantage to 28-7. With just over a minute left to go, Sanders led what was his team’s most critical drive of the game. It took him four plays and just 35 seconds to cover 75 yards. The 28-14 score still seemed comfortable for the Irish but momentum had shifted to the Cowboys in that short span.

The second half was a completely different ballgame. Oklahoma State took the kickoff and picked up where they left off. Sanders engineered another scoring march to make it 28-21, and then tied the game with a mix of runs and passes.

Meanwhile, the Cowboy defense had been stacked against the run to start the game, but they shifted to drop more players into pass coverage. The Irish struggled to make first downs and punted on each of its three possessions in the third period. They finally relinquished the lead late in the quarter when Tanner Brown added a field goal to give his team a 31-28 lead.

Things got a bit weird down the stretch. Neither team had a turnover at that point, but that statistic would not stand. Coan tried to rally Notre Dame but a fumble by Logan Diggs gave the ball back to Oklahoma State in good field position. Sanders quickly brought them to the Irish five yard line. Brennan Presley was on his way into the end zone for the killshot when Jack Kiser stripped him of the ball. It rolled into the end zone where Notre Dame’s Ramon Henderson fell on it for a touchback.

Coan could not take advantage of the gift, however, as the Irish went three and out. Oklahoma State came right back as Sanders was hot and Notre Dame’s pass coverage was criminally soft. Only a penalty in the red zone prevented another touchdown. Brown came on to add another field goal to extend the Cowboy’s lead to 34-28 with nine minutes remaining.

It was past time for Notre Dame to answer. Coan brought them down the field to the Oklahoma State 24 yard line before taking a six yard sack. On the next play, he was pressured into a poor throw that was picked off by linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. It was the best in a large group of outstanding plays by Rodriguez throughout the day.

Tay Martin grabs one of his three touchdown passes

Sanders and the Cowboys were now looking to close out the game. Oklahoma State had the Irish defense on roller skates for the entire second half, and the next series was more of the same. A critical third down pass went for 29 yards to Tay Martin, who was having his way with beleaguered Notre Dame cornerback Clarence Lewis. Two plays later, Sanders was running toward the end zone when fortune again favored the Irish. Isaiah Foskey stripped the ball from him and Notre Dame recovered on its 11.

Three minutes remained and the Irish needed to capitalize. With the Cowboys turning up the heat on Coan and mugging the Irish receivers downfield, Notre Dame failed to record a first down. A fourth down desperation heave fell incomplete and Oklahoma State took over in prime scoring territory. Another Brown field goal with 2:16 remaining after the Irish burned their timeouts put the Cowboys ahead by 37-28. The game was essentially over at that point. Or was it?

Coan took advantage of a soft prevent defense to move his team downfield. A 25-yard scoring strike to Kevin Austin made things interesting with one minute still on the clock. The ensuing onside kick was scooped up by OSU’s Jason Taylor and the Cowboys ran out the clock.

It was a bitter defeat for Freeman and Notre Dame, but they have only themselves to blame. Squandering a 21-point lead and having no answers to the second half coaching adjustments by Oklahoma State was a lesson that should not soon be forgotten. The players are culpable as well. It’s no secret that reinforcements are needed on defense. This will require an upgrade in recruiting and development that will take time. Offensively, the quarterback position needs a dynamic athlete and the offensive line needs a coach that will deliver a competent, reliable running game.

Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions for further analysis:

Which team will be able to rush for 150 yards or more? Oklahoma State outrushed the Irish by 234-42. Sanders accounted for 125 of these yards with scrambles and RPO keepers. Notre Dame never adjusted to this threat.

Can Lenzy and Styles deliver strong performances for Notre Dame? Styles was outstanding with eight catches for 136 yards and a score. Lenzy caught seven balls for 60 yards but was not much of a factor – especially since the Irish threw it on almost every play.

Which wideout will have the biggest impact between Tay Martin and Kevin Austin? Austin helped his team with six receptions for 105 yards and one late touchdown. His spinout from a tackle in the red zone late in the second quarter set up another score. Martin appeared headed for a miserable day when a pair of consecutive dropped passes hurt the Cowboys in the first half. He more than made up for it with ten catches for 104 yards and three touchdowns. Most of this production came at the expense of Lewis.

Will Fisher and the Irish offensive line hold up against the Cowboy pass rush? Fisher played well but the overall protection degraded in the second half after a good start. Credit Oklahoma State’s coaches for mixing up their fronts.

Can the Cowboy special teams engineer another significant play? Not much happened in this area until the Cowboys recovered the onside kick. Both teams missed a field goal and Jay Bramblett’s punts for the Irish were consistently short.

Which defense will be able to force negative plays and turnovers? Both teams had two giveaways in the final period. Oklahoma State’s ability to completely shut down and discourage the Irish running game was decisive. One can only hope that Notre Dame’s catastrophic meltdown in the secondary will serve as motivation for a better 2022 season.

Can Buchner make a notable contribution to the Irish offense? Sadly, no. Buchner should have been inserted into the game at the start of the fourth quarter, if not sooner. It was obvious to most that Oklahoma State’s adjustments had rendered Coan ineffective as Notre Dame lost its lead and failed to respond.

Will Freeman’s in-game decisions in his head coaching debut help or hurt the Irish? I’ll try to be kind but the Irish were badly outcoached in this contest. The decision to stick with man coverage in the secondary when it was clearly a losing strategy was hard to defend. Allowing Tom Rees to call 72 pass plays (four were sacks or quarterback scrambles) and have no running game with a 21 point lead was also baffling. The reluctance to give Buchner a shot when Coan was struggling badly was also a coaching failure. OSU was dropping eight into coverage and the immobile Coan was throwing right into danger. Buchner could have hurt them with his legs. Coan was 23 of 32 in the first half but only 15 of 36 in the second.

How many bowl games will Omicron win this season? Too many. Let’s hope this thing is gone before the next Irish kickoff.

77 thoughts on “Pokes Foil Freeman’s First Rodeo

  1. Jvan, As predicted, we had zero success running the ball.

    Looking ahead, we will be lucky to keep Ohio State under 50 in September.. It will be ugly!!!

    Thank you for your great columns all year.

  2. George McGuan says:

    After the worst defensive meltdown since 1974 (v USC) you wrote an even-handed and dispassionate assessment of this miserable contest. I could not possibly have done so, and I congratulate you. Up against a coach with 218 games behind him, Freeman was humbled in his first appearance at the helm. Best to get that out of the way.

    • I was at the 1974 USC game as well. It was worse than this, but not by much. The opponent’s scores right before the half were ominous in each game.

  3. I know a lot of people will put all the blame on most of the blame on the defense. And it is true the defense didn’t tackle well and wore out completely. However they wouldn’t have worn out if the office could’ve stayed on the field in the second half. Tommy Rees’ play calling was terrible in the second half
    Much more importantly, we made no adjustments at halftime or in the second half to a defense that adjusted to our offense. Not using Buckner at all in the first half and then not using him at all in the second half when it was obvious that Coan could not get it done was a unforgivable blunder. Cone was Grest until they caught onto him and then he was completely worthless. His immobility and his lack of accuracy gave us no hope. And that’s the story of the season, as soon as teams adjust to Coan he is
    worthless. In fact, in the past 50 years the only quarterback less effective than him once teams adjust was our offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. He was a terrible quarterback and he is a terrible offensive coordinator. Special-teams also hurt us. Our punter was pathetic in the second half giving Oklahoma State good field position each time he punted. The collapse was unacceptable. While the defense was horrible in the second half, offense was equally as bad. We have a long way to go to not be a total joke on big stages.
    I think the best thing we all can do is go to the grotto and light a candle in thanks that jack Coan will never again wear a Notre Dame uniform

    • I have a feeling you’ll be “begging” for Coan’s return next Fall. Buchner (run run run) and Pyne will never get it done. Coan did his job in the first half…2nd half no defense and totally outcoached in every phase of the game. Never got to the big dance without a great QB

      • Irish in the South says:

        Coan was excellent in his role as starter and mentor to Buchner and Pyne. He was a big factor in the 11 wins. Now Buchner, with 3 more years of eligibility and Pyne with 2, must develop into better QBs each year. I see Buchner as a pass and run option, giving us mobility at that position that Coan did not have. We saw Coan forced to throw the ball into the stands, even on 3rd down to avoid the sack. Buchner will not have to do that.

    • In addition to not checking your spelling which made it difficult to follow your train of thought, I must disagree with your lambasting of Rees and Freeman. It’s fine to make adjustments, and I agree with faulting Freeman & Rees for not using Buchner when a more mobile QB would have been appropriate. But the running game was poor because we were missing our main threat and were using backs who were inexperienced and frankly not up to the demands of the game. For crissakes, our running backs were being caught from behind while behind the line of scrimmage by opposing DEFENSIVE LINEMEN! In those situations and with backs so slow, a running game was not an option. Not putting Buchner in was a fatal mistake, as a mobile QB might have saved the day for us.

      • Flirish. . . Go become an Alabama or Georgia fan. Your misspelled, over the top drivel is not helpful to a germane conversation about what happened and what needs to happen going forward

    • Irish in the South says:

      Finish, easy for you to be a Sunday morning quarterback. Put yourself in Rees’s shoes, planning without Kyren Williams in the backfield. Coan had over 300 yards in the first half and threw 5 TD passes in the game. He played well. My only issue with T Rees was not giving Buchner a series after we went 3 and out a couple of times in the second half. Those times Coan had to throw the ball into the stands would have been an opportunity for Buchner to run for yards.

  4. Poor all around show by the Irish. As I suspected the defense was a mirage exposed by a decent team after a season of playing a lot of mediocre offenses. Open field tackling was terrible as was pass coverage. If Hamilton and Williams manned up as captains maybe the team could have won this one, but the season went better than I expected originally but more due to what ended up as a weak schedule.

  5. Clearly Gundy as a 15 yr winning coach schooled Freeman and company in the 2nd half. Never expected such a pathetic defensive poor tackling show. I thought Freeman had tough practices?

    Why Buchner did not play is mind boggling. Perhaps he intends to enter the transfer portal?

    Hopefully Heistand is returning. That was a disgraceful oline all season. Okla state 2 and 3 star linemen schooled the D.

    Freeman has three years to win an NC. If you dont win in three yrs you dont win one at ND.

  6. Agree with all of this analysis. The complete absence of a run game was too much to overcome. I get not wanting to pull a senior QB in his last game, but we needed to give Buchner a chance. His mobility was badly needed. We made it too easy for the OSU defense. It was tough to watch that 2nd half. Otherwise, a relatively good season with lots to look forward to for next year. Go Irish!

  7. Your kindess toward Freeman is misguided. He is clearly in, as was demonstatrated today, way over his head and out over his skis. That was Faustian in its incompetency. Gundy made adjustments and Freeman was completely out coached from the second quarter on. The real failure however is $warbucks. He is paid a reported $2MM per yr and this coaching change caught him off guard. After kissing the Shanty Irish ass of Kelly for a decade he apparenty had not earned Kelly’s respect enough to give him a heads up. That should suprise no one. So $swarbucks faced with the most consequential decision of his career convenes a group of 21-22 yr old captains and delegates to them the decision and they give the predictable and emotional decision to elevate the cool coach. Due diligence be damned. No head coaching expiencing–no problem–it worked out OK with Faust, Davie and Weis. Oh, wait I guess we do know this never works at ND. National Search, who needs it.
    Give the guy a couple million dollar pay raise over night. Check the diversity box and call it a day. Here’s the next move at ND: $warbucks get your ass off my campus.

    • You’re right about Swarbrick. He’s a self-aggrandizing tool.

      As to Freeman, I don’t believe I was overly kind in listing his failures during this game. The other consideration is he likely has five years to turn things around, so damning him to hell in this game serves no useful purpose. I have rightfully and unmercifully criticized the past four ND coaches, but Freeman is the first guy in 25 years who is a decent enough human being to root for. I’ll give him more slack than the others and hope you will too.

      • Caroline’s Dad says:

        First off, thank you as always John for your excellent coverage and analysis.

        Second, I could not agree more with your giving “more slack than others…” comment re: Coach Freeman.

        I have been a consistent critic of both Swarbrick and BK here and will continue to be a critic of both. Coach Freeman, however, I will be very patient with—for all the reasons mentioned in these comments, though for none more so than recruiting.

        The day over the last few weeks that gave me most pause was actually when Lincoln Riley went to USC. There’s no way BK could pull recruits away from him and in the long term we would’ve been headed down into another chasm compared to SC and others. We are already behind AL and GA, but we’re closing in on the 3rd spot; we can’t fall behind SC and others again!

        The only way out of that kind of future is getting kids who can play and do the class work who weren’t giving us a first look, let alone a second look before to move our way. I feel confident Coach Freeman can do that.

        To me, as disappointing as yesterday was, that’s the most important thing he can focus on to get us to the next tier.

        If he does that and we STILL throw 60+ passes and can’t finish, then I’ll be the first one to admit my error.

    • We needed Drew Pyne who inspires the team, can run, pass and does not turn the ball over. Buckner is a turnover waiting to happen and Coan is a statute back there. Pyne gives you the best of both and inspires the team. Half time adjustments are a sign of a good coach. We needed to anticipate their adjustments and do the same at halftime. Certainly even Buchner would have been better than Coan but he would have thrown at least one pick. Time will tell who is our best option.

      • I agree totally, Joseph. This faith in Buchner is totally misguided and will be revealed against Ohio State when he tries to run away on virtually every play. Let’s hope he doesn’t get maimed.

    • Irish in the South says:

      One game should not define a career. Freeman puts recruiting number 1. I am willing to see how he does in getting the talent and and how well he learns from game to game.

    • AlGoldenDomer says:

      Dude – yes Freeman got outcoached once the game began. But his preparation for the game led to a 21-point lead, let’s not forget that. And when it was all said and done, he lost by 2 points to a team that missed the playoffs by 4 points and 4 inches. So yes, it hurts to lose, but at least the Irish didn’t get btch-slapped like they have in every significant bowl game since Lou Holtz was coach.

      Give the guy a break. He had about 3 weeks (including finals week) to make whatever adjustments and changes he could, and few are really possible in that amount of time. It was always going to be the Kelly offense on Jan.1 – zero time to successfully change anything there.


  8. It is simply embarrassing to watch high level college athletes recruited to Notre Dame that have not learned the basic fundamentals of grade school football. If you can’t or if your afraid to tackle …. join the swimming team. And we just hired the defensive coordinator that is to make sure our athletes that we recruited know these basic grade school fundamentals as our Head Coach. This one stings real bad.

    • ColoradoIrish says:

      How can we have this unique wrinkle in the offense with inserting Buchner when opposing teams figure out Coans immobility and not use it? Everyone it seems was howling for it but yet the coaches decided on sinking with the Coan ship, as they did on the defensive side with Lewis. So sick of being out coached in big games. An aside, the new transfer portal rules, player pay offs and the opting out of games to avoid injury is killing college football. Thoughts?

  9. Thoughts:

    1. Why is it that when ND does a trick play it never works? Flea Flicker? End Around, Reverse… they never seem to work.

    2. Is it me or do we always seem to get out coached in the big games?

    3. Where was the running game? 42 yards running will never cut it. Kyren Williams with his back-to-back 1000 yard seasons was missed.

    4. Is it me or did OK State just want it more?

    5. I thought we had a lot of depth on the DEF line but it seemed same guys were in there most of the game?

    6. sigh

  10. Agree 100%. I was screaming for Buchner once we had a 21 point lead. ND was terribly outcoached on both sides of the ball.
    Remember last 3 HC hired with no experience, Faust, Davies and Weiss.
    Hope the trend does not continue.

  11. I have no idea where to begin with today’s debacle! Poor tackling, dropped passes, poor game plan/no adjustments in the second half, blowing a 21 point lead, really? Another loss on the Big Stage!! Leaving a tortoise on the field while the hare stood on the sideline, anyone with pedestrian football knowledge would have inserted Buchner at some point in the second half. As already stated above, this would have at least made OSU have to respect the run. I keep reading all the hype on how much the kids love Freeman, how could they play so terribly, especially on defense? Van Goerder was not good, but at least he was great at getting his D fired up! I saw none of that today, especially from Freeman. We have a few months till we get our doors blown off in the Shoe. It baffles me that ND is taking a HUGE risk yet again with a guy who has zero head coaching experience!!

  12. Personally, I like freeman/
    However, w/ the deer in the headlights look on the sideline and the outrageous failures to adjust in the 2nd half,
    ND won’t do better than 8-4 next year for a ceiling and 6-6 for a floor. (losses @ OSU, Clemson, USC, BYU and
    probably either NC or Stanford. OSU, Clemson and of course USC are on schedule again in 2023.
    The only way Freeman surviives (and ND survives) is for Freeman::
    #! Recruit like your haii’s on fire
    #2 Hire Vereran OC and veteran DC
    #3 Find assistants to teach basic blocking, tackling skills and intill some self discipline into what appeared today to be a leaderless, rattled, disorganized bunch lacking in tenacity.

    • Irish in the South says:

      Too early to predict next year’s record. I am sure nobody hurts more from this loss than Freeman. Let’s see what he and the players that so embrace him learn from this loss a get better because of it.

    • Fred A Karam Jr says:

      The posts critizing Coach Freeman are a joke, everyone was saying how great the play calling was in the first half, including the tv announcers declaring Rees as a great play caller. They were using analytics in their play calling by going against OSU’s weakness, their pass defense. Unfortunately, Tommy Rees didn’t make the necessary adjustments in the second half, YOU CANNOT WIN IF YOU CAN’T RUN THE DAMN BALL!!!! Let’s face it we have a weak offensive line, and it has been a problem all year. The quick pass type of tempo offense works, but you have to have some success running the ball, we didn’t try, they made adjustments, we blitzed way too much and opened the field for a mobile quarterback. Freeman will learn from this, and I believe in a man who has the desire and drive he has. He trusted his assistants and personally I believe they let him down.

  13. We all respect Marcus Freeman as a high character, well-intended leader with a promising future. But sometimes hard decisions need to be made and this coaching staff needs serious evaluation. Although solid coaches, it seems Elston and Rees are over their heads as coordinators and need to be reassigned. Freeman should never have signed off on a 68 pass gameplay or the failure to go to Buckner in the second half when Coan was imploding. Freeman should have insisting on pulling Lewis when it became obvious OSU was targeting him in the passing game or not inserting Botelho when Bertrand was missing tackle after tackle. Marcus will learn that the ‘buck stops here” and on occasion the head coach has to step in when questionable decisions are made. In other words, it’s his team and at times he will need to assert himself. Don’t prove nice guys finish last.

  14. Thank you John for all of your columns this year. I look forward to them each week.

    In the post game presser, Freeman said he and Tommy felt pretty good at 28-14. I would say most ND fans, most football fans, would have been really worried, and with good reason as to how the 2nd half unfolded.

    So I hope for the best and that this was just a bad start full of things Freeman can’t fix in 4 weeks. But to say he and Tommy felt good at the half, with that late OSU td was just stupid, or a lie- just like something that last coach we had would have perhaps thought, but would have said.

  15. Tough opponent for a Freeman HC start. If his recruiting ability comes through, good things can happen across the board. Need OL improvement and talent depth.

    Swarbrick did react to the players but also the volatility of the coaching market. He could have had a Clemson situation without coaches on both sides and at the helm.

    Glad the coaching blunders happened in a meaningless bowl game rather than the regular season.

    I am optimistic. Go Irish !

  16. Jason Thompson says:

    All valid points with one exception – I don’t think ND ever had the ball while up 21. Ok St essentially had 2 back to back possessions after ND took the 28-7 lead. Along those lines, it would have been interesting to see what Freeman would have done had he won the coin toss.
    A Buchner led offense would have been interesting in the 3rd quarter, but notwithstanding Ok st dropping 8 in coverage, ND did miss some deep throws that were there, particularly the 1st down throw to Styles after Ok st’s first fumble that would have put ND up 4 and carried momentum.
    And after watching Kelly screw up every qb he had, it was a little refreshing to see coach Freeman stick with the guy who played lights out for 2 quarters. I’m more inclined to fault the playcalling for not adjusting. I’d have to check but I’d wager there were fewer hand offs in the second half than the first.

  17. DB Clarence Lewis had to put in the worst defensive performance in all of college football for 2021-22. It looked like he didn’t even want to be on the field. ND continues to strike out in DB recruiting.

    The defense was totally Van Gorderesque once again and they continued to get majorly gashed starting with the Okla St’s TD right before halftime. Similar to the first half of the season adjustments seemed to amount only to worthless three man fronts and blitzing more linebackers. Had the LB’s stayed home on more plays they could have limited the damage Spencer Sanders inflicted on the ground.

    Tommy Rees was just grab bagging it the entire second half and if he made any adjustments they were totally ineffective. Buchner should have been inserted much earlier to force Okla St. to change. How does ND not have a running game when almost all of their O-lineman are 4 star recruits?

    Freeman’s performance and coaching overall was reminiscent of the Willingham era where the head coach, assistant coaches and players always seemed dazed and confused. Much has been said about ND’s football culture but if it is so great then why did it lead to a complete second half collapse or why can’t it lead to a bowl win in a NY six bowl?

  18. Had timeouts to use in the first half – last 2 minutes when OKS was in hurry up – take a timeout – regroup- saw defense not knowing where to line up – confused – take the air out of the ball – gather the defense and give them a blow. John you are being very kind toward Coach Freeman but his body language showed panic and confusion. ND is not a place where you learn on the job – this was obvious as the game went on. Why the other QB didn’t come in the game to give a different look beyond trying to figure out. The AD rushed on this hire – plain and simple .

    • The AD did rush this hire, but due to the early signing period, he kind of had to. Otherwise, several top recruits may have bolted. Early signing period affected other schools’ hires also.

  19. I’m just as mad as the next guy over the outcome yesterday. However, let’s not rush to judgment on Coach Freeman. I believe he’s the first coach to lose his first game since Coach Holtz. It would be nice to trend in that direction. Remember how hyped we were after Coach Faust’s first game? We were over the moon when we were 2-0 in 2005. Bottom line, we can’t predict the future. Personally, I like Coach Freeman. I believe he has all the personal qualities we want in a Coach. I will be rooting like hell for him.

    • Seeing Freemans presser I got more depressed. He blamed lack of execution and dismissed any lack of adjustments because they weren’t needed. They just failed to execute.
      We could be in for a Willinghamesque redux. Reality escapes him so far.

      • I didn’t read it that way at all. He realizes they have to coach better. I also like that he didn’t throw guys under the bus like Kelly would have.

  20. It seems to me that the defense is fixable with the talent upgrade we are going to get. It’s tough to play a season with backup linebackers and weak cornerbacks. They were exposed and would have been exposed earlier if we had played better teams during the season. What I cant see changing is the inept offensive game plan and lack of adjustments. Rees was a high-character guy when he decided to stay and its hard not to give him some love for that but as an OC he is absolutely horrible. This will be a hard job for Freeman–to get the right assistants in place. With all Weis’ faults, the one thing he mentioned in interviews years later was that his biggest mistake out of the box that he made was settling for the wrong assistants because he came in and had to make decisions without a lot of time and he took some poor recommendations from trusted sources. Freeman is in the same boat. He had to keep Rees to keep the program together but it may come back to ruin his tenure. The only hope for keeping Rees and being successful is to hire some senior experienced coaches on O who can influence him and potentially mentor him. The inability to adjust at all in the second half and have even one sustained drive (except in the last minute) tells you all you need to know. Not using Buchner in the first half was a mistake and in the second half, it was unforgivable. Tough for the defense to be on the field the whole second half with no help from the O or special teams. Finally, while the loss hurts, had Kelly been there based on past performances in big games we would have: come out flat, turned the ball over at least twice in the first quarter, and would have come up empty in the red zone on more than one occasion and lost by 30. I’m still a Freeman fan and we are better off for the future now than with Kelly

  21. Jim Diette '73 says:

    John: 74 USC Game meltdown was at the hands of our beloved and “experienced” Ara. Probably contributed to his decision to quit coaching.

    Agree with Dave T about timeout usage in the 1st half. Same in the 2nd half, saving timeouts for OSU’s final possession when they already had the lead was too late. They should have been used to rest and regroup an exhausted defense before it lost the lead.

    Chaulk it up to experience for Marcus Freeman and Tommy Rees. Still a meaningless bowl game. Still behind these guys.

    • I heard it wasn’t in Ara’s hands, that the second half was tossed because of a fight in the locker room at halftime. Teammates showing contempt for each other in a volatile age by booting the game. There was no way that Notre Dame team could lose naturally. Ara looked like he wanted to die by game’s end, and no other loss had ever rendered him so sad, bewildered, and helpless. It was unique and yesterday’s game can’t be compared to it.
      Don’t be so snide about a great man. BTW it’s “chalk.”

  22. Ahh yes. The new era in ND football. The young coach comes in to lead us to the NC. He was put on a pedestal from day one: Young, handsome, with a football background, and of course, black. I feared this would happen. His first game and he is utterly humiliated and outcoached. Notre Dame bumbles and fumbles a massive lead through a comedy of errors: no running attack, poor tackling, dropped passes, and a horrific defensive showing. Until the Irish can find a way to land five–star recruits who can pass freshman calculus, the results will remain the same. And, I’m sorry folks, we have a problem at QB. Buchner running around on every play isn’t going to get the job done. Ohio State is licking their chops.
    I thought the post-game presser was sad. I like Freeman, but if you would have had Kelly mouth those same words a dozen years ago he would have gotten destroyed for his incompetence and being “in over his head.”

    • I have been an ND football fan all my life. SAW then win NC’s in New Orleans, Dallas and Tempe. The true problem is recruiting. If you can’t get a number of 5 Star prospects, we will always be waiting for next year. Look at the roster of Alabama or Ohio State. When it is “next man up”, they go to another 5 or 4 star. We go crazy when we get one 5 star. The difference in talent is quite apparent. An Afro-American coach should draw more talent, if the Administration allows him. There are the elite teams, and then there is a decrease in quality. Watching Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia play in the last few days in proof that better players make better teams.

      • It has been the elephant in the room, John. Over the past five years, Georgia signed 28 five-star recruits, Alabama 23, and ND 2. It is evident when we get dominated in every game of significance.

      • Irish in the South says:

        Agreed. Need many 5 star athletes. Freeman says recruiting is the number 1 priority with all coaches and if they can’t recruit, they will not be coaching. Freeman also made it clear that the players must be a fit for ND….i.e., some academic standards still apply. Let’s hope he can be successful in recruiting.

    • Your comments about Coach Freeman’s race are totally inappropriate and have no place at Notre Dame. Is he inexperienced? Yes. Nothing about his race matters or adds value to your remarks, nor is it necessary in any of your analyses. Talk like that should not be allowed on this message board.

      • Irish in the South says:

        Too sensitive, TimmyIrish. You must not be watching the national sports commentator programs.

  23. Brutal loss. Outcoached is being kind- I felt coming in Gundy would be a difference maker but who could’ve predicted it would include blowing a 3 TD lead. Not finding a package of plays for Buchner was absolutely criminal. The momentum was clearly turned and in need of some change of pace. There wasn’t a single close game this season that didn’t include Buchner assisting this season but somehow they decided he wasn’t needed.

    Freeman’s D wilted and he had no answers for the uptempo offense. Not taking away their one receiver is also headscratching.

    Couldn’t be more disappointed in the HC, Rees and of course the team that seems to always underperform when the stakes are highest.

    If I’m Buchner, I am unbelievably pissed heading into the off-season. Either Rees and Freeman aren’t as big believers or they really need to evaluate their in game process. I’ll hope for the later and that I’m overreacting to a bad loss in their first game.

    If I’m Williams, I’m having trouble sleeping at night knowing I bailed on this team for no decent reason at all. Your a 3rd round pick who knows will regret this decision for years to come.

  24. Notre Dame failed to respond to the same game changes that OSU used in beating Oklahoma. Four down linemen and seven secondary players. OsSU totally shut down Oklahoma with this same defense. Freeman should have use Buchner to run a quarterback option offense to effectively combat this defense. On defense, when youo have a quarterback that can run or pass, like OSU”s, you have to have spys that focus solely on the quarterback to pevent him from gashing your defense. Designated spys are a necessary requirement to shut them down. This is not the first time Notre Dame has had this happen and the coaching staff needs to recognize and learn to defend tis type of offensive attack. Hpefully, Freeman will learn this leasson and Rees will learn how to stop that defens, a quarterback run-option attack.

    Sad to see them blow this big lead, but, opefully, they will learn how to combat the offensive attack and padd defensive attack that OSU used and others will use it, if the staff does not learn how to compete against it.


  25. I realize it’s not fair to judge Freeman on only this game but I hope what we saw yesterday doesn’t foreshadow the next several years or we better get ready for 6-6 and 7-5 seasons and losing to USC every year as Lincoln Riley slowly stocks their skill positions with 5 star recruits similar to the Pete Carroll era.

    Maybe ND will have better luck if Freeman dons a green sweater vest on the sidelines.

  26. This was a hard loss to a very good team.
    It seems that in the modern game in December the HC needs to be not only recruiting high school players but their own NFL bound talent. We sorely needed some missing pieces.
    A game plan that did not take advantage of Buchner is just baffling.
    Thank you for the coverage this year.

  27. Beyond shocking not to see Buchner in the game, at least to start the second half, after OS made it super obvious they would totally disregard the run, and that decision was made after our second TD. But, not to worry, we stuck to our guns, and we paid the price. What’s next is what we must all be asking ourselves. And I honestly have no idea.

    • Irish in the South says:

      Would have liked to see Buchner in for at least one series in the second half after we went 3 and out and Coan had to throw the ball away to save sacks. Just to see what he could do. Buchner would give ND the option to run on those plays and OSU would have had to adjust for it.

  28. Not being a ND grad (DePauw ‘75), I can go soft on the Irish. That’s why I so enjoy the rants on this site. LOVE YOU GUYS! Happy New Year and see you 9/3/22 in Columbus. FYI, Ryan Day is a coordinator who had no previous HC experience. He’s not long for the Buckeye world.

  29. Jack Coan did what he’s done all year; play well for 3-4 series, and then just poop his pants. I couldn’t believe it took OSU as long as it did to adapt to a completely one-dimensional quarterback, but when they did the results were predictable. And Lenzy, all that legendary speed we were always hearing about, yet he can never get any separation. He’s a speed guy that plays football.

    It’s completely inexcusable that Buchner never came in to give them a different look. I’m dying to hear what the BS excuse is for that. That game was just flat-out embarrassing.

    It’s not even worth ragging on that terrible performance from top to bottom anymore.

  30. I am very frustrated about the loss yesterday, especially after being up 28 to 7. I knew ND was in trouble when OSU scored before halftime and ND just let the clock tick down until halftime, knowing OSU would get the ball to start the second half. Why Buchner was not inserted is beyond me. I am not a fan of transfer portals and I don’t care that Hamilton and Williams were holding off for the NFL. I think they were being selfish and I am not an NFL fan. Sad that Sunday is not for Almighty God anymore, but the almighty dollar.

    I wish Swarbrick would enter the transfer portal and take Fr. Jenkins with him! Lol

    I am in a foul mood to start the new year. Between omicron and threats to schools, I was looking forward to ND finally winning a NY6 bowl. I am over Alabama and Georgia. UGH!!! At least Michigan lost!

    Go Irish ☘️

  31. All very interesting comments. Whatever the real beef was between Kelly and $warbrick, Kelly got the last laugh on this one (I am not a big Kelly fan).

    I hope this is not too big a jump for Freeman with no previous head coaching experience. He is going to have to be a quick learner in a lot of areas to be successful as a head coach at ND. I also hope he has been around enough to recognize and bring in good assistants.

    I am disappointed in the 2 captains who chose NOT to play in this game. They were voted captains for a reason. I think they would have made a big difference especially Williams and the run game.

    I keep telling my 29 year old son there was a time ND was a feared opponent and would win big games like one of the New Year’s big 3 bowl games.

    • Don’t know how much Hamilton would’ve helped as he has been idle for quite some time. However Williams definitely would’ve helped. I’m so tired of these kids playing all year and then opting out at the end ,,,,,they can’t play one more game?

  32. Yeah. That was a perfect first till the final 2 minutes and one bad defensive series. Just need to figure how to sustain. Tackling and a matchup problems on D, couldn’t fix in game. 63 passes, one dimensional. Need long sustained drives to even be close to buckeyes.

  33. Happy New Year John! Although, I am disappointed with yesterday’s bowl loss, we still had a 11-2 season which is a good year. I am really looking forward to next season and the talent we will have coming back!! I really hope Patterson, Froskey, Bo, Lenzy, and Austin stick around for one more year. John, what are the chances of those players coming back? Thanks and GO Irish beat Buckeyes!!!!!!

    • Happy New Year, Joe. The key players that the program needs next year are Patterson, Foskey and Austin. Of those, I would say Patterson is most likely to return, Foskey is 50/50 and Austin is less likely than that. We have better players than Bauer or Lenzy next season, but if they want to come back they will probably be accepted. They should not be guaranteed to start though.

  34. Thanks John for answering my question. I agree with you that the 3 players you mention would be keyed for next season! I feel bad for you that you were at that 1974 USC game. I can still picture A. Davis doing that cocky dance on his knees. I recall that someone went up to Davis after the game and told him that he was the devil. Was that you? Just kidding! If you don’t mind me asking you another question, who would you like to see Coach Freeman hire for defensive coordinator, and offensive line coach? Thanks!

    • I don’t have a particular favorite for each of the staff openings. There are many available coaches now and in another week there will be plenty of current NFL coaches looking for jobs. Freeman needs people with experience and a proven track record. I would prefer he expand the field of possibilities to consider guys he does not know well from prior associations. I say that because I think he has a fairly narrow network right now and he should be willing to expand his horizons to include people who have worked in a variety of offensive and defensive systems. I like Tommy Rees but I believe he is very limited in what type of offense he knows and is able to run. This may have hurt us yesterday because Rees failed to adjust when Oklahoma State changed its defense to drop more players into coverage. A more seasoned OC may have been able to draw upon experience and counter that strategy.

      Freeman says he wants coaches that will work hard in recruiting and that is indeed a consideration. It’s not the only one though.

  35. Thanks John for your responses. I appreciate it. You brought up some good points and I especially agree with you about getting more experience coaches on the ND staff!!

  36. This was a slap in the face to Coach Freeman and the whole team and they didn’t seem to react to it very well. They now have 8 months to think about it, and then it’s off to the horseshoe.

    Good luck.

  37. For once, the Irish were VERY prepared for a significant bowl game. Hats off to Freeman and Rees for that.

    I’m not sold on Mr. Rees as the long-term OC solution. He is too wedded to Brian Kelly’s offensive philosophy and I, for one, am totally sick of handing the ball off to stationary running backs. And 72 passing plays? Because with a giant O-line you surrender and admit you cannot run the ball?

    Sadly, I think the decision to change OCs is above Marcus Freeman’s pay grade.


    Another thing that seems to be missed is the lack of a fullback type runner. Someone like Robert Hughes comes to mind.