Herd Tramples Hapless Irish

Marshall came into Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday with a mature group of confident athletes and a well-conceived scheme on both sides of the ball. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish turned in their most inept offensive performance since 2007 while the defense broke down again with the game on the line. The result was a 26-21 victory for the Thundering Herd over a Notre Dame squad that looks completely lost.

The Herd ran for 220 yards against 130 for the Irish. They picked off three passes and returned one for a touchdown. Notre Dame has not forced a turnover in its two games but has surrendered crucial 95-yard fourth quarter scoring drives to each opponent. To make matters even worse, starting quarterback Tyler Buchner suffered a shoulder injury in the final minutes and had to leave the game. Unconfirmed reports from the sideline indicate a broken collarbone. His status will be updated as official information becomes available.

Coach Marcus Freeman wanted a fast start from his offense but they stumbled through a scoreless first quarter. One drive ended in a failed fourth down attempt and another was stopped by a sack. Marshall got going late in the period with a mix of effective runs and passes that covered 79 yards. Khalan Laborn, who ran for 163 yards on the day, scored from four yards early in the second quarter. The Herd led 6-0 after a missed extra point.

The Irish offense finally began to show flashes of competence late in the half. Buchner ran effectively and hit Michael Mayer twice to lead a scoring march. Buchner finished the drive with a short run and the hosts led 7-6 with three minutes left before intermission.

Freeman wanted a defensive stop and another scoring opportunity. He used a timeout on Marshall’s next series to preserve time. Much to his dismay, the Herd kept moving the chains. They embarked on a well-executed march that stalled inside the Irish ten yard line. Rece Verhoff hit a 21-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining to put Marshall back in front by 9-7.

Notre Dame eschewed a kneel down and took a shot downfield. Buchner barely missed a wide open Braden Lenzy on a deep post. The 80,000 fans saw the play develop and were ready to explode. Instead, the half ended with a whimper.

The Irish appeared to be fired up and stopped quarterback Henry Colombi and the Herd to open the third quarter. Buchner and Audric Estime picked up first downs before Notre Dame faced a fourth and one near midfield. Marshall rose to the occasion as they did most of the afternoon to stuff Estime. Colombi took advantage of the field position by leading a drive that ended with another short field goal with four minutes left in the period

Trailing by 12-7, Notre Dame got a break on a pass interference penalty to keep the ensuing drive alive. Buchner then hit Mayer for 25 yards. Another pass to Kevin Bauman moved the ball to the one yard line as the quarter ended. Buchner barrelled in on a sneak to open the final stanza and followed up with a successful run for a two-point conversion.

The Irish led by 15-12 but a full quarter of football remained. The teams traded punts before the Herd took over on its own six. Marshall stuck mainly to the running game and simply ran it down the throats of the Irish. Colombi mixed in a couple of passes to keep the hosts honest, and the Herd found themselves in scoring territory. On third down and goal, Colombi rolled to his left and hit tight end Devin Miller for the go-ahead touchdown with 5:16 left in the game.

Marshall’s defense did not allow much breathing room for the Irish

The game and quite possibly Notre Dame’s season unraveled moments later. Cornerback Steven Gilmore picked off a Buchner pass on the next series and returned it 37 yards for a score. The Irish offense took the field again trailing 26-15 with 4:35 on the clock. Buchner moved the team across midfield and ran for a first down when disaster struck. A defender fell on him and he walked of the field in pain with his left arm hanging by his side.

Drew Pyne entered the game with no time to warm up. The junior quickly threw an interception to kill the drive and the Irish hopes for a comeback. Notre Dame did get the ball back as time ran low. A late touchdown pass by Pyne to Mayer with 14 seconds left made the final score look a bit less disastrous. The Irish then tried a desperation onside kick but were slow to pounce on the ball when it might have been recoverable.

The Herd earned this victory by being the better team from a preparation, execution and physical standpoint. There are no excuses to be found or invented. It was a great win for Coach Charles Huff and his program. Notre Dame’s offensive scheme was exposed as a Mickey Mouse abomination and will only become more predictable if Buchner is lost for any length of time. The receivers other than Mayer and Lorenzo Styles are no factor whatsoever. The line cannot create holes for the running backs even when the defense does not stack the box.

Defensively, the front seven was purported to be a strength. They have been consistently moved off the ball and the linebackers have failed to fill their gaps. Opposing backs are running downhill and keeping their team out of third and long situations. More worrisome, however, is the failure to stop teams in the fourth quarter. Is conditioning a factor this early in the season? It should not be.

Let’s review the answers to our pregame questions:

  • Will Notre Dame’s receivers have success against the talented Marshall cornerbacks? Each cornerback had an interception and dominated the Irish receivers most of the afternoon.
  • Which offense will produce the most effective ground game? Laborn outrushed the Irish by a wide margin. A sad tale indeed.
  • Can the Irish defense create and capitalize on third and long situations? They had a few good stops over the first three quarters but faltered again in the fourth.
  • Which special teams will contribute impact plays? Notre Dame actually won this category. Chris Tyree had a nice kick return, Brandon Joseph chipped in with a punt return and the Irish partially blocked a punt. Marshall missed an extra point. There were no great momentum changing plays though.
  • Will the Irish secondary build on its strong performance last week? Led by Tariq Bracy, the secondary held up reasonably well.
  • Can Tom Rees silence his critics with inspired play calling? Last I checked, most Irish fans were calling for his head on a spike. That would probably be letting him off too easy.
  • Which defense will be able to force turnovers? Three interceptions for Marshall while Notre Dame is still not sure how to spell t-u-r-n-o-v-e-r.
  • Can Freeman ever convince ND to return to a grass field in the stadium? He should, because the Irish receivers were slipping all day. Unfortunately, Freeman has bigger fish to fry right now. Holding onto his job this week would be a good start. Evaluating the ineptitude of his Offensive Coordinator is a close second. If he has to find a new starting quarterback for a couple of months, neither of those tasks is likely going to matter.

106 thoughts on “Herd Tramples Hapless Irish

  1. Bob Davie 2.0 all over again, probably worse. The head coach looks like an assistant coach who misses being one. You have two proven losers heading the defense and offense; it looks like the current administration, no leadership, no idea of what they’re doing and trying to accomplish.

  2. Conclusive proof of why Kelly deserted ship. No O-line, no receivers outside of TE, and no QB.
    Give Freeman two years to fix this mess. At least recruiting seems on track, but what Skill player would want to play for this OC?

      • Kelly also left because Swarbrick was too cheap to hire a nutritionist to get the players on a proper eating regimen. The result – Drew “spare tire” Pyne and others who couldn’t play 4 quarters of hard football if their lives depended on it.

  3. Completely dumbfounded. We continue to fall flat with head coaches with no experience. I continue to age and we continue to get farther and farther away from getting back on top. Depressing for a lifelong fan.
    I liked Coach Faust. I thought he was a great person, but we know how it ended. I think highly of Coach Freeman, but we appear to be lost at sea with no direction. I really, really want to be wrong about this assumption.

    • Would Freeman had been hired so quickly had the recruiting calendar not changed a few years ago? Would ND had interviewed a few more candidates before making a decision? I believe the answers to those questions are no and yes.

      • You assume Swarbrick would actually do his job and conduct a thorough and professional search for the best possible head coach.

        • I’m trying to be an optimist. But, I can’t find the pony!
          I’m afraid this won’t end well for ND, for freeman, rees or swarbrick.

          I lay this square at Swarbrick’s feet – impatient and taking the path of least resistance usually gets you in trouble.

        • Irish in the South says:

          Must remember that Kelly was pursuing Freeman and Reese to go to LSU. We had just come off an 11 and one season under those guys, and we were playing a game a major ball game in 30 days. Should Swarbrick have let them go?

          Of course, I am not considering that hindsight is 20/20.

          • He should have waited a few more days to hire Luke Fickel, a proven head coach. There is no certainty that Freeman or Rees would have left. Hiring a first time head coach is a gamble that has not worked out for ND since Rockne. It is also a big mistake to put the status of the current recruiting class above the long term health of the program.

        • By the way John, ND will never go back to a grass field. The stadium is now a multi-event venue whose surface must endure concerts, graduations, etc. Speaking of surface, the groundskeeper needs to cut down on the rubber pellets spread out over the turf – it was like a roller-skating rink out there.

          PS: BK would have found out and done something about that before gametime.

          • Yeah, I realize that. I just hate the stuff. Fake turf and the Jumbotron remind me of Brian Kelly. I’m still glad that jerk is gone.

            The rubber pellets have been linked to cancer.

    • Irish in the South says:

      Agreed, we have had horrible experiences with inexperienced head coaches (except with Rockne). But it’s hit and miss with picking head coaches with experience. Scott Frost, a proven winner at Central Florida (13-0), was fired by Nebraska after losing seasons.

  4. optimistically,
    Tickets will be a lot cheaper.
    With no bowl games, players will have longer to recover from injuriies for next season.
    No annoying phone calls from the Big 10 asking ND to join.
    I will have more time to spend with family on the next 10 Saturdays.
    NIL should not be a big issue for ND players
    We won’t need to worry where ND is ranked or which bowl they’re going to.
    We might go 11-0 the rest of the way with a 40-0 blowout win in a New Year’s day Bowl game!

  5. Well, my friends, that was a mess. It is hard to expand on brother Vannie’s comments as he sees the issues clearly. I do have a few dopey comments as usual.

    1. The only solace I can take from this game is that we have the best tight end in the country. Mayer is a top-flight receiver who will likely go in the first round of next year’s draft. ND=Tight End U!
    2. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when the most productive running back on your team is the quarterback. I hope the lad recovers quickly from his injury, but if it is a collar bone, he will be lost for most of the season. Best wishes to Drew Pine. It is his opportunity to shine.
    3. Our offensive line is a disaster, and the defensive line is not much better. The OL couldn’t open holes with any consistency, and the Thundering Herd made swiss cheese of the ND defense. Especially when it counted. Disheartening.
    4. It looks like Tommy Rees is on his way out. If Freeman can’t prove that he deserves the job, he will soon go the way of Willingham. He is young, inexperienced and miles behind most D1 head coaches. I hope this experience doesn’t ruin him. He appears to be an excellent young man. A solid coordinator, but perhaps not a HC.
    5. Those announcers are terrible. Is this the best we can do? A washed-up NFL HC and another Collinsworth?
    I find myself strangely attracted to Chris Zorich in his handsome attire. Is there something wrong with me?

  6. This should not have surprised me despite the fact I called Marshall a cupcake game. Notre Dame looked pitiful and I am sorry but Buchner is not a quality passer. He missed many long shots where receivers were open. His role probably needs to be a change up wildcat. Not sure of his injury but time to try Pyne against California anyway.

    As I said in my first post this year so much for the rah rah feel good story, but Freeman has not showed me anything in his first 3 games. Time to hear the warn out “got to catch better” story that Kelly used to use. Sad day for Irish fans and I am afraid a long season.

    • I remember watching a fall camp accuracy drill on one of the ND sites. I was aghast as Buchner consistently missed the target time and time again. I surmised that the coaches were just experimenting with different delivery or footwork techniques. Until the Marshall debacle, little did I realize how inaccurate Buchner was. His quick delivery (obviously modeled after Dan Marino and Tom Brady) is very good, but unfortunately, he can’t hit the broad side of a barn when it counts.

  7. Robert J MacDonald says:

    This is a pattern in ND history. They get to a high point with a particular coach and then start believing their own legends. They did the same thing hiring Gerry Faust, Davie, Willingham and Weist. (Probably Terry Brennan too, but before my time.)

    It’s arrogant to think that the brand makes the coach when in reality it’s the other way around.

    I didn’t like Kelly’s personality but it seems as if 13 years of progress just evaporated.

    Back to reality…and finally time to ink a deal with the Big 10 before our stock falls further

    I hope I’m wrong.

  8. Buchner missed two years of high school football (COVID and injury), and we didn’t let him throw last year or last week. The high school level passer I expected to see last week showed up today. Thanks, BK, for never recruiting or developing an elite quarterback. Can CJ Carr get here tomorrow? Add to that no wide receivers and no offensive line. We haven’t had a power running game seemingly in decades.

    • There was a link from ND Nation to a very insightful article in the Observer two years ago commenting on the transfer of Jack Coan into the program. The point was that the transfer would be a serious setback because the top teams in college football are scoring obscene amounts of points and to get there you have to develop a QB STAFF.

      The other point in the article is that Swarbuck era football is characterized by an addiction to streaks and records and not wins. This is the rationale I guess with continuity rather than embracing courageous change.

      Thanks JV for the writeup. This is going to be a painful season. Hopefully it will be one of growth rather than freefall. We’ll get there, not sure where.

      Go Irish!

      • It used to be said that “defense wins championships”. I wonder if those days are gone. Looking at Oklahoma’s performance the past few years, one might conclude that the saying still rings true, but who knows?

  9. Very , very tough loss! My weekends are always ruin when ND loses! Anyway, I am just very puzzled about both lines. John, what changes do you feel need to be made? Patterson moved back to center? Position switches for d-line? Thanks.

    • Patterson to center might help, but the problems are more scheme and play-calling related. The players are not doing a great job but they are not as bad as the offensive scheme is making them look.

      Defensively, these same guys played fairly well last year. The secondary is actually better. Not sure what is wrong with the line but they are not getting a pass rush or getting off blocks in the running game. I think it’s time to play some younger guys, particularly at linebacker.

  10. Why anyone expects anything other than what happened is mystifying. You must not have been watching ND play for the last 30years.

  11. Well since it wasn’t included amongst the 1000 other screw ups noted above I’ll mention it – ND even let a busted half back pass turn into a 30 yard run. So frustrating! Freeman already has the look of a defeated man on the sideline. I haven’t been this mad after a non Michigan loss since Tulsa 2010. I can only hope things will turn around quickly. My 13 year old asked me if we should still go to a game this year. He hasn’t experienced anything like this since becoming old enough to follow ND. I told him – yes, win or lose we will still support our Irish. But I can’t believe the situation we suddenly find ourselves in. Go Irish.

      • I wouldn’t take that as a given.

        And sadly, the only thing that will provoke admin to make changes will be falling attendance and the accompanying hit in their wallet.

        • Not this administration. Even the alumni revolt (not buying game tickets and cutting off contributions) over covering up the Columbus murals in the Admin Building didn’t dissuade their PC agenda. Good God, we have a Knights of Columbus chapter on campus! And the mural celebrates the power of God, not the subjugation of the indigenous peoples. Father Jenkins is not beloved amongst the alumni.

  12. When will Notre Dame learn? You can’t hire a head coach with no previous successful head coaching experience and expect him to keep Notre Dame a relevant contender. Not Gerry Faust nor Bob Davie nor Charlie Weiss nor Marcus Freeman. It’s way too massive a task for our 36-year-old rookie. I know it’s only his third game but the grim expression on MF’s face as the game ended said it all – overwhelmed, bewildered, and even helpless. Poor coaching lost the Marshall game and poorly conditioned, poorly led and poorly inspired players are the unwitting casualties. And the blame rests squarely with the head coach. A rehash of the tragi-comedy is unnecessary. The only relevant discussion concerns what to do next and that means looking to winning coaches for winning solutions.

    For starters:
    1. Start Steve Angeli at quarterback. It’s how Rees got his start under BK (yes, we lost to Tulsa, but BK and Rees were just beginning their run). It’s been about a thousand years since Angeli’s excellent spring game performance which is almost meaningless now, but he beat the pants off a flabby and poorly conditioned Drew Pine (there’s that ‘poorly conditioned’ again).
    2. Trim the playbook for the freshman and follow the edict of Nick Saban – “we don’t practice a play ‘til we get it right; we practice a play ‘til we can’t get it wrong.”
    3. Get the ball in the hands of our best playmakers. When Urban Meyer was OC, wide receiver Lake Dawson was ND’s go to player. After an ND loss, Lake Dawson complained to Meyer that he did not get a single touch the entire game. Meyer was shocked and promised to himself that he would never again neglect to get the ball into the hands of his best play makers. Fast forward to today – not getting the ball to players like Chris Tyree is a sure way to give him the bum’s rush to the transfer portal.
    4. Whip that poorly conditioned (Johnny Onenote again) defense into shape (and bring some of the offense along). It may be too late now but ask Lou – he’ll know what to do.

    Will this get us to a respectable season – hell no; that ship has sailed! And my suggestions are only starters and really only the mildly informed musings of a disgruntled alum. But who knows – something along their lines might help set us on a path to eventual redemption and contention.

    • I agree w/ a lot you have to stay but there’s one glaring mistake I have to correct you on.

      Lake Dawson played at ND from 1990-1993. He was long gone before Urban Meyer arrived.

    • Urban Meyer was never OC at ND. He was a receivers coach. Lake Dawson was long gone from ND by 1996. Derrick Mayes was ND go to receiver when Meyer was coaching at ND.

  13. What an embarrassing game! I suspect a lot of recruits from next year’s class will decommit now. I certainly would. Everything about this game was pathetic – the coaches, the players and even the fans. This team will be lucky to have a winning season if it keeps playing this way. Is everyone glad to be finally rid of Kelly now? Be careful what you wish for! Freeman appears to be the second coming of Gerry Faust at this point. Will ND ever be able to get a real coach again? Holtz is the last one they had, and that was over 25 years ago. Good luck beating Cal. In fact, good luck beating anyone this season. If there is any heart or ability on this team, I have yet to see evidence of it – certainly not today. Unfortunately, ND football is not going to amount to much for a while. Get used to it!

    • I can’t recall the last time ND had a physically and mentally tough team. There have been times through the years they have has good personnel and playmakers, but I may have never seen a team that can play smashmouth football and demolish opponents.

      You’d think it would happen every once in a while just by dumb luck.

      • I can…they were very physical under Lou Holtz. Going back a ways, but you asked when was the last time ND played smash-mouth football. That’s when,

    • Swarbrick caved in quickly to hire Freeman. Afraid of transfers and lost recruits. i said it when Freeman was hired – you don’t hire the Head Football Coach at ND with no experience. It isn’t student teaching ! Look at the last 3 games – turn off the sound on your TV – body language of Freeman is one like a deer in the headlights. Ditto with Rees in the pressbox. ND has been outcoached more so than outplayed the last 3 games. John Vannie hit the nailon the head – offense is stagnant – defense plays on their heels – there is no attack mode. Where are the playmakers ? Continue to run the ball in the middle of the line for little yardage. Stretch the field with the recievers? Show some blitz packages on defense? Ohio State and Marshall drove the ball 95 plus yards 2 weeks in a row late in the game – awful on 3rd and long. Freeman is a recruiter – says all the right things – isn’t a Head Coach. Will be painful to watch.

  14. The sad thing is ND could’ve had Luke Fickell as their HC if they were patient & waited until the bowl season ended.

    Unfortunately, Swarbrick hired Freeman in haste in fear ND would start losing recruits from their vaunted 2023 class.

    So far ND lost the best player from that class & almost surely lost the 2nd best player & it’s only early September. More are sure to follow.

    I cannot believe how inept some of the people running ND’s football program are………for the last 20+ years.

  15. This is embarrassing. I’m overseas on business for the next few months managing a significant project, and I don’t think I will watch any more of the games. Losing to Marshall is pathetic.

    • Not watching more Notre Dame games will give you additional hours for managing your significant business project overseas. Salud!

  16. I want Freeman to succeed, he’s a good guy and seems to get Notre Dame even though he didn’t attend. But so was Faust. Freeman isn’t the reach Faust was but he was still a reach. If we’re going to have head coach OJT it should probably be with an OC older than 29. Is there any other program in the country where the head coach’s and OC’s ages add to 65?

  17. Very sad situation, and this early in the season, there is no real way out. Freeman will be retained until the end of the season, and finding a new OC is tough once the season starts, and it’s a huge call to start over with a new OC and new scheme once a season has started. When I looked at the schedule for 2022, I thought the only real challenge was perhaps Clemson – and even Clemson is not at its peak form of 3 – 4 years ago. I was dead wrong! USC looks great with a new HC with some real cache and a coach that wisely portaled in a bevy of great players. Actually, even Marshall portaled in some talent. It’s a new era in College Football and unfortunately, ND is not prepared to compete. At this point, even 3-9 may be a stretch.

    • Freeman is a great guy as many above have said and we all want him to succeed but his lack of experience as a head coach is magnified by the fact that most of his assistants are young with little experience of their own. the one exception is Al Golden who was a complete disaster as a head coach at Miami and was booed out of Coral Gables by the entire city. With essentially the same defense as last year we are much worse. thanks Al.
      And then on offense–the Tommy Rees dilemma. Yes he was a good guy for sticking around during the turmoil last year but that doesn’t make him competent at what he does for a living. He is horrible at play calling, adapting and changing at halftime and of course player development. If he is able to coach a QB up to the level he played at then we will have the worst QB in D I football because that is what he was when he played here ( read M alike Zaire’s comments on social media). We have been plagued by this loser for over a decade now as a player and a coach. I dont think you can fire him two games in but someone needs to assume a lot of his responsibilities until the season is over and then let him go. Final thoughts: all American Patterson –what happened to you-he had a pathetic game missing blocks consistently. Offensive line is really embarrassingly poor.

  18. On paper ND has a solid coaching staff and a top 15 roster but somehow Freeman and the boys have taken ND back to the Davie/Willingham/Weis days only two games into the season. ND looked lifeless and lost in their loss to Marshall and I’m afraid this is a harbinger for the rest of the season. We all have our opinions about Kelly but he left the program on solid ground so the trials and tribulations are totally on Freeman and his staff.

    Rees and Hiestand clearly have no answers to the offensive woes and aren’t the answers. It seems the offensive scheme and blocking schemes are too complicated and all the players are confused and out of sync. Tommy Rees is becoming the Van Gorder of offense. It seems that Kelly’s influence over the offense was a positive and now that he’s left Rees and the offense are totally lost. Until they scored late in the 2nd quarter against Marshall ND had gone 42 minutes without a field goal or touchdown starting in the second half against tOSU.

    ND is staring at their first winless season in history. I hear some players were do angry and upset by this loss that they weren’t going to sing the school song at the end of the game. But they’re the ones who lobbied and demanded that an inexperienced Freeman get the head coaching gig and they got what they wanted.

    • I was hoping for a 9-3 season at the worst after Ohio State and now after Marshall maybe a 6-6. I have never seen such a low-keyed football team in a home opener. No spark-head coaches’ responsibility. Where in the world is the passion? It is unrealistic expectations that causes such depression from watching Notre Dame football. My guess many recruits are second guessing also.

  19. Yes, Gerry Faust 2.0, but without the benefit of Steve Beuerlein and Alan Pinkett. My first thought afterwards was to wonder how Ohio State only scored 21. Only an Alice in Wonderland could now even hope for a 7 and 5 season. And Tommy Rees, an ex QB, has the imagination of a brain befuddled bar bouncer.

  20. Code red! Trouble in River City!

    I am always a little leery of “a player’s coach”. He’s not there to be your buddy. You’reb running a business and gotta kick ass every once in a while.

    U of IL turned down Freeman for HC position before he took ND DC position. Yet months later here he is…ND HC! Group of 5 DCs do not become Power 5 HCs. U of IL knew this. One season at ND as DC is certainly not enough.

    Right now, what shows on the field pretty cleary reflects an inexperienced HC…it brings me back to the Gerry Faust days. Let’s give Freeman time and hopefully he can become that coach we all hope for. We’ll know by what we see on the field (energy, crispness, making plays…) and then, ultimately, by the wins. This will require some patience and perhaps a losing season. This is not going to be easy.

  21. Like I said we all had our issues with Kelly but if he were coach yesterday it’s likely that ND would have eked out an ugly win. Kelly at least beat unranked teams on a regular basis even if it wasn’t always pretty especially at home. But it looks like those days are over and ND will now get humiliated on their home turf by unranked teams.

  22. Will all due respect to several of the excellent posts here, ND does not need a HC with HC experience. Oklahoma, Clemson, OSU, and Georgia are all having massive success without one. We just may have the “wrong” one. Time will tell. This is only one game. Kelly lost plenty of games like this his first 5 years. Tulsa, Navy (twice), Duke and Northwestern to name a few. Lou took a program with the best players in the county and started 5-6, then 8-4. Let’s give freeman a chance.

    • The success stories you named all had significant major program experience under top head coaches before getting their own gig. For every one of these guys there are a dozen failures. Let’s hope Freeman is not on that list in two years. It’s not like Swarbrick had no other (and less risky) options.

      • The list of “hot name” experienced head coaches to fail at big programs is just as long. Best current example – Scott Frost. A few others off the top of my head – Brady Hoke, Rich Rodriquez, Steve Sarkisian, James Franklin, Jim McElwain, Charlie Strong, Lane Kiffin, Butch Jones, Mark Richt, Al Golden, Tom Herman. Luke Fickel is probably soon to join this list.

    • Kelly inherited a 6-6 team and the program and roster were in disarray when Weis left. Freeman inherited an 11-1 team on the cusp of a playoff berth with all but two of the key players returning.

      Notre Dame was 5-6 and ended the season with a 58-7 drubbing by Miami, FL the year before Holtz took over. ND faced several top ten 10 teams on their schedule in 1986 including preseason #1 Michigan and eventual national champion Penn St. ND only lost to both teams by a combined six points. ND upset #17 USC in the Coliseum to end that season.

      • Last years ND team beat two teams that finished with a winning record – Wisconsin and Purdue. 11-2 was a mirage. How quickly we forget the Toledo, FSU, and Purdue debacles. It was one of the worst schedules ND has ever played. I’m not sure a single opponent won a bowl game.

        I think we would be better served comparing NDs current state to current programs and those of the recent past. Comparing to college football of 30 or 40 years ago is a fools bargain. Wake up, it’s 2022. The game has changed immensely. The highlights from 1988 don’t even look like the same sport. While some principles are timeless, strategies and processes change completely. Applying the thinking of 1988 to Notre Dame football isn’t going to win anything.

        • Three teams if you count Toledo. Purdue defeated highly ranked Michigan St and won their bowl game against Tennessee despite missing several of their best players.

          But this was an ND team who was dominating Okla St in the bowl game without Kyren Williams and Kyle Hamilton but lost because the OSU staff made effective adjustments and the ND staff did not know how to. Okla St. was one play away from winning the BIG 12 championship and a berth in the CF playoffs. So if you’re trying to argue that Freeman is a good coach but the players suck that isn’t going to fly based on the evidence.

          If you don’t want draw comparisons from 30-35 yrs ago then don’t take Holtz’s 5-6 debut season wildly out of context. I watched every game that season and there was a marked improvement in intensity, physicality, competitiveness and fundamental soundness from the Faust years and ND’s schedule was one of the toughest in college football in 1986 and for several years after that, so 5-6 was quite an achievement under the circumstances. Penn St clobbered ND 36-6 in 1985 but ND nearly beat them in South Bend in 1986.

          • Irish in the South says:

            Our schedule this year compares to what you describe as Holtz’s 1986 first year schedule. We have OSU, BYU, USC, Clemson, all top 20 teams….Got to be one of the toughest schedules including those of SEC teams. So if Marcus goes 5 and 6 this year, is it a fair comparison to Holtz’s first year?

            As you suggest, I hope we can see “improvement in intensity, physicality, competitiveness and fundamental soundness” going forward.

          • To compare Holtz’ first year with Freeman’s, you have to consider the state of the program they inherited. In 1985, the program was at a low point capped by a 58-7 drubbing by Miami. In 2021, the team was 11-2 with numerous returning starters signed up for 2022. The thought that this year’s team would be 5-6 or worse is beyond comprehension. I think 3-9 might be more accurate.

    • Head Coach expectations, pressures and demands at Notre Dame are WAY above Oklahoma, Clemson, OSU, and Georgia.

      • Disagree, strongly. We keep failed coaches long after everyone but the administration knows that they are failures. ND coaches have nice people alumni to answer to; each of your listed schools have much more vehement fans as well as entire states that get on them immediately. That old paradigm of being a more pressure-packed coaching position flipped long ago – just look at how long BK stayed despite being disliked (deservedly so) by just about everyone. Now, the historical success from long ago, combined with internal personal impressions of pressure may be significant (BK excluded), but external pressure? Not at all.

        • I think ND feels an obligation to set an example by honoring its contracts unless there is malfeasance like George O’Leary or a mutual parting of the ways like Tyrone Willingham. Willingham had trouble adjusting to the demands of a program with a national scope. ND coaches have national impact, the others are mainly local. As you stated “each of [my] listed schools have much more vehement fans as well as entire states that get on them immediately”. ND coaches have an entire nation that gets on them immediately. Neither of us would say it’s easy for the other coaches but I feel that the scope of ND coaching responsibilities is much more onerous. I’m sure we’ll agree to disagree at this point.

  23. If you put it on a chart with opportunistic/aggressive at one end and distracted/cautious at the other, the way the Irish played yesterday skews to the latter. A good example is the onside kick hesitation to pounce. It’s too soon to blame Freeman. Kelly’s over-controlling effect may be lingering. And that thing some head coaches have about their starting quarterbacks: “This is Tyler’s team.” Instead it should be yank and replace.

  24. An email I sent to my daughter [’94] after OSU game:

    Another long night. I guess the D did OK considering OSU had the ball for 20 minutes in the second half.
    It seems that as usual the O line gets a lot of pre-game praise but is not up to the job. Good camera work on the disastrous double safety blitz.
    But at least that game is behind us. I wonder if Freeman will ever win a game!

    I was thinking about our head coaches with/without previous head coaching experience. Starting about 1950 when i became aware of ND football:

    WITH [354 wins in 39 seasons – 9+ wins per season]]
    Dan Devine
    I know Willingham [21 wins, 3 seasons] belongs on this list of head coach experience, but can’t be mentioned in the same breath as the other 4

    WITHOUT [149 wins in 24 seasons 6.2 wins per season]
    Terry Brennan
    Joe Kuharich
    Jerry Faust
    Bob Davie
    Charlie Weiss

    Thus if history colors our expectations, and Freeman has no prior head coach experience……………..[to be continued]

    • Perfect example of what I have been saying. ND it seems never learns from it’s his own hiring history. I hope Freeman is the first to break that experience issue but it’s not starting out that he is going to.

  25. I saw this coming the MINUTE ND hired Freeman. It instantly reminded me of Miami hiring Manny Diaz when less than 10 hours after Mark Richt resigned from the Hurricanes. Same situation, same circumstances. Diaz had ZERO coaching experience as his time at Miami was a complete disaster. He was fired along with the fool who hired him to keep recruits, Blake James. That’s how we ended up with our new coach, Mario Cristobal, who’s in his first season at 2-0.

    So When ND was ranked #5 in the preseason, I knew 100 percent that ND was overrated and that time will show it. When ND lost to Oklahoma State in the bowl game, It was a confirmation of what I believed.

    Never, ever, ever hire a someone with no experience as a head coach of a major college football program just to keep talented recruits from bolting.

    • Ah, but Swarby knows all! He’s been around very successful coaches all his life. And he does extensive in-depth national searches………of what, not so sure, but he searches.

      • That’s exactly the hubris AD Blake James had before an ESPN analyst slammed Miami’s top officials for allowing a once great football program to slide so fast under Diaz. When that happened James was fired two weeks later. Manny was fired shortly after.

        I strongly believe Swarby will meet the same fate if the losses continue. Pride goes before destruction, especially in college football.

  26. I haven’t posted for years, but feel compelled to share a few thoughts:

    1. Swarbrick seems incapable of bringing in a great head coach. I can’t help but wonder if he’s limited by the amount of money available to pay a head coach? I seem to recall that BK was making less than $3m per year. If that’s correct, then I’m going to venture that some teams, like Ohio State, pay their head coach more than what ND pays their entire coaching staff, or close to it. As much as I like ND being independent, it seems like the TV deal they signed with NBC several years ago will prevent them from having the money to hire a great staff. Even if NBC is willing to cough up more money, will it be enough?

    2. I feel that scheme-wise, ND seems to be doing fine. For example, Rees can call plays that should work. The problem appears to be that the players are not coached well enough to execute the plays. Or at least execution seems to be the reason I hear and read being blamed for failures on the field. Is ND finding real coaches, who coach the players or just guys who can call good plays that fail due to execution? Why do we hear that the OL is supposed to be a major strength this year and then watch Marshall dominate them?

    3. When was the last time ND had a good quarterback? Game managers and battles between mediocre quarterbacks seem to be what we see on the field each year. Is the coaching staff aware that Buchner, Pine and Angeli will never be that good and that’s the reason they’re trying to get Carr to commit to the 2023 class?

    4. If ND can’t recruit a good QB or coach their OL then how do they ever expect to recruit good receivers? Ohio State seems to have a 5 star QB commit every year and gets a plethora of great receivers.

    Just some ramblings after yet another start to a year that seems headed to disappointment.

    • Thanks for returning, Michael. Your points 3 & 4 are good ones. I take issue with #s 1 & 2.

      First, money is not an issue in terms of ND’s ability or willingness to pay market value to a football coach and his assistants. Kelly’s total compensation package was a lot more lucrative than his $3MM base salary.

      Second, the offensive scheme is not very imaginative but that is not its biggest problem. Nor is the execution by the players, although they have struggled in several instances to date. Slow developing runs where the defense has more bodies in the box than the offense can block is a problem. Personnel groupings and substitutions on offense have made it easy for the defense to predict what ND will do. Defenses have also baited the QB with presnap movement into checks that won’t work. The biggest issue, however, is the playcalling. Rees had a few plays that worked yesterday with zone read and RPO passes to Mayer. He got away from that even when everyone could see that Marshall had no answer.

      There are no screens to slow down the defense and ND used misdirection in the running game only once. That play worked well but Rees never went back to it. ND may be used to imposing its will on most opponents with superior talent but that is not the case this year. Our offense is young and the skill players are less capable than in previous seasons. Marshall, on the other hand, has some quality athletes on defense, particularly at cornerback.

      The game was winnable yesterday but Rees did not make the calls that would have put his team in position to win.

  27. I’ve been trying for 24 hours to find a word or phrase to describe what I saw Saturday, but no matter how hard I try I can’t get away from – pathetic.

    Better days are coming.

  28. I hate saying this because I pissed and moaned as much as anyone at the time, but I’m not ready to blister Freeman or Rees over this start: we have a QB who struggles in the passing game (that’s kind of a big deal), an O-line that’s marginal at best, a D-line that can’t get any pressure on the QB (did you hear Zorich mention how the entire d-line got flattened on a goal-line run, and how that should never, ever happen. Embarrassing.), and receivers who can get absolutely zero separation. Hard to throw all that on the new guy’s shoulders. I’ve written the season off already, so I’m just looking at player development and scouting to see who wants it more.

    • Irish in the South says:

      In his press conference shortly after the game, Freeman focused on the lack of execution as the primary reason for the loss. With the opportunities we had to advance the ball, players just failed to execute those plays. And this happened in all phases except special teams. Before I throw in the towel on this team and this season, I want to see if the players “execute” against Cal this Saturday. It looks like Drew Pyne will have to lead the way.




  30. Disappointing. It’s time for Fr. Jenkins and Jack S. to go. I like Marcus Freeman, but I think he and Turnover Tommy are in over their heads. We are now a Fencing school! Nothing against fencing, but what I saw Saturday was beyond pitiful. Mission BBQ, stop giving the O line free meals! They do not deserve it. Sad. I have nothing else to say.

    Our Lady Sorrows….. Pray for us!

  31. Relax.

    You young whippersnappers are taking this WAY too seriously – EVERYTHING is gonna be fine.

    Right now – The excrement has hit the air circulator in serious fashion – I understand that. BUT – We will be fine. Not this season but within 2 years.

    There will come a moment – I don’t know when – where it will all make sense, where it will turn around, and I hope it will happen in South Bend, but wherever and whenever it happens – it WILL happen, and this old coot way off in the woods of Maine envies you that moment – be ready for it, for it is coming.

    And then – you will be part of it.

  32. 1. Oklahoma ‘s head coach is their former defensive coach who went to Clemson, now has gone back to Oklahoma. He’s never been a head coach, but they always recruit a top quarterback, a top running back and are a top contender year after year. Defense is generally mediocre. Oklahoma State has developed a strong program and is now capable of beating Oklahoma..

    Now a hurrah for Marshall. During the game they showed what Marshall has done in recruiting players to transfer from other schools. Most of them were SEC recruits, top 4 or better, who couldn’t get playing time, so Marshall was smart enough to take advantage of it. and went out and got them. The coach put together a strong team that was better than the Irish in every phase. They won the game, it wasn’t given to them.

    Now for the Irish. The players showed tremendous enthusiasm when Freeman was announced as their Head Coach. He lacks experience, but he doesn’t lack enthusiasm. What he does lack is how he controls the coordinators Under him, lats years defense was bunch of blitzing fools and very effective. Where the blitz this year? When Marshall is fourth and three on you goal line, you don’t give the quarterback all day to find his target. You blitz the hell out of him. He’s either his back, throws a bad pass, or gets lucky and finds a receiver. But I like the odds better with this all out blitz. That’s what they did last year under Freeman as defensive coordinator.

    Now for the Offense. Slow and predictable. Stand and look to the sideline on every play, giving he defense time to make adjustments and, then, absolutely no diversity in their attack. Thus Tommy Reese. Again, as head coach, Freeman should dictate to Reese how he wants the offence to play, High Tempo, extremely diversified. that’s how you pay the game today.

    Freeman has got to learn who the boss is right away and dictate to his coordinators or fire them, (Reese in particular) to become a top ranked football team. This team has talents, but they need better coaching from the coordinator, in particular the offensive line coach, and then they’ll be okay. The talent is there, but the coaching is not, and Freeman, as top dog, needs to get that straightened immediately.

    High powered, blitzing defense, diversified offense with many looks in formation and then you have a football team.

    Go Irish, I’m 90 years old and I can’t stand much more of this mediocrity. Been an Irish fan since 1942, when they would play Great Lakes Naval Training Station and a lot of those boys came to Notre Dame after the war and from 1946 to 1951, under Leahy, we won 32 games in a row.

    Rabid Fan

  33. So, can we turn this around? I will be naively optimistic. A (must) win against Cal, then at NC, and BYU at Allegiant would quiet most of us down for the moment and spare Coach Freeman most of the pointed criticism. With Stanford, UNLV, and Syracuse to follow, could it be us facing Clemson at home at 6 and 2? As Tony Roberts used to say on many occasions on his radio broadcasts; “where are those beads”. Ok, I will give it a try.
    PS Would someone please place a sicky on Tommy Rees’s office imploring him to think like the ND QB he once was and not a defensive tackle?