ND Football: We Lost, There Are No Moral Victories

Going into Saturday night’s game there were high expectations for the Fightin’ Irish football team. There was a lot of hype going into Saturday’s contest at the Horseshoe and expectations are high for the season. As the #5 Fightin’ Irish took on the #2 Buckeyes in primetime. One thing that everyone knows is that Field Goals are next acceptable in the Red Zone. You have to figure out a way to get the ball into the endzone. That holds true for any opponent, not just the Buckeyes.

Coach Freeman’s Opening Statement

“As I was saying earlier, just not the result we came here for, there’s no such thing as moral victory. We didn’t we didn’t win, we didn’t finish the game, we can execute, I think we found out we got a football team. We got a good, we got a tough football team. We got to learn how to finish. And that’s ultimately what happened to game. Battle, battle for three, and a half or two and a half quarters, and then they score one with seventeen seconds before the half, before third quarter and then we don’t respond, and they go and score in the fourth quarter and that’s the game. That’s really the game.”

“We didn’t finish, we got to be able to finish when it matters the most and that’s ultimately what causes so. We got a lot to learn from this game. The beauty of this thing is I’ve just told the group in the locker room, we don’t have to wait 245 days. We’re able to, we got seven days for another opportunity, so we got to get back to work.”

First Half Offense

In retrospect field position is key to executing your game plan. The Fightin’ Irish didn’t set themselves up for it. In the first half, the Fightin’ Irish didn’t have good field position at all. The Irish possessed the ball six times. Of those six times, four possessions started inside the UND15. The remaining two possessions started at the UND21 and UND25. That’s difficult for any Quarterback, never mind a Sophomore QB in Tyler Buchner starting his first game as QB1.

The first possession of Q1, Buchner connected with Lorenzo Styles for fifty-four yards. After the play, OSU is penalized for Personal Foul and gave the Irish fifteen additional yards to the OSU 16. The subsequent three plays the Irish managed a net one yard on three rush attempts. The Fightin’ Irish settle for three points in the Red Zone and go up 3-0 on the Blake Grupe 33-yard Field Goal. The Irish score on 5 Plays, 71 Yards, T.O.P 02:42

After back-to-back three and outs, the Fightin’ Irish found the endzone on a one-yard scamper by Audric Estime. There were two big plays that aided in the score. Matt Salerno made a circus catch for 31 yards and the next play Kevin Bauman caught a 22-yard pass from Buchner. The Fightin’ Irish score on 10 Plays, 87 Yards, T.O.P. 5:10

First Half Defense

The Irish defense did what it does best. They give grief to offenses and their Quarterbacks. The Fightin’ Irish defense forced the Buckeyes to Punt three times and miss on a thirty-nine-yard Field Goal. The defense recorded a three and out late in the first quarter. Howard Cross recorded the only sack of the game for the Fightin’ Irish for a five-yard loss after Jayson Ademiola was penalized for Pass Inference and fifteen yards.

Second Half Offense

The second half was a half that the Fightin’ Irish will want to move on from. The Irish possessed the ball four times in the second half. In the world of football statistics there were three big plays in the second half and they all were in the third quarter, Buchner completed to Michael Mayer for seventeen yards (and he recovered his own fumble). Buchner connected with Lenzy for thirty-two yards and Chris Tyree rushed for fourteen yards. That will not win you games. The lack of offense gave way to loss of the game clock control. There are thirty minutes in the second half, the Fightin’ Irish possessed the ball for only 10:21. Compare that to the 16:30 T.O.P in the first half.

Second Half Defense

The second half the defense continued to attempt to put pressure on the Buckeyes, but when the Buckeyes O-Line has hands full of ND jerseys, there is nothing you can do but overcome it. The first two series for the defense resulted in two punts as the first series resulted in a three and out. After spending a lot of time on the field, on back-to-back possessions, the Buckeyes scored fourteen points. Late in the game, a critical error is made in play calling. The Irish who had been keeping all the plays in front of them changed at the wrong time. Rushing the safeties on a blitz, OSU found the endzone as a result of the play call. Like Coach Freeman said, “we need to finish.”

The Wrap Up

Different from years past, Coach Freeman owned the loss. It was a team loss, not a certain individual’s loss. When you take a look inside the numbers, there were signs early of a struggle. Four punts in the first half, as well as four punts in the second half. There was three, three and out drives, and the offense’s T.O.P was cut in half from that of the first half.

Penalties were another problem. On the offensive side of the ball a False Start in the first quarter and a Offensive Pass Inference call in the fourth quarter moved the Irish from the OSU41 to the UND44. The defensive penalties which occurred in the first quarter didn’t hurt the team except for the fifteen-yard Pass Interference play that moved OSU from the fifty-yard line to the UND35. Discipline is needed in a game like this, and discipline was lacking on both sides of the ball for sure.

Lost in the mix was a great Special Teams effort by Jon Sot. Unfortunately, he had eight punts, for 370 yards. His long was seventy-five yards, three punts inside the twenty-yard line and two punts for fifty yards plus. He really gave an effort in flipping the field for the Fightin’ Irish.

Next Up

Next up for the Fightin’ Irish is Marshall at home, next Saturday at 2:30 PM EST on NBC, Streaming on Peacock. Attached is a link for other ways to listen to Notre Dame Football broadcasts.

Cheers and Go Irish! ☘️🏈🌩️

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