There is no such thing as a guaranteed win. When you look at a season schedule, early season games are typically called “tune up” games. Following the loss to OSU a week ago, the Fightin’ Irish didn’t want to fall to 0-2. Getting into a home game rhythm should always benefit the home team. No plane ride, no wondering what the away environment is going to be like. You are going to a game in the friendly confines of Notre Dame Stadium. All you need to do is focus on practice and execute on the game plan you prepared for all week.
The key to starting a game on the right foot, especially in your home opener, is to move the ball and put points on the board. The absolute opposite of that happened in the opening two quarters of the home opener. Going back to the game against the Buckeyes, The Fightin’ Irish punted there last six possessions of that game. Punting will not win you games. The first five possessions in this game went like this: Punt from the MAR45, Downs on the MAR31, Punt UND43, INT, Punt UND27, Touchdown. That equates out to ten possessions between two games before you next scored points.
On the second to last possession for the Fightin’ Irish, Tyler Buchner got them in the endzone on a combination of passing and his own rushing yards. A QB keeper for thirteen yards and then another seven yards put the Fightin’ Irish on the MAR36. Back-to-back passes to Michael Mayer got the Irish within one yard of the endzone. Mayer caught his first pass for eighteen yards, then the second for twelve yards. That left the opportunity for a one-yard QB keeper. After a successful PAT, the Irish took the lead 7-6.
You cannot say enough about the Fightin’ Irish defense. Marshall had the ball six times in the half. Punt, Downs, TD, Punt, Punt, and a Field Goal. for a 12-7 lead at the half. The defense got the initial stop and a three and out to get off the field. The defense then held the Herd to nineteen yards after Marshall went for it on fourth and one and failing to convert. The ensuing possession, the Herd stampeded down the field and the defense gave a touchdown to start the second quarter. The defense got back at and forced consecutive punts and then a bend don’t break Field Goal is given up by the defense. Late in the second quarter, Jack Kiser dropped Henry Colombi for a three-yard loss on the sack.
The second half was not much better for the offense, Punt, TD, Punt, INT, INT, TD. The first possession for the Irish had one big play and it was a fifteen-yard rush by Audric Estime. The drive ultimately was stopped at the UND45. Thes second possession of the half, led to the first points of the fourth quarter. Mayer’s thrirty-yard reception to the MAR34 set the Irish up in Herd territory. Moments later, Kevin Bauman was on the receiving end of a Buchner eighteen-yard pass to the MAR1. Buchner runs a one-yard QB Keeper for his second TD of the day.
The ensuing possession, the Irish drive stopped at the MAR43. The Irish om consecutive possessions throw two INT’s. One INT is by Buchner which ended up as a “pick six”, the second is by Drew Pyne at the MAR22. Pyne came in for the injured Buchner. Pyne leads the team down the field for a late game score, Pyne had a QB keeper for thirteen-yard gain and ended with a five-yard TD pass to Mayer.
The Herd offense was challenged once again by the Irish defense. Four possessions worked out as follows: Punt, FG, Punt, TD, Punt. The Irish defense battled the best way they knew. That word is perseverance. Isaiah Foskey got a sack on Colombi and a six-yard loss on the Marshall’s first possession. The defense gave up one big play in the fourth quarter. A forty-two-yard rush ultimately led to a touchdown and a 19-15 lead.
Post-Game Press Conference
Coach Freeman’s Opening Statement
“All right, again, it’s never easy to come in here after a loss, no matter who it’s to. It’s disappointing. We didn’t execute — it comes down to execution. We did not execute the way we obviously needed to win this game. We have a lot of — we have to look at ourselves as individuals.”
” I just told the team that. We all have to look at ourselves starting with the head coach on down and say, okay, what do I have to do, what do we have to do to fix the issues that we’re having, and not just focus on the end result. We have to look at the lack of execution in all phases of our team and where we can improve. Again, it’s disappointing. We’ve got to take a hard look at ourselves and get back to work and find ways to improve as a football team.”
The Wrap Up
Not quite the finish the Fightin’ Irish expected. The struggle on the offensive side of the ball continues. The defense needs to stop being forced onto the field. Questions about the identity of this team needs to be answered. Offensively, the O-Line needs to be stouter. There needs to be a challenge to all the coordinators as to how this situation gets fixed. This team has the tools. With Buchner possibly out for the next game, the question needs to be are the running backs ready to run. The QB cannot be your leading rusher two weeks in a row. Use the talent that this team has and start to exploit these defenses. This team has all the tools for a “triple threat” option.
Cheers and Go Irish! ☘️🏈🌩️