5 Things I Liked: Looking Big Picture Following Another Notre Dame Blowout

Anytime you win 56-3, there will be a lot to like, regardless of the opponent. In this case, the opponent was an FCS foe, so I’ll try looking a little bigger picture with this week’s 5 things I liked now that the Irish have exited the “preseason” portion of their 2023 schedule.

Notre Dame’s redzone defense looking good again

Notre Dame was dreadful in the redzone last year. Statistically, they were one of the very worst teams in all of college football when it came to stopping opponents in the redzone. Through two weeks, the Irish have only allowed scores on 40% of times opponents reached the redzone and have yet to give up a touchdown. Tennessee State was just 1 of 3 with a single field goal. Their other two trips to the redzone resulted in a blocked field goal and a missed field goal.

Everything to this point needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but after giving up scores on 94% of redzone opportunities a year ago, any progress is a welcomed sight. The stops will get more challenging as the competition level rises, but I’ll take any signs of improvement here after last year.

The end of 1st half touchdown drive

Notre Dame’s last touchdown of the first half was a thing of beauty for a few reasons. For starters, it was set up by Marcus Freeman using his timeouts wisely to even give the offense a chance. We saw Brian Kelly be too comfortable with a lead, like 28-3, going into a half too many times, so Freeman being aggressive was promising, as was his clock management for a second-year head coach.

Once Notre Dame got the ball, we saw Sam Hartman cook. He led the Irish 80 yards on six plays in 38 seconds without needing to use a timeout. The word “efficient” has been thrown around a lot to describe Hartman through two weeks, but that drive was more than efficient; it was explosive.

Notre Dame hasn’t asked Hartman to do much so far because they haven’t needed him to do much. The one drive was one of the few instances where they needed Hartman to be “that guy.” He was. And that should have Notre Dame fans excited for what we’ll see once the Irish open up the offense more.

Steve Angeli getting reps with the first team

Past coaching regimes probably would have had Hartman out there with the starters to start the second half and then eventually given backup Steve Angeli some late reps with other backups and let him hand it off. This staff put Angeli in the game with the starting offense and let him run the offense. That was huge for Angeli’s development.

If Notre Dame is to ever need Angeli for more than mop-up duty, he needs reps like the ones he got on Saturday to be ready. He didn’t look perfect, but no one should have expected him to. Angeli did not attempt a pass in 2022. Once he settled in, he made some plays with his feet to buy time and ended up with a pair of touchdown passes and 130 yards.

I’ve been trying to think of another example of a Notre Dame backup getting to essentially play an entire quarter with the starters in a blowout, and I am drawing a blank. Usually, the backup comes in and plays behind a backup offensive line and throws to backup receivers. Angeli getting reps with the first-team OL was a great move by this staff.

Josh Burnham coming off the edge

He’s only played a total of 30 snaps this season, but sophomore EDGE Josh Burnham has flashed in his limited opportunities. He had a sack last week against Navy, and this week, he picked up a tackle for loss where he came flying off the edge to stuff out a play in the backfield.

On Saturday, Notre Dame sent a lot of pressure that almost got there but didn’t quite get home. It wasn’t the most promising sign for the Irish pass rush moving forward, though some advanced metrics tell a better story. They did register 16 pressures despite picking up just one sack.

Burnham has a future and a present in this defense. He might not be a 30-snap-a-game player at any point this season, but he looks like an asset Al Golden can deploy in spots to generate a pass rush.

Sam Hartman spreading the ball around

Hartman completed passes to 10 different receivers in the first half of Saturday’s game before he wore a baseball cap for the rest of the day. Unlike other recent quarterbacks at Notre Dame, he can go through all his progressions and hit third or fourth options with the time the Irish offensive line affords him. That is very difficult for defenses to account for – especially when that same team has a power-rushing attack with a running back like Audric Estime.

The Hartman to Jayden Thomas connection is clearly developing well, but he also hit Jaden Greathouse, Rico Flores, Chris Tyree, and Tobias Merriweather among his receivers. He got the tight ends involved on the scoring drive at the end of the half, with Mitchell Evans getting the Irish down the field and Holden Staes finishing it off.

This offense isn’t built to go through a single receiver, and it has a quarterback capable of being an elite facilitator. That’s a scary combination and one that is going to light up scoreboards this fall.

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  1. What a difference a year makes. We hope. Too early to tell but the operation looks better in terms of coaching.

    One thing: Marcus Freeman is a Notre Dame man! He gets it. He isn’t whining about athletic resources. They have everything they need and more.

    Brian Kelly only kept his job at Notre Dame because Davie, Whillingham and Weiss were so inept and the administration was desperate and afraid to dump him.

    Brian Kelly outed himself this weekend. Saying flat out that Notre Dame’s priorities of academics and frankly anything moral versus football for football’s sake, shows Kelly for what he is. BK is BS. Oh and let’s not forget the almost divorce last year, the statement about not really being Catholic a few years ago, and maybe a few items back a decade ago. Not ND character.

    Freeman seems legit on the job and in life.

    Let’s hope he can bring Notre Dame back to the top so that ND can dictate some ethics back into college sports.

    1. Wow…a whole bunch of hindsight factoids getting reconsidered there.
      Kelly was a fraud all along….some of us were alerted during his ND introductory press conference, and got final confirmation when he was caught inteviewing with the Eagles.

      WRT ND Football, he is not a “savior” of it, but the most embarrassing stain on it.

    2. Sad to say I was a BK apologist until the 2016 debacle. The Duke loss was a turning point for me. And I agree, part of what saved the former coach all those years was just how bad the D/W/W years were. Yes, BK was better than those disasters, though that’s not saying a whole lot. I think another thing that saved BK was frankly the media. For whatever reason the media always seemed to be behind BK and always left the impression that ND would be idiots to fire him. We were getting to the CFB Playoffs, getting some big bowl games, never mind we could never seem to win the big games. As if the goal was just to get to the playoffs and not win them.

      We actually should thank LSU for making the decision easy by taking BK off our hands. The fools obviously must have believed all the media hype for BK.

      I like Freeman so far. I hope he’s the man to take us all the way. I see a lot of potential and possibilities. The BK years have left me hesitant to just buy into the hype. I want to see results before I become a true believer. But yes, I’m excited for ND football for the first time in a long time.

      Go Irish!

      1. I have nothing against Freeman. So far, so good. Especially for a guy who has been a head coach for all of 18 months.
        But other than celebrating a good play with players coming off the field, I haven’t yet seen a moment on the sidelines that made me say “Wow! That guy is a head coach! He’s the guy!” No sideline discussion with assistants, nlo animated headset chats, no taking a guy aside to coach him up.

        This is perhaps very unfair, but I’ll be honest: There are times when his stoic look on the sidelines reminds me of Tyrone….and that thought freaks me the fuck out.
        Seeing one of those in my lifetime is too many. .

        The players seem to really like Freeman, which is alot better than hating him….but being loved is neither necessary nor a prerequisitecfor success. Saban is not beloved.

        So … I dunno.

  2. + “F*#k yeah! That’s what I’m fu*#kin talking about”
    reaction to Blocked FG from sideline
    +Jordan Botheho, Jason Onye, Josh Burnham, Howard Cross
    + Sam
    + A 38 second 80 yd. drive for a pre-half TD w/o needing the TO. Last time we saw that from a ND team ?

    + Both games the D adjusted to new looks they hadn’t seen or prepared for, according to Coach Freeman.
    Didn’t need half time adjustments; they adjusted after the first drives. Kudos to coaches and players playing smart aggressive ball.

    1. And BK couldn’t adjust in his game but showed how limited he is as a game coach. And since he’s so overbearing, apparently his assistants are afraid or unwilling to adjust.

      LSU’s 2 failures on 4th and Goal reflect Kelly and his time at ND.

      Meanwhile Freeman asks for and gets a 1:00 80yd TD drive to end the 1st half. It’s football.

      1. Yes, but even better;
        it took 38 seconds without having to use the one timeout saved.

  3. FSU players have heard one too many Kelly halftime speeches….and promptly checked out.
    Cheer up, Fatso. You have plenty of chances to crawl back up with the SEC part of your schedule.
    Saban says hi.

    1. The thing that impressed me the most about Brian Kelly last night was his consistency. Kelly’s inability to make halftime adjustments while at Notre Dame evidently has followed him to LSU. Dude is a Turd.

      1. Kelly sutrely had a very gratifying off-season, prancing around town as ‘the guy who beat Saban’. HE is the extra-swollen headed fool who “isn’t who he thinks he is”.

        That fluky win, achieved with one of his signature high-risk decisons that almost always fails (…another 2 of them in Q1 yesterday) is most likely the highwater moment of his stay in the Bayou.

  4. Coach Freeman must feel so much better than this time last year.
    2-0 is a different world of feelings from 0-2.
    And everyone feels better about the way this team is playing.

    BGC 77 82

    1. BTW: Just watching (hearing) the Tennessee State Band march into the stadium was worth the ticket cost. Lord God Almighty, their drums were artillery loud!


      1. Glad you were able to attend the game Saturday. Sure you enjoyed Hartman take the team for an 8 play 40 second drive to close out the first half.

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