5 Things I Liked: Finding Positives Amid the Anguish from Notre Dame’s Loss to Ohio State

Saturday night was one of the most heart-breaking losses in Notre Dame Stadium history for the Fighting Irish. In a mistake-filled contest featuring one of the biggest coaching blunders in program history, Notre Dame snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Amid all the anguish and frustration, however, quite a few positives from the contest bode well for Notre Dame for the rest of the season.

1. Notre Dame’s Freshmen playmakers can ball

Remember when the narrative was Notre Dame didn’t play freshman skill position players? Yeah, that is definitely a thing of the past. Notre Dame is giving some freshmen prominent roles in the offense this year, and they are showing why every week. Freshmen receivers Rico Flores and Jaden Greathouse and running back Jeremiyah Love all made plays on Saturday night against the Buckeyes.

Love carried the ball 8 times for 57 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and ran with authority, gaining tough yards at the end of runs. Love was thought to be more of a speed back and change of pace as a frosh, but he’s already shown the ability to gain tough yards between the tackles.

Rico Flores played the second-most snaps of any receiver on the team and recorded his first career touchdown. He had 3 catches for 20 yards on the night, including what was a go-ahead score in the fourth, and was the 2nd highest-rated player on offense per PFF. Jaden Greathouse had 2 receptions for 40 yards.

The future is very bright with these youngsters on offense – especially when you consider that Braylon James and Kaleb Smith are still developing as well.

2. Javontae Jean-Baptiste showing out against his former team

Everyone thought JBB would have a big game against his former team, and the Ohio State transfer did not disappoint. He tied for the team lead in tackles with 8 (JD Bertrand also had 8) and had three total pressures on the night – 2 hits and 1 hurry. In a game in which the pass rush still didn’t quite get home, Jean-Baptiste was one of the few players who was getting to Kyle McCord at times. Bertrand was the only other Notre Dame player to hit McCord twice.

Over the summer, there was a lot of talk that the big end spot would be more of a timeshare between JBB and Nana Osafo Mensah, but it’s clear that Jean-Baptiste is the staff’s top option. Osafo Mensah recorded just 5 snaps on the night. The scouting report on Jean-Baptiste was that he wasn’t strong against the run, but he was again Notre Dame’s highest-rated run defender on the night per PFF.

3. The offensive line holding up

Notre Dame’s offense line couldn’t open up any holes for the Irish rushing attack last year in Columbus, and Tyler Buchner was under siege all night. Neither of those two things happened on Saturday night against an Ohio State defensive front that is much better than the one they faced a year ago.

Notre Dame ran for 176 yards on 39 carries as a team. Irish running backs specifically averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the night, and most of those yards were consistent pickups – the average wasn’t inflated by any big gainers. Sam Hartamn wasn’t sacked once on the night.

I was worried coming into the game that the interior of the offensive line wouldn’t be able to hold up, given how they started the season, but Rocco Spindler and Pat Coogan held their own. Spindler specifically played well, considering he had a pretty rough outing against Central Michigan a week ago. The line was not perfect, but in a big game against one of the best defenses the Irish will face all year, the line played well enough for Notre Dame to win.

4. Benjamin Morrison locking up Marvin Harrison Jr.

All week long, there were questions about whether or not Notre Dame could contain Marvis Harrison Jr. Benjamin Morrison answered those questions emphatically and likely caught the eyes of even more NFL scouts in the process. Harrison caught just 3 passes for 32 yards on the night.

Morrison got called for one pass interference, where he got there just a hair early, but otherwise, he was a blanket on Harrison Jr. all night. He allowed an NFL passer rating of just 57.2 with 2 pass breakups when tested by Ohio State on the night. McCord was just 4 of 9 when throwing Morrison’s way on the night for 39 yards.

5. Mitchell Evans showing he’s more than just a blocker

Notre Dame’s highest-graded player on the night on either side of the ball was tight end Mitchell Evans at 87.1 per PFF. That rating was the second-best rating for any tight end in all of college football this weekend. Evans led all Notre Dame receivers with 7 receptions for 75 yards on the night, including this acrobatic, one-handed, highlight-reel-worthy grab early in the contest.

Evans had just 5 total receptions for 63 yards on the season before Saturday night. Heck, he only had 10 career receptions coming into the game. Five of those seven catches resulted in first downs for Notre Dame. The Irish only had 12 passing first downs on the night.

Evans showed the world that he is much more than just a pass blocking threat at tight end and that he can continue the Tight End U tradition at Notre Dame.

Bonus: Notre Dame fans showing out

There was A LOT of worry about an Ohio State takeover of the stadium similar to what Georgia did in 2017, but in the end it was nothing even remotely close to what Georgia fans pulled off. Despite having a much easier commute to the stadium than UGA fans, Ohio State fans just didn’t show up in the same numbers. Credit the Notre Dame ticketing department for putting in measures in place from the lessons of past takeovers and Notre Dame fans for not selling their tickets when ticket prices were bonkers. The stadium was full of green and despite some smatterings of red outside of the Ohio State section, there was not takeover.

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  1. Are you guys fn nuts? This IS 100% a playoff team with the talent we have this year. The coaches screwed us over. We are better than Ohio State and can play with anyone this year. The only key positions lacking somewhat are D end and a blazing receiver but we make up for that with all the talent elsewhere.

    1. Ohio State won. Ergo, they are better.
      This is the sole principle of playing the games, and ultimately awarding the national championship.

      1. Ok David, the UHND posting hero. If you tell me that we don’t have the talent ON THE FIELD, not on the sidelines (coaches), to be a playoff team, then you would truly lose credibility with anything you say going forward.

      2. Agree 100# David. We lost, they won. It’s a fun game in itself, but we still keep score for a reason. When we talk “results oriented” driven outcomes it’s like we are talking Latin to these people. It makes me wonder if these folks can even recognize great football from “loseristic”

        PS: I’ve never believed that winning is the most important thing; the game is fun, lessons are learned and entertainment for the people of ots own value.
        But, and notice this, The last official thing done on a football game is to certify THE FINAL SCORE!
        GET IT?

        BGC 77 82

        BGC 77 82

      3. ChrisJ: Post sensible thoughts, and defend those ideas instead of just childishly lashing out.
        You too can become an internet hero.

      4. David’s quote…” No one should have needed to witness that loss to know that ND is not a 2023 playoff team.
        The program is simply nowhere near there yet, and there are more than enough better teams to fill the slots this season.”

        This is the most laughable comment. We have potential first rounders in 4 key positions at QB, Oline, RB, and Corner. The others behind them aren’t that far behind. We have the talent to be a playoff team this year.

        Sensible enough for ya?

      5. In an attempt to keep this simple…..
        Alabama has nothing but 5 star players…..some of them even relegated to standing on the sidelines in civvies.
        And they sorta do okay in the NFL draft every year…..if I recall.

        As of right now, they might not make the playoffs this year.
        Please explain such a violation of statistical law, oh guru of football emotion.

  2. I agree with a lot of you that some bad decisions were made down the stretch. Particularly disturbing were the call on 2 and 15 on our last possession. Hartman had been given time all night and several times gashed them for big plays, why call a screen on second and 15? The Third and 15 call just as bad. You wanted to milk the clock, but in the end was that the best move? If we hadn’t milked the clock could we have gotten the ball back with time for a FG drive? We will never know but that drive started so promising and just fell apart. A few more first downs and we run the clock out and win. The last defensive stand……after playing so well most of the game where we really only had two bad errors (their run for TD and the CB Blitz that we left a WR uncovered) there were some baffling calls at the end. Particularly ugly was playing deep zone on that 3 and 18 that put them at 1 yard line. The game says to me talent wise we are close. We have about the best back end since Holtz and have solid and experienced LB, but other than the OSU transfer our DL is not top notch this year. Maybe we should play more 3-4 and try to get pressure with LBs as an edge rusher? The problem with that is we don’t really have the massive NG you need to clog the middle when you play 3-4. I have been thru all the heartbreaking losses this team has experienced in the last 35yrs…..this one was bad, but not nearly as bad as USC 05 and BC loss after beating FSU in 93. We have time to recover, next week will say more about Freeman than this loss…..we have to flush this loss, we have to be pissed that we lost, and we have to come out and win on the road against a ranked upstart. Just remember 1/2 the teams ahead of us play each other and if we win out and our only loss it so OSU by 3pts the CFP would likely jump us over other 1 loss non conference champions. It starts with Duke and we will find out if Marcus’s preaching presence works in just 5 more days. Keep the faith Irish, Freeman is still a young first time head coach and our talent level is just starting to see the effects of his great recruiting, next year the CFP expands and I feel we are going to be regular participants. The next 3 weeks will likely decide if we are at a Pick Six bowl or another second tier one.

  3. I’m with Damian, not seeing a playoff invite and that may be a good thing after the OSU thing that went down Sat nite. I remember asking outloud several times…..why is 7 on the sidelines? Also continually frustrating they can not dial up pressure on opposing QBs….yep, still not ready for prime time. DUKE may upset this week too.,.we shall see but the coaching staff just put a few more monkeys on the back of this program trying to return to glory for quite sometime now with bone headed calls and lack of fundamental focus for 60 minutes. Someone tell them the game lasts for 60 minutes….

    1. No one should have needed to witness that loss to know that ND is not a 2023 playoff team.
      The program is simply nowhere near there yet, and there are more than enough better teams to fill the slots this season.
      10-2 plus a good bowl effort (…a loss to a Top 5-10 team would be ok) would be a positive season.

      1. David, are you telling us that Ara, Dan, or Lou would not find enough talent, and prepare them properly, for a playoff bid on this team?!! If so, I disagree. Ara would run wild offensively on this OSU team, Devine would probably shut them out defensively, and if Holtz could get Tony Rice to throw deep accurately, he sure as hell could find a way for Sam to do it!
        Some people grunt “Don’t try; do!”
        But you will NEVER do anything if you don’t even try. Take the shackles off Sam and let the long balls fly.
        Thank you.

        BGC 77 82

      2. I am not saying any of that…because none of that grab-bagging speculation is of any point whatsoever.

  4. Before the gsame, the board was full of pearl clutching and hand wringing about how RED the stadium might be.
    After the loss, that ‘color commentary’ was lustily replaced with how butt-ugly the GREEN costumes were.

    Well, turns out the smart move would have been to sell that overvalued ticket, and treat your significant other to a lavish Saturday date.
    And the neon costumes were ridiculous looking the day they were announced, months ago.

  5. Finding 5 good things about that game took some creativity.
    The one thing I got is that ND finally belonged on the field in a big game.

    Your other ‘5 things’ article should be pretty easy…..

  6. Frank, you hit on the better things to appreciate from this past team wasted effort.
    Kudos to the effort put forth by the ND players, despite the bumbling from the entire staff the last few minutes. They showed they, like Coach Prime in CO, are not ready for prime time. Maybe one day, but not last Saturday. It is mandatory the coaching staff which supposedly emphasizes finishing strong apologize to the team for their neglectful O’ and D’ schemes the last few minutes (I trust Frank will point those out in a coming post). Ryan Day did what he could to enable ND a victory with among the worst calls I’ve ever seen on fourth down ten yards from his goal line. ND’s coaching staff did what they could to save him his job, and he ought to send them a special thank you for their incompetent O’ and D’ schemes that negated a great effort by the players.. Can the coaches earn the confidence from the team they let down by next Saturday? Stay tuned!

  7. Glad to see ND fans did show up and not sell out for this game. It’s just a shame the coaches let us down in this game. We can nitpick players sure. But this loss is on the coaching staff. A huge disappointment. They had a real shot at this game. And yes, if there is ever a moral victory this would probably fit. But I’m tired of moral victories. And this was a game we should have had. I like Freeman and want him to succeed at ND. And I’m not throwing in the towel on him yet by any means. But this loss is on him. This would have been a signature win and he blew it. It’s almost like he didn’t want to win this game, it’s so bizarre.

    I give Frank credit for still finding the high points. Yes there were many. But it’s just hard to see the positives in such a heartbreaking loss. I know in the overreactions article Frank noted there are still some scenarios where ND gets to the playoffs. But honestly I think those chances are remote. ND needed this win.

    1. I agree that the coaches blew it at the end (both on our last offensive possession and on our last defensive possession). But all the lamenting about the bad coaching at the end really ought to be tempered, since, after all, it was the good coaching from Freeman, Golden, and Parker (and the other coaches) that helped us stay basically even with a damn good Ohio State team. Brian Kelly is a good coach too, but he is not as good as Freeman. It’s not just a likability issue (obviously, Kelly is insufferable, while Freeman is not only likable, but downright magnetic). It’s an overall competence issue (where competence includes likability that leads players to want to play hard for you and coaches to want to coach hard for you). Freeman is, overall, just a better coach. Would Kelly have screwed up and had just 10 men on the field at the end? No, I don’t think he would have made that error, while Freeman did (though Kelly did have some bizarre mental errors over the years, such as the throwing-a-zillion-times-in-a-hurricane fiasco). If Kelly were our coach, we probably would have lost 31 – 20, with a garbage touchdown for us coming late in the fourth quarter. Freeman — in spite of his rookie mistakes — at least has us going in the right direction, with the right energy as a program. And the coordinators are good. Parker’s offense is nicely balanced and shows good creativity, and Parker is (thank God!) not as conservative as Tommy was. I know Parker has the good fortune of having Sam Hartman, while Tommy didn’t. And that definitely makes a difference. But still, Parker seems better to me than Tommy (and I think Tommy, while too conservative, is solid as an OC). Also, while Golden calls some really stupid blitzes from safeties and corners that strike me as indefensible (suicidal, really), he is obviously pretty good on the whole. It’s hard to argue against holding Ohio State’s offense to 17 points. All of which is to say: I’m much, much happier with this current coaching staff than the ones under Kelly. It’s not that Kelly isn’t a good coach (he is). But we couldn’t (and can’t) win a national championship with him: he just isn’t good enough overall. And he’ll never win one at LSU either. He does have a better chance there, since recruiting can be successful there without putting in as much effort (which is what Kelly likes). But Kelly will never win one at LSU. With Freeman, we can win one and probably will. Probably won’t happen until 2025, 2026, or 2027 (I know waiting sucks), but with Freeman, we at least have a chance. Go Irish!

    2. After an extended wait, my first definitive feeling about the Freeman regime has been registered.
      And it is less positive than I was hoping for.

      The players reportedly “love the guy”.
      Well, how do they feel today, after hearing that absloute bullshit excuse about not wanting to get penalized one foot in exchange for having enough players on the field ?

      I hope he came clean with the team in private….they’re not stupid, and it’s best they don’t start suspecting that he is. Or worse, that he’s a disingenous, self-preserving liar, like the last putz.

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