Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman’s weekly press conference began with a postmortem of the Ohio Stare loss. Freeman spoke about the lack of execution on both sides of the ball in the final four minutes, most notably the 10-men-on-defense error.
“Great teams find a way to execute when it matters the most. That’s what great teams do and we didn’t. We needed to execute and the end of the game and we didn’t, Ohio State did, and we have to learn from the critical mistakes we made.”
Freeman confirmed that by the time knew there were only 10 men on the field it was too late and took full responsibility for the failure in communication. “Obviously we can’t let that happen. We know that,” Freeman said. “We can’t let 10 guys go on the field and not see it.”
Defending against mobile Duke quarterback Riley Leonard was addressed.
“Obviously, all offenses go through the quarterback but the things he presents in the run game, the challenges he’s going to present. He’s a big, physical, tough runner, too. He’s accurate in the pass game for what they need him to do.”
Freeman explained the use of timeouts late in Saturday’s game.
“We called a timeout because we wanted to see what formation they were in and then we wanted to call a timeout just to try to match up to it.”
Taking the blame for the late miscues, Freeman indicated that handling such situations doesn’t go unplanned.
“There’s a whole bunch of systems in place to make sure that doesn’t happen, but ultimately, it falls on me.”
Freeman offered praise to the trio of freshmen (Jaden Greathouse, Jeremiya Love and Rico Flores) who played key roles in the go-ahead drive.
“Two of those guys came in early and one came in the summer. So that misconception of ‘you have to come in the winter’ is wrong.”
The change to Bryce McFerson as holder for Spencer Shrader’s kicks was explained.
“It’s a comfort for Spencer. We worked it in practice and ultimately, he felt a little more comfortable with Bryce being the holder.”
Asked how the team was dealing with the loss, Freeman noted that he’s spoken with some of the team leaders.
“They’ve taken it personally, as individuals, and you want that. I want every person on this team to take this loss personally. Everybody’s accountable but no one person is responsible.”
News was offered that the Oct. 7 game at Louisville will be a night game and will give the Irish four straight evening contests. After offering a less-than-thrilled look, Freeman spoke about how he plans to approach the challenge.
“You have to take into consideration when you get home, so that will change a bit of the practice structure, but it shouldn’t be too much.”
Tight end Mitchell Evans’ big game on Saturday didn’t come as a surprise to Freeman, who pointed to his performance in last year’s Gator Bowl.
“The bowl prep, I noticed, he can be the guy. He played well in that bowl game and he’s played really well all years. He hasn’t had the catches and the targets that he did this past Saturday but he made some great catches and did a really good job in the run game, too.”.
Freeman was asked about Deon Colzie’s injury and offered a quick rundown on the team’s overall injury situation.
“We’re going to scope his (Colzie’s) knee this week. So he’ll be out for a couple weeks and then Jayden Thomas is questionable. He’s just a question with the hamstring strain.”
Offering some context for the modest stats of Marist Liufau, Freeman explained that the linebacker hadn’t been at full strength during the week.
“Marist didn’t really get a chance to practice at full speed last week. He was nursing a little bit of a stinger, neck strain. Did that have an impact on how he played? I don’t know, you look for everything, but Marist played fine.”
The success of the young running backs offered Freeman the opportunity to explain his philosophy about playing time.
“If you can help us win games, you’re going to play. We’re going to play guys we can count on to do exactly what you want them to do. Freshman, senior, it doesn’t matter.”
Freeman discussed the usage of Audric Estime against Ohio State and whether his absence was injury-related.
“He was fully healthy. We had certain packages for that game using two-back sets and Coach (Gerad) Parker was continuing to call the game as he saw necessary.”
A question concerning the shorter rotations used against Ohio State was explained by Freeman.
“There’s a level of comfort you have as a coach in who’s on the field versus a certain opponent, versus certain people. That’s why we made those decisions going into the game.”
Asked about how the team can bounce back after its first loss, Freeman expressed confidence.
“I know we have a high ceiling as a football team and it’s our job as coaches to get our players to perform as close to that ceiling as we can.”