New additions to old traditions: Freeman to engage with fans ahead of first home game

Marcus Freeman will engage with fans at the Rockne Rally on South Quad Friday night and at the Victory March event on Library Lawn this Saturday prior to his first home game as head coach for the Irish.

The events are newly named, “enhanced” traditions for Notre Dame fans to engage in this weekend, associate director for fan experience Darin Ottaviani said.

“We’re excited to commemorate Coach Freeman’s first home game with some fun and new fan experience opportunities,” he said.

Rocking by Rockne

Sponsored by Dillon Hall, the Rockne Rally will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will include Freeman’s appearance, performances by the Notre Dame Band, Cheer team, Pom Squad and Dillon Hall-organized hype events.

Branded the “Rockne Rally” for the first time this year, the rally is a running tradition for first home game weekends on South Quad.

“It’s just a fun way to kick off the season and it’s more student-centric this year than it’s been in the past,” Ottaviani said.

Dawson Kaiser, president of Dillon Hall, said he and his fellow organizers are excited about the fun activities they planned.

“I think there’s going to be a good showing and a lot of crowd involvement, which we’re really excited about,” Kaiser said. “We didn’t want to make it just about Dillon and go up there and do a bunch of skits, we wanted to include the dorms as much as we could.”

Two specific events that were planned for the rally were the “Are You Smarter Than a Dillon Freshman?” game show and the “makeover challenge” where “we’re going to have girls put makeup on different guys from other dorms,” Kaiser said.

The Dillon Hall programming portion of the rally, Kaiser said, will open at 5:30 p.m. and the rally’s other events will take over at 6:15 p.m.

Marching to Victory with Coach Freeman

Formerly referred to as “the Player Walk” where football players walked from the Guglielmino Athletics Complex on home game days across Library Lawn and into the stadium, this year’s “Victory March” will instead begin at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and include a speech by Freeman on Library Lawn, Ottaviani said.

The event organizers took the Player Walk event, “and now enhanced it,” Ottaviani said.

“We’ll have a sound system, it’ll be a bigger event and again a chance for Coach, who wanted to engage with the fans on the way into the stadium, to be able to do that,” Ottaviani said.

The event will also feature a musical performance as the football team makes its way to Library Lawn. Prior to the team appearing at the stage at 12:15 p.m., the Glee Club will perform at 11:30 a.m.

Similarly, for 7:30 p.m. home games, the Glee Club will perform on the stage at 4:30 p.m. and the football team will arrive at 5:15 p.m.

Ottaviani credited Freeman for much of the engaging activities planned for home football games this season.

“It’s always had a great following of people, and now we’re excited to just make it more of an event where there’s speaking and engagement because that’s what the coach’s goal was,” Ottaviani said.

Tunnel experience access

This year, fans will also be able to access to the North Tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium throughout the football season, assistant athletics director Juli Schreiber said in an email.

“For the first time in two years, we are opening the North Tunnel with two types of experiences,” she said.

 The “North Tunnel Experience” will be held on select dates throughout the season, not including home game weekends, she said, and the “Friday Tunnel Experience” will take place on home game Fridays, Schreider said.

The former will provide fans with photo opportunities including the North Tunnel entrance, the visiting team locker room and the iconic “Play Like a Champion” sign.

Similarly, guests will be able to take photos on the North End Zone and at the North Tunnel entrance for the Friday Tunnel Experience for a $10 fee benefiting the Rockne Athletics Fund. In her email, Schreiber said gifts to the fund “allow student athletes at the University of Notre Dame to be champions in the classroom, community and competition.”

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The Observer predicts Notre Dame-Marshall

The home opener has arrived. The Irish take on Marshall in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday and The Observer’s football beat has locked in their predictions.

Aidan Thomas – Sports Editor

The defense was even better than I expected in the opener, but the offense experienced some hiccups. Some were foreseen, like the Irish struggling to run the ball without Jarrett Patterson and minimal availability from Logan Diggs. Others, like the rest of the offensive line struggling, and the Irish only completing ten passes, were less foreseen. 

Marshall has a defensive line and pass rush that could give the Irish a better test than many expect. The Thundering Herd are a tricky opponent, and flashbacks of Toledo last season make me second-guess picking a total blowout in Freeman’s head coaching debut at Notre Dame stadium. Talent wins out, however, and the Irish pull away in the second half. 

Notre Dame 34, Marshall 6 

Mannion McGinley – Assistant Managing Editor

Regardless of the final score last weekend, the Irish looked good. The defense looked incredible, the line didn’t pick up a lot of stats but repeatedly forced C.J. Stroud to prove how good he is. On offense, the Irish didn’t excel in everything. There wasn’t any sort of explosion on the field, nor did the Irish take any real long-shot opportunities, either because they were shut down or they chose not to.

That being said, this is the weekend to push that envelope, test the waters and see what Buchner can really do. Might be a rocky first quarter and we’ve been burned before playing to the level of our opponent but under Freeman the Irish play at their top at any given moment. There’s at least one interception, and Buchner sends a long ball for a touchdown time and again. The defense still shines, and the offense joins the ranks — electing to be aggressive. 

Notre Dame 45, Marshall 10

Nate Moller – Sports Writer

This game feels similar to last year’s season opener against Toledo where the Irish needed to score a last-minute touchdown to secure a victory. Coming off of a huge game against Ohio State, Marshall could definitely catch the Irish sleeping in their home opener just like Toledo did. The Thundering Herd are no slouch either, and they are coming off of a dominating 55-3 win last week, although it was against FCS opponent Norfolk State. The Thundering Herd are led by quarterback Henry Colombi, who played seven games for Texas Tech last season. On the ground, the Thundering Herd have Ethan Payne and Khalan Laborn, who each rushed for over 100 yards last week.

The Irish defense was much better than expected against a potent Ohio State offense, and they should be ready to match up against a much less talented Marshall team. I expect the Irish defensive line to get plenty of pressure on Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi throughout the game and force some turnovers as well. On the offensive side of the ball, Tommy Rees should be more comfortable letting Tyler Buchner air the ball out behind the home crowd. Towards the second half, the Irish will figure out their running game and have a couple of big rushes from Chris Tyree as well. I expect the Thundering Herd to hang around for a bit, but the Irish pull away at the end.

Notre Dame 41, Marshall 17

Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor

Ohio State exposed where the Irish need to fine-tune things ahead of their home opener against Marshall. The team we saw in the first half at OSU is the team that needs to show up in South Bend Saturday afternoon. Despite the loss, the game in Columbus confirmed one thing for me–there is significant talent on this Irish team. They just need to figure out how best to use it.

Marshall’s defense is their strongest suit, while Notre Dame’s offense is their weakest as of now. With a shaky offensive strategy and the mental challenges that come with a loss under their belt, the Irish could be in a position like they were last year against Toledo where an expected win turned into a bit of a nail-biter. On the flip side, Notre Dame’s will seems stronger than last season, and they can use the setback as motivation, not as a source of discouragement. If Buchner is allowed to throw the ball and the offense can get their rhythm back, I expect a solid win for the Irish.

Notre Dame 35, Marshall 10

Liam Coolican – Associate Sports Editor

This game worries me more than I care to admit. It has all the makings of a trap game, as Notre Dame spent all summer preparing for Ohio State, and they now have to bounce back physically and emotionally and prepare for another contest right away. It isn’t just the timing of the game that concerns me, however; Marshall is a very good Group of Five opponent, and one that Irish fans would do well not to overlook. 

That being said, *knocks on wood*, Notre Dame doesn’t lose trap games; they haven’t lost to an unranked opponent since the disastrous 2016 season. Marshall will keep the game close for a half, but Notre Dame’s superior talent level and home-field advantage will help them pull away by the fourth quarter. 

Notre Dame 31, Marshall 7

Madeline Ladd – Associate Sports Editor

This weekend is predicted to be somewhat of a cakewalk for the Irish, and there are lots the team can take advantage of as they take on the Thundering Herd at home. With star running back Rasheen Ali out for Marshall, one of the few potential threats for the Irish is no longer in question. The Irish have lots of room to show what they can do, as well as work on improving against a low-risk team. The loss against Ohio State pointed to some glaring shortcomings, especially in terms of the offensive line. The Irish certainly cannot get sleepy despite the lack of threat, as this is the perfect weekend to regroup and refine. I think Notre Dame will undoubtedly claim the victory this weekend, but not with Marshall sneaking one in for good measure. 

Notre Dame 35, Marshall 7