Emotions were high, and scoring was low, this Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Thundering Herd stormed onto campus ready to knock down the Fighting Irish. What is there to say about the game? Well… not a lot. Marshall proved that Notre Dame was ultimately an underprepared – and under-coached – team. And, moving forward, they need to their act together if they hope to have even somewhat of a successful season.
After this weekend, it has become very difficult to fight the rumors that Notre Dame is over-ranked, year after year. And as much as it pains me to say, Saturday proved the doubters right (even if it is just a little bit). Now you could justifiably argue that Marshall came to play this weekend, and they did, but the Fighting Irish made countless mistakes.
If I had to sum up this weekend in one word, it would be messy. Notre Dame fans expect the opening of any game to look bad, that’s just the way the team plays, always has been. But, Irish fans also expect the team to come out with a different type of energy post-half-time. This was not the case. The Irish made mistake after mistake. And while they saw some good things from players like Michael Mayer, Lorenzo Styles and Howard Cross, overall football is a team sport and they did not play like one on Saturday.
The MVP for Marshall football on Saturday was the Notre Dame defense. The Herd made it seem like the Notre Dame defense was a high school team. I watched in disbelief as the Marshall offense walked straight through the Irish line.
At the end of the day, I wasn’t angry at the situation, I was disappointed. The “Freeman Era” was doomed from the start. The Irish fan base has put such high pressure and expectations on a first-time coach and I am honestly still surprised that the campus and the fan base have not pulled an absolute 180 on him. If he continues down this path, I fear the wider Irish community will turn on him soon enough.
This past weekend settled the debate that Buchner was the right choice to put in as QB1. Yes, Pyne was put in a tough situation, but even after a scored touchdown, he seemed to have made the situation worse. Pyne had the opportunity to prove that he should take the reins leading into the rest of the season, but he flopped, and he flopped hard. Now that the position of QB1 was ever so sadly gifted to Pyne, the Irish need to figure out some leadership on the field. Somehow, Pyne made the offense look even worse than it did before he entered the contest. Yes, Buchner had two interceptions to his name, but Pyne had one, and he was in for significantly less time than Buchner. With Pyne taking control moving forward, I hope he puts out more than he did this past Saturday.
Now, there were some positives to come out of the atrocity that was the Notre Dame/Marshall matchup.
The first was that when we were looking good, we were looking really good. There were multiple times where Buchner threw a pass and I thought maybe Notre Dame could win this. Or, there would be momentum after an Irish touchdown. But, that would only last one play at a time, and Notre Dame would eventually disappoint their fans yet again.
Second, Notre Dame students are loyal. While the rest of the fans were dying from the heat, and slowly trickling out of the stadium. The Notre Dame student section remained fairly full all the way until the alma mater ended. I guess that can be counted as a win?
Finally, the Marshall fans seemed to have had a fun time. As I was watching one of the worst games in Notre Dame Stadium, I looked up to the Marshall section where fans were hysterically chanting “We are Marshall,” (something my boyfriend explained was a thing before the famous movie of the same name and not the other way around) and just thought how good of a day they were having. The man behind me was practically crying on the phone with his father who had been a Marshall fan his entire life. Ultimately, while the Notre Dame side was sulking in disbelief, the Herd will hopefully have this day to mention for years to come. This was the first time Marshall beat a top 10 team since 2003, and the first time the Irish lost their first two games of the season since 2011.
So, while Irish fans will sulk for the remaining week, and tentatively get ready for another hot game day, Marshall fans will be bathing in their glory. The Freeman era is off to a rocky start, but he will have one more chance to prove he is still someone the Irish should have faith in.