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Schatz: The Irish are not good, thoughts on falling to an unranked Marshall

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.

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Gameday Gallery: Notre Dame vs Marshall

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman high fives a fan after Mass at the Basilica before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer high fives a fan after Mass at the Basilica before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame players walk from the Basilica after Mass before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner walks into the stadium before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman walks into the stadium before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Fans tailgate before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Fans tailgate before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame and Marshall fans pose for a photo before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
From left, Notre Dame seniors Will Attig, Sean Mullen and Mark Laboe chat with friends before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
A young fan throws a football before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Fans tailgate before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Alex Mollison, Holy Cross Class of 2021, drinks a beer before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Ned Hawley, Notre Dame Class of 2008, smokes a cigar before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame senior Conor O’Brien pets Beorn before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman leads the Fighting Irish onto the field before the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame wide receiver Braden Lenzy (0) misses a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) misses a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame wide receiver Braden Lenzy (0) makes a catch but falls out-of-bounds during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph (16) celebrates after a stop during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman paces the sidelines during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Justin Ademilola (9) tackles Marshall running back Khalan Laborn (8) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame linebacker Marist Liufau (8) stops Marshall wide receiver Talik Keaton (1) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (7) tackles Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman talks to an assistant coach during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
The field reflects in a student’s sunglasses during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall running back Khalan Laborn (8) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) is forced out-of-bounds by Marshall safety Andre Sam (20) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) scrambles during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) scrambles for a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey (7) grabs Marshall running back Khalan Laborn’s (8) facemask during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
The student section during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame linebacker JD Bertrand (27) pressures Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame linebacker Bo Bauer (52) pursues Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola (57) pressures Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) slips out of several tackled during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame wide receiver Lorenzo Styles (4) catches a screen pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) stiff arms Marshall defensive lineman Emmanuel Balogun (56) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
A Notre Dame fan reacts to a call during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
The Hesburgh Library as viewed from the south end zone during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
An overall view of Notre Dame Stadium during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph (16) goes to tackle Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher (14) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) scrambles during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) reels in a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Kevin Bauman (84) falls short of the goal line after making a catch during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame running back Logan Diggs (3) jumps for a touchdown but comes up short during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Students react to a play during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Sarah Grisham
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) tries to stiff arm Marshall safety Jadarius Green-McKnight (4) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) avoids Marshall safety Jadarius Green-McKnight (4) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) is tackled by Marshall defensive lineman Emmanuel Balogun (56) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
The Leprechaun leads the student section during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) signals after quarterback Tyler Buchner sneaks for a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
A young fan is thrown in the air for push-ups after a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Justin Ademilola (9) sacks Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph (16) returns a punt during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) is overthrown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) cuts toward the sideline during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman motions toward his players during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame linebacker Jordan Botelho (12) tries to stop Marshall quarterback Henry Colombi (3) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall defensive back Steven Gilmore (3) steals the ball from Notre Dame wide receiver Jayden Thomas (83) for an interception during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall defensive back Steven Gilmore (3) races down the sideline for a pick-six during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall defensive back Steven Gilmore (3) celebrates with fans after making a pick-six during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) signals for a fair catch during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame wide receiver Lorenzo Styles (4) mishandles a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame defensive lineman Rylie Mills (99) forces his way past Marshall tight end Stacey Marshall Jr. (11) and offensive lineman Ethan Driskell (52) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne (10) is upended by Marshall defensive lineman Owen Porter (55) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame running back Chris Tyree (25) tries to evade Marshall linebacker Eli Neal (24) during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman greets Notre Dame running back Logan Diggs (3) after a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) is overthrown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne (10) throws a pass during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer (87) scores a touchdown during the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and Marshall head coach Charles Huff shake hands after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman walks off the field after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) walks off the field after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall defensive lineman Anthony Watts (19) celebrates after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Sarah Grisham
Marshall head coach Charles Huff celebrates after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall head coach Charles Huff gives a thumbs up to fans after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall players celebrate after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall players celebrate after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall players celebrate after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
Marshall players celebrate with fans after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
The Fighting Irish sing the alma mater after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Sarah Grisham
Notre Dame defensive lineman Alexander Ehrensberger (90) walks off the field after the game between Notre Dame and Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. / Credit: Max Petrosky
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Sports

Irish football trampled by Thundering Herd, start season 0-2

Notre Dame football fell to Marshall on Saturday afternoon, 26-21. This is the second Irish loss of the season, and the third of Marcus Freeman’s tenure as head coach.

“It’s never easy to come in here after a loss, no matter to who, it’s disappointing,” Freeman said. “You know, we didn’t execute and it comes down to execution. We did not execute the way we needed to win in this game. And so we have to look at ourselves as individuals just as a team. We all have to look at ourselves, starting with the head coach on down and say, ‘Okay, what do I have to do? What do we have to do to fix the issues that we’re having?’”

Notre Dame took the ball to open the game. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner found sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Styles in the air twice for the first two first downs of the game. But that momentum didn’t last long as the game started slow. Neither team was able to score in the first five drives, leaving the first quarter scoreless. But it was Marshall who broke into the end zone first, and that lead would ultimately be enough to carry them to a win.

The Irish took an attempt on fourth down. Buchner found graduate student Braden Lenzy down the sideline. But the wide receiver couldn’t get his feet down in bounds. Turnover on downs for the Irish. Ultimately, neither team could capitalize on this as Marshall turned it over on downs seconds later. After failed rushing attempts, and a sack, graduate student punter Jon Sot placed the Herd at the 21.

The Herd pushed forward on the back of Caleb McMillan who snagged two first downs into Irish territory. The Irish failed to tackle throughout the drive, giving up what looks like a touchdown only for it to be called back due to illegal motion on Marshall’s side. Jayden Harrison reels in another first down from Henry Colombi to put Marshall in the red zone to start the second. Laborn takes it up the middle for those four yards to break the scoreless tie. Up six, Marshall kicker Rece Verhoff missed the PAT, wide right. 

The Irish came out swinging in their first possession of the second quarter. Junior running back Chris Tyree returned the ball 32 yards to the Irish 33, followed by Styles snagging 22 yards. The momentum was squashed though when Micah Abraham stepped in the path of a pass to Lenzy at the Irish 48. 

Still, the defense came up with the stop again, forcing a punt from Marshall. Both teams exchanged punts again after that.

With 5:03 left in the half, the Irish ran an early two-minute drill after a Marshall punt. Notre Dame started the drive from their own 44 with a 14-yard rushing first down from Buchner. Buchner went again for a seven-yard gain to the 36. After an offsides call, Buchner completed a first down pass to junior tight end Michael Mayer for 18 yards. Buchner found Mayer again, who shook off a defender, to make a 12-yard run to the goal line. To finish the drive, Buchner rushed out wide to the left leaving three minutes in the half and Irish up 7-6. This was Buchner’s fourth rushing touchdown, his first of the season.

The Thundering Herd was just that though and were able to use the three minutes. Marshall took the ball from their own 22 and, after a successful first down attempt, and a facemask from senior defensive end Isaiah Foskey, the Herd crossed into their own half. Laborn and Corey Gammage brought two more first downs, before Colombi found Harrison at the four. Laborn would run twice more for no gain as he found DJ Brown and J.D. Bertrand waiting for him. Colombi looked to pass, but Bracy was there on the coverage. With 18 seconds left, the Herd settled for a field goal to go up 9-7.

To open the half, Marshall punted, leaving the Irish at their own twelve. Two carries from sophomore running back Audric Estime brought the Irish to a first down at the 28. Buchner rushed and then hit Styles for eight yards and a first down. Estime was then stuffed twice, and the Irish turned the ball over on downs for a second time. 

Marshall faked a flea flicker and instead Talik Keaton took off past several defenders for a 30-yard gain. From the Irish 11, quarterback Cam Fancher gained seven yards before senior linebacker JD Bertrand took him down. Graduate student defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola pushed the Herd back to the seven and graduate student safety DJ Brown made the stop on a quarterback, forcing another field goal attempt. Verhoff made it though, and Marshall extended their lead 12-7. While some red zone stops were there, the Herd was able to march downfield repeatedly over the Irish.

The Herd outran the Irish 219 to 130 yards and Marshall’s Henry Colombi saw 76% completion to sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner’s 56%.

“I really don’t think we were hurt that much in the vertical pass game,” Brown said of where Colombi found success when he did throw. “It was just those intermediate throws and RPOs and things like that. You know, we can always correct this.”

The Irish also saw three interceptions to the Herd’s none. Freeman said the biggest issue though was the lack of tackling.

“Too many times where run or pass, we didn’t get the ball carrier. You can’t let an offense run 95 yards at any moment, but especially not the fourth quarter, when the game’s on the line, you’re up and you’re trying to, you know, put the game away,” he said.

After a touchback from the Marshall kickoff, Mayer was fouled and the Irish moved to their own 36, seemingly shifting the momentum once again. From there, Buchner found Mayer again, connecting this time for a 30-yard gain to the Marshall 35. Tyree caught a pass and ran for nine yards and then Buchner completed the 10 with a sneak around the side plus five more. From the 19, Buchner hit junior tight end Kevin Bauman who took off to the one. 

To start the fourth quarter, and bring his rushing touchdowns to five, Buchner snuck into the end zone for six points. He then went around the side for two more. The Irish took the lead 15-12. 

The Irish defense allowed one first down from Marshall before turning on the jets. On third and seven, junior safety Ramon Henderson and graduate student defensive end Justin Ademilola took Colombi down for a loss of eight. At fourth and 15, the Herd punted and safety senior Brandon Joseph returned it to the Notre Dame 40. 

After seven plays, the Irish punted. Marshall opened the drive at the Irish 6. Mainly on the ground, the Herd marched down the field yet again. Khalan Laborn broke several Irish tackles to bring the Herd to the Notre Dame 6 on a 42-yard run. Colombi found Devin Miller through the air to put the Herd up again. After the kick, the score sat at 19-15.

The Herd wasn’t done scoring though. Steven Gilmore picked off Buchner shortly afterward to make the score 26-15. 

From the Marshall 25, the Irish gained a 15-yard penalty to move to the 40 before finding Mayer over the middle. Buchner rushed for another first down, but left the field hurt on the play. With junior Drew Pyne in at quarterback, the Irish turn the ball over again. Pyne looked to pass, but ultimately threw the game’s third interception. Owen Porter snagged the ball from the Irish.  

The defense came up with the stop again though as graduate student linebacker Bo Bauer blocked the punt and the Irish took the ball on the 32. Through a Marshall penalty, a sack, a completed pass and his own 13-yard run, Pyne managed to bring the Irish to the five. There, he found Mayer to break into the endzone for the Irish one last time. He failed the two-point conversion though, and the Irish fell 26-21.

After the game, Mayer officially broke the threshold of 120 career receptions, but he said he didn’t care about that. What he cared about was winning.

“I’m pretty frustrated because we lost but we’ll watch the film tomorrow. And Tuesday, we start preparing for Cal and, you know, hopefully, we get a win there and several [others],” Mayer said. “I mean you really can’t just sulk in these losses. I mean, we’re 0-2, yes, and it’s horrible, it’s horrible, but we’re just going to prepare for the next team. Try to execute the best we can execute and just keep playing.”

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Key moments in Notre Dame’s home opener loss to Marshall

Marshall scores first. 

At the end of a scoreless first quarter, Marshall was mid-drive. From their own 21, Henry Colombi led the Herd 79 yards over 10 plays in four minutes. Caleb McMillan snagged two first downs, pushing into Irish territory before the quarter ended. The Irish failed to make several tackles — a trend that persisted throughout the game — giving up what looked like a touchdown, only for it to be called back due to illegal motion on the Herd’s side. Jayden Harrison reels in another first down from Colombi, this time to put Marshall in the red zone to start the second. From the Irish 4, Laborn takes it up the middle to break the scoreless tie. Up 6, Marshall kicker Rece Verhoff missed the PAT wide right, but this initial lead ends up more than enough to bring the Herd a win. 

Fourth down attempts don’t work for either team. 

The ball was turned over on downs three times in this game. 

First, graduate student wide receiver Braden Lenzy was sent down the sideline several times for the Irish, some of the routes using his speed to eventually curl past his defender. He was then targeted inside the Marshall 20 yard line on an Irish fourth down attempt. While he snagged the ball, he came down just out of bounds, and the Irish turned it over. 

On the very next drive Marshall turned the ball over on downs as well, but the Irish couldn’t do anything with it. 

It was on Notre Dame’s second fourth down attempt that Marshall was able to convert. Sophomore running back Audric Estime was stuffed twice at the Notre Dame 48, and then Marshall took it down to the third yard line. Although the defense stopped a touchdown, Rece Verhoff buried a 20 yard attempt. 

Buchner practically doubles his rushing touchdowns

Buchner was a workhorse across the board this game. He threw for 201 yards and led the team with 44 rushing yards. Two of those yards came from both of his rushing touchdowns — the only two Irish rushing touchdowns on the day. With 3 minutes left in the second quarter, Buchner threw to tight end Michael Mayer, who was taken down at the one. He then snuck in around the left side for six points. On the second, he took the ball in for a QB sneak. Before this game he had three career rushing touchdowns. After the second, he was at five. Then, Freeman elected to go for two, and the Irish turned to Buchner again as he tucked, this time to the right, and claimed the two extra points. 

Irish offense falls apart in the fourth. Marshall scores back to back touchdowns.

The momentum from Buchner’s second touchdown didn’t hold out. After pinning them at the six, the Irish defense couldn’t hold Marshall back from another touchdown. On their drive to answer, the Irish found themselves with a three-and-out. They didn’t get the chance to punt though. Instead, Steven Gilmore intercepted Buchner’s pass. Gilmore took it back for a 37-yard pick six. This would be the last time Marshall scored. They led the Irish 26-15. 

Drew Pyne enters, hurts and helps the already dire situation.

The drive after the pick six, Buchner brought the Irish to the Marshall 26 from their own 25, before going down with a shoulder injury. Junior Drew Pyne then took the field in his place, and after an incomplete attempt to sophomore wide receiver Jayden Thomas, his pass was intercepted by Owen Porter. Porter then went down at the Marshall 19. The defense shut Marshall down quickly, and graduate student linebacker Bo Bauer was able to get behind the line to block the punt, leaving Pyne and Co. 32 yards from the end zone. Over seven plays and 32 yards, Pyne ran for 13. Marshall committed a penalty and then Pyne found Mayer for a 5-yard touchdown. Still, it wasn’t enough, and after Pyne couldn’t convert on the two points, the Irish remained down 26-21. 

The Irish attempted an onside kick but it was recovered by Marshall who kneeled to end the game, the second Irish loss of the season, 26-21. 

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Notre Dame vs. Marshall: Keys to Victory

Notre Dame proved to be a worthy opponent against the favored Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend. However, a scoreless second half was the nail in the coffin for the Irish to ultimately lose the matchup. Nevertheless, they beat the brutal 17.5-point spread and showcased the team’s potential. Next for the Irish is this weekend’s home opener against the Marshall Thundering Herd. Though the Irish are overwhelmingly favored in this matchup by the national press (also ranked the second-easiest game on the schedule by Observer Sports Staff), they must not be complacent and look past this game.  They will need to execute what was learned from the loss last weekend. Here are three key points for Notre Dame to capture a secure win and work on some of its shortcomings. 

  1. Less conservative play calling

Last weekend, Notre Dame came out to establish the run game and keep the ball out of the hands of the explosive Ohio State offense. This earned the Irish the lead through the end of the third quarter. However, the Buckeye defense soon adjusted and their changes were apparent and effective. In the second half, it appeared the Irish were playing not to lose, which ultimately resulted in their demise. Rees chose not to take shots downfield with deep passes and instead continued to repeatedly run the ball. This led to Buchner only completing 10 passes. There is lots of potential here this weekend, especially in a less risky game, for Rees to be more aggressive with the play calling. 

  1. Create holes for the running game

As mentioned above, the run game struggled last week against Ohio State. The lack of holes opened for the running backs proved to be a problem for the Irish in moving the chains. Last year, the offensive line was a weakness for the Irish. it was supposed to have been much improved with the return of coach Harry Hiestand. Missing an injured Jarret Patterson didn’t help but the O-line had its challenges blocking a fired-up Ohio State defensive line. There is still time to pick up the pieces, however, and against an undersized Marshall defensive line is the time to do it. 

  1. Don’t underestimate Marshall

Marshall begins its first season in the Sun Belt Conference after coming over from Conference USA. Head coach Charles Huff previously was an assistant at Alabama and Penn State and will have his team prepared. The Herd went 7-6 last year with four of those losses by a touchdown or less. Last weekend the Herd blew out FCS school Norfolk State in their first game of the season, capturing a 55-3 victory. QB Henry Colombi is a transfer from Texas Tech, so he has familiarity with big crowds having started five games as a Red Raider. Nevertheless, Marshall will be missing star running back Rasheen Ali. Ali rushed for over 1400 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. A difference maker on the field, he would have been someone for the Irish to watch out for.  

Though it seems like an easy path to victory for the Irish, The Thundering Herd has absolutely nothing to lose. They have some talent on both sides of the ball with the capability of keeping it close for a quarter or two. The Irish should not get sleepy this weekend as The Herd will surely be intense and looking to upset the Irish. Notre Dame must fix last week’s mistakes and continue to improve on the positives to handle Marshall and continue their march to the College Football Playoffs.

Madeline Ladd

Contact Madeline Ladd at mladd2@nd.edu

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Sports

The Observer grades each position and selects players to improve

Editor’s Note: Sports Editor Aidan Thomas contributed to this report.

With almost a week in the books since Notre Dame fell in the season opener, sports editor Aidan Thomas and associate sports editor Emily DeFazio handed out grades to each position group and discussed which players need to break out for the Irish in the coming weeks. 

Offensive Line

There were too many times that Buchner was left scrambling when the line broke. Moments of discombobulation cost the Irish some yardage and playmaking ability. The Irish averaged 0.4 yards before contact on running plays. By PFF, three of the Irish’s four lowest-rated players were offensive linemen. That is not to say the linemen are the only ones to blame or that they were ineffective. As Buchner himself said in the post-game press conference, it is his job as well to find protection. But the trend must continue upwards for this group, especially if Jarrett Patterson’s return is at all in question.

Thomas: D, DeFazio: C+

Wide Receiver

The 39 yards per catch by the wide receivers is eye-popping. The three total catches? Not so much. Some of the wide receiving corps had some highlight plays in Columbus, notably Lorenzo Styles, Jr. with his opening 54-yard gain and Matt Salerno with his recovery catch. Braeden Lenzy added a 32-yard reception. However, this group was not used to the extent it could be, and they weren’t getting open quickly.  They need to work out some issues and find a solid possession receiver so the Irish don’t have to lean on Michael Mayer on every crucial down.

Thomas: C+, DeFazio: B 

Quarterback

This grade can depend on what you were looking for. Buchner delivered a few electrifying moments, and he played turnover-free. It was a solid performance but one with a lot of room for improvement. Buchner seemed confident on the field. His strength was in his passing game, yet he didn’t exhibit it enough in the second half. He needs to get a consistent rhythm of passing and rushing to sure up this position group.

Thomas: A-, Defazio: B

Running Back

The running backs boast the only touchdown on the season so far with Audric Estime. But that will not be enough moving forward. This group averaged 2.5 yards per rush against OSU, which is not enough to have a major effect on the game. That being said, they also received little help from the offensive line, frequently getting hit at or behind the line of scrimmage. They have the talent in the likes of Estime, Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs to really step it up moving forward and to maybe even utilize Tyree in a receiver position should this group get locked down.

Thomas: B+, DeFazio: B- 

Tight End

The Irish tight ends notched six of the ten receptions in the passing game. Both Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman played a key role in the touchdown drive. This is where the strength of the offense is right now. Mayer is an instrumental player for the Irish, but only averaged 6.4 yards — after ending the 2021-22 season at an 11.8 average — and had an uncharacteristic bobble. This and missed blocks by him and Bauman dropped the position score.

Thomas: B+, DeFazio: A-

Defensive Backs

This position group objectively had the best showing at Ohio State. Cam Hart, Tariq Bracy and Clarence Lewis all showed up and helped hold Ohio State to its lowest number of points since 2018. The Irish also saw breakout performances from freshmen Jaden Mickey and Benjamin Morrison. We’re expecting big things from this group going forward and are excited to see them be a premium feature of our defense.

Thomas: A, Defazio: A  

Linebackers

It was good to see Marist Liufau back in Irish uniform; with a year of waiting under his belt, he and his pent-up energy will be a welcome addition to the ranks of JD Bertrand and Jack Kiser moving forward this season. The Irish were solid but had some slips and also didn’t make any disruptive plays, with zero sacks or tackles for loss. Those slip-ups and lack of impact play helped OSU to pull away late in the game.

Thomas: B+, DeFazio: A-

Defensive Line 

Pretty much the same problem for the defensive line. This group was not as effective as it needed to be and needs to consistently add pressure to matchups moving forward. Key players also need to play at the elite level they normally do; Isaiah Foskey may have notched four tackles against the Buckeyes, but he was not as dominant of a force as he usually is on the field. Additionally, the second unit needs to be more effective in relief, as the Irish wore down late in the Buckeyes’ final two touchdown drives. 

Thomas: B, DeFazio: B+

Special Teams 

The special teams unit saw a lot of action Saturday night. When the Irish were kicking or punting, they looked great. When they were receiving punts or kicks, the Irish struggled. They didn’t get a punt return off, and two kickoff returns averaged 11 yards. That played a big role in Notre Dame losing the field position battle all night. Blake Grupe’s kick was good to put the Irish on the board first, and Jon Sot was rock-solid in the punting game. This group needs to focus on tightening up their performance to where they are consistent every time they take the field.

Thomas: B-, DeFazio: B+

Two offensive players that need to breakout or improve

Thomas: Lorenzo Styles, Blake Fisher. Styles caught the first pass of the game, broke a tackle and ran for a 54-yard gain. He must provide that electricity but also more consistency. He only saw one more target and no more receptions. Blake Fisher also needs to be a rock at right tackle. He got beat in a critical moment on Saturday, forcing Buchner to rush a deep throw to an open Styles. That could have been a potential touchdown and a 17-7 Irish lead. Fisher (and the offensive line as a whole) must improve.  

DeFazio: Chris Tyree, Braden Lenzy. Tyree’s speed continues to amaze me. He needs to have a stellar season for the Irish, which may even include a position switch to receiver and must be a more dominant force on the field. Lenzy also has to focus on being more of a presence for the Irish offense. He only had one reception on the night at OSU; he needs to break out and be a consistent find for Buchner.

Two defensive players that need to breakout or improve

Thomas: Isaiah Foskey, Brandon Joseph. I’m turning to the star power here. They both played well on Saturday, but they weren’t disruptive. In those big games, the Irish need disruptive plays from their stars, and they really didn’t get them all day from either Foskey or Joseph. 

DeFazio: Marist Liufau, Rylie Mills. Liufau started the game off strong, but his energy seemed to dwindle in the second half. He has the capacity to be a key defender for the Irish if he focuses on bringing the same amount of energy on the final block as he does to the first. Rylie Mills had three tackles in Columbus, and also has the capacity for a breakout season. He looked pretty solid in the season opener.

Contact Aidan Thomas at athoma28@nd.edu and Emily DeFazio at edefazio@nd.edu.

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Sports

McGinley: This weekend, the Irish define themselves

Last weekend, the Irish fell 21-10 to the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Irish also started a brand new quarterback, under a brand new coach, with a brand new O-line coach. 

Last weekend, the Irish beat the spread, scored first and led for most of the game all while the defense took on the three-headed hydra that is the Buckeye offense under C.J. Stroud. 

Last weekend was a different game.

Now, the Irish home opener is upon us, and Notre Dame has a different set of goals to accomplish as they take on Marshall.

This weekend, the Irish define themselves.

Outside of pulling off a win, Notre Dame’s goals Sept. 3 had two major facets, at least from where I sat. First, keep the Buckeyes at bay. The Irish were headed into a massive stadium. They knew it would be loud, and it was. They knew it would be hostile, and it was. They knew they’d be the underdogs in a space like that, and they were.

Still, the Irish defense came bounding out of the tunnel for a sack, forced Stroud out of the pocket repeatedly and only allowed one touchdown in the first half. (The lowest first-half score the Buckeyes have seen under head coach Ryan Day.) They could have kept that pace too had the offense not been in a conservative mindset in the second half. The defense was on the field for quite some time and still only let up three touchdowns overall.

This weekend, however, the defensive goal unequivocally has to be to join in on the scoring. With a defensive-minded head coach and Al Golden in the coordinator chair, the Irish were ready. You wouldn’t have known in Ohio that the Irish lost their star safety and their starting nose guard from the year before if you didn’t know you were supposed to miss them. And that was against the number three team in the country. 

Now, the Irish will take on the Thundering Herd, and you can expect the defense to be everywhere. Even the cornerback room — arguably the most questionable unit on the defensive side of the ball — has stepped up to the challenge. Last weekend was a test of how good they are. Now, it’s time for a joy ride. Marshall is a strong enough opponent that it’s an important test run for just how dominant the defense can be, not just how long it can hold its own.

The second goal last weekend was for the Irish to look like they belonged on that field. Throughout the 12 years of the Kelly era, fans of college football have told a broader narrative that once the Irish made it to the big stage, they couldn’t hold their own. While there’s a lot more nuance to that discussion, the fact of the matter is the scores were never close. Whether the talent just wasn’t there for the Irish, they weren’t coached the same way or it was just a sheer mindset issue, the outcomes were often blowouts.

Last weekend, however, they led until the third, were only down by four until the fourth quarter and only lost by 11 points. The Irish were by no means out of that game at any point. A couple conservative calls from Tommy Rees came in the form of protection for Tyler Buchner behind Hiestead’s offensive line, all on the field for the first time. While they could have been game changers had they gone for it — as Freeman ultimately said he wanted to — Rees made the right decision. There’s a just as likely possibility that a brand new quarterback makes a mistake downfield under pressure towards the end of a long, loud, hostile game as there is that he makes the game-winning touchdown throw. The difference? This way, Rees took the game — and mentally, the season — off Buchner’s shoulders. He gave Buchner the opportunities to do what he came to do without putting a tinted filter on his entire season. 

Does this mean Rees doesn’t trust Buchner? Absolutely not. Rees read the room — or the stadium for that matter. He allowed the entire team a chance to prove themselves, not just Buchner. Jon Sot is a great example of this. He did his part as well as anyone, pinning the Buckeyes deep in their own half on several punts. Had Buchner taken a desperate shot downfield and it went poorly, that’s an entirely different mindset coming off the field, one no one needs to start their collegiate career with. The shots he did take, although they didn’t all land, looked promising. This is the weekend to put those to the test. Marshall can be a threat if the Irish let them. But if Buchner takes control under guidance from Rees, this game will be a great space to shore up comfort levels on the field before the season grows more difficult week to week.

While that 1 in the loss column is going to hurt all season, 11 points is no detrimental loss, especially when they came so late in the game. And, some of the concessions the Irish made then will not be on the table this weekend. Freeman already made it well known. He wants to be aggressive this weekend, so you won’t see that conservative play calling — nor should you. It’s time to define Notre Dame Football for the season. The Irish will enter Notre Dame Stadium ready to rack up the points on both sides of the ball and they’re fully capable of it.

Mannion McGinley


Contact Mannion and mmcginl3@nd.edu

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Sports

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

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Sports

Zwiller’s ZeLO Picks: Week 2

Well, Week 1 is officially in the books, and quite honestly, it could not have gone better. And yes, I include the Notre Dame loss in that, if only because ZeLO quite frankly nailed the pick. It still had Ohio State as a favorite, but by less than ESPN and (factoring in home-field advantage) had ND as a 10-point underdog. 

ND aside, ZeLO still had a solid performance. Through the model’s first eighteen games, it went 18-0, catching an unexpected stumble against Old Dominion (as did Virginia Tech). ZeLO closed the weekend going 65-18 and finished with a record of 73-21 (.776%), compared to ESPN’s 79-14 (FPI did not pick UCF). 

If you had told me that ZeLO would finish Week 1 only six games behind FPI, I would have taken it. The fact that the model is even competent is a win; I had no idea how this would go. And yes, ZeLO has some problems and shortcomings; I plan on discussing them later in a separate column. 

Right now, I want to give out some of the model’s picks. Last week’s picks went 3-1, so hopefully I can continue giving out some good ones.  

No. 1 Alabama @ Texas

I wish I could sit here and tell you that ZeLO did not think Alabama was all that impressive and that the spunky, underdog Texas team would knock off Saban’s NFL prep school. Even with home-field advantage (Texas ranks 13th), Alabama still has a 76% chance of victory.

Even though ZeLO has Texas covering, last weekend ZeLO picked a lot more underdog covers than anything else, and since this is Alabama, it would not shock me if Alabama beats the spread by the half. 

No. 24 Tennessee @ No. 17 Pittsburgh

This was a matchup I found interesting, if only because both ESPN and the gambling world were betting on Tennessee. The newly ranked Volunteers are currently a touchdown favorite over No. 17 Pitt. ESPN gives Pitt a 45.9% chance of winning, despite being ranked and at home. 

This is one of the few games — one of seven — where ZeLO disagrees with FPI and has the Panthers as the favorites with a 60.2% chance of victory. Not entirely comforting considering Pitt’s performance last weekend against WVU, but I digress. 

No. 20 Kentucky @ No. 12 Florida

Last week, after barely surviving Utah, the Gators are rewarded with an easier opponent … not much easier when you realize the opponent is also a Top-20 team. From a harder conference, but by poll logic, an easier team nonetheless.

ZeLO currently has Florida as a favorite with a 60.1% chance of staying undefeated, but the model does have Kentucky covering the +4.5 spread, so this should be a fantastic game. 

Arizona State @ No. 11 Oklahoma State

I picked this matchup only because ZeLO is pessimistic about Oklahoma State. 

While ESPN may have its golden child in Texas as the favorite to win the B12, ZeLO has Oklahoma State as one of the Top-3 finishers, with Texas closer to fifth or sixth. 

But as much as ZeLO likes OKSU, one of its more random favorites is Arizona State. Because Arizona State was not atrocious over the four-year sample ZeLO took, and because it had a positive Return+Recruit metric, the Sun Devils ended up being a solid team.  

But back to the game at hand: Considering we just saw OKSU look like it forgot how to play defense against Central Michigan, there might be an opportunity here. 

ZeLO has the Cowboys finding the win with a 50.1% chance of victory, but Arizona State finds a way to cover the 11-point spread. 

No. 9 Baylor @ No. 21 BYU

BYU has been one of the models’ favorite teams since I first started running it back in mid-June. So while I was surprised that BYU was a -3.5 favorite over a Top-10 team in the country, I was not as surprised as I should have been. 

And while this is one of those games where ZeLO seems to like Group 5 (and now independents) more than it should when they play Power 5 teams, ZeLO has BYU as a favorite to beat the Baylor Bears.

And not only is ZeLO giving the Cougars a 63.4% chance to beat Baylor, but it also has them as likely to beat their -3.5 spread.

Marshall @ No. 8 ND

I had two thoughts when I saw the graphic in last Friday’s edition of The Observer. The first was, “Wow, that graphic looks incredible.” The second was, “Good lord — I hope that pick is correct.”

The only way to lose credibility faster than picking against the home team in the home team’s newspaper is to pick against the home team in the home team’s newspaper and be wrong. 

Thankfully (or not, depending on how much you love ND), ZeLO was right and spared me the misfortune of picking wrong against ND. 

This week, though, to fulfill my contractual obligation of talking about ND, I must warn you that Notre Dame is facing … another loss. 

I’m kidding, I’m kidding; I just did that to see if you were paying attention. 

No, in reality, ND has a 62.5% chance of beating the Thundering Herd. And while yes, that seems low, that’s because I’m still working off my original projections for the season.

This is because in the past, when I have run ZeLO for the NFL, if you use Week 1 results your predictions get a little … weird. 

For example, last year’s Week 1 gave us the shocking result of Green Bay 3 and New Orleans 38. If I tried shoving that result into the model and the other random results (like the Eagles beating the Falcons 32-6), Week 2 would be bizarre. 

So, I trust my forecasting is somewhat good until four weeks into the season when hopefully, all the quirks have evened out. 

The same rule will apply here. So, ND is a little undervalued and Marshall is probably a little overvalued. ND should win, but Marshall should cover the 20-point spread. 

No. 10 USC @ Stanford

ZeLO already dunked on LSU once, so why not give it a chance to dunk on another team unpopular in South Bend? ZeLO has not once been a fan of the Trojans and will not become a fan until Week 4 at the earliest. I did not make a coaching adjustment this offseason, and USC has had no significant changes beyond its recruiting class adjustment. 

So while yes, ZeLO has a win for the Trojans, when they face a conference foe in Stanford, it will be a lot less likely than you think, 56.6%. Stanford does get the cover, though. 

Tom Zwiller

Contact Tom at tzwiller@nd.edu

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Sports

Week 2: Top 5 college football games to watch

Last weekend was a great weekend for college football. Besides Georgia’s annihilation of Oregon, most of the games that received media attention answered the bell. Week 2 presents an interesting slate of games, as some teams begin conference play. Many other Power 5 teams have tune-up games against lesser programs. Without further ado, here are my top 5 games to watch for week 2 of college football. (Lines are as of opening.)

5. USC @ Stanford, 7:30 p.m., ABC (USC -9.5)

After the Irish get done with Marshall this weekend, Notre Dame fans should turn to this game. This game will provide the first real look of the new USC under head coach Lincoln Riley. Riley was a home-run hire for the Trojans, after going 55-10 at Oklahoma and making the College Football Playoff three times. Joining him at USC via the transfer portal is quarterback Caleb Williams, also from Oklahoma, and star wide receiver Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh. In their first game, the Trojans dispatched a hapless Rice squad to the tune of 66-14.

Stanford should pose a greater challenge. Head coach David Shaw has a 94-45 record with the Cardinal but has struggled in recent years. Stanford is just 12-19 since the start of 2019. Leading the charge for the Cardinal is running back E.J. Smith, son of NFL rushing yards leader Emmitt Smith. The younger Smith ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-10 rout of Colgate last week. A win for Stanford would put them back into a potential conference championship discussion. A win for USC keeps their hype train rolling as they pursue a return to greatness.

4. Iowa State @ Iowa, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network (Iowa -3.5)

The intrastate rivalry for the Cy-Hawk trophy kicks off for the 69th time this weekend in Kinnick Stadium. Head coach Matt Campbell has built the program from the ground up since his arrival in 2016, leading what was a perennial doormat in the Big 12 to five straight bowl games. Quarterback Hunter Dekkers threw four touchdowns in his debut as Iowa State’s starting QB, a 42-10 win against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday. Running back Jirehl Brock looks to continue to fill big shoes left for him by NFL second-round draft pick Breece Hall.

Iowa is coming off of a game that would be atypical for any other program but is relatively par for the course for them. The Hawkeyes won an absolute slugfest with South Dakota State by a score of 7-3 last week. However, they did not score a touchdown. That’s right, the Hawkeyes scored a field goal and two safeties. Big Ten football. Linebacker Jack Campbell recorded 11 tackles and a safety to lead the Hawkeye defense. Punter Tory Taylor had seven punts downed inside of the 20-yard line. Can Iowa’s offense wake up and get the job done? Or will Matt Campbell record his first win in the rivalry? 

3. Kentucky @ Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN (Florida -4.5)

After a phenomenal upset win over then No. 7 Utah in Week 1, the Gators welcome another ranked foe into the Swamp. QB Anthony Richardson proved to everyone that he was not only capable of starting last weekend but that he could be a potential star in the making. Richardson rushed for three touchdowns and 106 yards in addition to completing 17 passes for 168 more. WR Ricky Pearsall, transferring in from Arizona State, made a great first impression by hauling in four catches for 67 yards. The Gator defense came up with crucial stops in their win over Utah last week, capped by Amari Burney’s game-sealing pick in the end zone.

They’ll have to keep the momentum going against Kentucky this week. The Wildcats are coming off of a 10-win season, tied for the second-best win total in school history. Last weekend, they trounced Miami (Ohio) by a score of 37-13. Quarterback Will Levis has been receiving NFL attention. Wide Receiver Tayvion Robinson impressed in his first game since transferring from Virginia Tech, catching six passes for 136 yards. Both teams desperately need the win in order to keep chase with Georgia for status as the top dog in the SEC East.

2. Baylor @ BYU, 10:15 p.m., ESPN (BYU -3.5)

A top-25 matchup in the late-night Saturday viewing window. What’s not to love? Baylor is coming off of a highly successful season, going 12-2, winning the Big 12, and finishing fifth in the country last year. Quarterback Blake Shapen has been on point ever since taking over the job in the conference championship game last year. The Bears opened their season with a 69-10 shellacking of Albany, extending their winning streak to six games since last season. Last year, Baylor beat BYU by a score of 38-24, but the Cougars are back with a vengeance this season.

BYU returns 97 percent of its offensive production from last season. Quarterback Jaren Hall looked great in a 50-21 win against South Florida, going 25/32 for 261 yards and two touchdowns. The offense looks explosive, and the defense can get it done. The Cougars are looking for a New Year’s Six bowl this year, loading up their schedule with the likes of Baylor, Oregon, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Stanford to appeal to the pollsters. This is the last year of independence for the Cougars, who are slated to join the Big 12 next season. Could this be a preview of future battles for Big 12 supremacy?

1. Alabama @ Texas, noon, FOX, (Alabama -20)

A giant clash in the heart of the Lone Star State. The Longhorns are coming off of a 52-10 win over Louisiana-Monroe in week 1 as quarterback Quinn Ewers gets used to the college game. Highly recruited out of high school, Ewers transferred to Texas after one year as a backup at Ohio State. He has the help of running back Bijan Robinson, who is one of the best running backs in college football this season. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian is looking to overcome the odds to bring home a massive win against his former boss, Nick Saban. 

Alabama is the class of college football. Quarterback Bryce Young is coming off of a Heisman-winning season. Linebacker Will Anderson is coming for blood this season after a ridiculous 17.5 sacks in 2021. The Crimson Tide destroyed their sacrificial lamb (Utah State) in a 55-0 game that might’ve been somehow more lopsided than the score indicated. There is no doubt that Saban, who is arguably the greatest coach in college football history, will have his team ready. The game is a noon kickoff, and weather forecasts predict a temperature of 95 degrees, which could feel even hotter on the field. College Gameday and Fox are bringing their pregame shows. Everything is bigger in Texas, and this game is no different.

Joseph Tunney

Contact Joseph at jtunney@nd.edu