Categories
Sports

“Find the better way”: Captain Bo Bauer talks leadership, ownership ahead of Cal

It’s no secret that, at 0-2, the Notre Dame football team is feeling some pressure. And the leadership position that being a captain of said team can certainly amplify that pressure.

This certainly rings true for 2022 captain Bo Bauer. After Notre Dame’s home opener loss against Marshall, the fate of Marcus Freeman’s debut season hangs in the balance. Especially with sophomore starting quarterback Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury, the Irish have had to rethink their entire game plan moving forward.

In addition to restructuring the offense around junior Drew Pyne, the defense has had to take a hard look at itself to see what needs improvement in order to prevent fourth-quarter games of catchup. For Bauer, this review began with a self-evaluation as a player and a captain.

“The first thing I said is ‘what could I have done to, you know, get these guys to the point,’” Bauer said. “We’ve had great leaders who have not let the standard fall. And now that’s on my shoulders.”

Such high standards make a tough loss like the one to Marshall an even tough pill to swallow. Bauer said that the days following Marshall have been difficult. But that this defeat was also a motivating factor for him.

“It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, is to walk around the locker room and look these guys in the eye who’ve given me the greatest gift, the greatest trust in my life to be a captain and lead these guys,” Bauer said. 

The team bond has added an emotional level to the issues at hand. Bauer said that the strong relationships he and his teammates have with each other influence the push to make a play happen. This can also lead to a strong response when it does not go their way.

“I think a lot of the times that it comes down to the guys, we all love each other so much that we wanna make the play,” Bauer said. “And not for some selfish reason or something. It’s ‘we want to win the game together to see our brothers happy and successful’ and we just kind of have to make the game smaller. Just, ‘look, what’s my job this play’ and do that over and over and over again.”

For Bauer, he has focused in on his role on defense. Despite the defense looking like the Irish’s strong suit, they have run into issues in their execution.

“We have to attack the ball,” he said. “Two games, no takeovers. Now it’s starting to be like ‘we have to take ownership for that.’”

Bauer himself posted two tackles on the day Saturday. But the defense was unable to stop some of the “X-plays” Marshall threw at them. According to Bauer, frustration over this stems from the fact that they are consistently working well in practice.

“There’s 11 angry guys out there every snap on defense trying to knock back the tacklers, put them on the ground,” he said of himself and his fellow defenders. “We’re taking it very personally that that kind of didn’t go that way [in the games].”

Moving forward, Bauer said it all comes down to one question: “When it matters the most, can you do what you need to do?” Despite the love the team has for each other and the effort they are putting into practice, the execution of what they learned in their training is where it matters most. If they cannot perform on the field, what they did in practice can risk proving futile.

“We just need to be better,” Bauer said. “I’m willing to find the better way, whatever that may be, and do whatever it takes to get us heading in the right direction.”

Contact Emily at edefazio@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

Golden, Rees coordinate plan for major changes 

After a devastating defeat against unranked Marshall, the Irish are looking to regroup and revitalize this weekend at home against Cal. The loss of sophomore starting quarterback Tyler Buchner due to injury threw an even bigger wrench for the Irish. Both the defense and offense came out flat in last week’s game. And there is a dire need for improvement on both sides of the ball. 

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and defensive coordinator Al Golden shared similar sentiments about their mindsets and where they hope to go. Taking accountability and standing behind Marcus Freeman and the team, both coaches are determined to fix the mistakes of the last two weeks.

‘It all starts with me’

The Notre Dame offense has consistently fallen short this season. Shortcomings and red flags seen during the Ohio State game were only exemplified in the disappointing performance against Marshall. Buchner’s inaccuracy on deep passes coupled with the lack of holes created by the offensive line made it difficult for the Irish to move the chains. With Buchner out, however, junior quarterback Drew Pyne could be the switch the Irish need. Experienced and ready to assume Buchner’s role as starting quarterback, Pyne brings a different perspective to the table.

“Drew’s care factor is about as high as anyone you can be around,” Rees said. “I told Drew, we are in a tough spot right now and we need you here. Drew knows the playbook and has respect for his teammates. He’s prepared himself for this for a long time.”

Though this new change will certainly shake things up on offense, Rees foresees it as a way to pivot and create enhanced offensive play. 

“There’s certainly things that Tyler does at a high level that we’ll adjust to or pivot from,” Rees said. “We have a lot of faith and trust in Drew, and we are building that in Steve Angeli right now. Our job is to make sure these two guys are ready to go and play in a football game.”

Rees recognizes that the success of the offense stems from him, and he takes ownership of the team’s performance. Rees’ play calling has been largely conservative, so it will be interesting to see what he does this weekend.

“It all starts with me,” Rees said. “I have to be better, I have to do more to make sure everybody knows what is expected and what needs to be done. We are extremely driven to make sure that we will fix what we need to.”

Rees “believe[s] there can be expansion in the playbook” and must put players in a place that is advantageous to the offense. Running back Chris Tyree, said to be a key asset for the Notre Dame offense this year, has seen little action on the field. 

“We have to continue to find ways to get the guys who will make our offense more explosive and get more touches,” Rees said. “Tyree certainly falls under that category.” 

Despite all the negatives on the offense, there were some good moments. Rees emphasized the importance of recognizing these positives to stay motivated and replicate them while replacing the negatives. 

“There are positives and you gotta find them,” Rees said. “We need to make sure that everyone is doing their job and improving.”

‘We have to do a better job tackling, number one’

The Irish expected their defense to be a huge strength. But so far, their performance has been less than stellar. Missed tackles. No turnovers. Collapsing at the end of long drives at the end of the game. All of these problems have plagued the Irish defense. Though they were able to keep the points down, the defense needs to step up. Golden recognizes this, feeling “disappointed by not discouraged” by the early results, getting straight to the point.

“We have to do a better job tackling, number one,” Golden said. “And our fourth quarter execution has to improve. That’s on me, I have to do a better job putting them in a position to execute in the fourth quarter, and we have to do a better job tackling as a unit in general.”

Golden’s ownership of the team’s shortcomings is similar to that of Rees, highlighting the accountability of both coordinators.

“We can mix it up and do a better job,” Golden said “We’ve limited explosives and have kept the points down. But what we haven’t done is turn the field on a takeaway. So takeaways, more hits and sacks on the quarterbacks are things we can do a better job of.”

These elements, especially an increasing emphasis on tackling, could make all the difference for the Irish defense. However, despite the chaos, Golden recognized the three defensive captains as providing a constant for the Irish defense the past two weeks.

“(Isaiah) Foskey has shown leadership and a late in-game energy. We have to keep finding the matchup for him and help him get pressure on the quarterback,” Golden said. “JD Bertrand’s been very good in terms of setting the front and communication. Bo Bauer’s obviously doing a great job on special teams. Very pleased with all three of these guys but at the same time disappointed, because they’ve worked very hard and aren’t getting the results that they deserve. They gotta keep fighting and good things will happen.”

Preparing for Saturday

Golden, Rees, and the rest of the coaching staff are looking at everything from “the top down.” Though the Irish have not started strong, there is no denying they are trying hard to turn things around. Not taking things for granted and recognizing the importance of each play, Rees says, is the name of the game this weekend.

“Anytime you play this game the margins between wins and losses are very small,” Rees said. “You can have a number of losses that get masked because you won the game. We must not take things for granted. Play in and play out, it matters how everyone does their job.”

Contact Maddie Ladd at mladd2@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

The Observer predicts Cal vs. Notre Dame

Emily DeFazio, Associate Sports Editor

I am not sure where to begin in predicting Saturday’s outcome; I have few words left after having to eat so many of them last week. The Irish would have to win out in order for my 10-2 season prediction to be correct, and with USC and Clemson still left to take on, I have my doubts.

The offense was already struggling, and the loss of sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner is a tough pill to swallow. I have mixed feelings about junior quarterback Drew Pyne stepping in. It is certainly his time to shine, but he will have to do just that. Interceptions like Saturday cannot happen moving forward. However, this is an opportunity for Rees to structure a solid game plan that involves more than just the run game. Pyne has proven he can pass the ball well, and he should be allowed to do so.

I am counting on those sporadic moments of greatness he posted on the field last year to grow now that he is securely in the QB1 position. Utilize juniors Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman for some tight end touchdowns Saturday. Should the offense rally under this new leadership, and the defensive line tighten up their play, I see the Irish coming away with their first win of the season. Albeit a close one.

ND 24, Cal 17

Nate Moller, Senior Sports Writer

Notre Dame Stadium is usually one of my favorite places in the world. But it was far from it last Saturday. The Irish looked truly awful throughout most of the game. With Freeman being 0-3 as a head coach, this game feels like a must-win. Without Buchner at quarterback, that will make getting a win much more difficult. Cal is by no means a strong power five team. But they have shown that they can close out games, which is something Notre Dame has yet to do. Running back Jaydn Ott has averaged an impressive 6.5 yards per carry this season. Stopping his production will be key for the Irish.

If the Irish are going to win this game, the offensive and defensive lines need to be much better than the mess that was Marshall. If Pyne doesn’t have time to pass and the run game can not be established, the Irish could be in trouble yet again. I think this is going to be a sloppy game. And while it may not be a good win, I do expect Notre Dame to find a way to get into the win column. A late Michael Mayer touchdown gives the Irish just enough offense to edge out the Golden Bears.

Notre Dame 14, Cal 13

Liam Coolican, Associate Sports Editor

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the Irish’s struggles, look no further. Not only did I predict the team would go 11-1 and make the CFP, I also wrote last week that “Notre Dame doesn’t lose trap games.” The good news is, my predictions, much like Notre Dame’s fortunes, can’t get much worse. Drew Pyne clearly wasn’t ready to come into the game last week, but he showed flashes of brilliance last year and I believe he can be a solid, if not spectacular, quarterback at this level. However, the Irish do have to adjust their offense substantially to play to Pyne’s strengths rather than Buchner’s in just a week’s time.

It might be another slow start for the Irish as the offense takes time to get used to Pyne under center. But the defense will keep them in the game against a lackluster Cal offense. Notre Dame should be more fired up and better prepared than they were a week ago. Pyne will get rolling in the second half, and the defense will come up with a couple of big plays in the fourth quarter. It may take a late score, but the Irish will pull this one out.

Notre Dame 24, Cal 17

Mannion McGinley, Assistant Managing Editor

The Irish have started the season 0-2 for the first time since 2011. Seeing as that’s as many losses as I predicted on the season as a whole, the Irish are not where I expected them to be. Losing Buchner on top of that was just salt in the wound. There’s potential in the change up though, especially this week. Cal may be 2-0, but the Irish need the win and this is the space to get it. Plummer is a quarterback the Irish D-line knows, and knows well. They need to get to him just as they did when he played for Purdue.

In terms of Irish offense, it’s not perfect. But Pyne’s structure may be the answer to ending the passing touchdown drought. Both UC Davis and UNLV were able to score through the air on Cal. This should mean the Irish can as well. The defense gets the takeaway they’ve been striving for. And while it’ll be tight, some of the pieces finally come together. At the risk of losing any credibility, Irish win. 

Notre Dame 21, Cal 17

Madeline Ladd, Associate Sports Editor

To be honest, I’m not sure what to say here after the devastation last week. Coupled with the loss of Buchner, there are a lot of question marks going into this weekend. However, though Notre Dame is down, they are not out. They will certainly be coming into the weekend hungry, and the changes made on offense may prove to be beneficial.

But Cal’s defense is no joke. The Notre Dame offense, now led by Pyne, will need to get it together in order to come out with the victory. I predict that Pyne will be efficient and throw for two TD’s. I see junior running back Chris Tyree with more action on the ground as well. The defensive line will control the weaker Cal offensive line, not fading in the second half as they have in the previous two games. This is a game well within the Irish’s wheelhouse and I think they can pull off the win. But it certainly won’t be pretty.

Notre Dame 17, Cal 13

Aidan Thomas, Sports Editor

Gross. I predicted Notre Dame to go 10-2 this season, which, I guess, is technically still in play. However when you lose a game that I personally ranked seventh-hardest on the schedule and start 0-2, that 10-2 dream is on very thin ice — but still alive.

The Irish currently have no semblance of an offense. They’ve scored just 31 points, blowing a bevy of opportunities over the first couple of weeks. Untimely penalties, missed open deep shots, interceptions and no running game have thwarted the Irish offense at nearly every turn. Now they turn to longtime backup Pyne to make things right.

He must do so against a Cal defense that is stiff against the pass but has experienced struggles against the run. The lead back for each Cal opponents this year averages 7.1 yards per carry. The Irish need to assert themselves in the trenches and dominate a below-average Cal offense. Notre Dame must win ugly this year. Hopefully, that trend starts on Saturday.

Notre Dame 24 Cal 13

Categories
Sports

Notre Dame’s keys to victory against Cal

Marcus Freeman is still searching for his first win as a head coach, after starting his career off 0-3. Prior to the season, many predicted that this weekend’s matchup would be a walk in the park for the Irish. But the season has not gone as planned for anyone in South Bend.

Oddsmakers, however, still believe in the Irish, as they are currently listed as 11-point favorites heading into the contest. Notre Dame will certainly have to make some adjustments if they hope to get the victory Saturday afternoon. Here are three keys to victory.

Get Tyree the ball

One of Notre Dame’s most dynamic offensive threats has been largely absent from their game plan thus far. Star junior running back Chris Tyree has gotten just 12 touches for 65 total yards through the team’s first two games. In the defeat against Marshall, he carried the ball just three times.

By comparison, sophomore running Audric Estime has 10 carries, while sophomore Logan Diggs has seven. Estime and Diggs are certainly talented, but they are averaging just 2.8 and 1.5 yards per carry on the year, respectively. While Tyree only has nine carries on the season, he is averaging an impressive five yards per attempt. 

Tyree is also known to be a threat in the passing game. However, he has caught just three passes so far. Getting Tyree touches will be especially important in this game as the offense will still be adjusting to a new quarterback under center. Establishing the running game will be important. But neither Diggs nor Estime have been overly impressive.

Tyree has certainly done enough to have earned the feature back role. If Freeman hopes to get his first win Saturday, he should make sure the ball is in Tyree’s hands early and often.

Limit the Bears’ Passing Attack

Irish fans might be familiar with Golden Bears’ quarterback Jack Plummer, who transferred from Purdue this offseason. Notre Dame handled the Boilermakers 27-13 at home last year. But Plummer played well. Although he didn’t put up spectacular numbers, Plummer completed a solid 25 of 36 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown.

Plummer has looked solid so far in his new uniform. He threw for 278 yards in Cal’s victory over UNLV last week, and 268 yards and three touchdowns the week prior against UC Davis. As a team, the Bears have rushed for just 119.5 yards per game against mediocre competition. So the Irish would do well to limit Plummer and force the Bears to beat them on the ground.

This might be a favorable matchup for Notre Dame, as the Irish secondary has been a bright spot so far this year. Against Ohio State, they held star quarterback C.J. Stroud, who many predicted to be a Heisman contender, to 223 yards through the air. For reference, Stroud averaged nearly 370 yards per game in 2021. Meanwhile, the Irish held the Thundering Herd to under 150 yards passing last week. If they can continue this trend on Saturday, Notre Dame will put themselves in a good position to walk away with the victory. 

Win the turnover battle 

This one’s pretty simple. One of the main reasons why Notre Dame was competitive against Ohio State was because they took care of the football. Against Marshall, sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner tossed two interceptions, including a late pick-six which seemed to kill any energy that was left in Notre Dame Stadium. To make matters worse, junior quarterback Drew Pyne came in and immediately threw an interception of his own.

Notre Dame hasn’t been getting any extra possessions on the defensive side, either. According to Pete Sampson of The Athletic, Notre Dame is one of just eight teams that has yet to force a turnover. A year ago, the Irish finished top-20 in the nation with a turnover margin of plus-9.

It’s not a promising trend, and it’s one the Irish will likely have to reverse if they hope to get their first win of the year. The Golden Bears have turned the ball over three times this year but have also forced three turnovers on defense. Notre Dame must be able to take care of the football on offense and force Plummer into mistakes. 

Categories
Sports

Moller: Freeman Era teetering on brink of disaster

It’s hard to believe that just last week, there were many Notre Dame fans across the country expecting the Irish to finish the season 11-1 after a hard-fought loss to Ohio State in the opening week of the season. Fast forward a week and the narrative is completely different following a stunning Irish defeat to the Marshall Thundering Herd.

Being a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, I have faced plenty of lows. USC’s reign of terror over the Irish during the Charlie Weis era. A 3-9 season in 2007. The national championship blowout loss to Alabama in 2013. A 4-8 season in 2016. And of course, the pair of recent CFP losses.

Despite all of those painful memories, this might be an all-time low for me. That Marshall game will forever be burned into my head as I sat in the student section in utter disbelief. Notre Dame usually finds a way to win games like that one. But that just wasn’t the case last Saturday. I had never left a Notre Dame football game early. But I did on Saturday after the Drew Pyne interception because I didn’t want to waste more time on a team that had looked lackluster and effortless all day.

Last December, when Marcus Freeman was announced as head coach, I had full faith in Freeman. I truly believed that he would be the coach to finally get the Irish to a national title. After a stunning 0-3 start to the Freeman Era, I am now beyond skeptical.

In each of Freeman’s three losses, the Irish have led in the second half and have looked like the better team in parts of each game. And just like clockwork in all three of the games, the team utterly collapses, forgets how to play defense in the fourth quarter and fails to execute late in the game. It’s one thing to have less talent than the other team and be outplayed. But that hasn’t really been the case in any of the three losses. In each of those games (yes, even Ohio State), the Irish proved they had the talent to go toe-to-toe with their opponent and win the game.

Ultimately, those close losses come down to one thing: coaching. The Irish have been out-coached in each of the three losses, and ultimately, that has been the difference. I could point fingers at offensive coordinator Tommy Rees as well, but I think the problem has been bigger than him so far. This is, after all, the Freeman Era. This is Coach Freeman’s football team. There has to be some sense of urgency in this football program, and I don’t get the sense there is right now. A loss to Marshall should be a big deal. But it seems like the fanbase and media are waving if off like everything is going to be alright.

Freeman said after the loss to Oklahoma State in the bowl game that the “honeymoon phase is over.” After the atrocious beginning to this season, the relationship is even more than post-honeymoon strained now. Freeman must do everything in his power to right the sinking ship that is Notre Dame this season. Even though the Irish will be playing mostly for pride here on out, Freeman has to energize his team and get them back to playing Notre Dame football.

I haven’t given up on Freeman this yet. But I am angry, confused and anxious. The recruiting has been great under Freeman, and I still believe Freeman can be a great head coach at Notre Dame. But I need to see something from him this year that proves that to me.

For that reason, this weekend at Cal is a must-win game for Coach Freeman. Another loss at home to a sub-par opponent will raise even more doubts about Freeman and could send this season into free-fall — if it isn’t already.

So, what do the Irish need to do to get into the win column? Losing sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner to a season ending injury certainly isn’t going to help, but hopefully the team can rally around Drew Pyne. If Pyne is going to be successful, though, the offensive line has to improve drastically. The Irish have failed to establish a run game in both games this season. And that, in turn, has made it difficult to find consistency in the passing game. The Irish should have three solid backs in junior Chris Tyree and sophomores Audric Estime and Logan Diggs. Now is the time to get those three going offensively.

Aside from the offensive line, the Irish need to take care of the football. They didn’t do that at the end of the Marshall game, and it arguably made the difference. The Irish might find themselves in a lot of low scoring games and handing the opposing team good field position will cost the Irish greatly.

The defense has not been the issue this season. But they have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback, recording only three sacks this season. Senior defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey has been relatively quiet for the Irish this season. He needs to energize the Irish front seven going forward and generate some turnovers to help out a struggling Irish offense.

Let’s take a quick detour and look back to 2011, the last time the Irish started 0-2. Last week was not the first time the Irish suffered a horrible loss in the home opener. In fact, in Brian Kelly’s second season as head coach, the Irish lost the home opener to South Florida — a game I was actually at as an excited ten-year old Notre Dame fanatic. Despite the loss, the Irish managed to finish a respectable 8-5 and beat some quality opponents. The following season, the Irish completed a perfect 12-0 regular season.

I see plenty of parallels between last week’s Marshall game and the South Florida game. And if the Irish can clean up a couple of the things I mentioned, there’s no doubt in my mind that Notre Dame can get some wins this year and build confidence into next season.

These next few weeks are crucial, though. The Freeman Era is currently teetering on the brink of disaster and how this football team finishes out this year will be pivotal in Marcus Freeman developing himself as a legitimate head football coach. Marcus Freeman, I am rooting for you. But it’s time to win some football games. If these losses keep cascading into more defeats, the Freeman Era might burn out as quickly as it took over.

Contact Nate Moller at nmoller2@nd.edu

Categories
Sports

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.

Categories
Sports

Breaking: Buchner out for the season with shoulder sprain

At Monday’s press conference, Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Marcus Freeman announced that starting quarterback Tyler Buchner would be out for the remainder of the season. The sophomore suffered a high-grade shoulder sprain, an injury, Freeman says, Buchner will have surgery for and the recovery will take about four months.

The sophomore led the Irish offense for the first three-quarters of Saturday’s home opener against Marshall before he took a major hit in the fourth quarter on his 13th carry of the day. Buchner took off on a draw to the left and was crushed under two Marshall defenders along the Notre Dame sideline.

The signal caller had been 18 for 32 on completions with 2 interceptions. He led the Irish in rushing yards and added two rushing touchdowns to his tally before unceremoniously exiting the game, with Drew Pyne taking over.

According to Freeman, the Irish will turn to junior Drew Pyne as the starter going forward with freshman Steve Angeli as the backup.

“We are still very optimistic and very positive about our future,” Freeman said, adding he trusted both Buchner and Pyne to take the Irish through the season.

Freeman says Pyne will go with the ones and Angeli will go with the twos, splitting reps around 60/40. Under Pyne, 0-2 Notre Dame will take on 2-0 California at home on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m.

Categories
Sports Uncategorized

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
Categories
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.”

Categories
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.