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Notre Dame Football

Irish D Vows Same Mindset, Better Execution

September 7, 2021

The mindset for the Notre Dame defense Sunday at Florida State wasn't matched by the reality on the field.

Not for a full four quarters, after the Fighting Irish defense flat-out dominated the host Seminoles through the first quarter and then barely withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally in a 41-38, overtime-win.

None of that is changing the approach this week, as Notre Dame prepares for its home opener against Toledo Saturday inside Notre Dame Stadium (2:30 p.m., Peacock Streaming Platform).

“Going into Florida State, our mindset was just be dominant and just imposing our will onto their offensive line and quarterback and running back,” said Isaiah Foskey, who accounted for two of Notre Dame's five sacks and finished with eight tackles. “Whoever comes in our way.

“But that's just the same mindset that we're going into Toledo. Our mindset does not change.”

Foskey didn't just face the Seminoles in the scheme of Freeman, the heralded assistant Notre Dame plucked away from Cincinnati in the offseason after Clark Lea departed for the top job at Vanderbilt.

Rather, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Foskey also played a new position: linebacker.

“I feel like Florida State, we just knocked off the rust and we're just coming back, better than we did at Florida State,” he said. “We're coming back in Toledo, and we're going to be home. Everyone's happy, everyone's excited about the game, just to move forward and go against Toledo.”

Foskey, who said he isn't sure which NFL player he would mimic on the field, admitted the linebacker role has mandated a bit more mental preparation.

“I haven't actually looked at linebackers in the league,” Foskey said. “I've just been watching film of our practices. I don't even know if there's a 6-5, 260-pound middle linebacker out there. I know there probably is.

“(Coach Freeman) just said you're going to be playing middle linebacker, go make a play. He already knew I could make that play, he already knew my athleticism with Justin (Ademilola) and Jordan (Botelho) and Kahanu (Kia), we could make plays there.”

Weakside linebacker JD Bertrand praised Freeman's approach and said simply the Irish must better execute.

“I think there's just an execution piece [for the next step], and so going from there, I love what Coach Freeman is doing,” Bertrand said. “He does a great job emphasizing fundamentals like not going 1-for-1, being able to get off a block and make a play. Just getting to the ball.

“At the end of the day, effort and attitude is going to overcome everything, any kind of mistakes. I think just sticking to those things.”


Michael Mayer dropped a key pass in each half, but he also finished with his first career 100-yard receiving game and scored the Irish's first touchdown of the 2021 season.

After he went glove-less in the first half, Mayer added back the mitts in the second half.

“Going into the game, I knew it was going to be hot, I knew it was going to be humid; I'm a big sweater, so I knew my hands would get pretty sweaty,” said the Notre Dame tight end. “I worked in gloves in the week leading up to the game, and the gloves kept getting wet, kept getting slippery. So I told myself, all right, let's try no gloves. I think the last two practices (before FSU), I didn't do any gloves and it was working out pretty well for me.

“So I tried no gloves in the first half and had that drop, so I put some gloves on and wore gloves in the second half.”

Mayer said he quickly identified what led the dropped passes from quarterback Jack Coan, who still connected with Mayer nine times for 120 yards.

“Went back on film. I knew what I did wrong. I hope it's never going to happen,” Mayer said. “I've been working on it. First game of the season, I was pretty eager. What I was do I was turning my head and running upfield before I actually caught the ball.

“Learn from it, get better from it.”

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