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Notre Dame Football

Bo Bauer Hurt, But Motivated to Leave Notre Dame Better Than He Found It

September 14, 2022

Bo Bauer felt no different than any other player leaving the field inside Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday afternoon. 

The Irish linebacker was angry and disappointed, but Bauer knew he still had a larger responsibility at hand as a captain. He couldn’t sulk publicly as Notre Dame has 10 more games to play and a season to salvage. 

For Bauer, the toughest moments came in the locker room realizing Notre Dame was 0-2. 

“It's looking the other guys in the eye,” stated Bauer. “They voted me a captain, which is the biggest honor you can have in team sports. I take that very seriously, but I walk around, look every guy in the eye and know that I let them down in some way.

“The burden of leadership here is super high and it hurts me every time, but these guys are great. Obviously, this hurts, but they take it the right way. You watch practice today and it's very intense, the guys are right back out there working.” 

Notre Dame has suffered some tough defeats during Bauer’s time in the blue and gold. He’s experienced the ups and downs of playing college football under the bright lights, yet Saturday was perhaps one of the worst moments of Bauer’s life. 

“It's the most sickening, horrible thing that I've probably ever had to experience in my life,” explained Bauer. “It's not because I feel like I lost the game. It's that I'm here for my brothers and they trusted me.

“I've been here for five years. We don't lose games like that. I don't know if I've ever lost two football games back to back in my entire life, especially not in this fashion.” 

Bauer is like most Notre Dame fans. There are more questions than answers. The last 10 months have been full of momentum and everyone around the program will tell you there wasn’t a drop off in work ethic. 

In fact, most will tell you it increased and that includes Notre Dame having its most physical preseason camp in years. The questions only add to Bauer’s emotions, but it could be a good thing despite looking at the 0-2 hole. 

“I'm really pissed off,” said Bauer. “This team is pissed off. We're really ready to go, just to unleash our potential. Something about this is not right and we're figuring out, but I love these guys and how we're handling it.

“Man, the level of preparation and sacrifice that these guys have put in, it just doesn't make sense right now.”

The angry Bauer feels echoes throughout the locker room. The feeling isn’t something this program is used to, but there is still a belief the Irish can get the train back on track and it starts with guys people like Bauer who are willing to do anything for Notre Dame. 

“I believe in the people here,” Bauer explained. “I believe in Notre Dame and that we're going to get through this. I don't believe there's gold on the other side of the rainbow somewhere else. This is the best place in the country to be and I don't care what anybody says, no matter what the media projects on us, whatever the haters project on us, I love this program and I'm willing to die to protect it.

“If that takes me just being like, this is the worst feeling in the world and wear that to help these guys take steps through it, then that's good enough. But I want to make sure these guys walk out of here knowing that we reached our full potential after this upset - after this obstacle.” 

What will carry Notre Dame through the early season adversity? Leadership. 

And no, Bauer isn’t focused on the thoughts of the other five captains. The Pennsylvania native has embraced Freeman’s mantra of having a team of leaders, so Bauer challenged players who weren’t captains to rise their level of leadership. 

"Listen, I just didn't talk to the captains,” stated Bauer. “If your team has six captains and those are the only six leaders, then you have a huge problem. I went and talked to the 20 guys, the 15 guys who I think are real leaders on the team, guys who have positions of influence, guys who drive this program and said, ‘Hey, first off, I want to make sure the brotherhood is going to stick together because when something happens like that, you get rattled.’

“There's plenty of games this season to redeem ourselves. There's plenty of good teams on this schedule that we can come back and fight. We might not be in the position anymore that we wanted, but there's still a lot of things that we can do to respect and continue on the pride and tradition of Notre Dame.”

Pain is another feeling going around The Gug this week. For Bauer, it comes in realizing he won’t play for a National Title and the goal has now changed to leaving the program better than he found it back in 2018. 

“The hurt probably will never leave me,” Bauer said. “I don't know if it ever will. It's not like you walk around drooping your head type of deal. It's like I'm burning passionately to give these guys what I can in my time that's left.

“I didn't come back here to be a 6-6 team my fifth year after everything we've accomplished. I'm here to give these guys a trajectory I think they deserve. There's so many guys that I've learned from that I want to pass on to the next generation if I can't be here for the National Championship. I want them to have that opportunity.” 

The public won’t ever know the details of Bauer’s conversations with his teammates or the lessons he’s passing on, but he demonstrated his leadership on Tuesday as he was more than willing to take one for his teammates. 

“At the end of the day, I'm a captain,” explained Bauer. “I have to take extreme ownership for what's happened. If anybody wants to give us a hard time or answer hard questions, I'd rather it be me and let those guys focus on the next game. I'll take the blows. I'll take whatever needs to be done so we can win this next game.” 

Notre Dame will look to get its first win of the season and the Freeman era on Saturday against Cal, who enters the game 2-0. 

The Golden Bears will be greeted by a frustrated Irish squad that has 100 percent belief in its head coach and willing to put in the work to make sure Freeman gets his first win in front of a green stadium. 

“If something's not working, you have to work,” Bauer said. “Sometimes it's not just, bang, bang, bang of doing the same thing. Work harder and smarter. Like Coach Free is never going to pull the reigns back on anything. He's just going to find a different way that's smarter.

“I totally believe in what he preaches. I don't care what anybody says just because we haven't had the outcomes that we want right now, it doesn't reflect what this program is about and how hard these guys have worked.” 

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