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Notre Dame Football

Freeman Confident in Notre Dame Quarterbacks Heading into Road Trip

September 22, 2022

Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne will be the first to tell you the start to last weekend’s game against Cal wasn’t up to standard. 

It’s easy to see Pyne being nervous or too excited for his first start at his dream school. The moment ended in Pyne fighting through it and getting Notre Dame its first win of the season. 

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees saw it as a teaching moment and believe Pyne will respond this week as the Irish travel to North Carolina. 

“I think he was trying to force the ball, force plays early in the game,” stated Freeman. “He was making uncharacteristic mistakes and that’s a reflection of maybe your first start. Everybody talks about the case of the yips you see amongst all sports. Easy throws he usually makes, he was throwing a little bit low and we weren’t helping him.” 

Freeman is right. Notre Dame’s offense didn’t help Pyne much over the first five drives as there were false starts, drops and missed protections. 

“We have to help him as an offense and make sure we’re catching the ball,” explained Freeman. “It might be a little low, but we have to make sure we catch the ball. Some of those balls were uncatchable, but that was just something we have to make sure we’re helping him. Getting the snap, that’s on him. 

“I know Drew feels strongly about his performance and how he starts a game. I know he’s working on it. I don’t think you’ll see a repeat performance to start a game. We have the utmost confidence in him.”

Rees has been in Pyne’s spot and wants his quarterback to focus on being one part of the Irish offense and to simply do this job. 

“When you talk about 1/11th, it’s about doing your job,” Freeman said. “I think that’s what Coach Rees is trying to convey to him and everybody. It’s about doing your job. Whatever it is your job to do, you have to accomplish it. All 11 people have to do their job.” 

And yes, Rees might have used a few other words to tell Pyne to do his job on Saturday that drew national attention. 

Football is an intense game, especially when Notre Dame is 0-2, and Freeman didn’t see anything wrong with Rees coaching Pyne hard in the moment. 

“You don’t treat every player the same in terms of how you coach them,” said Freeman. “You treat them in terms of what will help them respond in the right way. In the moment, that’s what Drew needed. Drew will be the first one to tell you that. I hope people understand that’s a reflection of the relationship they have and plenty of other coaches have with their players.

“They know it’s not personal because of the relationship we have - if there’s a trust issue and all of sudden he’s screaming at you to do your job, then all of a sudden, that’s not going to get the results that you want. If you have a strong relationship with the guys in your room and they trust you, those moments that are intense are never personal. It’s all about making sure we get the job done.” 

With Pyne in the starting role, Freeman issued a challenge to sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner as he recovers from shoulder surgery. 

Buchner was in the box last weekend with Rees doing some charting and it also allowed him to get a full view of the field.

“How do you make yourself better even though you’re not playing,” Freeman stated. “That can be watching the play go on, charting things for yourself to write down and to learn, but also being a teacher and being able to communicate after a game or a practice or during practice with some of those quarterbacks to say here’s what I saw. What did you see? 

“That’s been a challenge I presented to Tyler. How do you make yourself better when you’re not playing, you know you’re not going to play, but you’re here and part of what we’re doing. I think he’s done a good job in not even a week of being out to help himself improve, but also help that quarterback room improve.” 

The third quarterback in Rees’ room is freshman Steve Angeli, who was pulled off scout team last week. 

Freeman gave a vote of confidence in Angeli on Thursday, but it admitted if Pyne goes down, the early enrollee signal-caller is the only other option for the Irish offense. 

“If he’s presented with the opportunity, he has to go in there and execute,” Freeman said of Angeli. “He has to go in there and do what we need our quarterback to do. We have to meet him halfway. We gotta be able to ask Steve Angeli to do the things we know he can do, but it also has to be enough where you’re not running one play. 

“I feel really strongly about the way he’s prepared. He’s prepared not as the scout team quarterback, but as the quarterback that’s ready to go into the game. He has the greatest example in Drew Pyne.” 

Pyne has also embraced a challenge from Freeman to show Angeli what it takes to prepare like a starter to be ready to play on Saturdays. 

“I’ve also challenged Drew Pyne,” said Freeman. “Anytime you’re watching extra film or studying, you have to drag Steve Angeli with you. You have to bring him with you because he’s got to learn what it really means to prepare as a college quarterback. I think you’re seeing a lot of growth between those two this week. 

“Again, I’m confident because he is our next option. If something happens to Drew, he has to go into the game and do his job.” 

Notre Dame’s bye week will come following Saturday’s game in Chapel Hill and Freeman has no plans of slowing down. 

The Irish will practice next week and use it as an opportunity to get better. 

”I hope after four weeks and four games that we’re not tired,” explained Freeman. “I don’t plan to rest them a lot. We have to get better. We have to develop in that week. We’ll have a couple practices - three or four practices during that week to continue to find ways to develop as individuals and as football players. We’ll utilize that. It’s not like it’s after week six or towards the end of the year, we’re talking about the first third of your season will be complete as we hit our bye week.” 

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