Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Frank Commentary

December 31, 2022

The last Frank Commentary of the 2022 season.  It’s been a wild ride, and it’s nice that the last one gets to be about such an exciting game, and one they won.  

There are lot of things to say about Friday’s game, but first and foremost, it was a fun game to watch.  I will admit, Notre Dame’s brand of football isn’t always the most exciting football.  There aren’t as many explosive plays because the Irish focus so much on running the football, but I believe that’s how Notre Dame has to play to be successful.  Marcus Freeman does as well.  It’s also why they won the game on Friday.  They simply wore South Carolina down.  

But this game was exciting.  Notre Dame played from behind most of the game, but they kept clawing, fighting, and played better as the game went along.  And, there were finally some explosive plays that made the game more exciting.  The good news is, as the Irish get more athletic in the skill positions, I think we will see a lot more explosive, exciting plays, and that will also help recruiting a great deal.  You can still be a fun offense to watch if you are a running team, as long as you have explosive players who can hit the home run.  I think the Irish are finally starting to land those kind of players, so I believe this team will be even more fun to watch.  When you can get a QB who can throw the deep ball well, that’s when things will really take off, and Tyler Buchner hit a few plays that were exactly that, and that was thrilling to watch.  

I know there will be a lot of speculation about a pick six, and should the call have been made?  There were a few others we could nitpick as well, but 45 points and 588 yards, and what should’ve been more says the offense was pretty damn good.  No, I don’t believe the call should’ve been made.  And I don’t understand why Notre Dame pounds the ball all the way to the red zone and then suddenly starts to throw the ball under Rees, but like Marcus Freeman, Tommy Rees is a young coach learning.   He, like pretty much everyone else making play-calls, makes some head-scratchers, but there is no question he is a creative play-caller, and his offensive is very productive when the players execute.  In fact, I think he’s done a great job most of the year, but I do have some questions about what happens in the red zone sometimes.  That needs to be assessed and addressed, but Rees is no idiot.  I think he can and will make the adjustments needed.  

People need to understand that Notre Dame doesn’t have a true No. 1 receiver right now.  Or even a clear No. 2, which most teams definitely have.  Rees was without his elite tight end in this game—in fact he was down three tight ends who played a lot of football for Notre Dame.  He was playing a QB who hasn’t played in a very long time, and one who has very little experience.  I think the offense did more than fine and exceeded expectations.  I don’t see how anyone can argue that point.  

Most important, I think this win was NEEDED for this program.  The Irish had a disappointing end to the season.  They had a disappointing end to recruiting, despite signing one of the best classes Notre Dame has inked in quite some time.  This team, and this program needed something good to happen, something almost magical, and that’s what they got in this game.  

It was a game of grit, belief in oneself, circling the wagons, good coaching, mental toughness, and playing disciplined.  All those things needed to happen for Notre Dame to win on Friday, and it did happen.  That’s a very encouraging sign.

It’s important for wide receivers to feel they may have a QB now who can get them the ball deep, and that the offense is on an upward swing.  It’s key that the Irish offensive players believe in their system heading into spring practice, and I’m not sure how they couldn’t after such a strong performance.

The same can be said for the defense.  The Irish were on their heels early as South Carolina came out with tempo, something they haven’t done a lot of this season, and gashed the Notre Dame defense early.  But they settled down after the first quarter.   The Gamecocks had 154 yards total in the first quarter, followed by 98, 68 and then 32.  That shows grit, belief and good coaching.  You have to feel good as an Irish defender after such a rough start.

What certainly looked to be heading to another embarrassing bowl performance turned into one of Notre Dame’s best in decades.  It looked like another “Notre Dame is a pretender once gain” type of games, but it didn’t end that way.  By the fourth quarter, even the SEC announcers were wowing at how well Notre Dame bounced back and was playing.  My guess is everyone else watching was as well.  

This matters, folks.  The way you play matters.  They way you fight matters to top recruits.  Just as important, if not sometimes more, is what is said about you really matters.  Most of these top prospects don’t sit through entire games.  But they do hear and read what is said about Notre Dame, and what was said was very good news for the Irish.  

I think it needs to also be said that the South Carolina coaches did a fantastic job in this game.  That was a group that was ready to play, and they played very well most of the game.  This team did not lie down for Notre Dame, and the Irish had to earn the win.  Congrats to the Gamecocks as they showed up to play, and they gave Notre Dame their absolute best.  Knowing that makes this victory even more rewarding.  

This was a culture game for Notre Dame.   And it was a culture game for Marcus Freeman.  This is no longer the Brian Kelly team.  This is Marcus Freeman team, and they’re building the Marcus Freeman culture and version of Notre Dame football.  It’s important to keep what Kelly built (and he did build that), but also enhance it, and I think we’re starting to see that now.  Many of Kelly’s teams would’ve folded by what happened early on Friday, but this team did not, and that was inspiring to see.  Especially considering how many kept saying this game was essentially meaningless.  I definitely wasn’t meaningless to Notre Dame, nor was it South Carolina.

Just another quick note.  I think this has been one of the most enjoyable bowl seasons I can remember.  For so many “meaningless” games, so many have been hard-fought and well-played and exciting games.  It’s been a real joy to watch games this past week.  I think they’ve been some of the best games all season.  Hopefully the fans will start to think it’s important as much as the players believe them to be.  

A Thank You

Thanks to Jarrett Patterson, Josh Lugg, and the many other seniors who could’ve opted out of this game.  I think it shows great character and speaks to the strong culture amongst the team that these players wanted to finish the season fighting with their brothers.  Because they played, the fans were able to enjoy this victory.  It’s not all about the money and “me” for a lot of these players playing, and that’s something to celebrate!

What’s Next?  

I think it’s a good thing Tyler Buchner played as well as he did at times.  He will certainly be another option for Notre Dame at QB, even if Sam Hartman chooses to transfer to Notre Dame.  And I think he’s earned the right to compete for the job.  He did a lot of good things on Friday, and some not so good, but the good shows that he could potentially be a quality starter or even star at QB for ND.  I’m happy for him, and he earned it.  It’s a good thing Notre Dame could have options at QB next season.  

The Irish have to find two starters at offensive guard, but there are a lot of good prospects there who will battle for it.  There are guys with experience, and guys with potential, so we have to hope they can find them.  

I think we are seeing the rising of what could be a very good, if not great, wide receiver corps next year, and that’s encouraging.  

We know Notre Dame has some quality tight ends, and they’re very deep and talented at running back.  It could be a fun 2023 season on offense.

Defensively, we have some real questions to address.  Defensive line, linebacker, safety, there will be a lot of competition, but we saw a lot of it playing on Friday, and once they settled down, they played pretty damn well.  

There is a lot to be positive about as the Irish head into 2023 and winter lifting.  Finding quality captains will be important, but I like the trajectory of where this is heading.

Probably just as important, Notre Dame made a statement on Friday with the win and how they played.  They played with heart, they played with grit, they played exciting football, and people noticed.  That’s the best ending anyone could hope for.  



subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.