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Notre Dame Football

Postgame Transcript | Notre Dame HC Marcus Freeman

September 9, 2023

Transcript of Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman’s postgame press conference following the Irish’s win at NC State.

“I just got done telling the team, it's great to be able to have some of those bumps that we talked about last year that cost us wins, victories. And you have some today and we're still able to come out with a victory and you can see what type of team you've got. There's a lot of different elements today that really occurred. The rain starting the game and then the two-hour delay, you go back out there and it's still raining. Good things and bad things are happening, but the guys just continue to stay in the moment. That's been our message all week, 'Just stay in the moment. Do not worry about outcomes. Do not worry about last week. Do not worried about what happened in the first quarter. Just stay in the moment.' And it was really good to see. We've got to do a better job obviously taking care of the football, can't put the football on the ground. But defensively to respond...The turning point to me in the game was when we fumbled in our own territory and the defense forced to miss field. But then we go and I think we're three-and-out and then the defense has an interception and then that's kind of when we scored and the game kind of got out of hand. But to see the resilient guys continue to battle for four quarters, it's really good to see. I'm really proud of this team and I'm going to enjoy this victory and move forward and starting tomorrow.”

Was the unbalanced line planned pregame or during the break?

“We planned on using it coming into the game, just giving them something they haven't seen, see how they adjust to it. At first they didn't adjust the way we thought they were going to and then they did. It was just a different wrinkle.”

What was the message going into the delay?

“Just come out and go and do your job. Who cares how the game started? Who cares about the two-hour delay? Let's go out there and play ball and be aggressive as heck. All week we're talking about how aggressive they are and those things and rightfully so. That's a good football team we faced. But I wanted our guys to have the mentality that we're going to be just as aggressive as any team we face.”

How was the team able to perform through adversity?

“I think it's a sign of a mature football team where there was no panic from coaches and players, myself included. In those moments, it's easy to panic and started yelling and screaming and create chaos amongst the team. But to be able to get to the sideline and say, 'OK, what went wrong in that last series? What do we need to do and go out and go play.' I think when you have a team that's been through some of that adversity and then you've got guys coming in like Sam (Hartman) that's been through adversity, to stay in the moment, to not be so focused on what happened in the past. Right now is all that matters.”

What was the key to containing Brennan Armstrong?

“It's a constant battle because you don't want to keep them on leashes. You don't want them to be so non-aggressive that there's no pass rush. You have to be somewhat aggressive. I thought we created different rush lanes to confuse him so he couldn't just step up. We kept talking about those B gaps, especially to his left right. Our right B gap, we had to keep him out of there. So there was different things we were trying to do to truly keep him from escaping vertical through that B gap. He still did a great job of keeping plays alive. He's a competitor, he's a tough guy. If he ran the ball, we tried to hit him like a running back. He kept bouncing up and competing, so I have a lot of respect for him.”

Question on the run defense.

“That's still got to be a mentality, stop the run, right? We knew they were going to take some shots. We knew that coming in, they were going to take some shots. Early in the game, we weren't winning those shots. But later in the game, our guys were really able to go not just defend the ball but take it away. So it all starts with stopping the run.”

How did you prepare for the rain delay?

“We had a plan to start off with for a 30-minute delay. Then we kind of said, 'Hey guys, settle down, let's just wait to hear back.' Then, it got pushed back and once we knew it was going to be over an hour, we said, 'Take off your paths, sit down.' Then the plan was to be able to talk about different adjustments. So coaches were able to come down and talk about things we saw the first two or three drives. Then, we were to get with our players and say 'OK, here are the things we're seeing that we hadn't planned for.' Then, the next thing was, 'OK, we have a two-hour delay, so what is our plan when we go out there?' So went out and warmed up as a team for five minutes.”

How does Holden Staes change the offense?

“He adds a big element to the pass game. We've known Holden's been tremendous pass threat. We've got to continuously get him better in the run game. He's committed to that. Today, he showed the threat he could be in the passing game. My challenge to Holden is 'Can you continue to become a complete tight end? And that's in the run game and the pass game.' It was great to see him score two touchdowns today.”

What Sam Hartman was like on sideline?

“I said this before, but he's just so steady. I know he was excited when he makes a good play or scores, but he's never too high or too low. It's the same thing we see in practice. Not every practice is perfect, but the ability for him to just continue to be stead and stay positive. We're going to get it fixed, go out there and do our job. Early in the game, he got hit a couple times and put one ball on the ground that we recovered. He's competitive, he wants to get it fixed and he did. So there was no panic. He's a leader.”

On Gerad Parker staying resilient and finding solutions

“I thought he did a great job. I thought our offensive staff communicated big time during the break. Then, later in the game we were trying to run the ball a little bit and run the ball out to be able to look and say, 'OK, let's take a shot.' He did a great job of changing up the calls and really executing at a high level.”

Any update on JD Bertrand?

“Yeah, out with the head injury. I haven't talked to him yet, but they told me to keep him out the second half."

What did you see from Jaylen Sneed in the second half?

“I've got to watch fi;m a little bit but he didn't do a bad job or I would've noticed that. Sneed's a good player. That room is similar. I know the running backs have one guy on the field at the time. But that room is similar where there's 3, 4, 5 guys that we have to continuously get on field between JD, Marist, Kiser and Sneed, those four guys, we have to keep them on field.”

What did you see in 2021 from Marist Liufau that has led to the type of player he is now?

“When I came in here in '21, he was an aggressive, physical football player. At times, he could have been out of control. I think last year, he was continuously learning the defense. When you're thinking, you don't play as fast. What you're seeing this year is a guy that truly understands the details.”

How good do you think this team is now?

“To be determined. You don't want to put a ceiling on it. We're good team. What the ceiling is for the team, I think it's high. Our job is to develop these guys over the week, so when we get these opportunities on Saturday, we're performing at the highest level we can. It's to be determined how high that ceiling is. Today, you saw them facing adversity and be able to respond. That's a part of a championship team. It's never going to be perfect. The first two games really, there wasn't that much of adversity. This game, there was so the ability to respond during tough times, it shows leadership and shows truly the heart of this team.”

Did you guys get hot dogs and brats during the delay?

“You have a plan for halftime where it's going to be 20 minutes. We wanted to get them some meat. In a two-hour delay, those big boys get hungry. Now, I think the coaches might've got a little bit more hungry than the players. I saw some coaches having hot dogs. Just keeping those guys fed because we're going to work them. We're going to work coaches and working players, so you've got to keep them well fed.”

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