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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame HC Marcus Freeman | Postgame Transcript

September 16, 2023

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman spoke to the media following the Irish’s win over Central Michigan on Saturday.

Opening Statement

I tried to tell the team these wins are hard to come by and we are so greedy and selfish and we want it to be perfect and that's just who we are as coaches. I was proud of the way they battled. It wasn't perfect man, but they battled and they battled and they responded. And as I challenged them, if we don't beat Notre Dame man, we're a really good football team. And there was times in the first half and a couple of times in the second half, when penalties cost us. If you look at the drives that didn't end well, there was a lot of self-inflicted wounds. Now that is not to take anything from Central Michigan. I told Coach (Jim) McElwain after the game, he's got a really good football team that's going to win a lot of games in the MAC. And so I'm proud of the way our guys battled for four quarters. I'm proud of the way they really tuned out the distractions and focused on this week and this game and took care of business. And so with that, I'll open up for questions.

What’s the cumulative affect for opposing defenses trying to tackle Audric Estime?

Trust me, it's not a lot of fun tackling a guy like that. Those hits take a toll on you as a player I'm sure as a defender. But the success we can have running the ball with Audric, with any of those running backs again, when you can run the ball and have success running the ball, you truly open up your pass game. So that's always been a strong belief of mine; is that the ability to run the ball will help us in the pass game and that's what you saw today.

What did you learn about team with so many guys missing time with injuries?

We've got to continue to develop. This is the greatest team sport in the world and you don't know what's going to happen. You don't control what circumstances come your way. We had some guys out, some key leaders, we have to continue to develop those guys that are the second, the twos and the threes. I thought they stepped up and did a good job. We have to continuously improve and that's going to be something I always say we have to continuously improve, to go back and watch the film, we'll see where those areas of improvement truly are at. But those penalties, man, we can't have them. That's not to our standards, especially the uncharacteristic, two roughing the passers, a couple holding penalties on offense, defensive PI. I think about those penalties and great football teams don't beat themselves and we're fortunate that we can learn from that and still have a good victory.

What’s the status of Mitchell Evans and DJ Brown?

Mitch ended up having a concussion. He was in concussion protocol, so that's why he was out. DJ, he got a tight hamstring a couple days, two days ago and we just didn't think he was going to be able to be 100 percent, so we decided to hold him.

What does the success of deep balls do to open up the rest of the offense?

The ability to execute on those deep balls and those open passes are huge. They're huge to having success. 578 yards on offense, man, that's a credit to success in the pass game and the run game. So it's a great job by the entire offensive staff and the players.

How did the offensive line and pass rush units do in your opinion?

578 yards on offense, we end up having 342 passing and 236 rushing. In order to have those type of numbers, your offensive line has to play well. If they don't play well in the pass game or the run game, your stats aren't going to look like that. I obviously, don't love the two holding calls, we've got to be better there. I didn't really get a chance to see them on replay, but the guys in the headphones said, yeah, they're holding. Again, we can't hurt Notre Dame and holding penalties hurt us. But for us to have that success as an offense, the o-line played really well. Defensively, d-line, we were rolling a lot of guys and I thought they did a good job getting some pressure on the quarterback, making him uncomfortable early. We'll go back and see the film, but that's kind of what sticks out in my mind.

What is still out there for you to learn about your team?

That's to be determined. You put a lot of work in to win these games, to give your team a chance. I still don't know if we've seen the full potential of this team. And that's my challenge. My challenge to them was we've got to get better this week and the same thing as we go to next week. We'll see. Man, we've got a great opponent coming in here and the challenge will be to not worry about Saturday. That's going to be the challenge. I can already tell them right now. Don't worry about Saturday. Saturday will be here. But worrying about Saturday does not help you really prepare for Saturday, right? Continue to win the moments, win the day, stay in the moment. You study your opponent, but you've got to win these moments that's going to help you on Saturday. I don't know that perfect answer, what is there still to learn about our team? We'll see. We're going to play a heck of opponent next Saturday, so we'll see how good this football team really is.

How would you assess defense going into Ohio State game?

I know two of the plays, one was missed tackles. We did not tackle well in those first couple series. The first series were three-and-out and then the next series that they scored a touchdown. First of all, we kicked the ball off out of bounds, roughing the passer and just missed tackles. We can't miss tackles. The one long pass in the second half, we're blitzing six guys and we didn't get pressure. And so I can't get mad at the DBs. If we're bringing six guys, we have to get pressure. We have to challenge those guys that if we're going to blitz you, let's get pressure so the DBs don't have to cover for longer than the amount of time we need them to.

Is Sam Hartman playing as well as he can and what does that do for the entire team?

He'll tell you he's got to be better. He made some mistakes today that he can improve on. And the thing I think about this game for Sam is that the moment won't be too big. He's played a lot of football games, I don't know how many, but he's played a lot of football games. I think his mind will be in a great spot and he knows he has to go out there and execute, go out there and do his job. He won't let the things that don't matter to having success affect him. Some young guys that have never been in this situation, sometimes you can let that stuff that has nothing to do with winning the game affect your preparation and affect your execution out there. I don't think that'll be something that Sam will let bother him.

How would describe the explosiveness of defensive line?

I think they're an explosive d-line. We've got some really good players up front. I think we've got really a good difference of talent. Some guys are big bull rush guys. Some guys are more athletic and the mix of talent that we have on that d-line I think is really a good mix.

Is there anything in particular you’ll be looking for when you go back and look at the film?

Everything. Everything and every play. There's something to fix on every single play. I can promise you that.

What was the conversation like with Hartman when he limped off the field?

You protect your player, you care about your player. And the first thing I say, Hey, what happened? Are you okay? First, Are you okay? He said, yeah, man. He kind of turned my knee, kind of rolled my leg. I just kind of mentioned to the refs, Hey, protect our quarterback a little bit. I care about Sam, but I also want to make sure we protect him too. He's a trooper. I asked him over the headset, Hey, how's Sam? He said He's fine. You want to protect every member of your team and you don't like to see anybody limping off the field.

Can you call this team a disciplined team when they have so many penalties?

Yeah, I think we're a disciplined team. We have to continue to get better, continue to make sure that they're an aggressive team. Are they disciplined? Absolutely, but they're aggressive and sometimes you have aggressive penalties. I want to look at those two roughing the passers and say, okay, was that an aggressive penalty or is that a selfish penalty? I don't know until I go back and watch the film, but what I won't do is keep them on a leash. You've got to let these guys be aggressive when I tell them to come out of the locker room. It's not, hey, don't make a mistake. It's not, don't get a penalty. It's go. You go attack and we're trying to win the interval for five seconds and you go as hard as you can and sometimes you have penalties. Do I like to see penalties? Absolutely not. But it's not a discipline issue. It's an execution and fundamental issue that we have to continue improve. So I look at coaching. If it's a fundamental issue, we've got to coach better, right? Holding is coaching, we've got to coach it better. So I take accountability for that, not our players.

Did CMU QB Bert Emmanuel being out change the gameplan?

We knew about it right before the game. I talked to Coach McElwain right before the game and he said that he was out. He didn't make the trip. I think he was ill. Did it truly change our game plan? No, but we had to go back and watch a little bit of what the backup did. It's too late to truly change the game plan. But I thought they did a good job. The quarterback did a good job of staying in there and throwing the ball well. So as I told our guys defensively, our keys to victory in that game was attack the quarterback no matter who's at court. It's not attack Emmanuel, it's attack whoever's at quarterback, keep him contained and really be good on our pre-snap communication because we didn't have some of our seniors and our captains and our vocal leaders out there and I thought they did a pretty good job for the most part.

What changed between first half and second half?

I told them at halftime, if you need to give me, if need to give you a rah rah speech, that's not what this team needed. This team needed to settle down and really look at the mistakes that happened the first half and why it was a seven-point game. So our mindset has to continue to be execute one play, one life. What do I need to do to make sure I'm executing? That's what I told them. Go out there, don't beat Notre Dame, don't beat Notre Dame and we're going to be just fine. And for the most part, that's what they did.

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