Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 55

4 SEPT. 10, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T he comparisons between Marcus Freeman and Brian Kelly will re- main inevitable for years to come. "Good before greed," and "players over paycheck," were two popular nar- ratives used last December when the head coaching torch was passed from the latter to the former. These comparable and memorable storylines will keep the two coaches linked together for however long Free- man lasts on his new job. But at least for now — two games into his Notre Dame head coaching career — Freeman (the hero) is badly beating Kelly (the villain) in the court of public opinion. Ah, but if in-game performance doesn't line up with Freeman's feel- good persona, the equity he built with the Irish fan base through his first nine months on the job will burn fast. More on that shortly. Tasked last January with making his head coaching debut on short notice against No. 9 Oklahoma State in the Fi- esta Bowl, then asked to play at No. 2 Ohio State in his first regular-season game, Freeman was afforded more pa- tience and forgiveness going into those two games than a Vatican confessional could provide. "Let Coach Freeman get settled, he'll be fine," has been the popular sentiment so far. So, with a clean slate and two top-10 opponents in the rear view, Saturday against Marshall is the first of a seven- game stretch that will better define Freeman's worth moving forward. And the ghost of Brian Kelly will hover over all of it. WHAT'S THE POINT? The point is, from its home game against Marshall on Saturday, through a road date Oct. 29, at Syracuse, the Fighting Irish will be favored in their next seven games. While Kelly never delivered much in his marquee matchups at Notre Dame, his ability to avoid upsets — often rou- tinely and boringly — was the staple to a 12-year career at Notre Dame that made "the villain" the winningest coach in Fighting Irish history. Freeman inherits Kelly's streak of 42 straight wins against the unranked, the longest mark in the country. And in the preseason Associated Press poll, No. 25 BYU was the only Irish opponent ranked among the next seven teams Notre Dame plays. Additionally, Freeman is asked to pro- tect an impressive home-field advan- tage his predecessor built. Notre Dame won 30 of the final 31 home games that Kelly coached. A marquee and toss-up game at Notre Dame Stadium against preseason No. 4 Clemson looms on Nov. 5. But a loss in any of the other five 2022 home games against Marshall, California, Stanford, UNLV or Boston College — a five-pack of teams that combined to go 23-38 last season — would mark the first loss to an unranked opponent at the stadium in more than five seasons, and an embar- rassing defeat for the rookie head coach. Fair or not, we're past all the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State chatter, hype and forgiveness. It's time for Freeman to get to work, prove week to week that he's up to this challenge, and show that he can avoid upsets in the same way Kelly did. Simply put, nothing other than a seven-game winning streak from now through Halloween will do. MEMORY LANE They share Dayton, Ohio, roots. They also share an appreciation for the Notre Dame mission, and a passion to lead the Irish football program even though nei- ther went to school here. Two generations removed from each other, Freeman shares a similar style and circumstances with another former Fighting Irish head coach. Gerry Faust came to Notre Dame as a first-time college skipper in 1981. An iconic high school coach at Cin- cinnati Moeller Catholic, Faust brought sincerity and a grassroots recruiting pitch that attracted a record 13 Parade All-Americans to Notre Dame. Relatability and recruiting came eas- ily for Faust. Winning did not. A 27-9 victory over LSU in his first ca- reer game lifted Faust to cult-figure sta- tus and his team to No. 1 in the country. Four losses in the next five games squashed all of the good feelings and made him a cautionary tale of not judg- ing a book by its binding. Look, it's impossible to not root for Marcus Freeman to succeed in the same way we rooted for Faust 40 years ago. Freeman is a true and good man. But Notre Dame football isn't about congeniality. It's about titles. Faust went 30-26-1 at Notre Dame and never won more than seven games in a single season. Now, three games into his Fighting Irish career, Freeman already needs to win seven in a row to keep his stock high. And Brian Kelly is watching. ✦ In his 12 years as Notre Dame's head coach, Kelly set the school's all-time record for victories with 113 and his teams won 30 of their last 31 games at home. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Back From Columbus, The Ghost Of Brian Kelly Looms UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 10, 2022*