Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 55

4 OCT. 8, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED M arcus Freeman likely wasn't thrilled in the preseason with having his bye week come only four games in, just a third of the way through the 2022 regular season. "I hope after four weeks, or four games, we're not tired," the first-year Notre Dame head coach said. Tired players, already? No chance. Necessary season reboot? Absolutely. And, that's what makes this year's early bye week an unanticipated stroke of good fortune for Freeman and Co. T h ro u g h i n te n t i o n a l sc h e d u l i n g strategies during the last seven seasons, Notre Dame's bye arrived weeks later than this, always after either Game 6, 7 or 8. The schedule builders deliberately wanted to line up their football bye week with mid-term exams. This season, the Irish instead will get their earliest off week since 2014 when during that double-bye season, the first of those two idle Saturdays came in Week 3. Given the inauspicious start to this season, an early bye is a gracious god- send as Notre Dame continues its iden- tity search. "We have to get better," Freeman said. "We have to develop in that week." And that improvement project comes with many layers. The extra week will help junior quar- terback Drew Pyne better acclimate himself as QB1, while at the same time it allows freshman signal-caller Steve Angeli to grow into his new role as QB2. Notre Dame also needs some clarity at wide receiver, a thorough evaluation of its offensive line construction, and per- haps a clearer strategy in its running game. "We'll have three or four practices that [bye] week to continue to find ways to develop as individuals, as football players," Freeman explained, "so we'll utilize that." Additionally, valuable sophomores such as wide receiver Deion Colzie, tight end Mitchell Evans and running back Logan Diggs, along with graduate student wideout Joe Wilkins Jr., will ap- preciate the added injury recovery time as they try to return to the Irish offense. The extra rehab days and practice reps that this early bye week provides are notable and valuable. But it also brings another benefit for Freeman and his players, allowing them the chance to simply catch their collective breath — sort of, at least. From the Fiesta Bowl flop to the Ohio State hype to the Marshall melt- down, it's been a wild ride for Freeman and Co. And this bye week provides a welcome reset for the program to reevaluate its strengths, pinpoint its weaknesses and simply regroup while nobody's watching. How the rookie coach uses this extra time, and how Notre Dame performs in its eight regular-season games after- ward, will tell more about the founda- tion of Freeman's program than any- thing that's happened up to this point. "For the majority of guys, it's a devel- opmental time. It's practice time. It's ways to get better," Freeman said when asked about his bye-week objectives. "That's the only way you get better is out there in practice." Beyond the on-field benefits, hav- ing a couple of off days also gives the Irish coaches a chance to visit and calm nerves with the 2023 and 2024 recruits, and in their spare time, try to get a head start prepping for talented BYU and a Shamrock Series matchup in Las Vegas Oct. 8. "We'll be busy as a football program," Freeman said, "here with our current team, and then also out recruiting." Under seventh-year BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, the feisty Cougars en- tered last weekend ranked No. 19 and winners in 28 of their last 35 games, dat- ing back to 2019. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is 10-0 in Shamrock Series games. Former Irish head coach Brian Kelly went 9-0 in his matchups. Freeman's predecessor also was 13-2 in games following his 15 bye weeks at Notre Dame. Kelly's Irish won those 13 by an average score of 33-18. Notre Dame bye weeks rarely provide much to get excited about. But given the state of the 2022 Fighting Irish program, this bye week may be more important than any game week we've seen so far this season. "We have to get a lot out of that week; we're going to be busy," Freeman said. Here's hoping it's plenty constructive as well. ✦ The early bye week will allow for more developmental time for players like junior quarterback Drew Pyne. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER When A Bye Week Becomes A Work Week 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 - Oct 08, 2022