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 4 of 55 OCT. 8, 2022 5 O ften lost in a 12-year tenure that included t h e b e s t f ive -yea r stretch in program history in terms of wins and losses (54-9 from 2017-21) is that former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly lost his first neutral site game, and the defeat came to an op- ponent the Fighting Irish don't have much business losing to in any year. The final scoreboard read Navy 35, Notre Dame 17 at New Meadowlands Sta- dium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Oct. 23, 2010. T h e w i n wa s Nav y 's second consecutive over Notre Dame and the third in a four-year span. But the 18-point margin was some- thing new. The Midshipmen beat the Irish by two points in each of the previous two Navy victories, the first of which snapped a 43-year Notre Dame winning streak in the annual rivalry. "We had no answer for them today," Kelly said postgame. "They deserved to win." That's the last thing Marcus Freeman wants to say after any neutral site game for as long as he's the head coach at Notre Dame. In taking the job, he signed up for plenty of plane rides to cities and stadiums other programs won't ever play in. Notre Dame is a national brand. It often brings the show on the road less traveled. Freeman's first chance to do that in the regular season comes in his next game, against BYU at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. After Kelly's first neutral site game, he had 15 more in the regular season while at Notre Dame. He went 14-1 in those matchups to post a regular-season neu- tral site record of 14-2. The counter- point to the accurate knock on Kelly that he couldn't win the big game is also a true statement: He won the games he was supposed to win. Rarely does Notre Dame schedule world-beating opponents for its Sham- rock Series and other neutral site games. Kelly took down Navy three times and Army twice. Seldom were the Power Five opponents the toughest of tasks either. Notre Dame beat Syracuse three times, Purdue twice and Boston College once. Only two of the 16 neutral site op- ponents were ranked. Kelly and company beat both of them. The No. 3 Irish beat No. 12 Syracuse 36-3 at Yankee Stadium in 2018, and No. 12 Notre Dame defeated No. 18 Wis- consin 41-13 at Soldier Field last fall. So that brings us back to Freeman. His neutral site acumen shouldn't be judged one way or the other whether Notre Dame wins or loses against BYU. Kelly lost his first one, after all. And Free- man's opponent is tougher; the Cou- gars rose to No. 12 in the country with a 26-20 overtime victory over Baylor in Week 2 but fell to No. 19 with a 41-20 loss at No. 25 Oregon a week later. With games against Wyoming and Utah State before the showdown against the Irish, it's very possible Freeman's first regular-season neutral site bout will be against a ranked team. The Fiesta Bowl loss shouldn't factor into this conversation either. It was a weird time for Freeman, coaching his first career game as a head coach three weeks after taking over for Kelly. That game came against a top-10 program in Oklahoma State that was inches away from winning the Big 12 and pos- sibly punching a ticket to the College Football Play- off. Bowl games are differ- ent. Ask Kelly, who went 5-5 in them while at Notre Dame. That's a far cry from his 14-2 neutral site record in the regular season. This still comes down to a business trip for Free- man. Kelly was quite good at them. How can Freeman eliminate the Sin City dis- tractions? How can he get the Irish players to take the fact that they're playing in a shiny, new, state-of-the-art stadium out of the equation? How can he get them to care less about how they look in icy white and gold special uniforms and more about how they play in them? Love him or hate him, Kelly was quite good at getting the most out of his guys when the circumstances were peculiar. There isn't much of a sense of normalcy about going from lounging around, re- covering and getting right during a bye week to playing at a world-class venue on primetime television a few days later. Freeman had Notre Dame ready for the Week 1 moment at the Horseshoe in Columbus. He deserves credit for the way the Irish didn't back down against a top-five team in a top-five environment. But this is different. This is midseason. The Irish battled early season adversity that tested their will. How much more will do they have? They're going to need a lot of it against a veteran BYU team that has far less pres- sure on it than the Irish. Far less pressure than is on Freeman, too. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman will coach in his first regular season neu- tral site game against BYU Oct. 8. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Neutral Site Games Are Must-Wins For Irish Coaches

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct 08, 2022