Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM OCT. 28, 2023 31 M arcus Freeman said he was speechless, even though he wasn't. That's one thing you've got to give the second-year Notre Dame head coach credit for; good times or bad, he always has something to say. After Notre Dame beat USC 48-20, he claimed he didn't. "I don't have a whole bunch of words," Freeman said in the opening statement of his postgame press conference. "I'm just going to enjoy this one." As he should. What he got his team to do against the undefeated Trojans, ranked No. 10 in the country and led by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and best quarterback in college football, Caleb Williams, was no small feat. It was a magnificent one. Sure, Notre Dame was favored to win by Las Vegas oddsmakers. But one week after getting stepped on and dragged all over the field in a 13-point loss to Lou- isville, annihilating a bitter rival with College Football Playoff aspirations by four touchdowns was a spectacular showing for Freeman's side. For that, he actually had quite a few words. "Not every week you get an oppor- tunity to get a victory like this," Free- man said. "Really happy for our players, happy for our program, happy for this university." He's right. There is not a game left on the 2023 regular season slate that will carry the weight of the sport's great- est intersectional rivalry. Notre Dame won't face a player like Williams the rest of the way either. He's incredibly special, and the Irish made him look so incredibly average in a way no team has ever before, whether that be when he was at Oklahoma for a year or USC for the last two. The Irish went into the matchup with questions about both sides of the ball. Neither played particularly well in that 33-20 defeat at Louisville. And while the Irish offense didn't totally vanquish queries concerning its aptitude in only coming up with 251 total yards, 51 less than the Trojans' 302, offensive coordi- nator Gerad Parker's unit was opportu- nistic in a way it had to be with the Irish defense forcing five turnovers. Notre Dame scored touchdowns after four of those, and it kneeled down to run out the clock after the fifth. Cashing in with timely scores is something Notre Dame did not do enough of against Ohio State, Duke and Louisville, a stretch that resulted in a 1-2 record for the Irish. If opportunism is a staple of the offense going forward, there is no reason Notre Dame can't run the table against Pitt, Clemson, Wake Forest and Stanford and finish the regu- lar season with 10 wins. Notre Dame was another unprepared night away from going into its first bye week with a 5-3 record, the same exact mark the Irish had at this time last year in what was most commonly referred to as a disappointing campaign. Freeman didn't want to endure that feeling again in prolonged fashion. The next chance to right the wrongs and rid the bad taste wouldn't have been until Oct. 28 versus Pitt. "Weeks that you lose are really long, especially around here," Freeman said. "The expectation is that you win every game you play. I know the hours are the same, but the weeks that you win seem to go by really fast and the next oppor- tunity is here." With that logic, the bye week is going to fly by even though Notre Dame could stand for it to drag along at a snail's pace after playing eight straight weeks dating back to Aug. 26 in Ireland. Sophomore tailback Jadarian Price said that trip feels like a year ago. "Finally, we have a break," he said. But he also said this: "Honestly, I'm excited to come back in our stadium, Notre Dame Stadium, in two weeks." The Fighting Irish are in a place in which they're pumped to play the sport they work so hard to be so good at. Who'd have thought that after they left the field in Louisville in stunned silence earlier this month? Freeman needed the win over USC to quiet doubters. His players needed it to remind themselves they can compete with the best of the best from around the country. We won't see them do that in the CFP this year because Notre Dame already has two losses, but we could very well see them get to 10 wins before bowl season. The odds of that seemed dicey at best coming out of the Bluegrass State in early October. Now, you'd have to think it's eas- ily right back on the table. All because Freeman handed Lincoln Riley just his 14th loss in his 86th career game as a head coach. There's power in a stat so profound. "I'm proud that our players were able to go out there and be able to enjoy the feeling you get after a victory like this," Freeman said. ✦ 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 gave USC head coach Lincoln Riley just his 14th career loss in his 86th career game. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER Notre Dame Played Its Best Ball With Its Back Against The Wall

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