Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 4, 2023

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

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28 NOV. 4, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED NOTRE DAME HEAD COACH MARCUS FREEMAN … On special teams play in the sec- ond half of the season: "The biggest thing is the sense of ownership. I love going into the kickoff and kickoff return huddles, because you can feel it from the players. 'Let's win the interval! Let's go! Let's do our job. Don't let this guy make the play.' "When our players start to own it, it's not just another play, 'Oh, man, we got to do kickoff return or kickoff?' Like there is an excitement and ownership of it. That's a credit to [special teams coordinator Marty] Biagi, that he's get- ting the buy-in that he's wanted from the minute he got here." On the offense getting back into gear: "What I remember is the [down- field] shots. We said we wanted to throw some balls down the field and make plays. We saw that. "One of the first ones was picked off, and I remember telling Coach Parker and telling the offense, no matter what the result is on the last play, we're going to continue to be aggressive and take shots down the field." On taking the team back on the road after two games at home after Louisville: "More than anything — yes to go on the road, but to face another challenging opponent. That's why you love this game, is because — yes, it is going on the road. That's a part of com- petition. But you get 12 of these guaran- teed. Next week is 10 of 12, and I know we're going to have 13, with a bowl game this year. "But if you're not a fierce competitor and that doesn't excite you, man, this isn't going to be the right sport for you. We're excited to get another opportu- nity to play this game versus a really good opponent, and it's on the road in a hostile environment. Our guys will be ready to roll." On if the defense played to its full potential the past two games: "We're getting really close. And the hard part about it is, are you ever going to be per- fect? No. But that's what we're chasing. We're chasing perfection." NOTRE DAME JUNIOR RUNNING BACK AUDRIC ESTIMÉ … On what the team learned Satur- day: "I think we learned that we're a really good team. When we play to our level, we can do really great things. We have a great defense, we have a great special teams unit and we have a great offensive unit. "When we play together as one, I feel like we're the best team in the country and no one can stop us." On junior wide receiver Jayden Thomas' block to spring him for his first touchdown: "That was an amaz- ing block by JT. I appreciate him. That's a result of him working hard no matter what, not taking any job for granted. "Coach Freeman prides in us for ev- eryone to do their job, for the running backs to pick up blitzes for the receivers, for the receivers to kick out safeties for the running backs." NOTRE DAME SOPHOMORE CORNERBACK JADEN MICKEY … On when he found out he would start against Pittsburgh: "Just waiting to see if [sophomore cornerback] Ben [Morrison] was ready to play or not. He tested it out during pregame. "I've been rotating behind [graduate student cornerback] Cam [Hart] and Ben all year, so I was ready to go." NOTRE DAME GRADUATE STUDENT NICKEL BACK THOMAS HARPER … On senior safety Xavier Watts intercepting 2 passes for the sec- ond straight game: "I'm so happy for Xavier. He works hard. He deserves it. He's just a ball magnet. Whenever he has an opportunity, he makes the most of it. "I told him, 'You've got to start scor- ing them at this point.' He's getting one every game, he's got to start scoring." NOTRE DAME SENIOR WIDE RECEIVER CHRIS TYREE … On his 82-yard punt return for a touchdown: "That moment was kind of a progression of the season, from me being a rookie returner out there, me getting really comfortable throughout the season and then finally having the chance to actually get a return and take advantage of it. "We started off wanting to set the tone on punt return, and my job back there is to make that happen." On bouncing back from dropping a potential touchdown against Louis- ville: "It's a really good testament to the wide receivers as a whole, especially with [wide receivers] coach [Chansi] Stuckey supporting us each and every day. "He's constantly telling us that he has our back, and we have no choice but to have his on the field." On joining Julius Jones, Rocket Is- mail and Tim Brown as Notre Dame players to score rushing, receiving, punt return and kick return touch- downs: "That's great company. It's a lot of legendary names right there. But I'm blessed to be in the position that I'm in, blessed to have a great coaching staff that trusts me with all of those roles. "I have no choice but to take advantage." FROM THE LOCKER ROOM Head coach Marcus Freeman and the Irish handed Pitt its worst loss since a 60-6 defeat at Notre Dame in 1996. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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