Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM DECEMBER 2023 29 I was dangerously close to jumping the gun and posting some- thing I still very much believe but also a state- ment that did not ulti- mately pertain to what transpired at Stanford Stadium Nov. 25. I left the post in drafts, but I'm an open book. I'll just share it right here, exactly as it would have appeared on X. "There is no bigger in- dictment of poor coach- ing than turning into a completely different team on the road … which Notre Dame has made routine …" No t re Da m e t ra i l e d Stanford 13-7 at that time. It was early, but a team that hadn't won a single game at home all year was beating the No. 18 Fighting Irish through 15 minutes. In technical terms, the Irish were 45 min- utes away from losing a third consecu- tive game away from South Bend. Enough happened in those 45 minutes to force me to leave the post in drafts. But be honest, Notre Dame fans; you were thinking the same exact thing as me when the Cardinal took their second lead of the evening. They'd go on to take one more, by the way, 16-14 — the same exact score of the 2022 upset Stanford sprung over the Irish in South Bend. That's why I don't feel too bad sharing that prospec- tive post. The situation was dire for a few moments. But only a few. Notre Dame scored the game's next 42 points. The Irish won in a literal run- away, racking up 381 yards rushing as a team. They hadn't had that many in a road game since 2017. Notre Dame's record shows tangible progress on paper. Nine wins are more than eight. But perhaps it's the pessi- mist in me, the devil on the shoulder that nearly got me to hit send on that post, that is not going to classify the 2023 sea- son as a step forward from 2022 until the Irish win that 10th game. Complete damage control from 10 men on the field verses Ohio State, 3 interceptions verses Louisville and a pick-six and a whole lot else that went wrong versus Clemson won't be had unless Notre Dame is a 10- win football team at the end of it all. That's really the only way to look at it. Who cares if Notre Dame blew out Stanford, a program that put down a third straight 3-9 season, if the Irish end up going 9-4 for the second consecutive campaign? If you're beating your chest about being 9-3 right now as opposed to 8-4 last year then you better own up to 9-4 if the Irish lose in the postseason. They don't ask you how. They ask you how many. So while Notre Dame will not play during conference championship week and there is some extra time to celebrate bringing the Legends Trophy back to South Bend, the minds of players and coaches should move on to Tampa or Orlando or wherever the Irish are go- ing bowling pretty quickly. That game is bigger than anybody who doesn't care about anything outside of the College Football Playoff will make it out to be. Way bigger than playing a 3-9, winless at home football team in front of 30,901 ever was. N o t r e D a m e h e a d coach Marcus Freeman deserves credit for how postgame proceedings unfolded. Yes, he talked up the Legends Trophy to an almost uncomfortable level. Most Notre Dame fans don't view Stanford as the bitter rival Freeman made the Cardinal out to be in his spiel. But Freeman also left the field in an unassum- ing manner just prior to that. He didn't pump his fists or rile up the numer- ous Notre Dame fans that took over the road venue. It felt very businesslike. It felt like Freeman knew this was not the means to an end for Notre Dame this season. The next one is the biggest one for this Fighting Irish team. Take the road victory, especially a 33-point win in a game that looked like it was going to be anything but easy early on. And maybe even take some extra days off to decompress after a gru- eling 12-game season that feels like it started a lifetime ago. But when it's time to get back to work, remember that un- less you win the bowl game you will end up with the same exact record as you had the year prior. You want true progress? You gotta win one more game. If it doesn't hap- pen, there will be drafts getting emptied out and posts going out to the masses in abundance detailing the shortcomings of the 2023 Notre Dame football season. Not just from a certain "@tbhorka" ac- count on X either. From all over. ✦ GOLDEN GAMUT TYLER HORKA Tyler Horka has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2021. He can be reached at Marcus Freeman and the Irish reclaimed the Legends Trophy by routing Stanford, but what they really need is another win in their bowl game. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Notre Dame Still Needs One More Win For Tangible Progress

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