Marcus Freeman recaps No. 5 Notre Dame’s loss at No. 2 Ohio State

It wasn’t quite the storybook finish that Marcus Freeman hoped as he returned to Ohio State as the opposing head coach, but Notre Dame’s new leader had the Irish in a position to have a realistic chance to win the game entering the fourth quarter.  Although I’m not a believer in moral victories at Notre Dame, I am a believer in going from really good to truly great taking more than just a day.

There were things to get a bit upset about Saturday night if you’re a Notre Dame fan and things to get excited about in terms of the future.  Here is everything Marcus Freeman had to say following the 21-10 loss to the No. 2 Buckeyes.

Poor Field Position

“Yeah, one of our keys was with the battle for field position. And that’s huge, right? And we obviously don’t want to start the drive inside the 20-yard line. We’ve got to fix our kickoff return unit. We wanted to be aggressive. If they were going to give us the ball to return, we were going to return it. But the execution wasn’t where we wanted it to be. So we have to clean that up. We’re not going to be able to return outside of the 20, we need to make fair catches.”

What he learned in loss

“We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to learn how to finish. We’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to learn how to finish. And that’s what I just told them. You can’t be surprised when all of a sudden, it’s in 10 to 7 ball game midway through the third quarter against a good really, really good football team. Don’t be surprised. That’s got to be the expectation for this group. Now we have to learn to finish. Don’t hold off. I felt that a little bit in me as a coach, just got to hold on, it’s 10-7 midway through the third (quarter). We have to continue to attack and continue to execute. And that’s what we’ve got to do better.”

Needing to continue to attack

“Yeah, I don’t think we’re trying to preserve a lead. We’re trying to continue to find ways to score, and prevent them from scoring. And that’s our mindset. It’s that we can’t preserve anything. We’ve got to continue to attack. We’ve got to be able to run football, right? And that wasn’t something we were able to do in the second half as well as we were in the first half. So that’s what we really got to improve at.”

Was Jarrett Patterson missed?

“It did. I mean, we’ll go back and we’ll watch the film. I mean, obviously, when you don’t have an All-American out there, there’s not just a physical loss but there’s the mental and emotional loss that you lose with not having an All-American, a two-year captain on the field. But I’m proud of those young guys. I’m proud of (Andrew) Kristofic), and I think Carmody got in there and played well. We’ll learn from it. But if you can’t handle having a loss of one guy, then we’re not going to be able to win as many games as we want.”

Recapping Tyler Buchner's first start

“I was pleased with him. The biggest thing I’m pleased with is zero turnovers. He got hit a couple of times and hurt his ankle a little bit, and he continued to be tough and continued to run the ball. He continued to try to throw the ball where he wanted to throw it. And he’s going to be a really good football player and a great leader for us as we moved forward.”

Giving up second half lead

“They battled the entire game. And I want to make sure that I say that. We didn’t execute late in the game when we had to. We didn’t execute the way we needed to. We had a challenge to win the fourth quarter. We didn’t win the fourth quarter. They scored with 13 seconds left in third and they scored at the end of the fourth, and we didn’t respond, and we didn’t keep them out of the end zone. I think they had four rushing big plays in the fourth quarter. And that is a heartbreaker for defense. If you’re giving up big plays to an offense running the ball, that kills a defense. So, we’ve got to finish. We’ve got to be able to finish and execute in the fourth quarter.”

Stroud making throws to sideline

“He hit three or four of those. He’s going out of bounds and I’m looking at him, and in my mind, I’m saying there’s no way that’s a completion. They ended up being completions. Hats off to him. There’s a reason why he’s a Heisman Trophy candidate. He’s a heck of a football player. And they got a really good team.”

Learning to Finish

“You want to say it’s mindset but you’ve got to go back and look and say, ‘Okay, where weren’t we able to execute offensively, defensively, and in special teams? Late in the game, we had some three and outs. We had an offensive pass interference call late in the game. Defensively, again, I just said four big plays running the ball. We have to stop the run. And late in the game, we knew they were running, and we weren’t able to stop it. And that’s someplace that we have to improve at. But again, I’m proud of those guys because they fought their tails off.”

On First Down Runs

“That was exactly what we wanted to do. That was our plan going into the game. Be able to control the clock, limit their offensive possessions, and run the football. That was our mindset for this game. That’s what our keys been when we work. And we executed. It was a 10-7 game, again, until seconds left in the third quarter. So, we knew we were going to try outscore them. We were going to have a plan to try to control the ball, run the ball, keep the clock running, and limit their offensive possessions. And again, we executed until all of a sudden we had to get to the passing game, and then we go three and out. And we just didn’t finish the way we wanted to.”

Where was Audric Estime in second half?

“I think we have packages for him and packages for Diggs and packages for Tyree. And all sudden, you get a little bit behind in the third and you start trying to do some different things throwing the ball. And it’s probably why you didn’t see him really much in the fourth. We couldn’t afford to run the ball as much. We had to start throwing the ball. You know, we were behind. So, that’s probably why he didn’t seem as much.”

Overall thoughts on Notre Dame's play

“I thought they played really well until those last two series. The last series of the third, and then that touchdown series of the fourth. I thought they played really well. To hold that offense to seven points until the end of the third quarter is a huge accomplishment. But again, we’re not in for moral victories, man. We got to look at it and say okay, where do we have to prove that? They did a great job. Coach Golden did an unbelievable job, called a great game, and they played their tails off. But it still goes back to scoring 14 points with a quarter and seconds left in the game, and that’s really, to me, where our focus has to be.”

His halftime thoughts

“Offensively, it was same thing. Do not turn the ball over. Take care of the football. Try to continue to run the ball vertically. And create some misdirection and shots like we did in the first half. And we were doing a good job. I thought the first or second drive in the second half, I told Tommy we did a really good job milking the clock. We ended up punting the ball. And I was pleased with that. But then all sudden, their offense goes out and scores. And then now you’re down. And so, we got to say, ‘Okay, now we got to throw the ball, we’ve got to do some different things,’ and we don’t convert, and then they go down and score again. And now you’re down. So, that’s kind of when the game turned.”

Special Teams play

“(Blake) Grupe hit the very first field goal which is a great confidence booster. (Jon) Sot came in and did a really good job punting the ball. He did a really good job. You look at the special team’s units as a whole, we look at the kickoff coverage unit, we did a pretty good job there. But with ball placement, we got to get better. If they’re going to put the ball in play, we’re going to return it, we’ve got to get the ball outside.”

On Jim Knowles/Ohio State defense

“We had a good bead on what they were doing. Again, it just came down to execution. Again, we did a good job. Did a good job. Scored 10 points. We were rushing the ball, we were controlling the clock. But you got to be able to finish. And if you’re in a situation and we’ve got to throw it, you got to be able to finish. That’s something we didn’t do.”

What needs fixed?

I’m trying to think back to all the penalties in first half. I know we had the (offensive pass interference) in the second half. The use of timeouts, being able to save our timeouts was something that I wasn’t happy with. In the second half, having to use those timeouts because we couldn’t get lined up or someone’s miscommunication, we’ve got to make sure we save those timeouts.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire