Marcus Freeman had little reason to be upset about Notre Dame’s 44-0 win over Boston College. Any coach in his shoes would feel the same way. He indicated such during his postgame news conference. Thanks to the folks at Irish Illustrated for providing these quotes:
“Man, what a win. What a way to go out for this season at Notre Dame Stadium. We spent a lot of time last night as a team talking about what an opportunity we get to perform one more time as this team at Notre Dame Stadium. This is a special place. And our performance hasn’t always reflected that way. And I wanted to make sure we finished this season and this last opportunity the right way. And I’ll start by saying thank you for people that help make this opportunity happen.
I mean, the snow, the guys that were working to clean it up. The students that were there that stayed in this weather condition. It was my toughest game in terms of weather conditions, playing or coaching. And so, the people to stayed, the fans, man, the students and the people that work here have been unbelievable. As far as the game, obviously, it went really well with the ability to run the ball offensively early in the game. And really, Drew I thought started off the game really pretty good, and taking advantage of the opportunities that he had.
[autotag]Isaiah Foskey[/autotag] breaks the sack record, which is huge when you think about the elite pass rushers we’ve had in the history of Notre Dame football. [autotag]Michael Mayer[/autotag] breaking another record today at home was huge. And then [autotag]Ben Morrison[/autotag], three interceptions. He finds a way, keeps finding a way. He’s a talented young man. And I thought [autotag]Logan Diggs[/autotag] had a really good day on offense. I think he had 100…plus yards rushing the ball.
So, overall performance-wise was really, really pleasing. And as I told them, let’s enjoy this tonight but we know what we have coming up next week. We had a great opportunity, and a great challenge. And so, enjoy tonight, and let’s get ready to go back to work tomorrow.”
On his team's improvement
“Are we playing better? Yes. I think at some point after season, we’ll go back and reflect and say, ‘Okay, where did we start?’ Right now, we’re just in the moment. But they are performing and playing at such a higher level, I’m sure, than we did at the start of the year. But it goes back to the leadership, those seniors, those guys that are captains. You know what? They could’ve easily started blaming and complaining and pointing fingers.
Those guys looked at themselves, and said, ‘We’re going to work.’ And they dragged everybody with them. And that’s the sign of a team that’s led by its seniors and its leaders. And there was no other option in our program. There was no other option. I can get up there as a head coach and say, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ But until it’s implemented by the leaders on your team, that’s such a strong statement in terms of their type of leadership. And so, I’m proud of the way they’ve led our program.”
On his defense creating turnovers
“Gosh, I’ve been a defensive coordinator plenty of times where you stress turnovers and takeaways, and it never happened. But you keep going. You keep going. You don’t get flustered. You challenge everything, right? You find a better way. And I think you’re seeing it happen in bunches now, right? And it’s starting to happen and go, and so our guys are taking advantage of opportunities. And maybe those opportunities had been had today might have been dropped passes early in the year. We’re taking advantage of our opportunities.
Again, it’s still a point of emphasis in practice. It has never changed. And that’s probably what’s going to lead to my next comment of it’s a great lesson in terms of you can work at something tirelessly and not get the results you want. If you quit, you’re never going to get the result. But the defensive staff has continued to work at takeaways, takeaways. And then all of a sudden, here it comes in bunches. And so, I think it’s a great lesson for our entire program that because you work hard doesn’t mean you’re going to get your reward tomorrow. Continue to do it, continue to do it, and at some point, it will come. At some point it will.”
On the season's 'bumpy road'
“For me, it was a sermon somebody sent me. It was after a loss. And it kind of just hit me and said, ‘Okay, the pastor was talking about the bumpier the road, the better.’ And really, what it was was for us to look at ourselves as a program and say, ‘Okay, we’re on this bumpy road, but this bumpy road is life. The bumpy road or better is life and it’s also a reflection of this season, and it’s also a reflection of a game.’
The ability to handle the ups and downs is, to me, what makes a person, what makes a team, what makes a life. And so, I use it over and over. In academics, you can be on a bumpy road. In the course of a game, you can be on a bumpy road. But it’s how you respond, to me, that really dictates the future. And that’s the challenge I always have for these guys is, you know what, it’s never as you foresee it on the front end.
And that’s what I said last week. But it’s how you respond to the different events that happened to you. No matter how hard you try, you can try as hard as you want, and sometimes you can’t control what happens, the events. And so, how you respond to those things is really what defines this football team of this season. And so, as I tell him, I told the seniors last night, this will be lessons that you use when you leave here. You’ll use it at the next level when you’re in the NFL, you’ll use as a husband, you’ll use as a father. It’s never going to be perfect, but the ability to respond and to sustain and keep going after you have those ups and downs is truly what will change the future outcomes.”
Lessons learned from the 'bumpy road'
“They’re resilient. We’ve got a resilient group of leaders. And I think I said this postgame is that this university attracts resilient people. Ff you’re not a resilient person, you’re not going to make it here. And that’s something that I’ve learned in my short time here. This place weeds non-resilient people out. This university, and it even happens in the football program, if you’re not a resilient, a tough-minded person, this probably won’t, at some point, won’t be the place for you, and you’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m going to go somewhere else.’
But that’s what this place, this University attracts, resilient people. And we’re fortunate we get to coach great football players that are resilient people. So, I think that’s a reflection of this university.”
On the significane of the win
“Yeah, I was thinking about you when I addressed them halftime. I said, ‘Listen, I’m tired of getting up there post-game and them saying, ‘You guys played to your competition, you guys came out to a 30-point lead,’ whatever. I said, ‘Listen, you help me answer these questions after the game. It’s going to be about the decisions that we make and how we go perform.’
And as a head coach, you just sit there and you say, ‘Okay, what did I say? Or what didn’t I do last week?’ You always look at yourself as the leader and say, ‘Okay, what didn’t I do to prepare them for the second half?’ I said maybe it was the secon-half team. I said, ‘They’re never gonna quit.’ But we didn’t perform to the level. And so, we tried different things this week. We tried to show them the film. We tried to truly get them to see, I thought last week was the first time we truly took our foot off the pedal a little bit. In turn, what happens is you don’t physically box somebody and they beat you on a block and they make a play.
And that’s what I mean when you take your foot off the pedal, you’re not as physical as you want. We didn’t tackle well in the second half because I think we took our foot off pedal. And this was a challenge today to say, ‘Listen, let’s go out in the second half and truly continue to pull as hard as we can and go as hard as we can.’ And I think they really did. You know, in the fourth quarter, we got some guys that haven’t played a lot of football in the game. But the ability to hold that team to zero points was huge.”
On running the ball vs. the Eagles
“I kind of do my Friday keys to victory before Friday. And one of my keys it said, ‘Run the ball or make them pay.’ What happens if a team doesn’t let you run the ball? They bring nine guys in the box. You’ve got to make them pay, they’re playing zero (coverage) and they’re pressuring and we’ve got to throw the ball. And then I go into the offensive unit meeting.
And coach Rees said something about, ‘We’re going to run the ball. There’s no other option.’ And I said, ‘You know what? That’s right.’ And so we went to the Friday night meeting I said, ‘Listen, we’re going to run the ball and make him pay.’ We had to run the ball. I don’t care what they were playing defensively. I don’t care if they brought everybody they had. Similar to Navy.
I said, ‘We’re going to have to find a way to run the ball and I think it’s a mental challenge to our guys that, you know what, somebody’s going to have to beat a block. Somebody’s gonna have to be to tackle. They might have one more hat in a box but we’ve got to beat them and everybody’s got to do their job and it’s a mentality. The ability to run for…281 (yards), that’s pretty good. And they stepped up to the challenge.”
On Foskey's sacks record
“It’s a reflection of so many things. He didn’t come back just to break the record. He came back to win a national championship, just like he said. And he didn’t win a national championship here, but what he did for this program, and what those seniors did for this program, to me, will be the reason why we do win a national championship here in the upcoming future. And so, I told those guys last night in our last meeting, our senior meeting, is thank you, because they built a foundation. They really have built the foundation of what is to come. And I’m glad he got a personal achievement, but what he did for this program in terms of those seniors, it’s going to be really impactful.”
On Michael Mayer
“I said this before, when your best player is one of or the hardest worker, that’s the ultimate example. When you can point and say, and everybody knows it, probably the most dominant player we have is Michael Mayer. But they all get to watch him in practice and say, ‘Okay, he works as hard as anybody in this program.’ To me that is the ultimate example. And that’s who he is. He’s a captain as a junior. He’s a great leader, leader by example, leader by his words. And he is an unbelievable football player. So, it’s been amazing to have him here, and we’ll see what the future holds.”
On Matt Salerno
“What a resilient guy, a guy that came here as a walk-on. And it was funny, we showed a video to the team last night, his parents had said they told Matt Salerno, because he was deciding to walk on, ‘Pick a school because of your academics, not because of football if you’re gonna walk on.’ And that’s why he chose Notre Dame. And what a great example for our team, a guy that said, ‘I’m choosing Notre Dame because of what this academic institution will do for my future. And I’m going to bust my tail school.’
And he busted his tail and now he’s on scholarship. And to get his first touchdown, I’m glad to hear that. He deserves it. But he’s been a huge addition and just a huge part of the success we’ve had. A guy that goes in to block sometimes. We put him in to block. And he doesn’t bat an eye. He goes in there, and he does his job. Selfless, man. Selfless individual.”
On the Notre Dame standard
“That’s what great teams do. Great teams are able to play to a standard, right? Great individuals are able to perform to a standard not to an opponent. Competitors, they rise to the level of their opponent. But to me, great teams, championship teams set a standard and say, ‘This is the way we’re going to work. There’s no other option. This is the way we’re going to perform.’
Listen, we all can sit here and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to perform to this standard,’ and maybe something doesn’t go your way. But every day, to come into work and say, ‘We’re going to practice and we’re going to work to this standard,’ is something that only great teams do. And it’s something we’ll continue to strive to be.”
On game preparation
“For me, it’s always trying to find a better way to lead. For me, it’s like, ‘How do I find a better way to lead to get these guys to prepare better and to perform on Saturdays at a higher level?’ And we’ll look back today and look at this past week of our preparation. You know, next week’s not going to be in a snow game. But two out of three days this week, we’re going outside because it’s a mentality. We’re going to be tough. And we’re not going to let the weather affect us.
We’re just going to continue to find better ways and that’s, to me, what I’m learning. It’s that you don’t have a book that says, ‘This is the way you lead.’ If you did, everybody would do it. This is the way you lead? No, it’s having the ability to maybe have an idea, but also be able to adjust and find better ways to do it based off your players. Because each player is different, each team is different. And so, that’s what I’m learning is every day, there’s got to be a better way to do it. There’s got to be a better way to coach. There’s got to be a better way to lead these young people.”
On receivers performing in cold, snowy weather
“Yeah, everybody has a role in protecting the quarterback. That’s the message. That’s the message I always have for our team. Every coach in our program has a role in protecting that quarterback. That quarterback has a role in making sure he protects his self. The way he throws the ball, the accuracy, the decision making. But we all have a piece.
The offensive line has a role in protecting the quarterback. The running backs have a role. The wide outs being exact, not close, exact in their routes. All that stuff has a role in protecting our quarterback, and that’s our job is to protect him. And then he’s got to perform. He’s got to protect himself. He’s got to perform, but we all have to make sure we help that guy have success.”
On Gabriel Rubio
“He’s a tough individual. He is a tough guy. He is high motor, high energy. He’s exceeded my expectations from last year. Did I think Gabe was going to be a good player? Absolutely. I didn’t know how soon it was going to be. And he’s exceeded my expectation. He’s been a great addition for this team this year.”