No. 8 Notre Dame looks to finish strong against Marshall originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After a recent history of blowout losses to elite teams, Notre Dame's 21-10 defeat Saturday at No. 2 Ohio State showed that the Irish can at least hang with a national championship contender.
Saturday when No. 8 Notre Dame (0-1) faces Marshall (1-0) for the first time ever, the Irish look for a bounce-back victory in first-year head coach Marcus Freeman's home debut.
"There's no moral victories around here," Freeman said of Notre Dame's opening loss. "The expectation for us and this football program is to win every game we play, including playing the No. 2 team in the country."
The biggest positive from Saturday was that the Irish kept the high-powered Buckeyes offense in check, limiting big plays. Ohio State gained 395 yards and needed a touchdown in the final five minutes to secure the outcome.
Freeman did acknowledge he was happy with how the Irish defended the run against Ohio State -- until the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes gained 85 of their 172 yards on the ground.
"You look at the last drive of 95 yards and the execution, it was an accumulation of missed tackles," Freeman said. "We have to be better. When a team says, 'Hey, we're going to run the ball and try to run the clock out,' we got to be able to step up and get a stop.
"We have to win the fourth quarter. We have to learn to finish."
Freeman also is looking for better finishing from his quarterback. In his first start, Tyler Buchner completed his first eight passes. But after that, he hit only 2 of his next 10 and finished with 177 yards.
The Irish managed just 76 yards on the ground. Help could be on the way as four-year starting offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson, who missed the Ohio State game, could return from the injured list. More success in the rushing game would help open passing routes for Buchner, who still got high marks from Freeman.
"We got ourselves a quarterback," Freeman said. "There's a strong belief in what he can do for this football program."
On Saturday, Notre Dame takes on Marshall, which dominated its opener against Norfolk State, 55-3, rolling up a 612-114 yardage edge against the FCS squad.
The Thundering Herd lived up to its nickname behind Ethan Payne (10 carries, 113 yards) and Florida State transfer Khalan Laborn (12 carries, 102 yards), who scored two touchdowns apiece, while Texas Tech transfer Henry Colombi completed 24 of 26 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown.
"I challenged them all week to play 60 minutes of dominant football," Marshall's second-year coach Charles Huff said. "I thought it was a good start."
It was an eventful offseason for the Thundering Herd, shifting from Conference USA to the Sun Belt, where Marshall is predicted to finish fourth out of seven teams in the league's East Division.
Then came bad news last month when the school announced that running back Rasheen Ali, the nation's leader in touchdowns last year (25), had taken a leave of absence with no timetable for his return.