Notre Dame Must Fix This Issue To Contend In ’24

Notre Dame is certainly trending in the right direction as we’ve turned the calendar to 2024. Marcus Freeman is finding his footing as the head man, the assisting staff instills confidence on both sides of the ball, and the roster has a nice blend of veterans and young talent. The Irish fully intends to make a real run in the inaugural 12-team expanded CFP.

With this framework in mind, I start to think hard about what hurdles there may be for Notre Dame as they try and truly make some noise next season. One of these challenges is how the Irish performed in true road contests in 23′. Not well. Slow starts. Sluggish play. Not able to match the emotion of the home squad. This trend led directly to two losses and almost a third, ruining the high-end prospects of the season.

Let’s examine the evidence of this issue and what may be causing it.

The Evidence

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame gets every team’s best shot. Every stadium the Irish visit is full of loud opposing fans who want to see Notre Dame lose. That is nothing new and must be expected and prepared for mentally. The Irish must be able to withstand the hostilities and quiet the crowd with great play. That didn’t happen enough in 2023.

Notre Dame started slow against NC State, Duke, Louisville, Clemson, and Stanford. There seemed to be a clear divide in the quality of the Irish’s play between home and road games. Especially early in games. This is dangerous. Some of these games ended up being lopsided wins, which is great but doesn’t make me feel comfortable with the slow starts, two of which ultimately ruined Notre Dame’s season.


Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things I love the most about college football is the emotional intensity of the games and the moments within them. College football is very unique in this way. Emotions matter. Many weeks teams with less talent beat teams with more talent based on how “fired up” they were to attack the game.

This year, Notre Dame clearly failed to match the intensity of Louisville and Clemson and paid dearly for it. This just simply cannot happen. The Irish didn’t lose these games because they didn’t have the talent to keep up. They lost them because they didn’t come as mentally ready for battle as the opposition.

Coach Freeman must do a better job of getting his team “up” for these moments enough to battle through them and emerge victorious. I realize that there is fatigue from previous games, travel stress involved, etc. These factors are real but must be overcome. Notre Dame gets everyone’s best shot. They must be mentally prepared for them.


5 stars: The best and worst of Notre Dame’s loss at Clemson
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

When I see a year-long trend of something, I start asking bigger picture questions. Is there something Notre Dame can do to adjust their travel schedule to begin road games more freshly and with a “pop” instead of a “thud”?

What about the last couple of days of practice in South bend before the travel? Are there adjustments that can be made to the schedule or what’s taking place within it to have the Irish primed to start games with more bounce? I’m not sure, but this needs to be looked at.


5 stars: The best and worst of Notre Dame’s win over Stanford
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is always going to be in a vulnerable spot regarding this topic. They are a target weekly. Everyone wants to knock Notre Dame down and out. They will get each team’s best shot and each fan base’s loudest cheers and boos. The Irish must embrace this.

These aren’t opportunities to be timid. These are opportunities to ruin the night of 80,000 people who came to see you lose. I don’t have all the answers to such a nuanced topic, but I do see a problem. How Marcus Freeman addresses it may determine if 2024 is a great year or another one that falls just short of goals and dreams.

For more Irish news & notes follow John on Twitter @alwaysirishINCAlways Irish on Youtube and or your preferred audio podcast provider.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire