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October 15, 2022

Marcus Freeman

South Bend, Indiana, USA

Press Conference

Notre Dame 14, Stanford 16

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah. As I just met with the team and told them this one is disappointing and, you know, you've got to give credit to Stanford. They did a good job. They played well. But our lack of execution is frustrating. You know, that was adamant today especially in the first half. We have to execute better.

Offensively, we have to execute better. Defensively, we can't give them the touchdown on the very first drive. And this is why it's a team game. When there's days when your offense isn't executing, well, the defense, we have to play better, we have to play perfect. Offense has been doing really well the last couple of weeks when we haven't been playing perfect defensively. But today was a day we needed the defense to play perfect and we didn't.

Offense we've got to do a better job executing. We did a better job in the second half. I'm sure somebody's going to ask me what happened. I think the ability to run the ball a little bit better in the second half is -- which opened some things up, you know. Drew's got to be -- we've got to protect him. We've got to protect him, and he's got to execute.

But we've got to look at ourselves as coaches first and say, okay, why didn't we execute the way we were supposed to, the way we wanted to. Right? And then we've got to make sure we go and evaluate and find ways to make sure this doesn't happen.

So with that, I'll open up the questions.

Q. Marcus, if it's down to execution, especially offensively in the first half, what was the approach? What were you trying to execute in terms of the approach? Where did you feel like you could get Stanford?

MARCUS FREEMAN: It's the same thing the past couple of weeks. You want to run the ball and you want to take some advantage of some play action passes and the zones that they're giving you. And we weren't running the ball effectively.

We also weren't passing the ball. We weren't throwing the ball as effective as we wanted to. So you have a game plan. The game plan is to run the ball and try to capitalize off of the aggressiveness of their defense and try to take some shots. And we just weren't executing, obviously, at the level we wanted to.

Q. Did you sense any kind of flickering of confidence for the offense at halftime? What went on at halftime that sort of got things in some sort of a gear in the third and fourth quarters?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I don't know if it's something you say or something -- it's just the reality of you look at yourself and say, okay, guys, this is about us and we did not execute that first half. Let's get the running game going. Let's continue to ride the running game. And I think you had some success running the ball. It wasn't a lack of trying to run the ball the first half. It was just you would get one or two yards on one gain and we'd go to throw it and all of a sudden you're not executing there. We were 3 of 12 on third down. That's something we've been very successful the last couple of weeks, especially last week. We were 3 of 12 on third down. And you're not going to win if you're doing that.

Q. Coach, you mentioned earlier in the week about the rivalry and how big of a game this was (audio lost) -- overlook this opponent?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No, no, no. That's not why we lost. It wasn't a lack of overlooking anybody. It was a lack of preparation, a lack of execution. That's not overlooking an opponent. I thought they practiced their tails off.

And if you overlook an opponent, I don't think you're preparing the way you need to prepare. But we've got to look and see what exactly did or we didn't do in practice that led to the lack of execution in the game.

They respect this rivalry. They understand -- you ask any one of them. They understand how important this game is and how important preparation is. And so as I told them, it wasn't a lack of effort in the game, it wasn't a lack of effort in preparation, but it's not correlating over to the results that you want. So you've got to look at what you're doing and how you're doing it and figure out a better way to do it.

Q. Coach, you've played six games. You played your best football by far away from Notre Dame stadium. Is there any kind of common thread that connects with the performances at home?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No, no, no. And for me to sit up here and say yes, that would be making an excuse for why we're losing, why we're not playing well. It's not an excuse. We're not blaming Notre Dame stadium. You better look at yourself. If I come up here and blame Notre Dame stadium, how foolish is that as the leader of this program. Right? I'm not blaming Notre Dame stadium for our lack of winning -- playing good football. No.

Q. Stanford defensively, did they give you something that you hadn't seen on film?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No, no. That's the thing that is a little bit frustrating. It wasn't like, oh, my gosh, we don't know -- we haven't prepared for this. We knew -- I mean, the amount of times that we said, man, we should have done this, should have done that. It's a lack of execution, you know. And that's what we've got to eliminate. It's not we should have. Why didn't we? Why didn't we? Why didn't we? You know, and so it wasn't anything we weren't prepared for. We just did not do a great job of executing and they did. They did, Tim.

Q. Marcus, when you're six games in and still kind of looking for answers to those why, lack of execution questions. What's the feeling or where do you go from here as far as changing up how you look at that why?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Evaluate the film. You've got to watch it. And you've got to figure out why we didn't -- look at every single play, every single play, you know, because what happens if all of a sudden it's a 2 point game and you come back and you win it by 1, you're feeling a little bit better obviously because you win. But it's -- you have to go back and watch every single play and figure out why or why not weren't we executing. And that's what we've got to do.

Q. And the fumble, what kind of mood flip did that create on the sideline? How much of a crusher was that?

MARCUS FREEMAN: When we fumbled?

Q. Yeah, the last one.

MARCUS FREEMAN: You're moving the ball, you're rolling. Well, guess what? Defensively, you've got to step up. And they did. We held them to a field goal. We still gave the offense the ball back. And, you know, the sack on that two-minute situation really hurt, that hurt. We've got to protect our quarterback because we're rolling. We're moving. They made it 2nd and 14, 15 and, you know, I can't remember exactly what happened, third down Mayer, you know, that was incomplete. Then the fourth down, we didn't complete it.

But you hope on that drive before the last drive you're able to go and score. You're down 2 points at that moment. Right? You're down 2. And you hope you're able to go and you score. And we fumbled the ball. And it's just -- it was frustrating. But defense did a good job of stopping them and giving your offense the ball back.

Q. Marcus, the defense had a number of near turnovers. Is it deflating to the defense at all that they're that close to making maybe a difference making play and then those don't come through for them?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No. I wouldn't say it's deflating. A turnover gives you more momentum. It gives you a sense of emotion. But when you're close and you don't get it, I don't say it's deflating, no, huh-uh. But those are the moments we've got to get them, you know, we've got to get them. We've got to find a way to get them.

That one where JD looked like he punched it out right there with his knee touching, that was tough because I thought we had it. But I think we went on to stop on that series so, yeah.

Q. Can this offense be too reliant on Michael Mayer? Is Drew Pyne looking to Michael Mayer maybe too often?

MARCUS FREEMAN: We'll have to go and we'll have to see. There were a couple of times I'm like throw the ball to Mayer, he's open. But, no, I don't think we're too reliant on Michael Mayer. It's just we're just not executing.

I know you guys are going to look for a different answer, but there isn't. I can't come up with a magic answer for what's -- it's the lack of execution. And the only way to fix a lack of execution is to go back and study it and say, okay, what aren't we doing right, okay? And then you watch the film. And then you say, okay, how are we practicing. What do we have to do to make sure we're giving ourselves a better chance to execute on Saturdays.

Q. Are you learning how to better make those changes in games this season? First time as a head coach, is that something you have to figure out how to do?

MARCUS FREEMAN: My role as a head coach is to give my opinion, right? And there's times I might say, hey, run the ball, hey, run the ball. There's not many times I say stop running the ball and throw the ball but there's times I say run the ball. We did. We tried to run the ball the first half. We ran the ball pretty effectively the second half.

We're running the ball that second to last series and we fumble. It isn't like I need to speak up and say Coach Rees, you're not doing a good job. No. He's doing an excellent job, you know. And my job is to look and say, okay, Monday through Friday what aren't we doing or what are we wasting our time on doing that isn't giving us a better chance to execute on Saturday.

And, again, same thing on defense. I'm there to every once in a while give my opinion. But I have the utmost confidence in our coordinators. They spend enormous amounts of time game planning and studying. They do a good job. We have to go back and look and say what aren't we doing. Guys, it's not a call, he should have called this. No, it's not. They have a call sheet and they call the plays that are on there. We have to look and say what are we executing, what aren't we executing. And that's to me -- my challenge is to make sure we're calling the things that we're executing. And if we're calling things we're not executing, we've got to look and figure out why.

Q. Coach, obviously not blaming the officiating, but do you think there's some inconsistency there tonight?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Really? Once again, I'm not going to blame anything other than myself and us on the result today. You can get -- I can get as frustrated as I want in terms of the calls, where they're from. It's us. Take a deep look at our self and say why aren't we doing the job we're supposed to because what I don't want to do is have a football program that plays the blame game. That's not the way we'll be as football players. That's not the way we're going to be as men. That's not the way we're going to be as a football program. We're going to take ownership of our mistakes. And that's what I believe in.

Q. Marcus, the touchdown pass to Tobias and he had a near miss earlier. Anything specific for him that this week that kind of led to those I guess?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Both of those two calls were specifically for Tobias. We missed the first one, overthrew it a little bit. He was open. And was able to connect on the second one. We were looking for a specific coverage, we saw it and we called it, you know.

And again, that's what Tobias Merriweather can do. But he's got to continue to expand that confidence in terms of what the coaches feel like they can call with him in there. And he is. I think today will be a big confidence booster in him and his coaches.

Q. And then I think Jayson Ademilola and Ramone both came out. Can you update their status?

MARCUS FREEMAN: They haven't -- I think Ramone went back in. I'm not 100 percent sure. But Jayson was out. He had a rib -- said he sad a rib contusion. I don't know if he had a helmet to the rib or something. It hurts not having TaRiq out there. Jaden Mickey was his backup at nickle. It hurts not having him. And then Ramone. But those guys battle, they battled, you know. Some guys stepped up, you know. We'll be all right. We'll be all right.

Q. I know you wanted pressure from the four without having to send extra people. But did the way the injuries fell, the banged up secondary, did that impact your ability to get more creative with creating pressure, just the one sack and three hurries?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No, I don't -- you miss -- Jayson's out. I think he was the only one out with injury.

Q. Just in terms of not wanting to expose your back end with any blitzing?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah. I want to create four man pass rush, you know. I want to. They did a good job of not really dropping him back too many times. They do a good job on third down of running some RPOs to kind of keep you honest defensively.

He's a good quarterback. And he's not a huge scrambler, but he's a good quarterback in terms of making decisions and putting the ball where it needs to be. I don't know. It's just frustrating, frustrating. We've got to be better. We've just got to be better.

We'll find a way. Trust me. We're 3 and 3, you know. And we're going to evaluate, and we're going to get better. We have no other choice. You've got a head coach and a whole bunch of coaches and a bunch of seniors that they're dying to improve. Right? And they put -- they're putting great work in.

Today's result wasn't what you wanted. The last two weeks, they did a heck of a job. So we've got to swallow this pill and get our heads back up, which we will, you know. I might be the worst one, but you know what, I'm going to the competitive side of things. We're going to watch it. We're going to get it fixed with this group of guys. And we'll be all right. We're going to figure it out.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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