home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


September 2, 2023

Marcus Freeman

South Bend, Indiana, USA

Press Conference

Notre Dame 56, Tennessee State 3

MARCUS FREEMAN: As I just addressed the team, sometimes you have to take a minute and reflect on what an opportunity it was for our football program to play in this game, and to be the first team to play not only an FCS opponent but an HBCU, it's really important and it's humbling, especially being an African-American head coach. This is what you want for college football.

As I told Coach Eddie George after the game, I'm honored to be a part of this game with him. He's got a dang good team. You saw that in the first quarter. They quickly made sure this wasn't going to be an easy game, but our guys were able to respond and go out and execute.

It's important that we understand the magnitude of this game. I was pleased, obviously, on offense. I think we had eight guys that scored touchdowns. It just shows the depth of our team, the ability to spread the ball around and those type of things. Then defensively for the second week in a row, to not give up a touchdown is just huge. It's huge.

I told Coach Biagi during the game, there's a lot of special teams teaching moments that we can learn from in this game. I still don't know exactly what happened on the kick. We've got to have a better kick on the kickoff, but we had a couple guys in a position to make a play and we didn't make a play, so it's stuff we can address.

I'll think about the muffed punt they had. We need to show -- that's a teaching play. We've got to be better on that. Then finally we got a chance to see Bryce punt.

Again, I'm extremely happy with the victory.

As I say this to you guys, I say to myself, you have to enjoy these moments. They're hard, and we only get 12 guaranteed opportunities, so you have to enjoy them.

With that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Marcus, was there any explanation to you on the Devyn Ford kickoff play, and how is he doing?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I saw him in the second half, and he said he's okay. He said his head hurts a little bit, but they said he did not hit with the crown, he hit with his forehead.

I can agree to disagree, but it is what it is.

Q. How would you assess how Angeli did in the second half there?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Good, man. I was proud of Steve. Made some good decisions.

It wasn't perfect, which it's never perfect, but I thought he did a good job of keeping drives going, making big plays on I think some 3rd downs, and obviously putting the ball in the end zone.

Q. Marcus, this is the second week in a row where basically you've gone into a game, it's the season opener for the opponent. You gave up 55 yards on that first drive, then I think it was just a shade over 100 the rest of the way. Was it kind of like last week where maybe you saw some looks that you hadn't seen before?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, same thing. Coach Golden and I were laughing, just like, man, every team we play is coming out with things we haven't seen.

Again, you do as good of a job as you can researching your opponent and really preparing, but our opponents, they're creative, too, and they're going to come out with new wrinkles.

The game of football, man, has to be -- the great teams are able to adjust, and you have to be able to get plays drawn up, communicate from the press box down to the sideline and make sure your players can understand what they're seeing and what they're getting and adjust to it.

Then now you can recognize it. As a defensive guy you can recognize formations and say, okay, here's what they did on the last formation. This is the play they ran on the last formation, when they were in that formation.

That's the challenge. If we want to be a great team, we're going to have to continue to be able to do that, see something new on both sides of the ball, because they did stuff differently defensively, too. So the ability for us to get it adjusted and corrected and then go out and execute.

Q. You talked about Steve, you obviously got him in, you got Minchey in, you got a lot of guys in. Do you come into a game like this with maybe some benchmarks you're looking to hit as you sort of start making those substitutions?

MARCUS FREEMAN: No. I think my coaching point to the staff was our job on Saturday is to reach our full potential. Whatever the score is going to be if we do that is going to be what the score is.

If we have the opportunity to get some guys that don't play in the game a chance to play, I want to make sure we give them a chance to succeed. So my only communication was let's make sure if we get a chance to get 2s and 3s in the game, here's the game plan because what I don't want to see is us looking foolish because of coaching.

I was just hard on the coaches, like I want you to have a plan for guys that are going in there that haven't been in the game. I thought they did a good job of doing that.

Q. Coach, this was kind of a debut for a lot of your defensive rotations and your defensive packages. With that being said, how would you evaluate how those went before you got all the way down deep on your depth chart?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I thought it was good. We started slow. There was a couple uncharacteristic MAs and one play we had 10 guys on the field, and part of that, I don't want to make an excuse, but part of that is the ability to really adjust from preparing for the triple option over and over and over to now you're playing normal defense.

That's a little bit of it. I didn't want to use it as an excuse, but I understand that.

But I thought after that first series, they were able to really just settle down, stop making the careless mistakes -- I always say don't beat Notre Dame, and there was a couple times in that first series we were beating Notre Dame, and I thought they were able to really settle down and go and do a better job.

Q. You just referenced a team playing to its full potential, and I know you like to see improvement every week, so when you look at a game like this, what are kind of the things that you zoom in on and measure whether your team made improvements since it was a big margin last week?

MARCUS FREEMAN: I haven't watched it. The one thing that sticks out is I'm pretty sure we didn't turn the ball over. I think we didn't turn the ball over --

Q. On the kickoff --

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, and that's to me a little different. But it was a challenge, right. Hand the ball to the official; do not turn the ball over. I thought our offense did a really good job at that.

Defensively they were so close last week at getting takeaways, and this week I think we had two. We had two takeaways which is fine. Trying is great, but we evaluate on did we do it or not. So they had two takeaways. Obviously one went to the house for a touchdown. That's where I saw major improvement. I have to go back here after this and go watch the film, and on Monday I'll give you some more answers.

Q. On the topic of playing to your potential, Hartman leads five touchdown drives in five series. How close to perfect was he today?

MARCUS FREEMAN: He was good. He was really good. Not perfect. But the thing about Sam is the ability for him to come over to me and say, I'm good. He made some -- maybe an error or two, a bad read, and he looked at me and was like, I'm good.

Six years, man. That experience is so important. He's a heck of a football player.

But the ability to handle the elements, maybe not playing perfect, big games, maybe a game where you're highly favored, he is a very experienced player, and I'm sure glad we have him.

Q. I'm going to go a little big picture on you now. Take you back one year ago, your first game in the stadium, obviously a totally different feeling. I wonder if you could put into perspective how much different you feel right now and how far you think your program has grown in a year.

MARCUS FREEMAN: We're getting better. We're getting better. As I've said, I think before, there's no substitution for experience. You can give me every blueprint from every head coach, and you still have to learn through experience.

I hope next year at this point I'm saying, man, I'm so much farther along as a head coach after year two than I was after year one.

But the comfort, man, the understanding of what to expect, the understanding of really not being so emotional every moment. You have to pull back and look at this program in a macro picture. That can be in terms of a week. That can be in terms of a season, in terms of a game.

I told Coach Parker, I said, hey, keep our composure. We're good. I was laughing about it because as a defensive coordinator, I would want to be so perfect and I can't believe they gained a yard and what are we doing.

But I think with experience, you realize, mistakes happen; let's keep our composure, let's get to the next play and go out and execute.

Q. There was a moment where you were pretty emotional. The one-minute drive, you used your time-outs there at the end of the first half to set up your offense. Talk to me about managing that as a head coach. Is that a growth point for you, and just what that felt to see it pay off the way it did.

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, I saw it on the clock as we were going out there. I think it was between two and three minutes. I said man, if we can get a stop here, I want to have a two-minute drive.

I was really calculating when we were going to use those time-outs and the ability to hold them as long as we could after 1st down, we use them -- after 1st down we used one and 2nd down -- we used two of them there, and I wanted to keep one time-out for our offense to have a two-minute drive. Obviously they didn't need it.

But it's so crucial to have those type of really situations. We do them in practice, but to have it live, man, I was so proud of the way they executed. I loved the communication. I was able to communicate with Coach Golden and say, hey, if they run the ball or we keep inbounds, we're using a time-out. Coach Parker, I'm going to save you one time-out. I don't want to use a time-out until we're past midfield.

All those things, man, you can practice them all the time, but there's so much value using them in the game.

Q. After Ramon Henderson had that pick, you came over to the DBs and said something that didn't look like it was super complimentary. What message were you trying to get across there?

MARCUS FREEMAN: We have a saying that says hand the ball to the official. That's after every play.

It's multiple reasons. One is it ensures you have the ball. So when we say hand the ball to the official, it ensures you have possession of the ball. There is no confusion who has the ball.

Two, I think it's respect for the game of football. I don't want to see guys throwing the ball down after a touchdown or an interception. Hand the ball to the official because you respect the referees but you respect the game of football.

A couple guys needed that reminder today, and you caught the one that I said to Ramon.

Q. Going back to that time-out called at the end of the first half, you did the same thing last week. Could you speak to the luxury of knowing that you have a quarterback -- it doesn't matter if the field is 150 yards long, he's probably going to be able to take you downfield?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, he's pretty good. (Laughter.)

I don't want to tell him that too often, but man, he is -- again, it's a level of comfort knowing that, hey, you can put that guy -- sometimes when you don't have that confidence in your quarterback, you're not going to call time-out, you're going to say, let the clock run out, let's get out of this half and go to the locker room. I wanted to get the ball in Sam Hartman's hands to run our offense in that two-minute situation because I've seen it over and over, him go out and execute.

He did it last week; he did it again this week. I have the utmost confidence if we have probably at least 20 seconds to -- 20 to 30 seconds on the clock before half, I'm going to call a time-out and try to get the offense the ball.

Q. I know the situation was different because of Navy's offense last week, but you waited to put Angeli in and then he didn't have a really good shot at leading a drive. Were you bound and determined, because it was only 35-3, I think, when you put him in, you weren't going to wait for that, you were determined to get him in the game?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, I wanted Angeli to get some meaningful reps. I didn't want to put him in on mop-up duty when the game is already out of hand. I said, I want a little bit of pressure on Angeli but our offensive staff to say, okay, we have to score. We have to be efficient on offense here. We can't go three-and-out.

I thought they did a really good job of really going out there, having a plan for Angeli, being able to adapt for some of the mistakes that were happening on our offense, and I'm glad we protected him for the most part. He got hit once or twice, but I think we did a good job protecting him, too.

Q. You mentioned eight different players scoring touchdowns. How much does that help your offense to have those type of options, and how much does Sam help make those options be a possibility with the way he runs the offense?

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, Sam is a big part. But I think we have some talented individuals. I would like to go through, and Jeremiyah Love scored the first touchdown running the ball, so credit to our offensive line. Hartman, TD run; Tyree scored a touchdown from Hartman; Audric, TD run. So again, holding steady -- yeah, having Sam Hartman helps, but I think the depth on our offense and those skill positions show up when you see eight guys score a touchdown.

Credit to our offensive coaches and the job they've done in those rooms.

Q. What was your reaction to Sam's front flip touchdown?

MARCUS FREEMAN: You know, you kind of don't want to see him do that, but more than that, I said, was this planned because you kind of did some gesture to the fans. I said, have you done that before. He's like, no, I was just thanking the people for coming or something like that. I'm like, all right, you might have had that one planned. But keep your feet on the ground.

Q. With teams ahead like Ohio State, Clemson and South Carolina, how do you keep your players focused on right now and not looking ahead? I guess yourself, too, for that matter.

MARCUS FREEMAN: Yeah, as I told this group, we work them really hard for 12 guaranteed opportunities. Of these 12, the next Saturday is what's most important. It's a personal challenge for us. This is about Notre Dame's football program reaching its full potential on that Saturday. If it's good enough to win, whatever the score was today, whatever it was last week, great. If it's not, then we've got to go back and fix it and say why we didn't play at our full potential, or if we did and we didn't win, okay, we'd better recruit better. That's my challenge.

Man, we work so hard for 12 guaranteed opportunities. Think about that. That's 12 days in the year that you get a chance to go play this game that we love. So be grateful for the opportunity, and I'm sure when we turn on the film for NC State, we'll understand the challenge we have ahead of us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297