Notre Dame football team ready for season opener Saturday at Ohio State
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WNDU) - The Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team opens its 2022 season at Ohio State on Saturday!
The storylines for this week one match-up between Notre Dame and Ohio State are endless. However, The most important is that two teams with top-five rankings are hoping to start a trajectory towards a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Meanwhile, it’s also the regular season head coaching debut for Marcus Freeman on the same field where he played his college football, the first collegiate start for Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner, and the 100th year of football at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Both head coaches touched on the importance of this game for their programs.
“What a great opportunity to get a chance to play the number one or two team in the country—let’s go,” Freeman said. “As an ultimate competitor, you love these opportunities. You don’t get these every week.”
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day agreed.
“It’s a special matchup having Notre Dame,” he said. “Such a prestigious program in the Midwest, and then Ohio State getting together for a home-and-home is exciting. We saw this on the schedule a few years back, and here we are.”
A lot needs to go right for the No. 5 Irish to beat No. 2 Ohio State, but Freeman says there’s one thing they need to focus on come Saturday night. Defensive-minded Freeman says the key to slowing down the Buckeye offense all starts in their run game. He explained why stopping the run is the number one thing they focused on in practice.
“If you don’t stop the run, they’ll run it all day long, and so the ability to stop the run is most important,” Freeman said. “We know they’re very talented in throwing the ball, but it’s the mindset if you can’t stop the run, they can throw it, they can run it, they can do whatever they want to do. So, we have to be able to stop the run, and then be able to give different looks defensively that, obviously I’m not going to say we’re trying to confuse them but be able to give them different looks in terms of the pass game.”
As mentioned earlier, in addition to a new head football coach this season, Notre Dame will have a new quarterback leading the offense, too. Obviously, Irish fans have seen Buchner play quarterback, but never as “the guy.”
Talk about baptism by fire, as he’ll make his first collegiate start in front of a sold out crowd at Ohio State in primetime.
Since being named the starter on Aug. 13, Buchner has been preparing and building rapport with his receivers. And he has a solid offensive line protecting him up front.
Buchner and his teammates touched on what to expect from him come Saturday night.
“I think there’s a lot of emotions,” Buchner said. “It’s my first start, playing at Ohio State, night game. I think I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little bit of nerves. I think that’s pretty normal, pretty human. I’ll try to be the best leader I can, support the guys on the field around me, and hopefully we can execute and come away with a win.”
“A play maker. Simple as that,” said running back Chris Tyree. “He makes plays. No matter whether he’s throwing the ball, whether he’s running it, making checks, making reads, communicating with the offense, he makes play. So that’s what you’re going to see from him.”
On the other side of the ball, the Notre Dame defense is tasked with slowing down one of the most lethal offenses in the country.
Ohio State is returning quarterback CJ Stroud, who’s a preseason Heisman contender, and has most of his receiving core from last season, which is one of the best in the country, to throw to again.
However, this Notre Dame defense believes they can be the best unit in the entire country. Between the rotation in the defensive line, the returners coming back at the linebacker position, and the depth in the secondary, the Irish have the talent to be among the top.
“We’ve got a lot of experience,” says defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola. “We’ve got a lot of depth. We’ve got a lot of guys who love this game. We’ve got a lot of guys who love this program, this university. We’ve got a lot of guys who love this team, and we’re preaching that.
“Love is enough to get us through anything,” Ademilola added. “There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in this, but we got a lot of brothers who are willing to do that blood, sweat, and tears for each other, so that’s more than enough to be great.”
Freeman had one last media availability on Thursday afternoon, where he brought up some last second tidbits on Saturday’s game.
“We’re underdogs, and that’s okay,” Freeman said. “It all comes back to the motivation to prepare, and that’s our job as coaches is to make sure we have the most prepared team, and that’s what it’s all about. I’m not using that for Saturday. If we need to say you’re an underdog on Saturday to get them motivated, we have other issues. Every day, you’re looking for a way to get them prepared, get them motivated to practice.”
Freeman also brought up some injury updates. Right now, team captain/offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson is still questionable heading into Saturday’s game. However, a handful of skill guys that were an injury concern at some point in the past few weeks are clear to compete Saturday—including running back Logan Diggs, as well as wideouts Deion Collie and Joe Wilkins Jr.
Kickoff at Ohio Stadium on Saturday is set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
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