Freeman recaps win over NC State ahead of upcoming homestand
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The Notre Dame football team is back in South Bend after hitting the road this past weekend for its first true test of the young season.
The Fighting Irish remain undefeated after beating NC State 45-24, and Saturday’s game was a big test for Notre Dame in more ways than one.
It wasn’t a hurricane this time around, but the rain still played a major factor, causing a delay just a few ticks into the second quarter and forcing the Irish to sit in the road locker room for more than an hour and a half.
Then, just like lightning, on the first play after the long delay, Notre Dame running back Audric Estimé took a handoff 80 yards for a touchdown. The Irish rode that momentum to their third win in as many games to start the season.
There was talk on social media that the Irish were given only concession food during the delay, and Estimé ran for that score after eating a hot dog. But head coach Marcus Freeman credits it to a great plan from the support staff.
“It was really good, just recapping how we handled that, it was really positive,” Freeman said. “I know sometimes the Hollywood story out there that Audric had a hot dog and went out there and ran a 70-yard touchdown — trust me that sounds a lot better. But the reality is that we had a good plan for that postponement, and I wanted to make sure I give credit to the support staff and the planning they did for that moment.”
Prior to the weather delay, Notre Dame’s offense had been off to a rough start. But Estimé's run put the Irish up 10-0, and they ended up scoring 45 before it was all said and done. It’s a significant feat against the Wolfpack defense, who hadn’t allowed more than 30 points at home since 2019.
Meanwhile, the spread coming into the game had Notre Dame favored by only seven points, so tripling that is a great way to handle your first test of the season.
But just like the Tennessee State game, Freeman recognized that his team got challenged more than he expected them to. But the difference with this year’s team is they can shut the door in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of the way our team handled a tough environment versus a really good football team,” Freeman said. “I really believe after watching the tape that NC State’s a good football team. They’re tough, they’re physical on both sides of the ball, special teams, so I was proud of the way our guys truly handled some resiliency and then really came out and shut the door in the fourth quarter.”
You can’t talk about Notre Dame’s win without talking about kicker Spencer Shrader. The grad transfer from South Florida broke the school record for longest field goal by drilling a 54-yard kick in the rain. He nearly broke the record again with a 56-yarder, but it bounced off the upright.
Freeman talked about the trust in his kicker, which could be useful in those close games late in the season.
“I have confidence that Spencer can make a 60-yard field goal because I’ve seen him do it in practice, but a lot of it comes in factor with wind and what kind of field conditions,” Freeman explained. “I’m in communication with Coach (Marty) Biagi, ‘Where’s the line? Where’s the line?’ because the line can be different in terms of the directions we’re going. The line, whichever way we were going that part of the game, was right where we were at, and he said, ‘Hey, I feel confident that he can do it.’ I said, ‘Let’s kick it.”
The Irish now come back to South Bend for a two-game homestand starting with Central Michigan this upcoming Saturday. The game, which will be streamed exclusively on Peacock, will kick off on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
The second game of the upcoming homestand is one that a lot of fans have had circled on their calendar since the schedule was released. The Ohio State Buckeyes, who are currently the No. 6 team in the country, will make their first trip to South Bend since 1996.
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