No. 9 Irish gear up for second game at Notre Dame Stadium

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:45 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The No. 9 Fighting Irish are getting ready to face Central Michigan in their second game at Notre Dame Stadium this weekend.

The team announced on social media that Saturday’s game against the Chippewas is sold out, so the fans aren’t looking too far ahead to next week’s highly anticipated primetime matchup against Ohio State.

Head coach Marcus Freeman says the team is doing the same thing. He’s made sure that everyone’s mindset, conversation, and preparation is focused on Central Michigan.

During a virtual press conference Thursday, Freeman was asked if he had any fear of a letdown from his team Saturday afternoon.

“We put a lot of emphasis on staying in the moment, winning the moment,” he said. “And again, that’s been my message to the team, and it’s been that way all year because every Saturday we have one goal, and that’s try to continue to play at our full potential. In order to do that, you have to win these moments in the day, and I remind them if their mind ever starts to drift or if somebody tries to talk about the future, it’s just a great reminder for us to refocus and get back into the moment.”

The Irish have scored an average of 47 points per game through their first three wins of the season. And when your offense is clicking as much as it is for Notre Dame, you’re going to have at least one name in the Heisman conversation.

Enter Sam Hartman, who was asked about his Heisman campaign with the Irish. And in true mature captain form, he immediately started talking about his offensive line, his tight ends, his running backs, his coordinator, and quarterbacks coach... pretty much everybody to the nutritionist for the team.

Hartman knows that while a Heisman in South Bend is cool, it’s not the only trophy they want, and it’ll take a village to bring it home.

“I’ve been in this situation before at Wake (Forest) and those different things,” Hartman explained. “And yeah, you see it, you hear it. But again, there’s no ‘me’ in all those conversations without up front, on the outsides, in the trenches. Those guys are going to war for me. Shoot, even the scout team guys. Even Alexa with nutrition. All those things go into play for me, and all those things are huge for us to make sure I’m healthy and the team has success.”

North Carolina State's Juice Vereen (11) tried to avoid the tackles of Notre Dame's DJ Brown...
North Carolina State's Juice Vereen (11) tried to avoid the tackles of Notre Dame's DJ Brown (2) and Xavier Watts (0) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)(Associated Press)

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame defense is hoping to rebound after giving up its first touchdowns of the season last weekend against NC State. But the Irish have been able to force turnovers, which is something they struggled with last year.

Ben Morrison, Xavier Watts, and DJ Brown each got in on the action, forcing mistakes out of dual threat gunslinger Brennan Armstrong.

With five picks through three games, the Irish are now tied for the third-most interceptions in the country. The team talked about the takeaways this week as they prepare for Central Michigan.

“It’s been great,” Brown said. “Just going into that game, we heard that NC State’s stress on their QB was for him to throw it deep more and challenge DBs, so just going into the game we knew what type of game it was going to be. So, just capitalizing on that for our DBs just gives us confidence going into the rest of the season.”

“I think we’re playing faster, and we’ve got to keep using our techniques and make them habits,” said defensive coordinator Al Golden. “That’s going to translate to game day, but in terms of getting the interceptions right now, that’s because the guys are playing fast and they have good vision. And I think they’re really good players, too.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Notre Dame Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m. EDT. A reminder, the game will be streamed exclusively on Peacock.

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