Freeman recaps win over Central Michigan, looks ahead to Ohio State matchup

Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:44 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It was another week and another win for the Notre Dame football team, which is now 4-0 on the season after defeating Central Michigan 41-17 at home on Saturday.

The score differential may have been on par with what the No. 9 Fighting Irish have done this season, but there likely isn’t anyone in the locker room that would tell you they played a perfect game against the Chippewas.

The offense had a slow start, but thanks to the poise and experience of veteran transfer quarterback Sam Hartman and a bowling ball in backfield named Audric Estimé, 41 points were put on the scoreboard. The defense also had some miscues, with a few 15-yard penalties, and a few “bend, don’t break” drives where they played with a short field behind them.

Head Coach Marcus Freeman opened his weekly Monday press conference with the media by touching on the biggest takeaways from Saturday’s game.

“It’s always great to be able to win and learn, right? And as you look at Saturday, we were able to do that,” Freeman said. “We were able to win, and there’s a lot of teaching plays that we’ll be able to go over with our guys today. As I told them, it’s not victory that you’re chasing, it’s continuously trying to reach our full potential, and that’s what we have to continue to understand is what do we have to do to continue to reach our full potential as a group.”

Meanwhile, the Irish must turn the page to their next opponent immediately, as the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes are coming to South Bend this upcoming Saturday for a highly anticipated showdown. It’s a rematch of last year’s season opener for both teams. The Buckeyes got the best of Notre Dame that night, defeating the Irish 21-10 at Ohio Stadium.

When the Irish traveled to Columbus for last year’s meeting, it was under much different circumstances. There was an entire offseason of hype leading up to Freeman’s first regular season game as a head coach while returning to his alma mater in a top five primetime game.

This year, it’s still primetime and now a top ten matchup, but Freeman talked about how this year’s game differs for him.

“There’s a lot of different factors that go into the differences, but experience — you’ve got a year under your belt,” he explained. “It’s not the first game of the year, you’ve been able to develop and identify as a program with these first four games. It’s a lot different than it was last year with it being the first game of the season for me and being the first game of the year.”

Another big difference for the Irish coming into this year’s meeting with the Buckeyes? The guys playing quarterback.

Last season when the Irish traveled to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes, they did so with Tyler Buchner — a first-time starter leading the way against a future first-round NFL Draft pick in CJ Stroud. That script is flipped this year, as it will be the Irish trotting out the more experienced QB in Hartman against Kyle McCord.

Freeman and Hartman both talked about the approach to Saturday’s monster matchup from the quarterbacks’ point-of-view at Monday’s presser.

“I think in his mind, he has played in games like this,” said Freeman of Hartman. “He’s played in some big games at Wake Forest, and this moment won’t be too big for Sam. It’s year six for him. I have a lot of confidence that he’ll be well-prepared, and the moment won’t be too big for him at all.”

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for us as a program and as a team to go out there and show what we’ve got,” Hartman said. “Obviously, a really challenging opponent historically. Great opponent, great football program, and another — like ourselves — great football university.”

Those going to the game on Saturday night are going to have a special treat. On everyone’s seat will be bracelets from the Rockne Athletic Fund. Each bracelet is programed to a specific seat (so that means no trading) because there’s going to be a synched up light show to light up the sky green.

All fans, regardless of what side you’re on or whether you have tickets to the game, are in for another treat as ESPN’s “College GameDay” is coming to Notre Dame for the big matchup. The popular pre-game college football show will be back in South Bend for the first time since November 2020 when the No. 4 Irish upset No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in double overtime.

Kickoff for Saturday’s matchup at Notre Dame Stadium is slated for 7:30 p.m. EDT. The game will air right here on WNDU.

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