“I think going into last season you have questions on really what was our identity,” Freeman said.
That’s because it was the season-opener for his team, not to mention his first season-opener as a head coach.
However, Freeman said such questions are customary for the start of any campaign.
“Game one, you don’t know until you face an opponent, but we know what we can do offensively after four games,” Freeman said.
So far the Fighting Irish, who ran the ball 27 times (plus three sacks) and threw it 18 last season against the Buckeyes in Columbus, have been balanced on offense.
With former Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman at quarterback, the Irish are 4-0 while rushing for more than 200 yards a game and passing for more than 300, an attack that adds up to 16th in the nation in total yards.
Better yet, their 46 points per game rank ninth in the nation.
As for last season, the strategy to keep the game close might have paid some dividends, but ultimately it wasn’t enough for the Fighting Irish to avoid a 21-10 loss.
This time around, Freeman anticipates a more open game plan.
“We’re not going to go rapid speed now. I don’t want to go up-tempo and go as fast as we can,” Freeman said. “You know, it’s complimentary football.”
That means the defense will continue trying to keep the Buckeyes’ talented skill players in front of them and force Ohio State to put together long drives if it wants points.
“What we want to do is make sure that we limit the big plays right?” Freeman said. “We want them to have to truly drive down the field, and we limit those big plays. And offensively we want to have success, and we’re not going to go throw deep balls every play. Like it’s complimentary football. We still want to win time of possession and those type of things that really factor into your success, but the mindset is different because you know more about your team this year than you did last year for game one.”