Ohio State-Notre Dame notes: Freeman says Irish have to ‘learn how to finish’

Wayne grad falls to 0-2 as head coach at Notre Dame

COLUMBUS — Marcus Freeman betrayed little emotion as he walked down the tunnel from the visitor’s locker room to the turf at Ohio Stadium.

The Wayne grad and former OSU linebacker Freeman experienced his old college field as a visitor three years ago when he was on Luke Fickell’s staff at Cincinnati. Now as the head coach at Notre Dame, all eyes were upon him. A crowd of reporters, cameramen and videographers documented his arrival Saturday.

Not nearly as many people followed Freeman as he left the field hours later after a 21-10 loss to the No. 2 Buckeyes. He did get a hug from former Ohio State teammate Bobby Carpenter before he headed up the tunnel.

The first game of Freeman’s first season as Notre Dame head coach ended with a disappointing final 16 minutes that saw Ohio State outscore Notre Dame 14-0.

“We’ve got to get better,” Freeman said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish. We’ve got a good football team. We’ve got to learn how to finish. And that’s what I just told them. You can’t be surprised when all of a sudden, it’s a 10-7 ballgame midway through the third quarter against a really, really good football team. Don’t be surprised. That’s got to be the expectation for this group.”

Explore» PHOTOS: Marcus Freeman on the sideline at Ohio Stadium
Explore» RELATED: Ohio State game ‘surreal’ moment for Marcus Freeman’s family

Notre Dame will get another chance against Ohio State when the Buckeyes visit South Bend, Ind., on Sept. 23, 2023. For now, Freeman’s focus will be the next game — his first home game as head coach — against Marshall at Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday. He’ll seek his first victory as Notre Dame coach. He’s now 0-2 after losing to Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl last season and to Ohio State on Saturday.

The Fighting Irish failed to score on their final six possessions after getting a field goal and a touchdown on their first four drives. Ohio State dominated the fourth quarter, possession the ball for almost 11 minutes.

“We didn’t execute late in the game when we had to,” Freeman said. “We didn’t execute the way we needed to. We had a challenge to win the fourth quarter. We didn’t win the fourth quarter. They scored with 13 seconds left in third, and they scored at the end of the fourth, and we didn’t respond. We didn’t keep them out of the end zone. I think they had four big rushing plays in the fourth quarter, and that is a heartbreaker for a defense. If you’re giving up big plays to an offense running the ball, that kills a defense.”

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Star-studded sideline: LeBron James drew a crowd before the game as he walked onto the field with his son Bronny, a 2023 recruit who took an unofficial visit to the Ohio State men’s basketball program.

James posed for photos with many potential recruits on the football and basketball side and got hugs from a number of former Buckeyes, including Ryan Shazier.

Bengals in attendance: Former Ohio State and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow watched the game from the sideline with Cincinnati Bengals teammate and former Buckeye Sam Hubbard. They were part of a large group of former players that included Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott and Justin Fields to name a few.

Explore» MORE ON GAME: Five things to know about Ohio State's victory

Champions honored: Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team got its moment on the turf after the end of the first quarter. The players hoisted their coach, Jim Tressel, onto their shoulders after video of the final play of their victory against Miami played on the scoreboard.

Looking ahead: The Buckeyes play Arkansas State at noon Saturday in Week 2. The Red Wolves beat Grambling State 58-3 in their opener Saturday.

About the Author