Three Things Marcus Freeman Said about Fiesta Bowl Matchup with OSU

It’s bowl week and both the Cowboys and Fighting Irish are preparing for their Fiesta Bowl matchup this Saturday.

Last week, recently named Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman met with media members to discuss his upcoming debut. Here are three things he mentioned.

On OSU’s veteran-laden defense

“They do a lot of different things,” said Freeman. “What you can see is that, you can’t do all of those different things as a defensive coordinator in the first year. But when you talk about a team that’s senior-led and has as many returning starters as they do, you can do all these different things because, for them, they’ve been doing the same thing for four years.

“It’s going to be complicated. It’s a very sophisticated system and a system that has been built over years. The players know the ins and outs of it. It’s not just running around and creating havoc. You can tell these kids know what they’re doing.”

Catching up on the Pokes

At the time of his press conference (on Dec. 22), Freeman and his team were over halfway through a deep dive into Oklahoma State, reliving the Cowboys’ dramatic 2021 season week-by-week. I don’t know if that is a common part of bowl prep, but it seems like a pretty great way to get to know your opponent.

Also, it appears that Freeman went to the same school of watching tape as Mike Gundy. Numbers not names.

“Explosive plays — their quarterback can be explosive with his feet and his arm,” said Freeman. “No. 1 [Tay Martin], I don’t know the names, but No. 1 is really good — the wideout. They’ve got freshman wideout [could be Jaden Bray, the Green twins or John Paul Richardson] that is really good that’s really showing up. And their running backs, they’ve got multiple running backs but No. 7 [Jaylen Warren], he can take it the distance at any moment.

“They want to run the ball. That has been the big challenge for our defense. They want to ball. We want to stop the run. We have to do whatever it takes to make sure they can’t run the ball up and down the field on us and limit the explosive plays.

“It’s going to be a battle. As a team, we’re taking a journey through their season. Right now, they’re 6-1 or 7-1. We finished with Kansas today. You see explosive plays on offense. There’s takeaways on defense. There are moments where the defense is four-and-out. They stop fourth-down conversions. They don’t give up big plays. There’s a lot of three-and-outs for their defense.

“On special teams, they have returns. You see fumbles on muffed punts. Their left-footed punter has to be so unique, because you see a lot of returners muffing punts. You see explosive plays in the kicking game – kickoff return, punt return for touchdowns. What a challenge this is for our group. I want our group to understand we better be ready to go.”

On staff and players being careful with COVID-19

“You’ve got to be smart,” Freeman said. “We’ve got to understand that COVID is still out there. I don’t care if you’re vaccinated, it’s still out there. We have to be smart with what we expose ourselves to.”

We had an option to go out two days before the bowl game, but we think it’s smarter for us to [since] they’re going to go home [for Christmas break] come back and be together. Let’s get together and let’s get out there on Monday and make sure that we’re in our own bubble and not off at different places.”

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