Marcus Freeman not surprised about Notre Dame football's Sun Bowl performance

Notre Dame football head coach Marcus Freeman was more than a little impressed with his defense's effort against Oregon State.
Notre Dame football players huddle as they get ready to play Oregon State at the 90th Sun Bowl game
Notre Dame football players huddle as they get ready to play Oregon State at the 90th Sun Bowl game / Gaby Velasquez / El Paso Times / USA

The Notre Dame football team played about as well as a team missing most of its offensive stars could possibly play against Oregon State. While the offense scored 40 points, the really impressive side of the ball was, for the umpteenth time, the defense.

While some onlookers might have been surprised by just how well the Notre Dame defense played, head coach Marcus Freeman was not among them. In fact, after the 40-8 victory, Freeman made it clear that he’d be lying if he said he was shocked at all by the dominance.

“I think about the first half, defensively, we just did an unbelievable job. [Defensive coordinator Al] Golden has had that defense prepared all year long, and I’d be lying if I said I was surprised. I wasn’t,” Freeman said in his press conference. “I expected that out of that defense. And when you’re playing well on defense, now it gives your offense a chance to have some confidence and move the ball. The first series, put the ball on the minus-4-yard [line] and go 96 yards and score a touchdown. That was huge.”

The Notre Dame football head coach added that Golden’s unit gave the team even more confidence when the Irish went up 14-0 and Oregon State continued to struggle. 

“I’m proud of the way they executed the game plan,” Freeman added. “The work they put into this opportunity they had to play in the Sun Bowl. Kudos to our coaches and our preparation and our players, for what they did to prepare and execute.”

Notre Dame football ends the season on an extreme high note

The Fighting Irish defense dogged the Beavers all afternoon. And yes, it should be pointed out that Oregon State was on its third string quarterback. But Steve Angeli was also starting his first ever game and he still completed 78 percent of his passes, for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns.

OSU finished the game with just 197 total yards. It had 2 yards rushing. It was sacked 4 times, threw an interception and fumbled once.

Notre Dame football was just six minutes away from pitching a shutout on Friday afternoon. That’s a heck of a way to close out the 2023 season. And get ready for the 2024 campaign.