It’s no secret that, at 0-2, the Notre Dame football team is feeling some pressure. And the leadership position that being a captain of said team can certainly amplify that pressure.
This certainly rings true for 2022 captain Bo Bauer. After Notre Dame’s home opener loss against Marshall, the fate of Marcus Freeman’s debut season hangs in the balance. Especially with sophomore starting quarterback Tyler Buchner’s season-ending injury, the Irish have had to rethink their entire game plan moving forward.
In addition to restructuring the offense around junior Drew Pyne, the defense has had to take a hard look at itself to see what needs improvement in order to prevent fourth-quarter games of catchup. For Bauer, this review began with a self-evaluation as a player and a captain.
“The first thing I said is ‘what could I have done to, you know, get these guys to the point,’” Bauer said. “We’ve had great leaders who have not let the standard fall. And now that’s on my shoulders.”
Such high standards make a tough loss like the one to Marshall an even tough pill to swallow. Bauer said that the days following Marshall have been difficult. But that this defeat was also a motivating factor for him.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, is to walk around the locker room and look these guys in the eye who’ve given me the greatest gift, the greatest trust in my life to be a captain and lead these guys,” Bauer said.
The team bond has added an emotional level to the issues at hand. Bauer said that the strong relationships he and his teammates have with each other influence the push to make a play happen. This can also lead to a strong response when it does not go their way.
“I think a lot of the times that it comes down to the guys, we all love each other so much that we wanna make the play,” Bauer said. “And not for some selfish reason or something. It’s ‘we want to win the game together to see our brothers happy and successful’ and we just kind of have to make the game smaller. Just, ‘look, what’s my job this play’ and do that over and over and over again.”
For Bauer, he has focused in on his role on defense. Despite the defense looking like the Irish's strong suit, they have run into issues in their execution.
“We have to attack the ball,” he said. “Two games, no takeovers. Now it’s starting to be like ‘we have to take ownership for that.’”
Bauer himself posted two tackles on the day Saturday. But the defense was unable to stop some of the “X-plays” Marshall threw at them. According to Bauer, frustration over this stems from the fact that they are consistently working well in practice.
“There’s 11 angry guys out there every snap on defense trying to knock back the tacklers, put them on the ground,” he said of himself and his fellow defenders. “We’re taking it very personally that that kind of didn’t go that way [in the games].”
Moving forward, Bauer said it all comes down to one question: “When it matters the most, can you do what you need to do?” Despite the love the team has for each other and the effort they are putting into practice, the execution of what they learned in their training is where it matters most. If they cannot perform on the field, what they did in practice can risk proving futile.
“We just need to be better,” Bauer said. “I’m willing to find the better way, whatever that may be, and do whatever it takes to get us heading in the right direction.”
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