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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Moller: Irish need to prove themselves after despicable performance against Cardinal

Just when I started to believe in the 2022 Notre Dame football season and Marcus Freeman, Saturday night happened. In the stunning 16-14 loss to Stanford, Notre Dame arguably had its worst performance of the season against an abysmal one-win Cardinal team.

There are so many areas of Saturday’s game that I could criticize, but it starts with the offense. The first half was probably the worst performance I have ever seen from a Notre Dame offense. The Irish had just 86 yards of total offense against a Stanford team that was ranked 110th in the NCAA in total defense coming into Saturday’s game. That performance is completely unacceptable. The Las Vegas hangover was apparent on Saturday night, and the Drew Pyne from last week’s game was nowhere to be found.

This falls on the coaching. Against a Stanford defense that has been exploited by every opponent this season, it’s an absolute embarrassment that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees couldn’t script up anything to penetrate their defense in the first half. The lack of emphasis on the run game was despicable. After failing to run the ball a couple of times in the first half, it seemed like the Irish simply gave up on establishing a run game. When they finally started to get the run game going in the second half, it was too little too late.

The offense has failed to show up at the beginning of games all season, but Saturday was downright ridiculous. To have less than 100 yards of offense in a half against a lowly PAC-12 defense that gave up 35 points to USC in a single half is incomprehensible.

The offense definitely looked better in the second half, but they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole to get out of. Despite their poor play, they had a chance to win the game on a last drive, but they failed miserably, and they didn’t even get the ball into Stanford territory.

The 2022 season is over, and it’s the offense’s fault. I could blame Tommy Rees or Marcus Freeman or Drew Pyne, but honestly, this one falls on everyone. Saturday’s performance told me that there is something going on behind the scenes that is holding this team back. If you can’t get up and play some good football in a rivalry game under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium, then what are you doing? I get that the season was “over” and that the playoffs were unattainable, but have some pride Irish.

After Saturday’s performance, I don’t know what the Irish’s record this season will be, but it’s not going to be pretty. At this point, the new goal should just be to make a bowl game because that doesn’t look likely with ranked games against Syracuse, Clemson and USC still on the schedule.

These next six games are going to reveal a lot more about who this team is. They’re about to get a lot of criticism in the coming weeks from everywhere, and it’s time for them to wake up and prove them wrong or fall into the oblivion of irrelevant bowl-ineligible teams.

Contact Nate Moller at