Transcript: Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman speaks after loss to USC
After No. 15 Notre Dame dropped its regular season finale at No. 6 USC by a 38-27 margin, Irish head coach Marcus Freeman spoke to reporters inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Inside ND Sports was on hand for the press conference. Below is a transcript from the short session. Questions may be paraphrased. Quotes aren't.
Click below for a limited-time promotion for an Inside ND Sports annual subscription.
Freeman: "As I just told the team, I'm sure everybody's disappointed, from me on down. You really want to see how you compare against a team like that when you're playing at your best. We didn't play at our best. A couple of self-inflicted wounds. When we turn the ball over twice — the turnover on downs in the first half. Defensively, we didn't stop them. We didn't stop the run. For them to rush for 200 yards, man, that's not a formula for success.
"They're a dang good football team. Really good. We have a really good football team. And that's just a disappointment. You want to see, when two really good football teams, both play really well, you want to see what the outcome is, but take our hats off to them and wish them all the best.
What made Caleb Williams so difficult to defend?
Freeman: "Gosh, you just see it happen over and over all year. His ability to feel pressure, to spin out of it. We told our guys 'He's going to spin, He's going to spin and work upfield.' He's elusive, man. He's got huge legs. He's like a running back back there at times. But he's got an arm of a great quarterback. He's really difficult to bring down. He's a special player."
Were you surprised that you guys were not able to get more going with the run game?
Freeman: "Yeah, I thought we would be able to run the ball more. But we were still efficient in what we were doing. And so when you're not able to run the ball as well as you want, you got to be able to throw the ball. I thought we threw the ball really well. You think about the first half, we had three possessions, really.
"The first one was a three-and-out trying to get a feel for the game. Second, we drive the length of the field. We go for it on fourth-and-one and we don't convert. The next one, we go down the field, and we scored a touchdown. Then in the second half, the fumble the very first series in their territory, obviously that killed us. And then we score and score. And then we throw the interception in a two-minute situation. But we had to get a stop defensively to give our offense a serious chance. And we didn't do that."
How difficult was it to play catch-up against a team with an explosive offense?
Freeman: "It's difficult to play catch up to any team. But when you're not able to stop their offense, it's extremely difficult. And we weren't able to do that at critical points of the game. There was a couple of times we got to stop. But at critical points of the game were unable to get a stop.
Why didn't TaRiq Bracy play?
How much did that stress the defense not having him and Cam Hart?
Freeman: 'Yeah, especially Cam at the field corner. Jaden Mickey, a young, talented football player. But it's hard to come in and start your first of the year versus USC and an explosive offense. But he played his heart out. But you miss those two guys. They're valuable members of the defense."
How do you sum up your regular season after you started 0-2?
Freeman: "I'm proud of the way our team continued to progress, continue to fight, continue to get better. It's not over. We got one left. And we didn't win today. They played their hearts out. And as I told them in the locker room, 'I'm proud of the way you played because you never quit. And you continue to get better.'
"Shoot after week two it could have of went in an opposite direction. After week six when we lost to Stanford, it could have went a bad direction. But these leaders and these guys continue to fight. And they'll fight after this one. It hurts because you gave it your all but our leaders will keep us together."
How much did Pyne's fumble hurt the momentum for you guys?
Freeman: "Yeah, that's a 10-point game at the time, we get the ball when driving downfield. And I think we're in between the 20 and 30. And we're rolling. QB and running back exchange — those can't happen. They can't happen. They do something spectacular, and they create a takeaway. It's good for them. But for us to give the ball away on a self-inflicted wound of a QB-running back exchange, those are inexcusable."
Did you see anything that went wrong on the fourth-and-one sneak with Mitchell Evans?
Freeman: "No, it was 8-for-8 I think going into this game. Last week, we had the ability to run the jet sweep off of it, and so we felt really confident doing it again on fourth and one situation. That was the plan — to do it on a fourth and one in plus territory. We didn't get it. We'll have to go back and see what they did to stop it. We just didn't get the surge we needed, but it's part of it."
When you face a good quarterback like Caleb, is it almost like facing an NFL quarterback?
Freeman: "I don't know, I've never — I didn't coach in the NFL."
But he's so versatile, he hurt you with the running as well as the passing.
Freeman: "Yeah, Tyler asked the same question. He is a talented quarterback. He can run. He's got thick legs. He spins out of out of pressure. And he's really good. I don't have anything else to say about it."
• Talk with Notre Dame fans on The Insider Lounge.
• Subscribe to the Inside ND Sports channel on YouTube.
• Like us on Facebook: Inside ND Sports
• Follow us on Instagram: @insideNDsports