Notre Dame Is 2-0, But Irish Players Know Improvement Is Needed

Notre Dame's players know that improvement is needed despite the 2-0 start to the season
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Notre Dame secured its 25th straight win inside Notre Dame Stadium and 10th straight win in a home opener with a 32-29 come-from-behind victory over Toledo. It was a much closer win than expected for the Irish, who entered the game as double-digit favorites and only retook the lead in the final minutes of the game. After the game, several Notre Dame players spoke about what the biggest takeaways from the win would be.

“I think when the game starts we’ve come out with a bunch of intensity, obviously we came out and scored right away and I think we have to keep that same intensity throughout the entire game,” star sophomore tight end Michael Mayer said after the game. “We can’t let up after the first series, after the second series, we have to try to keep that [intensity] throughout the entire game and I think that’s what we’re going to work on this entire week.”

“I think after that first series, we kind of let that intensity go and I think if we kept that intensity we would’ve been fine throughout the game.”

Junior linebacker JD Bertrand, who put up another double-digit tackle performance in his second game as a starter, also believes the Irish need to do a better job of perpetuating that initial intensity.

“At the end of the day, football is obviously a physical sport and we need to make sure we bring it every day,” Bertrand said. “I think that’s going to be an emphasis in practice and we’re going to make sure we continue to bring that intensity.”

Mayer, who caught two more touchdown passes in the win, believes battling through adversity takes strong leadership.

“The leaders on the team, we try to do our best to keep everybody up and to keep the morale up and we tried our best today and we got the win so you can’t ask for anything else," Mayer stated.

Both Mayer and Bertrand expect Notre Dame’s offense and defense to improve in advance of next weekend’s matchup with Purdue.

“I think the first two games and the first two weeks we’re definitely still trying to find how this offense is going to roll and I think that’s very critical this week upcoming for Purdue,” Mayer said. “This week’s definitely going to be very critical on finding our offense and what type of plays we want to run and how we want to run the ball and things like that.”

Bertrand concurred.

“I think this was a good game for us in the sense that we’re going to be able to learn from this,” Bertrand said of the defense. “I think it was kind of an eye-opening game and it was bittersweet, so I think we’re going to be able to take it from here and identify that we need to get better. I think every guy in that room knows that they need to look at their own play individually and look where they can get better and we’ll go from there and take it from there.”

According to sophomore running back Chris Tyree, through the ups and downs, Notre Dame should take pride in the way they battled.

“I think we showed a lot of fight throughout the game, that’s one thing we can take away from this,” Tyree said.

Tyree also expects more from the Irish offense, though is also not upset with where they’ll be building from.

“It’s a good start to the season of course, we’re 2-0, but we know that we have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to grow off of though, that’s the good part about it,” Tyree said. “We know that we have to build from what we have right now and we know that we have more games to play.”

Though Notre Dame football hasn’t looked like a perfectly well-oiled machine through the first two weeks, the Irish have picked up two wins to start the 2021 season. In both of those wins, the Irish offense and defense has been tested in close games late in the fourth quarter and made big plays when needed. That’s far from a bad place to start to build from.

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