SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Steven Gilmore returned a 37-yard interception for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Khalan Laborn rushed for 163 yards as Marshall shocked No. 8 Notre Dame 26-21 on Saturday, making Marcus Freeman the first Fighting Irish coach to lose his first three games.
Gilmore, the brother of Stephon Gilmore of the Indianapolis Colts, made a pass by Tyler Bucher with 4:35 to go, raced to the end zone then jumped into the stands where Marshall fans were already celebrating the win.
Marshall (2-0), the first Sun Belt Conference team to play at Notre Dame Stadium, beat a top-10 ranked team for only the second time in school history. The Thundering Herd beat No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in 2003.
“I’m really proud of how our players competed,” Marshall’s coach Charles Huff said in his post-match on-court interview. “Notre Dame are one hell of a football team. Hats off to them, but our guys all week just said ‘control what we can control.’ I couldn’t be prouder.”
Freeman, the 36-year-old first head coach to be promoted after Brian Kelly left for LSU, had lost a bowling game to Oklahoma State and Ohio State last week.
Marcus Freeman is the first head coach in Notre Dame history to lose his first three games: the Irish bowling game, the season opener against Ohio State and now Marshall. pic.twitter.com/vzxE3DNa4y
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) September 10, 2022
This one will be very different for hopeful Notre Dame fans, many of whom filled the stadium. In all three losses, Notre Dame led in the second half.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, after the pre-game march on campus, Freeman told the crowd, “There’s no better place in this country to get our first victory of this new era than ‘here at the Notre-Dame stadium.”
The Irish have enjoyed a 42-game winning streak against unranked opponents.
The Herd took a 19-15 lead with 5:16 to go when Henry Colombia transfer from Texas Tech, completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Devin Miller. The score was set by a 42-yard run from Laborn, who broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and blew up the Irish safety. Brandon Joseph before breaking free.
“With Marshall history and lore, we show up and play hard,” Huff said. “These games aren’t as important to us as they are to others because our kids get locked into the process.”
Any hope of a comeback for the Irish (0-2) ended when Owen Porter intercepted a pass from the substitute Irish quarterback Drew Pyne with three minutes remaining. Pyne threw a TD pass with 14 seconds left to cut the lead to five points.
“It’s never easy to come back here after a loss, no matter who it is,” Freeman said in his post-game press conference. “It’s disappointing. We didn’t execute, and it comes down to execution.”
Colombi passed 16 of 21 for 145 yards and the Thundering Herd rushed for 221 yards on 49 carries.
The Irish, who struggled offensively a week earlier in a 21-10 loss to Ohio State with a sure game plan and ball control, opened the playbook against the herd but still have some difficulty. hard to get things done.
“We have to look at each other as individuals, the whole team, starting with the head coach, and say, ‘What do I have to do? ‘What do we need to do to solve the problems?'” Freeman said. “We have to look at the lack of execution in all phases of our team.”
Buchner passed 18 of 32 for 201 yards with two interceptions. He also led the Irish on the ground with 44 yards on 13 carries, while Michael Mayer had eight catches for 103 yards.
The Irish took a 15-12 lead early in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run from Buchner. He then kept it and ran wide to the right for the 2-point conversion. But the Irish couldn’t mount much attack after that.
Two games with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter epitomized Notre Dame’s struggles. On third and second in the Notre Dame 47, the Irish couldn’t get the first down in two runs by Audric Esteemcoming in at 6 inches short as the line couldn’t be pushed much.
This led to a Thundering Herd drive, highlighted by a back pass from Colombi to Talik Keaton along the left sideline for a 30-yard gain, but the drive stalled after Cam Fancher took over at quarterback for Colombi. Marshall drove to the 4-yard line before settling for a 20-yard field goal to go ahead 12-7.
“It’s an assessment of everything we do,” Freeman said. “It starts with me, it starts with me as head coach.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.