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Marcus Freeman admits Audric Estime was benched for fumbling

Barkley-Truaxby:Barkley Truax08/28/23


Notre Dame football update: Why Marcus Freeman benched Audric Estime + injury update

Audric Estime started Notre Dame‘s season opener against Navy last weekend on a high note, scoring his team’s first touchdown of the season on its first drive.

The second series was not so spectacular. Navy safety Rayuan Lane punched the ball from Estime’s hands after a 13-yard rush. He put the ball on the ground, but it bounced out of bounds before the Midshipmen could gain possession. It would be his final snap of the first half.

“To address Audric, yeah, he was taken out of the game,” Freeman said. “There’s a standard that [running backs coach Deland McCullough] and our offense and our team have set for that room. You can’t put the ball on the ground.” 

Estime was allowed back into the game in the second half and finished the outing with 16 carries, 95 rushing yards and a touchdown. Notre Dame went on to defeat Navy with ease in Ireland, 42-3.

“Credit to Audric Estime, who we all know is the guy,” Freeman said. “RB1. To be able to accept that you know what, you’re gonna be held accountable because you did not perform to our standard. You put the ball on the ground.”

In Estime’s absence, Freeman divided the carries between running backs Gi’Bran PayneJadarian PriceDevyn FordJeremiyah Love and wide receiver Chris Tyree. Despite being benched for the better part of the first half, no other back received more than six carries or more than 40 yards rushing on the night.

Freeman credits Estime’s attitude for what ultimately made him put his starter back in the game.

“There’s no guy throwing his helmet, mad because he’s taken out,” Freeman said. “He’s like, ‘Hold me accountable, coach. That’s your job. And when I get the opportunity to come back in, I will.’ And he did, and he did a great job. … I thought it was a great example to not just those two, but to everybody, even our entire team. Nobody’s bigger than the standard. Nobody’s above the standard.”

Estime can be expected to carry the load for Notre Dame once against in Week 2 — if he doesn’t put the ball on the ground again. The No. 13-ranked Irish kick Week 2 off against Tennessee State for its home opener, which provides a perfect chance for Estime to work on his ball security skills.

Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on NBC.