June 13, 2024

Lou Holtz said he understood why his comments about Ohio State before last week’s game at Notre Dame bothered Buckeyes coach Ryan Day, but he reiterated his belief that the Fighting Irish are a superior team despite their 17-14 loss.

Speaking Tuesday to Dan Dakich on the Outkick show “Don’t @ Me!” Holtz said he called Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman to apologize for possibly putting the Irish in a difficult position. Holtz told “The Pat McAfee Show” before Saturday’s game that Ohio State had not been physical enough to beat premier opponents, citing the team’s consecutive losses to Michigan and its CFP defeats against Georgia, Alabama and Clemson.

“I don’t feel bad about saying it because I believed it,” Holtz told Dakich. “Notre Dame was a better football team. Three times, Ohio State had fourth-and-1, ran the ball and couldn’t make it. … If I was coaching, I would have said it. I would [have] went to our team and said, ‘I think you’re better. I think you’re more physical. I think you’re more talented.’

“But when I say something and yet I can’t control the outcome of the game, that’s unfair to Coach Freeman.”

An emotional Day cited Holtz’s comments in his on-field interview with NBC after the Buckeyes’ win and then again in his postgame news conference, saying that Holtz and others who questioned Ohio State’s toughness and physicality need to “put the film on.”

“We always say, ‘Ignore the noise,’ but every once in a while, after a while someone’s poking at you, you’ve got to stand up for what you believe in,” Day said. “To see some of the things that were said, I get Ohio against the world, but we needed to go play like that today. We needed to win like that, to stop that narrative that’s going on, because it’s not true.”

Holtz, 86, said he understands why Day was unhappy with him.

“He doesn’t want to talk about [losing to] Michigan, 0-2, he doesn’t want to talk about the big games coming up against Penn State and against Michigan again,” Holtz said. “He’s a great coach. He’s done a tremendous job. He’s a great offensive mind. … Ohio State’s a good football team. I don’t think they’re a great football team. He can go after me all he wants.”

Holtz added that he hopes Day “goes on and has a wonderful year,” while adding that Notre Dame’s mistakes in the final two minutes, including not forcing Ohio State to use all its timeouts before the Buckeyes’ final possession, likely cost the Irish a win he thought they deserved. He also said he didn’t realize how much his comments would be amplified.

“Coach Freeman is always a class guy,” Holtz said. “He’s very, very polite. He didn’t even make a comment about it, but I wanted him to know that I felt bad.”

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