Marshall upsets No. 8 Notre Dame, dropping Marcus Freeman to 0-3

Marshall, the first Sun Belt Conference team to play at Notre Dame Stadium, beat a team ranked in the top 10 for only the second time in school history.

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Marshall wide receiver Jayden Harrison runs after a catch against Notre Dame on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Michael Conroy/AP

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame fans could live with the Fighting Irish being overpowered in the fourth quarter by then-No. 2 Ohio State. Being pushed around by Marshall is a different story.

Notre Dame Stadium is supposed to be a place to shake down the thunder, not where the Thundering Herd celebrate a 26-21 victory.

The eighth-ranked Irish led 15-12 after quarterback Tyler Buchner’s one-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion run to open the fourth quarter. It all went downhill from there for Notre Dame (0-2) on Saturday. Marcus Freeman became the first Irish coach to open his career 0-3.

Freeman, 36, a first-time head coach, was asked if his inexperience was a factor in the poor start.

“If it’s my experience as a head coach — and I don’t know if that’s a reason why — or the lack of execution?’’ he said. ‘‘But it starts with me, right? It starts with me as the head coach and looking at myself and saying, ‘What do I have to do to help this team?’ [And] look at everything we’re doing because the performance isn’t where we need it to be.’’

Steven Gilmore returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter and Khalan Laborn ran for 163 yards as Marshall shocked the Irish. Gilmore, the brother of Stephon Gilmore of the Colts, picked off a pass by Buchner with 4:35 left, raced to the end zone, then jumped into the stands, where Marshall fans were already celebrating the victory.

“Obviously, a phenomenal day,” second-year Marshall coach Charlie Huff said. “I’m really proud of their competitive spirit, the consistency of what we needed to do to come out with a win.”

Marshall (2-0), the first Sun Belt Conference team to play at Notre Dame Stadium, beat a team ranked in the top 10 for only the second time in school history. The Thundering Herd beat No. 6 Kansas State 27-20 in 2003.

Huff tried to downplay the significance of the upset.

“In house, no disrespect to Notre Dame, we expected it,’’ Huff said. ‘‘We talked this summer about being a team that expects to win every time we touch the field.’’

Freeman, who was promoted from defensive coordinator after Brian Kelly left for LSU, had lost a bowl game to Oklahoma State and at Ohio State last week. This one will go down much differently.

The Irish had a streak of 42 wins against unranked opponents snapped. Freeman also said after the game that Buchner was replaced in the closing minutes because of a shoulder injury. He said he didn’t know how severe it was.

The Herd took a 19-15 lead with 5:16 left on Henry Colombi’s three-yard pass to Devin Miller that capped a 94-yard drive. The score was set up by a 42-yard run by Laborn.

Any hope for a comeback by the Irish ended when Owen Porter intercepted a pass by Irish backup QB Drew Pyne with three minutes left. Pyne threw a TD pass with 14 seconds left to cut the deficit to five.

Colombi was 16-for-21 for 145 yards, and the Thundering Herd had 219 yards on 50 carries.

The Irish, who struggled offensively a week earlier in the 21-10 loss to Ohio State with a play-it-safe, ball-control game plan, opened the playbook against the Herd but still struggled to get much going.

Buchner was 18-for-32 for 201 yards with two interceptions. He also led the Irish in rushing with 44 yards on 13 carries. Michael Mayer had eight catches for 103 yards.

Freeman said it’s time for self-examination.

“I just told the team that we all have to look at ourselves,’’ he said, ‘‘starting with the head coach on down, and say, ‘OK, what do I have to do?’ We have to fix the issues that we’re having and not just focus on the result. We have to look at the lack of execution in all phases of our team and where we can improve.’’

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