Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM OCT. 28, 2023 23 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: B When the defense played as well as it did, Notre Dame's "B" game through the air is plenty good enough. Graduate student quarterback Sam Hart- man joked in his postgame press conference that he only had to throw the ball "a couple" times. Twenty times, to be exact, with 13 completions for 126 yards with 2 touchdowns and no intercep- tions. His 46-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Chris Tyree was probably the best throw either quarterback made all night. Hartman went interception-less for the seventh time in eight games this season. His counterpart, Caleb Williams, tossed three of them. That was a big difference in the ballgame. Hartman wasn't sacked once, either, while Williams went down six times. Only three scholarship wideouts, including for- mer walk-on Jordan Faison, caught a pass from Hartman. The other six pass catchers were a mix- ture of tight ends and running backs. This wasn't a night when Hartman needed to be prolific, though, so he and his teammates got the job done. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: B+ Notre Dame leaned hard into junior running back Audric Estimé, giving him a career-high 22 carries, and he spit out 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. It wasn't his most efficient performance, but it was effective. He scored when he needed to, and he had five other carries that went for first downs. His longest run was for 14 yards, so he managed to average 4.3 yards per rush without breaking off a super long carry. Excluding two Hartman kneel downs, the rest of the Irish only combined to carry the ball five times. Hartman, Faison and freshman tailback Jeremiyah Love went for 34 yards on those handful of tries. Faison had a 16-yard tote on a gadget play, and Hartman scrambled for a gain of 12. Love only had 6 yards on 3 rushes. This was an Estimé game, and the Notre Dame offensive line adequately paved the way for him. Workmanlike. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: A+ Notre Dame held Williams to his third-lowest passing yards output (199) of his USC career. More importantly, the Irish became the first team to ever intercept Williams three times in any game in his career. Senior safety Xavier Watts had 2 picks, and sophomore corner Benjamin Morrison had 1. USC has playmakers galore in the passing game. Williams is the best quarterback in the country. And yet, the longest Trojans passing play only went for 21 yards. The Fighting Irish simply did not let USC receivers get behind them. The pass rush was also relentless in taking Williams down for 6 sacks. It was a masterclass in defending the pass all around from the Irish. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: A Letting MarShawn Lloyd score on a 31-yard run was a sore spot, but Notre Dame was absolutely lights out against the USC ground game otherwise. On Lloyd's 7 other carries, he gained 15 yards. He was averaging 7.7 yards going into the game. USC ran for 147 total yards adding back in the 44 lost in sacks. That's a number Notre Dame can live with, especially when Williams doesn't reach 200 through the air. Lloyd went into the game as one of the nation's best backs, and Notre Dame shut him down outside of one carry. Austin Jones lit the Irish up in 2022, and he only had 27 yards on 11 carries. Job well done by the Notre Dame defensive front. NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: A Graduate student kicker Spencer Shrader made both of his field goals. Graduate student running back Devyn Ford had a couple of promising kick returns, then sophomore Jadarian Price had one of the most important plays of the game with a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. USC wideout Zachariah Branch had a 60-yard punt return, but Notre Dame punter Bryce McFer- son tracked him down and prevented a touchdown for the time being. NOTRE DAME COACHING: A Head coach Marcus Freeman deserves credit for righting the ship and having his team as prepared to play as it has been all season one week after admitting the Fighting Irish basically didn't show up at Louisville. Players looked like they were shot out of cannons. You could tell they badly wanted this one, and that stems from the top. The Notre Dame offense struggled for large stretches of the game, but the deep shot to Tyree was a turning point. It came at exactly the right time. Kudos to offensive coordinator Gerad Parker for that. And all the props in the world to defensive coordinator Al Golden for dialing it up and putting pressure on Williams all night. He called a heck of a game. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Graduate student linebacker JD Bertrand — who led the team with 11 tackles — and the Irish defense limited USC running backs MarShawn Lloyd and Austin Jones to just 73 yards rushing on 19 attempts. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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