Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 18, 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 18, 2023 21 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: F For the second game in a row, graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman had 2 interceptions and 0 touchdown passes. He finished 13-of-30 passing for 146 yards. He was sacked twice. His yards per attempt of 4.9 was completely indicative of the feeble nature of Notre Dame's passing offense; it's basically non-existent. If the Irish had any sort of consistency throwing the ball down the field, they'd have beaten the Tigers. But constantly backed up in the shadow of their own end zone, they didn't have the firepower required to pull themselves out of such holes. Hartman's picks were purely on him. He made poor throws. But there were also instances of ineffective offensive line play and, of course, wide receivers not making plays for their 24-year-old signal-caller. It felt like the Duke and Louisville games all over again. This Notre Dame football team, even with Hartman as the catalyst (if we can still call him that) just cannot throw the football. Period. NOTRE DAME RUNNING OFFENSE: B+ Junior running back Audric Estimé had 17 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, a very serviceable number against such a stingy Clemson run defense. But he only had 3 carries for 5 yards in the second half. Notre Dame trailed by as many as 18 points in the game, forcing the Irish to try to mount their comeback via a hapless passing game. This grade could have been an A and one of the main reasons Notre Dame won the game if it remained close and Estimé was fed in the second half. But once it got out of hand, Estimé was shelved, and the Irish offense suffered as a whole. Hartman had his most proficient running game in a Notre Dame uniform, meanwhile, with 5 rushes for 81 yards — excluding the 13 yards lost on 2 sacks — and a touchdown. Most of that came on two carries, rushes of 38 and 26 yards, the latter of which was a scrambling touchdown scamper. It still wasn't enough. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: B+ In a vacuum, holding a team to 13-of-26 passing for 109 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 intercep- tion is A+ material all the way. But this is the Notre Dame defense, the No. 3 passing efficiency de- fense going into the game, and this is the Clemson offense, a unit severely struggling with a first- year starter and wide receivers perhaps more ill- equipped to have breakout performances as Notre Dame's own pass-catching corps. Allowing Klubnik to complete 6 of 6 throws for 59 yards with a touchdown on one drive alone was a big black mark on a game that ended with the two teams separated by one score. Klubnik looked like Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence on that march, albeit against backup Notre Dame corners Jaden Mickey and Christian Gray. Starters Benjamin Morrison and Cam Hart were standing on the sideline during a rotational period. If that drive never occurs, Notre Dame might win and this grade might be an A+. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. NOTRE DAME RUNNING DEFENSE: D Phil Mafah is a good player. You don't end up at Clemson in this era if you aren't one. But he's a backup to Will Shipley, who missed the game with an injury, and he still ran 36 times for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. Notre Dame's run fits were poor. Over-pursuit was a constant issue from linebackers and safeties. Defensive linemen got brutalized at the point of attack by Clemson's offensive line. It just wasn't a banner day for the Irish run defense when it really should have been. NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: D One week after being a hero with an 82-yard punt return touchdown, senior wide receiver Chris Tyree muffed a punt off his face mask deep in his own territory and gave Clemson a free three points. He also let a punt get behind him to assist in Clemson pinning the Irish near their own goal line. Graduate student Spencer Shrader made all three of his field goal attempts, and Bryce McFer- son averaged a booming 50.2 yards per punt, but none of that felt as big as the Tyree fumble. Two of Shrader's field goals came from 30 or fewer yards, so he was expected to make those anyway. COACHING: F This Notre Dame team is just a shell of the best version of itself on the road. Three straight near no-shows, especially offensively, in road efforts en route to compiling a 1-2 record against Duke, Louisville and Clemson. Part of coaching a team to reach its full potential, one of Marcus Freeman's many catchphrases, is having the guys ready to roll on the road. This staff can't pass that test. So here, the grade is a firm F. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Junior running back Audric Estimé had 14 carries for 82 yards in the first half against Clemson but only 3 rushing attempts in the second. He finished with 87 yards and a touchdown. PHOTO BY LARRY BLANKENSHIP

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