Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 25, 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM NOV. 25, 2023 19 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: A+ This was the best the Notre Dame passing attack has looked since September. The final combined line for graduate student Sam Hartman and sopho- more Steve Angeli: 24-of-34 passing (70.5 percent) for 313 yards with 5 touchdowns and 0 intercep- tions. Hartman, facing his former program of five years, was responsible for most of that, completing 21-of-29 throws for 277 yards with 4 touchdowns. He was off target early but bounced back in a big way. Angeli's 17-yard touchdown toss to freshman wide receiver Jordan Faison was a dime. Fellow freshman wideout Rico Flores Jr. caught 8 passes for 102 yards, and — yep, you guessed it — freshman Jaden Greathouse caught 3 passes for 71 yards, including a 48-yard score. Sophomore Tobias Merriweather caught a 35-yard touchdown, too. The future of the Notre Dame pass-catching corps put together a collectively optimistic outing. On top of it all, the Notre Dame offensive line — with two first-time starters in sophomores Ashton Craig at center and Billy Schrauth at right guard — did not allow a single sack. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: A It wasn't quite an A+ effort because the team averaged less than 5.0 yards per carry, but junior Audric Estimé carried the squad to a flat A with 22 carries for 115 yards and 1 touchdown. Freshman Jeremiyah Love and sophomores Jadarian Price and Gi'Bran Payne combined for 8 carries for 22 yards. It was the Estimé show, and rightfully so. Those other guys will get plenty of shine in future sea- sons. This might have been the last time the South Bend crowd got to see Estimé run the rock in person, and big No. 7 was rewarded with a rushing attempt total that tied a career high. The blocking up front, despite 40 percent of the Notre Dame offensive line consisting of players making their first career starts, created enough holes for Estimé to have a productive day on the ground. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: A+ There has to be some sort of written rule that says any time you hold a team below 100 passing yards and it's not an option offense, you automati- cally get an A+. Wake Forest completed 12 of 21 (57.1 percent) throws for 98 yards with zeroes in both the touchdown and interception columns. Seventeen of those 98 yards came on a trick play thrown by a wide receiver. The Demon Deacons certainly weren't pass happy by any means, so the Notre Dame defensive backs weren't tested too much, but perhaps that's because Wake For- est knew what it was up against in this phase of the game. The Irish secondary is intimidating. It got the best of yet another opponent. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: B+ This might be a little harsh to keep the streak of A's from staying alive, but Wake Forest averaged 4.9 yards per rush in the first half. The Demon Dea- cons' touchdown drive was filled with jolts up the middle that the Irish didn't have any answers for. Those responses were ultimately found by de- fensive coordinator Al Golden's unit; Wake Forest finished the game with 36 carries for 134 yards (3.7 yards per carry). But in a look at the totality of the night, what Wake was able to do for periods of the first half keeps the Irish from earning an A here. SPECIAL TEAMS: A Yeah, graduate student kicker Spencer Shrader missed a field goal for the sixth time this season. But Notre Dame also blocked a field goal for the second time in 2023, and the surprise onside kick — even though it didn't ultimately directly lead to any points — was a stroke of genius by special teams coordinator Marty Biagi. In his first year at Notre Dame, Biagi has found ways to leave his mark on games like this with signature moments. In this game, Notre Dame had two of them in the field goal block and the onside kick recovery. COACHING: A Marcus Freeman did it again. A game after ev- erything looked so bleak following the loss to Clemson, the Fighting Irish regrouped and flat-out stomped an opponent at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish could have slept walked through Senior Day with not left much to play for (no College Foot- ball Playoff, no New Year's Six bowl game). But in- stead, they showed up in all phases and squeezed the life out of the Demon Deacons. The next step for Freeman is learning how to get that level of play out of the guys in every game, not just when the back is against the wall. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Sophomore cornerback Benjamin Morrison and the Fighting Irish defense held Wake Forest to 98 pass- ing yards. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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