Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

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Page 20 of 47

BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM DECEMBER 2023 21 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: B Irish quarterbacks Sam Hartman and Steve An- geli combined to go 8-of-15 passing for 140 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Meh. The game didn't demand much more than that from them, especially Hartman, who was 8 of 14 for all of those passing yards and touchdowns. Angeli's only throw of the game was intercepted. Biggest things to be excited about pertaining to the Notre Dame passing game; the Notre Dame quarterbacks were never sacked, and both touch- downs were caught by freshmen wideouts in Jaden Greathouse and Jordan Faison. The future is bright for those two, who combined for 4 catches, 81 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. NOTRE DAME RUNNING OFFENSE: A+ It was the Audric Estimé game. Signature. If he's off to the NFL this offseason, he saved his best for last in running 25 times for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns. It doesn't get much better than that. Sophomores Gi'Bran Payne and Jadarian Price and freshman Jeremiyah Love combined for 17 carries, 99 yards and a touchdown as well. As a team, Notre Dame ran 48 times for 381 yards and 5 scores. The offensive line put forth a masterclass. Estimé followed their lead, but even his sidekicks were effective. Quite literally, the Irish ran Stanford right off its own field. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: A Four Stanford quarterbacks combined to com- plete 21 of 42 throws for 216 yards with 0 touch- downs and 1 interception. A 53-yard gain by the Cardinal on a zone breakdown for the Irish was not pretty, but over the course of the entire game the Cardinal could not pass consistently. None of the signal-callers used had a banner day, including starter Ashton Daniels. He made some plays, but 15-of-25 passing for 152 yards with 1 interception effort isn't going to get it done most Saturdays. The Irish also sacked Stanford quarterbacks 4 times. The thought of the Notre Dame pass rush getting home any time it lined up was prescient. That's not a good state of mind for an offense to live in. Notre Dame did that to many opponents in 2023. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: B Stanford rushed 31 times for 143 yards, including sacks. Excluding them, the Cardinal went for 170 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. That's not the Irish's best effort in defending the run. Big plays plagued the Notre Dame defense. If there is a weakness for a group that's been one of the 10 or so best units in the country, it's been allowing opponents to get loose for long gains, especially via the run. Stanford quarterback Justin Lamson had 49 of his 82 yards on one play. Fellow signal-caller Ari Patu also had a 23-yard gain. Take those away, and it was probably an A game in this regard. SPECIAL TEAMS: A No punt returns, no kickoff returns, no field goal attempts and just one punt from the backup booter. But this is still an A because the Fighting Irish came through with their third field goal block of the season and the second in as many games to finish the regular season. Junior defensive tackle Jason Onye came through with his second block of the year and graduate student defensive tackle Javontae Jean-Baptiste, who blocked a field goal against Wake Forest on Senior Day, returned the ball 60 yards for a touchdown. The game was already over when Jean-Baptiste scored; his TD made it 56-16. But sometimes the sweetest cherries on top are special teams or de- fensive touchdowns, and the Irish came through with one of the former. COACHING: A Head coach Marcus Freeman said he told the team at halftime that Notre Dame cannot beat Notre Dame. The players listened. The Irish out- scored the Cardinal 28-7 in the second half after a first half that very nearly went to the break at a one-score game. Turnovers and mistakes had the Cardinal hang- ing around. Freeman obviously did a good job of conditioning those out of the system at halftime. You'd have preferred if the fumbles and not taking care of the ball did not happen at all, but it's been the norm for Notre Dame this season. This time, the Irish made sure the errors did not negatively affect the final result. Stanford clearly was not a good enough team to take full advantage of what Notre Dame was handing it, but there is still something to be said for regathering composure and jumping ahead by 40 points at one point. The coaching staff also realized that even though Stanford is one of the worst defenses in the coun- try at defending the pass, Estimé had his best stuff and needed to be fed. He set a career high in car- ries with 25 and delivered with a career high 238 yards and 4 touchdowns as a result. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA The Irish notched 5 rushing touchdowns, including a 3-yarder by sophomore running back Gi'Bran Payne that gave them a 28-16 lead heading into halftime. PHOTO BY JIM HOLTAN

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