Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2023

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM DECEMBER 2023 25 YOU CAN BET ON AUDRIC ESTIMÉ Audric Estimé had more touchdowns against Stanford than letters in the word he posted on social media out just a few days before kickoff of Notre Dame's 2023 regular-season finale — and, potentially, his own finale in a Fighting Irish uniform. "Bet," Estimé posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Nov. 21. That's three. He had three periods to go along with it, too, clearly foreshadowing his four scores against the Cardinal to go along with 25 carries and 238 rushing yards. All three of those figures were career highs for Estimé. You could bet on him all game long in Notre Dame's 56-23 vic- tory, which is exactly what he was out to prove after he was left off the semi- finalist list for the Doak Walker Award. Are there really 10 running backs in America better than Estimé, who has 1,341 rushing yards and a program-best 18 rushing touchdowns this season? Don't bet on that. Bet on Estimé. "I felt like I was kind of cut short," Es- timé said. "That 'bet' was like, all right, you guys don't think I'm one of the 10 best in the country? I'm going to show you." If Estimé follows in Kyren Williams' footsteps and foregoes Notre Dame's bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft as a junior, then he really did go out on top. He had his very best game in the very last one if that ends up being the case. After his freshman season, one in which he only logged 7 carries playing behind Williams, Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs, Estimé predicted a national title and a Doak Walker Award win. He didn't get either, but he did endear himself to Notre Dame fans for everything he gave to the program on the field — strong stiff-arms, heroic hurdles and a ton of touchdowns — and off the field — one of the best social media cameos there ever was for his part in Notre Dame's spoof of Jerry Maguire, in addition to so many smiles and moments making him easy to root for. "What a tough, physical, special football player," Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said. "He's a special talent that has given Notre Dame ev- erything he's had for the past three sea- sons. I'm grateful to have him and have him be a part of this team." The sentiment is shared by everyone — coaches, and players on both sides of the ball. The extra motivation he packed and took with him out west was felt by all, too. "To say there are 10 guys out there better than him, you got to look at the film and really analyze it and you'll see how much he puts his heart into it," Notre Dame graduate student defen- sive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste said. "It made him mad, and he went out and had another day in the office today." Notre Dame is going to miss those days in the office. The running back room is pointed in a positive direction, but there is only one Estimé. "I'm going to give them something to remember," Estimé said of his mind- set when he arrived on campus in 2021. "I'm going to do something legendary." He did. JAVONTAE JEAN-BAPTISTE COMPLETES STRONG SEASON WITH SPECIAL TEAMS TD Growing up, Notre Dame graduate student defensive end Javontae Jean- Baptiste played some running back. Someone should have warned Stanford junior holder Connor Weselman. After junior Irish defensive tackle Ja- son Onye blocked Stanford kicker Joshua STANFORD GAME NOTES BY TYLER HORKA AND JACK SOBLE Estimé had something to prove after he was left off the semifinalist list for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's top running back. PHOTO BY JIM HOLTAN

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