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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Weathers First Road Test, Defeating N.C. State 45-24

September 9, 2023
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Notre Dame defeated N.C. State 45-24 in front of a 56,919-person sellout crowd. In addition to Wolfpack players, the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish had to overcome lightning, frequent rain, flood warnings and weather delays. 

“It's great to be able to have some of those bumps that we talked about last year that cost us wins, victories,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “You had some today, and we're still able to come out with a victory. You can see what type of type of team we have. 

“There were a lot of different elements today that really occurred with the rain to start the game, then the two-hour delay, then we go back out there and it's still raining.”

The Fighting Irish (3-0) extend its regular-season ACC win streak to 29 games, with 15 coming away from South Bend.

The difference in Saturday’s contest likely came from Notre Dame winning the turnover battle by a 3-to-1 margin. Three members of the Notre Dame secondary picked off Wolfpack quarterback Brennan Armstrong: cornerback Ben Morrison and safeties DJ Brown and Xavier Watts. 

The defense held N.C. State to 2.8 yards per rush and 4.4 yards per play. Wolfpack quarterback Brennan Armstrong completed just 47 percent of his passes for 260 yards and two scores.

“That's still got to be our mentality to stop the run, and we knew they were going to take some shots,” Freeman said. “We knew coming in that they were going to take some shots. Early in the game, we weren't winning those shots, but later in the game, our guys were really able to go not just defend the ball but take it away. It all starts with stopping the run.”

Quarterback Sam Hartman picks up his first win inside Carter-Finley Stadium, scoring the most points against the Wolfpack since he led Wake Forest to a 45-42 home victory in 2021. 

On Saturday, he completed 15 of 24 passes (63%) for 286 yards and four touchdowns. 

Once again, Hartman’s numbers were stellar, but he lacked the same precision and poise he displayed in Notre Dame’s first two games. In the first half, he completed 56 percent of his passes and turned the ball over inside Notre Dame territory, fumbling after carelessly holding the ball with one hand amidst pressure. 

He was also sacked four times and nearly turned the ball over on two other occasions, but he never allowed his focus to wane or his game to tank. As a result, the Fighting Irish scored 28 points in the final 17 minutes.

“He's just so steady,” Freeman said. “I know he gets excited when he makes a good play or scores, but he's never too high or too low. It's the same thing you see in practice. Not every practice is perfect for him, but it's the ability for him to just continuously be steady and be positive.”

He’s completed 75 percent of passes for 731 yards and 10 scores through three games in an Irish uniform. Hartman also ran for a touchdown. 

Running back Audric Estimé finished with 14 carries for 134 touchdowns and two scores. 

Notre Dame averaged better than 7.5 yards per play for the third straight game to open the season. The Irish accomplished this feat just once in 2022. 

Inclement Start

Notre Dame’s afternoon in Raleigh, N.C., nearly got off to a disastrous start. The Irish gained one yard on its first two plays. Hartman dropped back on third and nine before multiple Wolfpack defenders delivered a punishing hit that forced the football loose. 

Guard Pat Coogan dove on it for a loss of 12 yards. 

They went three-and-out on their second drive, leaving the Irish 11 yards in the hole on offense after two offensive possessions. 

The Irish then went on a 12-play, 50-yard drive that was limited to a long field goal after Hartman was flagged for intentional grounding. 

Soon thereafter, nearby lightning delayed the game with Notre Dame leading 3-0 15 seconds into the second quarter.

It was Déjà vu for anyone who attended Notre Dame’s 10-3 loss at N.C. State, which the teams played during Hurricane Matthew.

ESPN’s Molly McGrath reported that Notre Dame remained in wet clothes and lacked the amenities necessary to sustain a football roster through an hour and 45-minute weather delay. So, staff went to concession stands inside Carter-Finley Stadium to get the players hot dogs. 

Before returning to the field, Freeman told his players that neither the weather nor the delay would be acceptable excuses for failing to execute. 

“Just come out and go and do your job. Who cares about how the game started?” Freeman said. “Who cares about the two-hour delay? Let's go out there and play ball and be aggressive as heck.”

Play of the Game

The game resumed at 2:36 p.m. ET, and Estime immediately ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run. 

After the delay, the play gave Notre Dame a jolt with the offense executing it to perfection. Coogan and Joe Alt lead the way by pulling to the right side.

“That's just a scary look,” Estime said. “I honestly believe we have the best offensive line in the country, and that's led by the best tackle duo. To have them on the same side gave me a little rush, and that is something that I hope to keep them doing.”

It’s Notre Dame’s longest touchdown run since Kyren William’s 91-yard scamper against North Carolina in 2021. 

Stat of the Day

Spencer Shrader’s 54-yard field goal is the longest make in Notre Dame history

He just missed a 56-yarder later in the game that had the distance, but his the left upright. 

What’s Next?

The Fighting Irish return to action next weekend, hosting Central Michigan (1-1)

The Chippewas are coming off a 4-8 season and lost 31-7 at Michigan State in week 1. On Saturday, CMU struggled against FCS opponent New Hampshire, winning 45-42 in its home opener.

It’ll be Notre Dame’s last game before hosting No. 5 Ohio State on Sept. 23.

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