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Notre Dame Football

Audric Estimé powers his way into Notre Dame record books in Stanford romp

November 25, 2023
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It would’ve been foolish to wager against Notre Dame running back Audric Estimé on at Stanford on Saturday evening.

On Tuesday, the selection committee for the Doak Walker Award, an honor presented to the nation's premier running back, left him off the 10-man semifinalist list. 

“I'm not gonna lie, it definitely fueled me,” Estimé said. “I feel like I'm one of the best running backs in the country, if not the best.”

He went on X (formerly known as Twitter) to let his doubters know he’d soon prove them wrong, publishing a one-word post a few hours after the semifinalist announcement.

“Bet…”

On Saturday, play after play, Estimé sprinted past or powered through a host of Cardinal defenders in a 56-23 victory. It’s the most points Notre Dame has scored against Stanford since 2003. 

The junior running back finished with 25 carries for 238 yards and four touchdowns — both career highs that vaulted him into Notre Dame’s record books. 

He’s now the program’s record-holder for rushing touchdowns in a season with 18. 

Only three other Fighting Irish players have rushed for more yards in a single game, with Julius Jones setting the all-time record with a 262-yard performance in 2003. Estimé sat out the entire fourth quarter knowing that he was close to setting another program record, but he was still fine with how the game ended. 

“I'm not really chasing records, honestly, or stats,” Estimé said. “It's nice to get it, but at the end of the day, we got the job done.  We won by, what, 40 points? We had over 300 rushing on the ground as a total offense, so that's all that matters at the end of the day.”

On the season, he’s produced 1,341 rush yards, the program’s fifth-best single-season mark and two yards shy of Reggie Brooks’ 1343-yard season in 1992.

That brings his career total to  2,321, which puts him at No. 11 all-time and just 20 yards shy of George Gipp for the 10th spot.  

This could be where his college career numbers finish. Soon, Estimé will decide if he’ll declare for the NFL Draft and sit out the bowl game. 

“I don't really have a timeline right now,” he said. “I'm just worried about coming in on Monday, getting a lift in, going over this game, see how I could've better and then we'll start having conversations then.”

In total, Notre Dame ran for 381 yards and five touchdowns whilst averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Both are also season highs. 

Coming into the game, Stanford’s rush defense was actually a strength. The Cardinal were giving up a respectable 143.9 yards (53rd of 133 FBS programs).  At the same time, they entered the contest second to dead last against the pass.

Once again, the offensive line also generated huge holes for whoever carried the ball, even with new starters Billy Schrauth and Ashton Craig in the lineup. 

“Coach Rudolph has done a great job with that offensive line,” coach Marcus Freeman said. “It's tough because you're such a cohesive unit. When you add two new guys in week 11 to the starting lineup, it's a challenge, but they put the work in, and they performed really well.”

Sketchy Start

Overall, the Irish outgained the Cardinal by a 521-359 margin, but they started the game with a series of mistakes that might’ve proved cataclysmic against a better opponent. 

In the first half, Notre Dame turned the ball over three times. That included a pick and a fumble from quarterback Sam Hartman, who went  8-14 for 140 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The defense gave up two plays of 49 yards or greater and earned three penalties for 40 yards.

Still, such a poor start had no impact on the final outcome.

“We wanted to make sure that the Legends Trophy got returned to South Bend,” Freeman said. “So our guys went out and earned it. They earned it. As I told them, I wasn't upset about the effort that we played with to start the game, but we've gotta take care of the ball. 

“We have to take care of the ball, and they did a couple of things on offense that we had not seen, and they made some big plays. But our guys were able to regroup, come out of the locker room with the intensity that we needed and finish this game off the right way.”

Play of the Game

Javontae Jean-Baptiste returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, tight-roping the sideline at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds to cut up the field and sprint 60 yards for the score. 

Defensive tackle Jason Onye got a hand on the 56-yard attempt. It’s Notre Dame’s third blocked field goal of the season.

“He blocked it,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I just ran around like where'd the ball go, picked it up and just got to running it.”

What’s Next?

Freeman picked up his second nine-win season. Now, the Irish wait to see what fate brings them in the postseason. Notre Dame will go to a bowl, but which one? Who will the Irish play?

Bowl destinations won’t be announced until after conference championship games are finished the following weekend. 

So, for now, the team will enjoy its win and see what happens next.

“I'm really proud of this group, a special, special group,” Freeman said, “and we're really proud of the way we finished off this regular season.”

 
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