The University of Notre Dame football team (8-3) won its seventh consecutive Senior Day game and its eight game of the season with a 45-7 victory over Wake Forest in front of a sold-out crowd at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Sam Hartman, playing against his former team in his final home game at Notre Dame, led the Irish offensive attack with 277 passing yards and four touchdowns. Junior running back Audric Estimé earned his fifth career 100-yard rushing performance of his career with 22 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown.
The Irish defense shut down the Wake Forest offense all day, led by the front seven. Howard Cross III led the team with nine tackles, followed by JD Bertrand (six) and Javontae Jean-Baptiste with five tackles, a sack and a blocked field goal.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Notre Dame scored the first points of the game late in the first quarter on its third possession of the game. Hartman connected with Jordan Faison for two catches and a first down, then Estimé put together three rushes for 30 yards (a long of 21) to get the Irish to the Wake Forest 30.
Eli Raridon, who made his first career start in today’s game, caught his second career pass one play later for 11 yards to the Demon Deacon 19. Estimé would earn seven yards on second and third down before Hartman found a wide open Devyn Ford out of the backfield for a 12-yard scoring toss and the first receiving touchdown of Ford’s career.
Wake Forest quickly answered the Irish score with a seven-play, 72-yard drive that included an end-around pass and an attempted wide receiver pass throw back that turned into a 20-yard rush. A nine-yard touchdown run capped the Demon Deacon drive.
It was Notre Dame’s turn to answer a touchdown with one of its own. Bolstered by a 22-yard fourth-down reception by Rico Flores Jr., the Irish drive ended with a 35-yard strike from Hartman to a streaking Tobias Merriweather down the middle for a 35-yard touchdown.
Wake Forest drove into scoring range to attempt a 30-yard field goal late in the quarter, but Javontae Jean-Baptiste blocked the kick and Xavier Watts picked it up and returned it 20 yards to give the Irish a scoring opportunity before the half.
Notre Dame started the drive at their own 30-yard line and after a six-yard run and incompletion, Hartman connected with Flores Jr. twice for 25 yards, Merriweather for nine then Jaden Greathouse for 15 yards to the Wake Forest 15-yard line.
The Irish could move no closer to the end zone, however, and Spencer Shrader converted a 37-yard field goal to give the Irish a 17-7 lead at halftime.
The defense set Notre Dame up for a quick score to begin the second half. On the second play of the Wake Forest drive, JD Bertrand beat his block, sacked the Demon Deacon quarterback and stripped the ball for a fumble. Rylie Mills recovered the pigskin at the Wake Forest 19-yard line.
Hartman performed a perfect play-action pass on the first play and found Raridon open in the back of the end zone for the sophomore’s first career touchdown and the Irish pushed the lead to 24-7.
Notre Dame executed a perfect on-side kick recovered by DJ Brown after the touchdown, but could not move the ball on the drive. Wake Forest forced a punt and drove close to midfield before the Irish defense ended the effort on a fourth-down stop by Howard Cross III and Jack Kiser.
The drive started on the Notre Dame 46-yard line with an 11-yard toss to Faison. Jeremiyah Love entered the game and rushed twice, inducing a face mask penalty on his second tough run to put the ball at the Wake Forest 20. Hartman followed with a toss to Flores Jr. for 18 yards to the two-hard line and Estimé scored his 25th career rushing touchdown one play later for a 31-7 lead.
Notre Dame’s defense earned yet another stop for the offense who didn’t waste time to build on the lead. The Irish drove five plays in 80 yards with Hartman tossing his fourth touchdown pass of the game to Greathouse, who caught the ball at the Wake 25-yard line and out-raced the defense to the pylon.
The Irish offense would not stop there. Getting the ball back and with Steve Angeli at quarterback, Estimé did most of the work to surpass 100 yards rushing on the day. Angeli then connected with Faison on a beautiful pass to the back pylon in the end zone from 17 yards out.