The University of Notre Dame football team out-scored Central Michigan 20-3 in the second half to secure its fourth victory of the season, 41-17, on a partly cloudy day at sold-out Notre Dame Stadium (77,622).
The Irish have now scored over 40 points in a program-best five consecutive games dating back to the 2022 Gator Bowl victory over South Carolina to cap last season. The 182 points scored in Notre Dame’s first four games this season are the fourth-most in the history of the program.
Sam Hartman led the Irish offensive attack through the air with 330 yards passing and notching his first career 300-yard performance in a Notre Dame uniform. He threw three touchdowns, including a 75-yard strike to Tobias Merriweather and a 76-yard toss to Chris Tyree. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Audric Estimé paced the overall Notre Dame rushing attack with a career-best 176 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown.
Jack Kiser, starting in place of an injured JD Bertrand at linebacker, led the team with a career-best 10 tackles.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Official Athletics Website
HOW IT HAPPENED
On the fourth Irish play of the game Hartman dropped back and found a wide open Tobias Merriweather streaking down the left sidelines along the Notre Dame bench for a 75-yard throw and catch. It marked the longest reception of Merriweather’s long career and the longest toss in Hartman’s time at Notre Dame (for a short time).
Bolstered by a borderline roughing the passer penalty, CMU drove six plays for 65 yards on its first possession to tie the game with 7:22 left in the first quarter.
Notre Dame answered with a third-down conversion pass to Chris Tyree, an 11-yard pass to Jayden Thomas then three nice runs from Gi’Bran Payne (10 yards), Estimé (11) and Jeremiyah Love (eight) set the Irish up with third and two.
Estimé rushed for the first down which was reviewed by the replay booth. After an initial announcement that the call on the field stood (first down), the referee returned to the replay monitor and announced that the run would be marked short.
It might be remembered as the first replay review of a replay review in college football history and forced the Irish into a fourth down attempt. Estimé left no doubt on the play, however, busting through a huge hole on the left side of the Irish line for a 17-yard touchdown run.
Javonte Jean-Baptiste single-handedly ended CMU’s next scoring drive in three consecutive plays. He started with a tackle at the line, then chased down the Chippewa runner for a short gain. On third down, he came up behind the CMU quarterback to force an errant throw and punt.
Notre Dame quickly struck back on the second play of the next series. Hartman found a wide open Tyree galloping behind the defense, laid a beautiful pass on his fingertips and the Irish senior scampered into the end zone untouched for a 76 yards later.
After trading two possessions back and forth, Notre Dame’s offense fell out of its rhythm and the Chippewas took advantage to cut the lead to seven at the break.
CMU’s nine-play, 83-yard drive to cap the first half was aided by another questionable penalty flag. The Irish were whistled for pass interference after the Chippewa receiver tripped over his own feet in the end zone, placing the ball at the two-yard line. It would require four attempts, but Central Michigan eventually pushed the ball into the end zone to make the score 21-14 at halftime.
Notre Dame’s quick strike offense showed up again to start the second half. Estimé set the tone with a rumbling 21-yard run on the first play. One snap later, Hartman found Thomas behind the defense for 39 yards down to the Chippewa three-yard line. Hartman eventually capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Central Michigan continued to battle. Converting a third and long and a fourth and short, the Chippewas drove to the Irish Notre Dame five-yard line. On second down, Marist Liufau made a great one-on-one play on a CMU outside run for no gain. Then on third down, Jean-Baptiste rushed into the quarterback’s face to force a throw that was batted down by Benjamin Morrison in the end zone. CMU settled for a field goal to make the Notre Dame lead 28-17.
Notre Dame followed up with two more field goals of their own. A Rico Flores Jr. 42-yard reception set up a 50-yard Spencer Shrader kick. After the Irish defense forced a stop, Estimé and Jadarian Price runs moved the Irish to the Chippewa 20-yard line. The CMU defense responded, however, and forced a Shrader 31-yard effort to push the lead to 34-17.
The defense made another stop to get the ball back in the now cruising Irish offense. Estimé broke off three great runs of 22, 13 and 41 yards – two of the runs including hurdles over possible tackles – to set Notre Dame up at the doorstep.
Hartman then found Staes for a four-yard touchdown toss to cap the game’s scoring.