Four key moments from Notre Dame’s 56-3 win against Tennessee State
Jose Sanchez Cordova | Saturday, September 2, 2023
Notre Dame secured another dominant win Saturday, beating the Tennessee State Tigers 56-3 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish improved to 2-0 and continued to impress with another complete performance.
Here’s how it happened.
Long opening drive sets the tone
Notre Dame opened the game with the ball after the Tigers won the toss and deferred. After a touchback, the Irish got to work, slowly working their way down the field. Quarterback Sam Hartman rushed for nine yards to convert a crucial third and five. It was his first rush as a member of the Irish, reminding everyone he had 855 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground at Wake Forest.
From there, Notre Dame continued methodically moving the ball in small chunks until true freshman running back Jeremiyah Love ripped a 36-yard touchdown run, splitting two Tiger defenders with a beautiful move inside at the 15-yard line. The big rush was a sign of things to come as the Irish went on to accrue 221 rushing yards. All told it was a 10-play drive, taking 5:43 off the clock and giving the Irish a lead they would never relinquish.
Defense comes out slow, then locks in
The Irish defense was outstanding in Dublin, but a long flight back saw them come out of the gates a little sluggish against Tennessee State. The Tigers gained 55 yards on 15 plays, including a big 13-yard completion to convert a third and seven. However, the drive stalled after that completion and TSU settled for a field goal to cut the Irish lead.
That turned out to be the Tigers’ best drive of the first half, as the Irish went on to shut them down completely. After the opening possession, TSU totaled just 20 yards and no points across their other five first-half drives.
Junior defensive lineman Jason Onye blocked a field goal attempt to keep TSU off the board following a fumble on a kick return by graduate student running back Devyn Ford. The biggest defensive highlight was senior safety Ramon Henderson’s spectacular diving interception for Notre Dame’s first turnover of the season.
The defense also got in on the scoring when senior cornerback Clarence Lewis intercepted TSU quarterback Deveon Bryant and returned it 33 yards for the score. The pick-six took Notre Dame’s lead to 49-3 just before the end of the third quarter.
Big plays abound as Hartman and the Irish offense show what they can do
After Love’s long touchdown, the big plays did not stop for the Irish. Junior running back Audric Estime ripped a career-long 50-yard rush to set up Notre Dame’s second touchdown. Sam Hartman found junior wide receiver Jayden Thomas for a 27-yard catch and run and then threw a 24-yard dime to senior wide receiver Chris Tyree for the touchdown. The score made it 21-3 Notre Dame at 9:41 in the second quarter.
Notre Dame scored 28 points in a huge second quarter where the team gained 259 total yards and closed the period with a bang. After a missed field goal from TSU, Notre Dame took over at their own 20-yard line with just 53 seconds left on the clock.
After nearly six full quarters without a completion to a tight end, Hartman made them the focal point of yet another scoring drive. The Irish quarterback found junior Mitchell Evans on three straight plays, racking up 49 yards and getting to the Tigers’ 28-yard line. After a 24-yard completion to week one standout Jaden Greathouse, Hartman capped the drive with a touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Holden Staes to send the Irish into halftime with a 35-3 lead.
Steve Angeli comes in and holds his own
With the Irish having a commanding lead after the first half, head coach Marcus Freeman made the somewhat surprising decision to put backup quarterback Steve Angeli in to start the second half. The sophomore saw very little action against Navy, but he had a full half to show what he could do against Tennessee State.
It went about as well as Angeli could’ve wanted. He led a mistake-free offense all second half as Notre Dame stretched its lead and closed out the game in convincing fashion. Angeli himself went 8/11 with 130 passing yards and two touchdown passes. The two scores came on checkdowns to sophomore running backs Jadarian Price and Gi’Bran Payne, who took them in for 40-and 42-yard scores, respectively.
The performance from Angeli gives Notre Dame some assurance in terms of quarterback depth behind Hartman. True freshman Kenny Minchey even came into the game late in the fourth quarter to make his debut for the Irish.