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Week 2 Notre Dame football grades: Offense dominates again

| Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Chancelor Gordon | The Observer
Junior wide receiver Jayden Thomas cuts upfield during Notre Dame’s 56-3 victory over Tennessee State.

One of the biggest emphases of any football team to begin a season is building continuity, and the Irish offensive unit has done just that in their first two games. Changing signal callers can be a difficult task, as demonstrated by Ohio State and Clemson’s shaky performances this past weekend. However, new signal caller Sam Hartman has been nothing short of sharp in his first two performances — and the offense has followed his lead. 

Some will say that the Irish did what they were supposed to do given that their first two opponents consisted of an underwhelming Navy team and a clearly outmatched FCS school. However, hanging 42 points against Navy and an impressive 56 points against the Tennessee State Tigers this past weekend, Irish fans have a lot to be excited about for this offensive unit moving forward. 


Tennesee State ended their 2022 season with a not-so-great 4-7 record. However, their defense was definitely one of their strong suits last year allowing about 24.73 points per game. This put Tennessee State No. 36 in the FCS out of 130 teams, proving to be a relatively good defense in their league. They were also able to hold a Jackson State team with now-standout Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders and do-it-all receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter to an impressive 16 points. 

That still did not stop graduate transfer quarterback Sam Hartman from doing whatever he wanted. In one half of play, Hartman dialed up a stellar 14-for-17, 197-yard and two-touchdown performance before he was pulled due to a large 35-3 halftime lead. Irish fans already had a good idea of what Hartman could do with his arm, but this past weekend they also got a glimpse of what Hartman can do with his legs after his leaping rushing touchdown in the second quarter. 

Hartman also had a nice 24-yard touchdown pass to add to his already impressive passing display during the first two games of his Notre Dame career. Hartman continued to show off his veteran poise by making an effort to spread the ball around and make the right reads. He has done nothing but live up to his billing as the top transfer quarterback in Notre Dame’s first two campaigns, and it seems like the Irish have finally overcome their recent quarterback woes. 

As a result of Hartman’s dominant first-half display, Irish fans were able to get a longer look at sophomore quarterback Steve Angeli. Similarly to Hartman, Angeli dialed up two touchdowns through the air. One play from Angeli that stuck out was when he escaped the pressure from the Tigers and got the ball out to sophomore running back Jadarian Price, who then took it back for six. After an impressive first half from Hartman and a phenomenal second half from Angeli, you couldn’t have asked for a better showing from the Irish quarterback room.

Weekly Grade: A+; Season Grade: A+ 

Running Backs 

After an impressive showing in Dublin, expectations for the running back group were high coming into Saturday’s game against the Tigers. Junior running back Audric Estime was able to build on that momentum with another impressive performance this past weekend. He rushed for 116 yards on only 13 carries and rushed for a touchdown as well. Highlighted by his electric 50-yard run at the beginning of the second quarter, Estime showed once again why he’s one of the leaders of this team. He plays with reckless abandon and is always a load to bring down. Estime also finished the game with zero fumbles after being benched in Dublin for an early fumble. Hopefully, Estime can build on his two stellar campaigns so far, and continue to be the leader that the Irish need him to be. 

Outside of Estime, the running back group showed great flashes as well. Freshman running back Jeremiyah Love had an electrifying touchdown run to give the Irish their first points of the game. Sophomore backs Gi’Bran Payne and Jadarian Price were responsible for both of Angeli’s touchdown passes. This game showed that the Irish running back group can beat their opponent both in the passing game and on the ground. 

Weekly Grade: A; Season Grade: A 

Wide Receivers 

The wide receiver group was also able to start where they left off last game. Junior receiver Jayden Thomas has started to separate himself as the clear leader of the receiver group with another impressive display of his big play ability. The play that stuck out the most was when he was able to extend a short pass into a large 27-yard gain after making a couple of defenders miss. Highly touted freshman receiver Jaden Greathouse was also able to tally up a couple of nice catches. Former running back Chris Tyree made his presence known in the slot with a spectacular 24-yard touchdown grab. 

Freshman Rico Flores Jr. was another bright spot with a solid two-catch, 31-yard performance. However, once again, anticipated breakout player Tobias Merriweather was disappointing with an underwhelming two-reception and five-yard performance. Overall, the receiver room had another successful day.

Weekly Grade: A-; Season Grade: A 

Tight Ends 

Replacing a talent like Michael Mayer is always going to be a tough task, and the tight end group definitely did not come out as sharp as they would have liked against Navy. However, they were much better against the Tigers this past weekend. Junior Mitchell Evans had a solid four-catch, 61-yard performance. His biggest highlight was his phenomenal three-catch drive during the Irish two-minute drill that led to a touchdown as the first half was winding down. Sophomore Holden Staes also made his presence known with the first touchdown catch of his college career. The group blocked well up front, contributing to a nice bounce back from their underwhelming performance against Navy.

Weekly Grade: A; Season Grade: B 

Offensive Line 

For the second straight game, the offensive line allowed zero sacks, keeping the school’s illustrious reputation for developing linemen alive. They opened holes for Estime and the running back crew to run through. The two junior guards, Rocco Spindler and Pat Coogan, looked sharp once again. Center Zeke Correll still looked good as well despite his injury scare prior to the Dublin game. Overall, you couldn’t be more pleased with what the offensive line has displayed so far this season. 

Weekly Grade: A+; Season Grade: A+

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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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