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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Estimé dominates, Notre Dame overcomes early turnovers in Stanford rout

If any Stanford fans were feeling sentimental about their last game in the PAC-12, they didn’t show it.

Granted, it was the end of Thanksgiving weekend, but the stadium was empty and there was no obvious student section. The band was sparse and even the in-game music seemed diluted, as if they were trying not to disturb anyone who may have been working in the library.

Junior running back Audric Estimé carries the ball on the road against Stanford on Nov. 25, 2023. Estimé had a career night against the Cardinal, racking up 238 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries.

Despite the lacking atmosphere, Stanford got off to a relatively strong start. Sophomore quarterback Ashton Daniels completed a few short passes before the Cardinal's other sophomore quarterback, Justin Lamson, ran up the middle for 49 yards. Over the next three plays, the Cardinal lost a yard and had to settle for a field goal in their first possession.  

The Irish looked poised at the beginning of their first drive, with Audric Estimé taking the ball on the first play. The junior running back had a nine-yard rush on first down, while freshman Rico Flores Jr. picked up the first down on the next play via a five-yard pass from quarterback Sam Hartman. However, Hartman decided to show off his running abilities on first down — and picked up 25 yards — but fumbled, and the ball was recovered by the Cardinals.

Luckily for the Irish, Stanford was only able to get one first down before being forced to punt. Hartman handed the ball off to Estimé twice after getting the ball back, and then connected with Tyree for a 26-yard completion along the Stanford bench. On the next play, Estimé ran right up the middle for 39 yards, and the first Notre Dame touchdown of the game. 

The Cardinals received the ball back following the touchdown. On second down after a short gain, with three Irish defenders a step away, Daniels found senior running back E.J. Smith, who dodged safeties for a 53-yard gain. They advanced to the 5-yard line, but the defense kept them out of the end zone again and kicker Joshua Karty made a 23-yard field goal. 

Sophomore running back Jadarian Price then received the kick-off, and returned it to the thirty-yard line, but fumbled and Stanford’s Terian Williams recovered. Two plays later, freshman wide receiver Tiger Bachmeier rushed for 14 yards and the touchdown. Suddenly, Stanford had a six point lead on the Irish and the fans that were in the building came alive.

The Irish stuck with their run-heavy offense on their next possesson, with Estimé quickly picking up another 27 yards. On a critical third and long, Hartman connected with Tyree for a 12 yard gain. Three plays later, Hartman found freshman receiver Jaden Greathouse for the touchdown. 

The Irish defense shut down Daniels on their next drive, and Notre Dame got the ball back. Unfortunately for the Irish, Hartman threw a pick two plays later and Stanford took over at the Notre Dame 38-yard line. Three incomplete passes later, Karty hit a 56-yard field goal, allowing Stanford to regain the lead. 

As the game got more competitive, the crowd grew more into the game. Estimé's 10-yard gain on fourth and one, prompted a huge sigh of relief from Irish fans and a sigh of frustration from Cardinal fans. The stadium soon crescendoed as Estimé scored his second touchdown of the game, a six-yard run. 

The Cardinals drove down the field, and after missing Elic Ayomanor deep down the left side, they'd run the exact same play again, this time getting a pass interference call. On the very next play Jack Kiser intercepted Daniels and the Irish offense took over at their own 44-yard line.   

Driving down to the three-yard line, sophomore Gi’Bran Payne stretched out to the goal line and scored his first touchdown since the Irish hosted Ohio State, despite originally being called a fumble.

Stanford took a knee to end one of Notre Dame’s sloppiest halves of play in recent memory. Throughout the first half, it was obvious that Notre Dame’s biggest opponents were themselves. They could do whatever they wanted on offense and despite a few good, unrepeatable plays from Stanford, the defense kept Stanford under control. 

A more normal Notre Dame team returned to the field for the second half. Estimé ran seven of the team's first ten plays for 58 yards and a touchdown, with the drive taking nearly five minutes off the clock. 

A subsequent Stanford turnover on downs gave Notre Dame the ball back at their own 41-yard line. On drive's first play Hartman hit freshman receiver Jordan Faison for a 45-yard catch and score, right down the middle. The play took all of nine seconds off the clock and the Stanford offense came right back out. 

Turning it over on downs again, the Stanford offense soon returned to their bench, fueling the cheers of an Irish-dominated crowd. Two and a half minutes and 45 yards later, Estimé scored his fourth touchdown of the night. 

Stanford showed signs of life (if not enough to compete for victory) at the beginning of the fourth quarter. They drove down to the Notre Dame 38 and Karty set up for another 56-yarder, but this one was blocked by junior defensive lineman Jason Onye and recovered by graduate student defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste carried it all the way to the end zone for another Irish touchdown. 

Stanford put in their third-string quarterback, Ari Patu, in the game and he fumbled after three plays. Notre Dame countered by bringing their own backup, sophomore Steve Angeli, into the game. 

And then he went back out of the game after throwing a pick. 

Patu drove down to the endzone, but it was Stanford's second-string quarterback, Lamson, who ran it in to give the Cardinals their third touchdown. 

Each team punted once more before Angeli kneeled to end the game 56-23, ending Stanford's season and PAC-12 tenure.