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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Key moments from Notre Dame’s 56-23 win over Stanford

Notre Dame struggled through a sloppy first half, but the Irish ultimately had enough to overcome a Stanford team that has struggled mightily in 2023. The win brings the Legends Trophy back to South Bend, and moves the Irish to 9-3 for the regular season, a slight improvement on last year’s 8-4 mark. Here are the key moments from tonight’s action in the Bay Area.

Graduate student defensive lineman Javontae Jean-Baptiste returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown to extend Notre Dame’s lead over Stanford. The Irish went on to win 56-23 to finish the regular season with a 9-3 record.

Early turnovers give Stanford hope

After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, it was a messy opening 20 minutes for Notre Dame. Three turnovers highlighted a slow start for the Irish. First, graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman scrambled 25 yards for a first down. All seemed good, but instead of sliding, Hartman tried to get a few extra yards and got hit by Jshawn Frausto-Ramos who forced the ball loose. Frausto-Ramos recovered it himself to hand Stanford an opportunity.

The defense got a stop, and Notre Dame scored quickly to go up 7-3. But after a Stanford field goal, Jadarian Price's kickoff return fumble gave the Cardinal great field position once again. This time Stanford made it count, scoring just two plays later to earn a 13-7 lead near the end of the first quarter.

Notre Dame retook the lead with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a play action pass to Jaden Greathouse in the end zone. They got the ball back quickly after a Stanford 3-and-out, but Hartman threw an ill-advised pass under duress that the Cardinal intercepted. Stanford made Notre Dame pay with a 56-field goal to retake the lead at 16-14.

Estimé takes over

The drive after Stanford retook the lead saw Notre Dame lean on its greatest offensive weapon: Audric Estimé. The junior running back got five carries on the following drive including the 6-yard touchdown that gave Notre Dame a lead they would never relinquish.

Estimé went on to have a historic night for Notre Dame football. He set career highs in carries (26), yards (238) and touchdowns (4). His four touchdowns took him to 18 for the season, setting the program record for single-season rushing touchdowns. This all comes just days after Estimé was notably absent from the Doak Walker Award’s ten-man semifinalists’ shortlist.

It was part of a dominant rushing performance across the board for the Irish. Six different players combined for 381 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground. It’s a remarkable effort considering Notre Dame played without two of its starting offensive lineman (Rocco Spindler and Zeke Correll) for the second consecutive game.

Defense and special teams adjust after early struggles

It was a tricky start for Al Golden and Marty Biagi’s units. It started with a big play on the opening possession. Stanford put in backup quarterback Justin Lamson, who took off for 49 yards to set up the Cardinal in the red zone. The defense held them to a field goal, but the early big play wasn’t the only one Notre Dame would give up in the opening half. Later on, a busted coverage saw Stanford running back EJ Smith slip out of the backfield and take off for a 53-yard catch-and-run. After Stanford kicked a field goal on that series, Jadarian Price fumbled the kickoff return. It wasn’t looking pretty for the Irish defense and special teams. Quickly, they both adjusted.

Despite Stanford’s best efforts to hang around, once Notre Dame took the lead 21-16, the Irish defense never let them back in it. They held Stanford scoreless for more than 30 minutes of game action while the Irish offense put some distance between the two teams. The defensive effort included two big fourth-down stops early in the third quarter to truly kill any Stanford hopes of a comeback.

With the Irish leading 49-16, special teams got a chance to redeem themselves too. Junior defensive lineman Jason Onye got a hand to a long Joshua Karty field goal try. Graduate student defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste scooped it up and ran it back 60 yards for an emphatic touchdown to stretch the Irish lead to 40 points.