Notre Dame cleans up in the second half to win 41-17

Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) runs the ball for a touchdown during Saturday’s game against Central Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Photo by Joseph Weiser.

Big plays and Audric Estime powered Notre Dame to a 41-17 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. 

“I was proud of the way they battled,” Marcus Freeman said. “It wasn’t perfect man, but they battled and they battled and they responded. And as I challenged them, if we don’t beat Notre Dame man, we’re a really good football team.”

With the win, the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish improved to 4-0, setting up a much-anticipated matchup against sixth-ranked Ohio State next Saturday in South Bend.

Estime turned in a career day, rushing for 176 yards on 20 carries and a 17-yard touchdown.

“Trust me, it’s not a lot of fun tackling a guy like (Estime),” Freeman said. “Those hits take a toll on you as a player I’m sure as a defender. But the success we can have running the ball with Audric, with any of those running backs again, when you can run the ball and have success running the ball, you truly open up your pass game.”

Sam Hartman (10) throws a deep pass to Tobias Merriweather (not pictured) for a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Photo by Joseph Weiser.

Quarterback Sam Hartman tossed his first 300-yard passing game for the Irish, finishing with 330 yards on 16-for-26 passing, three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Sam Hartman (10) threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns during Saturday’s game against Central Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Notre Dame’s offense, which notched 578 yards of total offense, wasted little time kicking off the scoring. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Hartman dropped back and floated a deep pass in stride to a wide open to Tobias Merriweather, who took it in for a 75-yard touchdown. A little over a minute into the second quarter Hartman threw the deep ball again, this time finding Chris Tyree for a 76-yard strike. Hartman also found tight end Holden Staes in the corner of the end zone for the game’s final touchdown. 

Central Michigan gave Notre Dame fans cause to worry early. Myles Bailey ran in for a six-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. Quarterback Jase Bauer ran in a sneak from 1-yard out to pull the Chippewaas to within 21-14 at the half. 

Notre Dame safety Thomas Harper (13) smashes Central Michigan quarterback Jase Bauer (8), causing a fumble. Photo by Joseph Weiser.

Central Michigan found success in the run game early, and penalties plagued Notre Dame in the first half. But the Fighting Irish defense cleaned things up and made plays when it needed to. Thomas Harper bolted in on a safety blitz and smashed Bauer for a sack, caused him to fumble. Playing in place of JD Bertrand, linebacker Jack Kiser also picked up a sack and led the team with his career-best 10 tackles, six of which were solo tackles. 

With the final score, the Fighting Irish pushed their streak of scoring 40 points in a game to five, going back to the win over South Carolina in the Gator Bowl last December. Notre Dame in four games this season has scored its opponents 182-47. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Holden Staes (13) celebrates with wide receiver Jayden Thomas (83) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Central Michigan at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Photo by Joseph Weiser.

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