(Photo: Joe Weiser)

Fighting Irish beat Wake Forest 45-7

Senior Day. Sam Hartman facing his old team. The Fighting Irish trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss. Notre Dame’s emotions ran high.

Hartman battled inconsistency early but settled into a groove, the senior defensive players took over and The Fighting Irish got back on track with a 45-7 win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday in the 500th game played at Notre Dame Stadium.

“It just is a reminder of the great tradition and those that really set the stage for us,” Marcus Freeman said of winning the 500th game in Notre Dame Stadium. “It’s a reminder of how awesome this university is and how the previous (teams) have paved the way.” 

Notre Dame’s offensive miscues ruled the first quarter. Wake Forest’s defensive line was able to get pressure on Hartman to disrupt the passing game and dropped running back Audric Estime for uncharacteristic losses. 

Hartman and the offense started to find their groove, however, late in the quarter. Hartman found senior Devyn Ford wide open in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown with 54 seconds left in the first to open the scoring.

“(Hartman) is special,” Freeman said. “We’re gonna miss him, but we’ve got him for two more (games), so we’re gonna enjoy both of them.”

Wake Forest was able to answer quickly. The Demon Deacons used somne trickery to put together a drive that ended with running back Tate Carney taking handoff from quarterback Michael Kern and running in a 9-yard touchdown at 11:41 of the second quarter to tie the game.

The Fighting Irish took over from there. Tobias Merriweather broke free of the Wake Forest coverage and caught a 35-yard touchdown pass at 7:06 of second quarter to give the Irish a 14-7 lead. Senior defensive lineman Javontae Jean-Baptiste blocked a Matthew Dennis 30-yard field goal attempt with less than a minute-and-a-half left in the first half before kicker Spencer Shrader knocked in a 37-yard field goal with :09 left to give Notre Dame a 17-7 halftime lead. 

Wake Forest took the kickoff to start the second half. Two plays later, senior linebacker JD Bertrand blitzed and sacked Kern, causing a fumble that senior defensive lineman Rylie Mills recovered for the Irish on the Wake Forest 19-yard line. 

It didn’t take long for Hartman to capitalize. Hartman hit Eli Raridon for a 19-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Estime added to the Notre Dame lead late in the third quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 31-7. Hartman threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game with he tossed a 52-yarded to Jaden Greathouse early in the fourth quarter. 

Hartman finished, completing 21 of 29 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Estime broke 1,000 yards for the season with his 111 yards rushing.

“Hats off to Wake (Forest),” Hartman said. “I’ve been there, been in their shoes. Obviously, I played there so long. Coach (Dave) Clawson and those guys came out battling, but we executed on a lot of fronts and played a complete game.” 

Quarterback Steve Angeli came on for Hartman in the fourth quarter. Angeli was perfect, completing all three of his passes, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Faison. 

Notre Dame (8-3) travels to Stanford (3-7) next Saturday to wrap up the regular season. 

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