Notre Dame blew out Navy for the third straight time in Dublin on Saturday with a 42-3 beat down of the Midshipmen. From start to finish, Notre Dame dominated both sides of the ball and never let things get interesting in the best way for fans of the Fighting Irish. Generally speaking, that could be a sign of good things for Notre Dame football in 2023.
Sam Hartman lives up to the hype
The hype built for Sma Hartman all off-season by fans of a program starved for a star quarterback. Hartman delivered in his debut with the FIghitng Irish. After the Irish ground game got the party started, Hartman started firing darts all over the field. He completed 19 of 23 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns to tie a Notre Dame record for most TDs in a debut with Ron Powlus and Jack Coan.
Hartman was in control from start to finish. He looked calm and poised in the pocket. His third score of the day came on one of the few occasions where the supposed stout Navy pass rush got pressure. Hartman stepped up into the pocket, bought time, started to run, and then spotted Jaden Greathouse wide open for the score.
This is no overreaction. Notre Dame has dramatically upgraded the quarterback position, which will be evident in the Irish’s final season record. The only thing that might prevent Hartman from rewriting some records this year is the Notre Dame rushing attack.
Notre Dame’s rushing attack is going to be a problem for opponents
Is it a four-headed monster or a five-headed monster at this point? Any fears of the loss of Logan DIggs to the transfer portal and Bayou Brian in the spring should have been erased on Saturday afternoon. Five different backs carried the ball for the Irish, and three of them ripped off runs of at least 9 yards.
Audric Estime got things going, running right through the Navy with 95 yards on 16 carries. The one blemish on his otherwise strong day was a first-quarter fumble. The Irish luckily retained possession when it went out of bounds, but Estime had fumbling issues last year, so it’s worth monitoring.
Jadarian Price took the first carry of his collegiate career after missing last year with an Achilles injury, 19 yards for a touchdown. Jeremiyah Love flashed the athleticism that had Notre Dame fans buzzing on SIgning Day with 40 yards on 10 carries. The Irish ran for 191 yards on 32 carries. But it could have been more if they wanted it to be. Navy had no answer for the Irish rushing attack. And before you say, “Yeah, but it’s just Navy,” the Midshipmen held the Irish to 66 yards on 34 carries last year.
The Jaden Greathouse hype was legit
Yesterday was a really tough day for the “Notre Dame won’t play freshmen” crowd after Jaden Greathouse erupted for two touchdowns in his first game. He also led the Irish with 68 yards receiving on three catches.
Throughout the recruiting process, the consensus was that Greathouse was the most ready receiver of the talented quartet of receivers Notre Dame signed. His big game showed just how accurate that assessment was on Saturday.
His first touchdown came on a DIME from Hartman, with Greathouse working the middle of the field. While his second came on, the aforementioned Hartman scramble drill.
Gerad Parker has a great debut as a play-caller
Overall, it was a great day for the Irish offense, a testament to how good of an opener Gerad Parker had as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and play-caller. Parker had some gems lined up that I’ll get into more in my “5 Things I Liked” column, but he had an excellent sense of what Newberry and Navy would want to do and had answers.
Notre Dame faced two third and longs on their first drive, and Parker had perfect calls lined up. He had a blitz-buster screen for Estime and a well-timed draw to Estime that kept the drive alive.
He clearly wanted to establish the run early and then let Hartman cook. Mission accomplished. Perhaps the biggest positive for Parker is that, unlike Tommy Rees a year ago, he never got rattled by Navy’s pressure. Now, Parker had Sam Hartman yesterday, and Rees had Drew Pyne at quarterback, but the results still speak for themselves after what Navy was able to do a year ago.
There will be much tougher tests for Gerad Parker as a play-caller for the Irish, but so far, so good.
Notre Dame’s Defense Shines in Opener
The Irish defense kept Navy off the scoreboard until the very end when Navy kicked a surrender field goal down 42 points to avoid a shutout. They did get a little lucky early that Navy missed a couple of big play opportunities, but that was also to be expected with Navy trying to install a lot of new wrinkles to their option in one off-season. Still, defending the option is annoying, and for the most part, the Irish bottled up Navy all game long after some initial success.
Navy totaled just 169 yards of total offense all day long and had just 12 first downs all game. They averaged a meager 2.6 yards per rushing attempt, although that was slightly inflated due to a bad snap causing a 24-yard loss at one point; Navy was still bottled up.
Props out to Ohio State transfer Javontae Jean-Baptise. The word out of camp was that he was strong against the pass but could struggle against the run. JBB was Notre Dame’s highest-graded defender on PFF yesterday, with a 75.7 overall. Starting VYPER Jordan Botelho wasn’t too far behind him at 72.1 as all of Notre Dame’s edge players did their jobs.
Blowouts of Navy tend to be a good sign
There will be a lot of “yeah, but it’s just Navy” from Notre Dame haters and fans today because Notre Dame did what it should do to the Midshipmen every year. We all know they don’t do it every year, though. When the Irish dominate Navy, it’s generally a sign of good things to come.
The 2012 season started with a thumping of Navy in Ireland; we all know how that played out. In 2019, Notre Dame beat Navy by 32 and finished 11-1 in the regular season. In 2018, they won by 22 and went to the College Football Playoffs. Conversely, 2014 was a 10-point win, 2013 a four-point win, and last year a four-point victory. There are some outliers along the way, but generally speaking, when Notre Dame blows out Navy, it’s a good indicator of what kind of team the Irish have.
Buckle up. It could be a fun ride. Oh, and I’ll touch on the trainwreck that was the broadcast of the game in my “5 Things I Didn’t Like” column.