The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finished the home portion of their 2023 schedule with another imposing victory on Saturday, defeating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 45-7. The expected win, given the 24-point favorite status of the Irish, now gives the team an 8-3 record as it prepares for the regular season finale next weekend.
Doing most of their damage in the second half, Notre Dame finished the game with 450 yards of offense. One distinction in the Irish’s final point total is that in each of their five home victories this season. the team scored more than 40 points in every game. The final amount of 248 in those matchups represents an average scoring output of 49.6 points per contest.
Below is a look at some of the pertinent aspects of the win.
Taking Their Time
During the first half, Notre Dame was getting a good fight from Wake, holding a 17-7 advantage at the break. The Irish scored on their final three series of the second quarter, the last resulting in a last-second field goal that was the culmination of a two-minute drill from Sam Hartman. That pushed the Notre Dame lead up to double-digits but still likely left some Irish fans with an uneasy feeling.
That likelihood diminished during the third quarter and was sparked on the second play after the break. J.D. Bertrand’s strip-sack led to a fumble recovery by Rylie Mills on the Wake 19 and immediately put Notre Dame in the Wake Red Zone. The Irish wasted little time boosting the lead to 17 on a Hartman toss to tight end Eli Raridon. Then, after Wake was stopped on downs just past midfield, Hartman drove 54 yards, aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty to make it a 31-7 contest.
Defense Delivers Again
Wake Forest had back-to-back scoring opportunities during the second quarter. The first succeeded with a touchdown before the Deacons watched a field goal attempt get blocked on their next drive. Those two efforts accounted for 135 of the 232 yards that Wake gained on the afternoon.
The Notre Dame defense helped set up the team’s first third-quarter score with a fumble. During the course of the game, they also made a pair of fourth-down stops that gave the ball back to the Irish. That was on top of the eight stops in 13 attempts on third down for Wake.
In what very well could be his final home game at Notre Dame, Audric Estime entered some rare stratosphere by going over the 1,000-yard threshold for the 2023 season. Estime finished the day with 115 yards on 22 carries and also scored one touchdown. The most recent member of this select club was current Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams.
Last season was Estime’s breakout campaign and he came close to reaching the 1,000-yard mark during the Irish’s 13 games at that time. He ended the year with 920 yards and also ran it in for 11 touchdowns. While Estime has the opportunity to stay at Notre Dame next year, the expectation is that the lure of the NFL will be too much for the bulldozing back.
Glimpses of the Future
Despite the fact that Notre Dame was celebrating Senior Day by acknowledging the contributions of the 31 players having that status, the game itself saw the usage of some receiving talent that will be back next season. Rico Flores continued his rise to being a key part of next season’s corps by snagging eight balls for 102 yards.
However, less prominent receiving options also made their mark, including Raridon, whose rehabilitation from a second ACL injury has been carefully approached by the Notre Dame coaching staff. He finished with three catches for 39 yards, including a 19-yard catch for his first collegiate touchdown.
In addition, Jordan Faison topped Raridon’s reception total, gaining 22 yards on his four receptions and also scored the final Irish touchdown. Finally, the duo of Jaden Greathouse and Tobias Merriweather combined for five catches and 115 yards, with Greathouse going 48 yards on one toss and Merriweather crossing the end zone on a 35-yard grab.
Notre Dame closes out the 2023 regular season with its biennial trip to Palo Alto to face the Stanford Cardinal. With the exception of the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, the two schools have met annually since 1997 and 36 times overall. The last time they met was last year at Notre Dame when the Cardinal stunned the Irish in a 16-14 victory. The loss was the final one of the season for Notre Dame and put an end to their three-game winning streak in the series.