Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Runs Over Stanford in 56-23 Regular Season Closeout

Using the middle two quarters to negate what began as a potential huge upset loss, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish closed out the 2023 regular season with a 56-23 win over the Stanford Cardinal. The victory gives them a 9-3 record on the year as they wait to find out their postseason destination.

The Notre Dame offense rolled up 521 yards on the evening, with the running game managing 381 of that amount. Except for two early breakdowns, the Irish defense kept things in check, Finally, special teams gained some redemption for an earlier mistake with Jevonte Jean Baptiste’s tightrope skills down the sidelines delivering the final score.

Below are some key facets of the win:

Estime Rolls On and Over

In what could be his final regular season game at Notre Dame, running back Audric Estime saved his best performance for last with 238 yards on 25 carries as well as four touchdown runs. The effort tops his previous high of 176, established earlier this year against Central Michigan. However, he came up short in his bid to topple Julius Jones’s school record of 262, set in 2003.

Estime averaged nearly 10 yards every time he ran with the ball and the first of his four touchdowns helped give the Irish their first lead. He very well might have established a new record had the game been closer.

Paying for Mistakes

It didn’t take Notre Dame long to discover that this contest wouldn’t be a cakewalk. On the third play of the game, Stanford’s Justin Lamson broke off a 47-yard run that put the ball in the Notre Dame Red Zone. While the Irish defense stiffened, the Cardinal were still able to pick up a field goal for the early 3-0 lead. They managed to dodge another bullet after a Sam Hartman fumble but a 53-yard pass reception helped set up another Stanford field goal with less than three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Yet, the Irish weren’t even able to get out of that period without another miscue, this one a fumble on the ensuing kickoff by Jadarian Price. That resulted in a Cardinal touchdown and a 13-7 advantage. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter, Hartman’s interception then helped set up a 56-yard field goal from Stanford kicker Joshua Karty.

Turnover Issues

Hartman coughing up the ball twice was far from the only problem the Irish had to deal with during the first half. Those two errors and the aforementioned Price fumble accounted for the three turnovers in the opening 30 minutes. Only an overturned fumble call in the final minute prevented Notre Dame from making it four in just two quarters.

The most frustrating aspect of those mistakes is that all season long, Stanford’s ability to create these types of big plays was virtually non-existent. Entering Saturday’s game, the Cardinal had just six interceptions and a lone fumble recovery in 11 games this season. Yet, the Irish helped them look like a big-play defense, which is nothing remotely close to what they’ve delivered in 2023.

Third Quarter Bludgeoning

Notre Dame’s 12-point halftime advantage might have offered hope of an upset to Stanford but such thoughts were quickly laid to rest. Starting off with the kickoff after the break, Notre Dame marched 75 yards on 10 plays, with Estime’s five-yard run making it a 35-16 game in favor of the Irish.

Stanford’s effort to respond then took on an air of desperation when they went for it on fourth-and-one on their own 46 and lost a yard. Notre Dame answered in one play when Hartman found a wide-open Jordan Faison for a touchdown. Another Stanford drive ended in much the same fashion, with Notre Dame only needing five running plays, the last a 25-yard score from Estime, to make it 49-16.

Defense Bounces Back

Despite giving up the two big plays early, the Notre Dame defense again put together a solid performance that allowed 234 yards prior to the garbage time lineup changes. Of that amount, 102 yards came on the two early big plays for the Cardinal. That effectiveness helped keep Stanford at bay before the Irish woke up.

Stanford’s pass protection has been one of their many flaws this season and Notre Dame exploited it by collecting key sacks early that only resulted in two field goals. Heavy pressure from J.D. Bertrand also played a major role in a Jack Kizer interception that set up the final first-half score and gave the Irish momentum for their big third quarter.

Next Up

A month-long break begins before Notre Dame again faces an opponent in a bowl game. At this moment, it’s unclear where the Irish will eventually play although there have been plenty of rumors leading up to the official announcement on Sunday, December 3. One intriguing possibility that’s been mentioned is a possible Reliaquest (formerly Outback) Bowl matchup on New Year’s Day between Notre Dame and LSU. Their head coach is former Irish mentor Brian Kelly.

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  1. Mr. Sullivan is right: We stopped ourselves. But that’s been the way of it all year, off and on.
    I’ll also remind you of the slow starts under Wimbush, then Book, then Jack from Wisconsin and Buchner.
    Coach Kelly had this problem too.

    BGC 77 82

  2. It was once 16-14 Stanford.
    Sound familiar ?
    Except ND responded & scored 42 straight this year. If there was a turning point it was Kiser’s INT > led to late second quarter TD & a 21-16 lead after the D’ yielding only 16 points inside NDs ‘40 five times in the first half. Gave up big chunk plays to set up a couple of those scores. It was important to win big vs. a team the year after they upset your team and @ home. Kudos to Stanford staff & O’ game plan. Two carries from RB entire game. Outmanned but amazing scheme variations despite being slower and smaller than ND
    And thanks for the memories, Audric

  3. Once they got going, yeah it was a great win and a great rout. But the backups let Stanford score and you’d like to see that avoided.

    BUT….. the starts at away games have to be cleaned up. There’s something fundamental that this coaching staff is missing that other staffs know. It’s not Hartman, or any other individual. It’s something the staff is failing to do to prep the team for games that are not at Notre Dame Stadium. It’s an attitude as much as anything else. They play tentative away from home until they get in a groove. Really good teams take advantage of that.
    They need a little anger and passion like it’s a religious cause to take out the opposition. Something to spark the team coming out of the locker room.

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