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Dominant Defensive Masterclass Sends Panthers, Narduzzi Home: Postgame Dive In The Numbers

Written by Cade Harper | Writer | Twitter/X: @CadeHarperIT

Photo by Notre Dame Athletics


I hope everyone had as much fun this weekend as I did. Always a great day when the Irish put up 50+ points on the scoreboard. Surely the offense erupted then right? Well... a punt return touchdown, a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown, and a pick six. The other four remaining touchdowns came from the Irish running backs as Estime gets back to back games with 2+ Touchdowns. Defense stays hot and Al Golden deserves a raise for this performance. Notre Dame forces 5 total turnovers again for the second straight week, this time on Christian Veilleux. I guess Notre Dame players who end up switching positions (Chris Tyree RB-WR, Xavier Watts WR-DB) find more success than others. So let's have a closer look into the numbers after this weekend's massacre in South Bend.

Photo by USA Today


With the Irish forcing 5 turnovers, again, it sure moved them up in the defensive rankings a whole lot this week. Al Golden's defense now ranks inside the top 10 in 4 major categories. 10th in scoring defense, 3rd in pass efficiency defense, 3rd in forced turnovers, and 10th in yards per play allowed. I haven't seen a Notre Dame defense this dominant since maybe 2012, and that's saying a lot. Watts gets a pair of interceptions, again. True freshman Christian Gray played a fantastic game and snagged his first career interception in absence of captain corner, Cam Hart. Sophomore Jaden Mickey fills in for star cornerback Benjamin Morrison, who was ruled out as a game-time decision, also got his first career interception; even better, it was a pick six. It sure was a fun day to be an Irish fan. With Watts' 2 more interceptions, 4 in the last two games, he now leads the country in interceptions with an impressive 6. Freshman corner Christian Gray led the Irish defense in snaps with a whopping 42 to get him some game experience. Safe to say it definitely paid off. Pitt QB Christian Veilleux went 2-7 when targeting wide receivers covered by Gray. Gray would allow just 30 yards on those 2 catches along with his amazing one-handed tip drill interception. Veilleux recorded a passer rating of just 5.4 when targeting Gray, and he would also record four tackles on top of his great game.




Photo by USA Today


Currently in the college football world, there are 3 teams that are ranked in the top 15 in scoring offense, scoring defense, and top 10 in yards per play on offense, then also yards per play allowed on defense vs FBS opponents. Those teams are Michigan, Georgia, and Notre Dame. The combined opponent records from these teams you ask? Notre Dame's opponents have a combined record of 41-23, while Georgia's opponents are 22-35, and Michigan's are 31-33. Take that with a grain of salt, but this a very impressive accomplishment, and one to be proud of if you're Al Golden and the Irish defense. Besides sitting in such good company, Notre Dame did more than just dominate on the defensive side of the football. The special teams showed out, again. The team has now scored a touchdown on offense, defense, and special teams two weeks in a row. The Irish are outscoring their last two opponents 106-27. Safe to say this team is hot and at the perfect time.




Photo by Herald Bulletin


How impressive was Chris Tyree's punt return? He quietly joined great company in the history books of Notre Dame. With Tyree's return, he joins Julius Jones, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, and Heisman winner, Tim Brown, as the only Fighting Irish players to ever score a touchdown on a punt return, kick return, rushing, and reception. Pretty awesome company if you ask me. Only three active players currently in the NCAA have accomplished this feat. A.J. Henning from Northwestern, Zachariah Branch from Southern Cal, and now of course Notre Dame's Chris Tyree. Tyree had a phenomenal game on Saturday. He had an amazing 47 yard deep ball grab leading to an Irish touchdown later on in the drive, making this his second 45+ yard reception in back to back games. That wasn't all the special teams did though. Pitt managed to muff a punt inside the five yard line as well and the ball would roll into the endzone where Notre Dame's Ramon Henderson would find an early Christmas present for himself, making that 14 points towards Notre Dame's special teams alone. Impressive stuff. We've covered the defense, we've covered the special teams, now let's jump into some offensive numbers.




Photo by Goshen News


In a game where it felt like the offense was never needed, they managed to put up some impressive scores, gains, and numbers. However, the Irish managed to lose a star in TE Mitchell Evans, who was recently reported to have a torn ACL on a hit by a Pitt defender late in the 3rd quarter. Evans has been reported to miss the rest of the 2023 season. On the brighter side of things, Estime had a career day. His stat line read 19 carries, 130 total yards, and 3 touchdowns for the beast himself. Sam Hartman looked off his game to start out, but became more comfortable as the day went on. He eventually connected with WR Rico Flores for a 60 yard gain and a long 47 yard gain with Chris Tyree. Maybe it was the shaved beard and mustache? Who knows, but I do know that Audric Estime loves finding the endzone. He did just that, three times to be exact. Audric scored his 21st rushing touchdown of his Notre Dame career this past Saturday, putting him into 16th on the all time rushing touchdown list, which is currently tied with Rickey Watters. Estime ran like his life depended on it, powering through every single play he could averaging a cool 6 yards per carry. Even Jadarian Price looked aggressive as he found the endzone for his second straight game averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Despite only having 6 carries, still impressive stuff from the sophomore. Estime can't seem to help but credit anybody but the offensive line saying in a postgame press conference, "The offensive line is led by the strong. We're led by those big boys. They're the hardest workers on the team, every week, Monday to Friday. They're bringing the juice, that's all a championship team needs-to be led by the strong." Hartman recovered quickly as he finished with a nice 288 passing yards on 18-25 of his passes. He was then replaced by backup Steve Angeli who looked more comfortable than ever throwing yet another touchdown off the bench. 12 different players would catch a pass from Quarterbacks on Saturday. Notre Dame is cruising smooth and on a hot streak into week 10 of the college football season as they travel to South Carolina to face a well familiar foe, the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers are currently 4-4 and trying to avoid going under .500 on their record for the first time since 2011. They are coming off a 24-17 loss vs North Carolina St, who Notre Dame beat down earlier this season.






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