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Irish Report Card: Notre Dame 21, Duke 14

Written By Phil Kowalis|Writer|Twitter: @PhilKowalisIT

Photo by ON3

What a wild week it has been for Notre Dame football.

A week ago the Irish outplayed the Ohio State Buckeyes only to come out on the losing end after the Buckeyes scored the winning touchdown with a second remaining.

This week the Irish found themselves outplayed by a Duke team looking to show that they deserved their lofty ranking among the top 25 teams in the nation.

Trailing by a point late in the final quarter, the Irish embarked on a 10 play 95-yard drive to score the winning points with less than a minute remaining in the game.

The winning drive was kept alive by a gutsy 17-yard scramble on fourth and 16 by Sam Hartman and capped two plays late when Audric Estime broke through the Duke defense for the game winning touchdown.

Let's take a look at the grades for the Irish offense and defense after the hard fought 21-14 win over the Blue Devils.

Photo by Ben McKeown


Offensive Line/ Tight Ends: Grade C-

The Notre Dame offensive line turned in their worst performance of the season against the Blue Devils.

Notre Dame finished the game rushing for 159 yards on 32 attempts for an average of five yards per carry. Just looking at the numbers it seems the line turned in another solid game. Those numbers are deceiving, however, as 81 of Notre Dame's rushing yards came on just three carries The Irish's longest run of the game, Jeremiyah Love's 34-yard run, came as a result of a fake punt.

Take away the three big runs and the Irish only managed 78 yards on 29 attempts, good for only a 2.6 yard per carry average.

The interior of the Irish offensive line is beginning to be a concern, as not only did they not generate much push in the running game, but Sam Hartman was under pressure all night long as he spent most of the night running for his life from Duke defenders.

The lone bright spot for this group was the effort Even Mitchell turned in. The Irish tight end had the best game of his career finishing with six catches for 134 yards to lead all Irish receivers.

Quarterback/Running backs: Grade B-

Hartman turned in the worst statistical night of his six game Irish career, completing only half of his passing attempts on the evening.

The Irish quarterback finished the game 15-for-30 for 222 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the first time this season Hartman was held without a touchdown pass.

Hartman refused to let the Irish lose, turning in several hardnosed runs to help keep drives alive picking up crucial first downs with his legs.

Audric Estime again led the Irish in rushing, ending the night with 81 yards on 18 attempts for a 4.5 yard per carry average and scored both of Notre Dame's touchdowns.

For the first time this season, the Irish did not deploy their five headed monster approach from the backfield, as both Jadarian Price and Devyn Ford failed to record carries.

Wide Receivers: Grade F

The Irish played without two of their three leading receivers in this contest as Jaden Greathouse and Jayden Thomas both missed the game because of hamstring injuries.

The Wide receivers the Irish did have on the field turned in a miserable performance.

Irish receivers had trouble creating separation all night long and when they did have the ball thrown their direction, the group was plagued by drops.

Notre Dame's game winning drive was also nearly derailed after Tobias Merriweather was flagged for a 15-yard offensive pass interference penalty, so all in all it was a disappointing effort from this position group.

Chris Tyree and Rico Flores Jr. each finished the contest with two catches for 28 yards.

Photo By: Jim Dedmon/USA Today


Defensive Line: Grade B+

The Irish defensive line turned in an inspired effort holding the Duke running game in check for most of the game, and also generated a solid pass rush against the Blue Devils, as the Irish front four recorded 1.5 sacks on the night.

Howard Cross turned in a monster performance for the Irish recording a team best 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and also added a sack and two forced fumbles.

Rylie Mills also had a strong game for the Irish being credited with seven tackles for the game.

Jordan Botelho will be forced to miss the first half of next week's contest with Louisville after being flagged for a targeting penalty.

Linebackers: Grade B

The Irish linebacking corps continued their good play turning in another solid performance against the Blue Devils.

JD Bertrand led all Irish linebackers with 11 tackles.

Marist Liufau also continued his strong play adding six tackles and being credited with half a sack on the night.

The Notre Dame linebackers also had a strong night in pass defense helping to limit Duke to less than 150 yards passing for the game.

Defensive backs: Grade A

The Irish secondary continues to show that they are among the best defensive units in the country after delivering another outstanding effort against Duke.

Notre Dame held Duke quarterback Riley Leonard to only 134 yards passing, as Leonard only completed 12 0f his 27 pass attempts for the game and was intercepted once.

Xavier Watts led the Irish secondary in tackles with eight and also added an interception that led to a field goal to give the Irish a 10-0 lead.

Thomas Harper and DJ Brown added five tackles each for the Irish.

Special Teams: Grade C

The Irish special team's unit continues to have little impact on the season.

Spencer Shrader made two of his three field goal attempts on the evening and remained perfect on PAT's through six games. Shrader has unlimited range for a field goal kicker, but needs to improve on his accuracy as he has only converted on half of his attempts on the season.

Punter Bryce McFerson averaged 38.8 yards on his six punts, pinning Duke inside their own 20-yard line on two occasions.

The Irish kick return unit continues to struggle to make a mark in the return game, averaging just 18.3 yards on three kickoff returns.


Notre Dame escaped Durham with a hard-fought win against a Duke team that showed they were every bit worthy of being a ranked team.

The Irish will need to get healthy very quickly at the wide receiver position as the return of both Thomas and Greathouse are key in getting increased production from that unit as Notre Dame continues to navigate through the toughest part of its schedule.

improvement along the offensive line will also need to be a must for the Irish offense to return to the form seen in the first four games of the season.

Next week Notre Dame will play their third consecutive night game of the season as they travel to Louisville to take on the 5-0 Cardinals, who are ranked 25th in the country.


Oct 02, 2023

Hartman deserves no more than a c-minus. Lot of missed reads, missed throws, several that were caught were all Evans. And don't get me started on his running ability. Can we bring back book?


Oct 02, 2023

No mention of Sam Hartman‘s class act at the end of the game?

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