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Irish Scramble Past Stanford, Finish Regular Season 9-3

By Liam Farrell|Senior Staff Writer|Twitter/X: @LiamFarrell_IT

Via Notre Dame Football


Notre Dame gave Stanford all the resources necessary to end their season on a high note; however, the Fighting Irish's talent stood far too tall of a task for the Cardinal. In the first half, the Irish had three turnovers, which propelled Stanford to 16 early points. The Cardinal, who were not bowl eligible coming into the game, had nothing to play for, and threw all sorts of unusual offensive schemes and formations at Al Golden and the Notre Dame defense. After trailing 16-14, the Irish scored 42 unanswered to take care of Stanford. Audric Estime, who was snubbed of a Doak Walker Award semifinalist nod earlier this week, seemed to be running like a man possessed tonight. The ground game was far too much for Stanford to handle in this one, as the Irish finished their regular season with 9 wins. Let's take a deeper look at the regular season finale.

Offense


Audric Estime. Estime was the key force for the Notre Dame offense in this one on The Farm. The Stanford linebackers had no answer for Estime's tough, hard-nosed running, as Estime was getting everything he wanted. Earlier in the week, Estime got snubbed for the Doak Walker Award Semifinalists, which highlights the 10 best running backs in college football. He clearly took this personally as he ended tonight with 238 yards and 4 TDs on 25 carries. He also became the single season rushing touchdown leader in Fighting Irish history. This historical season for Estime was a marvel to watch, and it is more than likely that tonight was his last game in an Irish jersey.


Offensive Line. The Notre Dame Offensive Line did a fantastic job in all aspects in this one. The running game was very profitable as both Fisher and Alt were successfully getting to the next level on their blocks. Backup Center, Ashton Craig, went down with an injury, and Senior Andrew Kristofic did a great job filling in, as well.


Chris Tyree and Co. While this may not have been a high yard yielding night for the Notre Dame passing game, the wide receivers got it done when they had to. Chris Tyree had two incredibly acrobatic catches that continued drives, along with Tobias Merriweather having a great catch and run on 3rd down. Jaden Greathouse also returned to the end zone in this one, along with Jordan Faison who both continued their impressive freshman campaign.

Defense


Al Golden. Every week I sing the praises of Al Golden, but the man truly deserves it. Stanford threw every single scheme they had in their playbook tonight at the Irish, and for the most part, the Irish defense did a great job containing them. The three turnovers hurt the Irish defense in the field position battle and a couple fluke plays, like a QB power going for 50-yards, were what propelled the Cardinal offense. With this being known, Golden finished this regular season with yet another great performance.


Discipline. The Stanford offense brought out a wide array of formations. A couple end arounds, fake reverses, wide spread sets looked extremely weird from the conventional offenses the Irish have seen throughout the year. Nonetheless, the discipline from the Irish defense was really sound throughout the night. Two penalties on two separate third and long plays- roughing the passer by Marist Liufau and pass interference by Cam Hart- on one drive, single handily led to a 56-yard field goal. Besides these two blunders, the Irish defense was sound all night, and got two turnovers, and two fourth-down stops as well.


Defensive Line Dominance. The overall effort by the defensive line was huge in this game. Senior end, Nana Osafa-Mensah played his best game of the season. Jordan Botehlo made a couple great plays, as well; but Javontae Jean-Baptiste continues to be the best player in the Irish front seven. Jean-Baptiste also had an absolutely electrifying Field Goal Return off a blocked kick by Jason Onye that highlighted the Irish's dominance in this one.

Road Struggles and Sluggish Starts


Away From Home: This team is just not the same when they are away from South Bend, Indiana. Marcus Freeman has struggled on the road this season, with losses at Clemson and Louisville, and sluggish performances against NC State and Duke. One of the biggest teaching moments going into next year is acknowledging certain problems when the Irish go on the road and tackling them fast, especially with the Irish opening the 2024 season in College Station.


Year 2 Improvement. While this season may have had national championship implications, the Irish still produced a relatively successful season. Freeman continues to learn more and more as a head coach, and the Irish program's direction is definitely skyrocketing. With more wins in Year 2 for Freeman than Year 1, Notre Dame avoided the letdown games as they had last year against Marshall and Stanford. A 9-win season with your second year coach has the Irish program going on a great trajectory no matter how one can look at it.

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