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Audric Estime Sets Tone for Notre Dame in Win Over N.C. State

Behind running back Audric Estime’s breakout performance, No. 10 Notre Dame (3-0) took care of business against North Carolina State (1-1) on Saturday. With Estime rushing for 134 yards and two touchdowns, the Fighting Irish defeated the Wolfpack 45-24 in a statement victory that was interrupted by a lengthy weather delay. The convincing win marked the 29th consecutive regular-season triumph over an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponent.

Audric Estime Sets Tone for Notre Dame in Win Over N.C. State

While the final score shows otherwise, much of the first half proved a struggle for Notre Dame. The offense appeared out of sync at times, and the offensive line was bullied early by an aggressive N.C. State defense. Playing on the road, the Irish had to overcome adversity, which included self-inflicted penalties (10 penalties for 82 yards), as well as the elements.

The defense stood tall against the Wolfpack’s run game, allowing just 84 yards on 30 rushing attempts. The Irish secondary also had a field day, picking off N.C. State’s Brennan Armstrong three times. Xavier WattsDJ Brown, and Benjamin Morrison all had interceptions in the game. That kind of production from the unit will be especially important in the coming weeks, especially against No. 5 Ohio State on Sept. 23.

“Got to give Notre Dame credit,” said N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren in the post-game press conference. “Every time we got in the game, and made it a game within one possession, they responded. That’s what good teams do.”

Outstanding Start for Audric Estime

On the first play out of the weather delay—caused by thunderstorms in the area early in the second quarter—Estime took it to the house. It was a much-needed jolt for the offense. Running through a big hole on the right side, Estime proved uncatchable. He powered through the Wolfpack defense and rambled 80 yards for a touchdown.

On the play, the Irish had left tackle Joe Alt lined up as a tight end next to right tackle Blake Fisher with tight end Mitchell Evans occupying Alt’s left tackle spot. The eye-catching run shifted the game’s back-and-forth momentum to the Irish, putting Notre Dame up 10-0. It was the longest run of Estime’s career and propelled him to his second 100-yard game of the season. For the game, Estime carried 14 times, racking up 134 yards (9.6 YPC) and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 22 yards. Estime leads the Irish’s deep rushing attack that is averaging 194 yards per game with 345 yards (8.0 YPC) and four touchdown runs.

“That was a result of everyone staying ready,” Estime said at the post-game presser. “We didn’t know when we were going to play or if we were even going to be able to play, but that was just the result of everyone doing their one of 11. The offensive line doing their job, and coach [Gerad] Parker calling the right play. We’ve got to make plays like that happen. I honestly believe we have the best offensive line in the country. And it’s led by the best tackle duo (Alt and Fisher). Just to have them on the same side, it just gives me a little rush and that’s something I hope to keep on doing.”

Holden Staes Steps Up

With Estime pacing the ground game, quarterback Sam Hartman led the Irish through the air. While he had miscues early—holding the ball too long and a costly grounding penalty—he poured it on late. Hartman spread the ball around and took advantage of numerous weapons. He also utilized the Irish’s tight ends for key plays.

Like Estime, sophomore tight end Holden Staes had a career performance. He hauled in four catches for 115 yards (28.8 YPC) and a pair of touchdowns. Among his highlight-reel plays was a 40-yard touchdown that put the Irish up 24-10. Lined up in the backfield, Staes caught a short pass in the flat. He broke a tackle and tight-roped the sideline for the score. Staes’ performance should go a long way in silencing the concerns about replacing Michael Mayer’s production at the tight-end position.

Sam Hartman, Offense on Point

Through the Irish’s first three blowout wins, Hartman has been on point. He is 48-of-64 for 731 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. His 222.5 passer rating is second in the country to USC’s Caleb Williams. His 89.8 quarterback rating is fifth nationally. All told, the Irish offense has averaged 47.7 points per game through the first three contests.

Hartman concluded the extended afternoon against N.C. State, going 15-for-24 for 286 yards with four touchdowns. He also lost a fumble on a strip sack. In a back-and-forth first half, the Irish offense racked up 263 yards, with 190 of them coming on three big plays. The biggest plays came on a 45-yard reception by Tobias Merriweather; a 65-yard reception by Chris Tyree; and Estime’s 80-yard touchdown run.

Spencer Shrader Makes History

In a game of career performances for the Irish, kicker Spencer Shrader joined in on the milestones. He booted home a record-setting 54-yard field goal late in the first quarter to give Notre Dame an early 3-0 lead. Despite the soggy conditions, the field goal had plenty of leg and was the longest in Notre Dame history, eclipsing the previous record of 53 yards. Kyle Brindza made a 53-yard field goal in 2013 against Arizona State. Dave Reeves also made one from that distance in 1976. In his first season with the Irish, Shrader is a transfer from the University of South Florida. Last year he went 9-of-13 in field goals for the Bulls. As the schedule gets tougher, Shrader’s value should rise.


As expected, N.C. State gave Notre Dame its first true test of the season. While no one counted on a five-hour game, the Irish overcame adversity and demonstrated resilience to move to 3-0 on the season. With cool-headed and experienced Hartman under center, a plethora of talent at the skill positions, and a stingy defense, the Irish are moving in the right direction. Notre Dame clearly has plenty left to prove. But with breakout stars and playmakers like Estime packing a punch out of the backfield, the Irish appear one step closer to finding their rhythm.

Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports


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