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Audric Estime Shines in Leading the Irish Past Stanford

Notre Dame running back Audric Estime enjoyed a historic night in the Irish's rout of Stanford, returning the Legends Trophy to South Bend.

Simply put, Stanford had no answer for Notre Dame’s star running back Audric Estime on Saturday night in Palo Alto. Estime, who may have played his last regular season game in a Notre Dame uniform, proved once again that he is among the top running backs in the nation. Estime ran wild against a porous Stanford defense, powering the No. 17 Fighting Irish to a 56-23 road victory over the Cardinal. The resounding Irish win avenges last year’s baffling 16-14 loss to Stanford at home. It also returns the crystal Legends Trophy to South Bend.

“This shows you how important this rivalry is to both institutions and to everybody that is associated with Notre Dame,” said Irish head coach Marcus Freeman at his post-game press conference. “And how much we wanted to make sure that the Legends Trophy got returned to South Bend. So, our guys went out and earned it.”

Notre Dame’s victory was the third straight against Stanford on the road. Under first-year head coach Troy Taylor, the Cardinal finished the season winless at home (0-7) for the first time since 2006. They are the only FBS team without a home victory this year. While Estime carried the load for the Irish, quarterback Sam Hartman passed for 140 yards and two touchdowns in another solid, but not-perfect outing. With the win, the Irish have now won four of five and conclude the regular season at 9-3 overall.

Estime Enjoys Record-Setting Night

There was no stopping Estime on Saturday night. Carefully choosing his paths behind gaping holes opened by the offensive line, Estime rushed for a career-high 238 yards on 25 carries (also a career-high). Estime is the first Notre Dame running back to record 200 more yards since Dexter Williams in 2018. As if his rushing total was not impressive enough, Estime scored a career-high four touchdowns. He found the end zone on scoring runs of 39, six, five, and 25 yards. The exceptional performance marked his fifth game this year of notching 100 yards or more.

A 225-pound junior, Estime also broke the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 18, eclipsing Allen Pinkett who held the mark previously with 17 in 1984. Estime finishes the regular season at No. 11 on Notre Dame’s all-time list with 2,321 rushing yards. Estime rushed for 1,341 yards this season, which moves him into fifth place in Notre Dame history for yards in a season. It remains to be seen if Estime will play his senior season at Notre Dame or declare for the NFL draft.

Earlier in the week, Estime learned that he was notably left off the list of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award. The award is given to the best running back in college football. Estime took out his frustration on Stanford. He did not mince words at the post-game press conference.

“I’m not going to lie, I definitely feel like I’m one of the best running backs in the country, if not the best,” Estime said. “I definitely want other people to notice. After today, I feel like a lot of people will notice.”

Jean-Baptiste Puts Special in Special Teams

With the Irish up 49-16, Notre Dame defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste padded the lead. He added a score on a 60-yard return off a blocked Stanford field goal. Junior defensive lineman Jason Onye blocked a Joshua Karty field goal attempt. This allowed Jean-Baptiste to scoop up the loose ball and tip-toe down the sideline to make it 56-16 Notre Dame. It was Onye’s second blocked field goal of the year.

“I used to play a little running back growing up,” Jean-Baptiste said after the game. “When I get the ball in my hands, I know what to do with it when I get the opportunity. So, it was fun.”

On defense, JD Bertrand led the Irish with six tackles. Marist Liufau made his presence felt all over the field, adding five tackles and a career-best two-and-a-half tackles for loss.

The Takeaway

The Irish sputtered early in the game, as they have on the road all season. The lack of focus on both sides of the ball early in the game allowed Stanford to be competitive in the first half. The slow-starting Irish had to overcome three first-half turnovers. The Cardinal had a 16-14 advantage midway through the second quarter.

With the offensive load on Estime’s shoulders, however, the Irish proved too physical for the Cardinal. Once the Irish found their rhythm, they scored 42 points in the second and third quarters. While the Irish await the announcement of bowl game matchups, one thing is clear: Audric Estime is Notre Dame’s biggest offensive weapon. The powerhouse running back is without question one of the leading ball carriers in the country. His historic performance in the rout of Stanford put an enthusiastic exclamation point on his stellar season.

“What a tough, physical, special football player,” Freeman said. “Obviously he’ll have a decision to make after the season on what he’s going to do. He is a special talent that has given Notre Dame everything he’s had for the past three seasons. Grateful to have him and have him be a part of this.”

 

 

Photo courtesy: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

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