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Young Talent Featured in Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game

Blue-Gold Game

Notre Dame concluded spring practices on Saturday, with the 93rd annual Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. The game, which marked the third in the Marcus Freeman era, saw the Blue Team defeat the Gold Team 28-21. The intra-squad scrimmage offered a first glimpse at the 2024-25 Fighting Irish and featured early-entry freshmen, as well as incoming transfer players.

“We’re coming together,” Freeman said during Peacock’s coverage of the game. “Every year it’s a different collective group of skill sets. The coaches are different. So, we’re building it. The energy has been pretty cool. There was a little smack-talking between the two coaches before the game. And that’s what you want.”

Blue-Gold Game Rubber Match

The teams were drafted on Thursday, with associate head coach and running backs coach Deland McCullough coaching the Gold Team and defensive line coach Al Washington helming the Blue Team. The game was a rubber match between the two coaches. McCullough’s Gold Team won the 2022 Blue-Gold Game 13-10. Washington led the Gold Team to a 24-0 victory in 2023.

On Saturday, the Blue Team took a 14-7 lead into halftime. Quarterback Steve Angeli connected with junior Eli Raridon for a 21-yard touchdown late in the opening quarter, putting the Blue Team up 7-0 early. Freshman running back Aneyas Williams scored next, finding the end zone from the seven to put the Blue Team ahead 14-0.

A four-star recruit by 247Sports, ESPN, and Rivals.com, Williams is the 144th-ranked player nationally by Rivals.com. On the eight-play, 55-yard scoring drive, freshman quarterback CJ Carr went 3-for-4 for 35 yards. He completed passes of 18, 10, and seven yards. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Minchey answered with a scoring drive for the Gold Team. Minchey scored a touchdown from the five on a designed run to cut the deficit to 14-7, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive.

Competitive Second Half

The intra-squad scrimmage tightened in the second half. Minchey got the Gold Team on terms with the Blue Team with a 26-yard touchdown toss to freshman receiver Micah Gilbert in the third quarter, making the score 14-14. Gilbert, a consensus four-star recruit from Charlotte, NC, is the 41st-ranked receiver and ninth-ranked player in the state by 247Sports. He finished his final season at Charlotte Christian with 1,200 yards and 10 scores, setting a single-season receiving record.

After the Gold Team turned the tide to even the score, The Blue Team responded with sophomore Jeremiyah Love scoring on the next-to-last snap of the third quarter, putting the Blue Team back in front, 21-14. Gilbert found the end zone a second time, scoring on a 29-yard pass from Carr to tie the game at 21 late in the fourth quarter,

The biggest score from scrimmage came late in the game when Angeli found Kris Mitchell on the sideline for a 61-yard score, putting the Blue Team back in front for good, 28-21. Mitchell played in 12 games for the Irish in 2023. He had 64 receptions for 1,118 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season.

Bragging Rights for Washington

The victory by the Blue Team gives coach Washington back-to-back wins in the Blue-Gold Game and bragging rights for the year. He now boasts a 2-1 record in coaching his third Blue-Gold Game against McCullough.

“It’s the players,” Washington said on Peacock following the game. “And it’s the culture we have. Everything we do is to assimilate competition and bring out the best in everybody. Credit to the players and to coach Deland. It was an awesome experience. I’m glad we won. It was great to see them (young players) compete in a real game situation. We saw them execute at a high level when it mattered most. I think for us moving forward, it’s a great reminder for us and a confidence builder for them.

“As competitors, this is a family,” Washington added. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great experience. I’m happy everyone came out of it in one piece. Now we can punctuate a great spring and move on to the summer.”

Blue-Gold Takeaways

In the Blue-Gold Game, the young Notre Dame quarterbacks all showcased their talent with strong performances. Angeli, who is a solid game manager, went 17-25 for 228 yards and two touchdowns for the Blue Team. Carr, who appeared comfortable and confident in the offense, completed 7-of-10 passes for the Blue Team for 66 yards. Minchey, an exciting and athletic quarterback, was 12-19 for 123 yards and a touchdown for the Gold Team. Carr was 8-of-13 for 99 yards and a touchdown for the Gold Team.

For the receivers, Gilbert stood out. He caught five passes for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Gold Team. Love and Raridon paced the Blue Team, each catching five passes for 41 yards. Junior Gi’Bran Payne carried the ball 10 times for the Gold Team, rushing for a game-high 58 yards. Williams rushed for 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries for the Blue Team.

Despite the play of the Irish’s signal callers, Notre Dame’s offensive line remains a question mark heading into fall camp. The Irish face a significant challenge in replacing NFL-bound Joe Alt and Blake Fisher. The experienced Notre Dame defense should once again be formidable in the coming season with the likes of returnees Howard Cross III and Benjamin Morrison anchoring what was a stubborn unit last season.

Notable players who did not participate in the Blue-Gold Game were graduate transfer quarterback Riley Leonard, tight tends Mitchell Evans and Kevin Bauman, All-American cornerback Benjamin Morrison, and running back Jadarian Price. The Irish will open the 2024 season on Aug. 31, taking on Texas A&M in College Station.

 

Blue-Gold Game
Photo courtesy: GREG SWIERCZ / USA TODAY NETWORK

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