The University of Notre Dame football team moved to 2-0 in 2023 with a dominating 56-3 victory over Tennessee State in Notre Dame Stadium on a warm, sunny late summer day. The contest marked Notre Dame’s first game against a Football Championship Subdivision team and one of the nation’s Historically Black College or University.
It marks the first time since 1975 that Notre Dame has held its opponents without a touchdown through the season’s first two games (the Irish gave up a single field goal in the first two games of ‘75).
The Irish took control of the game in the second quarter, scoring 28 points to build a 35-3 halftime lead. Sam Hartman played just the first half for Notre Dame, finishing 14-of-17 for 194 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing score.
Audric Estimé led the Irish rushing attack with his first 100-yard rushing performance of the year (116) with a five-yard score. Four different Irish players caught touchdown passes from Hartman and Steve Angeli, including Jadarian Price, Gi’Bran Payne, Chris Tyree and Holden Staes.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Notre Dame struck first on its initial drive with two key third down conversions on the ground. Sam Hartman started it off with a third down scramble for nine yards and a first down. A few plays later, Gi’Bran Payne rushed for five yards on third-and-four to give the Irish a first down at the TSU 41.
After another Hartman short scramble, Jeremiyah Love received a hand off right, cut up and beat a defender with a nice move and sprinted 36 yards for the opening touchdown of the game.
Tennessee State held the ball for 15 plays in their first drive, eventually getting to the Notre Dame 20-yard line where they settled for a field goal and its only points of the game.
On ensuing kickoff, TSU came up with a big hit on kick returner Devyn Ford to force a fumble and give the Tigers the ball at the Notre Dame 12-yard line. The Irish defense rose to the occasion, refusing to allow a single yard. A quarterback pressure, a rush for no gain and a pass broken up at the goal line by Benjamin Morrison forced a TSU field goal attempt that was blocked by Jason Onye.
The Irish quickly got the ball back and started off their scoring drive slowly until Estimé burst through the middle of the Tiger defense for a 50-yard run (the longest of his career). Hartman then hit Price for a 11 yards to the five-yard line and finished off the drive himself with a leaping run into the end zone.
On its next drive, TSU attempted a deep pass but Howard Cross III was right in the Tiger quarterback’s face, forcing an errant throw that Ramon Henderson made a diving interception on at the Notre Dame 43-yard line.
The Irish needed just three four plays to earn their third touchdown of the game. Hartman connected with Jayden Thomas for seven, then another 27 yards on third down before finding a wide open Chris Tyree for a 24-yard score.
The defense earned Notre Dame yet another chance and the Irish made good, with Hartman hitting Thomas for 23 yards on 3rd and 10, then Payne for five yards to the five-yard line. Estimé finished it off high stepping into the end zone for a touchdown run.
TSU seemed determined to drive for a score before halftime, but the Irish were equally determined to get the ball back to their offense. The Tigers drove all the way to the Notre Dame eight-yard line before a Jordan Botelho sack forced a field goal attempt that was missed with just 53 seconds remaining.
Hartman quickly moved the Irish down the field, hitting Mitchell Evans on three straight passes, then finding Jaden Greathouse for 24 yards down to the four-yard line. Holden Staes finished off the drive with a four-yard catch from Hartman.
Hartman gave way to Angeli to start the second half. The first drive for the Irish stalled after six plays, but on Angeli’s second drive he moved left to avoid the rush and found a wide open Jadarian Price to made a great move on a TSU defender and ended up in the end zone 40 yards later.
Just 40 seconds later, the defense decided to get into the scoring column when Clarence Lewis broke on an outside pass, caught it cleanly and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.
Notre Dame’s final score came midway through the fourth quarter when Angeli pump faked and located a wide open Gi’Bran Payne who cut back behind a great downfield block from Matt Salerno and cruised into the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown reception.