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Notre Dame Football: Three Things We Saw Against Wake Forest

Hartman bowl champs

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Sam Hartman and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the singal-caller’s former school and dominated, 45-7. It was the seventh consecutive Senior Day win for the Irish and a personal one for Hartman, who acknowledged as much in the postgame. The latter fact makes the only appropriate choice for song of the week a paean to forgotten exes:

Even if it felt like too little, too late in 2023, this game was still a fun watch for Irish fans. Let’s get into three observations before the finale:

Sam (Finally) Shines Again

As mentioned, this game was personal for Sam Hartman and the Irish quarterback seized the moment, racking up 277 yards and four touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing. Hartman was a remarkably efficient distributor who made good decisions quickly and spread the ball generously, allowing Notre Dame’s receivers to finally have another big game. Rico Flores led the way with 102 yards on eight catches, while Jaden Greathouse finally got back on the stat sheet in a big way, Tobias Merriweather got into the end zone and Jordan Faison continued to impress. Guiding Notre Dame’s young receivers and giving them opportunities to shine was what Hartman’s veteran presence was expected to do, and in this game the super-senior delivered.

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

If there’s a downside here it’s that we hadn’t seen Hartman perform at this level since the Irish took on Central Michigan in Week 3. There are many reasons for that - many of which aren’t Hartman’s fault - but it was hard to look at Hartman’s performance in this game and not wonder what might have been had the Irish been more consistent on offense throughout the season.

Raridon Rises

Speaking of young Irish pass-catchers breaking out, I want to give a shout-out here to Eli Raridon, who has persevered through the injury bug since his senior year of high school and through his first two years at Notre Dame. The young tight end finally got the chance to star in this game and reminded Irish fans why scouts and coaching staff were so high on him, showing great athleticism and strength on the back-breaker touchdown in this game (a brilliantly-designed and executed play action that was pulled off for the first time in this game, because it’s 2023 and this is the Notre Dame offense) and generally looking the part of a future TE1.

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

With his great length and natural acceleration, Raridon reminds one more of Tyler Eifert than Michael Mayer, and that downfield ability has the potential to be a great wrinkle in the Irish offense moving forward. Whether or not Mitchell Evans returns next season, Raridon’s talent ensures the Irish will again have an effective and deep tight ends group moving forward. Now let’s just make sure to call some more plays that get them involved in the offense.

The Irish D-Line: Closing in on Cashing in

It was hard for me to pick one player from Notre Dame’s veteran defensive line to single out for praise coming out of this game. Wake Forest’s offensive output in this game was deceptively high due to some successfully executed trick plays, but for the most part the senior-led Irish front dominated their counterparts in white all afternoon. Take your pick: Howard Cross leading the team with nine tackles (Cross is still second on the team in tackles for the season, an incredible feat for a nose tackle); Javontae Jean-Baptiste creating constant havoc in the backfield and notching a sack and a TFL; Rylie Mills caving in the middle for a TFL and forcing a fumble.

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

All three of these guys are eligible to move on the next level after this season, and all three should find themselves on NFL rosters if they do. Much attention is deservedly paid to the Irish secondary and their role in this season’s dominating defensive effort, but this unit has been a consistent force putting pressure on Irish opponents and we will miss all of these guys when they are gone.