Let’s be honest, we all got online on Saturday afternoon and signed up for our free Fubo four day trial subscription. And by late Saturday night we had all cancelled that subscription having watched the Irish beat Stanford on the Pac-12 network (this is my personal reminder to you to cancel the subscription if you have forgotten). Setting up that feed on our TVs was probably the hardest part of the day on Saturday in what turned into a Notre Dame blowout as the Irish handled the Cardinal by a final score of 56-23.
Another slow start on the road saw the Irish go down 3-0, then down 13-7, then down 16-14, before rattling off 42 straight points to take a 56-16 lead with a little more than 12 minutes left in the contest. From there a TD late in the 4th from Stanford got us to our final score.
Really the game was kept close early on due to Irish turnovers as Sam Hartman fumbled after a long 25 yard run, JD Price fumbled a Stanford kickoff and then Hartman threw a bad INT. But when it mattered most, in the key minutes before and after the half, ND scored a TD with 3:53 left before halftime to go up 21-16. We then got a huge INT from Jack Kiser to get the ball back and scored another TD with :19 to go to make it 28-16 as we headed to the break. We then took the opening drive of the second half in for a score to basically put the game out of reach at 35-16.
It was a fitting finish to the regular season for the Irish with lots of good surrounded by some bad as well, but in the end Notre Dame took it to our over-matched opponent to finish on a winning note and end the year with a 9-3 record. We now await our bowl fate and here’s to hoping that we see a matchup against LSU and Brian Kelly and his fam-u-lee.
By now, those of you who follow me, you know the drill. We are going through our countdown to eleven regular season (now including the postseason plus one ;)) wins for our Irish and with victories in nine out of our twelve games, our original “Eleven Reasons Why...” column has now moved to “Three Reasons Why...” with wins over Navy (11), Tennessee St (10), NC State (9), Central Michigan (8), Duke (7), Southern Cal (6), Pitt (5), Wake Forest (4) and Stanford (3).
Let’s get after it and this one was pretty easy, and in the words of Chris Ackels (ND’s stadium announcer), without further ado, in no particular order...
#1 - Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
#2 - Dricccccccccccccccc
#3 - ESTIME
I am not going to bury the lead here and write about much else, because let’s be honest, there are three reasons why Notre Dame won on Saturday night and they all begin and end with #7 in the Blue and Gold.
Pretty sure over time this game will be become known as the “Audric Estime game” and let’s lay out some final stats for Big Dric on his day in Palo Alto:
238 Yards rushing
9.5 Yards per rush
39 yards (longest run)
And this was all done in three quarters. Yes, you read that right, T-H-R-E-E quarters. Anyone else feel like these numbers could be good enough to have Audric Estime on the Doak Walker Award list for the best running back in the country? Apparently not as they came out with their list of ten finalists (earlier in the week on Nov 21st) and they somehow figured that there were ten better backs than Audric out there:
This all prompted some much needed internet backlash from Irish fans, Audric himself and the Notre Dame football team as well:
Bet…— Audric Estime (@AudricEstime) November 21, 2023
So let’s make this article what it really should be, an “Audric Estime Stanford game” appreciation thread as he has more than likely played his last game as a Notre Dame football player. And rightfully so based on how running backs in the NFL are used these days, he should certainly sit out the bowl game to get ready for the draft and put himself in the best position he can to have a successful professional football career following his time at Notre Dame.
Here is his first TD of the afternoon / night, a 39 yard gallop up the middle for the score to put the Irish up 7-0...
Touchdown #2 was a 6 yard run and he basically went untouched...
Here is the third TD of the evening as he went up the middle again, this time from 5 yards out...
And finally, to cap off his stellar evening, TD #4 was a 25 yard burst to the outside where he continued to show his speed and power...
For a full look at his dominance during the game, watch this two minute clip that highlights his day in Palo Alto...
Audric finished the day 25 yards short of the Notre Dame single game rushing record which is held by Julius Jones as he rushed for 263 against Pitt back in 2003. Certainly if he had played in the fourth quarter, he would have gotten that record and he probably would have surpassed 300 yards rushing for the day.
He ended the season with 18 rushing TDs, the most ever for a Notre Dame running back, breaking the record of 17 held by Allen Pinkett back in 1984. And he will finish the season with 1,341 rushing yards and a 6.4 yard per carry average. He will go down as one of the best running backs to put on an Irish uniform and he will always be one of my favorite ND players as he brought it every game and he has a passion and love for Notre Dame that is second to none. Can’t wait to see what you do on the next stage Audric, wishing you all the best, you personify Notre Dame, now go get yours.
Let’s be brutally honest, after the first four games of the year, many of us were thinking this was a playoff team and one that might be able to challenge for the national championship. And in a year where there is not an out right dominant team, this had the makings of a special season for Notre Dame. It was all for naught as things came crashing down against Ohio State, followed by the disaster at Louisville and then the brutal game at Clemson. Three losses on the season, and while 9-3 is still an improvement from last year, this felt like a season that should have and realistically could have been 11-1. We probably would not be challenging for the playoff based on who is still undefeated out there, but we would be playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl and we would be feeling really good about where things stand moving forward (I am not saying that I don’t feel good about things, it would just be that much better).
We still have one more game to finish off the year and get to double digit wins. There’s a month of practice upcoming (a good chance for the younger players to get reps), early signing day is on the horizon and the transfer portal is opening soon. December has the chance to be one of the most important months for the Irish that will dictate where this team goes in 2024. Not to mention, there are plenty of decisions to be made by and about the coaching staff at Notre Dame.
No matter what, winning a bowl game certainly makes the off season just that much better, and we will find out soon where the Irish will be playing and who we will be playing against.
Look for me to be back writing more articles, lots to talk about as we gear up for the bowl game and as I get ready to write my column on “Two Reasons Why Notre Dame Beat....”
Lastly, I cannot help but share this from Fred Assaf (twitter handle here) as he always sends me his photos from the games. Fred was out in Palo Alto and this collection is so cool as it looks at a frame by frame take of JJB’s blocked kick return for a TD. This is so cool, thanks Fred...