Spring weather in South Bend, you never know what you might get and the same can be said around the annual Blue-Gold game at Notre Dame.
Arriving on campus this morning, the sun was out and it was starting to feel warmer with a nice breeze. Then the day moved along, the clouds rolled in and by about noon it was looking like we might see some rain and some bad weather. By 1:15 PM the rain had started coming down.
But you are not here for the weather, you are here for the Blue-Gold game highlights. Let’s get into it...
To start off, Notre Dame got the day going with a verbal commitment from Cole Mullins, a 2024 DE from Georgia. This followed a verbal commitment last night from a 2025 DL in Davion Dixon from Florida. Two great starts to the big recruiting weekend!
Then it was time to play some football, and just before 2 PM EST the Notre Dame players ran onto the field in between smoke covered flames. It actually looked a little scary out there.
What wasn’t scary was Sam Hartman. Or maybe if you were an opposing defense you would be scared. Here’s what took place on a rain-filled Saturday afternoon in Notre Dame Stadium.
Sam Hartman (Gold Team):
We got exactly what we wanted to see from Sam Hartman on the first two drives. All he did was go 5-5 for 91 yards with a throwing TD (to Jayden Thomas) and rushing TD. The best of the bunch was a down the seam route to Jayden Thomas for 48 yards (he placed it perfectly and hit Thomas in stride). On the third drive we saw Hartman and Thomas continue to find a rhythm together as he hit Jayden on a throw for nine yards when it was third and seven. We also saw Jaden Greathouse catch three balls on the first three drives, definitely an early enrollee freshman who we will be seeing next fall (much more on him later).
On Hartman’s fourth drive he hit Thomas for another first down on a third and long, and he continued to look comfortable in the pocket as he had time to go through his progressions. On another third and eight on the drive he threaded the needle to Davis Sherwood for a 19 yard gain and a first down. Another nice slant to Greathouse on this drive as they connected for the fourth time for another first down. The drive ended with Hartman finding Matt Salerno in the corner on a beautiful pass over three defenders. At this point, Hartman was 13-16 for 189 yards with two throwing TDs and one rushing TD.
And that was his day as he sat for the rest of the afternoon. By all accounts, and by the untrained eye, Sam Hartman looked like the clear frontrunner to win the starting QB position next fall and be the QB leading the Irish onto the field in Dublin, Ireland.
Overall Thoughts on Hartman:
If you have been reading the practice reports and if you have been following along on the message boards and podcasts, there was talk that Buchner had been outplaying Hartman in spring practice (and that would not be bad news). What we saw today shows what happens when you put a QB, who has over 13K career passing yards and over 110 career passing TDs, in a game environment. He was calm, he was cool and he showed why he is QB1. Today Sam Hartman clearly showed this job is his to lose as the Irish enter the fall.
Tyler Buchner (Blue Team):
Buchner got off to a shaky start as he was 4-8 after three drives, culminating with a bad INT on an under thrown ball to Deion Colzie down the sidelines. Nice INT by Jaden Mickey on the play, and Buchner almost had another INT a couple of plays earlier as Jaiden Ausberry jumped a Tyree route to the flat that would have been six the other way if he had just been able to make the play.
To note on o-line play for most of the day, the Gold team’s offensive line (from my eyes it was Alt, Spindler, Correll, Wagner and Murphy) was getting push and they were giving Hartman time to find his receivers.
The Blue team offensive line (from my eyes it was Fisher, Coogan, Baker, Kristofic and Craig) was not doing as good of a job and not giving Buchner as much time to go through his reads.
As Buchner settled down, on the third drive he had a beautiful slant to Chris Tyree which was followed up by a 14 yard pass to Holden Staes. Fourth and nine on this drive and the rush got to Buchner and he could not fine Tyree in the flat so the drive ended in a turnover on downs. To note on this drive, Audric Estime continued to get touches (more overall than I thought we would see in the whole game) and he just continues to do an awesome job, no questioning Audric’s position on the team.
Overall Thoughts on Tyler Buchner:
It was not the best first half for Tyler Buchner. He was under duress a lot which was not helping him, but he was not in whole lot rhythm and he was not able to push the ball downfield. Tyler’s running abilities are pretty nonexistent in a game like this (where he can’t be touched) so we were not able to see all his strengths at play today. But I do think, all in all, we were all hoping to see a little bit more from the junior to be as we all saw what he could do in the last game of the 2022 season when he was the MVP in the bowl game.
Other First Half notes:
Jaden Greathouse was GREAT and the coaching staff is going to have to find a place for him to play this fall. This is good news as the Lorenzo Styles transfer and Kaleb Smith retirement mean there will be room for young WRs to step up. Greathouse has done just that. His day ended with 11 catches for 118 yards, not bad for a kid who should still be in high school right now.
Benjamin Morrison is REALLY GOOD. The Gold team tried to run a reverse and he just blew it up. He has pre-season All-American written all over him.
Jayden Thomas continues to impress and he will be hard to take of the field this upcoming fall. He blocks terrifically and you can tell that he and Hartman are working well together.
You can see the potential for Chris Tyree in the slot and he looked slimmed down and quicker from his running back days of past.
Marty Auer (a fellow Loyola Academy grad), a walk-on, had himself a good half making a handful of plays.
The young linebackers looked good, we saw some nice plays from Jaylen Sneed, Nolan Ziegler and Preston Zinter (and we already mentioned Ausberry). And being honest, I might have missed a couple of the other guys as I was primarily focusing on the offense during the game.
Gi’Bran Payne showed really well today and he clearly has a stronghold on the third running back spot as we head into the fall. It will be interesting as Jadarian Price continues to get healthy, but Payne showed himself more than capable as he ran hard today, had a great run that went for 30 yards, and he also caught a couple of passes out of the backfield.
Good and bad from Clarence Lewis as he wiffed on a Thomas tackle early on, but then had a really good one on Payne near the sidelines later on.
Steve Angeli came on toward the close of the second quarter and we continued to see Greathouse make plays as Angeli hit him for eleven to bring up a fourth and one early in his first drive. Then another nice one to Greathouse later in the drive as those two showed chemistry together.
Tyson Ford and Jason Onye flashed as both of them got after Angeli toward the end of the first half. Good to see these both these players get to the QB as they could be a big part of the D-Line rotation this fall.
Tyler Buchner came out for the Blue team and started out with a couple of nice completions to Holden Staes and to Tobias Merriweather (his first of the game). He then failed to hit Colzie on a slant and the drive ended with a punt. Definitely some nice coverage by Ausberry on the play (an overall a good initial showing from the freshman from Louisiana as we had mentioned before).
Angeli started the third quarter for the Gold and immediately found Greathouse (again). A couple of runs by Sam Assaf then lead to a fourth down attempt that was blown up by Preston Zinter knifing through the defense. Zinter, as we have said, impressed today, he was active and noticeable.
Buchner continued to stay on the field and led another drive for Blue team. He was forced outside on first down and he threw incomplete. A short run by walk-on Isaiah Dunn and we then saw Buchner try to sneak it up the middle which was blown up (tough to run that play when wearing the red jersey). Fourth down and nine and Buchner was forced out again, this time by Aidan Keanaaina who got pressure in the backfield. This was the end of Buchner’s day for the Blue team.
Later on in the half Kenny Minchey made his debut and he was high on a ball to fellow early enrollee WR Rico Flores. Minchey did a lot of handing off to Isaiah Dunn and on a third and four he was sacked by Joshua Burnham (he beat Kristofic on a speed move) and fumbled backwards. Sure this is something the coaches will be on him about him as ball security is of the utmost importance at the QB position.
On another drive toward the end of the game, Minchey had a receiver running open but under threw him as he was on the run outside the pocket.
Other Second Half Notes:
The last couple of drives were a blur of younger players and walk-ons as the weather continued to stay bad.
Steve Angeli finished the day 8-12 for 72 yards and I thought he did a good job out there. He is a more than capable backup and that bodes well for the Irish.
Jason Onye with some good pressure in this half as well, he will definitely be in the rotation in the fall. I had the chance to ask Coach Al Washington about Jason in the press conference after the game and he had good things to say about Jason: “A year ago where he was to now, he has taken off and really credit him...he made a decision, to his credit, he stuck through, he stuck to it and now he’s kind of breaking through.”
As mentioned above, Angeli and Greathouse had a really good connection, you could tell those two were on the same page.
Minchey looks comfortable out there, and while he did not have any completions that would wow one, he looks the part of a heralded incoming freshman.
Xavier Watts with an INT to end the game, he continues to ascend and looks to be the leader of the Irish safety group.
Sam Assaf with a bunch of carries, and amazing job by him as he started the day playing with the Irish lacrosse team (who beat North Carolina today as well).
As much as the WRs will be a focus this year, the Irish have to like what they have in Holden Staes and Mitchell Evans. And if we can get Eli Raridon back healthy along with Kevin Bauman, it will be a really good group. They will never be Mayer level good, but the sum of the parts can come close.
We did not see as much as I think a lot of us were hoping for today from Merriweather, Colzie, Flores and Braylon James. I don’t think it is much to worry about, it just so happened that their QBs were under duress a lot and they just did not have time to get open.
Here is everything Coach Marcus Freeman had to say after the game:
It’s the spring game so sure there will be over reactions and hot takes from a variety of folks around a myriad of topics. But I think if you came into this game looking to see what the Irish have in Sam Hartman, you came away impressed. He was REALLY good today and he showed up and showed out. And that has to make Coach Marcus Freeman and the rest of the staff some feel good as they head into the home stretch of the spring semester. Summer workouts will be here soon, then fall camp and before we know it the team will be boarding a plane to head to Ireland to start the 2023 season. For a lot of us, that day in August can’t come soon enough. Go Irish!!