That was a solid way to start off the 2023 Irish football campaign.
Admittedly, I was a bit conservative with my predictions for the Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup in Dublin, Ireland. The reason was about 20% the new looks for both teams and 80% my freshman year in South Bend being the 6-6, 2009 season. Never again.
But the ND squad went out there and delivered a really solid performance. For me, one of the biggest takeaways was that it seemed methodical, especially on the offense side of the football. Navy wasn’t the toughest opponent going into the action but it eases some of my anxiety to see the Irish execute a measured, successful game plan to kick of the 2023 action.
So let’s dig into the numbers.
The Irish offense did their most work in the first half and by halftime it was pretty consensus that game was going to go ND’s way. The first quarter established the ground game with 14 points coming by the way of the rushing corp’s backbone, Audric Estime and Sophomore Jadarian Price. In the 2nd quarter the passing attack took center stage with two touchdowns coming by way of freshman Jaden Greathouse and junior Jayden Thomas.
The offensive attack slowed down in the 2nd half with a 3rd quarter passing TD again to newcomer Jaden Greathouse and a 4th quarter passing TD to junior Deoin Colzie.
Key Team Comparisons
Notre Dame significantly outperformed Navy in terms of First Downs (27 - 12) and 3rd Down Conversions (71% - 29%). Oddly enough, especially if you watched the game live, the Midshipmen had the longer time of overall possession (33:14 – 26:46).
In terms of total yards, there was no comparison. Notre Dame tallied up a combined 444 compared to Navy’s 169. The Irish won in both the passing (253 – 43) and rushing yards (191 – 126) categories. Expectedly, Navy had notably more rushing attempts (48 – 32) but came up short in terms of ground game efficiency (3 – 6 average yards per carry). The Irish’s passing attack was unparalleled. They completed 80% of 25 overall attempts compared with Navy’s completion rate of 43% on 7 attempts. We went into the game with rumors of a potential Navy passing game but it never really made an appearance.
While there were a lot of close calls, both sides walked away without any turnovers. Notre Dame had 1 penalty for 10 yards while Navy wracked up 3 for 26 yards.
Sam Hartman’s Coming Out Party
One of the biggest storylines heading into the game was Sam Hartman’s emergence as a team leader. In a lot of both quantifiable and unquantifiable ways, I think we all walked away with the 24-year-old quarterback living up to the hype. Hartman passed for an overall 251 yards and a completion rate of 82.3% on 23 attempts. He averaged 11 yards per completion, threw for
4 touchdowns and ended things with a 97.9 QBR. There’s a lot more that will surely be written about his performance but for this article, I think the stats do the job on their own.
A Diversified Notre Dame Receiving Corps
Last season was plagued by a dearth of production from the Irish receiver group. Tight end Michael Mayer held things down as the main passing target but with him gone there were a ton of question marks going into 2023. We knew what Hartman was capable of but the best QB in the world doesn’t mean much without anyone to throw to.
While things started off a bit slow, once they got into rhythm we got a glimpse of what to expect from the receiver corps and I like what I saw. Jaden Greathouse and Jayden Thomas led in total yards, while Deion Colzie, Chris Tyree and Audric Estime also made some notable contributions. Greathouse stood out as the most prolific end zone target and he and Colzie tallied up the longest receptions for the day.
An Expected Standout Performance from the Rushing Group
With Audric Estime returning, there weren’t a ton of questions coming into the season about the Irish’s ground attack. Estime showed out with 16 carries for 95 total yards, an average of 6 yards per carry and 1 touchdown to kickoff to initially put ND on the score board.
A pleasant addition was seeing production from the other running backs. Jeremiyah Love, Gi’Brian Payne and Jadarian Price all made notable contributions in terms of carries and yards. Price wracked up a touchdown in the 1st quarter and both he and Love recorded some of the Irish’s longest rushes.
I can’t help but be pretty pleased with the Irish’s performance in the 2023 season opener. Granted, they were facing off against a Navy squad in its first season post Ken Niumatalolo. Still we saw some fundamental components and pieces come together in a coordinated way that we haven’t seen in a while, especially this early in the season. Really optimistic about where things go from here.
Cheers and Go Irish!!