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Notre Dame-Navy Reaction: A Balanced Offense Shines, but Let’s Pump the Brakes a Bit

There was a lot of good, but how much can we read into this game?

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some thoughts on Notre Dame’s Week 0 demolition of Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

The Price (and Running Game) Is Right

It’s a fitting slogan on a day when Jadarian Price found the end zone on his first career carry and a day when former “The Price Is Right” host Bob Barker passed away (may he rest in peace). But let’s not exaggerate matters here. Price is still recovering from his ruptured Achilles in the summer of 2022, and every Irish running back was gaining positive yardage (to varying degrees) thanks to the push of Notre Dame’s offensive line.

NCAA Football: Navy at Notre Dame
It’s been reported that before rupturing his achilles last offseason, the Notre Dame coaching staff thought true freshman Jadarian Price was the best running back on the roster.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

All of that’s to say that it’s good to see the Irish coaching staff tentatively backing up their claim of a five-headed monster at running back. Audric Estime is clearly the alpha, but when you can throw bodies at opponents to keep him fresh and wear defenders down, then you’re really cooking in the run game.

Mojo Dojo Casa Greathouse

For as much as Notre Dame’s success on the ground opened up passing options for quarterback Sam Hartman, this offensive game plan did feel remarkably more complementary than it ever did last season. That was pretty much to be expected given the addition of Hartman in the transfer portal, but it was a surprise, and a pleasant one at that, to see the breakout of a freshman wide receiver in the season opener.

Jaden Greathouse had three receptions, two of which were touchdowns, and led Notre Dame in receiving yards for the game. It was a very balanced attack with nine different Irish players catching a pass, but Greathouse definitely impressed and should figure prominently this season. Tobias Merriweather on the other hand… he needs to take a page out of Deion Colzie’s book and just be a gamer if he can’t cut it in practice.

Aer Lingus College Football Classic - Notre Dame v Navy
Jaden Greathouse’s two receiving touchdowns are already the most in a single season by any Notre Dame freshman wide receiver since Kevin Stepherson (5) in 2016.
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

And here’s a spicy debate to get the blood pumping. Who was most at fault for every freshman wide receiver of the last 15 years who failed to contribute to Notre Dame’s offense: Brian Kelly, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, or every Irish starting quarterback from Rees through Drew Pyne?

Here for the “Leprechat” Package

I’ll admit it: Gerad Parker called a really good game on Saturday. The “Gerad Parker offense” is still a bit of a mystery, because it was assumed that this year’s offense would look a lot like the Tommy Rees offense (for the sake of playbook continuity). But was anyone expecting the wildcat formation? Or should we call it the Leprecat? Leprechat? (“Chat” means cat in French and it’s closer to how you spell “Leprechaun,” so let’s go with that).

Regardless of the name, in case you blinked and missed it, Gi’Bran Payne took a direct snap on third-and-short and got the first down to set up Notre Dame’s second score. It’s unlikely to become a staple of the Irish offense, but maybe that wrinkle shouldn’t come as a shock after Notre Dame ran the Mitchell Evans tight end “Mitch-a-palooza” sneak multiple times last year.

Can We Press Pause on the Sam Hartman Fetishism?

Alright, someone has to be the buzzkill, so I’ll wear the black hat. I think everyone recognizes that the Notre Dame defense still needs to be borne out against non-triple option teams, but as for the offense, can we all take a chill pill on what this game means for Sam Hartman and Notre Dame in 2023? This was a game against a clearly overmatched team and the Irish had a full offseason to prepare for it.

Look, I get it. Based on this one play, I can see why we might jump to the conclusion that Hartman displays a poise in the pocket that has been severely lacking from virtually every Notre Dame quarterback since Brady Quinn.

But let’s not forget that Ian Book cooked Navy twice. Jack Coan did it once. Even Drew Pyne did it for a half. To be sure, Hartman could be a much-needed breath of fresh air at a position that has seen some very stale recruitment and development. But let’s not kneel at the altar of Hartman just because he showed he can actually read a defense after five full years of collegiate experience.

Aer Lingus College Football Classic - Notre Dame v Navy
Sam Hartman finished his Notre Dame debut 19-23 for 251 yards and four touchdowns.
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It’s a long season to go, and Hartman’s track record shows that he is bound to have at least one game with multiple turnovers. He definitely gives Notre Dame more of a puncher’s chance against the likes of Ohio State and USC, but he can just as easily be a double-edged sword.