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Eight Reasons Why Notre Dame Beat Central Michigan University

Weekly Column Looking at “Eight Reasons Why...”

Tobias Merriweather gathers in a pass from Sam Hartman for a 75 yard Notre Dame TD
Photo Credit: Getty Images

It was not pretty in any form, and that includes the broadcast through Peacock, but on a mid-September afternoon in South Bend, the University of Notre Dame beat Central Michigan University by a final score of 41-17. With the victory, the Irish moved to 4-0 on the year setting up an epic matchup with Ohio State University this upcoming weekend. It is the game we have all been looking forward to since Sam Hartman announced his commitment to Notre Dame. It is finally here and upon us, but before we get into that, lots to discuss around the football that was played this past Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium.

By now, those of you who follow me, you know the drill. We are going through our countdown to eleven regular season wins for our Irish and with the victories in our first four games, our original “Eleven Reasons Why...” column has now moved to “Eight Reasons Why...” with wins over Navy (11), Tennessee St (10), NC State (9) and Central Michigan (8).

With that out of the way, let’s get right into it (and in no particular order)...

#1 - Big Dric showed out:

In a game where the Irish needed some consistency on the offensive side of the ball, Audric Estime was the difference maker the Irish were able to lean on to provide a spark, energy and be the best player on the field. Audric finished the day with 20 carries for 176 yards and one TD. He was once again a bowling ball and he incorporated a new hurdling technique that allowed him to get extra yards on multiple carries. And all of this is not mentioning the 75 yard TD that he had called back on a holding penalty. For the season, Estime has 63 carries for 521 yards, averaging 8.3 yards per carry and 5 TDs. Straight Baller.

#2 - Well it was not the Peacock broadcast:

Might be the first time that one of “our reasons why” is “not a reason.” I thought I had Peacock, I tried to log in, it did not recognize my password, I asked for it to be reset, I never received an email to do so, and eventually I just gave up. I was coaching fall baseball during the game anyway so knew I would miss a lot of the game, but was at least hoping to catch the replay at some point. Instead I have been relegated to a variety of ways to catch the game ;). But overall, the reports continue to come out that the Peacock experience is just not good - no, it’s actually BAD. Too many people showing images on Twitter of the feed going out and things just not working. We are years into the Peacock experiment and not much has improved. Figure this out Notre Dame.

#3 - Javontae Jean-Baptiste is a player:

It was JJB’s best game as a member of the Irish squad and he is quickly becoming one of our most reliable defensive linemen within our rotation. I don’t think we would be wrong if we said Howard Cross has been our best defensive lineman all year, but JJB continues to ascend and he is doing so at the end position where we need playmakers and where we need a pass rush. He is answering the early questions that people had when he transferred in and coming out of spring practice (where the news was not earth shattering). Anyone else think that JJB might be one of the most excited players on the field this weekend against his former Buckeye teammates? JJB, LFG!

#4 - Sam Hartman and his deep ball excellence:

He started the game with a 75 yard go route to Tobias Merriweather to put the Irish up 7-0. Not to be outdone, he had a 76 yard TD pass to Chris Tyree, a 42 yard pass to Rico Flores (or Rico Flowers as the announcers called him ;)) and a 39 yard pass to Jayden Thomas (probably the only of these four that he wishes he had back as he was just a bit off or it would have been another TD). Amazing what a QB can do for a team when he can hit receivers in stride and put the ball exactly where it is needed, huh? He continues to exceed expectations and it is fair to say that the Irish will have the best QB on the field this upcoming weekend when OSU comes to town. That has not happened often in recent memory for Notre Dame in big games like this.

#5 - Notre Dame’s Defense tightens up late in the game:

After CMU scored to make the game 28-17 Irish, Notre Dame went on a drive that ended in a FG to put us up 31-17 with :30 left in the third. From there, our defense forced three consecutive punts from the Chippewas to put the game away as the Irish got an additional FG and TD in the 4th to make the final score of 41-17. In a game where the Irish struggled to get to a three score margin and put the game away early, it was nice to see the defense pick things up in the second half and allow the offense to put some distance between the two teams putting things away. Additionally, giving up no TDs and only a FG in the second half was a good pivot from the inconsistency we saw a lot of across the day.

#6 - CMF continues to build a winning culture:

How many of you have had conversations with friends about this CMU game and the NC State game where you said to one another “in previous years these games would have been won by 7 points.” It really is refreshing to see ND put teams away, and additionally when not playing our best, still have comfortable wins. Notre Dame’s winning margin this year has been 39, 53, 21 and 24 points. No doubt a lot of this is due to Sam Hartman, but CMF is building this team around an infectious, winning attitude and it is starting to really gain some steam.

#7: Tobias Merriweather has some confidence:

Notre Dame football message boards have been waiting for the 75 yard TD pitch and catch from Hartman to Merriweather. Too many folks have been calling for the coaching staff to sit Merriweather, and like I tell my son every single day: ”patience....patience.” It usually pays off. It is now two weeks in a row where Tobias has been hit in stride for long gains and he is starting to get into a rhythm with Hartman. Definitely something other teams will now have to defend against if they want to stop the Irish moving forward. Another weapon is emerging and he makes the Irish just that much more difficult to defend.

#8: Morrison and Hart are playing really well:

Cornerback play is something that when things go wrong, you know exactly who made the mistake, and when it happens over and over, you don’t forget. Benjamin Morrison and Cam Hart have done a really good job this year and we have not been calling their names a lot - which is a good thing. And now they have their biggest test of the year to date (Southern Cal is still a few weeks out) this upcoming Saturday. It’s time to really see what these two (add in Jaden Mickey) can do against elite competition. I’m ready for it.


As Dan and Ty from The Solid Verbal say, “win your clunkers.” This was not the best showing by the Irish this year, but a scan of college football this past Saturday saw a lot of other favored teams either struggling to win (ie Texas, Florida State and Alabama I am looking at you three) or just downright losing (Tennessee and Kansas State, really?). The goal is to win the day on Saturday and even on a day where no one would say the Irish were at our best, we won by 24. Say that again to yourself and think back to the last few years. It’s okay, that feeling you are feeling? That is a good feeling. It feels nice doesn’t it?

Now we are “Entering Thunderdome” with the Buckeyes of Ohio State on their way into South Bend in a little under a week. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand, it’s a night game (Irish are wearing green) and the Irish are looking for their first win against OSU in something like 80 some years. Really, has it been that long? Games I can remember are the 1995 and 1996 regular season matchups, the 2005 and 2015 Bowl matchups and then last year’s opening season game. In all honesty, it has not been our best showing against them so there is a TON to prove this weekend on September 23rd.

I don’t have a mid-week column here so this will be all that you will be hearing from me unless you listen to my Exit 77 podcast (do have plans to do two podcasts this week). With that being the case, I do think this is the biggest home game at Notre Dame Stadium since Southern Cal came to the Bend in 2005. That was a picture perfect fall day in South Bend, it was one of the most epic sporting events I have ever been to and I have never heard the stadium louder than when Zibby took that punt to the house. We all know how the game ended so we don’t need to talk about it here, but when I think about ND home games that will live forever (at least since I have been a die-hard fan), this Saturday and the hype leading into it will rival 2005 Southern Cal, 1988 Miami and 1993 Florida State. It is that type of game and the winner will assert themselves here in 2023 as a playoff contender.

I will give my prediction later this week on my podcasts, but I am looking forward to seeing you all next week and going through my “Seven Reasons Why Notre Dame beat Ohio State” column.

Let’s go, and for those of you who know me and my ND lacrosse writing, for our Irish it’s “Time to be Great.”