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Ten Reasons Why Notre Dame Beat Tennessee State

Weekly column looking at “Ten Reasons Why...”

Coach Marcus Freeman leads the Irish out of the tunnel as they took on Tennessee State University at Notre Dame Stadium
Photo Credit: Fred Assaf

On a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon in South Bend, the University of Notre Dame beat Tennessee State University 56-3 in the first ever match up for the Irish versus an HBCU. It was, for the most part, a stress free day inside Notre Dame Stadium as the Irish moved to 2-0 on the season. Their first big test looms this upcoming Saturday as they travel to Raleigh to take on the 1-0 Wolfpack of North Carolina State University.

As we laid out in last week’s column, we are beginning our countdown to eleven regular season wins for our Irish and with the victories over Navy and TSU, our original “Eleven Reasons Why...” column has now moved to “Ten Reasons Why...” with wins over Navy (11) and TSU (10).

With that out of the way, let’s get right into it...

#1 - Sam Hartman has accounted for as many TDs as incompletions this year:

As Taylor Swift sings in Anti-Hero “It’s me, Hi, I’m the problem, it’s me...” and as other teams look to defend the Fighting Irish’s offense, yeah, Sam Hartman is THE problem. On the season so far he is 33 for 40 with six throwing TDs and one rushing TD. For those good at math, that makes seven TDs across seven incompletions. While ND wants to establish a dominant rushing attack each week, one of the reasons they have been able to do so is because Hartman is a difference maker at QB. So far this year, expectations met for #10 on the Irish.

#2 - The Running Backs continue to impress:

Two games in, Audric Estime has 29 carries for 211 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, two rushing TDs and a long run of 50 yards. It is not likely that averaging over 7 yards a carry will continue this year, but every time he gets the ball, he is so tough to stop and his momentum alone is good for multiple yards before he goes down. Add in that Price, Love and Payne all had TDs against Tennessee State and the Irish backfield is deep, efficient and everyone is contributing. Hopeful that Devyn Ford is okay as he took a brutal hit on a kickoff return and did not come back due to concussion protocol. BTW, hey refs, if that was not targeting on Ford by the TSU player, then I do not understand your definition of targeting. Do better. Seriously, Do Better.

#3 - Marcus Freeman’s emotion is starting to show through...and it’s spectacular:

Anyone else notice how fired up Coach Marcus Freeman (and moving forward we might refer to him as CMF for ease) was after Jason Onye blocked that FG by TSU? He looked like he was ready to put on a helmet and pads and get ready to play. He was not terribly happy by what he had seen from his defensive squad up that point early in the game and his enthusiasm lit a fire under the team. From that point forward the Irish outscored the Tigers 49-0. It’s undoubtedly his team, the players play for him and they are starting to take on his personality...and it’s infectious. LFG!

#4 - ND’s Defense has gotten better in the red zone in 2023:

Across opponent’s five red zone possessions this year, the Irish have not allowed one TD. That is a marked improvement over what we saw last year as Notre Dame was one of the worst defenses in the whole country when it came to allowing TDs in the red zone. This is a great start for the team this year as you know this was an area the Irish and Al Golden worked heavily on in the offseason. Let’s see if they can keep up their solid play here, it can be a difference maker as the year progresses.

#5 - For the second game in a row, the Notre Dame defense did not allow a TD:

Speaking of the Irish defense, that is a total of six points given up by our squad in two games, with both Navy and TSU being limited to a field goal each. These are not juggernaut offenses, but we are taking care of business when the rubber meets the road and one has to imagine the confidence is high as we head into week three against NCST. First time since 1975 that the Irish have not allowed a TD across their first two games to start a season.

#6 - The WRs are starting to develop an identity:

It was a case of everyone eating on Saturday as lots of Irish WRs made catches and plays with the ball in their hands. Love what Jayden Thomas continues to do, great to see Chris Tyree get a TD, Greathouse continues to impress, Flores got a couple of catches, Tobias is building confidence with a couple of grabs, etc. There isn’t a dominant receiver who is getting mass yards, but there are WRs across the board who are making plays when their # is called. And don’t forget that our TEs caught some passes as well. More on that in #7...

#7 - That two-minute drill was Chef’s Kiss:

Setting the stage...TSU just missed a FG, the Irish had the ball at their own 20 with a little over one minute left before halftime, one timeout remaining. Here is what transpired across the next six plays: Hartman to Payne for three yards, Hartman to Evans for 18 yards, Hartman to Evans for 18 yards, Hartman to Evans for 13 yards, Hartman to Greathouse for 24 yards, Hartman to Staes for four yards and a TD. That drive was ELITE on all levels and it shows what an ELITE QB can do when he has the ball in his hands. Chef’s Kiss is right.

#8 - I am not spending time dissecting the offensive line:

Usually at this time of year, about two games in, I am finding something wrong with the offensive line or being upset that the line is not dominating against the competition we have been playing. So far I cannot find much wrong with the offensive line as they have done a great job creating holes for our backs, they have given Hartman time to find open WRs and they have been consistent. Things will get ratcheted up this weekend against the Wolfpack, but so far so good with Coach Rudolph and his boys. Keep it up.

#9 - Two Interceptions for our secondary:

Great to see Ramon Henderson get an interception and Clarence Lewis get a Pick Six. Overall this year, the secondary has not been challenged that much and as we look ahead to bigger matchups, it is good to see guys like these two make plays as they are coming off the bench for us. This continues to build confidence and depth for our back four as we know backs like Morrison, Hart, Brown and Watts are our leaders here.

#10 - Steve Angeli got quality snaps as the backup...and he played well:

One of the big things that teams look to do as they get their seasons underway is to find out what they have across their backups. Too many times across the years the Irish have not been able to put things away against subpar teams to get additional players out on the field. That wasn’t the case on Saturday as we led 35-3 at halftime and Steve Angeli came out to start the second half. He had the chance to play with the starters and was 9 for 12 for 132 yards and two TDs. It was really good to see him get meaningful minutes, play with the regular offense and get some experience. He played really well too. It is these types of opportunities that will only help him and the team moving forward.


The Irish came out and took care of business on Saturday and it has been refreshing to see Notre Dame play the way they have through games one and two of 2023. The season truly gets underway this weekend as we will be traveling to Raleigh for a 12 PM EST start in what promises to be a rowdy environment on Saturday afternoon. The Wolfpack are 1-0 coming off a Thursday night win in week one and they are led by transfer QB Brennan Armstrong (who was really good at UVA a couple of years ago). He is a threat to throw and run so the Irish will need to be prepared on multiple levels in Carter-Finley. And I will mention it here just because, but Sam Hartman is 0-2 in Raleigh in his career.

Think that changes this weekend, this Irish team is starting to put together something special here early this season. My “Nine Reasons Why...” column is right around the corner...

Let’s Go Irish!