Big Plays Lift Irish Over CMU

Notre Dame raced out to a 21-7 lead in the initial 16 minutes of play and coasted to a 41-17 victory over the gutsy Central Michigan Chippewas on Saturday afternoon. Audric Estime and Sam Hartman led the Fighting Irish with big plays that proved to be too much for the visitors. The final margin masked a long period of mid-game mediocrity by Notre Dame before a strong finish soothed the growing anxiety among the fanbase.

Estime ran for 176 yards and a touchdown while Hartman threw for 330 yards and three scores. The Irish signal-caller also ran for a score. Spenser Schrader added two field goals, including a 50-yarder. Backup quarterback Jase Bauer got the start for the Chippewas as Bert Emanuel was sidelined with an illness. Bauer proved to be a fierce competitor. He led his team on scoring marches to close the gap to 21-14 at halftime and 28-17 late in the third quarter before his team ultimately ran out of gas.

Tobias Merriweather torched the CMU secondary for an early score

The expected cakewalk seemed to take shape in the opening moments. Notre Dame’s defense held CMU to a three and out before Hartman threw a perfect strike to a streaking Tobias Merriweather for a 75-yard score just four minutes into the contest. Someone apparently forgot to tell Central Michigan to roll over, though. The Chippewas responded with a 65-yard march where their offensive front pushed around the Irish defensive line and the backs broke numerous tackles. Myles Bailey capped the drive with a six yard run to make it 7-7.

Notre Dame quickly righted the ship as Estime ran it in from 17 yards on a fourth and inches play. Moments later, Hartman connected on another scoring bomb. This one went for 76 yards to Chris Tyree as the game entered the second period. Now trailing 21-7, Bauer and CMU kept fighting and the Irish kept hurting themselves with penalties. As the half drew to a close, Bauer scored from close range to narrow the gap to 21-14 at intermission.

The hosts opened the second half with a 21-yard run by Estime and Hartman’s 39-yard pass to Jayden Thomas to get into scoring territory. Hartman squeezed in from one yard out to put Notre Dame back in control by 28-14. The teams then traded punts until late in the period. Schrader and Tristan of the Chippewas each booted a field goal in the last two minutes of play to make the score 31-17 entering the final stanza.

Central Michigan was visibly tired at that point, and the Irish dominated the late going with ten unanswered points. Estime’s breathtaking 41-yard burst set up the game’s final touchdown, a perfectly thrown scoring pass to Holden Staes.

A satisfying ending did not completely diminish the feeling of unease that permeated the crowd for long stretches of time. The Irish defense gave up ground quite easily at times. The CMU offensive front had more success than anticipated, while Notre Dame’s linebackers were clearly ineffective with JD Bertrand on the sideline. Missed tackles and penalties also continued to persist. It’s difficult to determine if these issues were driven by the quality of the opponent or if teams are figuring out how to attack Notre Dame. Either way, my level of confidence heading into Ohio State week has taken a hit.

Let’s look at the answers to our pregame questions.

  • Will the Irish get off to a fast start or stumble out of the gate? It was indeed a fast start. The stumbles came later.
  • Can Notre Dame gain >150 yards against the stingy CMU run defense? Estime’s 176 yards broke that threshold by himself and the team total was a healthy 236.
  • Will Hartman and his receivers make the necessary reads to avoid sacks? Hartman was hit several times but not officially sacked. He held the ball and went through numerous progressions that indicated his receivers were not getting open. The few successful long plays made the passing attack seem better than it was for much of the afternoon. Will those big plays be available next week?
  • Can the Irish avoid the costly penalties that plagued them last week? No. Although the referees were decidedly mediocre, the roughing, holding, and pass interference calls against the Irish were both legitimate and costly.
  • When will Marty Biagi’s return and coverage teams exhibit some life? Oof. I’m going to give up and just stop asking this question.
  • Will Emanuel have more success running the ball than NC State’s Armstrong? Bauer filled in for Emanuel and played hard. He endured several crushing hits that would have caused a lesser player to hide in the injury tent. It was the gutsiest performance by a Bauer since Jack ran CTU in the early 2000’s and took out a boatload of would-be terrorists.
  • Can Notre Dame’s secondary intercept a few more passes? Not today. There were no turnovers by either team. The intensity for Notre Dame just wasn’t evident.
  • Will the Irish and Peacock give fans their six dollars worth? Good Lord, no. Unfortunately, Jack Swarbrick’s legacy of nepotism and embarrassing football schedules will live on long after he departs.

Finally, the early season warmups are completed and we can watch some big boy football. How good are Notre Dame and Ohio State? Can the Buckeyes stop Estime? Can the Irish cover Marvin Harrison? We’re going to get a chance to find out? Until then, I can’t help but feel nervous.

Tell John what you think in the comments below

38 thoughts on “Big Plays Lift Irish Over CMU

  1. I agree this was a mediocre outing by the Irish. The tackling was awful once again. Freeman left both Hartman and Estime in the game for too long, well after the game was decided, especially after Hartman took an earlier hit that could have been further aggravated by more playing time.

    The Irish are going to have a hard time beating Ohio State if they don’t seriously step up their game.

    • ❤️☘️#50 says:

      “The final margin masked a long period of mid-game mediocrity by Notre Dame before a strong finish soothed the growing anxiety among the fanbase.”


      ” I can’t help but feel nervous.”

      Are accurate and spot on assumptions the last few weeks! If ND is going to be in the conversation of playoffs next week’s performance will determine that! There will be a lot of praying this week to hope ND gets their weaknesses figured out!!!!! 🙏

  2. It wasn’t pretty but this game was never in doubt. Notre Dame did not finish a couple of drives with touchdowns. But Schrader’s accuracy from 54 yards on in should give us confidence that he can be counted on to kick a game winning field goal. Estime got 20 carries and ran for 176 yards. Hartman had passes of 76, 75, 42 and 39 yards. It was the second week in a row he had four big chunk pass plays. The defense had its share of problems. JD Bertrand’s absence was felt more than I had anticipated. I did not see Jaylon Sneed’s name in the official stats on defensive plays and I did not hear his name during the radio broadcast. I think Jean-Baptiste had a better game this week than he did last week. I share everyone’s anxiety about Al Golden’s blitz heavy strategy. But in the main, ND only gave up 3 points in the second half and their late third-quarter and fourth quarter D was much better. A nice comfy route would have been better, but the coaching staff knows what they have to work with. Hopefully Bertrand is back and Rubio as well. This game against the Buckeyes was never going to be easy but I am more confident with Hartman, Audric and our offense than I have been in many years.

  3. The defense seems to be good scheme-wise. Players, for the most part, seem to be in the right positions. But it doesn’t matter how good the scheme is or that payers are in position if the players don’t tackle once there. Whiffs, diving at feet, reaching attempts at arm tackles. The secondary players go out of their way to avoid hard solid contact, much less making contact, wrapping up, and dropping the ball carrier to the ground. I fear losses in the big games without drastic improvement in this area. Season-long bugaboo.

  4. Vannie, you always come up with the perfect word to describe a game. Today the operative word was “unease.” Now that the season is 25% over I think there is only one definite conclusion you can make about the Irish: Hartman is the difference between this year and last year. Without Hartman this game could have easily borne a strong resemblance to last year’s Marshall game. After watching Buchner’s exercise in futility today, I can’t imagine where ND would be if he were still our starting quarterback. Thank God for the portal and for NIL!

      • Vannie, not only was Buchner ineffective yesterday but Pyne and Jurkovec were literally horrendous with 7 turnovers between the two of them. A serious question for you: were these quarterbacks bad to begin with or did their ND experience ruin them? I’m befuddled.

        • They were not great to begin with but good coaching could have turned one or two of them into serviceable players. Brian Kelly and his crappy offensive system just made them worse. I’d say Jurkovec had the most raw ability followed by Buchner and lastly Pyne, who is not a Division 1 quarterback.

  5. JVAN,

    Yes, another day of awful tackling and not getting off the field by the D.. Every year the same old story.

    I concur with your nervousness..

    Golden needs to figure it out quickly..

    • ND fan in the South says:

      Let’s hope our D is getting its mediocrity out of the way with this game. They will need to create turnovers against OSU.

  6. Although it was not a pretty win, they were able to still score 41 points and are 4-0!!! Happy to see Merriweather getting more involved in the passing game and ” The Moose ” ( Estime ) is just an incredible RB!!!! I am little nervous too John going into the game vs OSU. However, I can recall a few games under Holtz when they didn’t look sharp against a lesser opponent that week before they had to play a big time team the following Saturday, they were completely a different team and won those games. So I am hoping that this will be the case vs OSU!! GO IRISH BEAT Buckeyes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. #47 on D needs to play more. ND can’t tackle, can’t get consistent pressure and seem really slow at LB. Next week could be really ugly. I really hate our D. It’s a shame that the season we have a real QB we have a horrible defense.

  8. We will never beat OSU, Clemson or USC when committing 8 penalties per game.

    If we keep missing the fundamentals of tackling, we will also not be able to beat that level of opponents.

    Golden need to instill fundamentals of tacking into the Defense. Freeman needs to get the players disciplined to the point that no penalties ever happen.

    • Amen! Sticking out an arm and expecting a runner to fall down because he ran into it or just bumping a carrier and hoping you bumped him hard enough to knock him over, is not going to cut it. OSU will keep pounding the ball with ease if Golden doesn’t get Irish defenders to wrap up and bring down carriers.

      • Does Golden suffer from the Charlie Weis syndrome? That is, Weis seemed to treat his players like they were NFL players. He appeared to assume they were well schooled in the fundamentals of the game and only needed to learn his schemes.

        Is the assumption of “well schooled in fundamentals” a trait that former NFL coaches assume? From a sample of two it seems to be the case.

        • That’s a great question. My thought is our starting three linebackers (Kiser, Liufau, Bertrand) are just not very good. I can’t recall any of the top schools recruiting them very hard if at all. Even so, you’d think they would be more technically sound by their senior or grad years.

          • JVAN,

            The Irish D will not be able to get off the field against the Buckeyes.. It’s going to be a long day..

        • Two very good examples. I long said Weis didn’t know how to develop players so you may be on to something. Especially when you look at how well the offense seems to be clicking under Parker so far.

  9. ND fan in the South says:

    Noticeably quiet in this game was Benjamin Morrison. It seems from our plan for the secondary, he is going to be shadowing Marvin Harrison, Jr. next Saturday. He will need to step up big time.

  10. Someone needs to tell Tyree to catch punts instead of letting them hit the turf and roll an additional 20-25 yds, Tackling remains an issue. Jason Onye did provide a couple crunch hits. Runners breaking to the outside without contain and gaining chunks of yardage happened to often. Hartman hadid provide some d plenty of time to thrown on numerous occasions. Why aren’t our receivers getting open?

  11. John – your analysis to date has been spot on. The test now gets challenging with the Ohio State Game followed by road games vs Duke and Louisville. The Irish will have to be improved on defense and the offense has to put up 30 plus points a game . The offensive line will have to protect the QB and the Irish rushing attack will be a major factor. To date big plays and quick scores have been the formula – that might not be on tap this week vs Ohio State. Defense – fewer penalities – special teams – adjustments by the Coaching Staff will be crucial. We will find out if ND is legit .

  12. Another solid game by ND quarterback Sam Heisman (I’ve renamed him). We will find out next week if he gets to keep this new name. Can you imagine the dread we would have going into to next week vs OSU if we still had Buchner and he had a game like he did for Bama today going 5/14 for 34 yards? Sam Heisman threw a 40 yard pass where our receiver had to dive to make the catch on the 3 yard line, and I was upset it wasn’t a TD. My point is that if I’m upset Sam was a few inches off on a 40 yard pass, then Sam has raised by expectations higher than it has ever been for performance by an ND QB. What a great feeling.

  13. In a less substantive vein, why did Audric “shush” his own crowd after scoring a touchdown? I guess that’s a new thing I was just not aware of. Struck me as humorous.

  14. While ND won 41-17 the line play left a lot to be desired. Sure, the offense sprung several big runs but outside of that production was pedestrian and the o-line play was inconsistent overall. The d-line was getting gashed for the entire first half with little pressure on the backup QB outside of blitzing.

    On a side note Alabama fans and pundits are calling for Tommy Rees’s head and are bemoaning the predictable offense with poor quarterback play.

    • A few. There was 2016, when Kelly and Van Gorder imploded. Also 2009, when Weis was a lame duck. Then 2003-4, when Willingham was obviously mailing it in. Finally, there was 2001 when Davie was a fountain of high comedy.

      • JVAN,

        How about the 2007 season and the beat down given to us by Georgia Tech!!

        One of the most embarrassing games in Irish history…

        • I remember very little about 2007 because I was hiding in a cave. I think Osama Bin Laden was hiding in the same neighborhood.

          Actually, I went to the UCLA game in the Rose Bowl, which was a lot of fun. We sat next to the Zbikowski family. Tommy’s dad was not a fan of Charlie Weis. As a matter of fact, Weis called for a pass when ND had a first and goal at the UCLA one yard line. The QB was sacked and ND did not score. We had to physically restrain Mr. Z from marching down to the sideline and punching Weis in the face. It wasn’t easy to do.

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