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Notre Dame's Gutsy Win Over Duke Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive

Notre Dame had to endure a rollercoaster ride as they squandered a 13-0 lead, allowing Duke to snatch a 14-13 advantage with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.

In a thrilling showdown following a heartbreaking last-second loss to Ohio State the previous week, the No. 11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish showcased resilience and determination, securing a hard-fought 21-14 victory against the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils. Notre Dame had to endure a rollercoaster ride as they squandered a 13-0 lead, allowing Duke to snatch a 14-13 advantage with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. Despite an offensive struggle throughout most of the match, Notre Dame found their hero in transfer quarterback Sam Hartman.

Hartman, who holds the ACC's all-time record for touchdown passes from his tenure at Wake Forest, made a crucial play with his legs. With less than a minute left in regulation and facing a daunting fourth-and-16 from Duke's 47-yard line, Hartman dropped back to pass but found no open receivers. In a fearless move, the sixth-year senior opted to scramble, absorbing a massive hit but securing a crucial 17-yard gain for a first down. This remarkable play positioned Notre Dame in field-goal range, but they had their eyes set on more.

Instead of settling for a field goal, running back Audric Estime broke through Duke's defensive line and embarked on a spectacular 30-yard touchdown run. It capped off an audacious 95-yard drive and ultimately sealed the game in favor of Notre Dame. Following a successful two-point conversion, Duke and quarterback Riley Leonard had one last chance with just 31 seconds on the clock to force overtime. However, the Notre Dame defense came through with a strip-sack on Leonard, sealing a gutsy victory for the Fighting Irish.

With this win, Notre Dame improved its record to 5-1 and kept its College Football Playoff aspirations alive. Additionally, the victory extended their regular season winning streak against ACC opponents to an impressive 30 games. On the flip side, Duke, which had an opportunity to start the season 5-0 for the first time since 1994, fell short and dropped to 4-1.

Notre Dame's journey to victory was not without its challenges. They utilized a fake punt to set up Estime's early touchdown, but that would be their only trip to the end zone until the game's final minute. Plagued by injuries to several key receivers, Notre Dame struggled to sustain offensive drives. They managed to put together two field-goal drives in the second and third quarters but found it tough to move the ball consistently. Duke's defense focused on Estime and Notre Dame's running attack, limiting him to just 42 yards on 16 carries before his game-winning touchdown run.

This offensive struggle added immense pressure on quarterback Sam Hartman. Tight end Mitchell Evans was the only Notre Dame pass-catcher who consistently found separation, amassing six receptions for 134 yards. The rest of the Irish receivers combined for just nine catches and 88 yards. Duke, on the other hand, was resilient, with their veteran offensive line and dual-threat quarterback Leonard wearing down Notre Dame's defense. Leonard's 88 rushing yards proved crucial, and his lone touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter, putting Duke ahead 14-13 with 9:17 remaining.

Looking ahead, Notre Dame, now at 5-1, appears destined for more closely contested games as the season progresses. While the team possesses several strengths, they face offensive challenges, particularly against teams that can stifle their running game. The absence of top-tier pass-catchers is a clear vulnerability for the Irish.

The upcoming schedule presents formidable challenges, including a matchup against Louisville next Saturday, who improved to 5-0 with a win over NC State. Following that, Notre Dame will host No. 8 USC on October 14, followed by a road trip to Clemson on November 4. Given the high stakes and the recent loss to Ohio State, Notre Dame cannot afford any missteps if they aim to compete for a national championship.

Undrafted Team


October 1, 2023 at 5:15:00 AM

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