3 takeaways from Duke's heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame
DURHAM, NC — The party was all ready to start. Another field rush. Another upset win. Another national statement.
Leading Notre Dame by a point with less than a minute remaining, all Duke had to do was get 1 more stop to score to pull off its second big win of the season.
But the Irish and quarterback Sam Hartman had other ideas.
The Wake Forest transfer scrambled for a first down on a 4th-and-16 play to extend his team’s final drive before Audric Estime blasted through the Duke line for a 30-yard touchdown with 31 seconds remaining for a 21-14 victory that stunned the Blue Devils and their sellout crowd.
Here are 3 takeaways from Duke’s heartbreaking defeat and the thrilling victory that helped Notre Dame keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive.
Hartman’s redemption tour
There are 4 teams on Notre Dame’s schedule that beat quarterback Sam Hartman when he played for Wake Forest last season.
Duke is the second of the 4. After Saturday’s win against the Blue Devils, he’s 2-for-2.
But it didn’t come easy. Trailing by a point with 2:35 remaining, Hartman and the Irish took over at their own 5-yard-line. After nearly getting caught in the end zone for a safety, the sixth-year quarterback completed a 19-yard pass on third-and-10 to Mitchell Evans to move the chains. He then hit Rico Flores for a 24-yard gain.
His biggest play, however, came with his legs. On fourth-and-16 from the Duke 30, Hartman scrambled for 17 yards to set up Estime’s winning touchdown run 1 play later.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) October 1, 2023
Hartman finished the game with 222 yards on 15-of-30 passing. Combined with his performance in a win at NC State 3 weeks ago, he’s chalked up 508 yards through the air with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Hartman will get another shot at redemption next Saturday at Louisville, then again on Nov. 4 at Clemson before facing his former team, Wake Forest, in South Bend on Nov. 18.
Estime came into the game as the nation’s leading rusher with 591 yards. He averaged 118 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry over the 1st 5 weeks.
And for most of the game, there wasn’t much room for him to operate against a Blue Devils defense that ranks only 10th in the ACC against the run.
Estime did score a touchdown on the Irish’s first possession. But he was bottled up by an aggressive Duke defensive front that limited the 5-foot-11, 227-pound junior to just 42 rushing yards on 16 carries through the first 59:29. His longest gain to that point was the 6-yard touchdown that gave the Irish the early lead.
But when his team needed it most, Estime came through. With just 31 seconds remaining, he broke several tackles through the middle of the line and rumbled 30 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
Second half magic
Duke managed only 38 yards on the ground on 15 first-half carries against a physical Irish defense. And 33 of those came on the final drive before halftime, one that ended with a missed field goal.
But whatever adjustments Mike Elko and his staff made at the break worked like a charm.
The Blue Devils came out with their legs churning in the second half. With Jaquez Moore and Jordan Waters doing most of the work, they drove 75 yards on 11 plays for their first touchdown of the game to pull within 13-7.
Then it was quarterback Riley Leonard’s turn to shred up the Irish with a 33-yard keeper around right end to set up a go-ahead touchdown.
Leonard led the Blue Devils with 88 yards on 18 carries. Moore added 51 yards and Waters 45 as Duke gained 151 of its 189 on the ground over the final 2 periods.