Notre Dame hosted Tennessee State on Saturday, opening up a 35-3 halftime lead en route to a 56-3 victory in South Bend.

It was a historic day for the Fighting Irish: Not only was it the 1st ever game in program history against an FCS opponent, but it was their first against a historically black college.

Ultimately, the Tigers weren’t expected to be a challenge for the Irish, and things played out exactly as planned as Notre Dame romped to a 2-0 start to 2023. Next up: a road contest against NC State on Saturday.

Player of the Week: Quarterback Sam Hartman

With the game in hand, Marcus Freeman opted to pull his No. 1 quarterback at halftime. Hartman was terrific, missing on just 3 of his 17 pass attempts while throwing for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for a score during the 2nd quarter.

It gets a little tougher for Hartman and the Irish at NC State on Saturday. Hartman’s last game at Carter-Finley Stadium was on November 5, a loss to the Wolfpack as the then-Wake Forest signal-caller went 29-of-48 for 397 yards, throwing 2 touchdowns but being intercepted 3 times.

Freshman of the Week: Running back Jeremiyah Love

Jeremiyah Love put in another solid performance on the ground for the Irish, going for 46 yards and a touchdown on 5 carries. With starting RB Audric Estime draft-eligible after this season, Love, a consensus Top 5 recruit at the position out of high school, is making an immediate impact and will look to continue to do so against NC State in Week 2, especially with questions about Devyn Ford’s status after being placed in concussion protocol.

Biggest surprise: Not many

This was supposed to be a walkover opponent for the Irish, and the score played out the way it was supposed to. Outside of a 1st-half field goal, the Irish defense pitched a shutout and has allowed just 6 points and 325 yards over the first 2 games of the season.

Biggest concern: Devyn Ford

While the play on the field didn’t present many concerns (outside of a 10-man on-the-field situation on Tennessee State’s opening drive), the wellbeing of Devyn Ford is the man off-field concern. Ford left the game in the 1st half after taking a hit to the helmet during a kick return and is currently in concussion protocol.

Developing trend: A stingy run defense

So far, not bad for the Irish run D, which has allowed 215 yards on the ground against Navy and Tennessee State. The Tigers managed just 89 yards on 36 carries, an average of 2.5 yards per carry. Against NC State, though, the Irish will have their hands full with a dual-threat quarterback in Brennan Armstrong, who was credited with 96 yards on 19 carries while scoring twice on the ground against UConn.

Notre Dame was 43rd in FBS against the run a season ago, and at least for now, this part of the defense appears to be demonstrating marked improvement.

Key stat: 9 of 11 on 3rd down

Notre Dame was one of the country’s leaders in 3rd-down percentage last year (13th, 47.16 percent), and that trend looks to have carried over to this year over the 1st two games.

The Irish converted 9 of their 11 3rd downs against the Tigers after going 5-of-8 in that department against Navy.

First impression about Week 3

NC State had the week off after a 24-14 victory over UConn during Week 0. The big storyline will be Hartman facing NC State for the first time in a Notre Dame uniform: all-time, he’s 1-2 against the Wolfpack. It’s only the 4th all-time meeting between the teams on the gridiron.

After brushing aside Navy and Tennessee State, NC State will be a clear step up in class. Perhaps the Irish can be encouraged by the fact that the Wolfpack weren’t at their best during their win against the Huskies; regardless, they should come away with the victory in Raleigh to improve to 3-0 on the young season.

That said, it won’t be a 42-3 or 56-3 final score.