The Notre Dame Fighting Irish easily handled the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in Week 12. The Irish got a 45-7 win and Sam Hartman was almost perfect against his former team.

The QB completed 21/29 passes for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns. Audric Estime had another solid game, racking up 115 yards on 22 carries.

The win improved the Irish to 8-3 with a game at Stanford all that remains. Now, let’s take stock of the Irish after Week 12.

Player of the Week: Sam Hartman

Hartman had one heck of a bounce back game against his former team in Week 12. Against Clemson, Hartman had a dreadful game. The QB finished with 146 yards, 2 INTs, and completed less than half of his pass attempts.

Against the Deacs, the QB could not have played any better. Hartman completed 21/29 passes for 277 yards and 4 TDs. The QB looked comfortable all night and ended up with his most complete performance of the season. If that level of play was sustained all season, the Irish would be looking at a different ending of their season.

Freshman/Newcomer of the Week: Rico Flores Jr.

Flores had his best game of his college career thus far against the Deacs in Week 12. The true freshman came down with 8 catches for 102 yards. Flores led all receivers in the game and seemed to have good chemistry with Hartman.

The Irish receiver room seems to be in good hands for years to come. Flores, Jordan Faison, and Jaden Greathouse form an eviable trio of pass catchers.

Biggest surprise: The breakout of Rico Flores Jr.

Flores set new career-highs in receptions and receiving yards. The true freshman’s previous high in catches was 3 and previous high in yards was 72.

As mentioned above, it’s exciting to see flashes from another young receiver. It’s encouraging to see Flores have his break out game and it should allow the freshman to enter the offseason on a high note. The receiver has never gotten as much press as Greathouse or Faison, but that may change this offseason.

Biggest concern: Consistency

When you win by 38 points, it’s very hard to find any negatives. The Irish did exactly what they needed to do and dominated in all 3 phases. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened as much as it could have this season.

The Irish offense has looked flat out deadly at times. The offense has scored 40+ points 7 times this season. However, in the games where the team didn’t reach 40, the team didn’t even reach 30. Basically, the Irish either score all night, or they have the hardest time getting in the end zone at all.

With more of the young guys taking prominent roles next season, and with a new QB, hopefully the offense can find a way to be more balanced in 2024.

Developing trend: Rico Flores Jr. WR1?

Flores has now led the Irish in receiving yards in 3 straight games. Granted, Flores led the team against Clemson and had just 1 catch for 35 yards.

However, the freshman led all receivers against Pittsburgh as well. No receiver on the Irish has more receiving yards than Flores since the USC game. As mentioned above, it’s hard not to get excited about this young receiver room.

Key stat: O interceptions

Hartman threw 0 interceptions for the first time since that USC game. The QB had thrown 2 in each of the last 2 games, even though one of those games was a 58-7 drumming of Pitt. It was good to see the veteran QB settle down and have a mistake-free game.

The QB will get another chance to stay perfect against a bad Stanford defense. Let’s hope Hartman can end his college career without any more brutal mistakes.

First impression about Week 13: Finish strong against Stanford

The Irish will end the regular season with a cross-country road trip to Stanford. The Cardinal are sitting at 3-8 and have nothing to play for except pride. The Cardinal have lost 2 straight and 4 of their last 5.

On defense, the Cardinal can’t stop anybody. The team ranks No. 129 in the nation in scoring defense, No. 54 in run defense, and No. 132 against the pass. This means that Audric Estime may have a tough time, but Sam Hartman should be in prime position to improve on his draft stock.

On offense, the Cardinal aren’t much better. The team has the No. 113 scoring offense, No. 109 rushing offense, and No. 57 passing attack.

I expect the Irish to have another electric offensive performance. The Cardinal offense will not be able to keep up with Hartman & Co. and I expect this one to be decided by halftime. The Irish just have more talent across the board and should have no problem getting out to a big lead. You’ll likely see a ton of freshman play in the 2nd half of this one as the team prepares for bowl season.