Notre Dame football avoided its second straight second-half collapse. In rallying to beat Duke, they might have set the stage for the rest of the season.
After a first quarter that convinced Notre Dame football fans their team could walk to a blowout win over the Duke Blue Devils, things went very, very wrong. The kind of wrong that had the Golden Domers not rallied with 30 seconds to go in the game would have head coach Marcus Freeman under a microscope.
While the Fighting Irish held just a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, they looked like the better team. The obviously better team. They looked like a team that was about to take command. But they never did.
Even when Duke missed two field goals and was shut out in the first half, Notre Dame football could not seize momentum. In fact, it was the upstart ACC squad that already had one Top 15 upset on its resume, which grabbed all the goodwill and momentum in the second half.
They took that momentum all the way to a 14-13 lead late into the fourth over Notre Dame football, and for most of the final period, it looked like I’d be talking about an epic collapse.
Notre Dame football rallies for massive win
With just over two minutes to go in the game, the Irish went on offense from their own six-yard line. A false start penalty, Notre Dame’s 12th penalty that cost them 70 yards on Saturday night, seemed to be signifying an end to the game.
Sam Hartman said no. On 3rd and 10, he hit tight end Mitchell Evans for a 16-yard pass. Then he hit Rico Flores Jr. for a 24-yard gain. A few more mishaps eventually led to the Golden Domers finding themselves with a 4th and 16 and the game on the line.
Hartman rolled out, looked for receivers that weren’t open and said, “ok I’ll do it myself,” and ran for a 17-yard scramble. Then, it was Audric Estime – who was totally bottled up all game – to take the team the rest of the way.
With 31 seconds left, Estime busted through the line for a 30-yard touchdown rumble. The subsequent two-point conversion allowed Notre Dame football to take a stunning 21-14 lead.
A sack of Riley Leonard and a forced fumble recovered by the Fighting Irish allowed Notre Dame football to escape Durham with a very big win over a Top 25 team that continues to show they are no fluke.
The Irish played far from a perfect game. There’s plenty to worry about over the next week, leading up to the game against 5-0 Louisville, but for now, it’s time to enjoy the fight of this Notre Dame football team. Despite mistake after mistake, despite going 3-for-15 on 3rd down, despite Hartman completing just 50 percent of his passes, their march to the College Football Playoff is still alive.
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