The Fighting Irish returned to the Aviva Stadium in style on Saturday night, as they opened the 2023 season in Ireland against rival Navy. An early drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits either as 50,000 American and Irish fans packed the house for this much anticipated battle. Notre Dame brought all the pomp and tradition of a home game including their pregame rendition of “Shipping Up to Boston” and as kickoff approached, the atmosphere pitch side and indeed throughout the stands was absolutely electric.
Notre Dame received the opening kickoff and moved the ball with relative ease on their first drive as Sam Hartman took control of the offense. A combination of strong running from standout running back Audric Estime and quick solid completions from Hartman had the Irish marching down the field within minutes of the game starting. It would be Estime who claimed the first score, bulldozing his way into the endzone from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 Notre Dame early in the first quarter. This would be the tone throughout the game as Navy’s defense could do little to slow the Irish down. Sophomore Running Back Jadarian Price would cross the goal line for the home side again before the quarter was out to put Notre Dame up 14-0 prior to the teams even changing ends!
Navy fared better on offense than on D, gaining plenty of yardage courtesy of their triple option playbook. Multiple formations and misdirection kept the Irish defense guessing, but the Midshipmen couldn’t capitalize with points. JD Bertrand almost made a massive play from his Linebacker position on a fumble recovery but the ball was ruled out of bounds and Navy dodged a bullet.
Sam Hartman made it 21 zip before the break to earn his first touchdown in the blue and gold, connecting with a wide open Jaden Greathouse for a 40 yard walk in touchdown. The signal caller looked like he had been running the offense for years, which bodes extremely well for the season ahead. Navy’s single scoring opportunity came on a missed field goal and there was a sense at halftime that the game might already be over as a competition.
The ACC’s all time leading passer picked up right where he left off in the 3rd quarter, hitting his favorite target in Jayden Thomas deep in the endzone and making the score 28-0. Hartman would finish the night with two further touchdowns, one each to Jaden Greathouse and Deion Colzie to accumulate 4 in total to go along with 251 passing yards. Not bad at all for his first game of the season on the road. By the time the 4th quarter had started, seats began to empty out as fans sought comfort and warmth in nearby pubs – out of the chilly breeze that had begun to swirl.
Notre Dame could not have asked for a better start to the season. Their offense scored almost effortlessly, demonstrating the strong bond that has already formed between Hartman and his team mates.
The Midshipmen and Coach Brian Newberry will surely be bitterly disappointed with the outcome, having appeared to be so locked in in the days leading up to this contest. They might find some solace in the fact that it wasn’t a shoutout ( a late field goal with 3 minutes left saw to that) and in the trouble their triple option offense caused, but Coach Newbwerry had the look of a dejected man about him in the aftermath of this one sided joust.
This game certainly lived up to its billing and I look forward to Notre Dame returning home to Dublin in the not so distant future to resume this rivalry series. Full time in the Aviva Stadium: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 42 – Navy Midshipmen 3
All photos courtesy of Charisse Mae Ducao