On Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, freshman wide receiver Rico Flores led a trio of play-making underclassmen on offense who provided the Irish faithful a look into what the future holds for Notre Dame football. With the seniors playing their final game in South Bend and soaking in the atmosphere, it was the freshmen—Flores, Jaden Greathouse, and Jordan Faison who starred for the Irish in a 45-7 victory over Wake Forest.
With the dominating win, the No. 17 Fighting Irish improved to 8-3 on the season and 5-1 at home. In the last three Senior Day victories for Notre Dame, the Irish have outscored their opponents 144-7. The victory extends Notre Dame’s Senior Day win streak to seven games, the second-longest streak in school history. Playing at home this year, the Irish allowed an average of just 11.8 points per game.
Rico Flores, Freshmen, Provide a Glimpse of the Future
Prolific quarterback Sam Hartman, bell cow running back Audric Estime, and a stingy Irish defense led the charge in Notre Dame’s final home game of the season. But it was the Irish’s stars of tomorrow that stepped into the spotlight on Senior Day. Flores, Greathouse, and Faison combined for 15 catches on 17 targets for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Flores, who hails from California, had a breakout game with eight receptions for 102 yards (12.8 average). On the season, Flores has 26 catches for 387 yards (14.9 average) and a score.
On the freshmen catching the eye in an inspired performance on Saturday, Flores said in the postgame press conference, “I mean, that’s big for us you know, but we can’t give into that yet. We still got to keep laying these bricks down game by game, practice by practice, and keep going at it every week.
“It’s not for us, it’s for our seniors,” Flores continued. “That just kept us all driven, and then we watched a video as a whole team last night, and it was just the seniors’ moms and dads just talking to them, but it was kind of for all of us in a way.”
With the game safely tucked away, quarterback Steve Angeli took the reins in the fourth quarter. He polished off the Irish’s offensive assault with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Faison with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Hartman on Point Against Former Team
Senior quarterback Sam Hartman emerged from a challenging stretch of games with an excellent outing against his former team. Hartman was slow into stride early but settled into a winning rhythm. In closing out his one-and-done season at Notre Dame with a fond memory, Hartman threw four touchdown passes. The four scores moved him into sole possession of fourth place on the NCAA all-time list with 132 touchdowns. He now trails Graham Harrell (Texas Tech, 2005-2008), who is third with 134. Case Keenum (Houston, 2007-2011) is the all-time leader with 155. Harrell is followed by Kellen Moore (Boise State, 2008-2011) at 142. Hartman leads all active FBS quarterbacks in touchdowns and passing yards (15,516).
For the game, Hartman torched his former team, going 21-of-29 for 277 yards. At Notre Dame Stadium in 2023, Hartman completed 69.7 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged 231.7 yards per home game.
“It was a weird game,” Hartman shared with the media. “To say it was just another game, I’d be lying. I think it was an emotional game. I was just happy to see us go out and execute as a football team. Our offense has been dying to do that for the past three or four weeks. For our fans to get a performance by us that I felt was noteworthy and a fun experience is a game I’ll always remember.”
Irish head coach Marcus Freeman shared his admiration for Hartman’s performance.
“He was with those guys for five years, with that coaching staff,” Freeman said. “So, for him to be able to put that distraction away and perform the way he did is a testament to who he is and the confidence and consistency that he provides. He is special. We’re going to miss him, but we have him for two more. So, we are going to enjoy everyone one we have with him.”
The 500th Game in Notre Dame Stadium a Memorable One
Once again carrying the load at running back, Estime gained all the tough yards and then some. Whether or not Estime, a junior, remains at Notre Dame for his senior season or declares for the NFL draft remains to be seen. If Saturday’s game against Wake Forest turns out to be Estime’s final home game, the powerhouse runner went out in style. He carried the ball 22 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. He reached a milestone on Saturday, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. All told, he has rushed for 1,103 yards (6.0 average) on 185 carries and has scored 14 touchdowns.
Notre Dame will close out its regular season with a trip to the West Coast to play Stanford on Saturday, Nov. 25. With Flores, Greathouse, and Faison flashing on Saturday, the future looks bright for the Irish offense. For now, Freeman and the Fighting Irish have demonstrated that they can bounce back from adversity and put together a complete game in all phases.
“Really proud of our seniors and the way they went out there and performed for 60 minutes,” said Freeman. “It’s a special group, man, that led us in the past 14 days since the last time we played. They led us to practice the way we had to prepare to give us a chance to be successful out there today. So, it’s a special group that obviously played their last game in Notre Dame Stadium. You think about the 500th game in Notre Dame Stadium, it’s something special. This place is special. The history, the people, the ones that have come before us that give us this opportunity to be here. Our fans were incredible. Think about the last game of the year, I mean, sold-out crowd. You could feel the fans, the atmosphere.”