Sam Hartman’s Notre Dame debut couldn’t have gone much better.
The former Wake Forest QB was 19-of-23 passing for 251 yards and four touchdowns in the No. 13 Fighting Irish’s 42-3 win over Navy in Dublin on Saturday.
Notre Dame scored on each of its four first-half possessions as Navy was overmatched from the start. The Irish absolutely dominated Navy’s defensive line and gashed the Midshipmen for over six yards a carry. That opened up the passing game for Hartman and his receivers, as true freshman Jaden Greathouse caught two TDs.
The Notre Dame defense overwhelmed Navy’s new-wrinkle offense. The Midshipmen tweaked their option offense over the offseason under new coach Brian Newberry but Notre Dame didn’t have much trouble defending it given Navy's inability to complete many of the wide-open deep passes it had.
The Irish put the game away late in the second quarter after Navy missed a field goal that would have made the game 21-3. It was an odd decision by Newberry — 18 points is still a three-possession deficit — and Notre Dame quickly made it a four-score lead by going 80 yards in 1:42 as Hartman found Thomas for a 14-yard TD with 13 seconds to go in the second quarter.
Hartman got to watch the rest of the game from the sideline after he hit Deion Colzie for a 25-yard catch-and-run TD in the fourth quarter.
What is Notre Dame’s ceiling?
Hartman came to Notre Dame after spending five seasons at Wake Forest and was an immediate upgrade at quarterback. He showed Saturday that he’s a quick study in a new offense; the system Notre Dame runs under new offensive coordinator Gerad Parker is significantly different than the RPO-based scheme he was familiar with at Wake Forest.
And while Hartman arrived as a proven commodity, Notre Dame entered the season with an unproven receiving corps. New Las Vegas Raiders TE Michael Mayer led the Irish with 67 catches a season ago and no returning receiver had more than 25 grabs.
If Saturday was any indication, Greathouse is going to be a major factor in the passing game. The four-star recruit had three catches for 68 yards while Thomas had four grabs for 63 yards.
It’s entirely possible that Saturday’s game was the ceiling for the Notre Dame offense as it excelled in every facet. After all, this is a Navy program in the midst of a significant transition after a 4-8 season.
But even if it is, Notre Dame fans have to be feeling happy about how good this team could be in 2023 despite a tough schedule that includes Ohio State, USC and Clemson. The Irish still have their work cut out for them to make the College Football Playoff, but this looked like a team that will be in a New Year’s Six bowl game at the end of the year.