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Sam Hartman shines in farewell victory against his former team, leading Notre Dame to 45-7 win

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Sam Hartman was not looking for vengeance or vindication, he left Wake Forest on amicable terms. But he got vengeance and vindication anyway, along with a victory and a fond memory to end his one-year career at Notre Dame Stadium, throwing four touchdown passes in a 45-7 win against his former team.

“It can’t be easy, I’ve done it as a coach,” Irish head coach Marcus Freeman said of facing such a familiar foe. “I remember a couple years ago we played Cincinnati, and there are normal distractions that the human element presents when you play a team, an opponent where you know every person on that side like Sam does.

“It’s different. He was with those guys for five years, with that coaching staff. 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.”

Hartman found running back Devyn Ford entirely uncovered near the end of the first quarter for a 12-yard touchdown, an important moment only in that it eased any stresses that could have surged when the Demon Deacons strung together a quick scoring drive to start the second quarter.

Wake Forest (4-7) totaled a loss of four yards in the first quarter before gaining 71 yards on six plays to start the second quarter and tie the game at seven.

“Defense has a special place in my heart just because how I’ve grown up in the game,” Freeman said. “I was talking to [defensive coordinator Al] Golden after the game, and we’re upset about seven points. Really upset about seven points. …

“But I like to be upset about seven points.”

Those were the only seven points, and Hartman and the No. 19 Irish (8-3) scored plenty more than that in short order. He found sophomore Tobias Merriweather for an explosive touchdown on the next drive, a rare moment of Merriweather finding his footing this season. A fumble forced by fifth-year linebacker JD Bertrand to start the second half immediately led to a 19-yard score to sophomore tight end Eli Raridon. And to cap his scoring, Hartman connected with freshman Jaden Greathouse for a 48-yard catch-and-run tally.

Greathouse takes reception to the end zone
Jaden Greathouse pulls in the pass and runs away from the Wake Forest defenders to add to Notre Dame's big lead.

Those three touchdowns, in particular, underscored Notre Dame’s offensive struggles this season, Merriweather the embodiment of inconsistency, Raridon gradually returning from an ACL torn last October and Greathouse either sidelined or slowed for the last six games by a nagging hamstring. With them upright and fleet of foot, Hartman nearly matched his last six games of scores (five touchdowns) in just one afternoon.

He finished 21-of-29 for 277 yards with those four touchdowns, serenaded by the Notre Dame Stadium video board with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as he ceded the offense to sophomore quarterback Steve Angeli early in the fourth quarter. In Hartman’s six games at Notre Dame Stadium, he completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 9.8 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, averaging 231.7 yards per home game.

Angeli found freshman Jordan Faison for a 17-yard touchdown in the closing moments to put the Irish north of 40 points for the fifth time at home this season.

Combine Faison with Greathouse and fellow freshman receiver Rico Flores Jr., and the rookie trio caught 15 out of 17 targets for 212 yards with two touchdowns.

“It’s not for us, it’s for our seniors,” Flores said. “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.”

Only two upperclassmen sit in the receivers room, and sixth-year former walk-on Matt Salerno was seeing his first action back from a leg injury since Sept. 9. While senior Chris Tyree caught just one pass, receivers was never where seniors would shine on Senior Day.

That was always going to be Hartman and the Notre Dame defense, which shut down the Deacons aside from that one-minute lapse to start the second quarter, otherwise holding Wake Forest to 3.16 yards per play. Even when a questionable tackle caused Rico Flores to fumble within scoring range for the Deacons, the Irish defense forced a three-and-out. Wake Forest’s first four drives of the second half averaged 3.5 yards per play, moving the chains but only barely doing so.

“They did some good things in the first half that really we hadn’t seen on film,” Freeman said. “The adjustments that we could make, coach Golden can make. It’s credit to coach Golden and his staff. Man, they have answers. They’re able to get the adjustments to the players and they can go out there and execute.”

Notre Dame allowed an average of 11.8 points per home game this season, all the more amplifying Hartman’s efficient showings in his one season in South Bend.

First Quarter
0:54 — Notre Dame touchdown. Devyn Ford 12-yard pass from Sam Hartman. Spencer Shrader point after. Notre Dame 7, Wake Forest 0. (9 plays, 71 yards, 4:41)

Second Quarter
11:41 — Wake Forest touchdown. Tate Carney 9-yard rush. Matthew Dennis point after. Notre Dame 7, Wake Forest 7. (7 plays, 72 yards, 4:07)
7:06 — Notre Dame touchdown. Tobias Merriweather 35-yard pass from Hartman. Shrader point after. Notre Dame 14, Wake Forest 7. (8 plays, 66 yards, 4:28)
0:05 — Notre Dame field goal. Shrader 37 yards. Notre Dame 17, Wake Forest 7. (10 plays, 51 yards, 1:30)

Third Quarter
14:09 — Notre Dame touchdown. Eli Raridon 19-yard pass from Hartman. Shrader point after. Notre Dame 24, Wake Forest 7. (1 play, 19 yards, 0:07)
5:22 — Notre Dame touchdown. Audric Estimé 2-yard rush. Shrader point after. Notre Dame 31, Wake Forest 7. (5 plays, 54 yards, 2:07)

Fourth Quarter
13:24 — Notre Dame touchdown. Jaden Greathouse 48-yard pass from Hartman. Sharder point after. Notre Dame 38, Wake Forest 7. (5 plays, 80 yards, 2:03)
3:56 — Notre Dame touchdown. Jordan Faison 17-yard pass from Steve Angeli. Marcello Diomede point after. Notre Dame 45, Wake Forest 7. (10 plays, k73 yards, 5:49)

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