RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Audric Estime ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play after an extended weather delay and Sam Hartman threw for four scores to help No. 10 Notre Dame beat North Carolina State 45-24 on Saturday.
Estime ran for 134 yards and two scores, including a 7-yard run through traffic with 10:42 left that put the Fighting Irish (3-0) in firm control. Notre Dame has now won 29 straight regular-season matchups against Atlantic Coast Conference teams in its scheduling partnership with the conference as a football independent but a member in all other league sports.
For Hartman, the sixth-year passer who transferred from Wake Forest, it was a familiar foe, too. The Demon Deacons were every-year instate opponents for the Wolfpack in the ACC’s former divisional format, and Hartman was 0-2 in Raleigh — including last November while taking four sacks.
This time, Hartman’s team played from in front the entire way, and he threw for three scores after halftime as the Fighting Irish finally began to pull away. The last was a 35-yard score to tight end Holden Staes with 4:35 left that pushed the margin to 45-17.
Staes also had a 40-yard scoring catch in the third quarter, finishing with 115 yards on four catches.
Brennan Armstrong ran for a score and threw for two more for N.C. State (1-1), but he threw three interceptions and the Wolfpack got no rushing production beyond 26 yards. His 9-yard pass to Bradley Rozner with 1:16 left before halftime marked the first touchdown Notre Dame had given up this year after allowing just a field goal in romps against Navy and Tennessee State.
The game included a 1-hour, 45-minute weather and lightning delay with Notre Dame leading 3-0 at the 14:45 mark of the second quarter. But when the teams returned, Estime burst through a big hole on the right side and pulled away from defenders for the 80-yard score that was a quick jolt of energy for the Irish after the long wait to return.
Notre Dame: This wasn’t as easy as the score indicated much of the way. But Estime’s long run along with a 65-yard catch-and-run play by Chris Tyree — whom the Wolfpack lost track of behind coverage — that led to a TD just before halftime proved critical big plays. Notre Dame finished with 456 total yards and gradually asserted control, including interceptions on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter in turning a one-possession game into a blowout.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack won the opener against Connecticut by leaning heavily on Armstrong’s legs in a low-volume passing game with no clear-cut top receiving threat. That scenario happened again, with Wolfpack receivers making some big plays but often struggling to create separation and much of a window for Armstrong to throw. That was illustrated by some drops and a major fourth-quarter mistake by K.C. Concepcion, who had a pass slip through his hands, hit him in the facemask and bounce to Notre Dame’s Xavier Watts to set up a short field and one of Hartman’s TD tosses.
Notre Dame winning on the road by steadily building a lead should help keep its position in the next AP Top 25, if not inch up with losses ahead of the Irish.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish return home for the third time in four games to host Central Michigan on Saturday.
N.C. State: VMI visits the Wolfpack on Saturday in a nonconference matchup.