Back in the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll for the first time in nearly a year, No. 10 Notre Dame plays its first true road game of the season on Saturday when it takes on NC State in Raleigh, N.C.
For the Fighting Irish (2-0), this matchup with the Wolfpack (1-0) marks the first of six games they will play against opponents in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Notre Dame, of course, still maintains its independence in football, but plays all of its other sports in the ACC and has a scheduling agreement with the league for games on the gridiron.
Saturday’s game is also noteworthy because it marks Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman’s return to North Carolina. Before joining the Irish this past offseason, Hartman spent five seasons at Wake Forest. He went 1-2 against NC State, losing both of his road starts.
In three games against the Wolfpack over his career, Hartman has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions, rushed for a score and averaged 307.7 passing yards per game.
“I don’t know what happened when (Hartman) was at Wake Forest, but I bet you he’ll probably look at it, right? I don’t know how much we’ll study that as much as we’ll study what they did versus UConn,” second-year Irish coach Marcus Freeman said this week. “Not many quarterbacks have been very successful against (NC State’s) defense.”
Hartman has gotten off to a strong start this season, though, throwing six touchdowns to no interceptions while completing 82.5 percent of his passes in the Irish’s dominant wins over Navy and Tennessee State. So far, the Irish have outscored their opponents 98-6.
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren called Hartman an “exceptional” quarterback this week.
“He’s been a really good player for a long time,” Doeren said of Hartman. “You can see his confidence and how he manages their offense. He gets the ball to the right people, makes plays with his feet when he needs to.”
Notre Dame might not have that same sort of offensive success against NC State. The Wolfpack tied for 11th in FBS in points allowed last season, giving up just 19.2 per game to opponents.
NC State opened this season with a 24-14 road win at UConn last Thursday. The Wolfpack tallied two sacks, an interception and six pass breakups. Still, fifth-year linebacker Payton Wilson knows NC State can be better on his side of the ball.
“We had a lot of busted plays and a lot of rushing yards. That’s not our identity,” Wilson said. “Our identity is to come down and hit rushers in the mouth.”
Like Notre Dame, NC State brings an experienced quarterback into the matchup with sixth-year senior Brennan Armstrong under center. He spent the previous five seasons at Virginia but has never faced Notre Dame before in his career.
In his debut for the Wolfpack, Armstrong threw for 155 yards and rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns against UConn.
“We can’t give him vertical lanes to step up and escape from,” Freeman said of Armstrong. “We’re going to have to keep him in the pocket.”
Notre Dame is 28-0 against ACC opponents in the regular season since 2018. It hasn’t lost to NC State since 2016.
–Field Level Media