Sam Hartman throws 4 TDs to lead No. 20 Notre Dame over his former team Wake Forest

Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman scans the field against Wake Forest during the Fighting Irish’s win Saturday in South Bend, Indiana. (Michael Conroy / AP Photo)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Sam Hartman tormented his former team, passing for 277 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 20 Notre Dame to a 45-7 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.

Notre Dame (8-3) improved to 6-0 all-time vs. Wake Forest (4-7).

Transferring from Wake Forest to Notre Dame for the 2023 season, Hartman leads all active FBS quarterbacks in career touchdowns (132) and passing yardage (15,516).

Hartman moved into fourth place on the all-time NCAA career TD list with his four-TD performance against Wake Forest. He passed Colt Brennan (Hawaii, 2005-2007), Rakeem Cato (Marshall, 2011-2014) and Baker Mayfield (Texas Tech/Oklahoma, 2013, 2015-17), who were all tied with 131.

Hartman is now two TDs behind Graham Harrell (Texas Tech, 2005-2008), who is third with 134. Case Keenum (Houston, 2007-2011) is the all-time leader with 155, followed by Kellen Moore (Boise State, 2008-2011) at 142.

“I’m just happy for a win,” Hartman said of climbing up the ranks of the NCAA record books.

Forging much of his legacy as the signal-caller for Wake Forest, Hartman owns Demon Deacon records for career completions, attempts, total touchdowns and total yards. One of six players in FBS history to surpass the 15,000-yard mark for passing, Hartman added to his prolific career numbers at the expense of his former team.

“You know, he’s a poster child for consistency,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said of Hartman’s success.

Freeman appreciated that Hartman handled the distractions of playing Wake Forest.

“It can’t be easy,” Freeman said. ” … 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,” Freeman continued. “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 confirmed that he had to deal with the emotions of Senior Day and playing against his former teammates.

“It was a weird game,” Hartman said. “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,” Hartman said. “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.”

Hartman only needed one play in the third quarter to throw his third passing TD of the game, connecting with Eli Raridon for a 19-yard scoring play as the Fighting Irish grabbed a 24-7 lead. His fourth TD pass of the game was a 48-yard strike to Jaden Greathouse with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter.

“He’s a really good player,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said of Hartman. “That’s why Notre Dame went and got him. They’re a program that has the ability to go and do that. They got themselves a good quarterback and he’s one of the reasons they’re having success this year. He’s a good player.

Fighting Irish back-up quarterback Steve Angeli finished off the Irish assault with a 17-yard TD pass to Jordan Faison with 3:56 left in the game.

Hartman got the Notre Dame offense on track late in the first quarter. He guided the Fighting Irish 71 yards in nine plays, connecting with Devyn Ford for a 12-yard TD strike to put Notre Dame ahead 7-0 with :54 left in the first quarter.

Wake Forest answered with a nine-yard scoring run by Tate Carney that evened the score at 7-7 with 11:41 left in the second quarter.

Hartman launched his second touchdown pass – 35 yards to Tobias Merriweather – to give Notre Dame a 14-7 advantage at the 7:06 mark of the second quarter.

Spencer Schrader’s 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half pushed the Notre Dame lead to 17-7 at halftime.

Notre Dame running back Audric Estime rushed for 115 yards on 22 carries and 1 TD.

Estime surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season on his 2-yard TD run in the third quarter.

Michael Kern got his first start for Wake Forest after replacing Mitch Griffis during last week’s 26-6 loss to NC State. He was 11-of-20 for 81 yards.

Kern, who was a back-up to Hartman at Wake Forest, shared a few words with his former teammate after the game.

“It was an awesome four years with him,” Kern said about Hartman. “We have a great relationship. Who would have thought that I would have the opportunity to play him. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted.”

The Demon Deacons close out the 2023 campaign at Syracuse on Saturday, Nov. 25.