Published by: AK98
When Notre Dame scooped former Wake Forest Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman from the transfer portal this past offseason, Notre Dame nation was elated.
It is very rare for a team to acquire a passer of his caliber (and age; 24). With Hartman came not only the experience of a four-year starter, but the benefits of inheriting one of the most statistically accomplished passers in NCAA history.
Last week, Hartman threw his 108th touchdown pass, becoming the ACC’s all-time passing TD leader as well as moving him into the Top Ten of the NCAA’s all-time TD record.
But there was another record that was not discussed when acquiring Hartman: his record against the Clemson Tigers (a Clemson team who Notre Dame played this morning). For all of Hartman’s accolades (including “lumberjack supermodel” looks), the unspoken blemish on his resume has been his record against the Tigers.
Four times Hartman has played Clemson. Four times, he has failed to beat them.
Today makes five.
Unfortunately for Hartman and the Notre Dame football team, Hartman was on the wrong side of history, joining Florida State Seminole quarterback Chris Rix as the last player to lose five times to the same team (Miami Hurricanes 2001-2004). In Rix’s defense, those Hurricanes were absolute juggernauts, with freaks of nature on both sides of the ball.
If you want to know how good they were, you can look at their draft record from those years. They still hold the record for most players drafted in the first round in a draft (2004: 6). The other 3 years, they had 4 (2001), 5 (2002), and 4 (2003). Today’s Clemson Tiger team was no early 2000 Miami, boasting a 4-4 record heading into today’s game.
Granted, the last Notre Dame quarterback to beat Clemson in Death Valley was playing when Jimmy Carter was president. Can you guess who he was? Here’s a few hints:
-He led Notre Dame to a National Championship that year
-He’s one of only a few players to win both a National Championship and Super Bowl
-He’s most known in college for his mythical “Chicken Soup Game”
Yes, I’m talking about Joe Montana.
So, needless to say, it’s been awhile since Notre Dame has gone into Clemson, South Carolina and come out a winner. But that does not detract from the five losses Hartman is tapped with.
Now, those first four losses were with Wake Forest, a college more known for their academics than their athletic prowess. So coming to Notre Dame, where specifically football is a religion (literally), Hartman looked to finally have the tools at his disposal to crack the Clemson safe. But those tools looked dull at best, and the person working those tools looked like a recently divorced woman with no kids opening a tool box for the first time to discard her ex-husband’s things.
Time after time, Hartman looked suffocated by the pressure of the Clemson front-seven. Having run the “Slow Mesh Offense” at Wake Forest, one of the positives on his scouting report was his ability to stay upright, accurate, and steadfast in tight spaces.
When the bullets were flying on Saturday, Hartman looked uncomfortable and jittery, leading to a pick-six (and another, had a Clemson DB not dropped the ball after jumping Hartman’s “out route” to his tight end. He was inaccurate, made freshman-level mistakes, and if it weren’t for the plays he made with his legs, was arguably his worst game of the season.
Even when Notre Dame was gifted a fumble while Clemson was trying to run out the clock, Hartman could not capitalize. The whole hype around Hartman was how unique his “cool & calm” attitude under pressure showed up in crucial moments. Other than his miracle RUN on 4th & 16 at Duke (a play he made with his legs, not his arm), Hartman has come up empty in big moments. And because of that, Notre Dame will no longer be in the running to make a “New Year’s Six” bowl game.
Sure, a finger could be pointed at the Notre Dame rush defense, who was put through the meat grinder by backup running back Phil Mafah. And yes, another finger could be pointed at the offensive coordinator for a bad play-calling, but Hartman struggled for all four quarters of Saturday’s game.While Hartman will finish his career with CFB HOF passing statistics, his legacy will be filled with missed opportunities in big moments. And after today’s game, his draft stock is