No. 13 Notre Dame eyes 2-0 start, welcomes Eddie George-led Tennessee State

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Sam Hartman wasted no time making his presence known at Notre Dame.

After throwing for four touchdowns without a turnover in his Notre Dame debut, Hartman gets his first Notre Dame Stadium experience on Saturday when the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish face Tennessee State in South Bend, Ind.

Hartman spent the last five seasons at Wake Forest, but he looked as comfortable as ever directing the Irish offense. He completed 19 of 23 passes for 251 yards to lead Notre Dame (1-0) to a 42-3 drubbing of Navy in Dublin, Ireland.

Jaden Greathouse hauled in a pair of TD receptions and Jayden Thomas and Deion Colzie each caught one.

Although the Fighting Irish started their season on a high note and are heavy favorites heading into Week 1, coach Marcus Freeman doesn’t want his team focusing on any narratives surrounding Saturday’s meeting with the Tigers.

“Let’s talk about what really matters and that’s winning today,” Freeman said on Monday. “That’s going to take care of Saturday if we win this Monday.

“Don’t worry about exactly, ‘Hey, can we go 2-0? Can this start catapulting the season?’ … What do we have to do to have success today? And really focus on that.”

Freeman went from a fan of Eddie George to a friend of the Tennessee State coach thanks to a chance encounter in Nashville. Freeman was on a professional development visit to the Tennessee Titans’ facility and ran into George. They’ve stayed in touch ever since, and spent time together when George came to South Bend for a press conference announcing this game.

Freeman assured his team George will not bring a shy group of players content posing for pictures on Notre Dame’s hallowed grounds.

“They put helmets and cleats on just like we do. We’ve been working all summer,” Tigers linebacker James Green said last month. “We haven’t been waking up and running hills just to go to Notre Dame and lay down.”

The Tigers are opening their season after finishing with a 4-7 record in 2022.

The matchup with Notre Dame will be a historic one for Tennessee State, which will be the first FCS opponent to ever face the Fighting Irish. George takes great pride in breaking that barrier, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“Personally, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” George told HBCU Gameday. “To graze the sidelines as a head coach at Notre Dame is once in a lifetime. … It’s gonna be a great learning experience.

“When I pop their tape on, of Notre Dame, it’s like, ‘That’s what we need to look like — in some form or fashion.'”

George, a Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back, is entering his third season as Tennessee State coach. The Tigers are 9-13 under his watch.

“Really looking forward to this opportunity to go against him and his football team, that is talented. I mean, they’re a good team,” Freeman said. “… He’s always been a first-class individual, great family man and someone you really look up to.”

Draylen Ellis returns as Tennessee State’s starting quarterback after posting 1,807 yards passing with eight TDs and six interceptions in 10 games during the 2022 campaign.

Ellis will be without his favorite target from a season ago, JJ Hollomon, who ended up declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft. However, running back Jalen Rouse is still in the mix after rushing for a team-high 613 yards and two touchdowns in 2022.

–Field Level Media

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