SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — With a typically efficient performance, Sam Hartman sent Notre Dame into a showdown with Ohio State next week without drama.
Sam Hartman threw three touchdown passes to move into seventh place on major college football's career list and No. 9 Notre Dame pulled away from Central Michigan in the second half for a 41-17 victory Saturday.
Notre Dame (4-0) now awaits a top-10 showdown with No. 6 Ohio State next Saturday.
Hartman now has 123 career touchdown passes. He passed Aaron Murray of Georgia and Ty Detmer of BYU and is tied with Oklahoma's Landry Jones at No. 7 all-time.
Hartman finished with 330 yards passing and powered into the end zone from the 1 in the third quarter for another score.
"I still don't know if we've seen the full potential of this team, right? And that's my challenge," Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said. "My challenge is we got to get better each week.
Audric Estime rushed for 176 yards on 20 carries and scored a touchdown for the Irish, who outscored Central Michigan 20-3 after leading 21-14 at halftime.
Blending a quick-strike aerial attack and a methodical ground game, Notre Dame outgained Central Michigan 578-268.
"Those guys got not only really shiny helmets, but the guys in those shiny helmets are some of the best players in all of college football," Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain said. "Our guys went out there and really played their tails off."
Hartman struck early, connecting with Tobias Merriweather for a 75-yard touchdown pass on Notre Dame's fourth play of the game. He also fired a 76-yard TD pass to Chris Tyree in the second quarter and passed 4 yards to Holden Staes for a score in the fourth quarter.
"He's an NFL guy," Merriweather said of Hartman. "The difference between college and NFL, the quarterbacks just don't give the receivers a chance but to catch it -- I mean, no choice but to catch it. They just throw it on you and it's going to be there and you expect it to be there. And I think that's what Sam does for us. And he just lets us make plays, puts the ball in our hands and lets us do what we do."
Jase Bauer, starting at quarterback for Central Michigan (1-2) in place of Bert Emanuel, Jr. (illness), plunged into the end zone from the 1 with 17 seconds left in the second quarter to cap a nine-play, 83-yard drive that trimmed the Notre Dame lead to seven at halftime.
"I expected him to play well, and he expected to play well," McElwain said of Bauer. "He handled the game and did a really good job."
Bauer was 10-of-20 for 137 yards.
Bauer said his mentality starting in place of Emanuel at Notre Dame Stadium was just, 'Let it rip."
"I really had nothing to lose," Bauer said. "It was a blessing (to play at Notre Dame). I wasn't thinking too much about that. I was just thinking go out and have fun with my guys."
Central Michigan: Emanuel did not travel with the Chippewas to South Bend. He was the Mid-American Conference West Offensive Player of the Week last week after passing for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-42 victory against New Hampshire on Sept. 9. Emanuel also rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame: Chris Tyree's move to wide receiver after three seasons as a running back continues to pay dividends. He has eight catches for 216 yards, averaging 27 per catch, and two touchdowns.
Hartman has 13 TD passes through the first four games. No other quarterback in Notre Dame's storied history has thrown for that many touchdowns in the first four games of the season. Jimmy Clausen threw for 10 touchdown passes in his first four games of the 2009 season, and Brady Quinn threw for nine TDs in the first four games of the 2006 season. Hartman has thrown for 90 touchdown passes since 2021, the most of any Power Five quarterback. A Wake Forest graduate transfer, Hartman also extended this FBS-leading streak of games responsible for at least one touchdown to 38.
NO RAH-RAH TALK
Freeman said he wasn't looking to be inspirational as the Irish took a 21-14 lead into halftime.
"Yeah, I told them at halftime, If you need me to give you a rah-rah speech, that's not what this team needed," Freeman said. "This team needed to settle down and really look at the mistakes that happened the first half and why was it a seven-point game."
Notre Dame should maintain its top-10 status.
Central Michigan: at South Alabama next Saturday.
Notre Dame: Freeman played linebacker for Ohio State (2004-2008) and was a gaduate assistant for the Buckeyes in 2010. His first game as Irish coach was a 21-10 loss at Ohio State last year.
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