“It starts up front. I had a lot of time to go through my reads and progressions, and felt comfortable,” Hartman said.
“It’s easy when you have two of the best tackles in the country,” he added. “Out wide, those guys just made plays in space.”
Hartman connected with Jaden Greathouse on two scoring strikes, the second a 20-yard reception that made the score 35-0 early in the third quarter and kept the Irish offense perfect at that point — scoring touchdowns in their first five possessions.
The Irish quickly eased fears about another possible slow start after going 0-2 to open last season.
“You couldn’t draw it up any better,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said.
After touchdowns runs by Audric Estimé and Jadarian Price, Hartman’s first TD pass went to Greathouse, who caught a deep ball at the 5 and took it in for a 35-yard scoring play and a 21-0 lead.
Hartman, a grad transfer who set ACC records at Wake Forest, ended Notre Dame’s nearly flawless first half with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Thomas.
Notre Dame’s sixth drive ended when new kicker Spencer Shrader missed a 42-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Hartman hit Deion Colzie in the flat for a 25-yard touchdown pass that made the score 42-0 early in the fourth quarter.
Hartman matched Ron Powlus (1994) and Jack Coan (2021) for most touchdown passes by a Notre Dame quarterback in his first game with the team.
“He’s a smart player, he sees the field really, really well,” Navy coach Brian Newberry said. “He put the ball in the right places. He’s like a coach out on the field. He ran the offense well, he was super efficient.”
Estimé led the Irish rushing attack with 95 yards on 16 carries, including his 1-yard scoring run. But he stayed on the sidelines for a spell after a fumbled on the second drive. The ball was stripped by safety Rayuan Lane III, though the Irish kept possession. Price finished the drive by going through a hole up the middle for a 19-yard TD run.
Freeman said he wasn’t sure if running backs coach Deland McCullough had pulled Estimé because of the fumble.
“We had planned to get all of our running backs in the game. I don’t know if coach pulled him out just because he fumbled,” Freeman said. “But we wanted to rotate all those guys, and you’ve got to be unselfish. There’s one ball and there’s a lot of talented individuals, and this is just week zero.”
After pledging to open up its offense a bit from the triple option, Navy attempted just one pass in the first half — when starter Tai Lavatai threw incomplete on a fourth-and-3 from Notre Dame’s 37 under pressure from Jack Kiser.
Navy avoided the shutout when Evan Warren kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:33 to play.
“When you play a team like Notre Dame, you’ve got to be dang near perfect,” Newberry said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage, the running backs ran hard, we didn’t tackle well — that’s a bad combination. When they did throw it, they were deadly efficient.”
Lavatai finished 3 of 6 for 43 yards. Daba Fofana led Navy with 58 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Notre Dame great Joe Montana received a standing ovation during a break in play in the third quarter after Hartman’s third TD pass made the score 35-0.
Kickoff was delayed five minutes because of TV coverage of an English Premier League game, Notre Dame officials said. Pregame performances included drums, fiddles and dancers on the Notre Dame end during warmups. A smattering of “U-S-A!” chants followed the Naval Academy marching band’s effort.
Freeman can breathe easy with the quarterback position in good hands — even though the Navy defense didn’t present much of a problem. The offensive line overwhelmed Navy’s front, clearing huge holes. Navy’s offense is still one dimensional, despite coach Newberry — making his head coaching debut — pledging to open it up.
The dominant performance might persuade voters to elevate the Irish into the top 10, though from a week zero game against a weak opponent there may be not much room to jump up.
Navy: The Midshipmen are off next weekend and host Wagner on Sept. 9.
Notre Dame: The Irish host Tennessee State next Saturday and then play North Carolina State, followed by Central Michigan before Ohio State visits South bend on Sept. 23.