For once, a showdown in the regular season between two of the country’s best teams lived up to the hype and then some. Notre Dame No. 4 surpassed No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in a double thriller thriller that was held Saturday night in South Bend, Indiana. In so doing, Fighting Irish handed the Tigers their first regular season loss since 2017, ending their longest winning streak in the country.
Notre Dame led nearly the entire match before having to return in the final seconds to enforce extra time. Clemson didn’t take the lead for the first time until 3:33 left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers went 74 yards in 12 plays, absorbing much of the fourth quarter before Travis Etienne, who had been held by the Irish defense overnight, retreated to find the finish zone of 3 yards.
Notre Dame first took the lead in only the second play that night. That was when RB Kyren Williams went free from 65 yards. The Irish then had the opportunity to climb twice when faced with the fourth and 1 of Clemson’s 2-yard streak. However, a false start supported them at 5 yards, and they settled on a field goal to make it 10-0.
Clemson responded with a touch of his own to reduce the lead to 10-7, but then after his Irish defense grabbed another field goal, Etienne fired a shot into the field. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame was very happy to take her out of the air and bring her back down to 10-20 Irish. The Tigers diverted the ball in the next possession as Owusu-Koromoah stripped Amari Rodgers of the ball; However, Clemson’s defense kept Notre Dame another field goal.
Those missed opportunities nearly cost the Irish a chance to collapse. Clemson wiped out a 10-point deficit in the third quarter. Then with a chance to regain the lead late in the third stage, QB Ian Book flopped in the red, and Clemson jumped over the ball in the finish zone.
Clemson finally manages to take the lead with a 3:33 leave, and then after a few possessions, Notre Dame finds itself with the ball in the 0-yard line and 1:48 to go. Book led the team down the field thanks largely to a 53-yard connection with Avery Davis for first and goal preparation. After a few plays, a book connected with Davis in order to land the game.
In the first extra time, both teams exchanged relegations, but the Irishman broke the service in the second. After Williams scored his third goal of the night to give Notre Dame a 47-40 lead, the Irish defense twice sacked Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei twice to set up two long runs that the new student could not complete to finish the match as Notre Dame knocked off the first team in South Bend for the first time since 1993. When beat Florida.
Here are five key points from Notre Dame’s massive win over Clemson.
1. Would Lawrence make a difference?
This doesn’t mean he won’t, but it’s not as if Uiagalelei was a handicap to the Tigers on Saturday. He finished the night completing 29 of 44 passes for 439 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed to get the third result in the OT. His 439-yard passing is the most that any midfielder has thrown against Notre Dame, surpassing the 425 Carson Palmer yards collected in 2002.
Now, could Lawrence have made some of the throws that Uyagalili didn’t? Can. You could also argue that Lawrence might have been more poised under pressure in the second extra time when Uiagalelei took two sachets. But I don’t put those bags on Uiagalelei. In the first play, no one was open. Clemson’s left goalkeeper flicked hard on a block in the second play, and Uiagalelei was hit before realizing he was in trouble. I would argue that the Tigers’ injuries elsewhere had a much greater impact on the team than Lawrence’s absence.
2. Notre Dame deserves all the appreciation
It should be clear to everyone. While the Irish didn’t play a perfect match, they took the lead in the second play in the night and were not late until 215 seconds left to play. Then instead of crashing like so many other teams, Bock and Irish Crime put together an impressive tie-in campaign before the first half.
On the other side of the ball, they were also solid. Notre Dame had a game plan of taking Travis Etienne out of the equation and forcing Uiagalelei to constantly beat them. Uiagalelei is credited with doing a great job and nearly defeating the Irish. But the Irish also managed to get Etienne out of the game.
Etienne pushed just 28 yards on 18 stands and wasn’t a major factor in the passing game either, as he shot 57 yards at eight receptions. Notre Dame forced three transformations, turned one straight into a downtrend, and suffered eight intervening times for loss. The Irish only had two bags per night, but they came at a critical time!
3. Book it!
This was Book’s signature win. He has had a career ups and downs with the Irish and has never been an outstanding midfield player. While that was something the great teams could win without him, in this modern era of elite midfielders, Buck’s restrictions have been imposed against him. Unfairly many times.
But Saturday night, like his team, it would have been shattered. Instead, he climbed. Several QBs had gotten into a projectile after fumbling in the red zone as Bock did in the late third quarter, but shook it. Then after failing to get anything in Notre Dame’s first possession after Clemson landing that gave the Tigers their first lead, he still maintains his cool. Maneuvering the Irish out of the shadow of their end zone, then finds Davis open down the middle as Clemson’s lightning strikes hold him. It was a nice throw. In fact, it was perhaps the best throw in Book’s career, and it set up the touchdown to hook the game and enforce overtime.
The book finished with 310 yards passing, 64 yards only one lunge and drop, but despite what the box score says, this was his best match for the Irish.
4. Clemson’s playoff hopes are not dead
Just ask Jerry Palm. Yes, Clemson’s regular season winning streak has ended 39 games. As with her 29-win streak on the ACC and 15 on the road. But it will likely not fall out of the top four in this week’s top 25 rankings. Clemson didn’t lose this game because he didn’t have Lawrence, but Lawrence’s lack of presence would prevent her from being punished very cruelly. Plus, even if Lawrence played, there would be no reason to punish Clemson for this loss. There is no shame in losing to the nation’s No. 4 team in double overtime, and Clemson will have every opportunity to press for a place on the College Football Playoff.
5. This was a great college football match
This is not a deep idea, but it is the truth. In a season when I felt comfortable and saw some strange results, it was a good idea for two great teams to play a great game. Hopefully we’ll see a new ACC Championship game appearance next month.