Clash Of The Titans! That just about sums about the matchup Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, #1 Clemson versus #4 Notre Dame. For the past two years since the College Football Playoff game in Arlington, this was a game the Fightin’ Irish had circled on their calendar. All the emotion of the horrible loss that evening, was motivation for the Junior’s, Seniors and Grad Students. They experienced first hand a tight team and a focused effort of dominating an opponent. We always say here at Shake Down The Thunder Sports, “if you learn from your mistakes and the outcome is different, then you truly prepared yourself for a different outcome.”
The blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice is not wasted, and you have matured. Along with the student-athletes from 2018, you have transfer students who have played on the bigger stage you are trying to achieve. That makes it a total team effort. Sometimes that outside experience is all that is needed for the change that is necessary.
1st Quarter Offense ND
In a heavyweight boxing match, your trainer always says, come out fighting. Coach Kelly once again this week talked about getting off to a fast start. Coach Kelly got just that. On the second play Kyren Williams did Kyren Williams things. From the ND 35, Williams was off to the races and touchdown rush of Sixty Five yards. Clemson was stunned by the opening series drive by the Fightin’ Irish.
The Irish second possession started on the ND44. The big play of the drive was the Javon McKinley twenty eight yard reception from Ian Book to get to the CLE25. The Irish get to the CLE2 and the drive is stalled after Freshman Michael Mayer nerves got the best of and gets a False Start penalty. Forcing Jonathan Doerer on the field for a twenty four yard field goal and converts to put the the Irish up 10-0.
The Final drive of the first quarter carries over into the second quarter. The drive picks up in the second quarter on the CLE42.
2nd Quarter Offense ND
After the shock of Williams’ sixty five yard scamper, the Clemson defense tightened up really quick. After stalling at the CLE9 Doerer came on again for a twenty seven yard field goal. The attempt is good and puts three more points on the board.
The Irish second possession of the quarter, the Clemson defense doesn’t let Book and teammates do much of anything. The Irish end up with a net of six yards when they are stalled on the ND31, when Jay Bramblett is forced to punt.
On the Irish third possession netted points once again from Doerer as the Irish offense is stopped at the CLE27, Doerer connects on a forty five yard field goal once again. The punt by Doerer was his third of the half.
On the last possession of the half, the Echoes Were Awoken in a precarious moment. To end the half and an attempt to put more points on the board, Doerer is brought out to attempt a fifty seven yard field goal. The ball does not reach the up-rights and Travis Etienne attempts to make a return. The only person between him and the endzone is Bramblett. Bramblett somehow was able to grab Etienne’s foot and bring him down to end the half.
ND Defense First Half
The Irish defense and Coach Lea had a game plan and they executed it. The first possession of Clemson which was five plays resulted in a punt and a net of eighteen yards. Realizing that the Irish swarming defense was not allowing the run game to materialize for Etienne, D.J. Uigalelei went to the air. Clemson gets their first points on a fifty three yard TD pass to pull within three of the Irish for a 10-7 score. The Clemson offense only had the ball for 3:52 in the first quarter. The defense and offense were very selfish in their play.
The Tigers doubled their plays in the second quarter. They actually had nineteen plays. To be more specific it was all through the air. Their first possession had eleven of those nineteen plays. the biggest play of the drive was a thirty five yard pass to Clarence Lewis. ND wasn’t the only team in the field goal game. They settled for a twenty five yard field goal after stalling at the ND8.
They only had one play on their third possession as Etienne fumbled the ball right into Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s arms and he returns the ball for a twenty three yard fumble, allowing the Irish to go up 20-10. The next possession for Clemson saw a completed pass to Amari Rodgers for ten yards, then Owusu-Koramoah forced the fumble and Nick McCloud recovers it at the CLE25. Consecutive turnovers by the Clemson defense led to ten Fightin’ Irish points.
The final possession for Clemson in the half resulted in another field goal. After consecutive twenty seven and twenty two yard passes from Uiagalelei, the Tigers stalled at the ND28. The halftime score is 23-13 ND. The tenacity of the Irish defense allowed for the separation of ten points.
First Half Summary
Third Quarter ND Defense
Clemson made serious adjustments at the half. Once again, ball control was king. The first possession of the quarter for Clemson was about an aerial assault. Thirty five of the thirty six yards were through the air. The Irish defense just didn’t roll over. The defense stalled the Tigers at the ND29 forcing them to convert a forty six yard field goal to bring the score to 23-16.
This possession was about the short passes and a few rushes. The sorted attack of pass and run kept the Fightin’ Irish defense guessing. Ultimately the Tigers go with a ten yard pass to tie the game 23-23. I was the second touchdown the defense allowed for the game. The possession was not played well by the Tigers. Gaining only seven yards on the ground, the Irish defense forced Clemson into their first three and out of the half. But Clemson dominated the clock. A Time Of Possession of 10:14 didn’t equate to a major advantage other than keeping Book off the field.
Third Quarter ND Offense
The Irish first possession was quite the short effort. The tightened Clemson defense for the the Irish to go three and out after only netting four yards of offense. The Irish second possession showed signs that the offense was coming back. The first play, a Book to Avery Davis pass reception gobbled up forty five yards moving the ball to the CLE30. On third and one, Book runs towards the end zone on the right hand side and fumbles the ball into the end zone. Giving Clemson the ball at the CLE 20.
Fourth Quarter ND Offense
The fourth quarter saw the Irish get four possessions against the Clemson defense. The big play for the Irish on their first possession saw Freshman phenom Michael Mayer on the end of a twenty nine yard Book pass. Progressing the ball to the CLE29. After getting stalled at the CLE26, Doerer was called on again for yet another field goal attempt from forty four yards. The successful field goal broke the tie and moved ND into the lead again.
Another three and out by the Clemson defense forced ND to put once again. This time Bramblett really got into this one. A monster fifty four yard punt pinned Clemson at the CLE26.
It wasn’t until the Fightin’ Irish final possession did the put much needed points on the board.
One way to make up ninety one yards is to have a monster play. After a McKinley ten yard pass reception and a Book nine yard run, a Williams fifteen yard rush, Book aired it out to Davis for fifty three yards to the CLE4. Two plays later Davis finishes the drive off with a four yard touchdown reception to force overtime. At the end of regulation, sixty minutes just is not enough. 33-33 is the score with 00:00 on the board.
Fourth Quarter ND Defense
The first play for Clemson in the fourth quarter was a bomb! A fifty one yard pass to Cornell Powell moved Clemson to the ND20. The drive stalled at the ND 13, and once again a field goal put points on the board. The attempt was good from thirty yards.
The Clemson second drive was effectively stopped by the Irish defense. A penalty gave the Tigers a fresh set of downs and a chance to score. The drive accumulated seventy four yards and finished by Etienne on a three yard rushing touchdown. The Irish defense forced a three and out on was essentially Clemson’s last possession of the game.
Notre Dame win the coin toss and opted to go on defense in the first overtime. Clemson wasted no time on their possession in extra time. Their first play is a pass for twenty four yards, and the following play was a QB keeper from one yard out. 40-33 Clemson
The ensuing Irish possession was more methodical. A Williams rush for two yards, a fifteen yard pas from Book to Mayer netted fifteen more yards, a five yard pass to McKinley, set up the three yard TD scamper for Williams.
The beauty of a second OT is that whoever had the ball last, gets the ball first. After sitting at 2nd and 20 at the CLE35, Clemson gifts ND with a penalty. Fifteen yards personal foul moved the CLE20. A “BookKeeper” for twelve yards, a Ben Skowronek reception of ten yards moves the ball to the CLE03. And the rest is up to Williams. 47-40 ND on the three yard TD run.
Probably the best sequence of plays by the ND defense all season went down like this.
1st and 10 ND25
2nd and 19 ND34
3rd and 24 ND39
4th and 24 ND39
Pass complete to Braden Galloway for 13 yards to the ND26 fumbled by Galloway at the ND26 and recovered by Nick McCloud…BALLGAME OVER!!!!!
Coach Kelly Press Conference
Coach Kelly Opening Statement
“Yeah, just for me, just watching our team handle themselves in the fourth quarter, handle themselves when there was adversity, as a coach, those are the special moments. Yeah, we won the football game and I’m certainly excited about that, but more so, when you watch your players exhibit resolve and exhibit grit and refuse to lose a football game against the No. 1 team in the country that by the way hadn’t lost in 36 regular season games,
that’s the special part about coaching these guys at Notre Dame.”
“You have the man under the jersey that’s pretty special. So that’s my takeaway. I know you guys want to talk about players and what this means to the program and I’m not really interested in all that stuff, but I’ll be more than willing to answer all of those questions.”
“As a coach you commit your vocation to this because you love seeing your players overcome what amounts to be sometimes difficult odds. That was fun to watch those guys.”
The Wrap up
Two season’s after a disappointing finish in Arlington Texas, the Fightin’ Irish were able to get a signature win and it came against Clemson. The dedication of getting better and committing to a plan layed out by the Football coaching staff, the Irish moved into second place in the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll. That’s quite a mountain to climb. Staying with the W.I.N. mentality, their focus must turn to BC and the “Holy War” scheduled for 3:30 PM EST on ABC. The drive must continue to keep the eye on the goals set by this team.