Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 16 of 47 FEBRUARY 2019 17 CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE In some ways, Clemson's 211 rushing yards were frustratingly misleading. Sophomore running back Travis Etienne's 11 carries through the game's first 43 minutes netted only 39 yards against the swarming Irish defense whose primary objective was to keep him contained and put the onus on freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Then with 2:04 left in the third quarter, Etienne busted through a gap on his 12th carry for a 62-yard score on third-and-short. The final rushing total looks fine on paper, but it was mainly that one run that inflicted harm, although Lawrence keeping on several designed runs was a surprise even though he finished with only six net rushing yards. Most of Clemson's damage on the ground was done after the game was pretty much in hand, and it was still held 49 yards under its average. ADVANTAGE: Even CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Notre Dame's pass pressure was one of the nation's best throughout the season, and in the first quarter it had Lawrence on the run often while he completed only 6 of 11 throws for 35 yards. In the second quarter, the three-fold combination of All-American junior cor- nerback Julian Love getting monitored for a head injury that sidelined him all of that stanza, improved pass protection to provide Lawrence a little extra time in the pocket, and fundamental mistakes in coverage resulted in 52-, 42-, 35-, 32- and 19-yard completions over the top, three of them resulting in touchdowns. Of the 327 passing yards Lawrence finished with, 229 — or 70 percent — came during that decisive second quarter. He also spread the ball well, con- necting with eight different receivers led by freshman wideout Justyn Ross' six catches for 148 yards and two scores. ADVANTAGE: Clemson NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON RUN DEFENSE Against the nation's most vaunted defensive front — even minus projected first-round junior tackle Dexter Lawrence — that was third against the run (92.9 yards allowed per game) and first in fewest yards allowed per carry (2.4), the Irish reaching around 140 yards at about 4.0 yards a clip with no lost fumbles was not inconceivable. However, the ground attack never was established nor found a rhythm, finishing with 88 yards, 2.5 yards per carry and a lost fumble by junior quar- terback Ian Book on a scramble. Six sacks of Book for minus-26 yards hurt the final numbers, but the Tigers ability to limit explosive senior running back Dexter Williams to 54 yards on 16 carries put the kibosh on the ground game the most. ADVANTAGE: Clemson NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON PASS DEFENSE This was easily the shakiest game for Book, who made several outstanding, elusive scrambles but might have anticipated the fierce pass rush too much on occasion. He bailed from the pocket often when not necessary, did not keep his eyes downfield as he consistently had throughout the season, and missed open opportunities to receivers. Clemson also did strong work in not biting on play action, or even on a triple handoff flea-flicker, and maintaining solid downfield coverage many times. A fourth-down pass in the first half to senior wideout Miles Boykin had textbook coverage by linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who batted away the pass. Fourth in completion percentage (70.4) nationally prior to the game, Book made it only to 50.0 percent (17 of 34), and his yardage total of 160 meant less than 10 yards per completion and a meager 4.7 yards per attempt. ADVANTAGE: Clemson SPECIAL TEAMS The punting of fourth-year starter and team captain Tyler Newsome in his fi- nal game was a highlight, with four of his eight punts traveling beyond 50 yards. Far more important, three pinned Clemson inside the 15. The punt into the end zone with 48 seconds left until halftime did give Clemson some breathing room instead of starting inside the 10-yard line. Senior Justin Yoon made his lone field goal attempt, and the coverage on the near lost fumble by Derion Kendrick inside his 10-yard line could have been costly to Clemson had the replay booth not overturned it. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Clemson converted 50.0 percent (9 of 18) to Notre Dame's 29.4 percent (5 of 17). Particularly back-breaking to the Irish were a 42-yard touchdown pass on third-and-14 that made it 16-3, and Etienne's 62-yard scoring romp on third-and-one. ADVANTAGE: Clemson TURNOVERS Notre Dame had two compared to Clemson's one, but the latter occurred in the fourth quarter after the game was well in hand with a 30-3 lead. Book's lost fumble in the first quarter set up the first score, a Tigers field goal, while his second, an interception, led to Etienne's scoring scamper in the third quarter, giving Clemson a 10-0 advantage in points off turnovers. The Tigers' fumbled kickoff and then a diving interception attempt by senior rover Asmar Bilal on the first series of the third quarter were both overturned. ADVANTAGE: Clemson ANALYSIS The second quarter with Clemson's passing attack, especially with Notre Dame's Love not in the lineup, was the game-changer. However, Notre Dame's offense, especially with the passing game, never established any rhythm against Clemson's dominant defense. There were a few tough calls that went against the Fighting Irish, but the Tigers' superiority in striking with the huge plays from their skill-position ath- letes — comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores — augmented their defensive assertiveness. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Junior defensive end Julian Okwara and the Fighting Irish pressured Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence early en route to three sacks, but couldn't maintain it for the balance of the game. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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