Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

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

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18 FEBRUARY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT For most of the first half Notre Dame was hovering and competi- tive, at least on defense. With Clem- son leading 9-3, the Irish defense made a stop that led to a missed 49-yard field goal with 6:50 remain- ing in the half. Notre Dame then marched to a first down at the Ti- gers' 45-yard line before three plays netted minus-seven yards. Clemson was then backed up at its 15-yard line with 4:56 left until the intermission. Maybe the play of the game occurred on third-and-14 when a well-protected Trevor Law- rence hit freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross in perfect stride on a seam route for a 42-yard touchdown with 1:44 remaining to make it a two-score game at 16-3. Even more crushing was the Ti- gers' ensuing 75-yard touchdown drive while taking over with merely 48 seconds left. A total of 160 yards covered in 4:54 for 14 points and a 23-3 half- time lead were, for all intents and purposes, the ball game. STAT OF THE GAME When Notre Dame consensus All- American junior cornerback Julian Love was in the game most of three quarters, Clemson tallied 10 points. When he was sidelined during the second quarter with a head injury that was cautiously monitored by the medical staff before clearing proto- col, Clemson's passing game thrived with three touchdowns (20 points) against both zone and man coverage. It probably wasn't coincidence that the Clemson aerial assault ex- ploited the defense in Love's ab- sence, but Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly was magnanimous about the setback. "We have to be good enough that we can overcome the loss of one player," Kelly said. "Clemson was able to overcome the loss of a great defensive lineman [junior tackle Dexter Lawrence]. … When you're in this game, you've got to be able to overcome the loss of key players. The players have got to make plays, and coaches have to put players in a position to make plays." WHAT IF … Two significant plays in the first half were overruled in the replay booth, much to Notre Dame's dis- may. After ND tied the game at 3-3, Clemson's Derion Kendrick fumbled the kickoff inside his 10-yard line and Irish junior Chase Claypool recovered — but the review showed the ball seemingly touched the white of the sideline before Claypool recovered it. Brian Kelly didn't think it was "conclusive" enough, but Clemson did get the ball back at its 13. Had it not been overturned and the Irish could have moved ahead 10-3, it would have put more game pres- sure on Clemson. Later in the second quarter, with the Tigers leading only 9-3, a nine-yard pass to Notre Dame senior tight end Alizé Mack that he fumbled and then recovered at the Clemson 36-yard line was ruled incomplete, making it third-and-10 instead of third-and-one, and eventually forced a punt. Clemson was the better team, but those two overrules swayed the mo- mentum quite a bit. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: RB DEXTER WILLIAMS The numbers weren't pretty, but the senior running back ended his Notre Dame career gamely. Facing the No. 3 rush defense in the nation, he racked up 54 tough yards in 16 carries. His ability to make defenders miss and turn even the smallest crease into a positive gain allowed the offense to remain balanced early in the game. Williams ran hard against the Tigers, showing the willingness to put his shoul- der down when the moment called for it, and he used his speed to out-run the Clemson defenders to the sideline. Had Notre Dame been more effective throw- ing the ball it would have opened up even more room for Williams to make plays. DEFENSE: LB TE'VON CONEY Junior end Daelin Hayes was a disruptive player early on for Notre Dame, and the Tigers had a hard time blocking him in the pass game. Junior safety Alohi Gilman led the defense with 18 tackles, and fifth-year senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bonner had his best game of the season. The player that stood out the most from a production and consistency stand- point, however, was the senior middle linebacker. Coney registered 16 tackles — one shy of his career high — and fueled a defensive performance that mostly shut down the Clemson ground attack. SPECIAL TEAMS: PK JUSTIN YOON AND P TYLER NEWSOME The senior kicker and fifth-year senior punter were the standouts for an Irish special teams unit that shined in the Cotton Bowl. Yoon drilled a 28-yard field goal for Notre Dame's lone points, had one kickoff go for a touchback and his second kick pinned Clemson at its own 13-yard line. Newsome's eight punts averaged 45.9 yards, and Clemson managed just 10 return yards. Four times he pinned Tigers at their own 20-yard line or deeper, including one boot that pinned them at their own 2-yard line. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL On a difficult day for the Irish offense, senior running back Dexter Williams had 16 carries for 54 hard-fought yards against the nation's No. 3 rush defense. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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