Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

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

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Page 19 of 47

20 FEBRUARY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BIG PLAYS FUEL CLEMSON RUN For most of the season, Notre Dame was able to limit big plays by opposing offenses. That was the case through the first quarter of the Cot- ton Bowl against Clemson, with the Irish holding the Tigers to just 45 to- tal yards in a 3-3 contest. However, Clemson was able to connect on several "chunk" plays in the second quarter that allowed them to pull away going into halftime. With about 13 minutes to play prior to the break, freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw a deep ball to freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross, who — despite being blanketed by junior cornerback Donte Vaughn — caught it and completed a 52-yard scoring play for a 9-3 Clemson lead. On their next defensive posses- sion, the Irish held the Tigers to a field goal attempt that was missed. Ross struck again later in the quar- ter, though, this time with a 42-yard score right up the seam past junior safety Alohi Gilman to open up a 16-3 lead. Then, a 32-yard pass from Lawrence to graduate wide receiver Hunter Renfrow on first down put Clemson in scoring position with less than 10 seconds to play, which was aided by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Vaughn was tested again on the next play while guarding sophomore wide receiver Tee Higgins. Vaughn was in position to make a play and batted the ball, but it fell right back to Higgins, who made an acrobatic catch to secure a 19-yard score. Clem- son finished with 261 total yards in the quarter to blow the game open. On Notre Dame's first two defen- sive possessions of the second half, the Irish forced two punts and al- lowed just 46 total yards. The unit was close to forcing another punt after putting the Tigers in a third- and-one late in the third quarter, but sophomore running back Travis Eti- enne found a lane and raced 62 yards to the end zone for the final dagger. "I said it pre-game, before all this stuff," Gilman noted afterward. "They're versatile. They're balanced and versatile … a lot of things we prepared for were spot on. "They had a couple alterations to it, adjustments that they made that kind of switched up some of the things we had to do, so we had to adjust and they capitalized on that." Notre Dame allowed 538 total yards (327 passing, and 211 rushing) on 78 total plays (6.9 yards per play), but the four plays of 30 yards or more in crucial situations were a major fac- tor in the Tigers pulling away and posting the win. "It's really too much to get into right now," head coach Brian Kelly said after the game when asked about Clemson's explosive plays. "And it's a very good question, and I respect the question. But I think you know that we lost a very good corner [Julian Love]. "And to get any further into it would be really trying to talk about players and their performance. As coaches we should have done a better job in putting together a plan during that time. Clemson was outstanding in taking advantage of some things, and we needed to do a better job in that situation. "… We did not do that all year. [The performance was] uncharacter- istic of our defense." PASSING GAME STRUGGLES Since taking over the reins at quar- terback in game four versus Wake Forest, junior Ian Book averaged 306.9 yards and 2.3 touchdowns via the air in his eight regular-season starts and posted a passing efficiency rating of at least 140.9 in each contest. Book, however, was not sharp against the Tigers in the 30-3 defeat, completing only 17 of 34 passes for 160 yards with an interception. It marked his worst completion per- CLEMSON GAME NOTES BY COREY BODDEN Junior quarterback Ian Book had posted a passing efficiency rating of at least 140.9 in each of his first eight starts this season, but was held to a 83.6 mark by the Tigers. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Notre Dame registered three sacks in the loss, which was the second most allowed by the Tigers all season (four versus Syracuse). • Defensive linemen Ade Ogundeji, a junior, and Jayson Ademilola, a freshman, each recorded their first full sack of the season, which was a career first for the latter. • Notre Dame is 5-3 now all time in the Cotton Bowl Classic, and is tied with Texas A&M for the sec- ond most victories in the bowl since its start in 1937. Texas has the most with 11. • Senior linebacker Asmar Bilal recorded his first career fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. • Clemson entered the game averaging 7.4 yards per play in the first quarter, and Notre Dame was able to hold the Tigers to 45 yards on 17 plays (2.6 yards per play) in the opening 15 minutes.

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