Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

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

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24 FEBRUARY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Didn't Work Missed Opportunities And Mistakes Doom Offense: The Irish offense had merely 248 total yards, averaged 3.6 yards per play and managed to score only three points, the fewest ever by Notre Dame in a bowl. Unlike the national title game against Alabama in January 2013, the problem for the offense against Clemson wasn't necessarily about bad matchups, but a failure to exe- cute and take advantage of the opportunities that were there. A dropped third-down pass from junior wideout Chase Claypool ended Notre Dame's first drive. After the defense and special teams gave the Irish the ball in Clemson ter- ritory, junior quarterback Ian Book lost a fumble on the first play of the series. Two series later the Irish failed to convert on fourth down, and Book missed a wide-open Miles Boykin on third-and-four to end the ensuing possession. A dropped pass by senior tight end Alizé Mack in Clemson territory on Notre Dame's next drive turned a potential third-and-one into a third- and-10. All of that happened with the game either tied or the Irish trail- ing just 9-3. Book missed an open Boykin on a post route for a possible touchdown on Notre Dame's first possession of the third quarter, which ended the team's last chance for a comeback. Big Plays Cost Irish Defense: Clemson is one of the nation's most explosive offenses, and that proved true against Notre Dame. The Irish gave up 306 yards in the first half, but 126 of those yards came on three plays, which included touchdown passes of 52 and 42 yards to fresh- man wide receiver Justyn Ross. On Clemson's other 38 plays in the first half, it averaged just 4.7 yards per play. The Tigers put the game away in the third quarter with a 62-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Travis Etienne. On Clemson's other 36 runs, it averaged just 4.1 yards per attempt. The three long passes in the second quarter came when All-American junior cornerback Julian Love was sidelined with an injury. Third-Down Woes: The ability to move the chains offensively and to get off the field defensively proved to be a significant difference in this game. Notre Dame finished the game just 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) on third down, while Clemson excelled by converting 9 of 18 (50.0 percent) third-down opportunities. Offensively, the Irish had some third-down success early in the game, converting a third-and-10 on a 16-yard screen pass to senior running back Dexter Williams on its third drive of the game to set up its lone scoring march. On Notre Dame's next possession it converted a third-and-four and a third-and-six, but the failure to pick up third-and-three and a fourth-and- three stalled the drive. Notre Dame failed to convert its next three third downs, and by the time it finally moved the chains again the Tigers had jumped out to a 23-3 lead. Crucial third-down con- versions sparked Clemson's second-quarter surge. After going just two of five on third down to start the game, Clem- son converted four of its next six third downs, most nota- bly a 42-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence to Ross on a third-and-14, which helped the Tigers pull away from Notre Dame. Part of the success had to do with Clemson being able to at- tack backup junior cornerback Donte Vaughn and the Irish safeties in coverage. Notre Dame couldn't take advantage of the same matchup opportu- nities, and when it had open receivers on third down the ball was either thrown errati- cally, or in the case of the first third down of the game, it was dropped. What Worked Run Defense Plays Well: The rushing numbers for Clemson are misleading. Notre Dame gave up 211 yards on the ground, but that doesn't reflect how well the Irish defended the run game for the vast majority of the game. Clemson ripped off a 62-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and it added another 91 yards in the fourth quarter while grinding out the clock. Up until Etienne's long touchdown run, which came with only 2:04 left in the third quarter, the Tigers had just 58 rushing yards, and the sopho- more back had gained just 39 yards on 11 carries. The ability to slow down the run game for much of the first three quarters is partly why the game re- mained close for as long as it did. Notre Dame's front four managed a good push, while the linebackers and safeties cleaned up the backs for minimal gains. ✦ Clemson Game: What Worked And What Didn't CLOSER LOOK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Fifth-year senior linebacker Drue Tranquill and the Irish defense did a good job containing Clemson sophomore running back Travis Etienne for most of the game, limiting him to 39 yards on 11 carries until he exploded for a 62-yard scoring run. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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