Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

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Page 22 of 55 NOV. 14, 2020 23 CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE With quarterback Trevor Lawrence sidelined, the foremost objective was to not allow All-American running back Travis Etienne, the ACC's all-time rusher and two- time MVP, be a game-wrecker. His 18 carries netted only 28 yards. Seven times he was thrown for lost yardage, and six others he totaled zero to three yards. Senior nose tackle Kurt Hinish particularly controlled the middle that became impregnable. Equally vital was 250-pound but mobile freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei also was held in check on the zone read or option plays, finishing with just two yards rushing on 13 attempts. Thirty-three carries for 34 yards says it all. Irish defenders, led by senior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, consistently stayed home in their lanes while not permitting containment to be broken. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE It's hard to fathom how much better Lawrence could have done when Uiagalelei passed for a single-game record 439 yards against the Irish with no interceptions. Wideouts Cornell Power and Amari Rodgers combined for 295 receiving yards on 14 catches — but the dangerous Etienne was relatively well contained with 57 yards on eight grabs. Still, it was remarkable how unflap- pable the rookie Uiagalelei was. ADVANTAGE: Clemson NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON RUN DEFENSE Following Williams' 65-yard touchdown jaunt on the first carry, Clemson did respectable work afterward to limit him to 75 yards on 22 attempts. Where it had no answers was with fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book's improvisation skills in the pocket as a scrambler and runner that allowed him to buy time for his receivers or rush for 67 yards himself. The power of the offensive line on Williams' two three-yard scoring runs in overtime were especially noteworthy. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON PASS DEFENSE Remember all the angst the first two months about the Irish wide receiving corps being such a work in progress with no proven threats? Veterans Javon McKinley and Avery Davis developed just in time, combining for 13 catches for 213 yards, highlighted by Davis' 53-yard grab to set up his game-tying touchdown in regulation with 22 seconds left. That was complemented by Book also finding his tight ends, freshman Michael Mayer (five catches for 67 yards) and junior Tommy Tremble (three catches for 32 yards) on shallow crossing routes as an outlet play. Williams is not deployed as much as a receiver like he was earlier in the season, but his blitz pickups were extremely valuable in giving Book (22-of-39 passing for 310 yards with one touchdown and no interception) time. To face the myriad blitzes Book did yet be thrown for a loss only twice when he dropped back about 50 times is a remarkable testament to the line, Williams, and Book's maneuverability. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Both kickers, senior Jonathan Doerer for the Irish and junior B.T. Potter for the Tigers, were stellar with four field goals apiece, and with their hang time or distance on kickoffs that limited returns. Doerer did begin the second half with a kick out of bounds that gave Clemson possession at its 35. Two crucial plays were Irish sophomore punter Jay Bramblett stopping Eti- enne near midfield on the last play of the first half when he fielded a missed 57-yard field goal attempt and appeared to be on the cusp of reaching the end zone. The second was with the score knotted at 23 early in the fourth quarter, Clemson punted to the Notre Dame 28, where junior return Matt Salerno signaled for a fair catch but was hit, thus allowing the Irish to start at their 43 to help set up a field goal drive. ADVANTAGE: Even THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Limiting Clemson to 4 of 15 was out "Stat Of The Game" (see page 24), but just as vital was Notre Dame succeeding on more than 50 percent (10 of 19) against coordinator Brent Venables' mixture of defenses, with Book's scram- bling skills and ability to extend plays the most vital element. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS With Notre Dame clinging to a 13-10 advantage, Owusu-Koramoah forced the game's first two turnovers on consecutive Clemson series. First, while crashing in on a blitz, he grabbed an Etienne fumble in the air that he returned for a touch- down. Next he forced a Rodgers fumble that fifth-year senior cornerback Nick McCloud recovered deep in Clemson territory to help boost the advantage to 23-10 — critical game-altering events that provided the Irish a needed cushion. Book had Notre Dame's lone turnover while lunging toward the end zone and losing grip of the football, but it did not result in any Clemson points. The Tigers also lost a fumble on the final desperation play while trying to keep the play alive. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS Three of the most essential ingredients for a Notre Dame victory were to start strong to build some early juice, control the line of scrimmage on both sides and win the turnover battle, preferably by at least plus two. All three were fulfilled. The game's first official play from scrimmage was a 65-yard touchdown run by Williams. The Irish had a double-digit lead after each of the first two quarters. Notre Dame out-rushed Clemson by a stunning 208-34 margin despite recording just two sacks. Finally, it was plus two in turnovers (3-1), outscoring the Tigers 10-0 off them. Most remarkable, though, was the mental resolve after falling behind for the first time with 3:33 left (33-26), and then losing the ball on downs at 2:10. It also fell behind 40-33 in the first overtime. Notre Dame showcased championship timber both physically and mentally. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Sophomore running back Kyren Williams set the tone for Notre Dame early, ripping of a 65-yard touchdown run on his first carry. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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