Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

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24 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Trailing 13-10, Clemson took possession on its 31-yard line with 5:58 left in the first half and with a chance to take a lead at the intermis- sion after having withstood an initial first-quarter Notre Dame flurry. However, on first down a pitch to running back Travis Etienne was bobbled and returned for a touchdown by senior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who caught the ball in the air while coming in on a blitz. Our feeling going into the game was to keep up with Clemson's prolific attack, a touchdown from defense or special teams would be needed by the Fighting Irish. This two-score advantage at 20-10 (23-13 at halftime) supplied an immense jolt and likely further confidence to Notre Dame's for- tunes, and also provided a needed cushion when the Tigers began regaining some momentum in the third quarter. STATS OF THE GAME An initial thought for this was holding Clem- son All-American running back Travis Etienne to 28 yards on 18 carries. That supreme effort on defense placed a heavy burden on freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, whose poise at this stage of his career is astounding while replacing All-American Trevor Lawrence, who was sidelined because of COVID-19 protocol. More notable is Notre Dame limited Clemson to 4 of 15 on third downs (26.6 percent), which helped result in four field goals by the Tigers instead of tally- ing more touchdowns. A tone was somewhat set on the first series when Etienne was thrown for a loss on third-and-one by junior linebacker Shayne Simon. Meanwhile, the Irish were 10 of 19 on third down for an impressive 52.6 percent. Moving the first-down chains relatively consistently helped at least shorten the game, but the proficiency on defense was far greater than what allowing 40 points in a game might indicate. THE BIG ONE Notre Dame entered the contest versus No. 1 Clemson with a school-record 11 straight losses to teams ranked in the Associated Press top five at the time of the game (the most recent win was at No. 3 Michigan in 2005) and consequently a reputation for not winning "the big one." Of course, once you win "a big one" like this one versus the Tigers, more "big ones" are set to follow. For example, last year when LSU finally vanquished longtime nemesis and "big one" Ala- bama, it still had to defeat three other top-four foes to close the season. The Fighting Irish likely will be faced with such a task when they might have to defeat Clemson again in the ACC championship game on Dec. 19. Regardless, winning on a grand stage in the man- ner they did provides the surge of self-assured- ness and championship mentality so needed to make a run for the title. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: QB IAN BOOK Sophomore running back Kyren Williams certainly was in contention for this honor after rushing for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, but Brian Kelly gave his fifth-year senior quarterback the game ball for a reason. With the game on the line, down seven with 1:48 to play, Book led Notre Dame on an eight-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown to senior slot receiver Avery Davis and sent the game to overtime. Book finished the game 22-of-39 passing for 310 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for 67 yards and, after the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney pointed out how their inability to contain Book hurt them all evening, especially on third-and-long. DEFENSE: ROVER JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH Despite giving up 473 yards of total offense to Clem- son, there were several Notre Dame defenders who played exceptionally well. Yet, the fumble the senior rover snatched from Tigers star back Travis Etienne and returned for a touchdown put him over the edge. Owusu-Koramoah finished the game with nine to- tal stops and 2.5 tackles for loss, and forced a second fumble. Despite Clemson's reputation for possessing an abundance of speed and athleticism, he frequently was the most impressive player on the field. SPECIAL TEAMS: K JONATHAN DOERER The senior kicker had a few mistakes against Clemson, but his four made field goals and five extra points were vital to Notre Dame's double-overtime victory. His two longest field goal makes came from 44 and 45 yards, plus he drilled kicks from 24 and 27 yards. Doerer's lone miss was a 57-yard attempt toward the end of the first half that could have been returned for a touchdown if not for an excellent open field tackle by sophomore holder (and punter) Jay Bramblett. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Senior kicker Jonathan Doerer made four field goals and five extra points against Clemson, tying the school record for kicking points scored in a game with 17. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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