Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

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26 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Observations, musings and numbers from Notre Dame's 47-40 double-overtime win over Clemson 1. Ian Book Delivers The chorus is too familiar. "Be the reason Notre Dame wins." The fifth-year senior was everything you want to see from a quarterback trying to lead a game- tying drive and win an overtime game. Calm. Poised. Unflinching. And at his best. All that came not long after his fumble on the goal line late in the third quarter that spoiled a prime chance to break a 23-23 tie. His resolve was as impressive as his play. 2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Again Notre Dame's star senior rover should have a section reserved in this recur- ring article. The Irish needed their best defenders to shine, and there was no doubt he'd be capable. All Owusu-Koramoah did was force fumbles on back- to-back drives and score a touchdown on the first. And he helped write the exclamation point on the ending, with a half-sack on Clemson's final drive. Put him anywhere, and he's going to show up, as a rusher, run defender or in coverage. That three-level effectiveness should put him in the first-round conversation of the 2021 NFL Draft. 3. Pass Rush Awakens Late Look no further for a great example of the difference between hurries and sacks. There's nothing wrong with the former. Sacks, though, put the offense backward. That's a must against an explosive attack. Notre Dame's front didn't get home very often in regulation and allowed Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiag- alelei time to dish from the pocket, scramble and create. He's skilled at both, and he completed passes when flushed and under pressure. But he can't operate the same when he's backed up into third and an ocean to go. Nor can he make something from nothing if he's on the ground. It took a while, but Notre Dame proved that five-sack showing the week before at Georgia Tech wasn't a fluke. 4. Taking Away Travis Etienne … Anyone who hopes to beat Clemson has to contain its game-breaking running back, Travis Etienne. Notre Dame was up to the task, holding him to 18 carries for 28 yards. What stood out was how early he was hit on every run. All told, Clemson had 32 carries for 48 yards when excluding sacks. Etienne had as many fumbles (two) than runs of 10-plus yards. The 1.6 yards per rush was the lowest of his career by more than a full yard. 5. … But Allowing Yards Through The Air Clemson has multiple ways of moving the ball and ripping off chunk plays. Even without anything from the run game, the Tigers still averaged 8.3 yards per play in the first half. And overall, they averaged 10.0 yards per pass. There's a reason only three teams have held Clemson to fewer than 20 points since 2015. That said, Notre Dame picked the right weapon to take away in Etienne. The Irish wanted to make Uiagalelei and Clemson's other skill players beat them. They nearly did, though, with 11 completions of at least 15 yards. But the Clemson passing attack without Trevor Lawrence is less of a proven entity than Etienne. 6. Kyren Williams Notre Dame's offensive rock was impactful from his first touch to his last play, and in more ways than just running the ball. The 65-yard touchdown run to start the game came on a staple play, an outside zone stretch. He ended the game with 140 rushing yards. Just as importantly, he was a blitz-pickup machine. Clemson threw a variety of pressure packages and stunts at Notre Dame all night, and Williams was instrumental in keeping Book clean. He picked up a rusher on Avery Davis' 53- yard catch on the final drive of regulation. 7. Red Zone These are two reliable defenses that were going to win their share of drives, but neither team did much of anything well in the red zone. Until, of course, Notre Dame's game-tying touchdown drive and overtime. Many of Notre Dame's red-zone woes were self-induced. In a rare occurrence, tight end Michael Mayer looked like a freshman, with a false start and a drop that forced short field goal tries. Book's goal-line fumble took points away. It wasn't quite a red-zone possession, but Notre Dame went backward after an Owusu-Koramoah fumble recovery set up the offense at the Clemson 25- yard line. For as thrilling as the game was, it felt like Notre Dame could've piled on early. 8. Kickoff Coverage Let's give a little attention to Notre Dame's kickoff unit, particularly junior linebacker Jack Lamb. Clemson started two of its first three drives inside the 15-yard line, and both times it was because of sound kickoff coverage. Clemson returners had trouble catching the ball, but Lamb was right there each time to stamp out any hopes of a return and make a tackle. 9. Shayne Simon's Rise Continues The junior had emerged as the clear starter at Buck linebacker in recent weeks, but in this game, he finally arrived as a disruptive, productive presence. He played nearly every snap. His biggest play was a third-down pass broken up while covering Clemson's top receiver, Amari Rodgers, one-on-one. In the first six games, primary Buck linebackers Simon, Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser had 25 combined tackles. Simon had four against Clemson, with two passes broken up. Notre Dame's defense becomes that much more dangerous when it has another playmaker at linebacker. 10. Reviews If you're going to review every play, why even have refs? You have to be confi- dent in getting calls on the field right, but even that proved unnecessarily hard. 10 INITIAL THOUGHTS BY PATRICK ENGEL Sophomore running back Kyren Williams rushed for 140 yards (6.1 per carry) with three touchdowns and stood out in pass protection, especially late in the game. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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