Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 31 of 55

32 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED P ublic address announcer Mike Collins knew there was no stop- ping it, so may as well issue a quick reminder. "Be careful out there," he said from somewhere high above the field, as a stream of students flooded the Notre Dame Stadium playing surface like water from a faucet. At least they had their masks on as they partied on, reveling in a win worthy of the utmost enjoyment. Rush the field, raise a glass and for good measure, go take a coronavirus spit test when it's all over. Field-storming is not a wise idea amid a global pandemic, but there was no better illustration of the col- lective catharsis Notre Dame fans ev- erywhere surely felt when the Irish thwarted Clemson's last-ditch lateral attempt and drew the curtains on an all-timer. The Irish won a big one. How they did it — and what they displayed — was equally impressive and encouraging for whatever else this season has in store. No. 4 Notre Dame toppled No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in double overtime, handing the Tigers their first regular- season loss since 2017 and beating a top-five team for the first time in Brian Kelly's 11 seasons. Not since 1993 had the Irish bested the No. 1 team, and since then they had been searching for that type of win, only to be publicly denied it and the spoils that would have likely come attached. From a national perspective or even within Notre Dame fan circles, it was a statement. No "almost" or another big- game blunder. Notre Dame punched up and added a bold-font first line to a résumé Kelly already considered worthy of acceptance into the sport's ruling class, but now can attempt to sell that idea to more willing buyers. Fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book wrote the chapter of his career many anxious observers felt was missing. All those doubts about his ability to deliver a win or toss deep balls went away with every dart that found receivers' hands and a 91-yard drive that took just 86 seconds. "No matter how old I am, I will re- member this game forever," Book said. But not because he made some statement or rewrote a legacy. No, this win and how it was achieved was about resolve and fortitude. Focus and toughness. This Notre Dame team has 'em all. Examples were everywhere. "We're not celebrating because we showed the world or we changed the narrative or did this because they were the No. 1 team in the country," Kelly said. "We did it because we proved something to ourselves." All the discussion around talent gaps when Notre Dame plays the stiffest competition creates the idea everything has to break the right way and the Irish are afforded zero mar- gin for error. They did catch a break with superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence and three defensive start- ers out, but consider all that went wrong that is so often fatal in games against a team of Clemson's caliber: • Notre Dame's first three red-zone trips yielded a combined six points and were a mess of errors. • A drive that started on Clemson's 25-yard line after a turnover went backward. • A fumble on the goal line killed a drive that would've produced tie- breaking points. • Allowing more than 30 points for just the second time since 2018 and the first touchdown of 50-plus yards since the 2018 Cotton Bowl. • Beginning the second overtime with two negative runs in three plays. Yet after each misstep, Notre Dame didn't flinch, even as Clemson landed a couple haymakers shortly after. Notre Dame had counters and con- fidence. No one more so than Book, who took the field with the offense 91 yards away from its needed destina- tion and less than two minutes to go. At that point, Notre Dame's last four drives ended in a fumble, field goal, punt and turnover on downs. The offense had strayed from its strengths and was sputtering. Kelly had some words. "I said, 'Ian, you're going to win the football game,'" Kelly recalled. "I told him that a couple times." Its effect? "I 100 percent believed him," Book said. With that task on his shoulders and the audacity of a three-year starter, he unloaded a prayer toward a surpris- ingly single-covered senior slot re- ceiver Avery Davis. Caught. 53 yards. Goal to go. That sucker was good all the way. Three plays later, they con- nected again for a four-yard touch- down and the score was tied 33-33. "That's Ian," sophomore running back Kyren Williams said. "That's what he does. He's going to make those plays." Book, all told, finished 22-of-39 passing for 310 yards with a touch- down, with four completions of at least 28 yards. There was plenty that went right, too. Not since 2013 had Clemson allowed an opponent to run for 200 yards on 5.0 yards per carry and pass for at least 300. Notre Dame stuffed Travis Etienne, the ACC's all- time leading rusher, into a straitjacket. As the night unfolded, it gave way to the idea that two College Football Playoff teams occupied the Notre Dame Stadium turf. Kelly declined to dive into it, but if nothing else, these two are on a collision course to meet Dec. 19 in the ACC title game. "They'll get Trevor back. They have a lot of guys, a lot of assets," senior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Kora- moah said. "I think it's likely we'll see them again, and the whole world thinks we'll see them again." ✦ Irish's Mettle On Display In Night Of Rewriting Narratives ENGEL'S ANGLE PATRICK ENGEL Patrick Engel has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since March 2020. He can be reached at Fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book produced 377 yards of total offense and delivered in the clutch for the Fighting Irish. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Nov. 14, 2020