Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

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

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20 JAN. 1, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I f a Notre Dame follower didn't know better, he would have thought he had entered a time machine back to December 2018 when Clemson defeated the Fight- ing Irish 30-3 in the College Football Playoff. Twenty-four months later, it almost was a carbon copy. After a promising early start, No. 2 Notre Dame (10- 1) was overwhelmed 34-10 by No. 3 Clemson (10-1) in the ACC Champi- onship at Charlotte, N.C. Clemson star junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence, unavailable to play in this year's first meeting between the two teams won by Notre Dame 47-40 in double-overtime Nov. 7, was the dominant figure while leading a balanced offense. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 322 yards with two touchdowns and carried 14 times for 90 yards, highlighted by a 34-yard score. Furthermore, his presence as a threat with the read option created far more gaps for senior running back Travis Etienne. In the first meet- ing with the Irish, the ACC's all-time leading rusher had just 28 yards on 18 carries. This time his 10 attempts netted 124. Notre Dame was outgained 541-263 in total yards, and managed only 143 yards over the final three quarters. The first half was almost identical to the 2018 College Football Play- off. That game was relatively even through one quarter before a Clem- son aerial assault in the second quar- ter resulted in three touchdowns and a 24-3 halftime lead — the last touch- down coming on a 19-yard pass with two seconds left until the break. This time, the Irish were up 3-0 be- fore the Tigers dominated the second quarter and took a 24-3 lead at the intermission again — with a 44-yard touchdown run by Etienne on fourth- and-one with 21 seconds remaining being the backbreaker. Notre Dame's defense came out much more stout in the second half and hung in, but Lawrence's 34-yard touchdown on a quarterback coun- ter with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter made it 31-3 and was a final exclamation point on a dominant day by the Tigers. "We did not have that consistency and performance we've had all year, and some of it is who we played to- day," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "We played an outstand- ing football team. And because of it, we weren't as consistent as a football team as we had been. "So, very disappointing for our guys. I love the way they battled in the second half, but we let the second quarter get away from us and that was the difference in the game." The fact that Notre Dame defeated Clemson this November validated its case to be in the CFP a second time in three years. "There's no doubt this football team is one of the four best teams in the country, and we'll leave the rest up to the committee," Kelly said. FIRST QUARTER CLEMSON 7, NOTRE DAME 3 Top Moment: After a missed Notre Dame field goal from 24 yards by se- nior kicker Jonathan Doerer with 1:24 left, Lawrence on the third play found an open Amari Rodgers on a post play against sixth-year senior safety Shaun Crawford for a 67-yard touchdown with 41 seconds remaining. Feature Performer: Clemson fifth- year senior middle linebacker James Skalski, unavailable in the first game versus the Irish, recorded five tack- les, including a sack, and a pressure. Stats: Notre Dame ran 17 plays for 120 yards, completing 5 of 6 passes for 75 yards and rushing 11 times for 45. Clemson's 10 plays netted 111 yards, 67 on the touchdown pass. The Irish had the ball 11:03 to the Tigers' 3:57. Items: On the game's opening series, freshman tight end Michael Mayer caught 12- and 15-yard passes on third-and-five and third-and-eight to keep the chains moving, and in between senior slot receiver Avery Davis had a 16-yard reception. A sack of Book on third-and-eight by Skal- ski forced a 51-yard field goal that was converted by the Charlotte na- tive Doerer … Clemson responded by driving to Notre Dame's 34-yard line, but on second-and-five there, Lawrence's pass over the middle was tipped by senior linebacker Drew White and intercepted by sopho- more safety Kyle Hamilton that he CARBON COPY Clemson's 34-10 victory over Notre Dame in the ACC Championship was a mirror image of the 30-3 rout in the 2018 College Football Playoff Clemson star junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence accounted for 412 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, with 90 yards and one score (a 34-yarder) coming on the ground. PHOTO BY JEFF SINER, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/ COURTESY ACC MEDIA

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