Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

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

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Page 22 of 63 JAN. 1, 2021 23 CLEMSON RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Often underrated as a runner, junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence (14 carries for 90 yards) gave the Irish defense a zone-read element it didn't have to concern itself with as much with freshman D.J. Uiagalelei on Nov. 7. Clemson also did not try to force the ball to senior running back Travis Etienne, who was limited to 28 yards on 18 carries the first time. The Tigers threw the ball on six of their first seven plays, and with two minutes left in the first half, Etienne had only four carries for 23 yards. Then on the back-breaking 88-yard drive right before halftime, Etienne car- ried four times for 75 yards, with a 44-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one left to make it 24-3 just 21 seconds before halftime to seal the deal. The gaps on that drive were made possible in great part because of the threat Lawrence posed as a runner that Notre Dame had to honor. Clemson patiently waited to pick its time with Etienne (10 carries for 124 yards). Once Etienne also became established, Lawrence then scored Clemson's final touchdown on a 34-yard quarterback counter play. ADVANTAGE: Clemson CLEMSON PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Uiagalelei's 439 yards passing yards on Nov. 7 were a record against the Irish, but Lawrence's 322 (25 of 36) were more efficient because the defense now also had to cover areas horizontally with the zone read on running plays. This helped senior wide receiver Amari Rodgers break free easily on the 67- yard post route for the first touchdown. On the second touchdown, Lawrence's pocket presence and instincts showed on his 33-yard touchdown pass to fresh- man wideout E.J. Williams while evading the rush. ADVANTAGE: Clemson NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. CLEMSON RUN DEFENSE Sophomore running back Kyren Williams had a 24-yard burst to the Clemson 10- yard line on the second Irish series, and freshman Chris Tyree's lone carry produced a window dressing 21-yard touchdown with about eight minutes left in the game. That's all she wrote for Notre Dame with two those scampers that totaled 45 yards — on a day when it finished with 44 net yards on the ground. That meant the rest of the game the net was minus-one, primarily because of six quarterback sacks. The return of sophomore defensive tackle Tyler Davis in the middle along with fifth-year senior linebacker James Skalski, plus the absence of Irish junior center Jarrett Patterson, made a significant difference in going from 208 rush- ing yards on Nov. 7 to just 44 on Dec. 19. ADVANTAGE: Clemson NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. CLEMSON PASS DEFENSE After getting constantly burned by fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book's scrambles in the first game where he totaled 67 yards on the ground, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables did not go downhill as aggressively with his edge players. They kept everything pinched to the inside while refusing to allow Book to break containment. The result was a 102-yard difference in rushing at quarterback, with six sacks resulting in a minus-35 total for the crafty Book. Almost all were coverage sacks, or pressures, because with more players often dropping into coverage, Book repeatedly was not able to find much separation by the recruiting corps, especially deep downfield. The wideout trio of Javon McKinley, Ben Skowronek and Avery Davis that combined for 213 yards versus the Tigers in November were reduced to half that (106) this time. ADVANTAGE: Clemson SPECIAL TEAMS It started off promising for Charlotte native and senior kicker Jonathan Doerer with his 51-yard field goal on the opening series, but the missed 24-yard at- tempt on the next series dramatically altered momentum. B.T. Potter converted both of his field goals for the Tigers, and a 37-yard kickoff return by Etienne to open the second half provided Clemson some early field position advantage. Both punters had strong games while combining to pin the opponent inside its 20-yard line seven times. ADVANTAGE: Clemson THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame opened the game 2 of 2 on the game's opening series, setting up a 51-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead. It was 1 of 10 thereafter to finish at 25 percent. Of the six times Book was sacked, four were in third-and-longs, includ- ing twice on third-and-11. Just as crucial, trailing only 7-3, on fourth-and-three at Clemson's 28, a scrambling Book's toss to a wide open Davis fell incomplete when the ball was a little behind him. Clemson was 8 of 14 (57.1 percent). It converted third-and-seven and third- and-one during the crucial touchdown march right before halftime — with the 44-yard touchdown occurring on fourth-and-one. Another crushing play was Williams' spectacular 22-yard one-handed grab on third-and-nine from the Tigers' 18-yard line on a touchdown march that would make it 31-3. ADVANTAGE: Clemson TURNOVERS Just like in November, Notre Dame won this area, 1-0 (while recovering three of its own fumbles). But sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton's interception on Clemson's first series of the contest proved inconsequential with a missed 24-yard field goal. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS Plain and simple, Lawrence's presence on offense plus Davis' and Skalski's on defense were game-changers, specifically with the running attacks. In Novem- ber, Notre Dame outrushed Clemson 208-34, but this time it was the Tigers who had a 219-44 domination. On offense, Lawrence's exceptional execution of the zone read flummoxed Notre Dame and opened up both the inside and outside for the hard-charging Etienne. Defensively, Davis and Skalski set and controlled the middle, where the Irish were a little more vulnerable without Patterson. That also enabled Clemson to drop more players into coverage, making life more difficult for Book to find open targets. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Clemson running back Travis Etienne found a lot more room to run than in the first matchup with the Fighting Irish, busting loose for 124 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. PHOTO BY JEFF SINER, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER/COURTESY ACC MEDIA

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