Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

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

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Page 27 of 63

28 JAN. 1, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GROUNDED ATTACK In Notre Dame's first matchup with Clemson on Nov. 7, the Irish offense repeatedly gashed Clemson on the ground. In that contest, Notre Dame averaged 5.1 yards per carry, with sophomore running back Kyren Williams carving up the Tigers' defense for 140 yards and three touchdowns. Fifth-year se- nior quarterback Ian Book's legs were also a thorn in Clemson's side, with him accounting for 67 yards of his own. When the two programs met again in the ACC Championship, the Notre Dame offense — which averaged 235.0 rushing yards per game in its first 10 contests — couldn't get much going on the ground and ultimately pro- duced a meager 1.5 yards per carry. Williams was limited to 50 yards on 15 carries (3.3 yards per attempt), his third-lowest rushing total of the season. It was also only the third con- test this fall where Williams averaged fewer than 5.0 yards per carry. The others came against Pittsburgh (2.2) and Boston College (4.1). "We were not very good running the ball on first down," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "We had some negative yardage plays. It's the nature of playing an opponent a sec- ond time. They're going to do some things, and we're making some ad- justments on the sideline." But the biggest adjustment Clem- son made was keeping Book in the pocket, which took away his ability to create with his legs. He finished the game with minus-35 rushing yards. Remove six sacks from that total, and Book still only accounted for four yards on four carries. "They were not rushing quite as hard off the edge as you saw," Kelly said. "They were much more in a contain mode to keep him from getting out- side. They did a nice job of minimizing his ability to get big-chunk runs. "Trying to keep him at bay was obvi- ously part of the game plan, and they did it by the way they rushed their front four and then they brought a little bit more pressure from inside out and flushed him out to ends that were not up field. They were staying flat and to the level of the quarterback." SECOND QUARTER FLIPS GAME Notre Dame began the second quarter with a chunk gain. It trudged into halftime having allowed too many of them. One play into the frame, the Irish were at Clemson's 35-yard line af- ter fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book connected with junior tight end Tommy Tremble for a 30-yard com- pletion. The drive went nowhere, though. Three runs for a combined seven yards by Williams and a drop by senior wide receiver Avery Davis on a ball thrown a bit behind him produced a turnover on downs. Clemson took over, on its own 28, and unloaded a torrent of scores. The Tigers outscored Notre Dame 17-0 in the second quarter, averaging 9.9 yards per play. First was a 33-yard touchdown from Lawrence to fresh- man wide receiver E.J. Williams. Then an eight-play drive resulted in a Clemson field goal. Finally, an 88-yard march that took 1:49 and ended on senior running back Travis Etienne's 44-yard touchdown on fourth-and- one with 21 seconds left in the half. In the second quarter alone, Clem- son had four completions of 15 yards or more and four runs of 10-plus yards. "Just the small things we didn't do right," senior rover Jeremiah Owusu- Koramoah said. "I don't think it was a lot on their part they did different. It was the things we didn't execute. I think that was the difference." Meanwhile, Notre Dame went three-and-out and four-and-out in the ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME NOTES BY ANDREW MENTOCK AND PATRICK ENGEL Sophomore running back Kyren Williams had just 50 yards on 15 carries as part of Notre Dame's unpro- ductive rushing day. PHOTO BY KEN RUINARD-USA TODAY SPORTS/COURTESY ACC MEDIA INSTANT TAKEAWAYS FROM FORMER NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER MIKE GOOLSBY • "It's like a cultural thing, where the kids play robotic. They don't do anything outside of their natural ability. In run fits on defense, the players were like magnets. They stick to blocks and don't really get their heads in the play. It's disappointing to see." • "We need more kids to infuse grit into the program because the talent is there. I think the missing links are the fun aspect — you watch Clemson's and those dudes have fun —and the toughness where, if someone throws a punch at you, you're going to swing back." Join us after every game for the Live Show on YouTube!'s Mike Singer and former Fighting Irish captain and linebacker Mike Goolsby will recap the game and give their instant analysis:

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