Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

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

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Page 20 of 55 NOV. 12, 2022 21 NOTRE DAME PASSING OFFENSE: C- Notre Dame is winning in spite of its passing of- fense. Period. Junior quarterback Drew Pyne completed 9 of 17 throws for 85 yards with 1 touchdown. He connected with junior tight end Michael Mayer 4 times for 44 yards and the 1 score. Sophomore wideout Jayden Thomas was the only Notre Dame wide receiver who caught a pass. He had 3 recep- tions for 15 yards. Junior running back Chris Tyree had 2 catches for 26 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Styles dropped another pass. Pyne didn't look in the direction of graduate student Braden Lenzy for a single target. He threw it at freshman Tobias Mer- riweather once. The pockets are clean, for the most part. Pyne was knocked down a few times but only sacked once. That was in the first quarter. The Irish are struggling to throw the ball effectively of late, and it has nothing to do with the offensive line, but it's not an insurmountable deficiency when the run- ning game is rolling like it is. NOTRE DAME RUSHING OFFENSE: A+ About that running game; how about 45 rushes for 266 yards excluding sacks and kneel downs? Against what was previously a top-10 rushing de- fense in the country, no less? That's called having a night. Notre Dame is getting its way in the ground game. The offensive line is pushing piles and soph- omore running backs Audric Estime and Logan Diggs are pushing people around. Diggs ran 17 times for 114 yards. Estime carried 18 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Tyree has become the odd man out in the rotation, but he still ran 7 times for 26 yards. Even Pyne ran around a bit for 22 yards on 3 carries and a touchdown excluding 1 sack for a loss of 1 yard. The Irish identity is plain as day. Notre Dame wants to run the football. Right now, it's doing so with authority. NOTRE DAME PASSING DEFENSE: A Take away a garbage time score and this might have been an A+. Freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison picked off both Clemson quarterbacks, junior starter DJ Uiagalelei and freshman five-star Cade Klubnik. He returned the one off the hand of Uiagalelei for a 96-yard touchdown. He set up the Irish offense with a short field one the one off the hand of the freshman. Uiagalelei never looked comfortable enough to test the middle of the field. Notre Dame held him to 27-of-39 passing for 191 passing yards (just 4.9 yards per attempt). The interception was the only pass Klubnik attempted. The Notre Dame pass rush got to the quarter- back four times for a loss of 26 yards. A couple of those occurred on third down. The Irish certainly did not let the Clemson passing attack beat them. NOTRE DAME RUSHING DEFENSE: A The Irish didn't let the Clemson rushing attack beat them, either. Excluding sacks and a backwards pass thrown out of bounds for a loss of seven yards, the Tigers ran 20 times for 123 yards. That's 6.2 yards per carry, but it was a rather hollow night of efficient running for Clemson. Uiagalelei scrambled for 36 yards on 3 carries when the game was already effectively out of reach in the fourth quarter. Former Notre Dame recruiting target Will Shipley ran 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown, but only 1 of those totes came in the fourth quarter. What he did through three quarters clearly wasn't enough to keep Clemson in the game. Overall, it was a solid night for the Notre Dame front in stopping the run. NOTRE DAME SPECIAL TEAMS: A+ When is special teams coordinator Brian Ma- son's statue going up outside Notre Dame Sta- dium? In all seriousness, a sixth punt block this season and a fourth in the last three games is quite a clip for the Irish. Mason has instilled an aggressive mindset in these guys that has clearly resonated. Junior linebacker Jordan Botelho was the fifth different Irish player to block a punt this year. Sophomore linebacker Prince Kollie, another one of the punt blockers this fall, scooped it out of the air and returned it for a touchdown to give the Irish a 7-0 lead. Just like a week prior with a pick-6 on the first play from scrimmage vs. Syracuse, Notre Dame got off on the right foot. This time, the special teams did it. The Irish's average starting field position was their own 35. The Tigers' was their own 20. That's a huge difference over the course of several pos- sessions. Graduate student punter Jon Sot downed two punts inside the 10-yard line. All systems were a go on special teams again. NOTRE DAME COACHING: A+ Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it him- self in his postgame press conference. He was outcoached. Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman got his guys ready to go. Urgency? Check. See the 14-0 half- time lead. Execution? Enough of a check. See an important 78-yard drive that culminated in an offensive touchdown with 38 seconds left in the second quarter to take the two-score lead into the break. This doesn't look like a floundering team search- ing for an identity anymore. It looks like one that has come to terms with what it is and does all the things to maximize potential. That's on coaching. Freeman deserves credit for it. REPORT CARD BY TYLER HORKA Sophomore Audric Estime posted his third 100-yard game of the season and second in a row, tallying 104 yards and a touchdown against Clemson's stingy rush defense. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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