Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 12, 2022

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

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22 NOV. 12, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Notre Dame sent an early and emphatic mes- sage that it came to play and was poised to pull off an upset. Following Clemson's first offensive drive of the game that yielded negative-4 yards on 3 plays, Irish junior linebacker Jordan Botelho blocked the Tigers' punt and sophomore linebacker Prince Kollie snagged it in midair and returned 17 yards for a touchdown. It was the sixth blocked punt of the season for Notre Dame — which leads the country — and now has four in its last three games. The play set the tone for the night and staked the Irish to an early 7-0 lead that they never relinquished. A quick start was important for the Fighting Irish, and they got it. The Notre Dame faithful had barely settled into its seats before the Irish made this tone-setting play that may end up one of the most-memorable moments this season. It was the third consecutive win for Notre Dame and the third straight game in which it never trailed. STATS OF THE GAME Notre Dame called on a familiar offensive for- mula in the solid win — run early, run often, run late and don't overthink things. For the third straight game, Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees didn't keep any secrets what his game plan would be. Led by nifty work from the two-headed sopho- more tailback combo of Audric Estime and Logan Diggs, Notre Dame finished with a season-high 263 yards rushing. Diggs had 17 carries for 114 yards, 82 of which came in the second half. Es- time complemented his teammate nicely, tallying 18 carries for 104 yards with 1 touchdown. Most illustrative of the solid game plan and im- pressive work Notre Dame delivered on offense came during an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that used 10 rushing plays and gave the Irish a 14-0 halftime lead that was never threatened in the second half. The Irish won the rushing battle 263-90 and averaged 5.6 yards per carry behind a stout of- fensive line that is making its case right now as one of the best in the country. WIND MATTERS Much of the chatter the week leading up to the game was about the windy conditions it would be played under, and Mother Nature lived up to her expectations. Playing in sustained winds of about 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 35 miles per hour, Notre Dame — because of its sturdy run game and hawk- ing defense — survived the elements much better than the Clemson team from South Carolina. Offenses that moved from south to north inside Notre Dame Stadium (toward Touchdown Jesus) held the advantage of a tailwind in the passing and kicking games. With its favorable possession direction coming in the first and third quarters, Clemson on those six possessions managed only 29 plays for 106 yards on its six drives, which ended with 4 punts, 1 turnover on downs, 1 interception and zero points. With the wind at its back in the second and fourth quarters, Notre Dame scored 2 offensive touchdowns and had 3 drives that included at least 7 plays, grabbing another advantage in this important category. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY TODD D. BURLAGE CORNERBACK BENJAMIN MORRISON The true freshman was the headliner on a stout Notre Dame defense. Morrison helped the Irish stretch their lead to 21-0 early in the fourth quar- ter after his first interception set up a 14-yard touchdown drive. As an en- core, he added a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown on Clemson's ensuing possession to make the score 28-0 and put the game out of reach. LINEBACKER PRINCE KOLLIE The sophomore snagged a blocked punt by junior linebacker Jordan Botelho in midair and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game. TAILBACK LOGAN DIGGS The sophomore highlighted a dominating Irish running game that hit the nation's seventh-best rushing defense with 263 yards rushing. Diggs finished with 114 yards rushing on 17 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry. TAILBACK AUDRIC ESTIME The sophomore nicely complemented Diggs, recording 18 carries for 104 yards with 1 touchdown. On a night when 76 percent of the Irish offense came from their ground game, Estime continued his strong play. TIGHT END MICHAEL MAYER The junior ended his night with 4 catches for 44 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown catch with 4:16 in the fourth quarter that gave him 16 scoring catches for his career, a new Irish record. The All-American now holds the trifecta of career receiving records (catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions) for a Notre Dame tight end. LINEBACKER JD BERTRAND The senior anchored an Irish defense that held Clemson to only 90 yards rushing. Bertrand paced the team with 12 tackles and put the wraps on star Tigers running back Will Shipley, who was held to 63 yards rushing, 34 below his season average. GAME BALLS BY TODD D. BURLAGE Sophomore tailback Logan Diggs led the way for the Irish's dominating ground attack, rushing for a team-high 114 yards. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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