5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame v. Clemson ’18

This one was a tough one to write.  Every week I write about 5 things I liked and didn’t like from that week’s game in separate columns.  Today it was tough to find five things I liked in Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Clemson yesterday afternoon in the Cotton Bowl, but as they say, the show must go on.  Despite the disappointing end to the season, there are always some positives that can be found so here are some from yesterday.

1. The tailgate thrown by NDTex of Her Loyal Sons

The first and most obvious was the tailgate thrown by @ndtex of Her Loyal Sons.  Ryan put together a world class tailgate that just so happened to be right next to the tailgate of Mike Golic Jr.  There was so much food and beverages there that I am pretty sure Tex has his beer for the NFL playoffs all set already.

Fans from all over came out to the tailgate and it was awesome getting a chance to meet so many new Notre Dame fans.  Like a lot of trips for big Notre Dame games, the tailgate really was the highlight of the day unfortunately.  It also got me thinking that it is about time we do another UHND tailgate.  It’s been far too many years since we last tried to organize anything official.  We’ll try to get something set up for next season.

2. Alohi Gilman’s 19 tackles

The Notre Dame defense was exploited in the 2nd quarter when it lost Julian Love.  Clemson scored three touchdowns with Love on the sidelines as the Irish scrambled to adjust without their All-American corner.  That span which ripped open the game clouded the performance of some on defense including safety Alohi Gilman.

Gilman racked up an insane 19 tackles on Saturday afternoon.  He was victimized for one of those Clemson touchdowns but he was also tasked with covering Justyn Ross one on one in the slot on that play.  That is an assignment that few, if any safeties in college football will come out on top off.

Gilman helped solidify the safety position for Notre Dame along with Jalen Elliott who went from a guy that everyone thought would be replaced to a guy known for making big plays this year.  It will be interesting to see what Notre Dame does at safety next year with Gilman and Coleman with so much really good young talent behind them with Derrik Allen, Houston Griffith, and Kyle Hamilton.  Yesterday though, Gilman left everything on the field for the Irish defense.

3. Plays made by Notre Dame’s reserve defensive lineman

A couple reserve defensive linemen made some big plays for Notre Dame yesterday too and that is a great sign for the future.  Ade Ogundeji recorded a big sack when the game was still close and Jayson Ademilola contributed a tackle for loss in a reserve role as well.  If Notre Dame wants to get back to this game and put up a better showing, they are going to need a deeper defensive line to do it.

Ogundeji is a really interesting player for 2019 since he still has two years of eligibility left.  His sack yesterday was the first full sack of his career (he had 0.5 against Wake Forest).  When he committed to Notre Dame he was extremely raw and still learning football.  It is very possible that his best football is still very much ahead of him and that he could be a really key kog in the Notre Dame defensive line rotation next  year.

Ademilola is likely going to be a starter for the Irish next year, taking over for Jerry Tillery.  He flashed at times throughout the season and was solid as his backup yesterday.

4. Jonathan Bonner had maybe the best game of his career

While the reserve linemen flashed for the Irish, the starters were actually pretty quiet.  Not Jonathan Bonner though.  When Notre Dame had success early in containing the Clemson run game, a lot of it had to do with Bonner plugging away at the nose tackle position and being disruptive.

Earlier this year I wrote that Notre Dame needed some more out of Bonner after a slow start to his 5th year and he certainly ended his career on a high note for Notre Dame.  Julian Okwara had a couple good plays, Khalid Kareem too.  Jerry Tillery was largely ineffective in the last game of his career and added a boneheaded late hit.  Bonner though quietly made plays for the Irish throughout the contest.  If the entire defensive line played like Bonner did on Saturday, Clemson would not have scored 30 points.

5. The progress made by this team over the last year

It’s really hard to look to positively on a blowout loss like yesterday’s but more progress has been made in the rebuilding of Notre Dame under Brian Kelly in his “second stint”.  Undefeated regular seasons are not common in college football.  Yes, it was abundantly clear that there still is a large gap between Notre Dame and the Clemson and Alabamas of the world, but guess what?  That gap exists between them and almost every other team as well.

Notre Dame was 4-8 two years ago but competed in the College Football Playoffs yesterday.  A lot of work still has to be done.  Notre Dame absolutely needs better play from the quarterback and has to upgrade its athleticism at wide receiver, but the gap in defensive talent is not near what it was six years ago when the Irish got shell-shocked in Miami in the Title game.

The Irish have a lot to figure out this off-season if they want to build on this year and improve in 2019, but the progress made this year should not be lost on anyone – even after an embarrassing 30-3 performance that only feeds the narrative of Notre Dame not belonging in the playoffs in the first place.

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  1. If we go undefeated next year, it will be hard to keep them out of the playoff. We play Georgia at Georgia and Michigan at Michigan. Throw in Virginia Tech, USC, and Stanford…tough to keep us out.

  2. I mean what a loser little Davey boy is. You punk out after ND wins all season long only to reappear after they lose. Recall I predicted this troll loser would do that. Really little boy go get a life and leave mommy’s basement!

  3. You do realize that early on, Claypool drops a sure 1st down. Then Book missed a wide open Armstrong behind the defense. Later, Book under threw an open Boykin behind the D. Possible 21 points right there. Take away the 3 50 plus yard Touchdowns and the yardage is equal. A deflected pass caught for a touchdown. Clemson had illegal motion on a play that the Irish had a sack on only to watch them score on 3rd and 15 instead of 4th down. The Irish have a bunch of good players eligible to come back on both sides of the ball. 11-1 or 12-0 isn’t out of the question

  4. They got their ass handed to them by better players and coaching and they need to get stronger they dropped ike flies they to schedule a couple sec teams to play during regular season

    1. Davif, what is ND’s record against SEC teams during BK’s era anyway? Do you have any idea?

      BGC ’77 ’82

  5. If ND ever goes 12-0 again…big IF …..they sure won’t be getting picked for the 4-team playoff again. Not after this repeat.

    And if it ever gets increased to 8 teams, AND they go 12-0, it is possible they might be shoved in at 6, 7 or 8. Meaning they’d play one of the top 3. And get completely waxed again.

    But a payday is a payday. And that’s the standard for ND football excellence now, in case you missed it.

    Not my Saturdays.

  6. During the regular season, there were two teams that exploited Clemson’s defensive backfield for like 400 yds in the air. Did our coaches learn anything from viewing those tapes?
    Didn’t appear that way.

    Book, sadly, was outclassed all game. Appears like when his intended target was covered, rather than have a desiged outlet ready, he scrambled.
    When it was 3rd and long, he looked to complete something short of the yard to gain. Do I blame him, or the game plan that Kelly and Long had 5 weeks to devise?
    A real negative with Book is his touch on deep passes. I can’t remember a deep pass that led a receiver. Most were completed when receivers stopped to attempt a catch.

    On D, except for being burned for three scores after Love went down, two on Vaughn and one on Gilman, who obviously was told to favor Vaughn’s side. Even with Love in, if those possessions resulted in FG’s we lose 18-3. With no apparent offensive, it’s still a loss.

    Kelly will never admit HIS preparation failures, but the loss has to be put on the lack of an offensive game plan to exploit Clemson’s only proven shortcoming.

  7. Frank well said. What’s done is done. I’m already looking forward to next season and Irish knocking on the door of playoffs again. 11-1 , 12-0 can be achieved. Irish are getting to elite — like the other top programs who are also trying to “cut that distance” of Alabama and Clemson. Oklahoma with a Heisman QB were down 28-0 to the Tide. Are the Sooners an elite program ? Yes , because they continually win 10, 11 or 12 games a season–as do the other so called elite teams Georgia , Ohio State. Who are the other so called elite teams — Texas A&M , LSU , Michigan , Washington , Miami , USC , Wisconsin , Oregon , Penn State ? Were they knocking on the door to get into the Final Four despite coaching changes. What happened to that once storied program called Nebraska. Will Texas , TCU , Baylor from a state filled with high school talent ever get back to their glory years ? Notre Dame football program is getting better compared to some of the other “elites.” Irish are recruiting better players to fill needs at positions. The O-Line of 2018 was/is a work in progress. Mustipher was the only seasoned veteran (Bars lost to injury). Nelson/McGlinchey were young too —then became 1st round draft picks a couple seasons later. I hate what happened that Irish tanked versus Clemson — but as an Irish loyal fan my whole life — I look forward to the season. The ND program is not elite with Alabama/Clemson yet —who is among the other so called elite programs ? Irish path ahead is to continue progress of 10, 11, 12 wins a season and keep knocking on that playoff door.

  8. Unfortunately, ND is still a notch below the elite level. Close but no cigar. Kelly is a very good coach
    but not elite. Recruiting is very good, but without a five star skilled player and/or defensive lineman, not elite. QB position is and has been very good but not elite. The question is can the Irish get to that level where they can win the NC, not just be in the playoffs

  9. I agree on the UHND tailgate.

    Just looked 2019 home schedule. Other than USC, it should be an easy year to get tickets.

  10. I give you credit for finding 5 positive things. Notably they were all on defense. I noticed some other comments that the defense played hard but were just on the field too long. I can’t argue with that, and when your offense only manages 3 points, that has to have an effect on the defense eventually. Maybe we’ll see it in the 5 things Frank didn’t like, but the entire offense would pretty much qualify. They just didn’t show up. I can’t really blame the defense all that much.

    I’d like to think we are building toward something better. But I’m a lot more pessimistic about that then Frank. He’s right, there are only maybe 3-5 teams out there that are capable of playing at Alabama’s level. And those teams are all in a class by themselves. There is almost no parity between elite teams in CFB and the rest of the field. The anti-ND crowd will never admit it, but ND is probably one of the better teams in the ‘rest of the field’ column. It’s those 3-5 elite teams they just can’t seem to join. And I’m not sure they ever will again. ND is never going to create nonsense ‘general studies’ type majors, help their players ‘cheat’, gray shirt underperforming players, over recruit and look the other way when players get into trouble.

    And worse, after the egg they laid I really think the committee will think twice about giving a playoff spot to ND in the future even if they go 12-0 (forget it if we lose any games). Not saying we won’t necessarily get in, but a 1 loss conference champion will likely get the nod if ND struggles with some of those wins.

  11. I really liked how Brian Kelly vindicated me and verified my opinion of him as a coach. It was very gracious of him.

    That’s about the only thing I liked at all.
    That game was a waste of a very nice Saturday, and I had sworn off that this year.

    1. How did the coaching affect the game yesterday. Our offense shot themselves in the foot with penalties and dropped passes and the officials upstairs finished us off by overturning three 50/50 plays one of which may have really turned the game around. Football when teams are fairly even or one is not quite as good are so affected by momentum.

      1. Rayjay, David’s only measure of success is a NC. So anytime BK, or anyone else, fails to win the NC, he is vindicated. Presumably his entire do-nothing life is vindicated along with him. So a perfect regular season and a playoff spot mean nothing to him, except to ratify that he is right again. David could be admired for having the highest of all standards – except that he doesn’t apply those very high standards to himself, only to others. How do I know this? Because I have coached, and I know firsthand how hard it is to go undefeated, how hard it is to win a State Championship, and even how hard it is to win a National Title…before and throughout the season. It is clear to me that “David” whoever he is, is nobody’s coach…but he is a critic to all.

        BGC ’77 ’82

      2. Bruce, it actually goes much further then that as he actually roots for ND to lose to be vindicated. SFR is a huge BK critic but even he doesn’t cross that line.

        I too have been a BK critic since the 2016 debacle but I’ll never root for the Irish to lose.

      3. A blind squirrel could be head coach at ND and get 4 wins. That doesn’t make him a good coach.

        ND has no head coach. It has an overpaid zombie saying bland words.

        Enjoy watching older and older videos in those UnderArmour hats and T-shirts.

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