5 Things I Liked: Salvaging Positives in the Aftermath of Notre Dame’s Loss to Clemson

Notre Dame’s dream season came crashing back down to reality on Saturday. The previously undefeated Fighting Irish took one on the chin at the hands of Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. While the Tigers reminded the Irish who the current royalty in college football is, there were still a few positives – you just had to squint hard to see some of them.

Chris Tyree’s touchdown

Why Chris Tyree, one of Notre Dame’s fastest players, didn’t touch the ball until the fourth quarter when the outcome had long been decided, I don’t know. It’s a decision that Tommy Rees and Brian Kelly will have to try to wrap their heads around for a while. What I do know is when Tyree finally got the ball, he made a good thing happen.

Tyree only got one carry in the entire game. He took that one carry 21 yards into the endzone completely untouched. It seems like maybe someone with Tyree’s speed should have been utilized a little earlier when the offense struggled.

Tyree only got two carries in the last game against Clemson, one of which was a four-yard loss. That’s not enough of a body of work to keep the talented freshman on the sidelines for three and a half quarters, though.

If Notre Dame is going to have any chance of being competitive with Alabama in the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame has to get players like Tyree involved earlier.

The play of the Ademilola brothers

Notre Dame fans were down on the play of the defense as a whole on Saturday, but at the end of the day, the defense only gave up one more point to Clemson this time around than they did last time around. And this time, the Tigers had Trevor Lawrence. I get being disappointed that the defense couldn’t come up with big stops like they usually do (see Travis Etienne’s long touchdown run on 4th and 1 at the end of the first half. Still, the defense wasn’t the biggest issue by far for Notre Dame.

Two players, in particular, stood out to be on defense – Justin and Jayson Ademilola. The junior twins from New Jersey were active and disruptive when they got in the game. The stat sheet only shows three tackles combined for the brothers, but that doesn’t tell the story of how well they played.

Seeing the Ademilola brothers raise their level of play should be very encouraging to Notre Dame fans because both figures to start for the Irish in 2021. Jayson is a virtual lock at defensive tackle, and Justin isn’t far behind at strongside DE.

Kyle Hamilton’s first interception of the season

It seems shocking that Kyle Hamilton didn’t have a single interception in the regular season (one was stolen from him against Boston College), but it didn’t take long for Hamilton to get one in the ACC Championship Game. Hamilton’s pick of Trevor Lawrence on Clemson’s first drive was about the high point of optimism for Notre Dame fans on the day – that was five minutes into the game.

Hamilton would later leave the game with an ankle injury that Brian Kelly later described as nagging but not something that will keep him off the field against Alabama.

It’s been an up and down year for Hamilton after bursting on to the scene in 2019. The massive breakout we all expected didn’t quite happen. We’ll see if Hamilton can make another big play or two in the playoffs.

The punting of Jay Bramblett

Almost any time the punter makes the “5 Things I Liked” column that tells you all you need to know about the outcome of the game. Unfortunately, Bramblett was a busy man in Charlotte, kicking six times for a 48.2 yards per punt average and a net average of 47.8. Four of Bramblett’s six punts landed inside the Clemson 20 yard line, and he had two punts of 50+ yards – the longest of which traveled 59 yards.

It was Bramblett’s most effective outing of the season. On the year, Bramblett averaged just 42.5 yards per punt (including his stats from Saturday). His 59-yarder was also the longest of the season, and before Saturday, he had only pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line seven times in 33 attempts.

Make no mistake; it was a great day at the office for Jay Bramblett. Any time your punter is one of your best players, though, you probably got blown out, similar to how Notre Dame did on Saturday.

Jonathan Doerer’s 51-yard field goal, an ACCCG record, would have made this list if his next kick, a 24-yarder wouldn’t have bounced off the upright.

Notre Dame still making the playoffs despite falling flat

While Saturday was maddeningly frustrating to everyone, Notre Dame is still in the playoffs. It might not feel that great this time around since it’s on the heels of a blowout that casts a whole lot of doubt about Notre Dame’s chances, but it’s the playoffs nonetheless. Plenty of other programs would love to be in the fourth position trying to figure out how to slow down a juggernaut like Alabama.

Take a look at Notre Dame’s two oldest rivals – USC and Michigan. The two storied programs have combined for zero trips to the College Football Playoff since their inception. Notre Dame is preparing itself for its second, even if this trip is likely to be as short-lived as the last.

We’ll have the entire off-season to debate how Brian Kelly can get Notre Dame over the hump – or if he ever will – but not many people expected Notre Dame to be one of the final four teams this year, and they are. If you are upset about that, well, then I can’t do anything for you. We get two more weeks in a screwed-up year to dare to dream that maybe, just maybe, the impossible happens. After all that’s happened in 2020, I can think of a lot of worse ways to ring in the new year.

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28 Comments

  1. I am not real optimistic that ND will prevail against Alabama. I am counting on a blowout. Hope I am wrong but I don’t think I will be. I have been a fan/follower of ND football for the last 50 years. I have had opportunities to see great coaches ( Ara & Lou) a pretty good coach ( Devine), a good coach ( Kelly) and some piss poor coaches ( Faust, Davie, Willingham, Weiss). I have nothing to offer that is new other than a personal observation/opinion of the current state of ND football. I have reached a level of acceptance as a fan. ND will not win a national championship, most likely never, and especially with the current coach. ND may continue to have winning seasons (9 or 10 win seasons on average) and maybe a surprise win over a top 5 team once in awhile, but, I no longer foresee ND being in any conversation with being considered as an elite team. It just isn’t going to happen because the Admin doesn’t mind it being that way. I get what the mission of the university is, but, it sometimes is hard when you want to see success like ND teams from the past enjoyed. A problem that I also see is how what talent ND does have, a lack of consistent development of that talent. To me, that’s all about who is running the program. It does make me wonder if acoach with a “little more hard nose” and a coaching skill set of developing players might have some impact and especially being able to get a team more prepared for big games. Who is that coach? Frankly, I don’t know, other than I know it’s not the current coach ( or Urban Meyer-he would never be hired by the current Admin). I think Kelly has accomplished various things good for the program. His inability to get his teams up for big games however is quite glaring. After 50 years, I am not going to go cheer for some other team. I am coming to acceptance that national championships will not be played for in earnest by this program because that road ( as of now) will not be traveled down as to what would need to occur to put the program on a more level playing field with Bama, Clemson, or OSU to truly be competitive in winning a NC. Just because ND is in the CFP doesn’t mean they are actually competing for it. After what happened on Saturday, I think ND is the odd duck out in the CFP group of 4 ( even with OSU’s lack of overall games I have no doubt from a talent point of view, they would fare better than ND against the other 2 teams). I am guessing it will be a long off season. I think Kelly has further evaluating to do about his own staff and how he seems to be under utilizing talent ( Chris Tyree in the Clemson game). His hire for the DC I think is paramount. Borrowing a line from SFR, we will achieve to be a hell of a Ivy League elite power, elite, for a Midwest Ivy program👍. Since I don’t think the TPTB are not interested in NC’s, maybe it’s time to act upon the little experiment done this season and go FT in the ACC for football. The Independence has not really transformed the program with getting the talent ( or coaching) that has brought home a NC , now has it. I know that is blasphemous to some posters on this blog, but really, has it really done for ND what is usually proclaimed as the reason to be Independent. 1988 has been a long time to raise a NC trophy. As I have opined, I don’t think that is ever going happen again. I hope the game against the Tide will be at least competitive versus a stomping. Go Irish

    1. SS: Sorry for your pain, You sound perhaps amenable to some advice:

      Personally, I have adjusted my college football expectations to fit the not-so-new reality.
      ND is the unique situation where monetizing its own history of past championships is more rewarding than taking the risks required to possibly win new ones.
      Undeniably smart on their part, terribly unsatisfying for its rabid, blinkered fans.

      My solution was to just watch games with the most potential for entertainment. Occasionally it is an ND game (this year, I watched both of the Clemson games). But far more often there are much better games on TV.

    2. “Stores”:

      I fell your pain, my brother.

      Amen to all you say. It’s about time some of us here start calling balls and strikes as they are. What you are reflecting is the sad reality for most of us die-hards: we’ve come to accept mediocrity. The ND administration is mediocre (beginning with Jenkins!), the AD is not much better, and the ND football coaches are over-rated (including Lea, but esp. the O line coaches).

      The bottom line is the powers that be in S. Bend care only for cash and not for football glory. However, what they don’t see is that ND football can’t continue on forever living off its storied past. ND will need to win something for NBC to continue to pony up to show ND’s home games. Mediocrity has an expiration date, Jenkins, Swarbrick, BK!

      I sadly think this game against Bama will be in historical perspective the beginning of the end of ND football as a program of note. The blowout will be so bad (perhaps as much as a forty point beatdown!) that no one will ever think of putting ND football in a big-time post-season game, whether POs or NY6. Don’t play in big games and your program fades into irrelevance!

      All we can do is pray for a miracle, but even if a miracle happens you can’t sustain a winning program solely on divine intervention!

      GO IRISH!

  2. We need to endure four more mediocre or close but no cigar seasons with BK at the helm cashing generous paychecks.

    Who knows what college sports will look like in four years. ND will either have to pay up to play up or will join the Ivy League.

    Regardless (not “irregardless like that illiterate Mike Tomlin says!), this program has to make a soul searching choice. Does it really try to keep up with the Joneses (aka., Bama, Clemson, Ohio St.) or does it continue its slow and inevitable demise into irrelevance. That’s the bottom line.

    And don’t give me or “david” shit for simply speaking truth to you blind mice here.

    1. If “david” is a troll, so be it. He’s at least a lot more informative than “Burgundy”.

      The “genetic fallacy” in formal logic is to confuse the argument for the source of the argument. Just because “david” (or whomever else) is a troll doesn’t disqualify what they say. As much as we might not like to hear it, ND is not elite or even near it. BK is over-rated. That’s what I take “david” says. And he’s right! I don’t care who he cheers for on Saturdays!

      1. Troll (n.) Slur, usually directed at an internet messageboard commenter who disagrees with another. Often relied on as a deflection or escape mechanism in a lost debate.

      2. David (n), – an Ohio State Brony who has pedophile tendencies and shows up on other teams forums with little to say of use. With Burghy would make a nice couple for the LGBTQ community. That is if David left his Mom’s basement.

  3. I like everyone on this board feels Notredame has little chance in this game. I also believe Notredame is better than any other team in the country not named Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. All these teams saying they should be in the playoff Texas A%m, Cincinnati, Oklahoma would all be blown out by Alabama as bad if not worse than Alabama. I just cant understand how Kelly in his 11th year at Notredame with his reputation as this great offensive gura can only score 10 points in a big game. Notredame will never win a national championship until they can put a 45 to 50 points a game unstoppable offense out on the field. This is the formula now. LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson. These teams dont have great defenses. Heck the last 3 years Notredames defense has been just as good or better than these teams. Offenses no comparisons. And it’s more than just the quarterback. Its receivers play calling, scheme, philosophy structure, development in game adjustments, game planning. Kelly needs to look at all of this in the off season.

    1. In effect what you’re saying “Pete” is that ND will not win a title of any kind under BK and this current AD and university administration.

      I agree!

      1. sadly, that maybe true. When Charlie Weis was the coach at Notredame everyone trolled him when he said I will out scheme them. Well remember what Kelly said when he was hired. To win national championships you got to be really good on defense. I will manufacture offense. Yea 10 points last game. In the playoffs 2 years ago 3 points. Do I need to go on. I’m sorry and I dont like the guy but if Urban Meyer was coaching Notredame this year they would have a 50/ 50 shot at the national championship. Also Jordan Johnson and Braden Lenzy would be playing and Notredame offense. Would be humming.

  4. Here’s a thing that you could spin into a like:
    Playing a dead possum so convincingly against Clemson yesterday, there’s no way on Earth Alabama players will take the semi-final game seriously. Even Saban won’t be able to threaten them into getting focused with a straight face.

      1. SFR: The matchup is a farce, and scheduling it nothing but pure contempt for college football fans.
        Texas A&M was “UCF’d”
        The opening line w ND as only a 17.5 point dog seems to predict ‘Bama will either sleepwalk through the 1at half, or after running up the score it shows mercy and rests players in the 2nd.

    1. “david,”

      In my opinion, neither ND nor A&M have a slam-dunk case for #4.

      While I think Ohio St. is a top 4 team, they haven’t proved it. They didn’t play a full schedule and struggled against both IU and NW.

      We’re back to the days of mythical NCs except that it’s under the veneer of the PO system. Let’s just go back to the old, geographically sensible conferences that bring back the old rivalries (e.g., Nebraska-OK) and bring back the old bowls and their tie-ins and then just declare a mythical NC. Plain and simple. But that would not be good for the NCAA’s overlord, ESPN. Like you yourself say, big money is involved (here you and “C-Dog” also agree!).

      As for the ND-Bama matchup, I don’t think ND has a chance in hell. BK will once again prove he’s worse than a five-year old at pissing and shitting on himself. This gutlessness translates to his teams on the field!

      1. If tOSU beats Clemson and Alabama, you might think about initiating a ‘National Championship Annulment’ strategy. With the utter lack of any argument to go on at that point, you could give Sidney Powell a call.

      2. Last year I felt Ohio St. was the best team in college football. They lost a ton of talent to the NFL and are not near the strength of last years team. They will lose to Clemson again. Bama will curb stomp Notre Dame which is why i will be playing in a golf skins game that day instead of watch the game live. Start 2021 with a solid plan B.

      3. Here’s an end of this tOSU debate:

        Does tOSU have at least a Puncher’s Chance of beating Clemson ? Ummmm…..I’d say so, yes.

        Does ND have a chance of any kind against Alabama? ….please stop laughing and answer the question….

    1. So now tOSU has the bulletin board material and an “edge”, like the Clemson team felt w/excited stampeding ND students insulting them while racing down onto the field (as per post-game comments by Skalski and Lawrence) after that Nov. victory. The whole team played as if they had something to prove, and they did. Ian looked confused and the O’ game plan “see if Book can escape the pressure” didn’t work very well. We’ll see just how much that ‘edge’ will matter with tOSU and their QBs injured right thumb! There appears to be two and then the rest. Wouldn’t look forward to go against Trask in the Orange Bowl either. Saban has decided to send his team home for three days over Christmas, but also challenged his team (as Venables and Dabo did) to play better D’ after they gave up 46 to Florida.
      For DL Lea, Kind of tough to game plan a D’ vs. a team that has their QB, RB, and WR all in the running for a Heisman. Agreed the Irish must score early (TDs, not FGs) and often, or it’s plan B by half time (but I admit I have no plan B- if I didn’t watch the whole game, I couldn’t appreciate as much the insults that follow the Irish losses). WE still have that right to moan and dismiss; the President didn’t deny us that yet, did he? He still can at least. #hislifemattersmore

      1. The 2020 season is now over, and Lea has a new job and a TON of meaningful, productive work that needs to get done. And ND has precisely ZERO chance of winning this next game, no matter who is blowing the whistle for the next 3 weeks.
        Lea has more than earned a grateful sendoff at ND. As of right now.

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