Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame Delivers All-Around 35-14 Beatdown of Clemson

Irish Click on All Cylinders in Rout of Tigers

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won their third straight game by delivering a rousing 35-14 victory over the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers on Saturday night. Using a potent running game on offense and delivering solid defense throughout the contest, the final score wasn’t indicative of how the Irish dominated the contest.

From the outset, it was clear that the Irish held the upper hand. Clemson, which entered the game averaging 37.1 points per game, was unable to get anything going and ended up paying for their mistakes. The victory marks the first time this season that Notre Dame has a winning record at home, with one more chance to improve on that mark when the Irish host Boston College in two weeks.

Some of the key aspects of the win included:

Special Teams Magic

The first Notre Dame score of the night came courtesy of a unit that’s thrived this season under Irish Special Teams Coordinator Brian Mason. With Clemson backed up near their own end zone, Jordan Botelho broke through the Tigers’ line and tipped a Clemson punt into the waiting hands of Prince Kollie who romped into the end zone for the early 7-0 advantage.

Representing the sixth blocked punt for Notre Dame this season, the effort delivered a huge jolt of momentum that went on the sustain the Irish over the rest of the game. One indication of how well this department did is that the only time they came up short was on Blake Grupe’s missed 42-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter.

Defensive Squeeze Play

Unlike the shootout these two schools engaged in two years ago at Notre Dame, Saturday night’s clash emphasized defense. Most notably, the Irish set the tone in the first half by holding the Tigers scoreless and stopping them on all six of their drives. One of those drives stopped Clemson on downs, with four others forcing them to punt and the other ending the half.

The Tigers delivered some self-inflicted wounds on their first drive that quickly led to their ill-fated punt. Two holding penalties pushed them back to their own nine-yard line and saddled them with a second-and-26 that only ended up getting them to the 21-yard line. Though they ended the night with 281 yards of offense, 160 of that amount came after the Irish had taken a 28-0 lead.

Doing It on the Run

In all four of Notre Dame’s previous wins, the running game has been prioritized. That philosophy continued against Clemson and paid off handsomely as the Irish racked up 263 yards on the ground. The Tigers have been vulnerable to solid running games and Notre Dame exploited that flaw all evening.

The bulk of that work was offered by the sophomore tandem of Audric Estime and Logan Diggs. Estime once again showed his ability to bounce off blockers, finishing with 104 yards, second to Diggs’ 114 on the evening. On their final scoring drive of the night, the Irish ran 10 straight running plays to eat up nearly six minutes of clock and ironically capped it with a Drew Pyne scoring toss to Michael Mayer.

More of Benjamin Morrison

Entering this matchup, Notre Dame had a mere three interceptions for the entire season. That inability to come up with big plays had been an aggravating problem all year long. However, by the time they had this win, the Irish nearly matched that with two pickoffs, both of them by standout freshman defensive back Benjamin Morrison.

Morrison’s performance continued what’s been an outstanding first season and has laid the groundwork for a storied career with the Irish. His first pick came after a heavy rush by Isaiah Foskey forced Clemson reserve quarterback Cade Klubnick to rush a throw that was caught by Morrison. That led to a quick score and was the precursor to an even more dramatic interception when Morrison snagged a Tiger pass and raced 96 yards to give the Irish a 28-0 lead.

Getting Winded

Notre Dame’s thriving running game allowed the Irish to chew up plenty of clock after the first quarter. Yet, Mother Nature pretty much pre-ordained that approach, due to the windy conditions for the game. As a result, Pyne threw the ball only 17 times, completing nine of those tosses for 85 yards and the touchdown pass to Mayer.

Such factors are part of the reality of November football and may come into play over Notre Dame’s next two contests. The Irish’s regular-season finale at Southern Cal on Nov. 26 may allow for Pyne to open things up again or perhaps not if the running game keeps rolling.

Next Up

Notre Dame heads to Baltimore to renew its longstanding rivalry with Navy. This is ostensibly a home matchup for the Midshipmen since the contest will be played in Baltimore for the first time since 2008. However, the reality is that home or away, the Irish have dominated in this series,.with a record of 80-13-1. That includes nine victories in their last 10 meetings, including Notre Dame’s 34-6 win at home last season.

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  1. Great to see RBs continue to come of age reading and reacting, running to the outside when the middle is stacked. For most of the first half, NDs seemingly best chance to score was when Clemson punted. First defensive series by ND, Coach Freeman works the refs, like Saban, Dabo, and bayou Brian do regularly. Best sideline jacket: Jaylon Smith . . . runner-up jacket: Harry Hiestand.
    Co-captain and OG Patterson was a beast.

    1. Not the fashion at the trend-setting programs now, but per the philosophy of “playing the hand your dealt”, running the ball is this year’s ND offense.

      Those dark days of throwing the ball virtually ALL the time, most infamously in an actual goddamn hurricane, was unimaginative at best and insane at worst.
      And after so many years of that, I’m actually amazed ND had such great RBs on the roster to put on the field this year. Seriously.

  2. A novice head coach, playing a back-up QB with a passing phobia, after starting the gig 0-3.
    After that (4th) loss to Stanford, people here wondered out loud if the wheels were already coming completely off.
    Well… seems not.
    2 more wins is quite possible, resulting in an 8-win season, after starting it 0-2.

    And as long as I’m spitballin’….
    If USC remained in the Top 10 after its game against UCLA, a season-ending 9th win for ND would be the 2nd such milestone for Freeman…. doubling the legendary ND career mark of Fraudo Baggins.

    And then hitting the road with an ND recruiting pitch that would be the most compelling in years.
    Not bad. Not bad at all.
    But, as we should all just appreciate without question at this point: “he HAS been at this for over 10 months now….”

  3. Actually David, in your haste to list “only two reasons to go for two”, etc., you left out several other reasons a good coach might go for two in overtime one, including the fact that you have some of your best, and most practiced, conversion plays waiting to be used (compulsive in any event after period one). Egro, if we have a chance to win it NOW, why would we save it?
    Stop bothering to discount every good outcome Brian Kelly achieves. You are making a fool of your own self. Why not try to achieve something great of your own? It’s much more likely to make you feel great than tearing the work of other men down, David.

    BGC 77 82

    1. YOu mistake having a play to use vs. using that play under the most appropriate conditions.
      You might think you’re going to a hand at cards. That doesn’t mean that hand is the one you go all-in on.

      You can see my name at the top of my posts. Feel free to exercise your right to not read it.
      I won’t mind one bit In fact, I’d prefer it.

      1. BK’s results on using HIS play when HE feels the time is right speaks for itself.

        BGC 77 82

    2. Kelly has taken a 6-7 team & has them in the top 10, he is a top 10 coach in college football!! if bk was coaching ND now and was 6-3 dopey would be calling for his firing AGAIN!! Dopey cant admit the 25 times he”s been wrong about coaches, you waste your time with that moron!! He”s made a fool of himself b4 & will continue thats why he”s DOPEY DAVEY!

  4. In big games, there are basically 2 situations when a sensible coach gambles in OT and goes for 2 points to win instead of kicking the point to extend the game:

    When his defense has been on the field too much all night, are gassed, and just can’t keep going toe-to-toe.
    The coach feels his team is (for any one of myriad reasons) simply less likely to win, and the longer it goes on, the greater the odds it would end the more likely way.
    LSU’s defense was palying well and showed no obvious signs of fatigue.

    Saban was asked in the post-game if he expected LSU to go for 2 when they did…..he said no.
    FYI, He was also asked about his decision to go for 2 twice during the game…..and he began his answer with “we have a chart”….. and as sarcastic as his response got as it went along, he only talked about achieving the temporary benefit. Which is precisely the folly.

  5. This current mania with “Analytics” can make even the smartest coaches look dumb…sometimes to the benefit of the truly dumb ones.
    Saban went chasing 2’s last night, failing twice. Had he just taken both kicks, Bama wouldn’t have needed to go to OT at all.

    But it gave Brian Kelly an emotional pinnacle moment in his career: preventing Alabama from winning another national championship.

    I suppose it’s only fitting that my pet peeve with the utter folly of chasing 2-points when there’s still LOTS of football left to play — a move Kelly made routinely at ND —- should get dialed up justifiably this ONE time, and become enshrined as the gambit that “proved” Kelly’s entire career as a head coach.

    If a fraud just keeps punching, one of ’em will eventually land.
    It’s kept Trump out of jail his whole life.

    1. Yes. It appears that after fraudulently taking Notre Dame to the playoffs twice, Brian Kelly will now fraudulently take LSU to the playoffs a few times and maybe win a national championship

      Meanwhile, Notre Dame has completely eliminated fraud and now sits at 6-3 after a morale boosting win.

      I kind of miss those fraudulent 10-win seasons myself.

      1. Kelly was tearing up last night. Shocked relief.
        Because even frauds can be self-aware enough to appreciate their grift’s pinnacle moment.

        Freeman was just joyful. And thanked others, instead of describing his own tribulations.

  6. The immediate improvement in ND special teams is completely surreal.
    Punt Block U. They got one, barely missed another, and kept coming after it all night.

    …meanwhile, a person with the title of head coach again chose Brian Polian as his ‘special teams guy’ down south.

    Kelly on LSU’s special teams unit: “It stinks”
    — Koki Riley, USA Today October 8, 2022

  7. In the big picture, this game was a major indictment on the ACC. The top two teams that probably will face each other in the championship game, North Carolina and Clemson, each have one loss and that one loss was an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a team that have home losses to Marshall and Stanford on their resume. The ACC is poor, very poor when it comes to quality. The team that wins the ACC championship should not be considered an automatic to be in the playoffs.

    1. And that is why ND recruiting a great QB prospect is so hard.
      Those kids want to play against the greatest competition in 6 or 8 games every year.
      Not against Navy, and the ACC.

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