Notre Dame Shows Potential and Growth in Dominance of Clemson

With the biting wind howling throughout the early November evening and the goal posts swaying forebodingly – as if to say they just might be toppled down by the wind or a field-storming – the Irish’s three-headed dragon, as another Irish site called the Notre Dame running back combination of Audric Estime, Logan Diggs, and Chris Tyree, burned the Clemson defense Saturday.

Notre Dame was the more physical team, and the Irish dominated in the trenches. The offensive line repeatedly pushed Clemson’s NFL-bound defensive line off the line of scrimmage by several yards and opened up large holes for the Irish running back trio.

Estime, Diggs, and Tyree combined for 242 rushing yards against the nation’s #7 rush defense. Quarterback Drew Pyne also ran for 21 yards. Clemson defense had given up 89.7 rushing yards per game prior to Saturday’s domination by the Irish. However, that average rose by 19 due to Notre Dame’s performance.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was blunt in assessing the Irish versus his team:

“That was an ass-kicking. Period,” Swinney said. “I mean, that’s what it is. Just flat-out got our tails handed to us.

“They absolutely dominated us in every facet of football, starting with coaching, blocking, tackling, you name it,” he said. “It is what it is. Defensively, we couldn’t stop the run, period. Field position was a real battle all night. At the end of the day, they were the more physical team. They were the more disciplined team. We had stupid penalties. As a result, they were a better-coached team.”

Irish head coach Marcus Freeman preached the need to exude confidence, all week leading up to the Clemson matchup, as the leader of the Irish. He has preached that wins will yield even more confidence for his team, but even he was surprised by how much the Irish were able to dominate the country’s #4 team, a team with the longest winning streak in the country at 14 games.

“We didn’t foresee this game going this way,” Freeman said. ’“I’m happy the kids continue to believe in what we’re doing. Today was one of those special moments.”

Freeman enjoyed the victory on the field with his players and fans, who stormed the field for the second time in three years against a top 5 Clemson squad, though this time, the crowd on the field was much larger compared to 2020’s covid year. The entire field was covered with fans standing and jumping shoulder-to-shoulder. Yet, Freeman admitted he would have liked to celebrate a bit longer before security led him away, up the tunnel, through a throng of students and supporters.

Freeman pumped his fist three times, then high-fived fans before heading to the locker room.

NBC tried to interview freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison, one of the game’s heroes, with his two picks; one returned 96 yards for a touchdown. Still, the crowd on the field was so loud and tight against the makeshift studio that the reporters had to wait for the excitement to calm down.

Throughout all the mayhem, Morrison looked his usual calm, cool, and collected. In the postgame interview, he corrected a reporter that he wasn’t cocky but confident.

“Personally, I wouldn’t say cocky. I’d say very confident, because I know the player that I can be and who God has called me to be,” Morrison said.

The kid is 18 years old, playing beyond his years and wiser and more humble beyond that.

In a game that featured a Jordan Botelho blocked punt returned for a touchdown by Prince Kollie and a 17-yard touchdown catch by tight end Michael Mayer to break Notre Dame’s all-time touchdown reception career record for a tight end, in a game where special teams and defense dominated (the Irish had four sacks of Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei), perhaps no unit was more dominant than the Irish offensive line or the three-headed dragon it sprang to dominance.

“They [the offensive line] were unbelievable tonight. Kudos to them, kudos to coach Harry [Hiestand],” Diggs said.

“They know how much is on the line this weekend… They went out and proved they’re one of the best offensive lines in the country.”

When asked when he knew they could dominate Clemson, Diggs said:

“I would say maybe after my third or fourth carry. When you get the ball, and you see them pushing them back, and you see them holes open, a lot of holes… we ran through untouched.”

The Irish have moved to #20 in the AP poll. In his post-game comments, Freeman noted the importance of savoring this victory yet in learning the sweetness of victory and what victory requires the Irish to learn from it just as his team learns from losses.

“This is a game that I’ll never forget,” he said. “This is a special win for me and for this football program.”

Why tonight for this group, he was asked.

“I wish I could explain exactly how this season has gone. You can’t. It’s never how you foresee it going on the front end. I’m happy that the kids continued to believe in what we’re doing. Today was one of those special moments. We’re going to have difficult moments. That’s part of this growth that we’re trying to achieve. Today was a day it all came together,” Freeman said.

“I think the thing I’ve learned is that it’s never how we foresee it on the front end. You can paint a beautiful picture. You can make this thing the way you want as long as you continue. This is a spiritual school. We can’t just pray that things are magically going to change. We pray. But you have to put in the work, and you have to be very intentional in saying we’re not just trusting the process. We have to fix it. We have to attach the deficiencies that we have, and that’s going to be the challenge, even after today.”

As the Irish try to grow from this season-defining win and to build on it, Freeman says they must raise their standards for themselves and their expectations.

“Are we still willing to take a hard look at ourselves and say how can I improve as an individual, after a win against a top 5 program, can we still be selfless?” he asked.

“We have a bunch of kids that want to be national champions and first-round picks, but they’re selfless. They understand the bigger picture.”

This resilient 2022 Irish team is still painting that bigger picture, but as Freeman said, the Irish can paint it.

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  1. Query for the Cucks:

    Fat Fraud went 8-5 in his first season at ND. And 8-5 again in his 2nd year. And had all the wins from his next two seasons vacated.
    These were his 20th to 23rd seasons of “being at this”, as he mentioned to the media at every opportunity.

    Q1: If Freeman goes 8-5 in his first year as ND head coach….his first year as HC anywhere….will you then sober up, and shut the fuck up, about how great Stumpy was ?

    Q2: And if Freeman reaches 9-3 in his first year, and books a second Top 10 win to eclipse the tally that Puff Daddy managed in 12 years — again, in his FIRST year as a head coach —- will you then offer the board a mea culpa and go the fuck away?

  2. I also disagree that Kelly would have had this team in the playoffs. Yes, Kelly probably beats Stanford and Marshall, but I don’t think he beats Clemson or plays OSU as close. Kelly’s teams came out flat and uninspired, especially on the road, unlike ND v. OSU. ND beat Clemson with special teams (entirely non-existent with Kelly) and sticking with the run (Kelly would abandon it at the first sign of adversity or after the always-present slow start), as well as defense.

    I also disagree that this win means less because of the losses (or that somehow this isn’t a signature win). I agree Freeman is responsible for those losses, but a top-five win against an undefeated perennial playoff contender, in that fashion, is definitely a signature win. It’d be a lot better without those losses, yes, but those losses also made it that more unlikely, and therefore special.

    1. Agreed. Kelly would have beat Marshall and Stanford. I’d bet Clemson is a close loss and Ohio st a blow out. USC tilts toward a loss under Kelly.
      Kelly telegraphed even this week that he still feels Notre
      Dame couldn’t get him to the promised land. Notre Dame owed Brian Kelly complete control of the athletic department so Brian Kelly can have all resources Brian Kelly wants so Brian Kelly can get a National Championship and oh yeah that catholic school can have a part of Brian Kelly’s national championship. When that didn’t happen Kelly bailed. Kelly doesn’t really believe in the Catholic Church and has said so, and he never believed in Notre Dame as a shining light.
      Freeman believes in Notre Dame and is committed. So is his staff. The growing pains of this year need to take into account that in the end the coaching staff really almost entirely turned over. New faces getting used to working together.
      It’s only starting to gell among staff.
      That translates to the play of the players. Look at how OL assignments were missed in the Ohio St and Marshall games. Look at how the OL flopped on the ground versus Stanford. Then look at how correct in technique and how physical the OL was versus Clemson.

      Finally I have to add that I haven’t seen an Irish squad this physical on both sides of the ball since Holtz. This is a great Clemson team albeit not as dominant as in past. The Irish deserve credit against this caliber of opponent.
      Now they have to become consistent at the level of play exhibited Saturday night.
      But I’m extremely hopefull we have a Notre Dame man as head coach.

      1. Kelly was a fraud and a cancer.
        ND is now in partial remission, and fans are hopeful of a full recovery.

        But oddly, there are some fans of malignant tumors here. Posters who never before had a word to say, or an opinion to share. Weird.

      2. OMG C-Dog, I remember Robert Gilleran. He definitely took being a ND fan to a new level, LOL. God forbit anyone criticize ND under any circumstances or Charlie Weis. Didn’t he push some bizarre conspiracy theories too? Any time ND lost a game it was always because of some other issue, it was never ND or Weis’ fault.

        Kind of like a Michigan fan, LOL. It’s never their fault when they lose. It’s always bad officiating or some other plot to tear them down.

  3. There’s always been a lot of potential. If Kelly had stayed this would have been a playoff team.

    But the growth is really great to see. Freeman has had team prepared and ready to go for the past two weeks. We’ll find out in the next few weeks if he is starting to be able to get the team ready to play week in and week out. He’s shown he can win big games (and he had the Irish ready to play against OSU). But can he do it every week? Can he get the team fired up to play less exciting opponents? That’s where we need improvement.

    I think the hope is that Freeman has a higher ceiling than Kelly—will land bigger recruits and win bigger games. He’s showing that might be the case. But “signature” wins don’t mean a whole lot when they come after home losses to Marshall and Stanford.

    So let’s home we see the same Notre Dame we saw against Clemson the rest of the year. There’s no reason to not win out

    1. No way Kelly takes this team to the playoffs. Saban wouldn’t take this team to the playoffs. Not with Pyne at QB. You’re smoking to much Crack Keith.

      1. I disagree, Jeff. Kelly can easily take any team he decides to the playoffs.

        With his salary, he can afford to buy every player and coach tickets to both the semis AND the championship game.

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