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Taming the Tigers in 2 OT: #4 Notre Dame outlasts #1 Clemson 47-40

Preview: #1 Clemson Tigers (7-0, 6-0) vs #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-0, 5-0)

In this "interesting" college football season, tonight's (November 7, 2020) primetime match (7:30pm EST) between Clemson and Notre Dame has a slightly different flavor.

The undefeated Tigers come in playing their second consecutive game without quarterback Trevor Lawrence (due to his COVID recovery). While winning their previous game against Boston College (34-28) thanks to freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei's 342 passing yards (along with 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions), 2-time ACC Player of the Year Travis Etienne (who comes into tonight's game with 606 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry with 9 rushing touchdowns), and a defense allowing 15.6 points per game, arguably, tonight's road game in South Bend, IN at the campus of Notre Dame is to date their toughest game of the season.

Notre Dame's season is a little different, as they are playing as a member of the ACC instead of their previous hybrid agreement (which allows them to play 5 ACC teams a year as non-conference games). Quarterback Ian Book's steady play (1,225 passing yards, along with 7 touchdowns and 1 interception) and a rushing attack led by Kyren Williams (600 rushing yards, averaging 5.7 yards a carry with 7 touchdowns) pace the offense. Likewise, a defense which has allowed 23 points in their past 3 games (and a season average of 8.9 points per game) is expected to rise to the occasion in this key ACC matchup.

First Half: Clemson Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame not only starts with the ball, but gets the scoring started. Their first play of the opening drive results in a holding penalty on Clemson; on the very next play, Kyren Williams explodes for a 65-yard run for a touchdown, giving the Irish a 7-0 lead just 33 seconds into the game/1st quarter. After the defense holds the Tigers' offense, the Irish add to their lead with a 24-yard field goal by Johnathan Doerer, making it a 10-0 lead at the 5:55 mark of the 1st quarter.

Clemson would respond on their next drive. Key completions by quarterback D.J. Uiagelelei, including a 53-yard touchdown pass to Cornell Powell (4:11, 1st quarter) gets the Tigers on the board, making it a 10-7 game. Notre Dame's responding drive features key plays from Ian Book (a 14-yard completion to Javon McKinley) and a 15-yard run by Kyren Williams to setup another field goal by Johnathan Doerer, giving the Irish a 13-7 lead (13:09 in the 2nd quarter). And as the "trend" at this part of the 1st half, the Tigers would respond. Two key completions by Uiagelelei to team leading receiver Amari Rodgers (35 and 27 yards) setup another score (a field goal by B.T. Potter from 26 yards), making it 13-10 game.

At the 5:53 mark of the 2nd quarter, a costly (and rare) miscue by Clemson's Travis Etienne (fumble) is recovered and returned by the Irish for a touchdown by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to make it a 20-10 game. On the very next series, the Tigers turn the ball over again, this time by Amari Rodgers, putting the Irish just outside the red zone (the Tigers' 25-yard line). A stand of sorts by the defense limits the Irish to a 45-yard field goal (by Doerer), giving them a 23-10 lead. A late 2nd quarter field goal by B.T. Potter (from 45 yards out) would cut the deficit to 23-13.

D.J. Uiagalelei's effort (completing 11 for 17 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown) keeps the Tigers in the game despite the 2 turnovers (fumbles). Travis Etienne is surprisingly held to 6 rushing yards on 9 carries (and a fumble), and Amari Rodgers' efforts (4 receptions for 88 yards) are slightly negated by his fumble. Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams' 10 yards per carry average (10 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown) pace an Irish ground game averaging 6.5 yards per carry (and outgaining the Tigers on the ground by 144 to 5 margin). While both offenses have similar total yardage numbers (Notre Dame holds a 245 to 225 edge), the Irish show the ability to control the clock (19:07 to 10:53) and their defense forcing 2 turnovers contribute to their 10 point halftime lead.

Second Half: Clemson Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clemson starts with the ball for the 2nd half/3rd quarter. D.J. Uiagalelei makes some key plays in the passing game to Amari Rodgers (16-yard completion) and Cornell Powell (11-yard completion) to direct a scoring drive, as B.T. Potter's 46-yard field goal gets the Tigers within a touchdown (23-16 with 12:15 left in the 3rd quarter). After a stand by the defense, the Tigers are on the move again offensively. A key 3rd down completion to Travis Etienne keeps the chains moving and as a result, including a 4th and inches conversion by Uiagaelelei puts them closer the goal line. A touchdown pass to Davis Allen (10-yards) gets Clemson back in the game (tied at 23 with 4:12 in the 3rd quarter).

The Irish would somewhat strike back thanks to a 45-yard completion to Javon McKinley, but a fumble by Ian Book at the Clemson 1-yard line is costly, as the Tigers' Baylon Spector recovers the fumble, producing the team's first forced turnover and quelling a go-ahead opportunity for Notre Dame. After a Clemson put, Ian Book marches the Irish offense downfield, including a key 29-yard completion to Michael Mayer and a near miss touchdown pass to Avery Davis; they settle for a 44-yard field goal by Jonathan Doerer to retake the lead with 11:37 left in the game (26-23). However, Clemson responds on their ensuing drive; a 51-yard completion to Cornell Powell gets them to the red zone, and B.T Potter's 30-yard field goal ties the game with 9:42 left in the quarter/game.

After a defensive stop, Clemson's gutsy call on 4th and 1 from their 35 yard line draws the Notre Dame defense offsides (the penalty is on Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa), continuing their drive. A 16-yard completion to Amari Rodgers, a pass interference by the Irish, a 13-yard run by Etienne, and an outstanding effort run on a 15-yard screen pass to Cornell Powell sets up Travis Etienne for a 3-yard touchdown run, giving the Tigers a 30-23 lead with 3:33 left in the 4th quarter/game.

With the game close to being on the line, Notre Dame opens with a pair of completions to Michael Mayer (13 yards) and Avery Davis (12 yards). Clemson's defense gets a break as an apparent pass-interference on a 3rd and 7 from the Tigers' 47-yard line ends up being a no-call, and the 4th down incompletion gives them the ball with 2:10 left in the game. Some deft clock management by the Irish (turning down a holding penalty to make it a 3rd and long) and Travis Etienne running out of bounds on the subsequent 3rd down after a 5-yard reception gives them 1:54 left in the game, but having to march 91 yards for any hope of tying the game (and sending it to overtime) or going for the win (with a 2-point conversion).

A huge passing play to a wide open Avery Davis goes for 53 yards, getting the Irish down to the Clemson 4-yard line for a 1st and goal with 1:00 left in the game. Two plays later, the Irish score on a 4-yard completion to Davis with 22 seconds left in the 4th quarter/game to tie the game at 33, sending the game into overtime.

Overtime: Clemson Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clemson gets the ball to start overtime; they waste little time as on their very first play, D.J. Uiagelelei tosses a 24-yard strike to Cornell Powell to setup his 1-yard plunge to take a 40-33 lead. Notre Dame responds with a scoring drive of their own, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Kyren Williams to tie the game at 40. The Irish start with the ball for the 2nd overtime; penalties called on both teams (holding on Notre Dame and a personal foul on Clemson) gives the Irish a fresh set of downs from the Clemson 20-yard line. A 12-yard scramble by Ian Book and a 10-yard completion get them to the Tigers' 3-yard line. Kyren Williams' 3-yard touchdown run gives them a 47-40 lead.

The Irish defense stands up with a pair of sacks by Adetokunbo Ogundeji (his first 2 of the season),and an ill-fated hook and ladder attempt not only ends the game with a Notre Dame victory, but hands Clemson their first regular season loss since 2017 against Syracuse (47-40).

Recap: The #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0, 6-0) defeat the #1 Clemson Tigers (7-1, 6-1) in 2 OT's, 47-40

Notre Dame outgains Clemson in total offense (519 to 473), especially in the run game (209 to 34 yards, with an advantage in yards per carry [5.1 to 1.0 yards]). Notre Dame has a slight advantage with time of possession (30:22 to 29:16) , while they had a slight disadvantage with penalties (7 for 51 yards compared to the Tigers' 4 for 46 yards). A key area where the Irish take advantage is in the turnover game, as they force 3 turnovers compared to committing 1 (a plus-2 advantage).

Irish quarter Ian Book's solid play (completing 22 of 39 passes for 310 yards with a touchdown, along with 15 carries for 68 yards), along with a tremendous effort from running back Kyren Williams (23 carries for 140 yards with 3 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry), lead the offense. Javon McKinley (5 receptions for 102 yards) and Avery Davis (4 receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown) contribute to the offensive effort.

Clemson's freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei's effort (29 completions in 44 attempts for 439 yards with 2 touchdowns) lead the offense. Travis Etienne's main contributions are in the passing game (8 receptions for 57 yards) as he is held to 28 yards on 18 carries (for a 1.6 yards per carry average). Cornell Powell (6 receptions for 161 yards with a touchdown) and Amari Rodgers (8 receptions for 134 yards) lead the Clemson offense.

Notre Dame travels to Boston College (5-3, 4-3) on November 14th (TBD). Clemson has a bye and resumes play on November 21st at Florida State (2-5, 1-5).

Photos and video are compliments of the ACC Media Portal:

  1. Notre Dame's Kyren Williams entered tonight's game averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Tonight, he has 23 carries for 140 yards (a 6.1 yard per carry average) along with 3 rushing touchdowns.

  2. Clemson's freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei makes his second collegiate start. His 439 passing yards includes 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

  3. The Fighting Irish's Jonathan Doerer goes 4 for 5 (field goals) and converted all 5 of his extra point attempts.

  4. The Irish defense played well against Clemson's run game, limiting them to 33 carries and 34 yards.

  5. Javon McKinley recorded 5 catches for 102 yards, contributing to the 2 OT win by the Irish.

  6. The Notre Dame offensive line clashes with the Clemson defensive line.

  7. The Irish defense does a masterful job containing the Tigers' Travis Etienne; he entered tonight's game averaging 5.9 yards per carry; in tonight's game, he's held to 28 yards on 18 carries, averaging less than 2 yards per carry.

  8. Notre Dame's offense on the move; they gained more than 500 yards against the Clemson defense (519 total yards).

  9. Kyren Williams (Notre Dame) gaining yards against the Clemson defense.

  10. Clemson's Travis Etienne adds 57 receiving yards, but is bottled up by the Notre Dame defense on the ground as he gains less than 30 yards.


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