Things weren’t great for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first quarter, but they played the Clemson Tigers to 3-3 draw. The offense sputtered and the defense played inspired, and the general sense was that the Irish had come to play and we should strap it on for another three quarters of tough football.
Then... the second quarter happened.
But before the second quarter happened, there was a Clemson fumble after a Notre Dame kickoff that was overturned on replay. What would have been Notre Dame ball in the redzone, turned out to be just normal starting field position for the Tigers. It was a huge moment, as the game could have took a sharp turn if Notre Dame punched it in the endzone for a 10-3 lead. It was a terrible call, and one that most people outside of the ND fanbase won’t give a second thought about with the game decidedly over.
So, yeah... the second quarter. With Julian Love out of the lineup, Trevor Lawrence went to work on Donte Vaughn and the rest of the Irish secondary. Lawrence connected with Justyn Ross on a 52 yard TD pass and 42 yard TD pass. Those score put Clemson up 16-3 with just a few minutes left in the half. Notre Dame, once again, sputtered on offense as the Clemson defense pressured Ian Book into submission. Clemson struck quickly and pushed the ball downfield, and with just 46 seconds left in the half, Lawrence found Tee Higgins for a 19 yard TD catch that came off of a Vaughn tip.
Notre Dame went into the half down 23-3 the hard way, and it never got any better.
The Irish offense got a little here and a little there, but they could never string together a drive that could get them back in the game. Notre Dame needed something — ANYTHING, and they failed at every turn.
Notre Dame held Clemson in check for most of the 3rd quarter, but after keeping Travis Etienne bottled up the entire game, he exploded for a 62 yard TD run that really put any hopes of a comeback to bed.
The 4th quarter was more bad plays, more poor decisions from Book, and just more Clemson running wild all over the Irish offensive front. Officially, the Tigers had 6 sacks and 5 quarterback hurries, but if you watched the game it looked and felt like a lot (LOT) more.
Alohi Gilman was a tackling machine with 17 tackles, but was a liability in coverage down the seam. Notre Dame got pressure on Lawrence with some blitz packages, but it was never enough, as Clemson torched ND when they dropped 8.
Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant made the loss of Dexter Lawrence seem like nothing. Notre Dame was doubled up offensively and everything sucks.
We will have more bad news on OFD in the hours and days to come.