It’s been a long time since the #1 team in the country travelled to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and it’s been even longer since that team went back home with its tail between its legs. On Wednesday, Notre Dame pulled out a bag of tricks to help get them going.
In a move that inspired by Devine, perfected by Holtz, and trashed by Willingham — Brian Kelly changed things up before the Irish took the field against the Clemson Tigers. Notre Dame ditched their normal Under Armour uniforms and shiny gold helmets for some throwback Adidas gear and the dull gold domes of old.
The moves were meant to inspire, and it was enough to give Notre Dame a little extra to win 44-25.
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers drove down the field on their first possession to strike first with an Amari Rodgers touchdown grab. Notre Dame and Ian Book did much of the same, and answered the bell with a touchdown drive of their own — one that ended with a Book scramble into the endzone.
The two teams took it down a notch and kicked matching field goals on their next possessions. It was a Shaun Crawford interception towards the end of the first quarter that finally threw a bit of chaos into the mix. On the very next play Book found Bennett Skowronek streaking down the middle of the field and hit him in stride for a 43 yard touchdown that put the Irish up 17-10.
The Irish continued to play perfect bend but don’t break defense. Despite the continued success of the Clemson passing game, the Tigers’ next three possessions end in field goals, while the Irish added one of their one as well as a quick strike 5 play 81 yard drive that ended with another Skowronek touchdown reception.
Thanks to field goals instead of touchdowns and a Lawrence interception for Clemson, the Irish went into the half only up 8 points — but with tons of confidence that they were in control.
While the first half was full of exciting plays and points, the 3rd quarter was mostly sacks and stalls, Kyle Hamilton was able to grab another errant Trevor Lawrence pass inside the Irish 10 yard line. Notre Dame was unable to do anything else with it and was forced to punt. A few plays later, Kyle Hamilton showed himself to be the All-American he is, and forced a fumble on a play and Shaun Crawford jumped on it to take possession for the Irish. Notre Dame continued to underperform with its pass blocking and Notre Dame Jonathan Doerer was forced to kick another field goal to put the Irish up 30-19 heading into the 4th quarter.
With virtually no running game and Lawrence becoming more and more inaccurate, Clemson was unable to mount any type of comeback. Meanwhile, the Irish put together a time-consuming 12 play 61 yard drive that ended with Ian Book’s 3rd touchdown pass of the day when he found true freshman Jordan Johnson on a slant route inside the 10 yard line.
Clemson finally moved the numbers on the scoreboard with a Daniel Ngata touchdown reception, but failed to convert the ensuing 2 point play. The Tigers tried an onside kick, but Notre Dame easily recovered and put together another small drive that ended with a 10 yard touchdown run from Trevor Speights to make it 44-25.
It was a strange game. Even though Book was sacked 6 times, he still outperformed Lawrence going 35-43 for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns — and a rushing touchdown just to make it sexier. If there was any doubt that Book was a Heisman candidate going into this game, he placed himself as the front runner with this stellar performance and convincing win over the #1 team in the nation.
Braden Lenzy continued his own Heisman campaign in impressive fashion as well. Although Lenzy never reached the endzone, his 10 receptions for 194 yards were filled with big catches for the Irish.
On defense, the Irish not only got top-notch games from Hamilton and Crawford, Kurt Hinish had 4 TFL’s with two sacks of his own.
With this massive victory, we expect Notre Dame to now be in the top 4 for the college football playoff — and they have the best claim right now as THE number one team in the land.
You can watch the full game in the player below.