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Notre Dame Football Notebook: Irish 35, Clemson 14

A grrrrrrreeeeeaaaaat night

NCAA Football: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Did you hear about that time an unranked Notre Dame football team took the #4 Clemson Tigers out to the woodshed for an old-fashioned ass-whooping? ME TOO!

So let’s talk about it.

In almost every game there is some bad to take with the good, and good to take with the bad —but not tonight. Tonight, everything was perfect and everything was beautiful, and anyone that tries to belittle or diminish this greatness is a tool. I said what I said.


This is more than a thing — it’s the way. The Notre Dame special teams unit has been one of the very best in college football this season, and its best weapons have been the punt team and the punt block team.

From Marcus Freeman’s post-game presser:

Yeah, he did it again. That group did it again. And kudos to coach Mason, his hard work and his preparation. And I challenged that group yesterday. I said, ‘Listen, you won’t surprise anybody. Everybody in the country knows you’re coming after a point. But when you find ways to execute, and you find ways to play with relentless effort, it doesn’t matter if the team knows you’re coming after upon or not.’

And that’s why I’m so happy for that group. Because, listen, everybody knows we’re coming after punts. And for them to go out there and be able to execute, we’re not tricking anybody. It’s about the way we teach it, and the way they go out and they execute. And today was a great job by that punt block unit.

That punt block unit set the tone for the entire game. Jordan Botelho blocked his second punt of the year after Clemson’s first drive of the night, and Prince Kollie — happy was he — quickly ran it in for a touchdown.

Notre Dame’s punt team also did a wonderful job on a night that could have been a little strange because of the weather. Jon Sot was out there flipping field position, and three out of five punts ended up inside the 20.


Without question, the defensive MVP of the night for Notre Dame HAS to be freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison — he was his own money.

Morrison was a beast in coverage, for sure, but he also finished the game with the second most tackles on the team for the day with seven. The biggest two plays, however, were his two interceptions.

The first interception came against Cade Klubnik on his second play (first pass) of the night. That pick lead to a short 3 play drive that ended with an Audric Estime touchdown to put Notre Dame up 21-0.

The second interception came against D.J. Uiagalelei, and Morrison took that bad boy back 96 yards for a score to put the Irish up 28-0.


Before Morrison got his first interception, I was asked about MVP’s for the night. My first and only answer at the time was linebacker J.D. Bertrand. For the game, Bertrand had 12 tackles, 2 TFL, and a sack. In my opinion, his steadiness out there helped reshape an Irish defense that had trouble tackling into a unit full of sure-tacklers. It was so noticeable — I took notice.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


Above all else, the biggest surprise of the night was probably the way Notre Dame physically abused Clemson in the trenches. This show of strength allowed the Irish to rack up 266 yards on the ground (114 for Logan Diggs and 106 for Audric Estime), but it also helped keep Will Shipley in check on the night with just 12 carries for 63 yards (the team total was just 90).

Dabo Swinney is a good coach, and he was brutally honest with his feelings after the game. He saw what he saw — and what he saw was an ass-kicking.

This physical clinic was the biggest reason Notre Dame owned the night.


Drew Pyne did what was asked of him and it worked out just fine. Pyne was 9-17 for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also did his best “Tommy-Rees-against-Michigan” impersonation.


it was shocking enough to see Notre Dame go for the throat of its opponent with a chainsaw (something that didn’t happen enough in the past) but the end result shook things even more. Michael Mayer’s touchdown reception put Mayer at the top of the list for Irish tight ends in receptions, touchdowns, and yards.

It was only the second time Mayer’s older brother was able to attend a Notre Dame game, so the night was really special for #87.