Notre Dame didn’t look like it wanted to show up to play football in the first half against the Clemson Tigers. While the Irish woke up a little in the second half, an anemic passing game that disallowed the ability to run the ball effectively cost them a 31-23 loss at the hands of Cade Klubnik, Jeremiah Trotter, and their leader Dabo Swinney.
The Irish offense got some things going on the ground early with Audric Estime, but a ridiculously anemic passing game quickly made it a tough start for Notre Dame. The Irish were only able to put together three drives that ended with field goals as 3rd down playcalling AND execution crippled them inside Clemson territory.
Meanwhile, Clemson’s Phil Mafah was matching Audric Estime on the ground — and then some. Notre Dame’s defense had issues tackling Mafah, and when they weren’t missing tackles, the Irish blitz calls worked against them in the worst way. Mafah started the Clemson scoring with a 41 yard touchdown run.
It wasn’t all Mafah for the Tigers. Cade Klubnik put together an impressive 75 yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Tyler Brown to make it 17-6. On Notre Dame’s ensuing drive, Sam Hartman threw a pick six to Jeremiah Trotter, and Clemson went up 24-6. The Irish answered with its third field goal to go into the half down 24-9.
Notre Dame needed a kick in the butt to start the 3rd quarter, and it got it with an Xavier Watts interception and return down to the two yard line. One play later Audric Estime goes into the endzone to bring the score to 24-16 — and it looked like we had a ball game.
Clemson, however, did a great job of answering and put together an 11 play 75 yard drive after the kickoff that ended with a Phil Mafah touchdown. The drive rolled off almost six minutes of game time and the Tigers looked like they were ready to blow the game back up.
Notre Dame did a great job of answering the call themselves. Notre Dame went 74 yards on 4 plays for a touchdown. The score came on a Sam Hartman scramble that evolved into a 26 yard dash on the sideline to make it 31-23 Clemson with a few minutes left in the 3rd quarter.
The Irish offense went into full incompetence mode after that score. The next four offensive drives for Notre Dame included three 3 and outs for a total of one yard and a 4 and out that consisted of 24 yards. Notre Dame punted the ball back to Clemson with a little over 6 minutes left in the game and the Tigers started to run the clock down from the midfield start. Notre Dame was able to force a punt, but for the 4th time in 5 drives, the Irish started inside their own 10 yard line.
Notre Dame had a little over 3 minutes to drive the ball. After a surprising 3rd down conversion, Sam Hartman threw his second interception of the day.
With little to no hope left as Clemson was driving to the redzone, Gabriel Rubio stripped Phil Mafah and Rylie Mills recovered the fumble to give the Irish another chance with less than 2 minutes to go in the game. Notre Dame, however, absolutely can not throw the football past 8 yards and turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute to go in the game.
No chance now for a New Years 6 bowl game.
More to come on OFD.