The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 08, 2020 12:10 am

Notre Dame defeats No. 1 Clemson, 47-40, in double-overtime classic

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – In an instant classic matchup of heavyweight titans, No. 4 Notre Dame outlasted No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in double overtime. The Irish sent the game to overtime with an eight-play, 89-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes that featured a 53-yard pass from Ian Book to Avery Davis and then a 4-yard touchdown pass featuring the same pair. Kyren Williams scored the game-winning touchdown from 3 yards out in the second overtime.

3 Takeaways

  • The moment was not too big: Notre Dame was ready for this game. The Irish came out fired up from the opening play – it helped that their first play from scrimmage was a 65-yard touchdown run from Williams, who had his fourth 100-yard game of the season – and showed plenty of emotion throughout the game. Offense, defense and special teams all executed the game plan as well as could possibly be expected and showed no nerves at facing the No. 1 team in the country in a game that few expected the Irish to win. The lone exception came at a critical  moment in the fourth quarter, however. With Clemson facing fourth-and-inches at its own 35, the Tigers went to the hard count and the Irish jumped offsides. Clemson went on to score on the same drive. Outside of that, the Irish played with poise and played confidently, especially on the game-tying touchdown drive late in regulation. That was a pressure-cooker situation and the Irish handled it with aplomb. Credit for that must go to the coaches and the team's veterans.
  • Brian Kelly was right about the talent gap: When Clemson beat Notre Dame 30-3 in the 2018 Cotton Bowl, the Irish coach insisted that his team had the players to compete with the nation's elite teams, contrasting it with the 2013 BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama, in which the Irish were simply out-classed at most positions. Two years later, Kelly seems to have been prescient about his team's talent level. The Irish have leveled up in team speed as much as any program in the country over the last half-decade and now clearly belong on the field with the nation's best teams. That's especially true on defense. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kyle Hamilton, Daelin Hayes and others created an atmosphere that made life difficult for Clemson running back Travis Etienne, one of the best backs in the country, all night. Kelly has said he wants his defense to be "flying around" and the Irish are capable of doing that in a way that wasn't possible with their personnel as recently as 2016. That was never more apparent than on the final Clemson possession in double overtime, when the Irish came up with back-to-back sacks to start the period. 
  • The D.J. Uiagalelei hype is real: Clemson has the best quarterback in the country on its roster. That might be true even next year, when Trevor Lawrence is off in the NFL. With Lawrence sidelined because of COVID-19, true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei stepped in for the second straight week and played like a fifth-year senior. He has all the physical tools – size, huge arm, enough mobility to make plays outside of the pocket – but he's also very accurate on most throws, keeps his eyes down the field and was poised in the pocket even in the face of some tricky Notre Dame blitzes. Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea had a diabolical game plan ready for the freshman and Uiagalelei handled it very well. 

Player of the Game: D.J. Uiagalelei

As noted above, the Clemson freshman was fantastic against the Irish. He made more than a few throws into tight coverage and took the top off the Notre Dame defense with a 53-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The top pro-style passer in the 2020 recruiting class finished 29 of 44 for 439 yards, the most ever against Notre Dame, and three total touchdowns and showed Clemson fans things will be more than fine when Lawrence is likely in the NFL next season.

Facts and Figures

Notre Dame has the longest active win streak in the country at 13 games. The Irish have not lost since Oct. 26, 2019, at Michigan. ... Notre Dame has a 23-game home winning streak, the program's longest such streak since Notre Dame Stadium opened in 1930. ... Clemson had won 36 straight regular-season games and 31 straight matchups against ACC opponents since a 27-24 loss to Syracuse on Oct. 13, 2017. ... The Irish had lost 11 straight games against top-five opponents since beating No. 3 Michigan in September 2005. Brian Kelly was 0-5 against such opponents in his 11-year tenure. ... The last time Notre Dame faced the No. 1 team in the country was its matchup against USC in 2005, the infamous "Bush Push" game, in which the Trojans won 34-31 on their way to the BCS Championship Game. The last time two top 5 teams faced off at Notre Dame Stadium was 1996, when the fifth-ranked Irish lost to No. 4 Ohio State 29-16. ... College Gameday was on hand for the game, the first time it has visited South Bend since Week 1 of the 2018 season, No. 12 Notre Dame defeated No. 14 Michigan, 24-17. ... With the win, Notre Dame is in sole possession of first place in the conference standings for the only time in program history. ... Wide receiver Ben Skowronek, a Homestead graduate, had four receptions for 33 yards for the Irish. ... Book went 22 of 39 for 310 yards and a touchdown. ... Williams had 23 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fourth 100-yard performance of the season. ... This was the first double-overtime game for the Irish since the 2016 season-opener against Texas, which Notre Dame lost 50-47.


What's Next?

Notre Dame is back in action next Saturday with a matchup at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, against Boston College (5-3, 4-3 ACC). Kickoff time and broadcast information will be announced this week. The Eagles are coming off a 16-13 victory over Syracuse and nearly toppled Clemson last week, falling 34-28 on the road. BC's quarterback is Phil Jurkovec, who played for Notre Dame for two seasons, acting as the third-stringer in 2018 and the backup to Ian Book in 2019. Irish defensive coordinator Clark Lea flirted with taking the Boston College head coaching job in the offseason before returning to Notre Dame

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