I can’t believe it, the Irish defeated number one ranked Clemson on Saturday night, the first victory over a top ranked team since 1993! That was the most complete performance by this Notre Dame team that I have seen all season and it came at the absolute perfect time. The passing game stepped up, the running game looked as good as it has all year and even though the defense gave up 40 points, I was thoroughly impressed with their performance as well. As a life long Irish fan, that was without a doubt one of the most memorable Notre Dame games that I’ve seen. A 47-40 double overtime victory propelled the Irish up to number 2 in the polls.
As I mentioned, this was the most complete game that the Irish have put together this year. Ian Book finished the game completing 22 of his 39 passing attempts for 310 yards and one touchdown through the air. He added in another 64 yards on the ground and showed that he does indeed have ice in his veins. Before the game started, the involvement of the passing game was said to be a key to success in Notre Dame’s performance. Javon McKinley led the Irish with five receptions for 102 yards while Avery Davis added four catches himself for 78 yards and one touchdown. The level of play that the Notre Dame receivers showed throughout the game was nothing short of top notch. The ground game’s presence was made known from the start with Kyren Williams leading the way with 23 carries, 140 yards, and three touchdowns. That was an absolute monstrous performance from William who broke a 65 yard touchdown run on the opening possession and never looked back.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kyle Hamilton was atop the Irish tackle leaderboard with eight tackles, followed closely by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with seven and Drew White with six. Owusu-Koramoah’s fumble recovery on a missed pitch to Clemson’s Travis Etienne was an incredibly athletic play that helped keep the early momentum on the Irish’s side. This was one of three fumbles that the Irish recovered and was one of the deciding factors of the game. Other than turnovers, the similarity in team stats was another indicator that the Irish truly can hang with “the big boys”. The Tigers and the Irish both got 22 first downs, only punted the ball three times, and had almost identical time of possession. As Notre Dame’s defense seemed to want to shut down Clemson’s running back, Travie Etienne, at almost any cost, this strategy proved very effective. Etienne was held to 28 total yards, and no, that’s not a typo. The ACC’s leading rusher was held to 28 yards on on 18 carries. 5 star Freshman quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, continued to impress as well. Uiagalelei finished with 439 yards and two touchdowns after completing 29 of his 44 passing attempts in only his second start of his collegiate career.
This was the big, resume building win that the Irish so desperately needed and let me tell you, it was a blast to watch unfold. Yes, I would have loved to be in the stadium for the game but being able to see the Irish finally take down a number one ranked team was an unforgettable experience. In the past “big games”, Notre Dame’s opponents seemed to have far superior athletes at almost every position. Defensive lines that were in the backfield as fast as the ball was snapped, receivers and running backs that made the defense look like they were moving in slow motion, or quarter backs that looked like they were in a video game playing on easy mode. For the first time that I can remember, Notre Dame showed that they are starting to rack up that sort of talent at those key positions as well. This was made evident early on the above mentioned 65 yard Kyren Williams touchdown run on the opening possession. Williams was provided a great hole by the offensive line and by the time he made it to the secondary, it took one move to shake the last defender and then he turned on the jets. His speed allowed him to separate from the pursuing Tigers with ease. Javon McKinley’s clutch grabs, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s freakishly athletic fumble recoveries and Kyle Hamilton’s ability to cover ground and track down the ball all displayed the talent that the Irish are bringing in on a much more consistent basis at the skill positions.
I am hoping that this game not only proves to the national media that Notre Dame is for real, but that it provides the confidence in the players showing them that they can hang with any team in college football. If things keep going in the direction in which they are trending, the Irish will most likely meet the Tigers again in mid-December for an ACC Championship rematch. As the hours have continued to pass since the Irish’s double overtime victory, I am still speechless, trying to process everything that happened. It truly was a great day to be an Irish fan. Notre Dame improves to 7-0 on the season and moves up to number two in the polls. Now it’s time to keep the pedal to the metal and finish the last month of the season strong!