Prince Kollie scored on a blocked punt, Benjamin Morrison returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown and had another interception to set up another score as Notre Dame earned its second straight victory over a ranked opponent, beating the No. 5 Clemson 35-14 Saturday night.
It was only the third victory against a top-10 opponent for Notre Dame (6-3) in its last 10 games since 2018. The other wins were against No. 8 Stanford in 2018 and the first Clemson in 2020. Just like in that 47-40 victory two years ago, the fans took to the pitch in celebration.
“We didn’t expect this game to go this way,” Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. “I am happy that the children continue to believe in what we are doing. Today was one of those special moments.”
The loss ended a Tigers 14-game winning streak (8-1), the longest active streak among FBS teams. It was Clemson’s fifth road loss since 2015.
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“They just physically kicked our ass. Period. The end,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They have absolutely dominated us in every aspect of football and that starts with training, tackling, blocking etc. It is what it is.”
Swinney said it was one of his most disappointing games in 14 years as head coach.
“We dropped an offense score, a special teams score and a defense score and it’s the first time that’s happened since I’ve been a head coach,” he said. “We have just been overtaken in all aspects of football. I wish I could say I saw it coming, but we had a great week of training, a great week of preparation. But football is a crazy game.”
The Irish players said it was fun celebrating with the fans.
“Our fans deserve it,” said Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. “They deserve this victory…”
Mayer struggled to hear questions when the door to the press room opened because the crowd was so loud.
“They’re crazy out there right now,” Mayer said.
Swinney retired DJ Uiagalelei for a second straight game, even though he had completed 13 of 19 passes for 78 yards when he was replaced by Cade Klubnik late in the third quarter. This time it backfired as Klubnik came under pressure from Justin Ademilola and his pass was intercepted by Morrison at the 14-yard line. The Irish scored three plays later on Audric Estime’s 2-yard run to make it 21-0.
Uiagabele returned in the following series and led the Tigers to the Irish 19-yard line before Morrison intercepted the pass to Joseph Ngata at the 4-yard line and sent it back for a TD.
With 20 mph winds and Drew Pyne struggling in recent games, the Irish relied heavily on their running game, although Clemson entered the game ranked seventh nationally against the run, giving up 87.9 yards per match. Logan Diggs rushed for 114 yards on 17 carries, Estime rushed for 104 yards on 18 carries and the Irish compiled 263 yards rushing, the fastest yards allowed by Clemson this season. The previous high was 206 yards by Florida State.
“They were clearly the most physical team. It will be a painful tape for everyone to watch,” Swinney said.
It was the second best ground game for the Irish this season. The Irish improved to 5-0 when they rushed for over 200 yards.
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Pyne was 9 of 17 passes for 85 yards and added a 5-yard rushing touchdown. It was the fourth game in a row that Pyne failed to complete more than 50% of his passes after completing 74% of his passes in his first three starts.
Uiagalelei finished the game 27 for 39 yards for 191 yards. Clemson was held 90 yards to the ground.
The Tigers avoided the shutout when Will Shipley, who rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries, scored on a 1-yard run with 10:14 left in the game, and Uiagaalelei threw a 4-yard TD pass to Joseph Ngata with 1:35 left. The Irish added a 17-yard TD pass from Pyne to Mike Mayer with 4:16 left.
The Irish outplayed Clemson in the first half, rushing for 122 yards and rushing for 163 total yards while holding the Tigers to 30 rushing yards and 71 total yards. But the big play was the Irish blocking their fourth punt in the last three games on Clemson’s first practice after the Tigers lost 11 yards after being called twice for holding. Linebacker Jordan Botelho crossed the line and got two hands on the punt and Kollie caught it and returned it 17 yards for a TD.
The Irish opened a 14-0 lead 38 seconds before halftime by rushing for 78 yards in 11 plays, all but one play being on runs. Esteem had six for 35 yards, Chris Tyree had three for 17 yards, and Pyne threw an 11-yard pass to Michael Mayer and ran twice, scoring on a 5-yard run.
Tempers flared as the teams headed to the locker room at halftime after Clemson right guard Walker Parks knocked down Notre Dame defensive lineman Jayson Ademilola. Several players pushed before the teams were separated and headed to their separate tunnels.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE SURVEY
Clemson will likely drop out of the top 10 after losing to a three-game losing streak. The Irish, who beat then-No. 16 Syracuse 41-24 a week earlier, might receive some consideration.
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Clemson: The Tigers look unlikely to earn their seventh playoff appearance in eight years after a lopsided loss to a three-game losing streak and no games against ranked teams.
Notre Dame: The highlight for the Irish in coach Marcus Freeman’s first year as a coach so far has been playing tough with No. 2 Ohio State for three quarters. It’s Notre Dame’s biggest win since the students stormed the field after a 47-40 double win over Clemson two years ago.
Clemson: Ends the season with three home games, starting against Louisville on Saturday.
Notre Dame: Travels to Baltimore to take on the Navy in its annual game against the Midshipmen on Saturday.
Source : WORLD NEWS