Irish Outlast Tigers in Epic Battle

Kyren Williams scored a touchdown in each overtime session and the Notre Dame defense found an extra gear with the game on the line as the Fighting Irish beat Clemson by 47-40 in double overtime on Saturday night. Ian Book led a gutsy, improbable 91-yard drive to tie the game at 33 at the end of regulation. His scoring pass to Avery Davis came with just 22 seconds left on the clock. The win is the biggest for the program in the Brian Kelly era, and most notable in any season since 1993.

The game felt like a heavyweight slugfest from the opening series. Notre Dame threw the first haymaker on the second play from scrimmage, when Williams raced 65 yards for a score. The hosts settled for a field goal on their next possession despite moving to the Tigers’ one yard line, but led 10-0. Moments later, D.J. Uiagalelei got untracked and threw a 53-yard laser to Cornell Powell to get on the board.

Jonathan Doerer and B.T. Potter traded field goals as the game moved to the second period. With the Irish clinging to a 13-10 advantage, Clemson made the first major mistake of the night. Travis Etienne fumbled a pitch, and the ball bounced into the hands of Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The junior linebacker brushed past Etienne and rumbled into the end zone for a 20-10 margin.

The combatants traded field goals once again before the half. The Irish retreated to the locker room with a 23-13 edge. Ten of Notre Dame’s points were the direct result of turnovers by the Tigers.

Clemson showed its mettle by taking control in the third quarter. A ten point burst sandwiched a three and out by the Irish offense, and the game was tied at 23 with 19 minutes left in regulation. Notre Dame was not going to roll over, though. Book responded by hitting Javon McKinley for 45 yards. The drive progressed inside the ten yard line before Book was stripped of the ball as he appeared to be going in for the go-ahead score. The play resulted in a touchback and the opportunity was lost.

Another pair of matching field goals upped the ante to 26 points each with ten minutes left in the fourth. When Notre Dame stalled again, the Tigers took over and went on a long march. Etienne capped the drive with a three yard score with just 3:33 on the clock. Clemson had its first lead of the night by 33-26.

Book’s first attempt to answer was halted at midfield. It was left to Notre Dame’s defense to get the ball back, but time was a huge factor. The Irish stuffed the Tigers, but a Will Spiers punt put them on their own nine yard line with 1:48 remaining.

Given a second chance, Book put the offense on his back. A pass and two scrambles moved the ball close to midfield again, but this time Book found a wide open Avery Davis on a seam route. Davis took the ball to the Clemson three yard line for a 53-yard gain.

As the seconds ticked off the clock, Book missed on two throws before scrambling to find Davis again just past the goal line. Doerer’s conversion tied it at 33 and the teams took a short breather to prepare for overtime.

The Tigers scored quickly to open the first session as Uiagalelei immediately hit Powell inside the one yard line. The freshman quarterback muscled in for a touchdown on the next play for a 40-33 lead. With the Irish needing to hold serve to stay alive, Book hit Michael Mayer on a clutch pass before Williams scored from three yards out.

Notre Dame started on offense in the second overtime. After Williams was dropped for a six-yard loss, Book found a gap in the Tiger defense on a scramble and hit Ben Skowronek with a pass to set up another short touchdown plunge by Williams.

Most observers felt Clemson would answer with a tying score, but no one told the Irish defense. The first two plays were sacks of Uiagalelei, who hadn’t been dropped all evening. Facing third and 24, Uiagalelei hit tight end Davis Allen over the middle, but Notre Dame safety Shaun Crawford knocked the ball loose with a well-timed, crushing hit.

A desperate hook and ladder pass on fourth down was swarmed under by the Irish, who leapt for joy as the COVID-defying students poured onto the field.

The entire team, but Book in particular, showed remarkable resiliency and grit despite a number of ups and downs. The game will become an instant classic, and for the first time in a long while it will have a happy ending.

Let’s look at the answers to our pregame questions for further analysis:

Can either team generate meaningful yardage on the ground? Notre Dame outrushed the Tigers by a whopping 209-34. Williams accounted for 140 while Book added 68.

Which quarterback will make mistakes in the heat of the moment? Book’s third quarter fumble near the goal line hurt, but he made us forget all about it later.

Can the Irish secondary cover the dangerous Tiger receivers? Not very well. Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards, and Notre Dame allowed Powell and Amari Rogers to run wild at times.

Will Notre Dame’s linebackers be able to contain Etienne? Owosu-Koramoah led the charge that left Etienne bruised and battered. He gained 28 yards on 18 carries.

Can either defense pressure the passer while preventing long scrambles? Both sides had two sacks, but Notre Dame’s came on consecutive overtime plays that essentially won the game. Also, Book was able to scramble for crucial yardage on several occasions.

Which special teams will gain the upper hand? Both kickers turned in exemplary performances. Punter Jay Bramblett made the play of the night when he tackled Etienne in the open field. Etienne nearly returned a short field goal attempt for a touchdown on the last play of the first half before Bramblett corralled him.

Can Notre Dame put together a successful attack plan in the red zone? There were a few squandered opportunities by the Irish that seemed catastrophic at the time. Fortunately, they converted on their last three trips – one in regulation and two in overtime.

Which defense will be able to get off the field on third down? The Irish were better, converting 10 of 19 while the Tigers were only four of 15.

Most fans will want to watch this game again in order to digest all of the momentum swings and great plays by each team. It’s a shame that 80,000 fans could not populate the Stadium absorb it in person. The best thing to come out of a moment like this is the long-suffering Notre Dame fan base can finally unite behind a special team of overachievers. They made an indelible contribution to Irish lore that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Tell John what you think in the Comments section below

39 thoughts on “Irish Outlast Tigers in Epic Battle

    • “Knute Kelly????” – Not a fan of Kelly, never was….don’t like him as a coach and a person (Had a brief encounter not-so-nice with him in 2013 during a football week-end at ND). But, I will congratulate him and his staff for a job well-done and making his team believe they belong with the elite; Kelly deserves that much for this one game. But let’s not besmirch Knute Rockne’s legacy by comparing Kelly’s “only game” in 11 seasons

      • Irish in the South says:

        BK earned respect and his 11 years at ND as head coach. He put all the pieces together with this team. He changed his attitude and his coaching style midway through his ND coaching career and it is paying off. His desire to win directs him in all things. He deserves much more credit than NEPA Irish wishes to give him.

  1. kudos to Book and Kelly. I was certain this was a loss given Kelly’s history of losing almost all big games.

    Book showed some talent I had not seen before. Overcoming his own fumble, Mayer’s dropped TD pass and
    and the false start penalty which forced a field goal early.

    Best win since the FSU win in 93. Let’s follow it this time w/ a nice beatdown of the pesky eagles next week, no repeat of 93 please!

    • Amen to that. I was at the ’93 game, a fabulous victory. We were on the road to another national championship, or so I thought, only to be upended by BC the following weekend. I can still visualize the near interception that would have ended the game with an Irish victory.

      • Irish in the South says:

        Yes…no let down please. I am sure the pundits will play the FSU/BC sequence over and over as a build up to the BC game. Another story…. Phil Jurkovec (sp?) has a personal issue having left ND for BC and a starting roll.

  2. 40-6 since 2017, longest winning streak in the nation, 23 straight wins at home, the first to beat Clemson in the regular season after 36 straight wins. The Clemson Freshman QB still had +400 yards and a clean game, it was their star RB who had a dud of a game. Great effort and hopefully should silent a few of you every week haters for a few days. Enjoy the win and let’s keep the momentum going. Go Irish!

    And hopefully not a Covid scare after seeing a sea of green on the field after the big win.

    • Scott M Friery says:

      “it was their star RB who had a dud of a game”

      To be fair, it was ND’s defense that held him in check along with Amari Rodgers. This was by Clark Lea’s design.

  3. Emil Gaensslen says:

    I mean…..I was willing to rail against the refs for the PI call. And we made the ensuing plays anyway. Speechless. Validation. Love this team. Go Irish!!!

  4. What a GREAT, GREAT WIN BY ND!!!!!!!!!! The players displayed heart, guts, determination, and a never quit attitude!!!!!! What a game Ian Book played and the entire offensive line and you just can’t say enough good things about ND’s defense!!!

    Coach Kelly and his staff came up with an awesome game plan!!!

    I could just go on and on and on…….just so proud of this team…….and I feel I’m on cloud 9!!!!

    Go Irish BEAT Eagles!!!!!!!!!

  5. Congratulations to our team and coaches! I was there in 1993 for the victory over FSU and the following week. Watch out for BC.
    Go Irish! Beat COVID!

    • Congratulations Vannie. I know you have waited a long for last night to arrive. This is a total team victory, and I am so proud of the resilience of Ian Book.who has the heart of a champion

      • Thanks. As an aging alum who lived through the glory years from 1964-1996, I was not sure if I ever would see a day like this again. It’s been a while since the Irish were the more physical team in a big game, so it was refreshing to see.

  6. AlumniHallBoneDoc97 says:

    Toldja. OK I totally screwed the pooch on my prediction but at least had this one in the W column. The better team won last night. Enjoy Lads! But be ready for next week. I was a student for BC 93 and don’t need to repeat that experience.

  7. One of the greatest displays of mental toughness that was the difference. The Team stayed focused and poised under pressure. Give credit where it is due . There are challenges ahead. The Team wil be tested. Just thrilled for all ND fans, players and staff. GO IRISH !!

  8. Irish in the South says:

    Classic game for the ages!! Players will never forget this one. BK’s greatest victory. Such a total team effort. Book rebounds from fumble disaster to lead the team the rest of the way. Defense looked exhausted in first overtime as Clemson moved at will, but the defense hound a deep down will to win the game for us in the end.

    Very likely that we will meet them again with Trevor Lawrence at QB. But this team showed it can play with anybody.

    All those that had negative feelings about BK as head coach at ND….Please dispel those thoughts and realize that he will be a big part of the Notre Dame legend as a result of this game. He has given us a legitimate chance to be national champions. If he pulls that off, where does he stand?

  9. Kevin mccarthy says:

    To beat Clemson, Book had to play really well and he did. He showed guts, poise and accuracy. A tremendous win for the Irish, So happy for the players, to a man they left it all on the field. GO IRISH!

  10. Congratulations to the team and coaching staff. This was a long time coming and the team exceeded my expectations and refused to quit. They finally have a signature win (since the 2012 win at Oklahoma) and a major upset during the Brian Kelly era. Ending long winning streaks of opposing major college football powers is what ND has historically done and Clemson’s three year regular season win streak ended last night.

    Javon McGinley came up big and Jeremiah unpronounceable last name is a great player.

    There is likely to be a rematch in the ACC championship and hopefully ND can limit the explosive plays and big chunk plays Clemson was able to get through the air most of the night.

  11. Vannie,
    Nice write up. Fantastic team win. Elite defense. WR TE corps really stepped up.
    Rees is growing on me.
    Year of chaos has not ended.
    Et tu Fredo?

    • Pound for pound, Williams has to be one of the toughest players on the field. Seeing him wipe out those blizting linebackers when he was churning out extra yards on his runs was a gutsy performance.

  12. Robert J Herickhoff (rjh) says:

    The talent levels were about equal, but ND wanted the win more than Clemson. Let’s give Book the credit he deserves.

  13. We cannot afford under any circumstances to lose Coach Lea. He and his defense is the reason we now have a legitimate chance to win every game we are in and never lose to unranked teams as was the case before he arrived. Please make him an offer he cannot refuse. Maybe a pledge that he will be head coach when Kelly retires. He is a real talent.

  14. Irish in the South says:

    I agree, must keep Coach Lea. Can’t let him go as we did with Barry Alvarez under Lou Holtz, leaving us with a string of subpar head coaches for many years. Pay him whatever it takes.

  15. Very happy my prediction was way off! Gutsy performance by Book. It felt like all of those early field goals were going to bite us and almost did but the toughness on that last drive was commendable. I don’t think Lawrence would’ve made that much of a difference. If we meet again, need to punch in TD’s in the red zone but certainly could beat them again. Go Irish and stay hungry!

  16. MURPHY,WILLIAM,F says:

    Yes, a well deserved victory. Thank heavens the Irish won; we needed this one! Had we lost,
    I would have been livid over the ‘called back’ defensive pass interference penalty near
    the Clemson team box with an out of control ‘Dabo’ screaming at the refs. But he got
    what he wanted instead of what he deserved. As a HS and college football official in a prior life,
    few things amaze me today. That would have been just one more. Anyway on to BC,
    and let’s hope there’s no repeat of ’93, and that Ian Book has a much better day
    than Phil Jurkovec.

  17. The game was AWESOME! I was at the Notre Dame U$C game back in 1993 the month before Florida State. The Notre Dame U$C game inspired my nephew, who was in high school at the time, to pursue attending Notre Dame and he ended up getting accepted and graduating from Notre Dame in 2001. He is now a dentist.

    That same year was the classic Notre Dame-Florida State match up. We all know what happened the next week with BC and if Pete Bercich would have intercepted that BC pass…..As they say, ” yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.”

    Well now here we are in 2020. It feels like a Twilight Zone year. I have only missed one home ND game since moving to South Bend in 2012. I missed the Michigan State game in 2013. 2020 happens and now other alumni and fans have to watch on TV. Ironically I would have had tickets to the game Saturday as many others would have too, but because of COVID19 restrictions, had to watch it on TV.

    I switched over to the USA Network during Vice President elect Biden’s speech. Don’t interrupt the game for your speech. Save it until after the game or until Sunday!! LOL 🙂 (Just kidding, or am I?). Thank God for USA Network! 🙂

    Anyway….. I was so upset with the officials not calling penalties on Clemson and when they did call pass interference on them, Dabo gets all upset and for some reason the refs decided to pick up the flag. The refs rarely do that! The refs were so biased, but like the fight song..” What though the odds be great or small, Old Notre Dame will win over all, while her loyal sons are marching onward to victory!” Notre Dame overcame adversity and won. I was so excited that I took my dog and went to the grotto around 12:30 AM and lit a candle in thanksgiving for the win.

    Congratulations to Brian Kelly and his staff and to the players. You all have HEART!
    Stay focused and beat BC! I do not want a repeat of the BC game of 93.

    GO IRISH! BEAT EAGLES!
    Thank you veterans also for your tremendous sacrifice for all of us. Happy Veterans’ Day to all of our veterans. God bless you all.

    Domerdane262

  18. Have to give it up to the team, they beat a good team. Clemson was missing players but they are a well coached team. Also, Notre Dame has beaten every team they have played very badly.

  19. Sometimes it seems like our own fans want to downplay the record under Ian Book.
    At this point 30-3 over the last 2 1/2 years. Wins over Mich., USC and Stanford (2 times each), every ACC team..
    Loses at Georgia, Michigan (ugh), and Clemson in the playoff’s (that Clemson team was one for the ages, they mauled Bama in the NC game).
    His 91 yard drive at the end of the Clemson game is as good as it gets. Enjoy the moment. This team has speed and power to play with anyone. Can’t wait for the rest of the year!

    • Irish in the South says:

      BK is immediately focusing on the BC game. He knows there can be a let down after such a huge, emotion-charged game. Cannot let it happen! The level of passion and energy can direct the outcome of a college football game. Keep it going, Irish!

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