Lawrence Leads Tiger Beat-Down

Trevor Lawrence shook off an early interception, then proceeded to put on an NFL-worthy display of passing skill and running ability in leading Clemson to a 34-10 victory over Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game. The Tigers were more aggressive on both sides of the ball from the opening whistle. They also demonstrated superior athleticism at the skill positions in a game that eerily resembled the 2018 playoff rout in Dallas between these teams.

The Irish started the game with a promising drive fueled by passes from Ian Book to Michael Mayer and Avery Davis. A pair of negative plays stalled the momentum, but Jonathan Doerer nailed a 51-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. When a Lawrence pass was tipped and intercepted by Kyle Hamilton on the next series, Notre Dame was back in business.

In what became a key turning point, the Irish were stopped inside the Clemson ten yard line and Doerer missed badly from 24 yards. Lawrence took over by hitting Amari Rodgers for a 66-yard score, and the Tigers never looked back.

Notre Dame needed to respond, but they squandered another scoring chance when Book and Davis failed to connect on a fourth down pass. Lawrence hit E.J. Williams for another touchdown moments later as the game entered the second period.

Clemson’s defense continued to ratchet up the pressure. Blitzes started to get home as the sacks and negative plays mounted for Notre Dame. The Tigers added a field goal and then a back-breaking 44-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne with 21 seconds remaining in the half.

Trailing 24-3 as the third quarter commenced, Notre Dame’s defense showed signs of life by recording a couple of stops. Unfortunately, the offense consisted of Book running for his life from a swarm of bigger, faster defenders.

The Tigers finally broke through again late in the period as Lawrence called his own number and outran the Irish for a 34-yard score to make it 31-3. They added a field goal later before Notre Dame got on the board with a Chris Tyree touchdown run midway through the final quarter. The Irish drive was fueled by a cheap shot targeting foul on Clemson safety Nolan Turner, who was immediately disqualified.

Trevor Lawrence was right on target all day

Lawrence finished with 322 passing yards and 90 yards rushing. Etienne redeemed himself for a subpar performance in South Bend with 124 yards in just ten carries. The Tigers turned the tables on Notre Dame with a 219-44 margin on the ground. Their defense recorded six sacks and ten tackles for loss.

Let’s review the keys to the game for each team:

Notre Dame

  • Turnover margin – The Irish need another positive ratio. Surprisingly, the Irish did not turn the ball over and had the lone interception against Lawrence.
  • Running game – Outrush Clemson again, including from the quarterback position. Lawrence outran the entire Irish team.
  • Third down conversions – Maintain an advantage here even with Lawrence at quarterback. Notre Dame was three of 12 against eight of 14 for Clemson.
  • Quarterback pressures – The Tigers nearly won the first game despite the lopsided statistics. Victory finally arrived for the Irish when they were able to get to the passer. They need to get to Lawrence much earlier this week. It didn’t happen.
  • Tackling – Missed tackles allowed Clemson to rack up significant yards after the catch. Notre Dame must be better here. Not much better here, either. Lawrence ran through several tackles by himself.
  • Kicking – Jonathan Doerer was excellent on November 7, but he has been very erratic since. Any missed opportunity will have adverse consequences on Saturday. I can say I saw it coming. Doerer’s short miss deflated the Irish early in the game.

Clemson

  • Contain the running game – Notre Dame’s attack is far less effective if forced to be one-dimensional. Clemson will attack Irish up the middle with Patterson out of the lineup. The Tigers did exactly that. Center Josh Lugg played poorly.
  • Pass protection – Allow Lawrence time to find his playmakers down the field. He certainly did find them, even when he threw off his back foot.
  • Limit scrambles – Find a way to bottle up Book in the pocket and force him to throw it away. Clemson did this to perfection.
  • Get Etienne going – A 100-yard rushing performance by Etienne should lead to victory, but it won’t happen unless the offensive line performs much better than last time. Etienne and his blockers definitely answered the mail.

There is no question in my mind that Lawrence is a better player than Mac Jones of Alabama or Kyle Trask of Florida. He deserves the Heisman Trophy and will be the top pick in the 2021 NFL draft. If anyone questioned his ability before today, they won’t make that mistake again.

Brian Kelly will be searching for a new Defensive Coordinator

As for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly must continue to recruit and sign elite players. The talent disparity at the skill positions between the Irish and the Big Three of Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State remains large, and can’t be addressed in a single cycle. He must also find a capable replacement for Defensive Coordinator Clark Lea. Filling those shoes will not be an easy task.

This year’s veteran team has accomplished a lot and should be proud of their season. It remains to be seen whether they will be deemed playoff-worthy by the Committee tomorrow. If they are, Alabama poses a daunting challenge. If not, they deserve to close out the season with a win in a major bowl and put this disappointment behind them. If only Irish fans could do the same.

90 thoughts on “Lawrence Leads Tiger Beat-Down

  1. Well said! Despite their performance tonight,what this team accomplished so far during this very trying time is remarkable and deeply appreciated. Looking forward to watching a good Irish team on Saturdays was a bright spot in navigating these dark days.Whatever the outcome is of the rest of the season, I would like to see these young men honored in front of a full house at ND Stadium. Whenever that day may be.

  2. JVAN,

    I took some heat from some of the other posters, but my prediction was absolutely
    spot on!! I said we would lose by twenty-five and I missed it by a point. I said it wouldn’t
    be close and it wasn’t.. Typical for the BK ERA..

    In our last game against Syracuse, we did not look like a Final Four Team.. Not even
    close — AND i knew it would carry over..

    Irish not a Championship team.. I don’t think anyone wants to see them play
    Bama.

    Bring on the Trojans of SC or Florida…

    • Don’t worry about the chest-thumpers like DanG or the clueless guys like Jerrod. Not everyone can look at a matchup objectively and see the strengths and weaknesses clearly. It’s especially hard with thick, rose-colored bifocals.

    • Watching ND these last few years with BK as head coach is like watching the movie, Ground Hog Day. Except nothing good comes of it. What is it about the ND admin that they cannot see that BK, in the final analysis, will never win a NC?Where is the striving for excellence I thought my alma mater stood for? Thank God the ND president, board, and AD were not in charge of Operation Overlord.

      • Irish in the South says:

        I will bet, D. Gremillon, that you were not thinking that way after ND beat Clemson in the first matchup. I will bet you were thinking that maybe, just maybe, with just a couple of things going our way, BK could take us to a NC. Well, we have another chance for that…Playing in the semi-finals on Jan. 1. So BK has given our boys another opportunity. Opportunities are all those players are asking for.

      • It is easy to lay all the blame on Kelly, and he is responsible for #2 in my following comments. I believe ND will always trail the Big 3 because they don’t 1) get the # of elite recruits they do and 2) don’t coach them up to the elite level. How many stud high school QBs have they recruited turn out to be decent in college but certainly not elite? We keep waiting. Yes, our depth is getting better. Not sure any other coach could do better than Kelly. ND is not alone. Any other team is going to get a beat down from Alabama.

  3. I think the distraction of Clark Lea made a difference no matter the happy talk about professionalism. It had to effect the team not that it would have made a huge difference with no offense. They had to come up with a way to stop the blitz, maybe roll out Book. They were out played and out coached. Not a defense but I’m old enough to remember a couple times even Ara was thumped. Still a really good season overall.

  4. Another failure by Kelly and his staff to be competitive under the big lights. He recruits well enough to be competitive, but, for whatever reason, they choke in the playoff games.

    The ND adinistration is satisfied with being average.

    • AlumniHallBoneDoc says:

      Easy there Piker. Lots of teams were watching that game in their jammies at Mom’s house yesterday. ND won 10 reg season games in terrible circumstances. They clearly aren’t elite but give some credit. There’s a lot of daylight between Clemson and average. ND is not average.

      • Irish in the South says:

        Agreed. ND beat three ranked teams in regular season. 10 and 1 is not average, especially when the one loss is to the best team in the country.

  5. Once again, slipping into the playoffs or not, are we a phoney? Overrated? Not elite.

    Any hopes we might be close to the late 80s-early 90s dominance, the last era we were legit contenders—were exposed tonight as fantasy.

    ND good this year, maybe great. But sadly, not elite. The chasm remains…

    • Irish in the South says:

      Never give up on this team. No one expected us to beat Clemson on Nov. 7. They now have a great opportunity, which is all the players ever wanted. Let’s see how they do.

    • Here Come The Irish says:

      What about Clemson crushing Alabama two years ago in National Championship 44-16… was Alabama not elite??
      How about Clemson the next year getting dusted by LSU and Joe Burrow 42-25?Trevor Lawrence managed less than 50% completions (also 1 for 10 on 3rd down conversions through first 3 quarters) while Burrow threw for 463 yards and 5 touchdowns. Was Clemson elite the game before that when it beat Alabama again and then somehow phony when it lost to LSU a couple weeks later and then elite again this year?
      Maybe ND is great (leads ACC with nine all-ACC selections) and Kelly is great (ACC coach of the year) and it’s actually ND fans who are a subpar disappointment. Clemson shakes off the LSU beat down. Alabama does the same. Their fans expect it and believe in them. Our team needs to play with the weight of ND fans’ doomsday angst on their backs.
      PLAY FREELY, IRISH!! IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELVES YOU ARE ALREADY GOOD ENOUGH TO BEAT EVERY TEAM IN THE COUNTRY!!! HAVE FUN AND KICK SOME A$$!!!

  6. Louis Ciferno says:

    I’m 68 years old and I have seen some great Notre Dame coaches and great teams. The best teams were the 1966, 1973 and 1988 team with the 1988 team being the best. They had speed, athleticism and great coaching. From the 1988 team, almost every starter and many of the backups went on to the NFL.
    I was hoping that this year might be the year we finally win another championship. It wont happen this year or next or anytime in the future as long as the Notre Dame faithful and Administration are content with some of the coaching and recruiting of 3 star athletes. You can’t compete with teams that are loaded with 4 and 5 star recruits especially at skilled positions. The secondary and wide receiver core was a great example of the beat down we saw. Defensive backs that can’t cover and have average speed. Wide receivers that cannot get open because of lack of speed. Three star vs a five star at those positions is what we saw tonight.

    Lou Holtz once said “speed kills” and he was right.

    Brian Kelly had two weeks to prepare for this game. Everyone knows Lawrence likes to run and can extend a series by doing so. Yet we had no answer. Everyone knew that we had to run the ball to win because we don’t have receivers that can get open and if they do, Book never sees them. I can’t count how many times this season he has not seen open receivers. He has a great offensive line that gives him plenty of time. My point, if you gave Ara Parseghian or Lou Holtz two weeks to prepare for a team, odds are they win 85% of the time.

    If the Notre Dame faithful are happy with winning 10 or 11 games every year but being embarrassed and the laughing stock in the sports world when we play in the games that really matter. If that is the case, we have become a mediocre football school that above average teams that will NEVER win another championship. For me, I am tired of losing and watching us be embarrassed on national tv.

      • Spot on. Maybe ND should just play a regular season schedule, then forego playoff games and just go home to enjoy the holidays. It seems that the hierachy at N.D. would be content with this plan. But, wait! What about all of that money ND would miss out on? That’s the rub. Send those gladiators out there post regular season to embarrass themselves and calm the citizenry. Ask Vanderbilt how this works.

    • You forgot the 1977 National Champions with Joe Montana. The 1966 team was the best of the four ( six shutouts and gave up 38 points the entire year), followed by the 1977 team, the 1988 team and the 1973 team.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Saban and Sweeney are on the sidelines talking to players, trying to get them up and Kelly stands there with no emotion and his arms folded.

    • The difference was trying to contain both Lawrence and Entienne, just didn’t have the ability to do so.
      We’re still a couple of elite players away. Whether we can get or develop those players remains the question. (In year 11).
      I’m not sure I want to see a game against Alabama, but would love to play Ohio State.

  7. The bookends to the winning streak were not just losses, they were disasters, both away from home. Has BK won a big game against top flight competition away from South Bend since Norman in 2012?

    • I was very disappointed but not surprised. I was happy for the season ND had, but again, they looked liked the Cotton Bowl team from 2018. yesterday. I am very disappointed and am not in a good mood. I am already in a foul mood from the COVID19 and and the basektball team got beat by Purdue by 10 yesterday too. At least I was able to watch ND beat Michigan State in an overtime shoot out in hockey on NBCSN last night. I was able to go to sleep with one Irish victory yesterday. If ND plays Alabama I am afraid it will be like the 2013 National Championship game and they will be embarrassed again. To use a Charlie Brown quote: “GOOD GRIEF!”

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  8. We lost the game in the first quarter; three trips to the Red Zone and three points to show for it!!
    Too many no gain running plays on first downs and need receivers to get open!!
    Need more experienced Offensive Coordinator, not just a good buddy for the quarterback.ana

  9. Great column John, as usual. Agree with you that there is a talent gap between Clemson and Alabama, and everyone else. However, I disagree that there is a talent gap with Ohio State. Indeed, in my opinion, Notre Dame is better than Ohio State.

    Regarding the game today, I thought that Clemson would win with Lawrence and other key players back. Lawrence is an elite and generational QB. He absolutely dominated the game today. There is a significant gap between him and any other college QB. Additionally, as a former coach, I know that it is always really difficult to beat a terrific team twice in a season, and clearly, Clemson was the more motivated and better team today. That said, the margin of victory surprised me.

    It could have been an entirely different game if the Irish has capitalized on the INT and built a 10-0 lead early in the game. Poor play calling contributed to that, particularly the 2nd and 5 call from the Clemson 5. The lead still should have been 6-0, but for the butchered chip shot FG attempt by Doerer. When he missed that FG, the momentum completely changed. The other thing that really hurt today was not having Patterson. Center is such a critical position, and there was a cliff drop off with Lugg, who was terrible – poor snaps, mediocre blocking, missed blocks, etc.

    I believe that with Lawrence, Clemson is the best team in the country. Their offense is at least equal to Alabama’s and their defense is better. Hopefully, the Irish will play better against Alabama in the playoffs.

  10. As both teams came out for the opening kickoff I thought, again, they looked a lot bigger and older then we did. Can’t imagine the Irish will make the playoffs after that shellacking. Clemson clearly missed some defensive starters the first game. I agree with Vannie the missed FG deflated us and inspired them. Oh well, good year all in all.

  11. Although I am sad they lost today, I am still very proud of this team for their great season!! I think ND still has a very good chance to make the playoffs due to their overall resume!! However, I am a bit queasy if they face Bama in the Semi-finals.

    Johnny, would you rather ND make the playoffs and face Bama in the semis or go to the Orange Bowl!!

      • Agreed, we do not belong on the same field as Alabama…I am afraid that we would suffer the same fate as today…However, we had a great season until today and I believe that we would beat or at least be competitive with any other team in the country this year… Go Irish!

  12. Caroline’s Dad says:

    So disappointed in today’s results—but mostly in myself for really believing that this year’s team had something different about it—a different feel—a collective chip on its shoulder that gave them an advantage and a physicality that would allow them to avoid being embarrassed like in years past.

    For all the talk, hoping and wishing, the reality is ND was only a single touchdown better than the team that was embarrassed two years ago. I just can’t blame anyone in particular—as much as I want to blame Kelly—there’s just a gap that I’m not sure can ever be closed again, as much as I keep trying to convince myself otherwise.

    I don’t know whether they’ll make it into the CFP or not; I’m sure some will say I’m not a “true fan” for hoping they don’t become Alabama’s sacrificial lamb..

    It’s not about being “a true fan” or not, it’s just pure selfishness plain and simple. I just can’t bear the thought of feeling so demoralized again so quickly—after what would surely be another beat down in two weeks.

  13. ND gave it their best shot but it was apparent early on that Clemson was clearly superior.

    And Clemson has another top 3 recruiting class with 3 or 4 5 stars, as usual, most of whom couldn’t get into Notre Dame because of the academics.

    It is what it is.

  14. I knew giving Kelly two weeks to prepare would only make us worse. Under Kelly, ND has never played well in the big games that mattered. I would have been happy if today was just close. That is how little confidence I have in Kelly preparing the team for these type of games. 10-1 is a good year, but not exceptional when you can’t compete in the top tier. I wish they would call Urban Meyer, but I know that won’t happen. Like I read earlier, give Lou or Ara this team and two weeks to prepare, and it would have been a hell of a game.

    • The inertia flowing through the veins of all aspects of N.D. are bothersome. Last time I visited the campus in 2019 for 3 days I was appalled at the lack of energy. Look at the way Covid was handled. ND football has been in a rut since 1988 and stuck academically in the mid teens for years. Guess that is good enough for the big dogs. Not every army can have an Eisenhower or Saban or Meyer. One would think think after 22 years we might have gotten lucky. Doesn’t work that way. First of all, one must have awareness.

    • I think that Kelly got the most out of the players he has, but we just don’t have the firepower to cope with Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, etc.

  15. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said but not sure I prefer missing the playoff to get the Gators in the Orange Bowl. Trask will put 50+ on them. Unfortunately there isn’t a good option so I’d rather they play angry and coach with nothing to lose and try and gain some respect against Alabama.

  16. Irish in the South says:

    Turning point was the inability to capitalize on the interception. 10-0 start would have made it a different game. Momentum shift for college players is a big deal. You could see our energy of play decline quickly after the missed chip shot field goal. In any event, it was a stellar season for the Irish. We will be in the playoffs simply because we beat the best team in the country.

  17. Irish in the South says:

    For those of us concerned about ND’s recruiting, I find that the incoming class is the best in many, many years. Our OT victory against Clemson in South Bend solidified some commitments from great high school players that were on campus for that game. Review the commitments and I believe your conclusions will be the same as mine.

  18. In my last post, I said the Clemson team ND played last night would be a lot better than the team they beat on 11/7. They were. Trevor is a huge difference maker, it would be criminal if he doesn’t win the Heisman. Irish had there chances early , to be in the game, but after decent offensive effort, came away with 3 points?? Are you kidding me?? Our o line can be dominant , but not against the top 3 , bama, Clemson and Ohio st. There is one thing I’d point out here, BK and his staff are really good, to accomplish what they do, with the young men they can bring in to ND, the kids who can perform at a very high academic level is nothing short of phenomenal. We all know BK and the other coaches want the high 4 and 5 star guys. Can’t get the players into the school. Everyone who follows ND closely knows that Lou, over his yrs at ND fought to get players, like Tony Rice, Chris Zorich, The Rocket , Ricky Waters admitted. His battles with admissions led to his demise. Those players could never get into ND today, never!! Ara or Lou could have had the same two weeks to prepare for this game, and the outcome is likely the same. At the elite level, X’s and O’s matter , but we all know it’s more about the Jimmy’s and the joes. . Nd ‘ s overall talent and athleticism has been improving over last few years, but to get to elite, especially at skill , something has to be implemented at admin level. Love and respect to the players for what they‘’be done on the field this year. Whether or not these kids can compete with Bama or not, they’ve earned the right to try, With the sacrifices they make, you can’t really be hoping they don’t get a CFP spot. That’s a once in a lfetime for these kids. Naysayers, it’s not about you, it’s about the players. Vannie, I’m especially surprised at you.

    • Sorry, ND doesn’t need another reputation-killing defeat. We’ve all seen the Alabama movie before. Do I have to spoil the ending for you? It turned the program into a punch line for five years, until the Clemson loss two years ago extended the narrative. If the Committee drops ND out this time, the players will survive missing the playoffs in this strange season. Many teams like USC, BC and Pitt are saying no to bowl games. Let them be with their families. Also, Clark Lea is out the door, in mind if not in body.

      • Your missing the point, it’s not about what you think , it’s not about the programs reputation , it’s about these young men earned the right to go to the final four , strange year or not. That’s the dream for these guys, yea it’s bama, but what, give up , don’t go??

        . It’s about how far BK gets them with 3’s and 4’s, Clemson gets all high 4’s and 5’s every year. Nd gets one 5 every other year, maybe. If you want to compete with elite players you need elite players. It’s not BK or the Players, it’s the Admin level. As far as an elite coach coming to ND, Urban taught us all the only lesson you need to know about that years ago when he chose Florida over ND.

        I’m proud of these kids and the fight they show , you think they don’t know that at this elite level they are outmanned ? I say GO IRISH, give it all you got against Bama. Just remember, to compete elite, you need elites u won’t get enough elite players unless the admin wants it to happen.

        • Kevin,

          I admire your passion but it is you who are completely clueless. First, I did not say the team should not go to the playoffs if they received an invitation. I said “If the Committee drops ND out this time, the players will survive missing the playoffs”. Now, they are invited and of course they’ll show up.

          The bigger problem is your lack of understanding regarding the ND Administration. You are parroting the line about them not wanting it because you read it somewhere on the Internet. I can assure you it’s simply not factual. Since Kelly was hired, they have bent over backwards with academic exceptions, raised salaries for assistants and invested a ton of money helping him build the program. There are very few five star kids ND cannot recruit. They are just choosing to go elsewhere. The skill positions are an issue but Kelly’s biggest failure has been at quarterback. Those kids are rarely academic casualties with ND Admissions.

          Unfortunately, Kelly’s consistent recruiting failures have set the ceiling for his program. That ceiling has them losing badly in the playoffs whenever they manage to make it. He does well with the three and four star guys but that’s all he’s ever going to do. Five star players are not too dumb to get into ND, but they do need to be recruited hard. Recruiting acumen and unrelenting effort in that area is what separated Saban, Meyer, and Swinney from the pack. They don’t have any special genius or secret sauce that other programs can’t replicate, especially where sufficient resources are available. ND has the resources, but Kelly has never been a high-effort recruiter.

          So let’s go play Alabama, take our lumps, and try to convince recruits that we’re really close to the top. All it takes is for a handful of them to believe it every year. Sounds like it should be easy,

          • You think Amari Rogers wants to take Physics, ?hell, I wouldn’t want to take physics. And it’s rude to call some one clueless. I mentioned that you should know better because you specifically said let’s avoid Bama..I’ve known BK since his student days at Assumption and I trust his take on the recruiting headwinds he faces, I was a bit off however, I should have articulated that the challenge is getting the kids in and then can they matriculate at ND.?that’s why he always points out that when you’re recruiting for ND you ‘re shopping down a different aisle. The big 3 have multiple,less than academically rigorous programs to offer the 4 and 5 stars they want.

          • There is little to be gained by suffering another beating at the hands of Alabama, but the team must show up and give it their best shot.

            The “shopping down a different aisle” canard is little more than an excuse for subpar recruiting. ND has offered most everyone signed by the Big Three in the past several years but have not landed the vast majority of them. Great ND coaches have faced more stringent Admissions challenges in recruiting and succeeded at the highest level. Brian Kelly has been granted advantages not available to his predecessors and has failed. It’s not a mystery as to why. He has been consistently outworked.

            I’m not sure what you know about Amari Rodgers or why you seek to disparage him, but Notre Dame football players do not have to take physics. Trevor Lawrence will complete his degree early and is one of a high percentage of Clemson players to earn a degree.

      • Irish in the South says:

        So we are in the playoffs. Vannie, the players wanted this opportunity badly, and now they have it. You would take that away from the them? Can’t believe you would worry about a “reputation-killing defeat”. What happened to “To be the best, you have to play the best”?

        • No, I would not take the opportunity away from them. Someone has to be the sacrificial lamb against the Big Three in the playoffs each year, and it’s our turn now. Just be ready for another chorus of “ND didn’t belong” chants from the pundits after Alabama smokes us.

          I’ll tell you what happened to “To be the best, you have to play the best.” It’s been replaced by “To be the best, you have to recruit better than Kelly has.”

          • Irish in the South says:

            Vannie, please review the recruit commits and see if this isn’t Kelly’s best recruiting class. By the way, with our academic standards, we can’t accept many of the 5 stars.
            And by the way, ND prioritizes graduation of its student-athletes. The recruiting message is not “Play here and you will play in the NFL”.

          • Sorry, the line that Kelly feeds the media about five star recruits being too dumb to get into ND is a false narrative. If enough people swallow it and repeat it, then it becomes a universal truth. Well, it’s not. ND offers many of those kids and Kelly has been granted much wider latitude than his predecessors by Admissions. The problem is that he’s never been a high effort recruiter and is continually outworked by the competition. We typically do well at certain positions like offensive line and tight end. Occasionally, we land other good kids who are just hard-wired into the idea of playing at ND. Unfortunately, most of the elite guys need to be sold, and that’s where Kelly has not delivered.

            We have a few nice players in this class, The top five are Blake Fisher, Gabe Rubio, Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie, and Prince Kollie. Most of the rest are players with potential that might work out well, but no five stars. The class will help us stay where we are, but won’t close the gap with the elite teams. That’s where many of the top recruits are headed.

            Kelly’s biggest failure has been at quarterback. He hasn’t landed an elite player or anyone close to it, unless Phil Jurkovec develops into an NFL caliber player. Oops, I almost forgot that Kelly ran him out of town and he ended up at BC. Tyler Buchner is a big unknown in this class because he has not played much football in the past three years, and when he has it’s been against poor competition. If he turns out to be mediocre, the program is screwed once again.

  19. Guys, I’m a ’62 grad and can tell you the difference. It’s coaching. It’s always coaching. And it always shows since Kelly has been at ND. ( Can anyone explain the 3 straight runs up the middle for a total gain of 6 yds, and then a 4th down pass that went awry? It was as though WE were ahead)
    This team, the offense, defense, and special teams was totally unprepared for Clemson. But I could say that about 2-3 teams we played this year. It was coaching with Terry Brennan, it was coaching with Kuharich, and then came Parseghian, Devine, Faust and Holtz. But then we slid with Davie, Willingham, Weis, and Kelly. How are you gonna get good players with lousy to mediocre coaches?

    • I am a ’67 grad. What are so many who comment in these posts unaware of what you say? Denial is a powerful psychological defense mechanism. In the meantime the ND football players bust their chops most of the year and come up short of winning the big games. After all of these attempts over the last few years, why not find a 4 star general to lead the boys? Maybe the ND aristocracy should read War and Peace.

  20. Well I’ll start out by saying I did not think ND would win but didn’t think they’d get completely run out of the stadium either. I think the score could have been worse and for that fact ND should not be deemed a playoff team. Flordia with 3 losses is more worthy and took Alabama to the wire last night. If ND played Alabama they would have been beat 52-10.

    We supposedly have the best O-line in college football but it seemed to me that the Clemson D-line was shedding blocks and winning most of the matchups against a veteran ND O-line. Not sure if it is the players, the coaching or both. Losing the starting center shouldn’t throw the line into complete disarray.

    It seemed Clark Lea and Tommy Rees had few answers. This is year 11 of the Kelly era so nothing will change in year 12 or year 13. This is they way things will be until Kelly exits the stage.

  21. Gators, a team embarrassed by dysfunctional LSU last week, hangs 46 pts on Bama, go figure. Could ND get lucky against the Tide, throw up some pts and keep it close? However, another blowout loss to a top 4 team will see Kelly haters descend on South Bend w/ their pitchforks!

    • Stop your mind reading. No one hates Kelly. His post season record speaks for itself. Watch him on the sidelines. What is wrong with wanting an effective head coach to bring another national title to ND? Not going to happen with Kelly. If you were George C. Marshall, would you want Kelly in charge of the U.S. Third Army in Europe during WW2 instead of George Patton. Let’s hope not.

  22. I suppose every year, ND goes through the ‘blame Kelly’ mantra after a big loss. I am not a huge Kelly fan, but for over a decade, he has plenty of Ws to support his case. The fact is that there are only a hand full of truly elite coaches out there. Urban Meyer had medical conditions that limited him just a few years back, so I don’t see him as a viable candidate. Gus Malzahn is available now, but I don’t see him as an elite coach who would deliver better results than Kelly.

    The Swinney’s and Saban’s of the world are generation coaches. Hopefully, that young, up and coming elite coach will end up at ND one day, but in the interim, 10 and 11 game seasons are the best that can be managed. Far better then most schools!

  23. ND in a big spot with BK as coach? Same results as usual. This game was not even that close. Clemson was far superior. I think I predicted Clemson winning 36-22. If ND should make final 4 it would be an ugly game vs Bama. I could see Bama going into that game 15-20 points favored.

  24. I was highly disappointed but not surprised. We dont have the talent Clemson and Alabama and Ohio State have but we do have more than enough talent not to be blown out repeatedly on a big stage. Northwestern has only a small fraction of the talent Ohio State has and they made it competitive. Florida is not nearly as good as Alabama but they hung in there. The ND teams under Kelly are not prepared and the teams are flat in most big games. that is a simple fact. I was so optimistic this year because I thought that after a decade Kelly finally got his teams prepared and ready and I give him all the credit in the world for the first Clemson game and the NC game. but as with Michigan a few years ago, Clemson before that twice and Alabama –we just come unready to compete. I dont blame the payers, I feel for them. but Tommy rees and his pathetic red zone offense set the table yesterday in the beginning. Since Kelly started at ND special teams are less that special with poor consistency as was demonstrated yesterday with missed chip shot field goals and poor kick offs and kick off coverage. The defense didn’t play to their standard but they were on the field all game after short offensive possessions and the offense didn’t provide any help. This unfortunately is classic Brain Kelly football (big game collapse). Yes, we are in better shape than all but a few programs in the country and if that is the new standard then congrats for being good but not elite. I unfortunately was hoping ND would strive to be elite. it will never happen with this coach. As for the CFP, for the players I hope they get there and frankly Texas A&M is less deserving than us but for the sake of not being humiliated I hope we get left out. No way we can compete with Bama to even keep it close.

  25. We are entitled and have our own opinions/views of this team of course but these comments (below) from another fan summarize mine as well. I’ve been saying all season that our receivers lack the athletic ability to get separation. Most big plays were broken ones after Book had to scramble. It finally caught up with us.
    In addition, Clemson came to play ANGRY and inspired whereas ND came seemingly self-confident and less inspired.
    Change those 2 items and the game gets closer IMO. The reality is, recruiting does matter and we will always struggle to get the consistent talent level that Alabama, Clemson & tOSU get. It matters!

    You can’t compete with teams that are loaded with 4 and 5 star recruits especially at skilled positions. The secondary and wide receiver core was a great example of the beat down we saw. Defensive backs that can’t cover and have average speed. Wide receivers that cannot get open because of lack of speed. Three star vs a five star at those positions is what we saw tonight

    • I agree, but you can add QB to that talent deficiency argument. We haven’t had a great one in a long time. Brady Quinn was probably the best one in the last 20 years and he didn’t have much of an NFL career.

      • In all fairness to Brady Quinn, he was doing well with the Cleveland Browns until he got stricken with the injury bug. I felt he was never given a chance again after his injuries. Also, you have to take into consideration the team he was with. As you know the Browns have had bad teams for years no matter who was the quarterback!!!!

  26. Watching the game yesterday, it struck me that this team has NOT improved since the bowl game versus Clemson.
    The Iowa State game last year was a gift to get our confidence up last year. We played a mediocre ACC schedule this year and were championed for edging Clemson’s second string on our home field.

    Herbstreit mentioned during the first half that Book was beginning to look shaky in the pocket. That comment speaks volumes to the quality of the opposition yesterday that we have not experienced in some time – err– two years.

    Now that it’s established that we have Bama in the first round (or Bama has us??), perhaps yesterday and this game will provide JS more opportunity to realize Kelly’s inability to compete against top tier opposition. We have Clemson and OhioState on tap in 2022 and 2023, Texas A&M and Miami in 2024 and 2025. Good time for consider the possibilities of an elite coach of integrity who can develop talent to get us to the next level or two. I’m not holding my breath.

  27. Really
    Receivers are the problem? Recent history: Miles Boyken, chase Claypool and will Fuller all starting in the NFL with speed and size—
    its not a receiver issue. How about an offensive coordinator and head coach issue?

  28. George (classs of 69) says:

    The question I keep asking is this: Why can’t ND recruit an NFL- caliber quarterback from all the great Catholic football high schools in America? Book is and always was an average quarterback. When was the last time that a quarterback from ND was selected in the first round of the NFL draft? I cannot recall. Until ND decides to give that position the attention it deserves, ND will never really be in the national championship league. Also, when was the last time a top football program had a 27-year old incompetent call the offensive plays?

    • Brady Quinn went late in the first round in 2007. Going to Cleveland didn’t help him but he realized fairly soon that his future was in broadcasting.

      Even Theismann and Montana didn’t get drafted in the first round.

      As to your frustration with Rees as the Offensive Coordinator, wait until Kelly retires in a few years and he becomes the head coach.

      • God help us all if that happens. Mary will fall off the dome and Touchdown Jesus will be covering his face. I recall when the students had a shirt that depicted Jesus hiding his face because He could not bare to watch Notre Dame. That might have been the 3-9 season under Weis. You talk about irony. I have always wanted to see Notre Dame play in the Rose Bowl. I was able to see Notre Dame beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl that year. Obviously not the January 1st match up that I have always dreamed of attending. I remember when they announced during the game that U$C had lost to Stanford. Both the UCLA and Notre Dame fans cheered and were giving each other high fives. That was the highlight of my year of ND football. I would like to see another National Championship in my lifetime, but until Notre Dame gets an elite coach, I am afraid that will never happen. It’s like Lucy telling Charlie Brown that she won’t take the ball away as he kicks it, and she always does. We keep getting our hopes up with BK and then when it is the big stage, the football gets pulled back again and it is like Good Ole Charlie Brown, we fell for it again! GOOD GRIEF! It’s time for a change! Thank you for your great analysis, John. You are always spot on and I enjoy your columns! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

        • I was at that same ND-UCLA game in the Rose Bowl back in 2007. Harbaugh was at Stanford and he and Pete Carroll didn’t like each other very much. I remember cheering for Stanford then along with the UCLA fans. A fun moment in the middle of a miserable season.

          The other thing I remember about that game was Weis deciding to throw the ball on first and goal from the one yard line. We immediately gave up a sack and had to settle for a field goal. Anyway, we happened to be sitting next to the father of an ND player (who shall remain nameless). The old man was a tough dude and we had to help his wife restrain him from going down to the sideline and punching Weis in the face. I’m not kidding. He was so pissed.

  29. Irish in the South says:

    Many have concluded that we will get blown out by Alabama. We definitely laid an egg against Clemson and that is what folks are looking at. I chose to believe BK when he says this team is special and will bounce back from that loss.

  30. I thought Kelly was going to recruit elite players after the 2013 beat down by Bama in NC game.
    Obviously he has has not. Not to mention
    Reese vs Venable was not going to go our way with full compliment of Tiger D players

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