Well, that was a tough pill to swallow. I had a lot of thoughts on the game right after the clock struck zero. Even this morning, it was hard to figure how to articulate myself without getting into using expletives in every other sentence. Hats off to Clemson. I didn’t think it was right that they weren’t a Top Ten team, and they did nothing but prove that they should be. Their defense did well, all things considered. For Clemson to win, they needed to stop the ground attack. And that’s exactly what they did. However, Notre Dame showed us that their talent is real. For most of that game, they played like crap, and they still lost on the last play. So I guess the easiest way to divide this is by the bad/ugly, and the good.
On one hand, the defense settled down and made some really big stops for most of the second half. But wow, can you play worse than they did right out of the chute? Everyone looked awful, especially Cole Luke and Elijah Shumate. They both were responsible for both of the first two Tigers touchdowns. They got lost in coverage and proceeded to follow it up with horrific tackling.
CJ Prosise had a rough night. He accumulated 50 yards on the ground on 15 attempts. But I think that can also be attributed to the line. They. Sucked. Too many holds and false starts. They looked lost. They couldn’t clear holes. It was tough to watch how soft they played. However, I’ll give them credit, because they looked slightly better with pass protection.
Brian Kelly also should take some blame for this loss. I always don’t like saying that about coaches because they’re not the ones that go out and make the plays. But he did go for two after the first Irish touchdown. I get it in theory- if ND cashes that in, they’re down two scores. But the way their defense had picked it up and the momentum their offense had developed, it was an awful call. And it proved costly. If he takes the kick, supposing Justin Yoon makes it, then their final touchdown would’ve been enough to tie the game with an extra point. They wouldn’t have had to go for two on the last play. On top of that, calling a draw with DeShone Kizer was the worst play call they could’ve possibly made. I get rolling him out, but why not have a tight end in the flat ready in case nothing was there?
But there was good in this loss. First, DeShone Kizer proved he’s legit. His first road start was in one of the toughest places to play in sports. Death Valley is typically hell for opposing players. That doesn’t even account for the hurricane-esque conditions they played in. But he played elite. He threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns with a pick (that did not end up being costly), while coupling it with 60 rushing yards and another touchdown. He would’ve had more passing yards if any of the receivers could hold on to the ball. Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Corey Robinson all had really key drops.
This shows a lot about the Irish’s character. I know that they lost and dug themselves into a hole. They shot themselves in the foot and Clemson cashed in on their mistakes. But early in the second half, it was 21-3. They made it 24-22. They still could’ve won. That says so much about their talent and their determination. ND didn’t panic. And while this could potentially end their playoff hopes, I’m not convinced Clemson is all that better. Clemson got 396 yards (97 passing, 199 rushing) to Notre Dame’s 437 (321 passing, 116 rushing). Notre Dame’s defense continued the trend of bend-but-don’t-break. I hated their first two possessions but they only gave up 10 points thereafter. That isn’t too bad.
I won’t count us out yet. This is because Ohio State and Michigan State both came within one possession of losing. Ole Miss got smoked. Georgia lost, Alabama has already lost this year, and LSU isn’t dominating the way they should thus far based on their schedule. The Irish schedule is considerably better than both Baylor and TCU. Clemson will still have to get past Florida State to win the ACC. I wouldn’t be worried if the Irish belonged to a conference. Based on the whacky way college football works, we could still manage to get in to the four-game set. But we need to win out. This can’t be like the Florida State game last year that completely, utterly demoralized us. ND shouldn’t hang their heads. They’re on to Navy.