Story by Pat Daniel: #4 Clemson’s playoff chances may have become dust in the wind Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, as the Irish dominated all three phases of the ball game en route to a 35-14 blowout win over the Tigers. The Irish scored on special teams via a blocked punt, defensively via a 96-yard pick-six, and offensively both on the ground and through the air, earning their second consecutive win over a ranked opponent.
Notre Dame’s Prince Kollie scooped and scored a punt on Clemson’s opening drive of the ballgame, and quite frankly, the Tigers never recovered. The Irish linemen dominated the trenches like few teams have done in recent years against Dabo Swinney led teams. They lived in the backfield defensively, constantly pushed forward offensively, and had multiple blocked or tipped punts on special teams, collectively asserting dominance all night long.
Clemson’s defense came out strong, as it was mostly a defensive battle throughout the first half, with the wind playing a big hindrance for both teams. The offense’s best drive of the opening half was their second possession, but the Irish defense stiffened at the right moment, stopping a 4th and 4 at the ND 38-yard line. Rather than dumping off short, or handing the ball off, DJ threw deep to a tightly covered Beaux Collins at the Irish 7-yard line.
In six first half possessions, the Tigers never got inside of the Irish 35-yard line. Notre Dame, meanwhile, added a TD to end the first half, following their stout offensive line on an 11 play, 78-yard drive, taking up nearly six minutes of gametime. The drive was capped off by a 5-yard TD run by QB Drew Pyne. Clemson amassed only 30 rushing yds, and 71 total yards in the first half, while surrendering 122 rush yds and 163 overall to Notre Dame.
The second half was all about Notre Dame’s defense. Each time Clemson’s offense got momentum, the Irish would either come up with a big stop, or a takeaway. The Tigers second drive of the half went for nine plays, but ND came up with another key 3rd down stop, forcing yet another punt.
Dabo Swinney elected to bench DJ Uiagalelei with 1:20 left in the 3Q, but things only got worse for freshman Cade Klubnik. His first pass of the game went for an INT, setting up the Notre Dame offense inside of the Clemson 10-yd line. DJ returned to action on the next series, only to throw a 96-yd pick six to the Irish defense, giving the Irish a 28-0 lead with 12:58 remaining in the ballgame.
The loss ended an FBS leading 14-game winning streak for Clemson, as they fall to 8-1 on the season. But with Syracuse’s loss against Pitt on Saturday, the Tigers have clinched the 2022 ACC Atlantic division title and earned a spot in the ACC Championship game December 3. Clemson looks to rebound and finish the season strong, with all three remaining games coming at home. First up is Louisville, next Saturday at 3:30 on ESPN.