Story by Nikki Hood
Death Valley: Phil Mafah and the Clemson defense willed the Tigers to a 31-23 win over No. 12 Notre Dame, Saturday.
Mafah had 36 carries for 186 yards, while the Tigers defense forced a punt of turnover on every one of Notre Dame’s fourth-quarter possessions as Clemson improved to 5-4 and the Irish fell to 7-3.
With the win, Dabo Swinney has his 166th career victory, making him Clemson’s all-time winningest coach.
Notre Dame outgained Clemson in total yardage 329 to 285, but the Tigers won the turnover margin three to two.
The Irish scored the first points of the game on a 43-yard field goal, but Mafah and Clemson answered by scoring the next ten points. Hamp Greene had a 15-yard punt return to set up the Tigers on the 41-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Mafah took it to the house for a 7-3 lead. The Tigers and Irish traded possessions, but Aiden Swanson’s 48-yard punt bounced off the facemask of Chris Tyree and was recovered by Philip Florenzo on the 22-yard line. Clemson settled for a 22-yard field goal for a 10-3 lead after one-quarter of play.
The Tigers continued finding ways to score in the second quarter, with freshman receiver Tyler Brown fighting through a tackle for a 9-yard touchdown reception. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. picked off Hartman and raced 28 yards to the endzone for a pick-six and a 24-6 Clemson lead. Notre Dame connected on two more field goals in the second quarter for a 24-9 Tiger advantage at halftime.
Clemson got the ball to start the third quarter, and an early pass to Beaux Collins was picked off and returned 33 yards to the two. Audric Estime did the rest for Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the game, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 24-16 with barely a minute gone in the third quarter. Clemson answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took a little less than six minutes off the clock and was capped off with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Mafah for a 31-16 lead.
Notre Dame quickly answered with a four-play drive that saw Hartman take it 26 yards down his own sideline to the endzone to cut Clemson’s lead to 31-23.
Clemson returns to Death Valley next Saturday to host Georgia Tech.