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Notre Dame Football

No. 4 Notre Dame holds serve, sets up Clemson clash

October 31, 2020

Notre Dame wasn't at its best.

It wasn't as crisp as a week ago, when it throttled Pittsburgh on the road.

The fourth-ranked Irish did not have to be in top condition on this autumn afternoon. That's next week.

Buoyed by a dominant defense and offense that struck by land and air, Notre Dame dispatched host Georgia Tech, 31-13, Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium – the program's 12th win a row and longest Power-5 winning streak in college football.

“Look, I mean I could sit here and talk to you about the things we did well today,” Irish coach Brian Kelly told ABC after the game. “Our standard of play's got to be a little bit better. Got a great team we're playing next week. We'll enjoy the win but there were things out there we can't let happen next week.

“You can't turn the ball over the way we did on the 3-yard line. But I will say this, these guys have done such a great job of winning consistently and they understand that their level of play has to move up. Today was about the little details and they have been great about the details. We'll clean those details up bc their spirit and want-to is great.”

The Fighting Irish (6-0, 5-0 ACC), undefeated entering November for the second time in three seasons, led 7-0 early, by 10 at the break and never by fewer than double digits for the game's final 31 minutes, 49 seconds.

Kelly learned from ABC postgame that his Notre Dame squad will face top-ranked Clemson at home next Saturday (7:30 p.m., NBC) with the Tigers missing star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The junior Lawrence tested positive midweek for COVID-19 and will miss the game against the Irish due to ACC protocols for cardiac testing in a player's return from a positive test.

“I wasn't aware, and that's a shame, obviously,” Kelly said. “You want Trevor Lawrence to play in a game of this magnitude when you have two really good football teams playing.

“Look, this thing runs through Clemson. So you assume you're going to have to beat Clemson at least twice. We've got to take care of what we've got to take care of. We'll be excited about being back home next week.”

Notre Dame's defense gave up its first fourth-quarter points of the season when the Jackets (2-5) scored a late rushing touchdown against a mix of Irish starters and backups. But it was the only points allowed on the afternoon by Clark Lea's unit; Georgia Tech's first score came via Zamari Walton's 91-yard scoop-and-score of a Kyren Williams fumble.

“We made some critical errors in the second half, too many 15-yard penalties,” Kelly said. “We had one pressure where we supposed to peel and didn't.

“We didn't play a lot of snaps in the first half. Had a good stop in the first half after a big play. Come back offensively and make it 24-7; I thought that was a good transition there. It's a really good defense, no doubt. That's a good offense. I think if you ask Clark and I how we played, there's some things we've got to clean up into next week against a better opponent.”

Williams closed with 100 total yards rushing and receiving, as well as a pair of touchdowns as Notre Dame built a 24-point lead before it notched its fifth double-digit win in six games this season.

Senior quarterback Ian Book threw for 199 yards and one score while the Irish ground attack mashed the Jackets for 227 yards. They possessed the ball for 36 minutes, 54 seconds. C'Bo Flemister added a rushing touchdown, and Joe Wilkins Jr. got the Irish on the board to open the game on Book's scoring toss.

“Ian was pretty darn good; 18 for 26, 200 yards,” Kelly said. “The ball came out quick and there were a couple of times where he was late on some reads; he was not late today. His timing was really good. He shortened up his drop a little bit. Liked his efficiency today. It was a really good day for him, one we can continue to build off of.”

Sophomore sensation Kyle Hamilton led the defense with six tackles, two of them for losses, and he also thwarted Georgia Tech's attempted two-point conversion that would have cut the deficit to two scores midway through the fourth quarter.

“Kyle Hamilton is, no doubt for us, for me, you don't get many players of that caliber,” Kelly said. “He snuffs out the two-point play; he's all over the field.”

Now, finally, it's on to Clemson.

“Well, I addressed Clemson two weeks ago so I would think you would think I addressed them after the game,” Kelly said when asked if he spoke to the Irish postgame about next week's clash. “We talked about Clemson. We play Clemson. We wanted to play Clemson when we upped our performance level.

“I wouldn't say it was our best performance today but we did some good things.”

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