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Notre Dame Football

Book's historic verse? Forecast by Kelly

November 8, 2020

Brian Kelly had decided to go full-blown prediction mode.

After he had told his Notre Dame team it would find students on the field celebrating a win against Clemson several hours before kickoff in the team's walk-through, Kelly ratcheted up his role as soothsayer Saturday night when the program boss told quarterback Ian Book that Book would win the game for the Irish.

The Weather Channel would take such an accurate forecaster.

And Book did his part to turn Kelly's forecast into Irish reality inside Notre Dame Stadium, where the Notre Dame senior quarterback engineered a stirring, 47-40 double-overtime win.

“(Coach Kelly told me) 'You're going to go win this game,'” said Book, after navigating his way into the Irish locker room through a throng of students who rushed the field to celebrate. “'This is your game to win and you deserve it and it's time.'

“I 100% believed him.”

Belief might not have rested in many areas inside the stadium late Saturday night when the Irish trailed, 33-26, faced a 91-yard field and had just 108 ticks on the clock.

Book, however, wasn't done stitching together an all-time Irish win and a 374-yard performance that included one passing score and 14 arduous carries for 64 yards – more than twice the ground output of Clemson star back Travis Etienne.

Book initiated the march to overtime when he hit JaVon McKinley, the Irish receiving star on this night with 102 yards, for a gain of 10 on first down, and Book followed up that play with a nine-yard scamper.

Equally as important, Book darted out of bounds on the run. Then Kyren Williams, he of eventual three-touchdown status, burst through the Tigers' defense for 15 yards and a first down near midfield.

That set the stage for Book to find Avery Davis for 53 yards down to the Tigers' 4. Three plays later Book found Davis again, lurking just beyond the goal line, for the overtime-forcing score.

“That's our quarterback for a reason,” Davis would say after Notre Dame's first home win against a top-ranked foe since Florida State visited in 1993.

Not that Davis' snare made anything a certainty.

The Irish, and Book, still had much work left to be done. Notre Dame won the opening coin toss in the bonus session and elected to play defense.

Clemson scored in two plays – the longest part the video review on the first play that was ruled a touchdown but then shifted outside the goal line and inside the 1.

No matter. Book went quickly to work. After Williams rushed for 2 yards, Book scrambled right and found freshman tight end Michael Mayer for 15; then he connected again with McKinley for 5.

Williams polished off that possession, and Book guided the offense right back onto the field – this time at the 25-yard line marching toward the green-lit Touchdown Jesus.

“Just to have (Kelly's) confidence, have him behind me like that, means a lot,” Book said. “This was a huge game, for myself but this whole entire team.

“There was not a moment where I didn't think we were going to win.”

Book gained the last dozen of his 64 rushing yards on a long second-down play in that second OT and then delivered a sideline-strike to Ben Skowronek to surge the sticks on third down. Two snaps later, Williams scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Clark Lea's Irish defense handled the rest of the affair. At its most aggressive nature on the game's final four snaps, Notre Dame's defense for the first time all night made Clemson signal-caller D.J. Uiagalelei look like a freshman making his first road start.

All that was left for Book was one more sprint – onto the field to celebrate – after the Tigers went four-and-out-the-game

“A night I'll never forget,” Book said. “That was just unbelievable. I just started screaming and ran out there and threw my helmet. When the fans stormed the field, it was actually pretty cool. It was really fun. …

“We want to go play in a national championship, so everyone else knows what we have to go do.”

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