Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Instant Reaction | Clemson 30 Notre Dame 3

December 29, 2018

Well, that was terrible in every way.

What else can you say? Notre Dame came out and was competing with Clemson early in the game. On defense especially, they held the Tigers to 2.6 yards per play in the first quarter. Then the wheels fell off when Clemson found “Waldo” for the Irish when Julian Love went out of the game.

Unfortunately for Donte Vaughn he got picked on. He gave up two touchdowns in the second quarter while Love had only given up a single touchdown all year.

Even if the defense had held up and balled out without Love, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Notre Dame couldn’t generate anything on offense. They couldn’t come up with big plays and they weren’t going to be able to drive the ball on Clemson methodically.

That wasn’t going to cut it. Throw in the fact that every review went against Notre Dame and there really wasn’t any chance the Irish were going to come back once they were down a couple of scores. They needed some breaks, didn’t get any, and were outclassed.

- Let’s get back into losing Love. If there was any doubt that he was the Jenga piece for this defense, this game proved it. Without him, things fell apart. It was 3-3 when he left the game.

Trevor Lawrence was 13 of 15 for 229 yards (15.3 YPA) and 3 touchdowns in the second quarter without Love in the game. Lawrence was 14 of 24 for 98 yards (4.1 YPA) and no touchdowns when Love was in the game.

Even the Alohi Gilman touchdown likely never happens with Love in the game. Instead of bumping Justyn Ross in the slot, Drue Tranquill dropped to the flat to help Vaughn with anything underneath. If Love was in, I’m positive they would have left him one on one giving help to Gilman instead.

Gilman makes a bad read thinking they are running an out and Ross runs up the seam. Strike up the band from there.

- If I’m looking at it objectively, getting Lawrence to beat them when they had the players in who could cover on the outside was a good strategy. The problem is that when Love was lost (this feels like a great punny title if he goes pro), they couldn’t get away with it because Clemson has too many weapons.

Ross was too good. Tee Higgins was fantastic on that one catch. It takes great corners to play against those guys and Notre Dame lost their best one and got outscored 20-0 when that happened.

- Reason number 10,146 why recruiting is important: the Irish lost three cornerback commitments from the 2017 class. Anyone of those three would have helped a lot in this game. Paulson Adebo especially.

I do feel for Vaughn. He has to be crushed right now and his season couldn’t have gone any worse. But if Notre Dame signed those corners, then he’s probably not put in that position. Or if Nick Watkins stuck around. Or if Shaun Crawford stayed healthy. I’d imagine they would have been in the game before Vaughn.

They couldn’t put TaRiq Bracy in after he had a tough time against USC’s Michael Pittman (also 6’4’, like Clemson’s receivers). DJ Brown or Noah Boykin could end up being very good players, but they obviously weren’t ready.

Hitting your numbers in recruiting matter and missing in one class is a big deal. It came back to burn Notre Dame in this game.

- One big play opened it up for Travis Etienne, but Notre Dame had tackled really well against him before that.

Gilman finished with 18 tackles. Te’von Coney had 16. Tranquill had 11. It’s a shame that their efforts stopping the run for the majority of the game went to waste with one dagger run by Etienne.

- It was nice to see Ade Ogundeji with a huge sack as one of the lone bright spots on the day. Overall the pressure on Lawrence was actually not bad. He was sacked three times in this game and was only sacked eight the rest of the year.

Left tackle Mitch Hyatt was beat bad a couple of times and that pretty much never happens. It wasn’t good enough to make a difference, though. To be fair, it would have needed to looked like the ‘85 Bears to change the outcome today.

- Chip Long schemed some good plays early in the game. That fake pitch to Chris Finke and then a toss back to Dexter Williams was an example and screen to him early to convert on 3rd down was another.

Ultimately there’s only so much he could do in that department. Without the All-22, I can’t say whether not anyone was open the numerous times the Irish tried to hit a big one when they went play-action. Ian Book couldn’t find anyone so that’s all that mattered.

- When you give up six sacks, it looks like a bad day for the offensive line. Even without Dexter Lawrence, they had the edge up front. There is no doubt about that. Even without a closer look at it, four of those were not directly on the line.

One was a protection call that left Austin Bryant unblocked. Another was a defensive end on a back. Clelin Ferrell had a sack going up against Cole Kmet. Another was a back getting blown up by a blitzing linebacker.

It wasn’t like the line didn’t get beat at times, but I thought Book took off from the pocket early too much as well. It might be that they told him to do so when that first read wasn’t there because they were planning and were worried about the rush, but he was not the calm presence he has been for the majority of the year.

He missed some throws because he was jumpy with his feet and that led to him being inaccurate. I’m sure he was also frustrated by not seeing his receivers running free at any time. They needed an elite performance by Book to win the game. They didn’t get it.

Some of it was on him and some of it was out of his control.

- In hindsight, I really shouldn’t have counted on Long scheming up plays like he has all year. Not that it’s on him, but that’s not something you can rely on when you have the kind of athletes Clemson has.

I think the one glaring thing this game showed was the lack of explosive options for Notre Dame in the passing game. The fact that people (including myself) were hoping for athletes like Lawrence Keys or Michael Young to play a role to give the Irish more of that was too much to ask.

Here I go again with it going back to recruiting. Clemson has multiple big play guys at receiver and Notre Dame doesn’t have the same kind of speed. At least not the kind of speed that is going to scare a defense. Players like Young, Keys, and Kendal Abdur-Rahman could be these guys for Notre Dame, but who knows if they will be that even next year?

They have to sign more of these types in every class if they’re not bringing in the 5-stars that can help right away.

- It’s hard to swallow right now, but it shouldn’t take away from 12-1 or the fact that Notre Dame deserved to be in the Playoff. I don’t care what people say after this game, the result of this doesn’t change that fact.

I also don’t feel this was anywhere close to the 2012 game against Alabama. The Irish are closer to being where they need to be, although they still have a long way to go.

Maybe we will see them take another step next season with a bunch of the defensive line, four of five starters on the O-line, Book,and more coming back?

I don’t know, but it sucks to have to think about next year already. The Irish will have to wait a long time to try and prove people wrong again while they hear plenty of doubters this spring and summer.

Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.