Instant Analysis: Tigers can't overcome injuries at Notre Dame

by - Staff Writer -
Travis Etienne is tackled for a short gain.  (ACC Photo)
Travis Etienne is tackled for a short gain. (ACC Photo)

Clemson gave it its all but in the end the loss of so many key defenders – both before and during the game – was simply too much overcome as the top-ranked Tigers fell to No. 4 Notre Dame Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

Clemson was without starters Tyler Davis, James Skalski and Mike Jones and lost Lannden Zanders, Sheridan Jones and Bryan Bresee at various points during the game. However, it took Notre Dame two overtimes to take down Clemson 47-40.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: In just his second start – first on the road – DJ Uiagalelei looked like a seasoned veteran once again. The freshman from California completed 29-of-44 passes for 439 yards and two touchdowns. He carried the ball 11 times for 16 yards, including a key fourth-and-inches play when he picked up the first down on a drive that eventually ended in a touchdown that tied the game at 23-23. Uiagalelei hit Cornell Powell for a 24-yard gain on the first play of overtime and bullied his way into the endzone for a touchdown.

DEFENSIVE/SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE GAME: Clemson isn’t in the game without B.T. Potter. Potter, who was inconsistent a year ago, came up big when his team needed him most Saturday night. The Rock Hill (SC) native is known for his booming kickoffs and there were no returns for the Irish. More importantly, though, Potter was 4-for-4 on his field goals, making kicks of 25, 45, 46 and 30-yards to keep Clemson in the game.

STAT OF THE GAME: Uiagalelei’s 439 passing yards was the most against Notre Dame ever.


*Tigers rally to tie: The Clemson defense forced another punt and the Tigers took over at their 40. Uiagalelei then engineered a 13-play, six-and-a-half minute drive that tied the score. Included was a beautiful third-down throw to Etienne, a conversion on fourth-and-inches at the Notre Dame 10, and ended with a gorgeous pass to Davis Allen on a crossing route that covered 10 yards. Late in the third quarter, the score was tied at 23-23.

*Fumble in the endzone: Notre Dame responded with a long drive – aided by a controversial 45-yard pass that looked like it bounced off the turf but was ruled complete – and appeared poised to retake the lead. The drive reached the Clemson 7-yard line, but Jake Venables punched the ball out of Ian Book’s hands and the ball bounded into the end zone and was recovered by Nolan Turner for a touchback.

*Clemson takes the lead: The Tigers forced a punt and took over at their own 26. Three plays netted nine-plus yards, and facing a 4th-and-1 at the Clemson 35, Swinney elected to go for the first down. The Irish were offsides, however, and the Tigers made them pay. A 16-yard pass to Rodgers, a 13-yard pass to Etienne, and a bruising 15-yard pitch-and-catch with Cornell Powell put the ball at the Notre Dame. Etienne cartwheeled into the end zone from three yards out and the Tigers led 33-26 with 3:33 to play.

UP NEXT: Clemson gets a much-needed off week to get healthy and, hopefully, get Trevor Lawrence, Tyler Davis and Mike Jones through COVID-19 cardiac protocol (Lawrence) and injury, before the Tigers travel to Florida State.

Notre Dame travels to Boston College next Saturday.

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