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Claypool shines in Camping World Bowl, his last game at Notre Dame

| Saturday, December 28, 2019

A lot could be said of Notre Dame’s offensive production Saturday afternoon. In its first game without former offensive coordinator Chip Long, the Irish managed to produce 455 yards of total offense on 65 plays.

Senior quarterback Ian Book threw for 247 yards and a touchdown with efficiency, going 20-for-28 on pass attempts. Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. rushed for 135 yards on 11 attempts, one of which was an impressive 84-yard touchdown run, which set the record for the longest run in Camping World Bowl history and Notre Dame bowl game history. But if you watched the game at all, you know senior wide receiver Chase Claypool stood above the rest.

The senior surpassed 1,000 receiving yards on the season in his Camping World Bowl outing, snagging seven receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown (and coming half a yard short on a second). Claypool’s elite physicality stood out the entire contest, often carrying several defenders on his back as they attempted to take him down. But when asked about crossing that statistical benchmark, Claypool was humble — even sentimental.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish senior wide receiver Chase Claypool secures a 43-yard catch before being brought down just short of the goal line. Claypool become of one nine receivers in program history to record 1,000 yards in a season and was named Camping World Bowl MVP.

“It’s not something that I was trying to reach,” he said. “I mean, it’s a goal I had — it was definitely a goal I had. So it’s nice to reach that goal. But, you know, you don’t really play the game for statistics. So it’s nice, but I’m not going to remember getting to 1,000 yards this game. I’m just going to remember going out with these guys.”

Even opposing head coach Matt Campbell took the time to recognize Claypool’s level of play in the contest, praising the senior’s talent. Campbell said there were seven or eight plays in the game where his team just did not execute, and when asked how many of those plays involved Claypool, he was quick to give the senior credit.

“Let me first give Chase so much praise. He’s a phenomenal football player,” Campbell said.

Claypool, historically also an excellent special teams contributor as a gunner, also contributed on the punt unit. On the opening drive of the contest, the Irish were forced to punt after a three-and-out, and senior safety Alohi Gilman forced a fumble from the punt returner, Iowa State wide receiver Tarique Milton and Claypool recovered to give the Irish the ball, which ultimately led to their first score of the game.

After the game, when asked about his contribution on special teams, Claypool said the offense and defense feed off each other, and that dynamic is key in wins like this.

“They tell us they’re going to get us a stop, and then we have to go score for them,” he said. “So, you know, it’s give and take. I was happy we were able to put something on the board right after that turnover and then continue that on. The defense kept giving us good field position, good confidence, because once we get a lead, we can start opening up our playbook a little bit.”

The Abbotsford, British Columbia, native also took the time to thank his teammates, who he said have been integral to his development as a player.

“Being so far away from home in another country, you need a family that’s going to have your back through the ups and downs, and these guys did that every step of the way. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, because it’s hard, it’s hard,” he said. “It’s really hard. So, thankfully, I had a good family to lean on, and they were always there for me.”

As a senior who won’t be returning next season, Claypool offered some words of reflection on his college football journey.

“I appreciate everyone — speaking to my family, my friends, everyone who supported me throughout the years to get me to this point,” he said. “For a long time, something like this was a dream, and it’s something that was a dream that couldn’t be reached. But I hope I’m an example and live an example of someone [where] if you just keep on dreaming, then that dream will come true.”

Ultimately, Claypool said the takeaway from this trip was more than just a Camping World Bowl victory. He said cherished the little things on the trip more now that he was a senior.

“When you know it’s your last year and your last ride with the guys, you kind of do stuff and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s the last time ever that I’m going to be able to do that,’ so then you really cherish it,” he said. “So every little thing we did, from going to Shake Shack, going to Universal, doing everything — Best Buy — it was really special, because you’re not going to get those moments back.”

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