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Adams: Fans react to Notre Dame beating No. 1 Clemson

| Monday, November 9, 2020

As has become a weekly postgame staple, the Observer sports department sent a poll out via social media to gauge fan reactions to Notre Dame’s 47-40 double overtime win over No. 1 Clemson. We asked a variety of questions and got a variety of responses from a record number of respondents, so let’s get to it.

 How did the Clemson game make you feel?

“Panicked” / “STRESSED” / “Nervous” / “Nervous. Then amazing.” / “Ecstatic” / “Anxious and then ecstatic.” / “Anxious and happy.” / “On edge until the last second and then amazing.”

I felt all of that and then some in the student section. It was a roller coaster of emotions. From the opening touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, there was a sense — at least in my mind but I’m confident others felt it — that this team is different from the one in 2018. It certainly helps that with one touchdown they instantly doubled the total amount of points they scored against Clemson in that Cotton Bowl.

Going into this game, my mindset was that Notre Dame could not waste possessions. They had to come away with points on every drive, which they were doing. But after Clemson got their first score on a 53-yard touchdown pass, it made me a lot more anxious knowing they could have a 21-7 lead instead of 13-7 if freshman tight end Michael Mayer hadn’t dropped a presumptive touchdown and the offense didn’t get a false start on 4th-and-short from the goal line.

The second half was even rockier, especially because the defense somehow managed to keep alive the smallest slivers of hope despite several offensive woes, including Ian Book’s fumble for a touchback. The referees were also horrendous and in my humble opinion should be dispatched to the Sun Belt or some other nobody conference because the ACC should have better.

But that feeling in the second overtime when the defense got back-to-back sacks? Indescribable. But these emotions do a pretty good job…

Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Notre Dame players rush the field after winning a double-overtime showdown against Clemson, 47-40, on Saturday at home.

“Joy” / “Bliss” / “Amazing” / “HYPE” / “Hell YEAH” / “Very proud of Notre Dame.” / “Proud to be a lifelong ND fan! & a ton of relief.” / “We finally did it!”

For a Notre Dame team that was 4-8 four seasons ago to now defeat the No. 1 team in the country… Notre Dame fans deserve this one. For having to deal with a level of performance that felt like mediocrity by Notre Dame’s standards, this is oh so sweet.

Player of the game?

Lot of selections for quarterback Ian Book here. I totally get that (even with the fumble) given that he went 22-for-39 for 310 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, plus another 64 yards on the ground. Book has taken so much criticism, some of it fair, but the way he responded in this game — even though that response was to a horrible decision he made — earned him the game ball.

However, some others understandably chose sophomore running back Kyren Williams. One hundred forty yards and three touchdowns against Clemson ain’t too shabby for sure. And to the person who said “Kyren Williams in pass protection,” thank you for bringing that up. Williams isn’t big, but boy does he sacrifice his body in pass pro.

Other selections included senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who I was ready to give the game ball to after a scoop ’n score and forced fumble on back-to-back defensive possessions. One person selected the kicking unit, and that’s understandable for a group that made four of five field goals and all their extra points under tremendous pressure. Oh, and don’t forget punter/holder Jay Bramblett saving a kick-six to end the half.

Play of the game?

“Is it even possible to choose one?”

No, not really. But we’re doing this anyway.

“First TD set the tone.”

Like I said, after that score, you could tell this team was different from past ones.

“JOK return for TD.” / JOK fumble and score.”

The big thing for Notre Dame’s defense this season has been forcing turnovers. They hadn’t done it much, and this secondary has not proven itself skilled enough to intercept passes against the best quarterbacks. So, as the position group has for years now, the linebackers stepped up.

Two pass breakups for buck linebacker Shayne Simon were huge, but Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was the star. He didn’t miss a beat when the ball bounced to him and he took it to the house, and that’s just what ND needed. That and his forced fumble on the ensuing Clemson drive after his score. Notre Dame won the turnover battle 2-1 and it made all the difference.

“Pass to Avery Davis to take it down first and goal” / “Book to Avery Davis”

Would agree with this, for no other reason than it showed Notre Dame could make the big play when they needed to. Book had overthrown Davis a couple of times, but the latter pulled off Chase Claypool-esque vibes in that fourth quarter with a toe-tap sideline catch, the 53-yarder and the tying score. If you can’t root for that guy — who played four different positions in four seasons — after that Clemson performance, then there’s something wrong with you.

“Daelin Hayes sack in 2OT.” / “Sacks of DJ in second OT.” / “Defensive stop in second OT.” / “The final play.”

There’s definitely recency bias at play here, but I also understand it. Both teams were worn down and Notre Dame had just taken the lead. The defense smelled blood in the water, and it got more intense with each sack. That was their opportunity to put the game away and they made sure Clemson’s offense never got a shot at sending it to a third overtime.

Give an overreaction you have from this game

“THE ACC IS TRYING TO MAKE CLEMSON WIN VIA THESE REFS!!! (Still not convinced this is an overreaction, might still be true)” 

I think this is probably an overreaction, but not much of a one. I do believe that Dabo Swinney intimidated the referees into picking up the flag on that fourth quarter defensive pass interference. I think the referees were also just doing what referees do and taking their job descriptions way too seriously.

The conspiracy I buy into is that they would want a closer game because it increases the hype around the game and the narrative for the seemingly inevitable rematch in the ACC Championship, so maybe that influenced their calls.

“National Championship locked up.” 

Yeahhh… remember all those feelings of stress and anxiety I mentioned earlier? You’re going to have go through those again in the presumptive rematch of this game in Charlotte, and also in the College Football Playoff if they make that.

“ND is the best team in college football.” 

I think Clemson is the better team, but Notre Dame had a better day. The Tigers maybe win that game six out of ten times, maybe it’s 50-50, but that’s without Trevor Lawrence. And Alabama (now ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll) and Ohio State (No. 3) are both outstanding as well. But we just saw ND can be the best team on the field against any opponent on any given day.

“We got 40 points scored on us. Gotta tighten it up. (Overreaction because that defense is elite)”

Appreciate the self-monitoring on your own overreaction. In today’s college football, elite offense beats elite defense. In the end, both teams were tired, and Notre Dame’s defense caught enough of a second wind to make the plays to send them home. There are things to improve, but you couldn’t have asked for any more in this first matchup with the Tigers.

“Don’t catch Covid before we play BC!!!” / “COVID finna hit y’all campus hard after that cello” / “This will be the last game Notre Dame plays due to COVID-19”

Yeah… not really an overreaction here, I’m sorry to admit. Although I highly doubt this will be the last game they play, they might lose one on the schedule.

“Pissed ’cause everyone is saying Clemson didn’t have their best team out there.”

Not an overreaction. You have a right to be upset about that, although I wouldn’t personally get upset. I worry about Notre Dame’s perception nationally, but anyone who doesn’t think this was a valid win over the No. 1 team in the country is an idiot or just biased against Notre Dame, or both.

D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards, the most any player has ever thrown for against Notre Dame (beating out Carson Palmer in 2002). Notre Dame managed to hold Travis Etienne — the two-time ACC Player of the Year, all-time leading rusher in the ACC and future college football hall-of-famer — to 57 yards receiving and 28 yards rushing. He averaged 1.6 yards per carry. Tell that to Stewart Mandel, Paul Finebaum, Kirk Herbstreit, Bruce Feldman, Colin Cowherd and anyone else who, in your opinion, doesn’t give the Irish enough credit.

[Disclaimer: mentioning the names of these individuals is not necessarily me saying that this is how I feel about them. Except Colin Cowherd. He sucks.]


Honestly, I want Bama, too. We just beat one No. 1 team, let’s go for double.

“Horrible question. Impossible to overreact.”

At this point, granted.

Did this game change how you view the Notre Dame football program and/or Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame tenure? Why?

Lot of mixed messages here. Some say this changed their perception of the program but not Kelly because they already thought he was good. Others recognized that this was a win he needed in order to get rid of the narrative that he couldn’t win big games.

The majority opinion seems to be that, really, it’s about damn time Kelly got this win, and he did, which everyone can enjoy.

What are your expectations for how the rest of this season plays out?

A lot of people expect the Irish to win out, and from their they are split on if they win or lose to Clemson in the ACC Championship. Some are saying a College Football Playoff berth, which is now possible regardless of the result in Charlotte, but not the most likely if they lose. I appreciate those who just described their expectations as “high.”

Are you worried about a trap game vs. Boston College?

Out of 31 respondents, 74.2% say yes and 25.8% say no. But again, that’s assuming the Irish play BC immediately, but after the fans storming the field that not a guarantee.

And finally…

Highlights of how people said they watched the game

“Falling on the ground on the second sack. As a former [assistant managing editor] at The Observer, a great moment to just be a fan.”

Love to hear from the Observer alumni.

“I was sad that Ian was sad bc he’s cute, then I was so, so glad he hung in there and redeemed himself and I danced some jigs.”

Glad to know you have your priorities in order.

“I was seated until the last Clemson drive. After each sack, I got a foot closer to the TV. When the final play was finally over I leaped, Jordan over Ehlo style, and fist pumped.”

Love the old school NBA reference.

“Pacing, weirdly eating a tray of blueberries next to me every time I was nervous, and not looking at my phone at all because of superstition.”

Hey, the superstition paid off. Cue Stevie Wonder.

“I stress-cleaned my entire house and did two loads of laundry because watching was too stressful.”

Been there with my laundry and dorm room last season.

“Yelled in disappointment at the Skowronek drop on fourth down, the Book fumble, and the Davis broken up near-TD catch. Screamed in joy at the deep pass to Davis, the two sacks in OT and the final play.”

Man I was drained after the first quarter. At that point the emotions I felt were between disappointment and sweet relief. But you can bet I would’ve been leaping if I wasn’t worried about falling off the stadium bleachers.

“Screaming. Joy. Nervous. Hope. Lost hope. More hope. Pacing. Elation. Banging pots on my balcony at midnight.” / “My heart was racing and I couldn’t breathe.”

I feel that. I was getting knots in my chest, too.

“Was in a text chat with four besties from ND lot of swearing going on.” / “Lots of yelling, cursing, exhilaration.

You love to share these kinds of moments with those close to you. Swearing makes it all the more intimate.

“Family is asleep & I’m sitting on the floor rocking back and forth in great anticipation on every play on the last defense series. When after the last play I jumped up with so much excitement for this moment in ND history.”

It’s a great one. Up there with Catholics vs. Conflicts, Bush Push, Game of the Century, etc. I don’t know if I would have been able to control my emotions even for my family’s sake.

“Oh. My. God. Could not believe.” 

Me neither.


Whew, that was a long one. But hey, I think we earned it with this win. Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll.

Looking forward to more reactions the rest of the season. Until then, enjoy this one responsibly.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden