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Keys moments: Notre Dame versus Clemson

| Saturday, November 4, 2023

Sofia CrimiVaroli | The Observer
Several Notre Dame defenders try and bring down Clemson’s Phil Mafah during the 31-23 loss against the Tigers.

Though Notre Dame seemed to have several extra lives against the Tigers, Death Valley truly lived up to its name in a devastating Irish defeat. The loss knocked Notre Dame out of New Year’s Six bowl contention. Here are several key moments from Notre Dame’s road loss against Clemson.

Clemson melts Irish on both sides of the ball in first half
Early plays like Tigers’ running back Phil Mafah’s 41-yard rushing touchdown midway into the first quarter placed Clemson in the driver’s seat from the get-go. This explosive offense, coupled with a high-pressure Clemson defense, was a recipe for disaster for the Irish. Clemson’s first-half defensive prowess shined most through linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr.’s pick-six off graduate quarterback Sam Hartman. Trotter’s 28-yard touchdown return partway into the second quarter snapped off the wheels of an already shaky Irish offense. Hartman was uncharacteristically poor, completing just 43% of his passes, in addition to taking a pair of sacks for a combined 13 yards lost. Though the Irish attempted to come back in the second half, the early lead by the Tigers proved too much for Notre Dame to overcome.

Watts’ interception brings a pulse back to the Irish
Amidst the Clemson chaos, senior safety Xavier Watts’ interception on Clemson’s first second-half drive pointed to some signs of life for the Irish defense. The interception was Watts’ seventh of the season, most of anyone in the country. A two-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back Audric Estimé followed, creating a one-score game. This touchdown seemed to reinvigorate the Irish and produce one of the few glimmers of hope throughout the competition. Though the Tigers scored on the following drive, the Irish came back again when Hartman found the end zone with his legs via a 26-yard rush.

Clemson blunders almost cost them the game
Clemson played a clean and passionate game, though the Tigers’ made several mistakes that may have cost them the game if the Irish were able to capitalize properly. In one defining moment at the beginning of the fourth quarter, a snap sailed above Klubnik’s head to take Clemson far out of field goal range. A successful kick would have allowed them the chance to go up against the Irish by two scores, all but ending the game. The Irish had opportunities to capitalize, but the offense was unable to deliver — a common theme of the day. To no avail, Notre Dame was never out of the realm of victory in what felt like a game of back-and-forth in a scoreless fourth quarter.

Irish fate sealed by interception, despite an extra life

An interception by Tigers safety Kylon Griffin in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter seemed to seal the Irish’s fate. But suddenly, the Irish were given an extra life by the Tigers as Mafah fumbled the ball and senior defensive lineman Rylie Mills recovered. Clemson fans were on the edge of their seats as this meant the Irish had another chance to find the end zone and tie the game. Yet, the trend of underperformance continued and the Irish were unable to use this fumble to their advantage. Fourth down came and went as a sea of orange flooded the field. Irish fans left Memorial Stadium with hopes of a New Year’s Six bowl crushed.

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About Madeline Ladd

Madeline Ladd is a junior in Pasquerilla West Hall majoring in Management Consulting with minors in Sport Media and Social Entrepreneurship. Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, Madeline is an avid Eagles fan and Wawa lover. In her free time, catch her cheering on the Irish or finding her next place to travel. Reach out to her below to talk all things ND football or Eagles.

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