The last time the Notre Dame went into Death Valley, Joe Montana and Dwight Clark were n opposite sides of the field. College Game Day wasn’t an idea and there weren’t any live nationally televised games.
A Joe Montana led Irish team came from 10 down to win 21-17 on a Montana quarterback sneak with seven minutes to go in the game. Could history repeat itself Saturday night?
The tradition and pageantry of the Clemson Tigers field entrance is like no other. From the team bus stop in front of the stadium where Howard’s Rock is placed to the stampede down the hill after rubbing the rock is one the top traditions in college football. Could they carry that emotion to the field as the kickoff is put in the air? Only two things stood in their way, the sixth ranked program in the country in undefeated Notre Dame and tough weather from the coast where Hurricane Joaquin was causing its own wreckage.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson opened up the scoring when he found Jordan Leggett in the flat and he leapt over defenders into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. And it was clear that the Tigers were out to make a statement early that they are going to try to upset the Irish.
After holding Irish running back C.J. Prosise to negative yardage on his first two carries the the Tigers were able to force a three-and-out when Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer was only able to get five yards on the carry. Clemson wasted no time going 40 yards in four plays to get another touchdown to push the lead to 14, this time Watson was able to find Artavis Scott who bounced off of defenders and skipped in for another Watson touchdown pass.
The Tigers would keep C.J. Prosise contained throughout the game, giving up just 50 yards on 15 carries to the Irish top running back. In fact, Kizer led the Irish in rushing with 60 yards rushing.
Notre Dame did manage to get a field goal in the first half despite all the inconsistency on the part of both teams, they turned it over three times and had to punt seven times.
The Tigers started the second half pretty much how they started the game, with all the momentum and taking advantage of opportunities. Opening kickoff, Notre Dame’s C.J. Sanders was belted by Clemson kicker Ammon Lakip that forced a fumble. It was recovered by Clemson’s C.J. Fuller. Three plays later on a third and two, Watson was able to get through the defense and scamper for a 21-yard touchdown run. Irish fans were definitely thinking, “uh-oh.” On the ensuing possession after the touchback, C.J. Prosise took the handoff up the middle and was stripped by linebacker Ben Boulware. The ball was again recovered by Clemson in plus territory. No damage was done. Notre Dame forced Clemson to punt.
Getting another chance at life, Note Dame was able to capitalize on a Watson mistake. Clemson’s signal caller was intercepted on a throw into the the end zone by Cole Luke. Four plays later, Kizer was able to find Prosise on the sideline all alone and he flew down the sideline for a 56-yard touchdown. One of the biggest decisions in the game was made when Irish head coach Brian Kelly decided to go for two in the hopes of cutting the deficit to 10, but the conversion failed.
After a field goal by Clemson, Notre Dame drives down the field in just four plays with the key play going for 33-yards to Chris Brown. He had some key catches for his team, but also had several unfortunate drops. Kizer would cap the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run closing the gap to 24-16.
With just over a minute to go, the Irish were given one more opportunity to tie the game and they took advantage of it. Getting the punt in plus territory and marching 32-yards in six plays to score a touchdown. Kizer finished the drive with a strike to Torri Hunter, Jr. in the corner of the end zone. Remember that failed two-point conversion earlier in the quarter? It would come back to bite the Irish, as their luck would run out. They needed to go for two again to tie the game and force overtime. The Irish called Kizer’s number, a play that worked earlier for a touchdown didn’t work this time as Kizer was walled and pushed back on the QB sweep, leaving the Irish 2 points short of victory 24-22. A questionable playcall by the Irish, but great defense from the Tigers.