Clemson’s defensive end was named the Cotton Bowl’s MVP
ARLINGTON, Texas — Though Clemson was in control of the ballgame, Notre Dame was still hanging around when it took over the football at its own 40-yard line with 5:49 to play in the third quarter.
Down 20 points, the Irish drove the football to the Clemson 26-yard line following a 21-yard Ian Book to Miles Boykin pass. Momentum seemed to be on Notre Dame’s side, but defensive end Austin Bryant had other plans.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end sacked Book for a 2-yard loss on first down, and then he followed that with a 10-yard sack on third down. The two sacks obviously flustered the Notre Dame quarterback, so on third down he rushed his throw and threw the ball into double coverage where safety Nolan Turner snatched the ball and returned it 24 yards to the Clemson 44.
The Irish never came close to scoring the rest of the night as No. 2 Clemson rolled to a 30-3 victory to win the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“I think it took the life out of them,” Bryant said about his back-to-back sacks. “They needed points and they needed to convert. We were able to stop them right there. Coach (Brent Venables) put us in great calls on both of those plays and I was able to get to him.”
Bryant was getting to Book and running back Dexter Williams all afternoon and he was named the game’s Most Valuable Defensive Player for his efforts. He finished the day with six tackles overall, including 4 solo tackles, two sacks and three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
He helped shut down a Notre Dame offense that was averaging 38 points and 450 yards a game with Book at quarterback to 248 total yards and 3 points.
“I don’t know what I was seeing,” Bryant said. “I was just reacting and made a few plays. I’m just thankful I have some great group of guys around me that helped me be in position to make some plays and just thankful for the opportunity to do it with the guys I did it with today.”