Fourth-ranked Notre Dame had a little more juice than Clemson.
Despite being down starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence and three starters on defense, as well as losing a few more during the course of the night, the Irish used a Kyren Williams’ three-yard touchdown to knock off the top-ranked Tigers, 47-40, in double overtime at Notre Dame Stadium South Bend, Ind.
“That was an instant classic right there,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “That was two teams who fought hard and in the end they just made a few more plays than we did.”
Notre Dame sealed the win on the Tigers’ second overtime possession when they sacked quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei on back-to-back plays before his fourth-down pass from the Notre Dame 39, to tight end Braden Galloway was fumbled as the Tigers desperately tried to lateral the ball to keep the play alive.
The loss snapped Clemson’s 29-game ACC win streak and their 36-game regular season win streak. It was Clemson’s first loss in the regular season since October 13, 2017 when it lost at Syracuse.
Clemson (7-1, 6-1 ACC) took its first lead of the night with 3:33 to play in the game when Travis Etienne rumbled three yards up the middle, giving the Tigers a 33-26 lead.
“Our guys battled their tails off and we had a chance to win the game,” Swinney said.
The Tigers appeared to have the game won when they stopped the Irish on the next possession on downs. But a series of blunders, including Travis Etienne running out of bounds, allowed Notre Dame an opportunity to tie the game.
Notre Dame (7-0, 6-0 ACC) went 91 yards in 1:26 to force overtime, tying the game with 22 seconds to play in regulation when Ian Book found Avery Davis for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
“They earned it. We had every opportunity to win the game,” Swinney said.
In the first overtime, Clemson got a one-yard touchdown run by Uiagalelei on the Tigers’ second play. However, Notre Dame forced a second overtime, tying to score at 40-40, when Williams went in from three yards out.
Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards in the place of Lawrence, the most against a Notre Dame defense. His 439 yards were also the third best by a Clemson quarterback in a game and the most by a Clemson quarterback against a top 5 opponent.
The true freshman completed 29-of-44 passes and threw two touchdowns to go along with his rushing touchdown.
Clemson rallied in the second half to tie the game after trailing 23-13 at halftime. On Clemson’s opening possession of the third quarter, B.T. Potter drained a 46-yard field goal with 12:45 to play in the quarter.
Uiagalelei found tight end Davis Allen for a 10-yard touchdown pass that capped a 13-play, 60-yard drive, tying the game at 23-23.
Jonathan Doerer and Potter then traded field goals for a 26-26 tie.
For a second straight week Clemson had its issue in the first half. Just like a replay of last week’s Boston College game, the Tigers allowed another opening touchdown drive, gave up big plays and allowed a defensive touchdown while falling behind by double digits.
Back-to-back turnovers allowed Notre Dame to build its lead after Clemson had rallied to cut the Irish leads to 13-10 with 8:32 to play in the second quarter, following a 25-yard Potter field goal.
After Notre Dame scored on its first three possessions to build a 13-10 lead, the Tigers finally got a stop and got the ball at their own 31. However, on the first play of the drive, Etienne fumbled the pitch from Uiagalelei and the ball bounced right in the hands of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who took the ball 23 yards for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead with 5:53 to play before halftime.
On the Tigers’ ensuring possession, Amari Rodger got a slant from Uiagalelei for what appeared to be a first down, but the ball was stripped, and Notre Dame recovered the ball at the Clemson 25. That set up a Doerer 45-yard field goal, extending the lead to 23-10 with 2:41 to play before the break.
Clemson added a 45-yard field goal from Potter with 1:02 to before the half, making the score 23-13 at halftime.
The Irish opened the game with a 65-yard touchdown run from Williams, and after falling behind 10-0, Clemson finally got on the board when Uiagalelei hit Cornell Powell for 53-yard touchdown, making the score 10-7 with 4:11 to play in the first quarter.
Williams finished the game with 140 yards and three touchdowns.
Another championship season is underway for the Tigers. It’s time to gear up for another year of Clemson football.
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