Top-ranked Clemson struggled on the road at No. 4 Notre Dame but fought to the bitter end in a 47-40 double overtime loss in South Bend, Ind.
Throughout the week leading up to the game, writers and pundits questioned whether freshman D.J. Uiagalelei could live up to the moment in a top-five matchup with the absence of junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Uiagalelei answered those question marks with an exclamation point in an outstanding performance to bring Clemson back from a 10-point halftime deficit and push the game to the wire. The freshman went on to set program and FBS records in the primetime showdown.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney could not have been more impressed with the freshman in his second full game at the helm of the offense.
“He’s special, are you kidding me? You watch this guy play and he is going to be awesome. That was a big challenge for him tonight, but he made some incredible plays,” Swinney said after the game. “He never wavered, he never flinched, he made big throws and had a couple of nice runs.”
The California native finished the game 29-of-44 passing for 439 yards and two touchdowns. He added a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:33 to play in the contest that gave the Tigers their first lead of the game before Notre Dame sent the game into overtime.
The 439 yards passing were the most ever against a Fighting Irish football team, besting Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer’s 425 yards in 2002. Uiagalelei also had the most yards against an AP top-five team in Clemson history and the third-most yards in a single game in program history.
Uiagalelei answered questions with humility and expressed disappointment in the outcome of the game in his postgame press conference. He credited Notre Dame for edging out the Tigers but was pleased with the grit of the offense.
“It was definitely super cool playing at Notre Dame; it was a great atmosphere and a great fan base,” Uiagalelei said. “It was a really good team to play today and I feel like we played OK but didn’t have enough to get it done.”
The bad news for the rest of the country is Swinney only expects Uiagalelei to continue to improve as he matures.
Clemson has the week off to heal before it travels to Florida State on Nov. 21.