With key defenders back, Tigers suffocate Notre Dame

With key defenders back, Tigers suffocate Notre Dame

Football

With key defenders back, Tigers suffocate Notre Dame

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With a few key defenders unable to play in the regular season matchup at Notre Dame on Nov. 7 due to various injuries, Clemson’s defense struggled against the Irish offense in the 47-40, double overtime loss in South Bend.

But in the rematch vs. No. 2 Notre Dame on Saturday – with starting middle linebacker James Skalski, starting SAM linebacker Mike Jones and starting defensive tackle Tyler Davis healthy and back in the lineup – the third-ranked Tigers suffocated Ian Book, Kyren Williams and the Irish offense in a 34-10 victory in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

After allowing Notre Dame to rack up 519 total yards, including 209 rushing yards, in the teams’ first meeting, Clemson (10-1, 9-1 ACC) yielded just 263 total yards and 44 yards on the ground in Saturday’s game. The Irish (10-1, 9-1) averaged 5.1 yards per carry and converted 10-of-19 third-down attempts in the November game, but averaged only 1.5 yards per rush and recorded a 3-of-12 clip on third down in the ACC title game.

Skalski tallied five tackles, including a big third-down sack on Notre Dame’s first possession that forced the Irish to settle for a field goal, and also had a quarterback hurry, while Davis recorded four tackles including two solo and 1.5 for loss.

Williams, who ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first game against Clemson, managed only 50 yards on 15 carries (3.3 average) and was held out of the end zone Saturday.

Meanwhile, Clemson did a superb job of bottling up Book, who threw for 219 yards and no touchdowns and had negative-35 yards rushing when factoring in lost yardage on sacks. As opposed to the regular season game when the Notre Dame quarterback passed for 310 yards and a touchdown and ran for 64 yards, the Tigers squeezed the pocket and didn’t allow Book to scramble and create plays this time around.

Book was forced to run for his life throughout the game as Clemson consistently pressured him to the tune of six sacks, a number of which were coverage sacks. The Tiger secondary locked down Notre Dame’s receivers for most of the game and didn’t let Book push the ball downfield.

At the end of the day, Skalski, Davis and Jones being back on the field for a much-healthier Clemson defense made a big difference in the Tigers avenging their loss to the Irish, capturing a sixth straight ACC title and securing a spot in the College Football Playoff yet again.

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