Earlier in the week, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney challenged his defense, especially the defensive line.
Swinney felt his defense got pushed around at Notre Dame in the Irish’s double-overtime win on Nov. 7. He said Notre Dame was just the tougher team that night.
Clemson’s defensive line left no doubt on who the tougher team was in Saturday’s rematch in the ACC Championship Game. After giving up 209 rushing yards and 5.1 yards per carry in the first meeting, the third-ranked Tigers limited No. 2 Notre Dame to 1.5 yards per carry and 44 rushing yards in an impressive 34-10 victory at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“It awesome. That us what we needed to do,” Swinney said after the game. “We were not going to win the game if we did not play better in the trenches on both sides. These guys have been beat up (by the media) since we played them at Notre Dame. You know, our offensive line is terrible and our defensive line this and that … and they know that was not the case.”
And it was not.
Besides limiting the Irish to 44 rushing yards in snapping the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games, Clemson’s defense also sacked quarterback Ian Book six times and held him to minus-35 yards rushing. His longest run was seven yards.
In the first meeting, Book ran for 64 yards on the Tigers. And though he did complete 22-of-28 passes for 219 yards, he was unable to use his legs to scramble and make plays as the Clemson defense harassed him all night and had him running to get away from pressure on almost every drop back.
Clemson’s six sacks were the most allowed by Notre Dame all season. The Tigers had just two sacks in the first game.
“That guy is a really good player. He is a nightmare,” Swinney said. “To sack him six times, and really had a couple more opportunities, but to sack him six times, it was relentless effort, pursuit and great preparation and execution. It was just a lot better job.”
The Tigers (10-1) recorded their six sacks from six different people on Saturday, while getting three more pressures. The end result, the Irish finished the afternoon 3-for-12 on third down after converting their first two on the opening drive.
Notre Dame (10-1) finished the game with just 263 total yards.
“We did a nice job up front on both sides,” Swinney said.