Notre Dame upends No. 1 Clemson in double overtime thriller

There should be no doubt. Notre Dame isn’t a product of a soft schedule. The Irish just might be a championship contender. Perennial powerhouse Clemson would attest to that after this heavyweight

There should be no doubt. Notre Dame isn’t a product of a soft schedule. The Irish just might be a championship contender.

Perennial powerhouse Clemson would attest to that after this heavyweight bout that screamed out for a rematch in the ACC championship game.

Notre Dame was the significantly better team in the first half, left at least 10 points on the board, and still prevailed against Trevor Lawrence-less Clemson in an instant classic in South Bend, 47-40, in double overtime.

The crowd of roughly 10,000 Notre Dame students, faculty and parents of players stormed the field afterward, social distancing be damned.

After forcing the extra sessions with a last-minute scoring drive in regulation, fourth-ranked Notre Dame upset the top-ranked team in the country on the strength of Kyrel Williams’ third rushing touchdown of the game, this one from 3 yards out. Consecutive sacks of quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei backed up Clemson after Williams’ score,

The Irish now take over the top spot in the ACC as a one-year honorary member, emerging as a legitimate playoff contender and snapping Clemson’s 28-game ACC win streak.

Clemson went ahead for the first time on Travis Etienne’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:33 remaining — capping a gutty 12-play, 74-yard drive. The big moment came on fourth-and-1 from the Clemson 35-yard-line, when Uiagalelei drew Notre Dame offsides. The true freshman also hit on big plays, of 16 yards to Powell and 15 yards to Amari Rodgers, before Etienne scored for the first time.

Notre Dame turned the ball over on downs, but Clemson couldn’t pick up a first down, and Etienne going out of bounds on a third down completion saved the Irish an important timeout. Starting at their own 9-yard-line, they needed just 1:26 to go 91 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Ian Book found Avery Davis on a 53-yard pickup, and connected with the wide receiver again on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left, leading to overtime.

Clemson (7-1) reeled off 10 straight points to start the second half, putting together consecutive strong drives. The Tigers pulled even on Uiagalelei’s play-action touchdown pass to tight end Davis Allen with 4:12 left in the third quarter — completing a 13-play, 60-yard drive that included a fourth-down conversion.

Notre Dame (7-0) seemed ready to retake momentum, aided by a questionable call. Javon McKinley laid out for a spectacular 45-yard reception, though it seemed the ball hit the ground. Instant replay didn’t overturn the play and the Irish drove to the Clemson 7-yard-line when, on a keeper, Book neared the goal-line on a third-and-1 run. But as he passed the 5-yard-line, backup linebacker Jake Venables — the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables — stripped him and Baylon Spector recovered in the end zone. The game would remain tied entering the fourth quarter.

The two teams traded field goals, long drives with failed execution on crucial third downs, setting up the frantic finish.

Williams took the second play from scrimmage 65 yards to the house untouched, making safety Nolan Turner miss with a sweet cut to the outside, starting off the blockbuster evening with a bang.

After holding Notre Dame to a field goal on its next drive that got down to the Tigers’ 2-yard-line, Clemson answered with a big play of its own, Uiagalelei hitting Powell in stride for a 53-yard score.

When it seemed like Clemson had stabilized itself, getting within a field goal, two costly turnovers enabled Notre Dame to enter halftime with a working margin.

For the second straight week, an Etienne fumble created a touchdown for the opposition. The usually shorthanded tailback was unable to handle a Uiagalelei toss in the backfield, and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah scooped it up and returned the fumble 23 yards for a score. On the very next possession, Owusu-Koramoah stripped Rodgers, leading to a field goal that pushed the Irish lead to 13.

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