Clemson won the toss and deferred as usual to Notre Dame, whose first drive ended quickly thanks to a sack from Myles Murphy. True to Dabo’s word, DJ Uigalelei came out as the starter but wasn’t able to do much of anything thanks to two consecutive holding penalties by Beaux Collins to set the offense back immediately.
To make matters worse, Aidan Swanson’s punt was blocked and returned for an early score to make it 7-0 just five minutes into the game.
Clemson drove to midfield with some uninspired play-calling and attempted a 4th and 4, but DJ’s pass sailed over a streaking Beaux Collins to turn the ball over on downs. Trenton Simpson batted down the ensuing Notre Dame 3rd down pass but Clemson’s responding drive went nowhere on a 3-and-out.
Notre Dame moved to midfield on their next drive to end the first quarter.
The Tiger defense continued to hold fast, forcing a punt from midfield to start Clemson’s next drive at the 25. DJ was then sacked on 3rd and 7 to make Clemson 0-4 on third down attempts.
Notre Dame found some offensive success on their next drive and quickly marched to the red zone, but another batted pass (this one from Tyler Davis) forced the 42-yard field goal attempt, which drifted just left of the uprights thanks to some benevolent 40mph winds.
Predictably, Clemson’s next possession failed to get anything going, and they punted back to Notre Dame yet again. The Irish offense flexed on an eleven-play drive capped with a 5-yard Drew Pyne touchdown run that featured nine straight runs.
A Notre Dame sack ended the abysmal first half with Clemson down 14-0.
Clemson failed to convert a third down out of the half and punted to Notre Dame. The Irish punted back to Clemson after a potential roughing the passer hit from Jeremiah Trotter was not penalized, then reviewed over a timeout for targeting, and finally ruled no foul.
Backed up deep once again in Clemson territory, DJ threw his best pass of the night to Beaux Collins to move the chains and give the Tiger offense a little room to work with. Adam Randall grabbed the first third down conversion of the night for Clemson and at midfield, the offense looked like it might finally string something together.
Unfortunately, Randall couldn’t haul in the next third down pass, and a 43-yard punt from Swanson flipped possession back to the Irish. After Michael Mayers barely dropped a deep pass from Drew Pyne, the Clemson offense faced another long field after the punt, this time with Cade Klubnik leading the offense.
The freshman rolled to his left and threw an interception to Notre Dame’s freshman DB, Benjamin Morrison, and the quarter ended with the Irish threatening to stretch their lead.
It didn’t take long for Notre Dame to score on an Audric Estime 2-yard run, making it 21-0.
Three costly penalties from the Irish defense quickly moved Clemson to their best field position of the night, but DJ threw a pick-six to the man of the night, Benjamin Morrison. Down 28-0, the game was all but over for Clemson.
Ironically, Clemson’s best drive of the game came on the next possession, with multiple passes over the middle, a 21-yard scramble from DJ, and a 1-yard touchdown run to finally get points for the good guys on the board.
It was too little too late for Clemson though, as the Domers continued to abuse the defense with its dominant running game and milked the clock down with a six-minute touchdown drive, culminating in a 17-yard TD pass to Mayers.
A garbage-time drive ended with a DJ pass to Ngata for the touchdown to make the scoreline marginally less abhorent.
Notre Dame recovered the onside kick and the game ended at last, 35-14.