SOUTH BEND, IN — Saturdays matter most. Regrouping during the season should never be discussed. Not going down just because a few losses cost a playoff chance misses the beauty of the sport. Again, Saturday is the most important. There is only 12 of which are guaranteed every year.
Goal as Notre Dame (5-3) getting ready for the meeting No. 4 Clemson (8-0)undefeated again and on track to reach the playoffs after that disastrous 2021 season ended with just 10 wins, it’s worth noting this week how well the partnership with the ACC continues to work for Irish football.
Notre Dame has amassed two impressive wins this season, not only because there are only five wins, but also because it only played three teams in November that still look like worthy opponents. Two of them came from ACC, No. 17 North Carolina and No. 20 Syracuse. Today’s fight with Clemson (7:30 a.m. ET; NBC) will give the Irish another chance at an outstanding victory.
As of this week, five Opponents of Notre Dame are in the top 20. This exact cutoff is obviously a little arbitrary, the true reality of college football is that there is often little difference between a No. 16 team and who is considered No. 40, but if one adheres to this arbitrary rule, only one other command plays a full quarter of the top 20 playoff rankings. Consider this a pause to guess that the team………Auburn.
Next offseason, when someone on any social media fills the looming void by insisting that the Irish never play to a tight schedule, just ignore it. The ACC partnership adds enough weight to the usual Notre Dame assault to rival any conference roster.
27: The Irish have won 27 consecutive regular season games against ACC rivals since the 2016 debacle.
16: Notre Dame has the longest November winning streak in the country with 16 wins, no losses in the last month of the regular season since the 2017 Finals.
186.63: The Irishman averages 186.63 yards per game, 39th in the nation.
87.88: Clemson concedes 87.88 yards per game, No. 7 in the nation.
97.44 percent: The Tigers have scored in all but one of their red zone possessions this season, scoring 38-of-39 from the 20-yard line and 28 touchdowns. This indicator of 97.44 percent ranks third in the country.
5.02 points: Clemson scores 5.02 for quality possession, 12th in the nation. Any possession with a first down inside the line plus 40 yards, or with a touchdown scored over that line, is considered a quality possession.
100 percent: Rivals hit 100 percent of their possession in the red against Notre Dame, going 20-of-20 with 17 touchdowns.
2.80 points: But the Irish keep these red zone holdings to a minimum. Only 20 of them are ranked 14th in the country, and for the rest of the quality possessions of rivals, Notre Dame’s defense is higher, losing an average of 2.80 points, ranking 7th in the country.
3.5 points: As of early Saturday morning, the Tigers have a 3.5-point lead.
44 points: And the total over/under points are set at 44 points.
32: Irish junior tight end Michael Mayer has a catch in all 32 games of his career. It could have been 33 if he hadn’t been sidelined last season against Virginia with a sprained thigh.
fifteen: Mayer has 15 career touchdowns, a Notre Dame record for tight ends. Another one would give Mayer a season and career record for Irish tight ends.
23: Last week’s stats adjustment caused Notre Dame’s senior quarterback to end Isaiah Fosky half a sack more, raising his career tally to 23, just 1.5 sacks away from setting Justin Tuck’s career record at Notre Dame.
7.5: Fosky is second in the nation with 7.5 sacks this season, well behind Tuck’s single-season record of 13.5.
South Bend, Indiana Benjamin Morrison remembered how Syracuse targeted him a week ago. The Oranges completed a 30-yard pass to Notre Dame’s rookie defenseman, key to his immediate comeback. While most defenders survive on a short goldfish-like memory, Morrison revels in these gaffes instead.
He hid that mistake, the path that Syracuse wide receiver D’Marcus Adams hoped to find his way in or out by taking a deeper route. Morrison knew Clemson would test him the same way, and when the No. 4 (8-1) Tigers did, Morrison sealed Notre Dame’s 35-14 defeat on Saturday.
“All week I knew what the game was,” Morrison said after a career day of two picks and seven tackles, the last remark was overlooked because the first achievement was decisive. “I knew they would be testing me in previous games for what I had filmed, so I knew I had to just really commit and hone in on what I needed to achieve.”
In Clemson’s defense, I can say that Morrison’s first few tests did not lead to any results. But with every pass he successfully defended, or after he blew the third and seventh shots, Morrison’s confidence got closer to absolute.
“Once I was able to see things, I realized I was pretty locked up,” he said. “Once they started checking on me and things were going my way, I just felt good so I kept going.”
This resulted in his first interception, crossing a route where he said he was ordered to cut a wide receiver, trusting the Irish guards to keep a big game from playing behind him. By cutting the target, Morrison should have a better chance of hitting the pass, or in the case of the Tigers’ backup quarterback. Cade Strawberryfirst pass attempt on Saturday night, interception.
“I prayed that he would drop it,” Morrison said.
He may not have been praying for his next possession, having already won once on a drive when Clemson started. DJ Wiagaleley target senior receiver Joseph Ngata.
“It was cool because I struggled with this position all year,” Morrison said. “The back shoulder disappears, shut up by the shoulder, just return the eyes. So today I was really focused on the details.
“Once he was in the position I needed, I could just play the man and [broken up the pass]but I trusted my ability and turned my head over and the ball was there.”
There indeed. Morrison made a jump interception, managed to get his feet on the field, and was then pulled out by a quick block from the senior midfielder. Marist Lufau. Morrison had to dodge a valiant attempt to dive from a Tigers sophomore running back. Will Shipleybut once he had done that, there was only one thing left to do.
“Honestly, I just ran.
Morrison didn’t realize he was bound to score until he crossed the goal line, unfortunately for him that Notre Dame Stadium only has a video board in one end zone, not the one he was racing towards. Morrison literally passed the ball to the referee as soon as he scored a goal, it looks very much like he was there before, when in fact he wasn’t.
Morrison’s two interceptions turned a tense 14-0 night into a 28-0 party, and a potential meeting of 77,000 fans in midfield was preceded by Morrison’s reservation of six in the end zone.
Suffice it to say that Morrison deserved this honor. Two interceptions and seven tackles would probably have been enough for that, but if you add a touchdown, well, this dramatic moment was the third longest return interception in Irish history and will be remembered for a long time by Notre Dame.
“He’s the best opponent you can’t shake,” said Ireland’s head coach. Marcus Freeman said. “It’s really rare for a freshman to be like that.”