Notre Dame vs. Clemson score: Irish defense destroys No. 4 Tigers in signature win for Marcus Freeman


Notre Dame delivered a crushing blow to No. 4 Clemson by upsetting the Tigers 35-14 in a banner win for freshman coach Marcus Freeman. The Fighting Irish used a stifling defense and elite special teams to frustrate Clemson, limiting the visitors to just 281 yards from total offense and holding the Tigers without a touchdown until the fourth quarter, when play was essentially out of reach.

The Fighting Irish’s attack faced its own struggles, but Logan Diggs and Audric Estime both surpassed 100 yards on the ground as Notre Dame imposed its will in key situations, averaging 5.6 yards per rush . Initially, however, it was a kick blocked by Jordan Botelho that Prince Kollie came back in the first quarter for a touchdown, giving the home side an early lead.

The defense took over from there as Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei struggled to get the Tigers off to an offensive start. He was eventually replaced late in the third quarter by five-start true freshman Cade Klubnik, but to no avail. Klubnik’s second pass was intercepted, leading to a touchdown by Estime that made it 21-0 with 14:37 left.

Marcus Freeman’s Signature Victory

After embarrassing home losses to Marshall and Stanford earlier in the season, Freeman needed a signature win. This one definitely qualifies. Clemson has always been one of the sport’s top fixtures for the past decade, and the Tigers came in the week as one of only six undefeated teams in the sport.

His recruiting work was great; the Fighting Irish currently own the #3 ranked class in the 2023 cycle, according to 247Sports. But in his first season as head coach, Freeman needed some on-field accolades to combine with his recruiting work. He has them now, and the Fighting Irish may not be ready yet. They are big favorites over the next two weeks against Navy and Boston College for a big season finale at No. 9 USC. Depending on where the Trojans are in the national landscape at the time, Notre Dame could have another chance to play the spoiler role on the national stage.

Clemson CFP implications

The loss doesn’t completely eliminate Clemson from the CFP battle, but it does make the Tigers’ path to the playoff more challenging. With a win over a renowned North Carolina team in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson could still make it onto the CFP field as a one-loss team, according to CBS Sports pundit Jerry Palm. But maybe they should win that game convincingly against number 17 Tar Heels, who improved to 8-1 on Saturday with a 31-28 win over Virginia.

Clemson also has three regular season games to win, although the Tigers should be big favorites in all three games. First up will be Louisville next week, followed by Miami and South Carolina to finish the season. All three are home games.

Clemson quarterback situation

Clemson’s quarterback situation remains unsettled, as evidenced by coach Dabo Swinney turning to Klubnik again in the second half for a spark. But unlike a 27-21 win over Syracuse two weeks ago, the move failed. Swinney quickly pulled Klubnik back and put Uiagalelei back in the game after Klubnik’s first pass was intercepted.

Where Swinney goes from here will be fascinating to watch. Although Uiagalelei has clearly improved since last season, the Tigers are not afraid of the opponents offensively and Klubnik seems to be the quarterback of the program of the future. With Clemson’s CFP hopes on shaky ground, Swinney’s insistence on sticking to the Uiagalelei numbers to be tested again in the remaining weeks of the season.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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