SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — When Clemson’s desperate attempt to convert a fourth-and-forever ended in a scrum, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book tossed his helmet as he sprinted onto the field to celebrate with is teammates.
In seconds, thousands of fans joined in, rushing the field for a postgame party in a pandemic that most definitely did not meet the CDC’s social-distancing guidelines.
“When fans stormed the field, it was fun,” Book said.
Kyren Williams put the Irish ahead with a 3-yard touchdown run in the second overtime and No. 4 Notre Dame shut down top-ranked Clemson with a couple of sacks to seal a 47-40 win Saturday night.
The first victory over a No. 1 in 27 years for the Fighting Irish can be added to the list of famous streak-breakers in Notre Dame history: Catholics vs. Convicts in 1988 snapped Miami’s 36-game regular-season winning streak and the shutout of Oklahoma in 1957 broke the Sooners’s record 47-game roll.
Clemson (7-1, 6-1) had won 36 straight regular-season games and had not lost to an Atlantic Coast Conference team since 2017. The Fighting Irish (7-0, 6-0), playing in the ACC only because of the pandemic, brought them all to a halt.
“No matter how old I am, I’ll remember this one forever,” Book said.
Who knows where this victory should rank in Notre Dame lore, but considering the setting and this weird pandemic-altered season it is probably its most bizarre.
“I had told our team in our walk-through today, `Just want you to know when we win this game the fans are going to storm the field. With COVID being what it is, we need to get off the field,’” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “I beat them off the field.”
Williams ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns and Book, the fifth-year senior quarterback, led a 91-yard drive in the final two minutes of regulation to tie it at 33 on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Avery Davis with 22 seconds left.
After Williams gave Notre Dame the lead on the first possession of the second OT, the Irish pushed Clemson back with back-to-back sacks on DJ Uaigalelei by Adetokumbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes to set up a third-and-24.
“I took a sack in the red zone,” Uiagalelei said. ”… I can’t do that.”
The five-star freshman quarterback’s third-down pass was broken up and his final completion on fourth down was way short of the line to gain. A couple of laterals didn’t help and the Irish and their fans went wild.
The Fighting Irish have won 13 straight games and they snapped an 11-game losing streak against top-five teams while beating No. 1 for the first time since taking down Florida State in 1993 at Notre Dame Stadium.
“They dadgum earned it,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We handle our business, maybe we’ll get a chance to play again.
Uiagalelei, starting in place of Trevor Lawrence for a second straight week, passed for 439 yards, the most ever by a Notre Dame opponent. Lawrence was on the sideline for this one, a few days out of isolation after having COVID-19.
“I’d like to have Dabo’s problems with those two guys,” Kelly said. “DJ was just outstanding.”
Swinney said Lawrence will return to practice Monday.
The biggest game at Notre Dame Stadium since No. 1 Southern California beat the Irish with the Push Bush in 2005 had only 11,011 in attendance, mostly students, because of pandemic restrictions.
When it was over, they poured onto the field — coronavirus bedamned.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen any college storm the field. That was a cool experience,” Williams said, and then quickly recalled his coach’s advice, “He told us to get inside after the game as fast as we could.”
Notre Dame Stadium public address announcer Mike Collins spent about 30 minutes after the game encouraging fans to leave the field and stadium safely, while not trying to be a buzzkill.
“If you leave now you can get out before last call,” Collins said.
The Fighting Irish needed a two-week break earlier this season because of a COVID-19 outbreak, but it didn’t keep them from entering this showdown with Clemson unbeaten
They might just see each other again in the ACC championship game in December.
“Man, I think it’s very likely,” said Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who returned a fumble for a touchdown in the first half as the Irish built a 13-point lead.
Uiagalelei, who led the Tigers from 18 down last week against Boston College in his first start, sneaked into the end zone on the second play of overtime to put Clemson up 40-33. Notre Dame responded with a 3-yard touchdown run by Williams and kick to tie it instead of going for 2 to end it.
Five seasons ago when these teams last played on a rainy night in Clemson, the Tigers stopped the Irish on a potential tying 2-point conversion with 7 seconds left in regulation.
Swinney famously said it was a BYOG game: “Bring your own guts.” The Tigers needed to back pack some guts and then some for the their first trip to South Bend since 1979.
Not only were the Tigers missing Lawrence, but three key defensive starters were out with injuries.
“We didn’t win the game, but you saw what this team is made of,” Swinney said. “This team is made of the right stuff.”
Clemson: Not having defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebackers James Skalski and Mike Jones really showed against Notre Dame’s excellent offensive line. The Irish ran for 209 yards.
Notre Dame: Avery Davis came to South Bend as a quarterback and he has been moved to running back, receiver and defensive back. He has settled in as a slot receiver and had maybe his biggest game in college, catching the touchdown pass that sent the game to OT and a 53-yarder that set it up the score two plays earlier.
Clemson: The Tigers have a week off before visiting Florida State on Nov. 20.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are at Boston College, which might bring back some bad memories for Notre Dame fans. After the Irish upset Florida State in ’93, a week later they lost to BC on a last-second field goal.
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