Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool atones with career day
SOUTH BEND — Chase Claypool stood on the sideline with an immense amount of regret.
Not only did he let himself down by dropping a potential touchdown pass in the third quarter of No. 5 Notre Dame’s 48-37 victory over Wake Forest, but he felt bad for not rewarding quarterback Brandon Wimbush for a catchable ball.
But the ND sophomore receiver wasn’t greeted by the same feelings from his teammates.
“I was beating myself up for a little bit,” Claypool said. “All my teammates were supporting me in a really big way. I never expected that from them. In a way, I did. But it was really moving to have them all behind my back. Wimbush said, ‘We’ll get one.’”
Wimbush was right. The junior signal caller looked back to Claypool for a pair of big receptions on a drive later in the third quarter. Claypool capped the drive with a 34-yard touchdown catch to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 41-16.
“When he threw me those two passes, it showed what kind of guy he is to have that trust in his receivers even after I dropped a couple passes,” Claypool said. “It was big for me, and obviously for him as well.”
On Saturday, Claypool became Wimbush’s go-to receiver. He finished with nine catches for 180 yards, both game and career highs for Claypool.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Claypool didn’t enter the game expecting an offensive explosion from himself. However, the defensive scheme would allow him opportunities. For the most part, he capitalized on them.
“I don’t think you can ever predict a 180-yard game,” Claypool said. “Obviously it feels good. I was targeted on the outs because of the defense they were playing. I never could have predicted this.”
Forecasting which receiver Wimbush will favor entering a game can be tricky. In his eight starts, six different players have at least shared a lead in receptions for a game. Last week it was tight end Durham Smythe. The week before, it was Equanimeous St. Brown and Kevin Stepherson.
Saturday was Claypool’s day.
“He doesn’t have a favorite receiver,” Claypool said of Wimbush. “He’ll read the coverage and then he’ll have his reads and his primary targets. You kind of know if you’re getting the ball if you’re first or second read. But he doesn’t have any favorites.”
The cold weather (43 degrees at kickoff) didn’t affect Claypool, a native Canadian. But he did wear a mask that covered parts of his face under his helmet. Turns out it’s a style choice more than a necessity.
“It wasn’t because I was cold. It was just kind of the look I was going for,” Claypool. “I did it last week and it felt good … You know, look good, play good.”
Notre Dame’s passing game hasn’t eliminated inconsistencies, but Wimbush set a career high with 280 passing yards Saturday. Head coach Brian Kelly noted after the game that any narrative about Wimbush’s inability to throw the ball should be put to rest.
Claypool doesn’t see a one-dimensional offense.
“You’ll always find someone who will hate on our offense no matter how good of a day,” Claypool said.
“I’m sure someone will find something to pick on after this game too. With the passing game that he had, especially since he could have had a lot more if the receivers came down with passes like me. It’s exciting. He can run for 100 and pass for 300.”
But drops didn’t prevent Notre Dame from scoring 48 points and totaling 710 yards of offense. Instead, the Irish simply responded with better play. It’s the same story when Notre Dame’s defense gives up a score. The Irish keep showing resilience in a number of way.
“We’re sitting on the bench as an offense, us receivers, and they score. We just continue on with our conversations. We don’t let it faze us,” Claypool said. “The defense knows that we’re going to go down and score. We know that if we don’t score, the defense will make a big stop. It comes with that relationship that we’ve been building over the past seven months.”