Instant Observations: No review needed as Notre Dame stuns No. 1 Clemson

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Quick thoughts after Saturday's seismic double overtime showdown between No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Notre Dame...

• Notre Dame 47, Clemson 40

• Did this one have to end?

• Overtime after the Irish had been outscored at one point in the second half, 20-3? Thank you.

• Tied at 23 with several momentum swings heading to the fourth quarter? Thank you.

• Avery Davis, welcome to Irish football lore. Big deliveries at big moments for the one-time college quarterback, running back, cornerback turned wide receiver.

• Overtime in college football is the best. Notre Dame won the toss and elected to go on defense first. You ALWAYS want to go on defense first. Double overtime? Even better.

• How do you call pass interference on Clemson only to pick up that flag — and in front of the Clemson bench, no less. Makes no sense.

• Replay reviews helped wreck any semblance of big-game feel. Ridiculous.

• With 9:10 left in the second quarter, NBC cut away to air the first national comments of president-elect Joe Biden. The game moved to USA Network, the second time this season that an Irish home game has been on the channel. The first was South Florida. This one wasn't South Florida.

The game switch Saturday cut into "Guardians of the Galaxy, Part 2." It also moved over as Clemson was getting comfortable on offense. Too comfortable.

• One play, 65 yards, one touchdown. Couldn't have asked for a better start there for Notre Dame. Early message sent by the Irish.

• Kyren Williams had barely crossed the goal line when former Irish teammate Ja'Mion Franklin, who left the program with intentions to transfer, hyped No. 23 for the Heisman. Williams' burst was something the Irish just didn't have when these teams met in 2018.

• Best running back on the field Saturday? Certainly wasn't Travis Etienne, who never got going. It was Williams and it wasn't close.

• It guaranteed nothing, but the Irish checked a lot of boxes early in all three phases. One team was ready to go from the start. The other, not so much.

• Just felt that the game kept turning ever so slightly toward the visitors each time the Irish had to settle for field goals. Or punts. Clemson's too good to let hang around. A knockout punch beckoned early.

• That 13-play, 60-yard Clemson scoring drive that chewed a lot of the third quarter clock was a crusher. The Tigers trailed by double digits three times. By the time they were done, it was tied at 23.

• Another Saturday, another 100-plus yard rush effort from Williams.

• Oh, "Crazy Train," how we've missed you. Said nobody.

• Heck of an effort by Javon McKinley on his 45-yard catch late third quarter, but that ball was moving a whole lot with little control. Irish got a break.

• It was only 15 minutes, but the first quarter stats for Notre Dame were pretty solid. The Irish gained 166 yards and converted four of five chances on third down. Oh, and Ian Book was 5-for-5. Clemson came in allowing only 275 per game.

• Trevor Lawrence may have the inside track on the Heisman Trophy and be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft come spring, but man, Clemson's in pretty good quarterback shape with true freshman D.J. Uiagalelei. That kid's really good.

• NBC rejoined the broadcast just in time to almost see Pick Six, Part II. Irish punter Jay Bramblett wouldn't let it happen.

• Clemson ran for five total yards in the first half. Five. Going in, it was the Irish offensive line that was supposed to make the strongest statement. The Irish D-Line had other ideas.

•That was quite the can-you-top-this field goal competition between Clemson's B.T. Potter and Notre Dame's Jonathan Doerer, huh?

• Maybe it was the sun-splashed 70-plus degree temperatures that have permeated the area the last few days, or what happened in the real world earlier in the day, but it was hard to get into big-time football game mode much of Saturday. Until the ball went in the air at 7:35 p.m. Then it was go time. Finally.

• Temperature at kickoff was 58 degrees. You'd be hard-pressed to find more of an ideal night for a football game in Northern Indiana in September or October, let alone to close the first week of the year's 11th month. In a pandemic. This was one time when 2020 actually delivered.

• Disappointing that Clemson went with the all-white uniforms instead of its traditional road gear of white jerseys and orange pants. Not disappointed that Notre Dame chose to bypass the green jersey gimmick. That's so yesterday. 

• Notre Dame issued credentials to 25 print/electronic media journalists for seats in a press box that usually holds around 170. The school received 150 requests for media credentials for the game.

• No Irish player missed Saturday's game because of coronavirus issues, which meant, no excuses.

• Let's do this all again next month in Charlotte, shall we?

Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams (23) celebrates with offensive lineman Aaron Banks (69) after scoring what would be the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime against No. 1 Clemson Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams (23) celebrates after his first quarter touchdown against No. 1 Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium.