Oh, it was one of those nights for the home team inside Notre Dame Stadium

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Three quick thoughts and other news and notes and anecdotes following Saturday’s game between No. 5 Clemson and Notre Dame, won by the Irish, 35-14, in front of 77,622 at Notre Dame Stadium... 

∎ There was really only one chance Notre Dame had to not only stay close in this one, but win this one. 

Run the football. Play smashmouth football. Keep pounding it at the Tigers, and then do it more. 

Notre Dame running back Audric Estime (7) runs at Clemson safety Andrew Mukuba (1) during the Notre Dame vs. Clemson NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Notre Dame receivers are starting to show the Chansi Stuckey Effect

Welcome, Audric Estime, who was a runaway freight train (nine carries, 59 yards) in the first half, which loosened everything up in the second for Logan Diggs, who picked up 34 yards on three carries on Notre Dame’s opening drive, then added 19 more on the first three plays of the second drive. 

With each passing possession, you sense the confidence building that the Irish could do as it needed to do. And do it well. When Estime barreled in for a score early in the fourth quarter, you could feel that this one was going to happen.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Irish had 232 rushing yards. That's where this one was won.

∎ Regardless of how the fourth quarter unfolded, you expected more out of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s premier program. 

The Tigers looked like they eased into this one, and eased in right from the start. Penalty on its first offensive possession. Another on its third, then the blocked punt for touchdown. It basically gift-wrapped a hot start for Notre Dame and gave a sellout crowd a reason to stay invested. Really invested. 

Clemson tried a quarterback change late in the third quarter, which resulted in a Benjamin Morrison interception and – three plays later – another Irish score. 

Clemson may have wanted this one, but Notre Dame just took it. In some ways, the Tigers played as if they still had a conference championship game to fall back on. Not so at Notre Dame. 

Oh, and that's 27 straight wins over ACC teams for Notre Dame, which last lost to an ACC team on Nov. 11, 2017. That's just ridiculous.

∎ Hard to tell if it was a case of the Notre Dame defense playing that fast or the Clemson offense playing that slow, but it felt from the ninth-floor press level that the Irish defense was flying all over the place on Saturday. 

Halfway through this one, Notre Dame already had tallied three tackles for loss and two sacks while holding the Tigers to 71 total yards. That speediness continued in the second half on Clemson’s opening drive. The Tigers were faced with a third-and-five call, then had no fewer than five guys in gold helmet swallow up quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to force a punt. 

J.D. Bertrand had seven tackles at halftime and seemed to play at a whole different speed as everyone else. It was one of those games, and nights, for the Irish defense. You knew Clemson would deliver a few punches the deeper this one got. The Irish had answers. 

Worth noting

Notre Dame defensive lineman Jordan Botelho (12) blocks Clemson punter Aidan Swanson (39) during the Notre Dame vs. Clemson NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.

Nothing Clemson-specific about signal stealing in college football, Marcus Freeman says

Notre Dame needed something to go well on special teams to keep believing, and it didn’t take long for the Irish to believe even more. 

Barely six minutes in, Notre Dame backup vyper defensive end Jordan Botelho became the latest special teams guy to block a punt. He did it on Clemson’s first offensive possession. Backup linebacker Prince Kollie grabbed the ball out of the air and raced 17 yards for the games first score. 

If Clemson wasn’t in a game before that swing, it certainly was afterward. Big games always seem to swing on special teams. It swung early Saturday. Botelho’s block marked the sixth time that Notre Dame has blocked a punt this season. That’s a modern-day record that dates back to 1937.  

By the numbers

0.5: Sacks away from tying the school record for sacks for vyper defensive end Isaiah Foskey, who had one Saturday to pull closer to equaling Justin Tuck’s career mark of 24.5 

1: Drew Pyne’s first rushing touchdown of his collegiate career was a big one – his 5-yard scamper capped an 11-play, 78-yard drive to put the Irish up 14-0 late in the first half. 

 2: Number of holding calls committed by Clemson wide receiver Beaux Collins on the first three plays from scrimmage. 

4: Number of carries this season heading into Saturday’s game for backup tight end Mitchell Evans. 

9: When Notre Dame beat top-ranked Clemson in 2020, it marked the ninth time in Irish program history that they had beaten a No. 1. That’s two more than a Digger Phelps-coached Irish team did in college basketball. 

23: Speed in miles per hour of wind, out of the southwest, at kickoff. 

33: Consecutive games with at least one catch for Irish tight end Michael Mayer, who’s made at least one catch in every game he’s played during his collegiate career.  

56: Degrees at kickoff, which is pretty darn good this time of year in South Bend. Still, the Clemson sideline had some sort of a portable heater fire up minutes before the national anthem. Come on, guys. It wasn’t that cold. Even with “wind chill” it was 48. Again, shorts weather. 

67: Distance in yards of second punt by Clemson’s Aidan Swanson (aided by the 23-mph wind). His next punt – into the wind and maybe partially tipped by Foskey, traveled all of 24 yards. 

96: Yards that freshman cornerback Benjamin Morison returned his second interception - this one for a score - to make it 28-0 Irish.

2023: These teams meet again next season in South Carolina – on Nov. 4. Here’s hoping the weather’s a little nicer than during Notre Dame’s last visit to Death (Rain) Valley. It will mark the fifth time in the last six seasons the teams play. 

Next up

Maybe the one opponent that Notre Dame doesn’t want to see after Saturday’s game is Navy (3-6). This one will be tricky because the Midshipmen will compete. Good news for Notre Dame is this one will be played in Baltimore. Let’s see if Notre Dame’s trend of playing better away from home than at home continues. 

Navy lost (20-10) Saturday at Cincinnati, the team just ahead of Notre Dame in last week’s “also received votes” category in the Associated Press Top 25. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.