In preparation for Saturday's game against Clemson # 1, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly insisted that whether you win or lose, it was "not the end" for the program.
Kelly was right. No. 4 Notre Dame & # 39; s 47:40 win in two overtime against the Tigers does not guarantee an ACC championship, a place in the college football playoffs, or the program’s first national championship since 1988.
Notre Dame students stormed the field despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That will temporarily skew the lingering memory of what the Irish (7-0, 6-0 ACC) did at Notre Dame against the Tigers (7-1, 6-1 ACC), a game of which Sporting News thought it would be the pre-season game of the year.
Sometimes it's good to be right. This was more than a game. This was a game that shut down the discussion about the program being overrated or not deserving of the special treatment that comes with that fat NBC contract. This was a game that brought the Irish back to the heavyweight division at No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Ohio State.
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These programs have placed the Irish at the top of college football's pecking order for the past 30 years. Notre Dame waded through the eras of the Bowl Championship Series and the College Football Playoffs with bursts of success that were overshadowed by their mistakes.
You don't remember the Irish going 12-0 in 2012. You recall Alabama blasting Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS championship game. They don't remember the Irish ending 12-0 in 2018. You will recall that Clemson throttled the Irish 30-3 in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs.
By beating Clemson on Saturday, Kelly confirmed that these losses were "not the end". The Irish are 30-3 as of 2018. This confirmed this success. You can't call Notre Dame overrated, and we know what's going to come out of the naysayers' mouths next:
Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence didn't play last week due to a positive COVID-19 test. Yeah, that was a big factor, but freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei passed for 439 yards and two touchdowns, adding another on the ground. He rallied the Tigers from a 10-point half-time deficit. He also led the grid in the fourth quarter.
The more important narrative should be that the Tigers' talent did not overwhelm Notre Dame. Clemson had 34 rush attempts for 33 yards. The Irish converted 10 of 19 third downs and took advantage of the Tigers' mistakes.
In the past, Notre Dame folds at this point, lamenting the missed opportunities. There was also more than enough of it. Two trips in the first half ended with field goals in the red zone due to a false start or a bad pass.
And with a tie of 23 in the third quarter, Book appeared to have started a quarterback keeper. He fumbled, however, and the ball trickled into the end zone, where Clemson's Baylon Spector fell on it. That looked like the continuation of the "Bush Push" against USC No. 1 in 2005. Uiagalelei led the grid in the fourth quarter, and Travis Etienne kicked off with 3:33 for a 33-26 lead.
MORE: Notre Dame-Clemson Highlights, Updates
Then something else happened. Notre Dame answered in the clutch: Book hit Avery Davis for a 53-yard ball. This set the game-winning 4-yard touchdown for Davis. Still, there had to be doubts. Remember when Eric Crouch led Nebraska No. 1 Nebraska to a thrilling overtime win over Notre Dame in 2000?
The Irish did not allow that again. Book overtime guided back-to-back scoring trips. Kyren Williams, who shot 140 yards and three points, completed both drives with short touchdown runs. The pass rush of the Irish led in the second extension to successive sacks, which forced a fourth and a 24th place.
Uiagalelei couldn't come up with the Wunderpass, and Notre Dame celebrated with their first home win against No. 1 since the legendary "Game of the Century" against the State of Florida in 1993. The students who stormed the field just made it one ". Play for this century" in an uncertain time of year when you don't know what tomorrow will bring.
Notre Dame can plan at least the next month. The Irish – with a one-year lease in the ACC – have sole first place. A rematch with Clemson seems inevitable, and it's almost certain that Lawrence, standing on the sidelines with his mask on, will be back on the field for this one.
Notre Dame has a tough playoff case winning or losing, but that might not mean much on December 19th if the rematch is a blowout. After all, the Irish wouldn't have this ACC championship.
So Kelly's thoughts are right, even if this was still more than a game.
Saturday was a reminder that no program wakes the echoes like Notre Dame when it beats the country's No. 1. This was the best game of the 2020 season, and the rematch will likely be the most anticipated Power 5 conference championship game.
It's "not the end", nowhere near. It's a new beginning for the Irish.
This can also be seen in 2020.