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.
The scene on the field after Notre Dame beats Clemson. That's a lot of people. pic.twitter.com/JtT4ueQlQR
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) November 8, 2020
Kyren Williams put the Irish ahead with a three-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 get added to the list streak breakers in Notre Dame history: Catholics v Convicts in 1988 that snapped No 1 Miami’s 36-game regular-season winning streak and the shutout of Oklahoma in 1957 that broke the Sooners’s record 47-game roll.
Clemson (7-1, 6-1) had won 36 straight 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.
The rollicking celebrations drew the attention of no less than NBA star LeBron James, who tweeted: “So it’s ok for fans to storm the field but not ok at the same time to have fans??? I’m confused”.
So it’s ok for fans to storm the field but not ok at the same time to have fans??? I’m confused 🤷🏾♂️
— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 8, 2020
Who knows where this victory will rank in Notre Dame’s storied history, 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,”’ Irish coach Brian Kelly said.
Williams ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns and Ian 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 on the first two plays.
The big freshman quarterback completed two passes after the second-and-39, but the final one was way short of the line to gain and a couple of laterals didn’t help.
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.
Uiagalelei, starting in place for 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.”
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, “(Kelly) told us to get inside after the game as fast as we could.”
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 its 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 sneaked into the end zone on the second play of overtime to put Clemson up 40-33. Notre Dame responded with a three-yard touchdown run by Williams and kick to tie it instead of going for two 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 two-point conversion with seven seconds left in regulation.
Clemson coach Dabo 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.”