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Best Sporting Moment: Clemson defeats Notre Dame in Death Valley

Ashleigh Snyder
The Clemson vs. Notre Dame matchup was full of exciting moments, capped off by sophomore safety Kylon Griffin’s (18) interception with under two minutes on the clock.

The Clemson football team was in a bad spot last November, sitting at 4-4 after back-to-back conference losses to Miami and NC State. Doubt was creeping in about whether they would win the six games needed to make a bowl game.

That uncertainty quickly faded when the Tigers defeated then-No. 15 Notre Dame on Nov. 4, earning the best sporting moment for this year’s Best of Clemson.

In the 31-23 victory over the Irish, the team leaned on running back Phil Mafah, this year’s best male athlete, to help secure the game. The then-junior tailback finished the game with a career-high 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

When the offense faltered, Clemson’s defense stepped up with three takeaways, including an interception by defensive back Kylon Griffin with less than two minutes left on the clock. When Mafah fumbled the ball and returned it to the Irish two plays later, Wes Goodwin’s defensive unit came through again, this time forcing a turnover on downs to get the ball back and seal the win, allowing hundreds of Clemson fans to gather at the paw in celebration.

Dabo Swinney has been known to have some quotable post-game comments, and the win against Notre Dame created yet another viral Swinney-ism.

“I know we’re down, and everybody’s throwing dirt on us, but if Clemson’s a stock, you better buy all you freakin’ can buy right now!” Swinney told ESPN’s Molly McGrath with Clemson fans surrounding the veteran head coach.

The Tigers’ win came at a pivotal point in the season, as Clemson was on the verge of suffering a fifth loss for the first time since 2010. Swinney has been a part of several classic games against the Irish over the years, but he said he’ll never forget that one.

“I told them all week, ‘Nobody cares. Nobody cares. What we don’t have, quit worrying about it; we have plenty. Let’s take what we got, and let’s go beat what they got. You guys are here. You’re on scholarship. This is an opportunity.’ And man, those guys responded. It was awesome,” Swinney said after the game.

While the players, coaches and fans didn’t know it at the time, the victory over Notre Dame ended up sparking a run for the Tigers, who rattled off four consecutive wins to end the season 9-4, including a rivalry win over South Carolina and a Gator Bowl win over Kentucky.

To top it off, with the win over the Irish, Swinney earned his 166th win to pass Frank Howard as the all-time winningest head coach in Clemson history.

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Justin Robertson, Associate Editor
Ashleigh Snyder, Photo Editor
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