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Paws up, paws down: Clemson vs. Notre Dame

Matt Mynes, Asst. Photo Editor

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (5) and running back Will Shipley (1) stand at the line of scrimmage against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on Nov. 5, 2022. 

Clemson suffered its first loss of the 2022 season against Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana on Saturday night, falling to the Irish 35-14.
Although the Tigers are still in prime position to win the ACC, the loss to Notre Dame spotlighted many of Clemson’s weaknesses and problems, as everything that could go wrong for the Tigers did. 
Paws down: Clemson’s passing game, or lack thereof
Clemson’s passing game has dealt with peaks and valleys throughout the 2022 season, but it might have reached its lowest point against Notre Dame. In the loss, the Tigers threw for 191 yards, 109 of which came in the fourth quarter when the game was essentially in the Irish’s hand.  
DJ Uiagalelei finished the game completing 27 of 39 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Briefly taking over for the junior-signal caller for two plays, Cade Klubnik also ran into trouble and threw a costly interception on his lone pass attempt of the night.
From play-calling to execution to a lack of physicality, the Tigers’ entire offense struggled to find momentum, and at the center of the troubles was the lack of a passing attack.
Paws down: Clemson’s run defense
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was genuinely shocked after the game by how poorly his team defended the run against Notre Dame, and for a good reason.
The Tigers gave up a season-high 263 rushing yards and allowed Notre Dame rushers to gain 5.6 yards per carry on 47 attempts.
For a defense that has been unforgiving to opposing teams’ rushing attacks, Clemson was uncharacteristically pushed around in the trenches.
Paws down: Special teams mishaps
Notre Dame dominated Clemson in every phase of the game, and that included special teams.
On the Tigers’ first offensive drive of the game, the punt unit allowed a Notre Dame rusher to block Aidan Swanson’s kick, and the Irish returned it 17 yards for a touchdown — the score that began Notre Dame’s run. On Swanson’s third punt of the game, Notre Dame got its hands on the ball once again, tipping Swanson’s kick that ended up only traveling 24 yards. 
Swanson actually had an impressive individual performance in windy conditions, recording a 67-yard punt at the 2-minute mark of the first quarter and averaging 45 yards per punt.
Still, the margin of error on special teams is so small that any mistake often results in disaster, and that’s precisely what happened on the two blocked punts in the first half.
Paws up: Syracuse’s loss to Pittsburgh
Nothing went right for the Tigers in South Bend, Indiana, but if there was any positive takeaway from Week 10, it was that Clemson clinched the Atlantic Division title.
With Syracuse’s loss to Pittsburgh, the Tigers will compete in the ACC Championship game on Dec. 3 against either North Carolina or Duke.
Clemson may find itself out of the College Football Playoff with the loss to Notre Dame, but reaching the conference championship this early alleviates some of the pressure ahead of two final ACC games.

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