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An Oral Background Of Notre Dame And Clemson’s Rain-Soaked 2015 Epic

nobody would neglect the ultimate time Notre Dame and Clemson played each different. The East Coast turned into getting soaking wet by way of hurricane Joaquin, while school football was making ready for its most effective weekend of the season, with five correct-25 matchups. while some games in the storm’s direction modified beginning times, No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Clemson went on as planned. ESPN’s school GameDay hosted its demonstrate on campus, and the matchup remained in the primetime ABC slot.

as with all hurricane, officers on both sides monitored the storm all week. Clemson released a press release the day before the online game confirming its capability to function the video game. The faculty became assured in the manpower available, the facilities, motorway patrol, campus police and the drainage device beneath the container that would maintain the enjoying floor in first rate circumstance.

The video game delivered on each expectation of drama. Deshaun Watson threw two touchdowns passes and ran for a further to cling off a late Notre Dame comeback and pull off a 24–22 victory. It turned into one of the crucial largest early matchups within the 2015 season between two undefeated groups, and it carried tremendous implications for the 2nd ever school soccer Playoff.

activities Illustrated spoke with a couple of dozen people involved that evening ahead of Saturday’s playoff semifinal rematch on Dec. 29 within the Cotton Bowl. considering that the video game three years in the past, Notre Dame and Clemson have taken completely distinct paths back to each and every different: The Tigers are about to play in their fourth consecutive playoff, having competed for 2 country wide championships and won one. The combating Irish went four–8 the next season, best to rebound the following 12 months and run the table in 2018 to install their first closing 4 berth.

(each adult is identified via his position/title during the 2015 season.)

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The typhoon and the Hype

typhoon Joaquin developed on Sept. 27, 2015 within the Atlantic Ocean and intensified because it moved towards the Bahamas. notwithstanding it on no account made landfall on the East Coast, it caused torrential downpours, flooding and vicious winds through Week 5 of the faculty soccer season. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Clemson graduate, advised enthusiasts to dwell home until they had to attend. There wasn’t an empty seat in death Valley.

Shaq Lawson (Clemson junior defensive end): all through the week, we thought the online game was going to get canceled. We still organized, received an indoor facility. We used the moist balls and every thing. We went out at some point within the rain to apply. entire time, i assumed the online game was going to be canceled and rescheduled. You’ll be coping with that and prepare for a accurate-5 group. It’s a little elaborate.

Don Munson (Clemson radio play-by-play broadcaster): I’m going to assert forty eight hours in advance of the game on that Thursday, there changed into all kinds of speculation the video game turned into going to be canceled. That’s what state officers wanted to do. Heck, the governor at the moment even said the game shouldn’t be played. There become all types of speak. I’m sure there have been state officials who spoke of, “probably stronger if we don’t try this.” Nah, Clemson become gung-ho on getting it finished. Judi Poker

Miles Boykin (Notre Dame redshirt freshman wide receiver, and the most effective offensive scout crew participant who traveled to this game): We knew it wasn’t going to get canceled. When a team is taking part in Notre Dame, it’s constantly a crew we don’t play each year, in order that they want to get that video game in in any respect prices. no matter if it’s within the rain, within the snow, they’re going to do everything they could to play that video game.

For me, it was a fab event my first time traveling. And taking part in in a hurricane, it become raining sideways pretty much the entire online game. I remember freezing on the sideline and that i also remember that game become when i noticed, “Welcome to school football.” there have been athletes on both sides of the ball. The sheer talent that became on that field turned into just ridiculous gazing that video game.

Dan Radakovich (Clemson athletic director): It was a turbulent week to assert the least, with all the distinct weather situations and our campus right here making bound that we felt that it became safe adequate to host a video game, to convey eighty,000 people here to Clemson. We had conversations with lots of folks within the state. I’ll on no account neglect, the governor called me. I consider it become Friday before the online game, just to get an idea as to what our concept procedure became, given probably the most other preparations the state turned into making, may still there be some hurricane-class recreation. We weren’t listed for that, however what we have been listed for become just a fantastic amount of rain. Forecasters have been suitable. It rained right through the whole online game.

apparently on Saturday morning, when GameDay became right here … that turned into a further factor. That community came into town on Thursday and install and did their whole exhibit and that they acquired some fairly exciting photos of our college students sliding during the mud, but all over the time they had been on the air, it became desirable. It changed into now not raining. We had been pondering, “Are we going to ward off this bullet?” round 6 o’clock, the rain came in and, boy, did it rain. as soon as the online game starts, provided that there’s no longer lightning in the enviornment, we had been capable of play the online game. There became by no means a good groundswell to flow or cancel the video game.

DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame redshirt freshman beginning quarterback): It became nuts as a result of we knew it become coming. All week we were making ready for it and our family unit is attempting to be sure our trip is sorted and everybody is attempting to make sure they’re getting in and out safely. We didn’t always understand if we have been even going to be able to play the game, so that you’re sort of on aspect the entire week. however we get there and play and the container changed into in good shape. that they had this marvelous draining gadget. all over heat u.s.it drizzled a little bit and changed into kind of slowing down. however right after we acquired accessible [for kickoff], it changed into pouring which made the video game pretty entertaining.

Judi Weiss (senior ESPN operations producer with GameDay): It’s very complicated to forget. We end at 12 (midday ET). That appeared to be when the climate in fact begun to pick up. I obtained to tell you, my guys couldn’t put plywood down speedy enough earlier than it begun to sink within the mud. In some areas, we were three items of three-quarter inch plywood thick so the knockdown equipment may knock down the set.

It on no account rained challenging adequate all through the three-hour demonstrate the place it impaired us from doing the three-hour demonstrate. The winds weren’t robust enough right through the reveal, but afterwards it changed into a really diverse story. It became just a sea of mud. The one factor I bear in mind most, i was donning a pair of Sperry galoshes that simply go right below my knee, the good of the galoshes and the mud, i used to be sinking in it. It changed into pouring interior my boots. We’re all satisfied that after the school repaired the lawn from that a few of our plywood is likely nonetheless buried within the floor. That’s how deep issues had been sinking in.

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Munson: I got there on Clemson’s campus round three and it turned into an absolute deluge. It turned into raining. It became raining. Wind became howling. count of truth, my wife decided, “Nope, I’m no longer sitting out in that stuff.” Had tickets for my father-in-law. They called me, “now not sitting in that stuff.” The incredible aspect, I come on [the radio] an hour earlier than kickoff and that i’m observing this issue build. With about 20 minutes earlier than kick, the place was packed. You’re like, “Whoa.” We notion perhaps sixty five–70,000 would display up. Nuh-huh. there have been eighty one,000 mighty plus within the stadium.

The other fantastic aspect become how many individuals have been nevertheless simply outside the stadium simply to be there for the ambiance of it, see if they may opt for up a stray ticket. There must have been 20,000 people outdoor of the stadium trying to find tickets or just wanting to be there, in this deluge.

Kizer: On how to the online game we took some weird lower back roads. I don’t be aware of if there changed into another way to get to Clemson, however the manner we were going turned into definitely off the crushed course. We ended up sitting at a cease sign for an hour but what actually felt like eight hours because we were so excited to get to the game. You’re all dressed up and able to go and also you sit there for perpetually. Then all of the unexpected you beginning going again and also you pull as much as the center of nowhere, which occurs to be this attractive campus and this striking stadium. I vividly be aware individuals throwing things on the bus and booing us and definitely giving us a warm welcome as we walked into death Valley.

once the Irish arrived on the stadium for pregame, the chaos had already began. Clemson had a DJ on the exact of the hill who was spinning customary tune on the jumbotron to hype up the group. Notre Dame players had certainly not considered the rest adore it.

Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame redshirt sophomore right address): It changed into my first time having a big function on the group. The yr earlier than we had gone to Florida State however I wasn’t a starter then, so this become my first online game that i used to be going to ought to use a silent count number the whole time. You couldn’t hear yourself suppose.

before the game, the typhoon is coming down and we’re in stretch traces and the captains at the time were on our 50-yard line dealing with in and we have been on the different facet dealing with the appropriate of the hill with the rock. And their DJ had made this custom song for them and the entire sudden you see spotlights zooming to the exact of the hill and these orange jerseys are swaying back and forth. the gang goes nuts and that i remember hair standing up on again of your neck because it changed into a groovy second, like here’s what big-time college soccer is all about.

Charone Peake (Clemson senior receiver): It became a really overrated video game. Notre Dame and us had loads of big name avid gamers. It became going to be a lot of amazing talent and competitors within the video game. You simply come out for pregame and it’s pouring down raining. The rain takes away from the passing game a little bit. We knew entering into that we were going to have to display some grit and alter our plans a bit bit, dominate within the trenches.

Munson: [The hype] had been building for, in reality, since it become announced, since the ACC announced the deal with Notre Dame and they gave the time table all through the ACC and the entire sudden right here is Clemson and Notre Dame on the schedule. Our fan base … it goes back to Joe Montana playing in death Valley [in 1977] and leading a fine comeback and our fan base, being a little bit older, they bear in mind that. They also remember the 1979 video game at Notre Dame, the place Billy Lott scores. Our fan base is pretty historic. They be aware of their Clemson football background. They knew this turned into going on.

Lawson: loads of our guys, we had been observing them considering that the summer season.

Jordan Leggett (Clemson junior tight conclusion): We heard the entire noise from the backyard. “they have got such a pretty good offensive line, such a good operating back, quarterback. If it comes all the way down to a rainy online game, they’re going to dominate us.” I wasn’t concerned about all of the hype from the backyard. train Swinney did a pretty good job of each day at observe working wet ball drills and various things to put together us. We knew it was going to return down, if it did rain, to a combat within the trenches.

Peake: We didn’t alternate [the game plan] until video game day. Our Friday nighttime and Saturday morning meetings, we discussed it and what we’d trade [if it were raining]. We wouldn’t throw certain routes simply since it became risky being rainy. certain routes throughout the center, we didn’t need to check it. Tipped balls will without difficulty get picked. We had a robust line, mighty operating online game. We knew we may nonetheless dominate in the run video game.

Munson: i can go and sit down in on any team assembly I need to. I’ll go and take a seat in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s group conferences. every video game [Swinney] treats like the largest online game of the season. That’s the motive he’s high-quality at getting ready his guys week to week. but he’ll let you know there’s some that have a bit extra juice and, boy, this one has a bit extra juice. i will be able to bear in mind him telling them that line, saying that line. ‘We want to be targeted week to week, however this one does have a little more juice.’ He doesn’t say that frequently.

the first Half

Clemson struck right away, with Watson working for 38 yards on the first play. Six plays later, he found Jordan Leggett for a six-yard landing and an early 7–0 lead. the first half in most cases went like that: The Tigers stored the force on and Watson was humming, while Notre Dame dug itself into an eventual 14–3 deficit via halftime.

Leggett: I remember it pouring down rain. The complete offense knew we had been going to need to run the ball. We have been doing super on that, but when it came down to the aim line, we did a bit play-action within the flat and that i turned into appropriate there. That brought the stadium alive. no person wanted to be there, however when you go to Clemson, they promote out every video game, doesn’t count number what the climate is. That stadium simply erupted after I scored that first landing.

The one I scored my touchdown on, [linebacker Jaylon Smith] had me man-to-man. Some americans call it a rub route, some people call it a decide on route. name it what you desire. He received picked with every thing coming from the outdoor in so he wasn’t in a position to get accessible quickly sufficient.

Wayne Gallman (Clemson sophomore working returned): the line blocked truly well that online game. We made some things occur. I had discovered some holes, simply working along the offensive line and really trusting them within the wet cases. in fact grinding it out.

Kizer: That game turned into one of the first massive games that I ever performed in. i used to be variety of thrown into the fire, attempting to determine things out, figuring out how the season was going to move because the starter. With the storm coming via and all of the hype with Deshaun Watson, and him being certainly one of my decent pals, that become in fact a pivotal second in my profession and in my life that i was super excited for earlier than the video game.

Munson: That was one of the most early moments in Deshaun’s profession the place you could inform this dude is a bit distinct than the rest that had come before him and the relaxation that we had viewed on the collegiate stage. He didn’t care, just didn’t care. He turned into going to do what it took for Clemson to win that ball game. Defensively, they had been just shutting down Notre Dame. They couldn’t do anything else. Clemson’s offense is scoring aspects. You lookup and there’s 21 points on the board and three on the Notre Dame facet, however this become still Notre Dame. I observed that to the fellows in the sales space, “Dudes, this changed into Notre Dame. You recognize there’s going to be a run.”

This become Kizer’s first genuine street online game because the starting QB. He had rallied the Irish to a late win in Week 2 at Virginia, but best after Malik Zaire fractured his ankle.

Kizer: It became one of the most loudest locations I’ve ever played. I peculiarly be aware the first third down the place I’m getting ready to make a insurance policy investigate and that i’m yelling within six inches to my center about what protection examine i wished to make and he had no concept what i was announcing. We needed to name timeout on our first third down.

It became complicated to communicate and Deshaun become taking part in relatively well. they had a pretty good quarterback draw online game getting into the first quarter the place Deshaun came up with some huge runs early and that they had rather just a few veteran guys that made some huge plays for him. It took us awhile to get going.

Lawson: I knew i used to be going in opposition t (future first-round handle select) Ron Stanley. I variety of knew what they had been going to do the entire yr. I needed to win my one-on-one matchup. That’s what received me in the first round, beating him. I had a pretty good day towards him. We had a fine protecting online game plan with a great defensive coordinator, [Brent Venables]. He knew what they have been going to run every time.

Clemson avid gamers were so soaked at halftime that many of them changed entire uniforms, from their cleats to their jerseys.

Carlos Watkins (Clemson junior protective conclusion): It was bad. I went through, like, three pairs of cleats. I eventually took my gloves off. operating backs and receivers, they’re switching out gloves and cleats. literally, may have switched jerseys at halftime. every little thing … you put on new socks. We have been soaking wet when we got here in for halftime.

Peake: It changed into fairly tough. Your gloves don’t work as tons. I don’t believe any receivers left their gloves on. It become no element as a result of how lots it became raining. We simply knew we were going to need to run the ball. It became going to be a tough video game.

Fourth Quarter Comeback

The Irish dedicated 4 turnovers in the 2nd half, beginning when C.J. Sanders fumbled on the outlet kickoff of the second half, which became into a Watson touchdown a couple of moments later. Down 21–3, Notre Dame begun its comeback.

Kizer: Going into the 2d half we decided to persist with the video game plan we had devoid of the rain and that became to throw the ball somewhat a little. there were some below routes and a few easy passes to vast open guys and we had been in a position to come returned pretty good going into that fourth quarter.

Munson: provide Brian Kelly and his team of workers all the credit on the planet. They made some terrific alterations. They began running some crossing routes, and unexpectedly their wide receivers are operating flat open and they’re scoring points. You got to credit Notre Dame’s offensive line. those crossing routes took some time to enhance. Clemson’s protective front 4 and the push and pressure Venables may carry with blitzing turned into pretty first rate, basically first rate. but they stored within the tight end and a lower back.

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the primary Irish landing got here with 14:07 left to play. Kizer discovered C.J. Prosise for a fifty six-yard bomb to get again in the online game. however Brian Kelly, who was calling the performs, opted to move for two in its place of kicking the further element, besides the fact that Notre Dame can be down two rankings regardless. On the effort, Kizer’s circulate to Corey Robinson fell incomplete.

Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame athletic director): We were so sure we had that play that the possibility calculus just alterations. on occasion you go into a video game and you understand you’ve acquired a goal-line play that’s going to work on account of some dynamic with the defense. and of course it couldn’t have labored any enhanced and would have had an enchanting impact on the video game, he simply dropped it and often that occurs. I knew of our self assurance in that play and so from a choice-making standpoint, it became like, yeah, this may provide us real momentum. The play design didn’t fail. now and again young americans execute, once in a while they don’t.

Watkins: They basically started tempo-ing the ball and speeded up the tempo on us. defense, you get the playcall and get settled. It’s wet and guys were simply taking small plays and turning them into big plays. We were giving us large performs as a protection. It turned into nothing like throwing the ball 50 yards down field. just throwing the ball on a ten-yard completion and turning it into 60 yard touchdowns. That was the issue—what basically saved them in the video game. They made little big plays, stored the ball moving and tempo-ing us.

The remaining Two-aspect Conversion

Kizer rallied Notre Dame via scoring three touchdowns, the remaining a one-yard pass to Torii Hunter Jr. with seven seconds ultimate. Down 24–22, the simplest alternative became to go for two and force additional time. That’s when Clemson protecting handle Carlos Watkins stuffed Kizer on the aim line.

McGlinchey: The play changed into referred to as 26, an outdoor zone to the right, which was anything that we weren’t in fact strong on—in [that] we infrequently did it. The protective lineman obtained lots of penetration on our appropriate protect. truthfully it comes right down to a block or two, maintaining a 2d longer and the ball is within the conclusion zone.

Watkins: I felt they had been going to pass the ball. Didn’t suppose they had been going to do this play. that they had tried it on us prior. i finished up taking a false step and sort of received at the back of on the play. They zone [rushed] to my left and sort of reduce me off. I had a hand on the preserve and address. i was just maintaining my gap and then it was simply satisfactory to where Ben [Boulware] came in and stuffed it. we all came in there and it’s just, like, inflicting a huge pile. i was capable of hit him a bit bit and all and sundry else got here to remedy the mess. It was a crazy play.

Kizer: It became a unusual situation. You go into a online game typically, mainly on the faculty level with one, might be two, two-factor performs. you’ve got your goal-line kit, and also you deem one among your aim-line passes and one in every of your goal-line runs as a two-point play. the primary touchdown I had changed into on certainly one of our two-point conversion plays, which was a quarterback result in the outside that I scored on. We used our 2d one [on the failed two-point conversion after the first TD], which became a circulate to Corey Robinson in the lower back of the conclusion zone that lamentably wasn’t completed.

So then you definately get to the end of the online game and it’s like, “All correct, smartly, we used each of them previous in the online game, which one will we go back to?” obviously you’re going to choose the one you had success on. So we go to run that play and they had a gorgeous respectable leap on that and the D-line made a gorgeous respectable play to now not allow me to pressure my method into the conclusion zone.

Munson: It become well-nigh an actual play they’d run prior within the video game. I feel it turned into the accurate play. He rolls to his right and the entire sudden he tries to tuck it and run it and there’s just nothing there however a wall of orange. Carlos Watkins was leading the manner. Boulware changed into definitely there. There was simply no vicinity for him to move.

Alex Bars (Notre Dame redshirt freshman left look after): i was on the left side so i was bottom and essential to bring to an end the nose shelter. I reduce him off, they made the play entrance side, and since i used to be on the returned running with him i used to be in a position to watch the whole play unfold on the correct and notice us not get it. You may see the frustration as quickly as we didn’t score.

Kizer: The best factor I knew on the time become successful. I had received a state championship [in high school], had a tough loss my senior yr, but for probably the most half i was relatively assured that any time the ball turned into in our arms on the end of the video game, we had been going to win. chiefly with all of the skill that we had on offense and the magnificent offensive line we had to supply me time to throw the soccer.

I became the ball over with [six minutes] left in the fourth quarter in a extremely essential moment, however we grow to be getting the ball right lower back so we have an opportunity to go score. We’re placing collectively good pressure and all momentum is moving into our course to take this element into overtime. To fall short in that moment changed into relatively hard. nonetheless it also become type of a way of solidifying that i was going to be in a position to play on the highest level of school ball enjoying against a proper-five crew with a bunch of first-round talent all over the place. To be in a position to compete at that stage made me know that for the relaxation of the season, we’re going to have an attractive respectable team.

Gallman: We had been all on our knees ready to see if the protection was going to position up a stop. I be aware every person rushing the box as at all times. It felt in reality good just to be able to win that video game in that class of circumstance. Notre Dame, the splendid college, it changed into respectable to beat a kind of category teams.

Peake: It became crazy. Our enthusiasts show up for every online game, however changed into tremendous loud that game. They stayed out on the box no count number the conditions. It was extraordinary to have fun that win with our enthusiasts that evening.

Watkins: every person stayed. It changed into one of those college classics. each person stayed and the enthusiasts got here onto the box despite what the climate was like. It turned into loopy, nothing like I expected.


This turned into the evening Dabo Swinney coined “BYOG, bring Your personal Guts,” as Clemson fanatics rushed the soggy container to have fun a large victory. The Tigers would finish the commonplace season undefeated, win the ACC championship, beat Oklahoma in the CFP semifinal, and sooner or later lose a thrilling country wide title game to Alabama, 45–forty.

Radakovich: in fact, it’s only a most memorable game for the americans who were out in the stands. They focus on it to at the present time, of being there and gazing the online game and definitely the interesting ending of that video game became first-rate for all Tiger lovers. It became an evening that demonstrated our police and all the individuals that assist us put on a online game. it’s a military of individuals. We had been capable of make some decent selections. besides the fact that there become a little less manpower than what we might continually have for a video game—and we knew that moving into, the result of those conferences I mentioned—our enthusiasts were simply brilliant. It ended up being a very high-quality adventure, however it became nerve-wracking earlier in the week.

I believe it changed into very crucial and that i know that Dabo utilized that … that become his famous “deliver Your own Guts” video game. It was really the time when the team noticed they may compete on the highest degree and be a success, take a backseat to no one and go out and, in case you play your premiere online game, you’re going to have a great possibility to be successful. It in reality helped him during the the rest of the yr and into the national championship game in opposition t Alabama, which changed into an exquisite game. We weren’t a success however became a lot of enjoyable to monitor that game as smartly.

Leggett: We celebrated like we all the time do with each win but that one become a little more particular. We bought it completed (despite) all of the people against us, the media and noise, announcing we didn’t have the offense and run game like Notre Dame has. It became particular to drag off a victory like that.

Peake: It let us know the way decent we have been and that no remember what the conditions or cases changed into we felt like we might come out with a win as a result of we had been so balanced—particular groups, offense, defense. We felt like we might dominate any team.

Lawson: That turned into the turning element for that 2015 group. It gave us momentum to finish the season. Had us competent for the large dance.

All wasn’t misplaced for Notre Dame’s season. The Irish had been nevertheless within the playoff hunt unless a field intention on the closing play of the season finale against Stanford put them within the Fiesta Bowl in opposition t Ohio State. That was the video game linebacker Jaylon Smith tore up his knee and accelerated the vogue of first-round draftees sitting out bowl video games.

Isaac Rochell (Notre Dame junior defensive conclusion): I simply remember later on everyone being like, “neatly, we are able to nevertheless go to the country wide championship, we simply ought to win out.” i was so deflated. i used to be like, “Dang, I bet we’re now not going to a countrywide championship.” since it’s so complicated if you don’t go undefeated.

Joe Schmidt (Notre Dame senior captain linebacker): I feel we variety of did every thing imaginable to lose. We grew to become the ball over 4 instances. We were taking place and we had an opportunity to tie it on a two-aspect conversion. Frankly, that was ridiculous that we had an opportunity to tie the online game as a result of we had completed so many things incorrect. Defensively we could have played so a good deal greater, so I suppose we were pissed off that we had that probability on a countrywide stage to play a very comprehensive game and we didn’t.

McGlinchey: It changed into a heartbreaker. That’s whatever thing you always bear in mind. If we don’t delivery as slow as we did, we’re doubtless within the playoff that 12 months. I feel that 2015 crew become the most reliable crew I performed on at Notre Dame. just a mix of top to bottom of who we had on that crew. I felt like we had been the enhanced team, but unfortunately we didn’t play like the better group that day.

Swarbrick: It became frustrating as a result of we without difficulty had the same aspect turn up to us in consecutive years. The last play at Florida State [in 2014] the place it appears like we had gained the game and that they call an offensive circulate interference [on fourth and goal, followed by an interception to end the game]. Then sort of equal condition, equal stakes on the line, this time it’s a bit more self-inflicted however in both instances you’re one play away from having a extremely huge street victory that doubtless propels you even more firmly in the playoff dialogue.

Boykin: It became devastating. if you happen to redshirt, you’re the group’s greatest fan. You go through every thing the crew does however you don’t get to play on Saturdays. i used to be simply as invested as each person else on that field and that i was devastated. once we got again in the locker room, I’ll on no account neglect what instruct Kelly pointed out to us. He mentioned, “We’ve labored means too difficult to lose a game like this.” Ever given that then my frame of mind has changed fully. We’ve worked approach too hard to lose in large video games like this, and we’re going to do whatever thing it takes to no longer let that ensue once again.

whereas Clemson has enjoyed sustained success since that video game, Notre Dame has fully rebuilt itself following the four–eight debacle of 2016. but the classes have nevertheless ended up in the identical region: undefeated and fighting for a spot in the national championship.