No. 4 Notre Dame knocks off No. 1 Clemson 47-40 in two overtimes

Notre Dame's Kyren Williams wards off Clemson safety Nolan Turner on a touchdown run Nov. 7, 2020.
Kyren Williams, here stiff-arming Clemson’s Nolan Turner, ran for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the second overtime, as Notre Dame earned its first win over a No. 1 team since 1993.
(Matt Cashore / Associated Press)

Kyren Williams had 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 Fighting Irish’s first victory over a No. 1 team in 27 years.

Clemson (7-1, 6-1) had won 36 consecutive 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, snapped both streaks and sparked fans to storm the field in a celebration that most definitely did not meet the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

It will go down as one of Notre Dame’s most memorable victories and, considering the setting, probably it’s 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.

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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 four-yard touchdown pass to Avery Davis with 22 seconds left.

After Williams gave Notre Dame the lead on the first possession of the second overtime, the Irish pushed Clemson back with back-to-back sacks on D.J. Uiagalelei by Adetokumbo Ogundeji and Daelin Hayes on the first two plays.

The big freshman quarterback, a former Bellflower St. John Bosco star, completed a pass on fourth and 24, but it was way short of the line to gain and a couple of laterals didn’t help.

The Fighting Irish have won 13 straight games, snapped an 11-game losing streak against top-five teams, and beat a No. 1 team for the first time since taking down Florida State in 1993 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei looks for a receiver against Notre Dame on Nov. 7, 2020.
Clemson freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, a former St. John Bosco star, looks for a receiver. Uiagalelei passed for 439 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.
(Matt Cashore / Associated Press)

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. “D.J. was just outstanding.“

The biggest game at Notre Dame Stadium since No. 1 USC beat the Irish with the “Bush Push” in 2005 had only 11,011 in attendance, mostly students, because of pandemic restrictions.

When it was over, they poured onto the field to celebrate with their team — coronavirus be damned.

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“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.

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.

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney famously said it was a BYOG game: “Bring your own guts.” The Tigers needed to pack some guts and then some for the their first trip to South Bend since 1979.

Not only were the Tigers missing Lawrence, but they also were without three key defensive starters because of 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.”