Fighting Irish Fail to Show Fight in Disappointing Loss to Clemson – TechVerdant

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If there is such a thing as a statement loss, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame delivered one on Saturday. Riding high on the promise of impressive back-to-back victories over USC and Pittsburgh, the Fighting Irish (7-3) found their hopes for a New Year’s Day bowl game likely shattered in a 31-23 loss to Clemson (5-4)  in Death Valley.

The Fighting Irish didn’t show much fight in a performance that fell far short of their recent successes and early-season expectations. The defeat, the third of the season for Marcus Freeman’s team and second straight on the road, is certain to lead to chatter wondering what went wrong this season, and what can be done to recover from the disheartening defeat.

Offensive Woes Continue for the Fighting Irish

Offensive woes continued for Notre Dame under first-year coordinator Gerad Parker and transfer quarterback Sam Hartman. After going 50 yards in seven plays on their first drive for a field goal, Notre Dame’s offense looked anemic. The talented unit demonstrated a complete inability to move the ball effectively against Clemson’s top-ranked defense. The Fighting Irish struggled in the first half and trailed 24-9 at the break. Quick scores to start the second half put Notre Dame in a position to make it interesting. But the offense fell flat in the closing stages.

In the absence of injured running back Will Shipley, Clemson’s Phil Mafah ran wild. He delivered a standout performance by rushing for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns. His outstanding day propelled the underperforming and mistake-prone Tigers to their most significant victory of the season. For the Irish, the heartbreaking loss effectively diminishes their chances of securing a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Sam Hartman Still Winless Against Clemson

Facing Clemson for a fifth time in his collegiate career, Hartman once again came out on the losing end. Winless in four tries against Clemson while he was the starting quarterback at Wake Forest, Hartman did not fare much better as Notre Dame’s signal caller.

Hartman completed 13 of 35 passes on the day for just 146 yards. He also threw two interceptions and scored a touchdown on a scramble in the second half. While he made significant contributions with his legs, he came up short with his passing performance. Hartman had four opportunities in the final minutes to potentially tie the game. Each drive, however, ended unceremoniously. Following a Mafah fumble with just 1:47 remaining in the game, Hartman had a final opportunity to engineer a scoring drive. After a single first down, Hartman threw four straight incompletions, turning the ball back over to Clemson on downs.

The Clemson victory marked the first time that an unranked Clemson team had defeated a ranked opponent since 2021. The final score of that one was 48-27 over No. 13 Wake Forest, which was led by none other than Hartman.

Hartman took responsibility for Notre Dame’s loss.

“If you want to put anything on anyone, put it on me,” he said after the game. “I played very poor today. I didn’t play well enough to be a winning quarterback.”

Time to Look Ahead After the Statement Loss

The Fighting Irish have gone from a high-flying offense to at times a competent one. Despite near-miss losses to Ohio State, Louisville, and now Clemson, Notre Dame will need to dig deep to salvage the remaining potential in a season that started with such promise. With only two regular-season games and a bowl game left, perhaps now is the time to express gratitude to Hartman for his efforts this year and transition to Steve Angeli the rest of the way in preparation for the 2024 season. The Fighting Irish have a week off to regroup before facing Wake Forest at home on Nov. 18.

Photo courtesy:  Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

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