CLEMSON, SC - Dabo told us after the game that it Frank Howard had the favor of the Man upstairs, and he was making it "hard on the ol' boy" to break his Clemson win record. It sure felt that way! Heartbreaking, consecutive losses for the first time since 2011, and Mafah, after a brilliant game, puts the ball on the ground after picking up a first down with minutes left. It's like they were trying to lose! Unlike the 4 games they should have won--Duke, FSU, Miami and NC State--the Tigers were able to break the curse thanks to the defense and hold on for a big win, and Dabo passed the legendary Frank Howard with his 166th win. I thought it was going to come down to a 2-point conversion again, just like the last time Notre Dame played in Death Valley in 2015. Coincidentally, Ben Boulware had the big stop at the end of that game, and he was an honorary captain on Saturday. Despite the early kick, it was another electric crowd, just like the noon game against No.3 FSU, and the place went berserk after Trotter's pick-six! This has to be one of the easiest decisions Dabo has had for picking the players of the game. Trotter on defense, Mafah on offense and Swanson, Florenzo and Greene on Special Teams. They were all sensational!
Clemson is now 5-3 all-time against the Irish and remains the only program with an all-time winning record against Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma (minimum 2 meetings). The Tigers were out 9 starters from the beginning of the season, including 4 on defense, made a couple catastrophic mistakes and still beat the No.15 team--that should have beaten Ohio State--by 8 points! That just confirms what I've been saying all along: that this team was good enough to win a national championship, and we will always wonder what could have been if not for self-inflicted mistakes. I'll break down the game and have more photos in a bit! In the meantime, our post-game interviews, highlights and notes are below. I highly recommend you watch the last 5 minutes of Dabo's press conference! It's absolutely amazing how God arranged for Dabo and Clemson to find each other. All of those crazy fluke plays and bad Ron Cherry calls that kept Tommy Bowden from winning a division happened because God wanted Dabo to become the head coach at Clemson. I don't know how anyone can doubt the existence of God after listening to Dabo talk about how he and his parents met Frank Howard--a good friend of Dabo's idol Bear Bryant--and 40 years later Alabama walk-on wide receiver Dabo Swinney breaks Frank Howard's Clemson record against Notre Dame of all schools! The most iconic football program and a Catholic school to boot! I'm sorry, but some things simply cannot be coincidence. Stay tuned for more!
WITH THE WIN...
Head Coach Dabo Swinney earned his 166th career win to pass College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard (165 from 1940-69) for sole possession of the Clemson record for career head coaching wins.
Swinney also matched the career win total of College Football Hall of Famer Red Blaik, who won 166 games at Dartmouth and Army from 1934-58. Swinney's .794 win percentage is ahead of Blaik's .759.
Clemson improved to 34-9 in games following a loss under Swinney, including season openers following a loss in the previous season finale.
Clemson improved to 20-9 under Swinney in rematches with opponents to whom he'd lost his most recent meeting.
Clemson improved to 5-3 all-time against Notre Dame.
Clemson is now 2-1 all-time in home games against Notre Dame.
Swinney improved to 4-2 all-time against Notre Dame.
Clemson improved to 31-7-2 against FBS independents since the NCAA split Division I into the divisions now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision in 1978.
Clemson improved to 91-12 in regular season play since the start of the 2015 season. Ten of Clemson’s 12 regular season losses in that span have been decided by a final margin of 10 or fewer points.
Clemson improved to 63-3 at Death Valley in the College Football Playoff era, matching Alabama for the nation’s best home record in that span. (Note: Alabama hosts LSU this evening.)
Clemson improved to 39-4 against non-conference opponents at Death Valley under Swinney.
Clemson improved to 29-12 against AP Top 25 teams in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014). Clemson is also now 21-11 against AP Top 15 teams in that span.
Clemson improved to 14-3 at home against AP Top 25 teams since 2011.
Clemson has now recorded at least one win against an AP Top 20 team in Death Valley in nine consecutive seasons. Clemson's last season without a win against a Top 20 squad in Death Valley was 2014.
Clemson has now posted at least one home win against a Top 20 team in 11 out of the last 13 seasons. On top of Saturday’s victory, that note includes wins against No. 11 Florida State in 2011; No. 5 Georgia in 2013; No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 17 Florida State in 2015; No 3 Louisville in 2016; No. 13 Auburn in 2017; No. 16 NC State in 2018; No. 12 Texas A&M in 2019; No. 7 Miami (Fla.) in 2020; No. 13 Wake Forest in 2021; and No. 10 NC State and No. 14 Syracuse in 2022.
Swinney earned his 38th all-time victory against AP Top 25 teams. Swinney's 38 wins against the AP Top 25 are the second-most of any coach — active or inactive — since 2009.
Clemson defeated Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman as a starter for a fifth time. Hartman, a transfer from Wake Forest, became the first starting quarterback defeated by Clemson five times. Clemson had previously earned wins against Wake Forest in games started by Hartman in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Clemson, according to Stats Perform, became the first Power Five team to defeat a starting quarterback five times since the Miami Hurricanes posted a 5-0 record against the Florida State Seminoles in games started by quarterback Chris Rix from 2001-04.
Clemson has now won 111 of its last 116 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson is now 132-4 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson is now 62-4 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Clemson now has a 127-8 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
Clemson now has a 74-4 record when winning the turnover margin since 2011.
Clemson is now 36-1 since 2015 when intercepting multiple passes in a game.
Clemson is now 37-11 in one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span.
Clemson won the turnover margin, 3-2, its first positive turnover differential Sept. 30 against Syracuse.
Clemson’s three takeaways represented Clemson’s first multi-takeaway game since forcing three turnovers against Syracuse in late September.
Clemson improved to 52-1 (98.1 percent) under Dabo Swinney when recording at least three takeaways.
Clemson committed no penalties in the game, its first penalty-free game on record since committing no infractions in the 1952 Gator Bowl against Miami (Fla.) to end the 1951 season.
Clemson held Notre Dame to 146 passing yards. Clemson has now held five straight opponents to fewer than 200 passing yards for the first time since a 10-game streak in 2019.
Running back Phil Mafah recorded a career-high 186 rushing yards on a school-record-tying 36 carries and a career-high-tying two rushing touchdowns.
Mafah’s 36 carries tied the school record shared by Jim Shirley (36 against NC State in 1951), Ray Yauger (36 against Wake Forest in 1969) and Raymond Priester (36 against Maryland in 1997).
Mafah’s 186 yards were the most by a Clemson player since Kobe Pace’s 191-yard rushing performance against Wake Forest in 2021. That game also represented Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman’s last start at Memorial Stadium prior to Saturday.
The game was Mafah’s first 100-yard rushing game of the season and the second of his career, joining a 106-yard performance against Louisville in 2022.
The 100-yard rushing game was the first by a Clemson player since Will Shipley in the season opener at Duke.
Mafah posted the first 150-yard rushing game by a Clemson player since Will Shipley’s 172-yard rushing performance against Syracuse last season.
Mafah has now rushed for multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Mafah became the first Clemson running back to rush for multiple touchdowns in consecutive games since Will Shipley's three-game streak to open the 2022 season.
Mafah scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season on a 41-yard scoring run in the first quarter.
The 41-yard run was the longest touchdown of Mafah’s career, surpassing a 39-yard touchdown run against Louisville last season.
Mafah’s 41-yard touchdown run came on the first play following Hamp Greene’s then-career-long 15-yard punt return. Greene added a 16-yard return later in the game.
Mafah added his second score of the day on a one-yard plunge in the third quarter. It was his eighth of the season, adding to his single-season career high.
Mafah’s 36 attempts represented the first 30-carry game by a Clemson player since Wayne Gallman recorded 30 carries against Auburn in 2016.
Mafah’s 36 attempts were also the first 20-carry game of the season for Clemson and the first by any Clemson player since Cade Klubnik’s 20 carries against Tennessee in the 2022 Orange Bowl.
Clemson has now rushed for a touchdown in 51 consecutive home games, the nation's longest active streak. The last team to hold Clemson without a rushing touchdown in Death Valley was Troy in 2016.
Clemson has now scored at least one rushing touchdown in a national-best 75 of its 78 games since the start of the 2018 season. Clemson has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in a national-best 63 games since 2018.
Quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 13-of-26 passes for 109 yards with a touchdown.
Klubnik recorded his first career punt in the game, a 37-yard surprise pooch kick in the third quarter that pinned Notre Dame at its four-yard line.
Wide receiver Tyler Brown scored on a nine-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
The touchdown was Brown’s third of the season and his first since a two-touchdown performance against Florida Atlantic in September.
Defensive tackle Tyler Davis made his 48th career start to tie Greg Huegel for the seventh-most career starts in Clemson history. It added to his existing school record for career starts by a defensive player.
Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro played his 50th career game.
Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. recorded the 10th sack of his career in the first quarter.
Trotter added the second interception return for touchdown of his career in the second quarter on a 28-yard pick-six. It was his first of the season and first since last year’s game against South Carolina.
Trotter became the first Clemson linebacker to record multiple pick sixes in a career since Dorian O’Daniel (two from 2014-17).
Trotter’s pick six was Clemson’s third of the season, joining ones by Wade Woodaz and Nate Wiggins. Clemson’s three interception returns for touchdowns this season are its most since 2017 (three) and are now one shy of the single-season school record (four in 1990).
Trotter added his second sack of the day in the fourth quarter, giving him his first multi-sack game of the season and the third of his career.
Trotter became the first Clemson linebacker in Dabo Swinney’s tenure to record three career games with 2.0 or more sacks.
Safety Kylon Griffin recorded his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame’s field goal on the Irish’s opening possession represented only the second time this season Clemson had surrendered points on an opponent’s first drive this season. It was the first time a Clemson opponent scored on its first drive since the season opener against Duke.
Clemson recorded the game’s first takeaway when long snapper Philip Florenzo recovered a muffed punt in the first quarter.
Punter Aidan Swanson placed a career-high five of his six punts inside the 20.
Collectively, Clemson downed six punts inside the 20, a season-high.
Greene recorded 57 yards on six punt returns, both career highs. Greene’s 57 punt return yards were the most by a Clemson player since Amari Rodgers’ 57 against Wake Forest in 2019.
Clemson started its fifth different offensive line combination through nine games this season.
Clemson played the first game of its second three-game homestand of 2023. Clemson's three-game homestands in both September and November this year represent Clemson’s 34th and 35th homestands of three or more games in school history (1911, 1920, 1922, 1949, 1959, 1962, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 (2), 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2020, 2022 and 2023 (2)).
Captains for the contest were defensive tackle Tyler Davis, running back Phil Mafah, defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro and center Will Putnam.