Irish gearing up for road game at Clemson

Published: Nov. 3, 2023 at 7:48 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The Fighting Irish football team is getting ready to head to South Carolina for a matchup with Clemson on Saturday.

Notre Dame and Clemson are common opponents, but the Irish haven’t made the trip to Death Valley since 2015. And while they are familiar with each other, the Tigers are a different team this season.

In terms of Clemson and their recent success, they’re down bad this year. They’re usually a shoo-in for at least an ACC championship game and likely the College Football Playoff. But this year, they’re just 4-4 heading into their matchup against Notre Dame.

While Clemson isn’t quite what it used to be, head coach Dabo Swinney used a little southern coach speak earlier this week while talking about the talent the Tigers still have.

“Sometimes, it’s healthy to have a little pruning, little pruning season, if you will,” Swinney said. “Cut the crape myrtles back a little bit. This is a healthy tree. Even healthy trees need to be pruned. This a healthy tree has produced a lot of good fruit around here. A lot. I’ve seen Clemson University change. I’ve seen lots of things change. I’ve seen lives change. I’ve seen a million wins. I’ve seen a lot of things. This is a very healthy tree that’s produced a bunch of great fruit. But even healthy trees need to be pruned so that you can bloom back even better and produce more fruit. And that’s what we’ll do.”

Even though the Tigers are only 4-4 this season, this is always a big game and could be a trap for Notre Dame. But the Irish defense has helped this team avoid catastrophe, for the most part.

Notre Dame’s defense has only given up more than 20 points twice this season. They only gave up 7 to Pittsburgh last week… and that’s when the second team came in.

Irish head coach Marcus Freeman likes to emphasize complementary football, but the defense is what’s getting it done for them lately.

“If you have a defense that isn’t playing at a high level, you have to do things offensively to counteract that,” Freeman said. “You have to do things to make sure we are playing complimentary football. Fortunately for us, our defense is playing at an extremely high level, which gives our offense and our team a lot of confidence to be aggressive and take those shots knowing that you’re not going to hit every one. But if you happen to struggle on a series offensively, your defense will usually be able to get you the ball back. And so, I think it’s really important, it’s a competence for both sides of the ball that truly plays into the complementary football aspect that we look at.”

The Irish have had a few problems on the road so far this year, so we’ll see if they’re able to take down a very beatable Tigers team. Meanwhile, they have a 12 p.m. kickoff for the first time in almost two months.

“You have to make sure there’s not this progression from when you wake up to finally getting to play like you do maybe with 3:30 games or night games,” Freeman said. “We’ll wake up, and we have to stimulate our body. We have to get going the minute you get downstairs. We’ll still have a little walkthrough that we usually have on noon games. But the mindset when we wake up has to be, ‘Okay, we gotta get ready to roll.’”

Saturday’s game will air on ABC. We’ll have highlights and postgame reaction on 16 News Now at 6 and 11.