Notre Dame Football: Offensive Grades vs. Clemson


We all knew Saturday was going to be a situation similar to last year’s game to Florida State, but who would have guessed that just like last season, the game would come down to the very last play of the game? Despite Notre Dame impressive second-half performance, Clemson pulled out the win 24-22.

The Tigers (4-0) looked like they were going to pull away with an upset blow out victory after getting off to a quick 14-0 lead, but Notre Dame’s (4-1) defense held strong keeping Watson contained for the rest of first half. In the second half, the Irish were clearly the better offense, but the four turnovers hindered Notre Dame from putting the necessary points on the board to win the game. That’s 28 potential points that were lost. It’s impressive that Notre Dame even had the opportunity to tie the game in the very last seconds given all of their miscues.

Offensive Line: C-

Leading up to the game, the experts said over and over again that the key for Notre Dame to win was the offensive line. If the offensive line played well, the Irish had a solid chance of coming out of Death Valley with an unblemished record. However, we all saw that the line played their worst game of the season. On several occasions, the line committed penalties that killed drives. Mike McGlinchey had several false starts, Ronnie Stanley was called for holding after Kizer made a critical third-down conversion and the line as a whole gave up a season-high four sacks.

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To make things worse, the offensive line kept C.J Prosise from getting into a rhythm on the ground making the offense completely one-dimensional despite Brian Kelly’s attempts to keep the defense honest with several calls that went for a yard or two on the ground. The one positive takeaway for the offensive line is that they were able to keep Kizer upright enough to allow him to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Running Backs: C+

It was really difficult to watch Notre Dame try to run the ball. Clemson’s defense gave Prosise no chance whatsoever to sliver through a lane and get more than three yards on any carry. In the first half, he ran for a grand total of four yards. That’s it. After rushing for over 100 yards in three straight games, Prosise couldn’t get out of the backfield without being lit up by a Clemson defender. It was really difficult to see him struggle as much as he did Saturday.

Despite not being able to get the offense moving on the ground, Prosise was Notre Dame’s leading receiver. He honed in on his receiving days from a year ago catching four passes for 100 yards and a key touchdown in the fourth quarter that sparked the Irish offense. Without Prosise catching passes out of the backfield, there’s no chance Notre Dame gets back into the game given that the receivers were struggling all game holding on to the football.

Receivers: D+

This was a pretty poor performance on the behalf of the receiving corp. There was nothing good about what the receivers did against the Clemson secondary, and drops plagued the offense, which is another way the offense was held back from what it could have accomplished. Will Fuller dropped a big pass over the middle to convert a third down, Corey Robinson dropped a pass that could have been completed for a touchdown and he dropped a key two-point conversion that would have made it a 10-point game in the fourth quarter, and wouldn’t have forced Notre Dame to have to go for two at the end of the game.

Chris Brown’s fumble in the fourth quarter was another big mistake this receiving corp committed. If he would have gotten into the end zone, the Irish would have been able to go for the win in their final drive instead of having to hang on for the tie.

Quarterback: A- 

This grade might confuse some of you, but Kizer performed at an extremely high level given the circumstances that he was under. It was his first start on the road, in Death Valley and against one of the best defenses in the country. In addition, he had to orchestrate an impressive comeback after being down 21-3 heading into the fourth quarter. If we think back to the grades for all the other position groups on offense, if those guys would have done their jobs even a tad bit better, Kizer’s numbers would be all the more impressive.

He completed 19 of 34 passes that went for 321 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a team-high 60 yards and a touchdown. He did throw an interception that could have ended the game if Clemson could have capitalized on it, but besides that one miscue, Kizer played a phenomenal game. He kept plays alive on several occasions bailing the offensive line from all of their mistakes.

Despite the loss, it makes me feel incredibly comfortable knowing that we can undoubtedly rely on Kizer to make big plays and lead Notre Dame back from a big deficit to win games. I was a bit uneasy about Kizer being able to handle all the pressure that came with playing in such an atmosphere, but he handled it like a senior, which is exactly what we want out of the quarterback. If there’s anything we can take away from this close loss, it’s that Kizer is now the unquestioned leader of this offense from here on out.