Notre Dame easily controlled the ball and the score in a 31-13 win at Georgia Tech on Saturday, setting up the No. 4 Irish for a long-anticipated week of hype. Pointing out that the Yellow Jackets had six plays for six total yards in the first quarter may seem like this recap was written early on in the proceedings, but the reality is, the Wreck’s offensive struggles stayed on that figurative pace all afternoon, only breaking through when Notre Dame’s reserves relaxed in the fourth quarter.
The score distorts the Wreck’s offensive struggles, scoring only when the outcome was beyond doubt. The Irish held Georgia Tech to 238 total yards, a figure Notre Dame outgained in the first half alone (240 yards), largely courtesy of its rushing game, to no one’s surprise.
Sophomore Kyren Williams led the Irish with 76 yards and two scores on 15 carries, his only blemish a second-quarter fumble inside the red zone returned 93 yards for the Yellow Jackets’ moment of optimism. Freshman Chris Tyree added 47 yards on just five rushes. Junior C’Bo Flemister took care of the late duties, adding a finishing touch with a fourth-quarter touchdown, a reward for his workmanlike 15 carries for 58 yards, including the attempts that drained the final five minutes of clock.
Those rushing scores provided the hefty Notre Dame margin, but the first Irish score came on an 8-yard pass from fifth-year quarterback Ian Book to junior receiver Joe Wilkins, capping an opening drive that took up nearly nine minutes and underscored the efficient control the Irish would enjoy throughout their time in Atlanta.
Book finished with 199 yards on 18-of-26 passing with 46 yards on nine carries.
Clemson ruled out star quarterback Trevor Lawrence for next week’s matchup in South Bend. Lawrence received a positive coronavirus test Thursday, and his 10-day isolation should expire just before the No. 1 Tigers head north. Nonetheless, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made it clear Lawrence will not play following the Tigers’ 34-28 comeback win against Boston College.
“Trevor will not be able to play. Just want to go ahead and get that out there,” Swinney said. “… He’s doing well, but there’s a protocol in place. He will be out in time to play, but then you have the cardiac part of it, you have to ramp back up. Even if he feels great, wants to go play, he’s not allowed to do that simply because of the protocol that’s in place.”
Irish head coach Brian Kelly wasted no time in turning his attention toward Clemson, bringing up that looming challenge in his sideline interview with ESPN after Saturday’s win.
“We have a great team we’re playing next week,” Kelly said. “We’ll enjoy the win, but there were things out there that we can’t let happen next week, obviously.”
When he learned of Lawrence’s mandated absence — the exact timing of his isolation was unclear prior to Swinney’s comments, when Kelly was already on the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium — Kelly expressed the regrets all college football fans should share.
“That’s a shame obviously because you want Trevor Lawrence to play in a game of this magnitude when you have two really good football teams playing,” Kelly said. “This thing runs through Clemson. You’re going to have to beat Clemson at least twice, you’re going to see them again.”
More on Trevor Lawrence being unable to play at Notre Dame next week – sounds like he could travel with the team and be on the sideline but will not be able to play https://t.co/3SREYd3Rdt
— Matt Connolly (@MattatTheState) October 31, 2020
6:16 — Notre Dame touchdown. Joe Wilkins 8-yard pass from Ian Book. Jonathan Doerer PAT good. Notre Dame 7, Georgia Tech 0. (15 plays, 81 yards, 8:38)
14:42 — Georgia Tech touchdown. Zamari Walton 93-yard fumble return. Jude Kelley PAT good. Notre Dame 7, Georgia Tech 7.
10:47 — Notre Dame touchdown. Kyren Williams 2-yard rush. Doerer PAT good. Notre Dame 14, Georgia Tech 7. (7 plays, 75 yards, 3:48)
1:49 — Notre Dame field goal. Doerer 32 yards. Notre Dame 17, Georgia Tech 7. (8 plays, 35 yards, 2:10)
10:43 — Notre Dame touchdown. Williams 2-yard rush. Doerer PAT good. Notre Dame 24, Georgia Tech 7. (6 plays, 65 yards, 2:56)
12:59 — Notre Dame touchdown. C’Bo Flemister 3-yard rush. Doerer PAT good. Notre Dame 31, Georgia Tech 7. (9 plays, 74 yards, 4:32)
7:15 — Georgia Tech touchdown. Jordan Mason 1-yard rush. 2-point conversion failed. Notre Dame 31, Georgia Tech 13. (6 plays, 65 yards, 2:56)