Notre Dame (7-3) isn’t a world beater. And Saturday’s win

Notre Dame (7-3) isn’t a world beater. And Saturday’s win

doesn’t change the fact Clemson (5-4, 2-4 ACC) has and will drastically under-perform against its preseason expectations, having been eliminated from any and all CFP and national championship consideration over a month ago.

But for a program taking heat, setting the wrong sorts of records and teetering on the verge of bowl ineligibility, beating the nation’s No. 12 team — and overcoming some big errors in the process — was a reminder that Clemson, although imperfect, can hang with anyone. And they have a strong finish within reach.

“It just propels us,” sophomore quarterback Cade Klubnik said. “It’s momentum. … This is what we needed. Just so proud of these guys and the way we battled from the very start to the end. It’s go

Nov 4, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers linebacker Wade Woodaz (17) tackles Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estime (7) during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Spor

That, of course, has been the theme of the season: hanging with everyone but still finding ways to lose. Swinney insisted earlier this week that if Clemson didn’t lead the nations in fumbles “we’d be 8-0,” glazing over a number of other critical factors that have contributed to the team’s worst start to ACC play since 1998.

Turnovers are a part of it, but bad quarterback play, bad coaching, bad tackling and bad execution across the board have kept Clemson from reaching its potential. As losses to Duke, No. 4 Florida State, Miami and N.C. State piled up across the first eight games, it became very apparent the Tigers were suffering from more than a few fluky plays.

They’re simply not an elite football team right now, leading to understandable pushes across the board — everyone from national media to “Tyler from Spartanburg” — for a program reckoning, or at least an evolution on sticking points such as Swinney’s lack of transfer portal usage or preference for internal staff hires.

Defensive end Xavier Thomas said Swinney challenged everyone on Monday, “down to the people mowing the grass,” to band together as one, quash external noise and play the way they all knew Clemson could play — with the best of them.

“It was really just, ‘Are you all in or all out?’ ” Thomas said. “It was as simple as that. That’s what it came down to, guys who wanna keep fighting and wanna finish the season. … If you wanna be here and wanna fight and wanna compete, then come bring it every day.”

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