Clemson, Notre Dame tied in College Football Playoff | News Coverage from USA

Clemson, Notre Dame tied in College Football Playoff

The combination of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Justyn Ross proved to be the difference in the first half of the Cotton Bowl. 

The two true freshman connected for two long touchdowns to help the Tigers take a 23-3 lead on Notre Dame at halftime of the day’s first College Football Playoff semifinal. 

Lawrence first found for Ross a 52-yard score as he beat man-to-man coverage deep down the sideline. The extra point was blocked, making the score 9-3.

The second strike of 42 yards came as Ross split the middle of the Irish defense on third-and-14 with 1:44 left in the half. 

A late strike from Lawrence to Tee Higgins gave Clemson a commanding lead.

Lawrence finished the half 19-of-26 for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Ross had five catches for 137 yards.

Defenses had their way early with each team forcing punts on the opening possessions. The Irish got the lone first down when Dexter Williams carried for 11 yards on the first snap of the game.

The Tigers had the first early break when Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book fumbled at midfield on the first play of the Irish’s second drive. Clemson recovered, and replay reversed the initial ruling he was down.

The Tigers converted two first down before settling for a 40-yard field goal by Greg Huegel to take an early 3-0 lead.

The Irish didn’t wait long to respond. Helped by a pass interference penalty and some effective passes by Book, they drove to the Clemson 9 before Justin Yoon knotted the score at 3-3 with a 28-yard field goal.

Both teams entered the showdown with unbeaten records.

No. 2 Clemson (13-0) cruised through its ACC schedule with ease besides a narrow win against Syracuse in September. No team has come within 20 points of the Tigers in their final eight games.

Third-ranked Notre Dame (12-0) beat Michigan in its opener with Brandon Wimbush at quarterback. Brian Kelly then switched to Book after three games, and the Irish took their game to a different level. The Irish are seeking their first national championship since 1988.

One team is on familiar ground as the Tigers are making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance. They won a national title in 2016. It’s the first time in the field for the Irish, who last came this close to winning a national title six years ago on the Bowl Championship Series national championship game against Alabama.

The players are not completely unfamiliar with each other despite the schools only meeting three times previously. As part of Notre Dame’s agreement with the ACC, the two sides last met in October of 2015 during a driving rain storm. Clemson won that game 24-22, which catapulted the program to its first College Football Playoff appearance. 

The team that prevails Saturday will face the winner of the Orange Bowl matchup between Alabama and Oklahoma.

The championship game will take place on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

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