Notre Dame won this season’s game of the decade Saturday night in South Bend, defeating top-ranked Clemson in double overtime. The outcome shook up the fresh set of national rankings, potentially changed the landscape for the FBS playoffs in January, and caused Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James to raise an interesting point.
Notre Dame takes control of the ACC
Notre Dame survived a second-half collapse to pull out a 47-40 college football victory over Clemson on Saturday, giving the Fighting Irish their first win over a top-ranked team since knocking off Florida State in 1993. They did it largely by containing versatile Tigers running back Travis Etienne, who had 18 rushing attempts for 28 yards and eight catches for 57 more.
Freshman quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 439 yards and two touchdowns in his second start in place of Trevor Lawrence, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Clemson from slipping behind Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State in the latest rankings from The Associated Press.
The victory puts Notre Dame in the driver’s seat for the moment in the ACC, but Dabo Swinney’s Clemson squad can still play its way into a rematch with the Fighting Irish in the conference championship game.
Given how exciting the Nov. 7 contest was, a rematch would be must-see viewing. And that includes for NBA star LeBron James, who took an interest in the 47-40 slugfest, but not for the obvious entertainment value.
LeBron James raises an interesting point
Aside from giving the Fighting Irish their first victory over a No. 1 team since 1993, the 47-40 victory over Clemson ended the Tigers’ 36-game regular-season winning streak and gave 11th-year coach Brian Kelly the kind of high-profile victory that critics contended he had been lacking.
The overnight ratings calculated a television audience of 9.44 million viewers, making it the most-watched Notre Dame game on NBC in 15 years, according to Nielsen. But that’s not the audience the captured LeBron James’ attention, prompting him to comment on social media.
Rather, James went on Twitter to make an observation that had drawn more than 149,000 likes by early Sunday evening.
“So it’s ok for fans to storm the field but not ok at the same time to have fans??? I’m confused.”LeBron James
James was making a point about seeing what seemed like all 11,000 fans in attendance crowd onto the field after Notre Dame snuffed out the last Clemson hope in the second overtime. Fans rushing the field always pose an injury risk. However, the bigger worry this time was over COVID-19. A second wave of the coronavirus has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, and many fans could be seen not wearing masks or with their masks pulled down during the revelry.
And it was all taking place after Notre Dame’s president released a video on Thursday reminding the campus community that the virus was posing a new threat.
Could this threaten Notre Dame’s unbeaten season?
“Approve of the win, but this is concerning,” St. Joseph County deputy health officer Dr. Mark Fox tweeted after seeing Notre Dame fans storm the field. “At least there are masks and all undergrads were tested this week!”
As LeBron James alluded to in his tweet, there are plenty of college and pro teams still playing in empty stadiums. Notre Dame has capped its football crowds at 20% of stadium capacity and restricted tickets to students, campus staff, and players’ families.
The South Bend Tribune reported that the university recorded 17 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, with 220 active cases overall. There have been 1,345 positive test results since the start of the semester.
Notre Dame postponed its game against Wake Forest and paused football operations last month after placing 13 players in isolation as a precaution.
Coach Brian Kelly said after the win over Clemson that he had warned players before the game that beating the Tigers would probably lead to fans swarming the field. He told them to get off the field and into the tunnel back to the locker room as quickly as possible, but few made it.
Now, Kelly and campus officials will have to sweat out several days of virus testing, hoping that players, coaches, and staff weren’t exposed to the virus.