SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry was pretty direct when he spoke to the media following the Tigers’ 35-14 loss to Notre Dame.
“We earned what we got tonight,” the senior said.
The fourth-ranked Tigers (8-1) earned their first loss, and they earned it by playing bad in all three facets of the game. The offense turned the football over two times which led to 14 points. The special teams gave up a blocked punt which directly led to seven points, while the defense gave up 263 rushing yards, though they knew what was coming the whole night.
“The coaches gave us a plan to win the game and we did not execute,” Henry said. “That is what is so frustrating. You come off a bye week and that is the performance you put up.”
Notre Dame’s Logan Diggs (114) and Audric Estime (104) both rushed for more than 100 yards, the first time two runners went over 100 yards on a Clemson defense in almost a decade.
The Irish (6-3) averaged 5.6 yards on 47 carries. The Tigers were allowing just under three yards per carry and 87.9 rushing yards per game prior to Saturday night’s performance.
“It was just a combination of missed fits, missed tackles and guys getting knocked out of their gaps,” Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin said. “It was not just one thing here or there. We have to get back to work on Monday and get better on where we got exposed tonight.”
Where the Tigers got exposed the most was with its physicality. Notre Dame did nothing fancy in beating them. They just lined up and ran the football right at them.
“Obviously, we were not the most physical team, and that is one hundred percent on me,” Goodwn said. “I did not get them prepared the right way to come out and execute and be the most physical and dominant team. Obviously, we lost at the point of attack… We did not do what we needed to do against them.
“We have to fix our issues and move forward.”
And how will Clemson respond to its first loss?
“We sat here at 4-3 last year, and it is our decision to respond,” Henry said. “This is our first loss this year and we are going to be faced with that same decision. How do we respond? It will be great to see. I know what these guys are made off in this locker room and I expect us to respond the right way. Now we have to go show it.”
The Tigers will try to respond against a Louisville team that has won four straight games coming into Death Valley next week.