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Monday, Feb. 26, 2024
The Observer

Foskey sets sights on Clemson and sack record

Since bypassing the NFL draft and returning for his senior season as captain, defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey has elevated all facets of his game in the past few weeks. The 6’5 California native has continued to be a destructive force on the defense.

Following the team’s unexpected rocky start to the season and with the New Year's Six bowl games and playoffs firmly out of reach, Foskey and the rest of the team look to finish the season strong and perhaps play spoiler to Clemson’s title hopes.

The Irish have won five of six since that 0-2 start. Foskey and the defense have turned it up as of late, including last weekend’s two-turnover effort in Notre Dame’s 41-24 win over No. 16 Syracuse. Foskey has been a force on both defense and special teams after a slow start to the season by the senior’s standards.

Dedication and focus in practice were what Foskey credited most to his improvement.

“I feel like it was just my mindset and working after practice,” Foskey said. “Not just working on the run game part of it but working on pass rush. Going into the season everyone was knocking me off for my run defending so I was really working on run defending throughout the season. Once I finally worked on pass rush, that’s when it started clicking.”

Foskey surging as Irish get hot

Increased intentionality has benefited Foskey as he amassed three sacks against UNLV and one versus Syracuse last week giving him a total of seven on the season.  Foskey was also responsible for two pivotal blocked punts against UNLV. Special teams play requires study, extra effort and drive — all of which Foskey has demonstrated. Though responsible for big plays of the game, Foskey says he owes his success to his teammates. 

“I know it wasn’t me who made that play or made that ‘perfect move,’ it was pressure going up the middle,” Foskey said. “That’s why I give a lot of props to my teammates.” 

On one play against Syracuse last week, Foskey even covered the Orange’s running back Sean Tucker 35 yards down the field. This is unusual for a defensive lineman and demonstrates Foskey’s rare blend of size, speed and strength. 

Clemson poses challenge for Foskey, defense

The Clemson offensive line will be one of the best Foskey will face this season and Saturday night’s prime-time matchup will be a key opportunity for him to demonstrate his domination.

The Tigers’ star QB DJ Uiagalelei will be difficult to contain at his 6’4, 235-pound stature. Foskey and the defense must be more effective in the red zone this week if they are going to beat Clemson. 

“It’s very exciting to face a top-five team, especially Clemson,” Foskey said. “This is my third time playing Clemson so this is a great atmosphere to play them in, at Notre Dame Stadium.”

The first time Foskey played Clemson was back in 2020. That’s when the Irish knocked off the No. 1 Tigers in double-overtime at Notre Dame Stadium. That led to Irish fans, which at the time consisted of only students and some players’ parents, storming the field. This week, the Irish will look to pull off a similar feat, with Clemson entering ranked No. 4 and unbeaten.

As the season continues, Foskey has the Notre Dame career sack record in his sights. He is only two sacks behind former Notre Dame and New York Giant defensive end Justin Tuck who currently holds the record of 24.5 set in 2004.  If Foskey can continue to be a destructive force on opposing quarterbacks, he has a very good chance of breaking the record and cementing his legendary status.

And he may even end Clemson’s unbeaten season for the second time in three years.