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The Fighting Irish are still capable of whipping themselves into a fine frenzy, as they demonstrated in their 24-23 upset victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last season. For the moment, though, graced with a quarterback who has so far led the team to 21 wins in 24 starts, Parseghian seems wisely content to let the Irish play it cool in the Clements manner just as long as the talk doesn't get in the way of the triumphs.
Rare as they are, hear Clements' words on a few stock subjects.
Success: "Winning is knowing what you can do, preparing yourself to do it and then going out and doing it."
Tradition: "I wasn't concerned with tradition when I decided to go to Notre Dame. I just wanted to come and play and win."
Enthusiasm: "Calmness helps me more than jumping up and down. For one thing, it saves a lot of wear and tear on your body."
Leadership: "I'm pleased that I was elected captain but I don't place any great importance on it."
Pressure: "Pressure is self-inflicted."
The hurt Clements puts on opponents is strictly outer-directed. For all his guru ways, he can be one of the most flat-out exciting players to watch in the college game. "I wouldn't consider Clements a super passer or an outstanding runner," says Bear Bryant, "but he makes the right play at the right time, and that makes a winner."
Bryant should know. It was against his Alabama team that Clements made the big play of 1973, a 35-yard completion from his own end zone in the waning moments of the Sugar Bowl that clinched the national title for Notre Dame. "When I gave him that play," recalls Parseghian, "he just kind of smiled. At least I think it was a smile. He's almost a stoic, you know. Without a doubt, he's the best performer under difficult circumstances I've ever seen."
An agile 6', 185 pounds, Clements perfectly complements an attack that is geared around the quarterback as the fourth runner. Quick and jumpy as a jackrabbit, he doesn't exactly roll out. Nor does he scramble. Clements roams. In Notre Dame's opening 31-7 victory over Georgia Tech, for example, he was seemingly trapped on the sidelines at one point by three tacklers. First a sidestep, then a glancing spin to the left, a twirl to the right and he turned a minor disaster into a major gain.