Irish CB Julian Love returns after missing most of first half with 'head injury'

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love returned in the second half of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Saturday after missing most of the first half with what coach Brian Kelly called "a head injury."

The All-American was in on the first series for the Irish but didn't play after that in the first half. He spent some time on the exercise bike on the sideline but did not return to the field before halftime.

Kelly said after the game that Love initially "didn't pass part of his [concussion] protocol, which was memory."

Love said he wanted to re-enter the game before he was cleared to return.

"Not sure exactly what it was, but I was trying to get going sooner than they allowed me to," he said. "I was ready shortly before halftime... then we closed out the half, and I knew I was ready to go right after."

With Love sidelined, Clemson's offense repeatedly looked to throw downfield, picking on backup Donte Vaughn to the tune of three touchdowns -- two to Justyn Ross and one, just before halftime, to Tee Higgins.

"We noticed that he didn't come back out there after a few plays, that he came out," Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "We didn't know that he was hurt for sure. And then he stayed out for a while. ... We identified that but it didn't change much. We still attacked them in the ways we thought were best. Obviously, he's a great player. But that didn't change much for us."

Clemson led Notre Dame 23-3 at the half and ended up on top, 30-3. It moves on to the College Football National Championship game against either Alabama or Oklahoma.

Love ended the regular season with one interception, 61 tackles and 15 pass breakups, which ranked ninth nationally.