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Instant Reaction: Irish drop heartbreaker at Florida State, 31-27

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In a game many assumed would be a blowout for the home team, ND showed they belonged - but that won't make the loss hurt any less.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get one thing out of the way right now: The offensive pass interference call was indisputably correct, and C.J. Prosise made an error in making his rub route so obvious that the officials had essentially no choice but to call it.

Now, about the rest of the game.

Notre Dame came out looking calm, prepared and ready to go. That's a credit to Brian Kelly, who has shown repeatedly that he can get his players ready for big regular-season games. The Irish played as well as anyone could have realistically hoped in the first half. They got several stops on defense. They answered the team's lone turnover of the game (a Golson INT when he was hit as he threw the ball) by bringing the house, forcing Winston into a poor decision and getting it back. Kelly kept the 'Noles off balance with good play-calling. The ground game looked even better, considering the opposition, than it had the week before against UNC. Although the Irish led just 17-10, it was easy to be confident.

The second half was a different story, at least on defense. Jameis Winston looked as if he had activated the "No Effing Way" chip from NCAA Football, suddenly firing perfect lasers all over the place. He didn't miss a pass in the 3rd quarter as the 'Noles scored two TDs, more points than the Irish had allowed all season in that frame. ND couldn't get pressure on Winston or blanket the Seminoles' talented receivers. Still, ND managed to hold the lead most of the half, until FSU finally scored on a 10-play, 75-yard drive, taking the lead with just over 7:30 to play.

The Irish got into FSU territory before stalling, and Kelly made what appeared at the time to be a controversial decision to punt with just over 5 minutes to go on 4th and 8. However, the defense stepped up (and Jimbo Fisher obliged with some conservative play-calling), and ND got the ball back with about 2:45 to play, essentially right where they had been when they punted.

ND went nowhere for two plays, and Everett Golson took a terrible sack on third down to make it 4th and 18. On the next play, though, Golson made a spectacular, unbelievable, Heisman-worthy play, somehow dancing out of trouble and finding Corey Robinson for 20 yards. At this point, you had to think ND was about to pull off another miraculous comeback.

The Irish worked their way inside the 10, but after a short pass on 3rd down from the 8 moved the ball only to the 3, it was again 4th down. Kelly called the same 'rub route' play that had resulted in ND's 1st touchdown, but this time Prosise made the rub too obvious, and offensive pass interference was called to nullify Robinson's third TD of the game. Golson was out of miracles, and the 4th and goal replay never had a chance.

The obvious takeaway from this game is that ND has shown they belong. ND dominated the first half statistically and played toe-to-toe in the second half against maybe the most talented team in the country. There was some question coming in as to how legitimate the Irish's 6-0 record really was, and it's clear this team is good - it could be easily argued that they're better than the 2012 version, which didn't face a team nearly as accomplished as this year's Seminoles during the regular season.

Statistical nuggets:

  • Tarean Folston carried for 120 yards on 21 carries. He's awesome, and Kelly has rewarded him with the lion's share of the carries. There's no question he's the best of the three-headed RB monster at this point.
  • ND outgained Florida State 470-323. Total yards can be a deceiving stat, but that's really impressive.
  • ND's defense held FSU to under 2 yards per carry (50 yards on 26 attempts), and they did it with, if memory serves, only one sack goosing the total. That, too, is really impressive.
  • Everett Golson: 31/52, 313 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT (the 2nd one coming on the last play). Not statistically a great day for him, but I have to think no one who watched the game came away anything but impressed.
  • Jameis Winston: 23/31, 273 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT. Whatever your opinion of anything else about the guy, he can flat-out play football, and he did tonight.

There will be much to discuss in the coming days about how ND should still be in the playoff hunt on the strength of this performance and the tough games still remaining (Arizona State and USC both look like top 15 teams at the moment, and both games are on the road), but for now, we discuss the game. What a game it was.

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