The Irish did it.
The Irish did it.
THE IRISH DID IT!
Kyle Brindza nailed a 32-yard field goal as time expired and Notre Dame upset #23 LSU in the Music City Bowl to end their season on a high note and positive momentum.
The Irish came out with a clock-controlling gameplan and executed it to near perfection behind new starting QB Malik Zaire and QB Everett Golson in relief. Zaire was impressive in his first start, going 12-15 for 96 yards and a TD and rushing for 96 yards on 22 carries and a score. In relief, Golson went 6-11 for 90 yards, most of it on the game-winning drive in the 4th quarter.
The run-heavy attack by the Irish consisted of zone read plays to Tarean Folston, who rushed for 73 yards on 21 carries and a score aided by a Zaire block on the goal line.
C.J. Prosise also scampered for a 50 yard score.
With the exception of Corey Robinson, who himself almost had a pair of highlight-reel catches, all of the Irish receivers caught passes, including Ben Koyack on the game winning drive by Notre Dame.
Defensively, as the Irish chewed the clock (37:00 possession time), they surrendered large plays to an LSU Tigers offense that was essentially Leonard Fournette and no one else. The Freshman RB ran for 143 yards on 11 carries and also had a kickoff return for a touchdown in an outing that will surely put him on the Heisman Watch List next season.
But today was a grind-out victory for Notre Dame and as the ball sailed through the uprights and Brian Kelly was doused with Gatorade by Jaylon Smith and Justin Brent, the Irish ended the season on a high note after stumbling to the finish.
Some thoughts below:
Brian Kelly and the Irish Coaching Staff outcoached the Mad Hatter himself
Yep. You read that right. Notre Dame started a backup QB and essentially ran a short package of plays and completely out-executed an SEC-team coached by one of the top coaches in the conference. The Irish defense, much maligned, did just enough to keep LSU in check and offensively, the Irish OL kept LSU on their heels. Sure, LSU's OC is Cam Cameron (that means ZERO imagination for you Ravens and Dolphins fans who remember him) but LSU's defensive coordinator, John Chavis, is highly regarded in college football circles and was aggressively pursued by Texas A&M. Notre Dame's offense just beat his defense.
Adios, 2014 Notre Dame Special Teams. The most schizophrenic college football unit ever.
This is a unit we really should not speak of again. Like ever. Sure, the punt team was great today both kicking and coverage wise. That kickoff return though...oof. As good as they'll look at times and as unselfish as they'll look at times (Bryant stopping a punt from going inside the 10), they'll look atrocious. I didn't like Zaire becoming the holder and I didn't like some of the decision making on personnel the Irish stopped a fake field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, blocked an LSU field goal attempt to go-ahead and OMG WE MADE A GAME WINNING FIELD GOAL!
Chunk plays kept LSU in the game
Long runs, the rare long pass to a TE, a kickoff return for a TD. The Irish defense and Special Teams did just enough to give Notre Dame a chance, but it was the lone big plays that really kept LSU in the game. The first half saw Notre Dame run an amazing 11-play scoring drive only to give up a kickoff return for a TD. The Irish stopped LSU in the closing seconds of the half and gave up a touchdown on the first play of the 3rd quarter. It really was like watching the 2005 Notre Dame - USC Game. The Irish controlled the clock, made some big stops on defense, chewed the clock on offense, but couldn't stop the chunk play.
Both Quarterbacks played well, which is a good thing and a bad thing
I'm not going to mince words here. I am and will continue to be a Golson Fan. Remember when I was pumping him up for the Heisman? Ah, those were the days. That said, it was The Malik Show for most of today and he had his coming out party. Kelly clearly wanted a Run First attack and Zaire executed it rather well. Sure, there were moments that he goofed (the 4th Down keeper, audibling into a Zone Read handoff on 3rd and 9) but he also carried the ball 96 yards and a score. If Golson does stay for a 5th year, he will have his work cut out for him for sure, but Golson acquitted himself rather well, especially on the final drive of the game.