Notre Dame gifted Florida State ten points in a wild first quarter, then settled down to put away the visitors by 42-26 on Saturday evening. Kyren Williams ran for 185 yards, while Chris Tyree chipped in 103 of the team’s 353 yards on the ground. The Seminoles fought gamely throughout the contest and were not beaten until a Shaun Crawford interception at the goal line midway through the final period.
Williams opened the contest by fumbling on the second play from scrimmage. This resulted in a Kyle Fitzgerald field goal and a 3-0 deficit. The Irish quickly responded as Williams atoned for his mistake with a 64-yard burst to set up a touchdown pass from Ian Book to Michael Mayer.
Moments later, Williams scored on a 46-yard run and it appeared the Irish were firmly in control. Notre Dame’s defense forced a punt, but it was fumbled by Lawrence Keys and recovered by the Noles. Jordan Travis needed only three plays to bring his team within 14-10, and the tone was set for the night.
Still in the first quarter, Travis came right back on his next possession and hit Tamorrion Terry with a 48-yard strike to climb back on top at 17-14. The hosts knew then that they were in a dogfight, and Book responded by leading a scoring drive capped by a short dash by Williams. The Irish recaptured the lead by 21-17 and did not relinquish it, but the game was still far from over.
Later in the second period, touchdowns by Tyree and Braden Lenzy sandwiched another Fitzgerald field goal to stake Notre Dame to a 35-20 halftime lead.
The second half started in much the same frenetic manner. Both teams scored on their initial possessions after long, impressive marches. Suddenly, however, the defenses gained control. A missed field goal by Jonathan Doerer was the closest either side came to scoring as the battle entered the fourth period.
Time became a factor as Travis tried to rally Florida State for a last ditch run. He ran for 33 yards and hit Terry for 25 more before Crawford picked off an errant throw on a third and goal play from the Irish five yard line. Notre Dame then controlled the ball and the clock until they were stopped at the Seminole two yard line with under two minutes remaining.
Travis played hard to keep his team competitive all evening. He accounted for 300 yards of total offense with 204 through the air and 96 on the ground. Terry had nine catches for 146 yards, but the Irish outgained the Seminoles by 554-405 total yards. Book finished with 201 yards passing on a 16 for 25 night, while Javon McKinley led the Irish receivers with 103 yards.
Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions:
Can key FSU players (Cooper, Jay, Nasirildeen) return from injury and perform well? Jay and Nasirildeen didn’t play, and Cooper was a non-factor as the Irish ran over, around and through the FSU front.
How effectively will the Irish offense execute after so much time off? The running game looked great and Book was efficient. The only negative is the Irish could not muster a score in the final 24 minutes to put the game away.
Will Lenzy and Austin add a new dimension to the passing game? Lenzy was a factor throughout the game, but Coach Brian Kelly kept Austin under wraps except for a token appearance.
Can the multi-talented Travis escape Notre Dame’s pressure and make plays with his arm and legs? Travis flashed his talent and grit with a gutty performance, but it was not quite good enough to win.
Which team will be able to sustain an effective ground game? Notre Dame had three runs over 40 yards and 353 total rushing yards. Travis accounted for most of his team’s yards on the ground, but he didn’t get much help. The Irish averaged 8.4 yards per carry against 3.8 for the Noles.
Will Father Jenkins wear a mask in the press box? He may not take it off again, but the students still may not forgive him.
Had Notre Dame not turned the ball over twice in the first half, the outcome would have been more palatable to the ever-demanding Irish fan base. As it stands, Florida State’s talent, particularly Travis and Terry, gave the hosts quite a few problems.
The Irish will soon face teams such as North Carolina and Clemson, who have their own stable of quality offensive weapons, excellent quarterbacks and more powerful front lines. The defensive coaching staff and players have plenty of work to do if they are to be more successful than they were on this night.
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