posted on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 6:26 PM
The Florida State Seminoles rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 18-14 in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl before an announced crowd of 68,305 at the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
It wasn’t so much a tale of two halves as a tale of one quarter. Down 14-3 at the start of the fourth, Florida State scored on three consecutive possessions to take the lead before time ran out on Notre Dame’s last possession.
“I said all along this team has a special character about it,” said Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. “I was proud of the way they competed in the game.”
Notre Dame free safety Zeke Motta drew first blood for the Irish on a 29-yard fumble return by freshman Seminole running back Devonta Freeman, forced by linebacker Manti Te’o. Senior David Ruffer kicked the extra point to give Notre Dame a 7-0 first quarter lead with 10 seconds left in the quarter.
“Hats off to Florida State,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly. “It was a hard-fought game. Both teams played great defense today.”
“These guys know patience is not always my best virtue,” Fisher said. “I had to have patience. He didn’t do it on purpose. So you put your arm around [Freeman] and tell him you love him. We’re going to give it to you again.”
The Irish picked up where they left off with their first possession of the second half. Starting quarterback Tommy Rees led his team 62 yards on a drive culminating in a juggling touchdown catch by senior Michael Floyd in Floyd’s final game for the Fighting Irish.
Florida State chipped away at the Irish lead with their first possession of the second half. Lamarcus Joyner gave the Seminoles great field position with a 77-yards kickoff return, but the offense stalled. Dustin Hopkins came on to give Florida State their first points as a 42-yard kick made it 14-3 with 8:58 left in the third quarter.
Florida State scored their first touchdown of the game at the start of the fourth quarter with an 18-yard EJ Manuel pass to Bert Reed. With the score 14-9, FSU opted to try for two to get within a field goal but a Manuel pass to tight end Nick O’Leary was incomplete.
“When the momentum changed, all three phases (offense, defense, special teams) got together. We changed the momentum and played as a whole unit as well as we had during any time of the year,” Fisher said.
Following an interception, Florida State took just two plays and 47 seconds for Manuel to complete a pass to true freshman (and game MVP) Rashad Greene for the go-ahead touchdown. With the score 15-14, Florida State tried for two for the second time but again were unable to convert after a Manuel rush was stuffed.
“The turnovers were the large reason for us not being able to win this football game,” Kelly said.
Bradham came up big again on Notre Dame’s ensuing possession, deflecting a pass on third and 17 to force a punt. The Seminoles moved the ball 71 yards after the ensuing punt but had to settle on a field goal from Dustin Hopkins to make it 18-14.
Both coaches were quick to accept the challenges of a new season beginning soon.
“We have to put work in now,” said Fisher. “A team has a life expectancy of one year.”
“We know what we need to do,” said Kelly. “Players that are going to be back for the 2012 football season will be committed to getting that done.”
Article by Neil Tredray