Irish Defeat LSU In Music City Bowl 31-28
The Music City Bowl saw the Irish players defeat the Tigers twice in one week.
Notre Dame players combined to beat the Tigers in a wing eating contest and followed it up with a bowl victory on a last second field goal for the 31-28 win.
But this day was more about the play of 2 men: Malik Zaire for the Irish and Leonard Fournette for LSU.
Leonard Fournette is going to break college records, SEC records and NFL records soon enough.
Going into the Music City Bowl, the dented and battered Irish defense would have it's hands full with the talented blue chipper if he played blind folded.
At times, he made the Irish defense look as if they couldn't see or tackle, as Fournette did everything possible to singlehandidly win this game himself.
He is a superstar and alone is worth the price of admission.
On the day, Fournette had 2 rushing touchdowns and 1 kickoff return of 100 yards for a score.
One of his runs went for 89 yards where he was untouched-as if it mattered. It was the longest run against the Irish in their history.
But today, a well prepared Irish team rode the back of Malik Zaire who replaced Everett Golson as the starter.
It was plenty, along with solid defense and a offensive front that sparked a run game.
Shaky never entered into the mind or play of the freshman.
From his opening drive of 66 yards on 15 plays, Zaire remained collected and appeared as if this was his 20th start.
From the opening drive snap, Zaire completed his first two passes against one of the top defenses in the country.
He would finish 5 for 6 on the entire series, and capped it off with a touchdown pass to Will Fuller for 12 yards.
Tempo was established and he never looked back.
That is how leaders are made.
Throw them into a fire and ice arena against a vaunted SEC power in your first bowl game.
Zaire came out of the tunnel wearing a fire-fighters get up while wearing ice skates- he made it look that easy.
And to enhance his play, his running game took on it's desired tempo many called for all year.
With elite backs in Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, Irish faithful desired a big line dominating defenses while these two horses racked up yards and big runs.
Today against LSU, the much larger Irish front over powered the Tiger defense and did the unexpected: 51 rushing attempts.
That was unseen by many but stamped what propelled Notre Dame to a bowl win, and Brian Kelly's 5th season with 8 wins.
Irish backs totalled 263 yards on the day.
-Workhouse Tarean Folston rushed for 73 yards on 21 carries
-Zaire went for 96 yards on 22 carries
And yet another surprising and noteworthy stat was Notre Dame did not turn the ball over on this day- something that plagued them all year.
Bottomline, this was a total team effort that mirrored the Florida State game earlier in the year.
Solid line play, a young, beat-up defense kept all but 1 player from any type of production and the quarterback made zero mistakes that would help the other guys.
But if this could be boiled down to one thing that put Notre Dame on top this day, it was simply the play of Malik Zaire.
The same player that stamped in his own words pre 2014 that he would start the season, started the most important game for Notre Dame in 2014- and won.
And it put Brian Kelly and the Irish in a good spot with 2 proven quarterbacks heading into 2015- providing Golson is still around.
What they said:
Coach Brian Kelly
"This was a matchup that we had wanted at Notre Dame, and I know LSU felt the same way," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We wanted to be challenged. We were disappointed in the way we played obviously at the end of the year, and our guys wanted the opportunity to finish the season the right way."
Irish kicker Kyle Brindza(kicked game winning field goal)
"To leave a program so historic like this in this kind of fashion is great," Brindza said. "It's a blessing for me, but also to be able to help win a game for all my teammates is a bigger blessing."