Florida State's EJ Manuel Led a Fourth-Quarter Seminoles Rally for an 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl VictoryFl
What happened: After a lackluster first three quarters, the Florida State Seminoles rallied in the fourth to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Champs Sports Bowl, 18-14. In spite of two missed two-point conversions in the period, Florida State’s offense managed to put up the necessary points for an 11-point comeback and four-point win. The Seminoles’ defense was stellar all game, creating three turnovers, including two in the endzone. Their strong play on that side of the ball held the Irish offense at bay just long enough to let FSU quarterback EJ Manuel go to work, connecting on two big passing scores in the final quarter’s first few minutes. For much of the contest, Irish QB Tommy Rees struggled, forcing bad throws and ultimately dooming his team to the close loss with a late pick in the Seminoles’ endzone.
Who’s to blame: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, for his mostly uninspired gameplan, to start. But mostly, it comes down to an inefficiency for the aforementioned Rees to ever truly get the momentum going on offense — especially when his team was counting on him late in the game. Two endzone interceptions (especially the one with three minutes remaining in the contest) directly removed points off the board for the Irish, and were the exclamation points on a poor evening which saw him complete just 16 of 27 passes, for 163 yards. In spite of holding the lead for three quarters, Notre Dame only had 90 rushing yards, and receiver Michael Floyd was held mostly in check, catching just five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
It Was Over When: Tommy Rees threw the aforementioned late interception. Though the final score was decided far earlier, when FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins connected on a 29-yard field goal with about eight minutes to go. Notre Dame was completely shut out in the fourth, and their inability to move the ball, and costly turnovers were what doomed them in the end.
Game Ball Goes To: Manuel, for completing 65 percent of his passes for 249 yards and two late touchdowns. With the running game a non-factor (just 41 total yards on the ground), it was up to Manuel and the passing game to deliver when it mattered most, and they did. Consideration also goes to FSU receiver Rashad Greene, who caught five passes for 99 yards and a touchdown — which ended up being the go-ahead score with 13 minutes to play.
Prediction Update: As predicted, it was a close game between these two storied programs, with the contest ultimately coming down to a fourth-quarter rally. With the Florida State win, that now moves me up to 2-1 on the ACC bowl season, with six contests still to go. Same goes for the ACC, which is trying to notch a .500 bowl record for the first time since 2006.