2011 Champs Sports Bowl Recap
Florida State Seminoles vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Florida State 18, Notre Dame 14
The Florida State Seminoles were starting four freshmen on their offensive line against the high-level defensive front of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. They trailed 14-0 in the third quarter. They appeared to be dead, with no hope of being able to mount a late comeback. A team that had underachieved during the regular season and had been limited by injuries was sinking toward a loss in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.
Then came a fourth quarter from the heavens, and as a result, the outlook for the Seminoles made a sharp right turn at the Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando, Florida.
It was truly remarkable to see the transformation of Florida State from punching bag to puncher against the Fighting Irish on Thursday evening. The Seminoles’ offensive line was so overmatched against Notre Dame’s front four that the simplest five-step dropback passes posed major problems for the FSU offense. Quarterback E.J. Manuel barely had any time to scan the field, and what’s more is that he had to be very careful to protect his body when Irish defenders laid into him with bonecrushing force. It’s a minor miracle that Manuel was even standing as the fourth quarter began; the notion that Florida State could erase a 14-3 deficit in the final 15 minutes of the game seemed like a stretch, to say the very least.
However, that’s exactly what happened against a Notre Dame team that will have to endure a thoroughly miserable offseason.
Manuel got the comeback party started by flipping an 18-yard touchdown toss to receiver Bert Reed, who made a high-level grab before sliding out of the left side of the end zone. Notre Dame still led by a 14-9 count after Florida State missed a 2-point conversion attempt, but Florida State had begun to change the feel and flow of the proceedings.
Then the small current of Florida State mojo turned into a massive wave which crashed down on the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame backup quarterback Andrew Hendrix, who briefly filled in for starter Tommy Rees, threw a short pass over the middle third of the field which was picked off by FSU’s Nigel Bradham. The interception was returned to Notre Dame’s 18, and two plays later, Manuel hit receiver Rashad Greene for a 15-yard touchdown which gave the Seminoles a 15-14 edge. FSU extended that lead to 18-14, forcing Notre Dame to get a touchdown, and that’s when the final domino tipped in the Seminoles’ direction.
After Florida State shanked a punt from its own end zone and committed a personal foul on that very same punt, Notre Dame gained a drive start at the FSU 28 with 3:56 to go. The Fighting Irish, for all their struggles on offense, had a glorious chance to capture sweet victory in the final minutes. However, Rees – who has been tormented by red-zone interceptions all season long – uncorked one more wayward aerial. Florida State’s Terrence Brooks snagged a can-of-corn interception in the end zone with 2:48 left, and Notre Dame’s hopes were snuffed out.
Notre Dame and Florida State both endured disappointing regular seasons. However, Florida State will at least leave 2011 with the knowledge that it came back from the dead in a stunning fourth quarter whose effects could flow into the 2012 regular season.
By: Matt Zemek
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