One of the more intriguing bowl games of the season will go down Tuesday afternoon, when BR-42 Notre Dame looks to end their four-game losing streak in the Music City Bowl against BR-15 LSU. It’s been kind of under the radar, considering the prominence of the two programs involved, but a lot of that has to do with pretty poor regular-season finishes for both teams.
It seems like years since Brian Kelly’s boys were 6-0, ranked BR-13 heading into a showdown at Florida State. The Irish led by seven midway through the third quarter and then by three in the fourth, but Jameis Winston rallied the troops to take a 31-27 lead.
Everett Golson got the ball back with 2:53 to play on the FSU 49 -yard line, and drove his team all the way to the two. Then, on fourth-and goal with 13 seconds to play, this happened:
CJ Prosise (#20) was called for pass interference. It negated the touchdown, sent the Irish back to the 18 for another try, which they failed.
The Irish would win only once more the entire season.
Notre Dame’s defense straight-up fell apart. They just fell apart. That’s all there is to it. Through their week six win over BR-8 Stanford, the Fighting Irish were ranked third in the country in scoring D at 12 points per game. In the seven games since then, they’ve allowed an average of 41.6 points per game and have fallen all the way down to 69th in the FBS.
The week before Florida State they showed signs of what was to come. On October 11, North Carolina scored 43 on Notre Dame in South Bend, but the Irish held on to win 50-43 and stay undefeated. Then Flordia State.
They beat BR-79 Navy 49-39 on the road November 1 and haven’t won since. Their current five-game slide started with a 55-31 loss to BR-14 Arizona State, followed by a 43-40 loss at home to BR-58 Northwestern, a 31-28 home-loss to BR-29 Louisville, and finally a 49-14 collapse in the season finale at USC.
We had the Irish ranked as high as BR-11 going into the UNC contest in week seven, but looking back we probably had them ranked too high. There were definitely some conversations in the office to that effect.
If Notre Dame is going to end the season on a high note, it looks like the offense will pretty much have to do it themselves. .
“We’ll have to do a great job of keeping our defense off the field, and our offense has a lot to say about what goes on there,” Kelly said this week as his squad prepares for the Tigers. “These are important practices and we’re better at (the quarterback) position because of it.”
Kelly’s latter remarks were in reference to the split-time situation at quarterback as Everett Golson will share Music City Bowl snaps with backup Malik Zaire. While Golson threw for an effective 3,355 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, he was intercepted 14 times, and fumbled it away a further eight times.
The short field created by Golson’s turnovers contributed greatly to the defense giving up 291 points in their last seven games.
Along with utilizing two quarterbacks, Kelly will be looking for a bigger contribution from a ground game that ranked just 84th in the nation at 150 yards per game. Sophomore Tarean Folston rushed for over 100 yards four times on the season, but he was also held under 50 yards on six occasions. He’ll need to move the chains more effectively to keep his QBs out of third-and-long, do-or-die, lemme-just-turn-this-over-real-quick situations.
The Fighting Irish finished the 2012 season 12-1, their only loss coming in the national championship game. After a 9-4 finish last year, no matter what happens against LSU this week, Notre Dame will regress again. A win will stop the bleeding, but if Kelly’s boys finish 2014 with five straight losses, we might see him on the hot seat heading into next year.