5 Thoughts Music City: Notre Dame 31, LSU 28

    Dec. 30 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Notre Dame 31, LSU 28 And You Care Because … Kyle Brindza hit a 32-yard field goal as time ran out to

    December 30, 2014

    Dec. 30 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
    Notre Dame 31, LSU 28 

    And You Care Because … Kyle Brindza hit a 32-yard field goal as time ran out to give Notre Dame the big special teams moment LSU couldn’t come up with. The Tigers got a late field goal attempt blocked, and came up painfully short on a fake field goal attempt for a touchdown late in the first half, but they were still ahead in the second half after starting out with a 75-yard touchdown pass to John Diarse on the first play, and getting an 89-yard touchdown dash from Leonard Fournette for a 28-21 lead. But Notre Dame had some fireworks of its own with a 50-yard scoring dash from C.J. Prosise to tie it as part of a 10-0 run to close out. LSU had one big special teams moment in the first half as Fournette returned a kickoff for a score to answer a seven-yard touchdown run from Malik Zaire, but the Irish kept pace throughout, controlling the game with its ground attack. 
    What Else? Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire completed 12-of-15 passes for 96 yards and a score, and ran 22 times for a team-high 96 yards and a touchdown 
    – LSU RB Leonard Fournette ran 11 times for 143 yards and two scores, and returned two kicks for 121 yards and a touchdown
    – Rushing yards: LSU 285 – Notre Dame 263 
    – Notre Dame QB Everett Golson completed 6-of-11 passes for 90 yards and ran once for six yards 
    Game Rating: 

    By Pete Fiutak 
    1. Get ready for the eight months of hype. Bowl games always seem to overhype and oversell the top performers, but in this case, there are plenty of reasons to get excited for LSU RB Leonard Fournette and Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire. The nation’s top recruit, Fournette had a good year, but he didn’t dominate throughout like many thought he might. Against the Irish he looked fresh, explosive, strong, and the complete runner worthy of all the attention. Everett Golson is still a talented quarterback, but it was Zaire who took over the game with his mistake-free passing and key runs. He might not have been explosive, but he came up with the chain-moving throws and key runs to take the pressure off the rest of the attack. These two might be the respective faces of two loaded teams for 2015, and if they improve on their performances in Nashville, this might have been the start of something far bigger. 

    By Rich Cirminiello 
    2. Forget the calendar. The 2015 season has already begun, and Notre Dame just used its trip to Nashville as a springboard to next year. 

    I went into the Music City Bowl thinking that both LSU and ND have a shot of being top 10 teams in 2015. And still do, thanks to all of the young talent returning to Baton Rouge and South Bend, respectively. But it’s the Irish, improbably, that have gotten a head start on next year, deftly employing quarterbacks Malik Zaire and Everett Golson in an upset of a Tiger team that was disappointing and uninspired when Leonard Fournette didn’t have the ball in his hands. 

    When Notre Dame is competing for a playoff spot in November, and it will be, the program will look to this win over an SEC team in SEC territory as the launch for title contention. The Irish didn’t want the lasting memory of 2014, which began with so much promise, be a five-game losing streak that couldn’t be broken until Texas visited eight months from now. And thanks to their bowl win, the entire tenor of the offseason has changed for Brian Kelly and his kids. 

    By Pete Fiutak 
    3. It was an interesting day for the respective passing games, and the playmaking of Malik Zaire turned out to be the difference. LSU’s Anthony Jennings threw for 151 yards and a score, but he only hit on seven passes – the big plays were there, but the consistency wasn’t, meaning Leonard Fournette had to carry the offense. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish got 73 rushing yards or more out of three different players, and Zaire hit 12-of-15 safe passes to keep things moving. Notre Dame controlled the time of possession, LSU didn’t, and it went on the scoring drive late that LSU couldn’t come up with. In the end, Notre Dame outpowered the tough Tigers, and now there’s a new element to a loaded team going into next year. 



    4. What’s next for Notre Dame 
    Is it really the beginning of the Malik Zaire era? At the very least, he appears to be ready to go into the offseason as the main man to run the attack, but he’ll have to work behind a line that loses three starters. The receiving corps should be dominant with four of the team’s top pass catchers returning including William Fuller. Top runner Tarean Folston is back along with Greg Bryant, but Zaire could be the team’s most dangerous runner. 

    The defense has nothing to worry about compared to the turnover coming into 2014, and all the injuries should mean plenty of players should be ready. How experienced is the D? Corner Cody Riggs is the only senior. LB Jaylon Smith is a mortal lock for all-star honors as the leader of the veteran group, while other top tacklers Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield are also back in the defensive backfield. Kyle Brindza is gone after handling the punting and placekicking duties. 

    5. What’s next for LSU 
    This was the transitional season, and now the Tigers should take off led by RB Leonard Fournette. There will be losses to the NFL, and nowhere will be hit harder than the O line that has to replace LT La’el Collins and, most likely, guard Vadal Alexander. The receiving corps is loaded with Travin Dural and John Diarse leading the way. Is this going to be Anthony Jennings’ quarterback spot? Brandon Harris will get every opportunity this offseason to take the gig. If the line is settled early, the O will be more explosive. 

    DE Jermauria Rasco is gone, but three other starters are back up front including all of the key backups – this was a young line that should be tremendous. The defensive back seven should suffer a loss or two early to the NFL, but only one senior – S Ronald Martin – has to be replaced. S Jalen Mills is more than ready to go to the pros, as is LB Kwon Alexander, but this should still be a strong, athletic D overall. P Jamie Keehn is a weapon, while PK Colby Delahoussaye is solid. 

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