By SAMANTHA DESMOND
Blog Contributor/Angry Notre Dame Fan
“Well, boys…I haven’t a thing to say. Played a great game…all of you. Great game.”
If only Knute Rockne had been in the locker room on Saturday night in Tallahassee.
The Irish faced a daunting task: Jameis Winston and the much-hyped Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles, unbeaten in the last 22 games. The nation wondered if this Notre Dame squad was “for real” – could they possibly keep pace with FSU’s beloved Winston and Coach Jimbo Fisher?
For 60 minutes, Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish certainly did.
It was the stuff of Notre Dame lore. Everett Golson was sharp, demonstrating extreme composure under center, going 31-52 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Corey Robinson exploded for two early touchdowns in a 99-yard receiving performance. Tarean Folston burst out of the backfield, accumulating 120 yards on the ground, giving Notre Dame the versatile attacking offense it needed to emerge victorious from the battlefield.
Then, the final 13 seconds happened.
It wasn’t the first time this season that Golson marched the Irish down the field to win the game. On their final drive, the Irish converted on fourth down and moved the ball quickly and effectively. They chewed the clock and set the offense up perfectly to deal a striking blow to Winston and FSU.
It was Golson’s go-ahead touchdown to Robinson that propelled the Irish to a 33-31 lead with 13 seconds remaining in the game. Victory was within their grasp. he golden helmets glistened under the lights. For the first time all night, the Seminole fans’ war cries waned.
Cue yellow flag.
The officials called Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller for a costly 15-yard offensive pass interference penalty on the 2-yard scoring play, pushing the Irish back to their own 18-yard line with 11 seconds to play. That would be that, since Golson’s heave to Robinson soared overhead and out of the end zone to extend FSU’s win streak to 23 games.
Christmas came early for the Seminoles – the officiating crew gifted them a win over the Irish.
I’ve re-watched the play dozens of times. And Brian Kelly put it best – “Florida State blew the coverage, and they got awarded for it.”
Watch it again. Fuller, who lined up in a bunch set with C.J. Prosise and Robinson against FSU’s man-to-man coverage, jab steps to the right before running an inside slant into the end zone. The defender jumps that inside slant, instead of following Robinson to the outside, causing Fuller and the defender to lock up.
While there are rules that do not allow receivers to block receivers downfield, that is not what occurred in this particular play. The FSU defender grabbed Fuller when he jumped the route, negating any argument of an offensive pick.
The fact remains that FSU blew man-to-man coverage, costing Notre Dame a deserved victory and an almost certain place in the College Football Playoff. And while Notre Dame can still control its own destiny, and winning out the season is a very real possibility for Kelly’s squad, the loss in Tallahassee has left a brutally bitter taste in the mouths of Irish fans and sports enthusiasts alike.
While nothing can be done about the botched call against FSU, the college football world has been put on notice – the Fighting Irish are for real. Currently ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25, Notre Dame is chasing a fourth spot in the playoffs with a slew of other one loss teams. If the Irish want to steal that coveted spot, they need to make sure of one single thing – they stay a one-loss team.
However, the luck of the Irish will need to be in full swing. Alabama and Auburn are both likely to make a run for that spot as well, and less likely to win out their respective seasons. Oregon, never to be discounted, should also be considered a contender, although they face a tough Stanford matchup in the coming weeks.
With strength of schedule at their backs, the Irish need to move full steam ahead and dominate. The final weeks of the college football season will surely be thrilling.
Takes me back to 2012. For my sanity’s sake, these fingers remain crossed for a different result.
“Rally sons of Notre Dame…Onward to victory.”