Notre Dame pulled out a thriller of a Citrus Bowl over LSU to get to ten wins. Here are five things that matter.
Citrus Bowl 5 Things That Matter: Notre Dame 21, LSU 17
5. Yes, LSU should’ve absolutely kicked the field goal
It’ll be second-guessed, but with the LSU placekicking a disaster, head coach Ed Orgeron still pulled out ol’ Jack Gonsoulin to hit a 17-yard field goal to take a 17-14 lead with two minutes to play.
It was fourth and goal from the one, the Tigers were stuffed on the play before, and it was a chance for LSU take the late lead. It was up to the LSU defense to come up with one last big stop.
It was the right call in a shot to go for the win and rely on your other side of the ball to do the job, and then this happened …
4. Ian Book?
Brandon Wimbush was rested and supposedly ready to make a big splash against LSU in the Citrus Bowl, but he completed just 3-of-8 passes for 52 yards, ran for 38 yards, and the offense wasn’t moving.
In stepped Ian Book, who saw plenty of time this season when Wimbush was hurt, and he saved the day completing 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards and two scores, ran for 36 yards, and came up with the game-winning 55-yard scoring pass to Miles Boykin.
Before getting too excited about the future, remember, it was Malik Zaire who tore up LSU in a bowl win a few years ago. But … this …
3. Derrius Guice
This was when he was supposed to go off, but he was held to 98 yards on 21 carries.
QB Danny Etling did his job – hitting 19-of-33 passes for 229 yards and two scores – and the running game was solid, but Guice couldn’t take over the game, and he couldn’t get into the end zone on that ill-fated late fourth quarter drive.
His NFL Draft stock didn’t diminish in any way, but unlike what Saquon Barkley did against Washington in the Fiesta, Guice wasn’t able to elevate his status with this. Bowl games are funny in that way. This was a chance to become a must-have guy, but as close to healthy as possible, he was just okay.
2. Notre Dame won despite the lack of a ground game
It all worked out according to plan.
LSU held Notre Dame to just 154 yards on the ground with no touchdowns, and it never got gashed.
Josh Adams ran for just 44 yards, Brandon Wimbush couldn’t get going, and the Irish offense simply didn’t work until Mr. Book did his thing.
It showed the importance of the Notre Dame passing game that wasn’t there on a consistent basis this season. The Irish tried it against Miami, with disastrous results, and they gave it a shot against Navy early on, and struggled.
LSU did everything it wanted and needed to do to pull this off, but it couldn’t come up with that one big stop on that one big pass play. For a team that relied on the running game and the O line all year, give the Irish credit for getting the job done.
1. Yeah, ten wins matter for Notre Dame
For all the problems under Brian Kelly, and for all of the failed expectations, his team just came up with a tenth win.
There wasn’t a trip to the College Football Playoff, and there was a clunker of a loss to Miami and a tough defeat against Stanford, but after what happened last year, and after the total meltdown of a season, getting ten wins, blowing away USC, getting up to No. 2 in the CFP rankings for a stretch, and pulling out a bowl win over a strong LSU team is fantastic.
Now do it a little bit better, Irish. This was good, but the fan base will want a date in the final four against really, really soon.