Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida State Seminoles beat Notre Dame Fighting Irish 18-14 in Champs Sports Bowl


Florida State's defense kept Notre Dame from running away early Thursday night in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Quarterback EJ Manuel and an offensive line that struggled early but clicked late kept the Seminoles from leaving a soldout Florida Citrus Bowl with a loss.

The Seminoles allowed only one offensive touchdown and Manuel threw for two in a 96-second, fourth-quarter span to give them an 18-14 victory over the Fighting Irish.

"We know we've just got to keep our offense in it," FSU linebacker Nigel Bradham said.

The Seminoles (9-4) did that early. Bradham tipped a Tommy Rees pass on Notre Dame's first possession to safety Lamarcus Joyner, who secured one of FSU's two interceptions in the end zone.

Notre Dame (8-5) got the ball right back when safety Zeke Motta scooped up running back Devonta Freeman's fumble and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.

The Irish defense hounded FSU, and its four freshman offensive linemen, the rest of the half. It sacked Manuel four times in the half, pressured him on four of his first seven dropbacks, and allowed only 9 rushing yards.

In addition, FSU failed on its first eight third-down conversions, stretching its streak to 18 dating to the regular-season finale against Florida on Nov. 26.

"It's nice to be able to talk about a Notre Dame football team that plays championship defense," Irish coach Brian Kelly said, "because that's what they did."

So did the Seminoles.

FSU had four sacks and held Notre Dame to 187 passing yards. The Irish scored on only one of their six trips into FSU territory.

Notre Dame's only offensive touchdown came four minutes into the third quarter, when projected NFL first-round draft pick Michael Floyd tipped the ball to himself four times before corralling a 5-yard pass from Rees for a 14-0 lead.

That's when FSU's leaky offensive line plugged its holes and its offense began to click. Notre Dame had only one sack in the second half while the Seminoles recorded 186 of their 290 yards.

"I think the guys up front finally realized they could play," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

A 77-yard kickoff return by Joyner set up Dustin Hopkins' 42-yard field goal that cut the deficit to 14-3. A diving third-down catch by freshman Rashad Greene set up a tumbling touchdown reception by Bert Reed on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"That got us started," said Manuel, who was 5-of-9 passing for 96 yards in the fourth quarter.

The defense gave Manuel some help. Bradham jumped in front of an Andrew Hendrix pass on the next series and returned the interception to the Irish 18.

Manuel hit Greene two plays later for a leaping 15-yard touchdown that gave FSU a 15-14 lead with 13:18 left.

"It might not always be the prettiest," Reed said of his quarterback's play, "but he gets the job done."

FSU's defense finished it off. Defensive end Cornellius Carradine's sack squashed one Irish drive. Soon after, the 'Noles extended their lead on Hopkins' 29-yard field goal.

Cornerback Mike Harris hindered another Notre Dame possession by tackling running back Cierre Wood for a 5-yard loss, and cornerback Terrance Brooks ended a threat with an interception in the end zone with 2:48 left.

Fisher said he knew FSU couldn't panic because of its early struggles from a banged-up, young offensive line.

"Some of these guys know patience isn't always my best virtue," Fisher said.

But Thursday, his patience paid off with FSU's fourth consecutive bowl victory.

Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at

Florida State Seminoles beat Notre Dame Fighting Irish 18-14 in Champs Sports Bowl 12/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2011 1:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

  3. Rays journal: Rookie Jacob Faria continues to show veteran poise

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles threatened in the first inning and the second. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning with the top of the order up and seemed poised for a big inning. But those opportunities produced only one run because Rays rookie RHP Jacob Faria kept his composure and got the …

    Jacob Faria goes a career-high 71/3 innings, staying composed when the Orioles threaten.
  4. Rays vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field


    Today: vs. Orioles

    12:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM

    Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field box office,, surcharge of up to $5 within 5 hours of game time.

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Bruce Arena blends intense demands with humor to lead U.S. soccer


    SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Bruce Arena bites his fingernails religiously, a habit he has had since age 10.

    Among some other unmentionables.

    Bruce Arena