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. For starters: Rays at Twins, with Cobb pitching with a purpose


    UPDATE, 12:34: Cash said he has been pleased with Sucre's work and is trying to find playing time for him. ... Cash also said after reading Farquhar's comments about having trouble re-focusing after getting out of a jam and then going back out for a second inning he will factor that in to how he uses him. ... …

  2. St. Petersburg's Sebastien Bourdais vows to return for IndyCar finale

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Sebastien Bourdais was in one of the best race cars he'd ever had, so fast that most of his competitors thought he would win the pole for the Indianapolis 500.

    Sebastien Bourdais does physical therapy at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana in Indianapolis. Bourdais broke his pelvis, hip and two ribs in an accident during qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 on May 20. He plans to return home to St. Petersburg soon to continue therapy. [Associated Press]
  3. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis


    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  4. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  5. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”