Nashville, Tennessee (December 30) – With the score tied at 28, Notre Dame drove the ball from their 15 with 5:41 left in the game down to the 14-yard line against the best defense in the SEC, and with no time left on the clock, Kyle Brindza kicked the football through the uprights as time expired to give the Fighting Irish a 31-28 win over LSU in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Both teams finished their seasons at 8-5. The Tigers scored on three plays of 75 yards or more, but the Irish rolled consistently up and down the field amassing 449 yards of total offense while controlling the ball for 37 minutes and avoiding turnovers to offset LSU’s quick strikes. They successfully converted 11 of 17 third down attempts to sustain drives along with one of two conversions on fourth down. CFF.com enjoyed two days in Nashville to kick off four of the five games remaining on our 2014-2015 bowl schedule.
RB Will Fuller, number “7” for the Irish, started off the scoring in the first with a 12-yard TD reception from first time ND starting QB Malik Zaire, but it was matched by LSU’s number “7” on the following drive as game MVP Leonard Fournette (11 carries for 143 yards, 2 TDs) ran it in from the seven to even the score in the first period with an eight-yard TD.
In the second period, Zaire (12 of 15 passing, 1 TD, 96 yards; rushing for 96 yards, 1 TD) scored on a seven-yard run. But Fournette, a freshman, evened the game up even more quickly this time breaking through the Irish kicking team down the middle of the field for a 100-yard touchdown return. The Irish patiently responded with another drive kept alive with a 17-yard gain on a third and eleven at the 27 on a pass from Zaire to Fuller. RB Taurean Folston carried it around left end from the six with a key block from Zaire. The Tigers took possession from the 25 with 6:12 left in the period and put together a drive where they stalled at the Irish 2 with a fourth down. As I watched PK Trent Domingue trot on to the field high from my 400 level seat above the corner of the end zone, I said to no one else there, “Watch the fake.” Holder Brad Kragthorpe took the snap and ran over his left tackle where he stretched out his arms with the ball as he neared the goal line only to have it quickly knocked down. Close, but no cigar as the replay officials confirmed the stop on the field. I was shocked to see such a call made against an SEC team. The half ended with the Irish in the lead, 21-14.
To start the third against a Notre Dame defense decimated by injuries throughout the season, QB Anthony Jennings lofted a soft, easy toss over them to WR John Diarse who turned and raced with it 75 yards to tie the score once again. Later in the period, LSU started from its 11 after a Notre Dame punt, and in one pitch to Fournette, he basically ran it through the middle of the Irish line untouched and raced 89 yards to give the Tigers its first lead of the game, 28-21. On the subsequent Irish series, however, they finally came up with a quick strike score of their own as WR C.J. Prosise took a pitch on a sweep right and raced down field diving over the goal line by the pylon for a 50-yard TD that resulted in a 28-28 score that took the game into the final period.
LSU drove to the Irish 23 on the first possession of Q4 and Domingue came in again to try to retake the lead, but his low kick was knocked down by Isaac Rochell and Notre Dame too back over. After an exchange of punts, Notre Dame started its game-winning drive leading to Brindza’s FG, but it took two third down conversions to keep the Irish in possession. A key one was on a third and ten from their 42 where Zaire connected with TE Ben Koyack for a 12-yard gain.
It was an exciting game with big plays and a last second winning field goal to determine the score. We didn’t think we could top the excitement of the Penn State overtime win over Boston College at the Pinstripe Bowl, but Collegefootballfan.com was on a fantastic roll two games into our bowl season. Could we expect the excitement to continue? After this game, I headed back to Piranha’s on Second Ave for dinner, beers, and updates on other bowl games. From there it was back to the hotel to pack up again for an early morning flight to Jacksonville on the way to the CapitalOne Orange Bowl in Miami.
Extra points: Notre Dame now leads the series between the two schools, 6-5.
The Music City Bowl came up with a song to promote the bowl for now and in the future with a new title, “This is the Big Time.”
I arrived on Monday the 29th the day before to check out the sights and sounds of Nashville as I had enjoyed the venue the year before. At Piranha’s, I got the day started off with Bloody Marys and got to know Will, the bartender there, before meeting up with Joe Rogers of the “College Football Bowl Report.” Will played D-3 Ball for Heidelberg University before a concussion ended his career in his senior season. I asked him how it felt though to play for a team whose nickname is “the Student Princes”! He flinched, not only because I knew what they were called, but he said that it was tough and that there had been efforts to even refer to the team as just “The Berg.” But that was set aside by some alumni influence. Had lunch there as well with a burger from the grill. Joe showed up a little alter with two of his fellow LSU fans who had driven up from Louisiana to meet with him, Karl Zeller and Brandon Michel. Brandon had played DB for LSU back in the mid-90s. I’ll have to catch up with them for a future game at Tiger Stadium again.
Later that night, we went to the Benchmark a couple of doors down where the music was already playing and Elaine and Whitney were bartending. Beers and shots were the orders. Had a good time talking to others about football and Nashville in general. We tried a few new drinks too including a Pecan Piehole. I had also told Elaine about the great concocted Bloody Marys I had had at the Memphis Beale Street Music Festival this past May where they were spiced up with Paprika that gave it a taste I really liked. The next morning before heading over the bridge to LP Stadium, Elaine brought out the paprika to spice up my drink. Great start to a day to watch football. We enjoy downtown Nashville as a convenient pregame tailgate venue without the actual tailgate. The drinks and food are there and an easy walk across the bridge to the game makes any game day a full party day in the Music City.
Starting ND DE Andrew Trumbetti was in the lineup shoring up the decimated Irish defense. He made a few stops. I had seen this RS Freshman from Demarest, NJ two years ago throwing the shot put at some local high school relays my son Eric competed in.
Watch for game and trip summaries of the other three bowl games I attended after the Music City.
Next Up: The CapitalOne Orange Bowl