ORLANDO, Fla. --- One of the most anticipated matchups of the bowl season lived up to its billing. Florida State stormed back with three scores in the final quarter to beat Notre Dame 18-14 before 68,305, a new attendance record for the Champs Sports Bowl.
FSU took a late lead by scoring twice in 1:36. Nigel Bradham picked off a Notre Dame pass deep in Irish territory. QB E.J. Manuel then found Rashad Greene in the middle of the end zone for a 15-yard strike and the Nole’s took the lead for the first time in the game, 15-14.
Manuel was 20 of 31 for 249 yards. Greene finished with five catches for 99 yards.
Trailing by 11 points the Seminoles drew closer on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Manuel threw an 18-yard TD pass to Bert Reed. FSU found themselves five points down with 14:54 to play. A 33-yard pass from Manuel to Rashad Greene highlighted the 10 play, 84-yard scoring drive on third and five. Until then the Seminoles were 0-9 on third down conversions.
The Irish took the second half kickoff and drove the field, helped by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against FSU. Michael Floyd’s juggling reception of a Tommy Rees pass in the corner of the end zone put the Irish up 14-0 with 11:24 to play. It was Floyd’s 100th catch of the season, a first for a Notre Dame receiver.
Rees was 16 of 27 for 163 yards and two interceptions. Tyler Eifert led Notre Dame receivers with six catches for 90 yards. Cierre Wood had 16 carries for 80 yards.
FSU’s Lamarcus Joyner returned the kickoff 77 yards to the Notre Dame 21. But the drive stalled there. Manuel was sacked for 15 yards on third down setting up Dustin Hopkins’ 42-yard field goal. Hopkins would add a 22-yarder with 8:05 to go in the game.
Both teams committed a turnover in the opening six minutes. One stopped a drive. The other gave Notre Dame the first half lead.
Floyd’s 41-yard punt return set up the Irish inside the Seminoles 40. But the drive was thwarted when Joyner picked off a Rees pass at the FSU goaline.
The stop was short lived, lasting one play.
After catching a five-yard pass from Manuel, Devonta Freeman fumbled. Zeke Motta turned the miscue into six points, running 29 yards for the first TD of the night. Freeman rushed for 48 yards on 13 carries.
The first quarter ended with a 47-yard field goal try by Notre Dames’ David Ruffer. The kick went wide right.
The game was Notre Dames’ first appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl. Florida State last played in the bowl in 2008 when they bested Wisconsin 42-13. Both were 8-4 in the regular season.
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL NOTEBOOK: It was the game’s first sellout…FSU lost Xavier Rhodes with a knee injury in the third quarter and Greg Reid with concussion like symptoms. FSU went for two point conversions twice and failed both times. Rashad Greene was named MVP.