Brindza Hits GW FG; Irish Beat LSU 31-28 In Music City Bowl


So many questions for Notre Dame coming in to this game. Questions about the starting quarterback. The direction of the program. If Brian Kelly would again consider the NFL. If the Irish could be physical enough against the top SEC defense. Not all of them were answered, but the game winning field goal by Kyle Brindza as time expired sets a positive tone heading into next season.

The Irish (8-5) came in seven point underdogs to a very dominant SEC defense. Coach Kelly knew that they would have to take advantage of the Tigers inability to slow running quarterbacks, and they did just that early on. Redshirt freshman Malik Zaire -who got the start over Everett Golson– led the Irish in rushing with 96 yards on 22 carries and a score. He also threw for a touchdown on a screen pass to William Fuller.

The Tigers were poised to put a field goal on the board as the first-half was ending, but in typical Les Miles fashion, he faked the kick and went for the score. The Irish defense made the stop, but it didn’t come without controversy. The Tigers appeared to have scored as the ball did cross the plane, but without indisputable evidence of where the runners knee was, the call on the field was upheld. It was a nice feeling to have a call go in the direction of the Irish for once, as they entered the half with a 21-14 lead.

It was short-lived as the Tigers connected on a 75-yard TD pass from Anthony Jennings to John Diarse to open the half. Jennings faked a run to the right side, and Irish safety Max Redfield bit, leaving Diarse behind the coverage, tying the game at 21-21.

After already returning a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the first-half, LSU running back Leonard Fournette continued his personal track meet in Nashville by breaking a 75-yard run for a touchdown. What’s clear is a 230 pound man should not be that fast, but he is.

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Notre Dame quickly responded as C.J. Prosise broke off a 50-yard TD run of his own, leveling the score at 28-28.

It seemed as if the play of the quarterbacks would be a deciding factor in the game, as both teams had played it relatively safe for most of the contest. Advantage coach Kelly who had two to choose from, and who both played a key part in the Irish victory.

Zaire started the last drive for the Irish, but after losing his helmet after a run up the middle, he had to come out for a play. With time ticking down, Kelly chose to go with Golson. He completed three straight passes to get the Irish to the LSU 30 before giving way to Zaire.

From there Zaire helped line it up on the left hash to set up the dramatic 32-yard game winner from Brindza.

It was a bittersweet victory, as the Irish once sat in the thick of the playoff talk and Golson a Heisman candidate, only to falter and lose the last four before this huge victory in the Music City Bowl. The win over an SEC team should help reassure current players and prospects the Irish can play with anyone. The last two contests against them hadn’t gone so well, and the Irish weren’t favored in this one either.

But Kelly rallied his troops, using two field generals to lead the way, and the Irish come away with a little more than just a pride building victory. Now the remaining questions for Notre Dame become a little easier to stomach, no matter what the answers may be. Zaire or Golson? After today it seems like a win/win question.