ACC: Aaron Lynch

ORLANDO, Fla. — Bowl season has found its best play of 2011.

Michael Floyd's 5-yard touchdown grab was anything but simple, as Tommy Rees' fade pass was underthrown and nearly picked off by Greg Reid. Floyd managed to pry it loose from Reid before engaging in a juggling act — all the while absorbing a hit from Nigel Bradham just as he secured the ball.

Touchdown, Irish.

Floyd's 100th catch of the season made it 14-0 Notre Dame, which is anything but your conventional two-score lead in a game that has lacked for offensive fire power.

The Seminoles appeared to be on the verge of closing the gap after Lamarcus Joyner's 77-yard kickoff return, but the offense followed with a three-and-out that was punctuated by a — you guessed it — sack of EJ Manuel, this time by Aaron Lynch for a loss of 15.

Dustin Hopkins kicked a 42-yard field goal to get FSU on the board and cut the lead to 14-3.

The Irish offense, meanwhile, went with both quarterbacks on its first drive of the half, putting Andrew Hendrix in at the 23 yard line. He carried it three times for 18 yards before Rees entered at first-and-goal from the 5, setting up the touchdown play.

George Atkinson deserves credit for setting the Irish up so well with a 37-yard kickoff return to open the half, as well as stopping Joyner from going all the way on the ensuing kickoff.

1Q: Notre Dame 7, FSU 0

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
6:19
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A red zone turnover, an Aaron Lynch penalty ... typical Notre Dame game, right?

Not so fast.

Manti Te'o forced a Devonta Freeman fumble and Zeke Motta scooped it up and scored a 29-yard touchdown to provide the difference after the first quarter, as the Irish lead Florida State 7-0. The score came one play after Tommy Rees fired a pick to Lamarcus Joyner in the end zone on first-and-goal.

Andrew Hendrix entered on Notre Dame's third series and brought the Irish to the Seminoles' 30 before David Ruffer's field goal attempt sailed wide right.

Defensively, the Irish front-seven has made life miserable for E.J. Manuel, recording a pair of sacks and forcing the Seminoles to fight for every yard. They have just 18 total yards so far and will need to make some adjustments if they want any hope of handling Notre Dame's pass rush.

A few more pregame notes

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
6:10
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. — Here are a couple of items worth nothing as we approach kickoff:

  • Ethan Johnson, Louis Nix and Aaron Lynch took reps with the first-team defensive line. This is as healthy as the group has been since the middle of the season. Johnson says he is fully recovered from a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for four games this season, and freshman end Stephon Tuitt is expected to be fine after missing the last two games because of an illness. Against an undermanned Florida State offensive line, this could be key.
  • Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was given a one-year contract extension earlier today, locking him up through 2016.
  • This crowd is PUMPED. The fans went wild during a few pee-wee touchdowns when kids took the field before the game, and several parachuters into the stadium only amped them up even more. Hopefully the play on the field can live up to the excitement.

Irish without Riddick, Tuitt

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
4:46
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame will be missing a starter on each side of the ball today, as both receiver Theo Riddick (hamstring) and lineman Stephon Tuitt (illness) will not play.

Riddick, a junior, was in a sweatshirt and sweatpants during warm-ups and is missing his second straight game. Robby Toma will likely make his second straight start in Riddick's place, though it's possible senior John Goodman could see the field first since it's Senior Day.

The news of Tuitt comes as more of a surprise, as Notre Dame announced he would not be playing just minutes ago. Fellow freshman Aaron Lynch will start in his place, with Ethan Johnson manning the other defensive end spot.

Banged-up Irish survive at Wake

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
1:07
AM ET

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Jimmy Newman's 42-yard field goal sailed wide right, and Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood immediately wanted the ball.

Five-minutes, 24 seconds remained. And even though Wake Forest had all three timeouts remaining, there was not a doubt in either back's mind that the Demon Deacons' luck had run out in an eventual 24-17 loss to Notre Dame.

"Definitely, definitely," Gray said. "That was the first mindset we had. The guys were doing a great job blocking on the perimeter and inside. We knew what we had to do was run the clock out, and by doing that we had to run the ball."

Wood got the first two carries, totaling 11 yards. Gray, who made his second straight start, took it from there, rushing it five straight times for 16 yards, the final carry a third-and-1 conversion that sealed the game with 1:40 left.

The Irish had let other hosts stick around in primetime games before, and they had been bitten, most notably when they struggled in short-yardage situations late in a last-second loss at Michigan. But Gray, who has improved as much as anyone during the course of the season, said the team takes on a different mentality now.

[+] EnlargeJonas Gray
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJonas Gray had 92 yards on 19 carries with a long run of 25.
"We welcome it," the senior said.

Gray finished with 92 yards on 19 carries -- again, ironically, hurting his yards per rush average in his chase of George Gipp's single-season school record of 8.1.

For that, he can blame a review that followed his 26-yard third-quarter rush into the end zone, as it got marked down at the 1, where he punched it in from two plays later for his ninth touchdown in the last six games.

That score tied things up at 17 after the Irish went into the half down seven, Wake Forest's offense keeping the banged-up defense on its toes with the elusive Tanner Price running the show.

Brian Kelly won his 14th straight November/December regular-season game, and his 20th in his last 22 tries. And he did it the hard way.

When a third-quarter flea-flicker resulted in a 54-yard interception return and eventually first-and-goal for Wake Forest, down seven in the third, Harrison Smith forced a fumble that was recovered by Gary Gray.

The next time the Demon Deacons got so close, Stephon Tuitt recorded a sack, Smith blew up a backfield pass for another loss and Newman missed from 42 yards.

Notre Dame played the majority of the game with Mike Golic Jr. at center instead of Braxston Cave, who left the game after the first play of the second quarter with an undisclosed injury. All-everything linebacker Manti Te'o "was playing on one leg," Kelly said, after the junior left Wake Forest's last drive of the third quarter before returning on the next series.

Defensive end Aaron Lynch had to leave the game on two separate occasions, further depleting an already depleted defensive line, and T.J. Jones somehow made it back after taking a vicious hit on an impressive six-yard grab early in the third quarter.

"We got a lot of guys banged up. A lot of guys banged up," Kelly said. "We'll give you a full report on that when I get a sense of, we got guys that are gonna be -- hey, listen, it's November, too. So there's gonna be some guys that come to practice on Tuesday not full-speed. But these guys are tough, they're gritty and they'll answer the bell."

Earlier, Kelly was less pleased with a question about Notre Dame's passing game. Tommy Rees finished the night 14-of-23 for 166 yards with two touchdowns and two picks.

"I mean is there a negative to everything? Is there a negative?" Kelly said. "We just won a football game, on the road. I mean, what kind of, really, what kind of question, what do you want me to say? What's the answer? We won 24 to 17 against a good football team, and you want to know what's wrong with the passing game. You know what's wrong with it? Um, the coach doesn't call good plays. How's that? There's nothing wrong with it. We're fine. We just won a good game."

It's the best game Notre Dame can win before Nov. 26, as it will face hapless Maryland and Boston College before traveling to what Kelly said will be "hopefully an undefeated Stanford team."

Kelly was later asked if he was looking forward to Stanford, and he made sure to not look ahead with two games left before the regular-season finale.

"No, no, we're on the right track," Kelly said. "We're not too far ahead. The guys know what they're playing for. We're playing for a consistent performance. We have a sign, I don't know if you know this, but we have a sign that says 'Play Like A Champion.' And to play like a champion you have to play consistently. You can't have spurts.

"Tonight was a great step in that direction, of playing on the road, against good competition, down at halftime, come back a couple of times -- that's resolve. That's toughness. That's gritty. We've been trying to build this and it's starting to come and you can see it. And that's why I'm proud of my guys tonight."
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Notre Dame trails Wake Forest by seven entering halftime. Here's a quick look at what went down in the first 30 minutes.

Turning point: The Demon Deacons capped the first half with an 11-play, 81-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Josh Harris and a 17-10 lead. Aaron Lynch missed some time on the drive after appearing to hurt an ankle but returned for the end of it. Wake Forest's offense has been very impressive against the Irish's defense so far.

Yards per rush: The teams are tied at 4.4 yards per carry going into the break, especially surprising given what was seemingly a mismatch of lines heading into this one. Wake Forest's small defensive front has done a solid job early against the Irish offensive line, which is currently without center Braxston Cave. Let's see if the Demon Deacons' D-line can hold up in the second half.

Best player in the half: Wake Forest's Tanner Price has done a great job of escaping the rush and keeping plays alive with his feet. The sophomore quarterback has completed 10 of 14 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, adding two carries for 21 yards. The Irish defense has to do a better job of containing him in the final 30 minutes.

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