What we learned about Irish in bowl game

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
9:00
AM CT
1) Another quarterback controversy awaits: Dayne Crist beat out Tommy Rees going into 2011, then lost his job after one half. Andrew Hendrix replaced Rees after the first half of the last regular-season game, and neither impressed in shared action during the Champs Sports Bowl. Freshman Everett Golson sat out this season and figures to compete in the three-man offseason race that can play a big role in determining Notre Dame's 2012 season and beyond.

2) Turnovers are killer: Evidently this wasn't learned, as Notre Dame began its season with a goal-line fumble and five-turnover performance in a loss and ended it with a pair of end-zone interceptions that proved costly in a game in which offensive opportunities were hard to come by.

3) The front seven has bright days ahead of it: Five sacks, seven tackles for loss and four hurries have to get Notre Dame fans excited about the future of the front-seven, especially the young defensive line. In their first years playing, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix all stood out, making life miserable for E.J. Manuel and the Florida State offensive line for three quarters. Throw in the return of Manti Te'o next season and the pass rush could be lethal.

4) Special teams actually played in ND's favor: Few expected that given the teams' performances in the regular season. But Michael Floyd's 41-yard punt return was 38 yards more than Notre Dame's net punt return yards on the season, George Atkinson had a 37-yard kick return to open the second half that set up a touchdown drive and Ben Turk pinned FSU at the 1 when Notre Dame needed him to most. Of course, a 77-yard return by Lamarcus Joyner stings, but Notre Dame's defense made sure the Seminoles got only three points out of the field position.

Matt Fortuna | email

College Football

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