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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Best and worst from Notre Dame's bowl

By Matt Fortuna

Here are the highs and lows from the Irish's 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State:

Best play: Michael Floyd's 100th and final catch of the season -- and of his college career -- featured an impressive juggling act, as Floyd tipped the ball to himself five times before hauling in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Rees, the Irish's only offensive score of the game. The game captain suffered an upper-body injury during the third-quarter catch and did not play the rest of the way.

Worst play: Rees' pass for John Goodman was picked off in the end zone by Terrence Brooks with less than three minutes left in the game, erasing the Irish's last true chance. Brooks doubled the post; Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said afterward that Rees was supposed to hit the dig route if the safety doubled the post. "Attention to detail, the little things, obviously it hurt us in that situation," Kelly said.

Biggest reason for optimism: Notre Dame recorded five sacks, held the Seminoles to 1.4 yards per rush and came up with a defensive touchdown. The front seven, particularly freshman Aaron Lynch, showed plenty of promise and will be a force for the Irish moving forward.

Biggest reason for pessimism: Thirteen games later, Notre Dame is without a quarterback. Rees and Andrew Hendrix combined to throw three picks against FSU -- including two in the end zone -- and will battle it out with Everett Golson in the spring and summer for a job that is there for the taking.

Biggest surprise: Floyd returned the game's first punt 41 yards. Not bad, considering Notre Dame averaged a nation-worst 0.3 yards per punt return during the regular season. Yes, the Irish had 3 net punt return yards entering their bowl game. Floyd had nearly 14 times that on one return.