Notre Dame Football: Dustin Hopkins

Mopping up after Florida State

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
5:00
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Notre Dame held Florida State to 18 total yards in the first quarter of an eventual 18-14 loss. The 18 yards were the fewest by an Irish opponent in the first frame this season.

Here are a few more numbers from the Champs Sports Bowl, thanks to Notre Dame's sports information department:
  • FSU netted just 18 rushing yards in the first half, the fewest allowed by the Irish in any half since Oct. 16, 2010, against Western Michigan, a span of 19 games. The Seminoles managed 41 rushing yards for the game, the third-fewest by a Notre Dame bowl opponent.
  • Notre Dame had four sacks in the first half and five for the game. It had not recorded four sacks in a game since Sept. 24 at Pitt.
  • Zeke Motta's 29-yard fumble return for a score was Notre Dame's first fumble returned for a touchdown since Brian Smith on Sept. 13, 2008, against Michigan. It was just the second in Irish bowl history, joining Ed Hunsinger's 20-yard score against Stanford in the 1925 Rose Bowl.
  • The Irish committed at least three turnovers for the sixth time this season. They finished with 29 on the year, including nine inside the opponents' 25-yard line, eight in the red zone and six inside the 10.
  • Dustin Hopkins' 42-yard field goal in the third quarter accounted for the first third-quarter points surrendered by the Irish defense since Sept. 24 at Pitt. For the season, Notre Dame outscored its opponents in the third quarter by a 91-16 margin.

Irish season ends just like it began

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
11:08
PM ET


ORLANDO, Fla. -- One team surrendered five sacks, averaged 1.4 yards per rush and gave up a defensive touchdown.

This was the other coach after the game:

"We turn the ball over. And we cannot win football games at the highest level if we continue to turn the ball over. The coach has got to get better. The players got to get better and we have to solve this issue if we're going to be an elite football team."

That was Brian Kelly, because his Notre Dame team gave up four sacks, gave the ball away three times -- including two end-zone interceptions -- and was actually outgained by 10 yards in a Champs Sports Bowl that was anything but an offensive clinic.

Florida State emerged on the winning end of an 18-14 contest Thursday, bouncing back from an atrocious first half and a two-touchdown deficit to rattle off 15 points in the final quarter and finish 9-4 on the season.

Thirty minutes before the final horn, it looked like the Seminoles would have trouble even getting on the board.

Four sacks, two false-start penalties and a fumble that Irish safety Zeke Motta returned 29 yards for the half's lone score highlighted a less-than-inspiring offensive performance. Much of the third quarter played out in similar fashion, though Dustin Hopkins did manage a 42-yard field goal to get Florida State on the board -- after a 77-yard kickoff return was followed by a four-play, minus-3 yard drive.

But EJ Manuel scraped together the game's most impressive drive just as the third quarter was winding down, taking the Seminoles 84 yards in 10 plays, the last of which -- an 18-yard touchdown pass to Bert Reed -- kicked off a fourth quarter that the Irish will want back.

The second half of Notre Dame's two-quarterback system, Andrew Hendrix, threw an interception to Nigel Bradham three plays later, and Manuel capitalized two plays after that by connecting with game MVP Rashad Greene for a 15-yard score to make it 15-14. Greene finished with 99 yards on five catches.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
AP Photo/John RaouxThis interception by Terrence Brooks, right, ended Notre Dame's chances at a late comeback.
Field position, poor punting and a facemask penalty allowed Notre Dame to begin its second-to-last drive at Florida State's 28, but the Irish's chance went out the door when Tommy Rees' pass for the double-covered John Goodman was picked off in the end zone by Terrence Brooks.

Rees took the Irish to the Florida State 4 on the their first drive of the game, but was picked off in the end zone that time by Lamarcus Joyner.

Notre Dame entered with the plan to play both sophomore quarterbacks, and Rees saw most of the action. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 163 yards and a highlight-reel worthy touchdown, which Michael Floyd hauled in from five yards out after ripping the ball away from Greg Reid, bobbling it five times and hanging on for good while absorbing a hit from Bradham. Both Floyd (upper-body injury) and Reid (concussion) were hurt on the play and did not return.

Hendrix, who was used sparingly throughout the season, finished 3 of 8 for 24 yards.

"It's all those things -- frustrating, disappointing," Rees said. "It's not something you can hang your head on, though. As a quarterback and a leader you got to keep your head up regardless of the situation and be there for your teammates. The worst part is sending your seniors off with a loss, and a game that we had an opportunity to win makes it that much worse."

Kelly laughed at the notion that he started at Notre Dame in 2010 as an offensive guy -- "Well, I guess I'm not an offensive guy" -- and said earlier that the unit has some catching up to do after the performance his defense put forth.

"It's nice to be able to talk about a Notre Dame football team that plays championship defense, because they did that today," Kelly said. "Now we've got to get our offense obviously to play that level as well, and that will be the next step for our football program, is getting our offense to play at the same level that our defense is evolving to."

Coming off an 8-5 campaign, Notre Dame entered 2011 with BCS-bowl hopes and a quarterback controversy. On its first drive of the season, a goal-line fumble portended a two-week opening stretch that saw two close losses, 10 total turnovers and postseason goals all but go up in flames.

More than 16 weeks later, the campaign ended in a turnover-plagued slugfest that saw Notre Dame's final chance get picked off in the end zone.

"We see it as we could've run the table this year," Floyd said, "but with our mistakes and not being disciplined at certain times, we fell short."
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.

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