Notre Dame Football: Terrence Brooks

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.

Notre Dame mailbag

January, 3, 2012
You guys all seem upset about something ...

Chris Hinckley from Dothan, Ala., writes: Hey Matt. Whats the latest update on Tyler Eifert's situation? Any word yet on if he's staying or going? I am hoping he stays. Thanks. Go Irish! and Happy New Year!

Matt Fortuna: Happy New Year to you, too, Chris. Eifert said after the Champs Sports Bowl he is still undecided. Notre Dame better hope he returns. With Michael Floyd out for much of the second half after suffering an upper-body injury during his touchdown catch, we may have received an early preview of what the Irish offense will look like next season without Floyd. If Eifert's not in there, either, that would be a big blow.

Dan from Nashville, Tenn., writes: why the hell did n.d. offensive coordinator or brian kelley call that pass play that fla. state intercepted in the end zone with 3 minutes left in the game? one of the dumbest moves i have ever seen. cant blame the qb for that. bigtime coaching void still at n.d.

Matt Fortuna: Dan, Kelly said afterward that Notre Dame was running a dig route with a post over the top. If the safety doubled the post route, Tommy Rees was supposed to hit the dig. The safety, Terrence Brooks, doubled the post route, Rees threw to the post and the rest is history.

Patrick from Wilmington, Ohio, writes: What is the matter with Kelly? 1st and goal from the 4 and he calls a pass play knowing rees' history in that situation! Wood should have been the choice!! Rees should never start another game under the gold dome!!!

Matt Fortuna: Another interception question? Oh, this is about a different one. To tell you the truth, I was more surprised in the third quarter, when Rees went in on the Irish's touchdown drive after several nice runs by Andrew Hendrix. His touchdown pass to Floyd probably could have been picked if not for a ridiculous play by Floyd, who will be missed.

Vincent Ryan from Robinson, Ill., writes: Do you see any difference between Brian Kelly, and Charlie Weiss? Everytime I watch the games, and I never miss a game, it's like how will we lose this one today. Do you see us N.D. fans ever again thinking try to beat us, good luck.

Matt Fortuna: You mean aside from the fact Weis has Dayne Crist and Kelly doesn't? To get to your point, though, yes I do. The latter years of the Weis era featured games this team was not even competitive in. There was hardly any defense. Kelly has done a much better job recruiting on the defensive side of the ball; now it's up to the offense to catch up and to stop turning the ball over. This team could have won 10 or 11 games this season. All of which is ironic, of course, considering Kelly came in with the rep as an offensive guy.

Irish season ends just like it began

December, 29, 2011

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."


The latest from Gustin at The Opening
ESPN 300 athlete Porter Gustin (Salem, Utah/Salem Hills) took time out to talk recruiting and more with WeAreSC's Garry Paskwietz on Tuesday at The Opening.