Brian Kelly secured 3rd ten-win season as Head Coach of the University of Notre Dame and the Irish were able to overcome a sluggish offensive start to score 18 second-half points on their way to beating the LSU Tigers in the Overton’s Citrus Bowl. The win leaves Notre Dame’s program in an interesting place heading in to their 2018 campaign, but a better place nonetheless.
Sophomore backup Quarterback Ian Book took over the reigns for incumbent starter Brandon Wimbush late in the 2nd quarter. Book orchestrated a drive that got the Irish their only 3 points of the first half and never looked back, leading the Irish in the entirety of the second half, as well.
With just over a minute to play, Book hit Miles Boykin for a 55-yard touchdown that sealed the game for the Irish. On the play, Boykin elevated over the LSU defender, caught the ball with one hand, and carried the ball to paydirt to give the Irish their first lead since early in the 3rd quarter.
Defense was the name of the game for the first half and Notre Dame’s much-improved defense lived up to its billing. The Irish held the LSU offense in check, especially in the running game. Highly-touted running back Derrius Guice was held to just 98 yards on 21 carries. In all, LSU ran the ball for 170 yards on 42 carries for an average of just 4 yards per carry.
LSU quarterback Danny Etling was held in check, as well. Etling completed 19 of 33 passes for 229 yards.
It was by no means a perfect defensive performance for the Irish. In all, Mike Elko’s defense was able to hold the LSU offense in check. While the game hung in the balance, the defense made big plays to limit LSU from scoring. Most notably, the Irish were able to stop LSU on a 1st and Goal situation inside of 3 minutes, which set up the Book and Boykin’s late-game heroics.
But it was Book who was the real hero in this one. The quarterback finished the game 14-of-19 for 164 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. It wasn’t a perfect showing from Book, but the Irish offense had a different swagger with Book at the helm. Book made his mistakes, but likely showed the Irish coaching staff enough to put him in the conversation for Notre Dame’s starter next season.
The win is a capstone to a successful Irish season and helps clear the bad taste left from losses to Miami and Stanford in November and the off-field issues that dominated headlines in December. The Irish will look to build off this win and its recruiting success to reload for 2018.
Whether Ian Book or Brandon Wimbush is part of that reload remains to be seen.