Blustery, Bland Start but Notre Dame Prevails in Citrus Bowl 21-17
By Kara Owens
Just when I was ready to write the story and crown the MVP for the Overton’s Citrus Bowl, a Notre Dame redshirt freshman quarterback named Ian Book reminds you not to underestimate those hungry to play. This cool and calm quarterback connected with wide receiver Miles Boykin in the last minutes of the game. Boykin’s spectacular one-handed catch was a picture-perfect play and earned him the distinguished MVP Award. It also left the LSU Tigers 1:28 seconds to respond to the seven-point deficit they surprisingly found themselves in, late in the 4th quarter. They gave it their best shot but missed the target 21-17.
Notre Dame started the game with their more experienced quarterback Brandon Wimbush. His first throw looked promising, with a completed 35-yard pass to wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. There were short glimmers of hope for both teams but those moments dissipated quickly. The first quarter ended with both Notre Dame and LSU scoring zero points and fans wondering if sitting in the wet, bitter-cold was the way to start the New Year!
The temperatures continued to fall in the 2nd quarter, and we were all craving some hot offensive action. LSU’s quarterback Danny Etling managed to take a little over seven minutes off the clock and completed 12 plays that covered 59 yards. Kicker Connor Culp had the opportunity to put the first points of the game on the board but missed a 22-yard field goal. Shortly after that, another missed field goal attempt for the Tigers. This time a different kicker Jack Gonsoulin missed a 37-yard field goal that went wide left. It is easy to brush off the importance of these six points at the beginning of the game. Sadly, by the end, we would all know how costly losing those points would be for LSU.
Maybe the most impactful decision occurred before the game, Coach Brian Kelly’s decision to play both quarterbacks. Wimbush had been suffering from migraines earlier in the week and missed a couple of days of practice, so he decided to use the one-two punch.
Freshman Ian Book played a complete series and was able to give his talented kicker Justin Yoon a chance to make good on a 46-yard field goal, giving the Irish a 3-0 lead heading into the locker room. Still, neither team was able to put the ball in the end zone or give their fans an offensive drive that looked Bowl Game worthy.
LSU received the second half kickoff, and all were wondering when star running back Derrius Guice was going to become the game changer. LSU is a breeding ground for unbelievably talented running backs, and Guice has proven to be no different. His scrappy but graceful style displays time, and again he can float like a butterfly but sting like a bee. In the first half of the game, he had 7 touches for 47 yards, but one could argue he didn’t have the ball enough.
Early in the 3rd quarter, LSU’s Blake Ferguson recovered a Notre Dame fumble, and this proved to be the turning point in the game for Guice. This guy was ready to write his MVP resume right before our eyes and show NFL scouts why he may be worth a second look. The fumble recovery led to the first touchdown run by Guice and gave the LSU Tigers their first lead. More importantly, kicker Jack Gonsoulin’s extra point kick was good. Just when it was starting to get exciting the 3rd quarter ended. LSU-7 Notre Dame-6
Guice wasn’t done! He was able to give his team an 8-point lead early in the 4th quarter when he ran the ball in for another touchdown. Finally, the game was starting to pick up the pace with LSU’s superstar running back finding yards in a well-defended game by Notre Dame.
Ian Book’s composure and his leadership shined through at the end. He answered Guice’s touchdown by throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Michael Young. Notre Dame went for the two-point conversion, but the original call was a failed attempt across the goal line. After the play went under review, Notre Dame could breathe again because the call was overturned and LSU and Notre Dame were tied at 14 all.
You simply had to keep your eyes glued to the game to see how this would end. LSU continued to do what was working. Give Guice the ball and let him grind out the yardage. He managed to get down to Notre Dame’s 1-yard line, but Ed Orgeron decided to be safe and went for a field goal, giving LSU a 3-point lead. This cautious style of play combined with the two missed field goals managed to give Notre Dame the space to write the Citrus Bowl ending in their favor.
Book & Boykin turned this bland game at the start into a surreal ending, where two players had both the talent and traits to finish! Notre Dame squeezed the Citrus and limited the Guice to defeat LSU 21-17.