NASHVILLE, TN (WAFB) - Notre Dame beat LSU 31-28 on a field goal as time expired in the Music City Bowl. Leonard Fournette scored three of LSU's touchdowns.
After a string of gloomy days in Nashville, Tennessee, the sun was out over LP Stadium for kickoff of LSU vs. Notre Dame. The official attendance for the game was 60,419. The game was all about offense. LSU finished with 436 yards of total offense and Notre Dame had 449. The Tigers had trouble stopping the Fighting Irish on third down, as Notre Dame converted 11-of-17 third downs.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was concerned about the Tigers' physical offensive attack, which featured running backs Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and others. The Fighting Irish gave up lots of yards on the ground this season, especially in the last five games, and the trend continued in the bowl game.
The Tigers rushed for 285 yards on 38 carries for a 7.5 yards-per-rush average. Fournette was the workhorse, toting the rock 11 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns. One of those was an 89-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which was a record for the longest run in a bowl game in LSU history. Fournette also set an LSU rushing record for the most yards by a freshman in school history. He finished with 1,034 yards. The freshman running back finally broke free on a kickoff, returning one 100 yards for another touchdown and another Music City Bowl record.
Quarterback Anthony Jennings continued to struggle to start the game. He completed only 2-of-5 passes in the first half for a measly 18 yards. However, on the first play from scrimmage to start the second half, Jennings connected with wide receiver John Diarse for a 75-yard touchdown. That, too, was a Music City Bowl record. He finished completing 7-of-14 passes for 151 yards and the one touchdown.
"There was some indecision we'd like to have back," head coach Les Miles said. "But there were some crisp throws also. Spring ball will be very competitive."
There was controversy on the second-to-last play of the first half. LSU faked a field goal on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line. Third-string quarterback Brad Kragthorpe was the holder. After getting the snap, Kragthorpe ran the ball and dove for the end zone. The ruling on the field was that the Notre Dame defense stopped him at the 1-yard line. The play was reviewed and many who saw it in slow-motion thought Kragthorpe extended the ball across the goal line, but the officials announced the ruling on the field stood.
LSU was looking to end the season on a high note, but the loss gave the Tigers a 8-5 record. They started 0-2 in the SEC and there were questions about whether the team would even reach a bowl game. LSU is expected to be ranked in the top 10 and challenge for one of those four coveted playoff spots, which could lead to a shot at a national championship.
There are many questions about the team, particularly with defensive coordinator John Chavis. He is being courted by SEC West foe Texas A&M and has not yet signed an extension with LSU.
"I don't know how it looks. And frankly, I don't give a damn," Miles answered on whether Chavis leaving for Texas A&M looks bad.
Miles added he is going to make another pitch to Chavis, because "We like 'The Chief.'" Chavis refused to answer any questions about his future.
It serves as one very big issue the Tigers have to take care of in the coming days.
Notre Dame K Kyle Brindza made a 32-yard field goal - LSU 28, Notre Dame 31 (4th Qtr)
Notre Dame WR C.J. Prosise ran for 50-yard TD - LSU 28, Notre Dame 28 (3rd Qtr)
LSU RB Leonard Fournette ran for 89-yard TD - LSU 28, Notre Dame 21 (3rd Qtr)
LSU QB Anthony Jennings passed to WR John Diarse for 75-yard TD - LSU 21, Notre Dame 21 (3rd Qtr)
Notre Dame RB Tarean Folston ran for 6-yard TD - LSU 14, Notre Dame 21 (2nd Qtr)
LSU RB Leonard Fournette returns kickoff 100 yards for TD - LSU 14, Notre Dame 14 (2nd Qtr)
Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire ran for 7-yard TD - LSU 7, Notre Dame 14 (2nd Qtr)
LSU RB Leonard Fournette ran for 8-yard TD - LSU 7, Notre Dame 7 (1st Qtr)
Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire passed to WR William Fuller for 12-yard TD - LSU 0, Notre Dame 7 (1st Qtr)