Kyle Brindza

Fournette’s 2015 Heisman campaign deflated by Irish last-second FG for Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl win

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Notre Dame (8-5) celebrated a 31-28 victory over LSU (8-5) after kicker Kyle Brindza sent a game-winning, 32-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired Tuesday in the Franklin American Mortage Music City Bowl. Notre Dame had to battle to score the victory.

The second half got off to a fast start for the LSU Tigers. John Diarse caught a pass over the middle of the field after Notre Dame’s secondary got sucked in for what they thought would be a run by quarterback Anthony Jennings. Diarse ran down field for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the second half, which also tied the game at 21-21 after the Tigers were the victim of a controversial ending to the first half prevented LSU from scoring a touchdown.

Later in the third quarter, LSU’s star running back Leonard Fournette once again broke off a big play. This time the big play came courtesy of an 89-yard run, on the first play from scrimmage after Notre Dame punted away to the Tigers and downed the football at the 11-yard line. It took just 12 seconds for the long touchdown run. every time Fournette touched the football, something explosive was probable to happen. the freshman running back carried the football 11 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns, and he added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half.

This time, LSU took its first lead of the game with the score, but Notre Dame responded four plays later. C.J. Prosise broke off a 50-yard touchdown run and reached for the end zone down the right sideline to put the Irish on the board, tying the game at 28-28 with a little more than four minutes to play in the third quarter.

Heading into the 2015 season, LSU’s Fournette will very likely be one of the preseason Heisman Trophy hopefuls. He struck the Heisman pose early in the 2014 season, but next season he will be a legitimate Heisman contender, and he will carry the load for the Tigers after setting the freshman rushing record at the school.

Notre Dame’s offense should also be ready to grow with Malik Zaire under center. The sophomore will be a junior and will be the likely starting quarterback for the Irish. As long as he protects the football and avoids making poor decisions, as he showed in the Music City Bowl, then the Irish should have a decent offense ready to go. But will Brian Kelly be around?

The coaching carousel may have come to a stop at the college level, but with the NFL carousel just getting started there will likely be a rumor or two connecting Kelly to a possible NFL gig. As long as Kelly sticks in South Bend, a very realistic scenario, then the Irish will prepare for a challenging schedule that includes home games against Texas, USC, Georgia Tech and road games at Stanford and a neutral site game against Boston College.

This was the second straight bowl victory for Notre Dame, and the first loss suffered by the SEC in bowl play this year. LSU has now lost three of its last four bowl games. Notre Dame head coach Kelly is now 5-3 in bowl games, and 3-2 in bowl games at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame kicks way to Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers

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Tommy Rees passed for 319 yards in his final game for Notre Dame, but it was the leg of kicker Kyle Brindza who helped Notre Dame put away Rutgers in a 29-16 victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Irish defense was tested at times by Rutgers but managed to come up with the big stops and forced three turnovers (not including an interception on the final play of the game) to capture a win in Yankee Stadium.

Just hours before kickoff the Irish suspended running back George Atkinson III for a violation of team rules. Tarean Folston got the start for the Irish anyway and led Notre Dame with 73 rushing yards and a touchdown. Cam McDaniel also contributed with 73 yards as Notre Dame found a rhythm on the ground in the second half to pull away from Rutgers, who ends the season with a 6-7 record. The real player of the game for Notre Dame was place kicker Brindza, who successfully kicked five of his six field goal attempts.

Both programs will now enter an offseason centered around changes for the program. Rutgers is off to join the Big Ten while Notre Dame will remain independent in football but begin a new scheduling agreement with the ACC. The Irish will also have some shoes to fill on the coaching staff and on the defensive line.

Notre Dame’s 2014 outlook could be a bit more promising after taking a step back from the national stage in 2013. Quarterback Everett Golson will give the offense a spark if he returns in good shape starting this spring. Golson’s absence from the team this season due to academic suspension threw a curveball at the Irish heading in to the year, but Notre Dame has some jobs to fill before even thinking about what the roster will look like. Notre Dame must replace both coordinators this offseason after both were hired away to serve as head coaches elsewhere. The defense will also lose some key players with Louis Nix III on his way to the NFL and Stephon Tuitt potentially joining him.

Rutgers will now begin to make the transition in to the Big Ten. Rutgers will join Maryland as new members of the conference next summer and begin competing in the Big Ten’s new eastern division along with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana. Rutgers will have their work cut out for them in their debut in the new conference. Rutgers will make their Big Ten debut at home against Penn State and will also host Michigan and Wisconsin. The Scarlet Knights will also visit Ohio State and Michigan State.