A rollercoaster start to the 2021 season saw a white-knuckle finish, with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish picking up a dicey 41-38 overtime victory over the Florida State Seminoles. In the Sunday night battle, the Irish scored easily on their first drive but found themselves trailing twice before jumping out to a deceptively comfortable 38-20 advantage in the third quarter.
That seemed to be enough until Florida State ran off 18 unanswered fourth-quarter points, reaching the Notre Dame 25 with less than 90 seconds left. A field goal sent it into overtime, where the Seminoles missed a field goal opportunity, something that the Irish avoided when Jonathan Doerer ended it with a 41-yard three-pointer.
Below are some key facets of the tense win:
Early Momentum Jolt
During Florida State’s first two offensive series of the game, their offense was an exercise in futility, with the Seminoles managing -9 yards of offense. After one play of the subsequent series, that trend appeared to be continuing but abruptly came to an end when Jashaun Corbin broke off an 89-yard scoring run to tie the game.
That lightning bolt stunned Notre Dame, which did little in their next two series and then allowed Florida State to take the lead on a four-play, 45-yard drive. Trailing on enemy turf helped awaken the Irish, who managed a field goal to slice their deficit to four points and then converted a Kyle Hamilton pickoff into a touchdown. That gave them the lead back with under three minutes left in the first half.
Jack Coan, New Man in Town
Jack Coan took snaps behind center for the first time as a member of the Irish and had a big night that was a model of efficiency, completing 26 of 35 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns. His one interception could be excused, considering it was a desperation pass at the end of regulation. However, he did miss on a few underthrown passes during the first half.
Despite this being Coan’s first game with the team, the game plan relied heavily on the passing game, with the Notre Dame running game managing just 65 yards on 35 carries for a paltry 1.9 average. He spread his four touchdown tosses around to four different players, though his favorite target on the night was tight end Michael Mayer with nine grabs for 120 yards. Mayer’s one score saw him wide open on the first series of the game.
Florida State had plenty of sloppy moments during the contest, with their nine penalties for 54 yards. Yet Notre Dame saw three apparent turnovers by the Seminoles disappear, which resulted in them losing a touchdown. It also saw Florida State exploit a second chance with a touchdown for their second lead.
The first came when Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis appeared to fumble, with Irish defender Isaiah Foskey returning it for a score. However, Travis’ knee was ruled down. The Seminoles then recovered their own fumble in their territory late in the first half and fumbled the second half kickoff. The latter case ruled the return man down, with Florida State scoring on a 60-yard bomb.
Kyle Hamilton in Charge
Any thought that safety Kyle Hamilton was going to live off the preseason hype that had been surging around him were put to rest, with the veteran picking up a pair of interceptions on the night. In both instances, the picks were converted into touchdowns, which turned out to be vital factors in the win. The first ended with Coan connecting with Joe Wilkins on a score in the second quarter, while the latter had Kyren Williams reaching the end zone on one of his six catches.
The Penalty Parade
Opening games tend to see more flags being thrown, with the Irish and Seminoles reinforcing that perception by combining for 14 penalties in the game. Five of those were assessed to Notre Dame, including two handed out to offensive linemen Zeke Correll and Blake Fisher for a false start and holding, respectively. The most needless penalty of the group came on Hamilton’s second interception when he took off his helmet and drew a 15-yard personal foul. That faux pas was erased when the Irish turned the pick into a score.
Next Up for Notre Dame Football
Notre Dame returns home on Saturday afternoon for what should be a victory over the Toledo Rockets. The Irish have never lost to a MAC school before and don’t figure to start in this game in which they’ll enter as heavy favorites. Both teams enter the contest with 1-0 records, though Toledo’s 49-10 pounding on their home field of Norfolk State shouldn’t be seen as any type of indicator that they’ll be able to keep up with Notre Dame.