NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In an entertaining back-and-forth affair, two storied programs traded blows at LP Field before Notre Dame finally topped LSU 31-28 on Tuesday in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Here are the high points from the game:
It was over when: Notre Dame kicker Kyle Brindza connected on a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Fighting Irish the win. It came at the end of an impressive final drive as Notre Dame marched 71 yards in 14 plays and took 5:41 off the clock to close it out. The Irish used both of their quarterbacks, Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, throughout the day and on the final drive.
Game ball goes to: Brian Kelly. The Notre Dame coach handled the quarterback situation masterfully, starting Zaire, who played well (96 rushing yards, 96 passing yards, two total touchdowns). Zaire started the game with an impressive scoring drive and the Irish rotated Golson (90 passing yards on 6-of-11 attempts) in throughout the day. The plan, though unorthodox, was effective overall. Kelly has won eight games in each of his first five seasons at Notre Dame.
How the game was won: The Fighting Irish were terrific offensively and controlled time of possession. Notre Dame only outgained LSU 449 yards to 436 but held a 37:00-23:00 time of possession advantage. The Irish were 11-of-17 on third downs. Defensively, they got some key stops late and got an important -- yet controversial -- stop at the end of the first half on an LSU fake field goal try. Referees ruled that LSU holder Brad Kragthorpe did not cross the goal line, and upon official review the play stood, which turned out to be a key sequence in such a close game.
Stat of the game: Leonard Fournette became only the second freshman in LSU history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and now holds the LSU freshman record for rushing yards, passing Justin Vincent. Fournette concluded the season with 1,034 rushing yards and had five games of 100 yards or more in his final nine games. On Tuesday he was a handful for Notre Dame, rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries and adding a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The only question is whether the Tigers got him the ball enough on Tuesday.
Best play: The game-winning field goal was the most important, but the most highlight-worthy plays belonged to Fournette, who gave us a couple to choose from. While his 100-yard kickoff return was impressive, we’ll go with his 89-yard touchdown run that gave the Tigers a 28-21 lead in the third quarter. It looked like two Notre Dame defenders were closing in on Fournette, only for him to maintain top speed and sprint to the end zone. What a freshman.