Year two of the Brian Kelly era ends with the same record as year one: 8-5.
Florida State rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit and used a pair of touchdown passes by E.J. Manuel and two field goals from Dustin Hopkins to slip past Notre Dame 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Thursday night.
The No. 25 Seminoles started four freshman on their offensive line and gave up five sacks, but FSU's defense picked off Notre Dame quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix three times and also piled up four sacks of its own.
"The turnovers were, again, the large reason for us not being able to win this football game', and, and it's been the case all year," Kelly explained afterwards. It started in South Florida, and it continued to show itself throughout the entire year. We know what we need to do. We've already talked about it, and players that are going to be back for the 2012 football season will be committed to getting that end done."
Notre Dame shuffled between Rees and Hendrix throughout the game, but both struggled to get the Irish points inside the red zone. In fact, Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead into halftime on a defensive touchdown. Manti Te'o forced a fumble and Zeke Motta returned it for a score.
"It's the most frustating," Rees said of the offense's lack of production. "The defense playing so well and you want to do your part and make sure they know you have their back, especially when they are playing so well. It's a team game and the offense had to be better tonight."
Notre Dame's only offensive score came on a Rees to Michael Floyd touchdown in the 3rd quarter that made it 14-0. Floyd's grab was incredible juggling catch in the end. He injured his chest on the play and had to eventually come out of the game. Floyd said he's still not quite sure what's wrong.
In what was his final game at Notre Dame, Floyd said it was frustrating not being able to help his teammates in the 4th quarter. He says he certainly didn't want to end his career without a win.
The Irish defense was fantastic for three quarters and that's something Notre Dame can bank on moving forward. But it's still difficult for captain and safety Harrison Smith to end his career like this.
"That's what I'll take away is how we fought but at the end of the day, there is no prize for 2nd place," Smith explained. "There's no prize for losing. It wasn't win and that's not good enough at the end of the day but I will remember playing with these guys."
The victory was FSU's fourth straight bowl win. FSU receiver Rashad Greene, who caught one of Manuel's touchdown passes, was named the game's MVP.