BOWL-BOUND: Notre Dame invited to Gator Bowl vs. South Carolina

Published: Dec. 4, 2022 at 7:08 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Later, gator!

The next time we see the Fighting Irish football team take the field, it’ll be in Jacksonville, Fla., against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Dec. 30.

Bowl game announcements rolled out on Sunday, including this year’s College Football Playoff which will feature Georgia, Michigan, TCU, and Ohio State.

But for the Irish, the focus now turns their SEC opponent to close the year. This will be just the fifth time in the two programs’ histories that they’ve faced each other, and the first matchup since 1984.

Meanwhile, it will be Notre Dame’s fourth appearance in the Gator Bowl, where they’re 1-2 all-time. The last played in the Gator Bowl in 2003 in a loss to NC State under head coach Tyrone Willingham.

Present-day, the Irish finished their first full regular season under head coach Marcus Freeman with an 8-4 record. Freeman took over the Irish coaching job prior to last season’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.

The media heard from Freeman on Sunday as he prepares to patrol the sidelines for his second bowl game as a head coach.

“I can’t tell you how excited we are to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl and to play a great opponent in South Carolina,” Freeman said. “We’re all college football fans, as am I, and to see what they’ve done to finish off their season has been remarkable. So, on behalf of our football program, our players, (and) I’m sure the fans, we’re excited to be able to play South Carolina on December 30th.”

The No. 21 Irish were a hot commodity this bowl season, as two separate bowls were reportedly in a bidding war to get Notre Dame. In the end, the Gator Bowl won out over the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

The Irish will play in their 3rd NFL stadium this season when they head to TIAA Bank Field — the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their opponent, however, won’t have to travel too far. Just about 300 miles separate Columbia, S.C., and Jacksonville — meaning there’s going to be a lot of red and black in the stands.

South Carolina Head Coach Shane Beamer spoke about playing in the Gator Bowl — and he knows a good reason why so many fans will flock south for this one.

“Like Coach Freeman said, we’re extremely excited to be in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl,” he said. “Just before I got on, our head of tickets texted me and said these ticket sales are insane, so we’re really excited about a fantastic bowl. But obviously a lot of those ticket sales have to do with who we’re playing. Playing a great team like Notre Dame, a ton of respect for what they’ve done this year. Both of us started off 1-2 if I’m not mistaken, and both of us rebounded to where we’re at right now.”

Meanwhile, one big question remains for Notre Dame — with Drew Pyne entering the transfer portal, who will play quarterback for the Irish?

The answer is probably Tyler Buchner, who was named the starting quarterback in August before suffering a shoulder injury back in Week 2 against Marshall that ended his regular season. Freeman says Buchner is back at practice, and there are two other quarterbacks on the roster right now in Steve Angeli and Ron Powlus.

Coach Freeman addressed the big question on Sunday.

”Drew was tremendous,” he said. “You hate to see him leave and enter the portal. But as I told him in our meeting, what he has done for our program — the ability for him to step the end of Week 2 and throughout the season — he did a tremendous job. We had a conversation this week, myself and Drew, as well as many of the other players that we have on our team in terms of our intentions, my intentions into certain positions, look for transfer, and I’m always looking for ways to enhance our roster. I always want to be up front and honest, and I was with Drew and told him that we would possibly look at taking a transfer quarterback. I did not want him to leave, but he made the decision to enter the portal, and I definitely respect his decision.

“We still have three quarterbacks on the roster,” he continued. “You have Tyler Buchner, Steve Angeli, and Ron Powlus. All have been practicing the past two days that we practiced and could see any of the three play. They’ll all be ready to play.”

The Gator Bowl kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 30. You can watch the game on ESPN.

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