The 2018 Citrus Bowl saw the meeting of two familiar foes in the Louisiana State University Tigers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame, led by backup quarterback Ian Book, shocked the Tigers with a comeback victory by a score of 21-17.
The Irish came out on the first play of regulation and looked to immediately dispell the notion that their offense would be one-dimensional. Brandon Wimbush dropped back and threw a deep ball to junior Equanimeous St. Brown for a 35-yard reception. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, the drive quickly stalled thereafter and a failed fourth-down conversion gave LSU the ball.
The Tigers drove down the field and looked to be picking up momentum until they reached the Notre Dame 34-yard line. Facing a third down and nine LSU quarterback Danny Etling looked towards the right side of the field where sophomore Julian Love prevented a completions, forcing the Tigers to punt.
The ensuing drive saw the infamous Notre Dame running game begin to roll as Josh Adams picked up a first down on third and short before reeling off 10 more yards several plays later. Wimbush then broke away from defenders for a 31-yard run that put Notre Dame into Tiger territory. After several questionable play calls including an Ian Book pass, Notre Dame was again forced to punt.
The punt saw redshirt freshman punter Zach Von Rosenberg flirt with disaster as he watched the snap sail through his hands. Luckily for LSU, Von Rosenberg was able to stay with the ball and get a punt away.
The first quarter ended with neither team being able to muster any offense. Though one quarter, the two household name running backs were on totally different paces. Adams had totaled just 13 yards on eights attempts while 8 attempts, 13 yards while Derrius Guice had racked up 47 yards on just five attempts.
The second quarter opened with a punt for the Fighting Irish before the LSU offense suddenly erupted from its’ slumber. The Tigers took 12 plays to drive downfield to the half-yard mark before facing a fourth and goal. After initially lining up to go for it, a false start penalty swayed LSU to attempt a field goal. Connor Culp shanked a 22-yarder, keeping the game scoreless.
After again being unable to sustain anything of substance on offense, Notre Dame was forced to punt. The Tigers looked as if they too would stall out twice and third and long situations before Etling piloted first downs. Finally, the Irish defense held, forcing another field goal attempt by LSU. The Tigers ran out a new kicker in Jack Gonsoulin but it would not matter. This time from 37 yards, the Tigers again failed to connect.
In Sunday’s press conference, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron mentioned the kickers and the role they may play.
“We don’t know who our field goal kicker is, we haven’t made that decision yet. So there’s a lot of question marks for us in our special teams. And like Coach said, we have a very good punt return game. We’re fully excited about it. But it’s going to be a challenge, and it’s going to be a big part of the game.”
Notre Dame inserted Book back into the game on the following drive and it provided the missing spark for the Fighting Irish. On a drive that included a long third-down conversion via a quarterback keeper, Notre Dame was finally able to break the tie on a Justin Yoon field goal.
The Tigers would put up one final field goal before the end of regulation in a final attempt to subdue Notre Dame. Miles Boykin had other plans.
When Notre Dame received the ball for the final time in the game trailing by a score of 17-14, Book found a streaking Boykin who made a one handed snag before breaking two tackles in route to a 55-yard touchdown.
“It was an awesome opportunity, such a surreal moment, that last play with Miles,”said Book. “Ten wins, it feels great. It’s a great way to start off the new year and I’m excited to start off this new year with a team that I love.”
The score sealed an impressive comeback victory and capped off a big turnaround year for Notre Dame.