They Came to Play

A host of Irish competitors offered standout efforts and quality contributions in Thursday's 18-14 bowl defeat.

MVPs/Game Balls

The Irish defense played well enough to win – the 18 points allowed marked the lowest scoring total for an opponent in a victory over the Irish during the Brian Kelly era.

MVP – Manti Te'o: The junior linebacker played his best game of the season considering the opposition, finishing with 13 tackles, a half-sack on third-down to force a punt, and a forced fumble that led to Notre Dame's opening touchdown.

Te'o added a pass breakup and two stops at the line of scrimmage and was a key figure in a rush defense that yielded just 41 yards on 29 carries.

Aaron Lynch: The pass-rushing force finished with two (1.5) third-down sacks, three tackles after gains of two yards or fewer and a third-down quarterback pressure.

Jamoris Slaughter: Perhaps the key Irish defender in the contest, Slaughter posted five solo tackles, a pass break-up, and the first two sacks of his career, tying the Champs Sports Bowl record. His coverage in the slot helped limit the Seminoles to a 3 of 14 conversion effort on third-down.

Stephon Tuitt: Led the team with three official QB hurries while adding a tackle-for-loss and three stops. Tuitt's sack and two of his three hurries occurred on third-downs.

Zeke Motta: Scored the first touchdown of his career, a 29-yard fumble recovery to stake the Irish to a 7-0 first quarter advantage and added a pass breakup

One Irish player stood above the crowd during the defensive struggle:

Offensive MVP – Tyler Eifert: Six receptions for 90 yards including two third-down conversions along with gains of 34, 22, and 17 yards.

Michael Floyd: The record-setting receiver's final game in an Irish uniform produced his 38th career touchdown (37 receptions) – the latter mark tying him for 15th in college football history at game's end. Floyd's juggling (five tips) circus grab of an under thrown Tommy Rees pass gave the Irish a 14-0 lead early in the second stanza. He left the game thereafter with an upper body injury suffered on the touchdown reception. Floyd added a 41-yard punt return in the opening quarter, the longest of the Brian Kelly era and longest return yielded by FSU this season.

George Atkinson III: Notched a 37-yard kick return, the longest by an FBS foe vs. the Seminoles this season and recorded a touchdown-saving tackle vs. Florida State kick returner Lamarcus Joyner after a 77-yard return. Atkinson's special teams stop led to a four-point swing as the Irish held FSU to a field goal on the ensuing possession.

Effort of note: Harrison Smith finished with six solos including a tackle-for-loss and a 4th down stop just short of the marker on a failed fake punt by the Seminoles. Smith made played in his 51st and final game in an Irish uniform, the total tying a program record set by Sam Young (2006-2009) and (unofficially) Oliver Gibson (1990-94)

Top Irish Position Group

Mike Elston's defensive line – Among the top units throughout the season, the group featured a five-man rotation with two true freshmen: Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt; redshirt-freshmen Louis Nix, and seniors Ethan Johnson and Sean Cwynar. Of the quintet, only Johnson has exhausted his collegiate eligibility.

Over 60 snaps, Elston's group allowed just 41 rushing yards and only four rushing first downs while posting three sacks and four QB hurries.


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