2011 Champs Sports Bowl: FSU Snatches a Win Away from Notre Dame

Tom PerryCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2011

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 29: Defensive tackle Cameron Erving #98 of the Florida State Seminoles signals a missed field goal by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Champs Sports Bowl December 29, 2011 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.  FSU won 21 - 7. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Just when I was starting to believe in Notre Dame, the Irish quarterbacks imploded.

For a half, it looked like we were finally seeing the resurgence of Notre Dame football. The Irish were on their way to an impressive victory over Florida State in front of 68,305 in Thursday’s Champ Sports Bowl.

However, after building a 14-0 lead, Notre Dame allowed FSU to score 18 unanswered second-half points for the Seminoles' 25th bowl victory.

So FSU now goes into the offseason on a high note and will more than likely be highly ranked to start 2012. The Seminoles’ youth, especially on the offensive line, was a glaring concern all night. But wins like this one help build confidence.

Florida State, who improved to 9-4, should be a serious ACC contender in 2012.

It will start with FSU’s fast and hard-hitting defense. After the Oklahoma loss, the Noles’ defense appeared soft. That image changed against Notre Dame, especially with the youngsters like Lamarcus Joyner.

Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have more questions than he hoped heading into his third year in South Bend.

Kelly committed to Tommy Rees after the season-opening loss to South Florida and stuck by the talented, but inconsistent quarterback ever since. Even when Andrew Hendrix played better, Rees remained the No. 1 guy.

That may be different now, especially after another 8-5 season for the Irish.

Rees threw two interceptions, including an early red-zone pick. One play later the Notre Dame defense, which played extremely well, made sure the interception didn’t hurt. Manti Te’o caused a fumble that was returned 29 yards by Zeke Motta for a touchdown.

As much as I want to believe Rees is a big-time quarterback, he proved once again that Kelly and the Irish can’t stick with him if they want to win big.

So it’s time to go with Hendrix or even freshman Everett Golson, who didn’t see any playing time this fall.

Hendrix wasn’t perfect against FSU. He was picked off early in the fourth quarter deep in Notre Dame territory, and just two plays later Florida State scored on an E.J. Manuel touchdown pass for its first lead 15-14.

While Kelly has enjoyed a great deal of success as a coach, it just seems his “get-in-the-face” of the quarterback approach isn’t working that well in South Bend. Both Hendrix and Rees looked shell-shocked when they came over to the sidelines after a bad play.

Kelly was much calmer than he was after the first two games of the season, but you can see his face turning red and it looks like he’s about to explode. Hey, Brian, try coaching more and yelling less.

It’s never a good idea to put too much credence in a bowl-game performance, but this result seems to be a telling sign of the direction of these two programs.