Notre Dame nips LSU with late touchdown

Published 8:24 pm Monday, January 1, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Notre Dame receiver Miles Boykin lived up to Brian Kelly’s expectations.
The Fighting Irish’s head coach told the junior during a practice leading up to Monday’s Citrus Bowl game against LSU that Boykin was going to win the MVP trophy.

Boykin made not only one of the top plays of this bowl season but one of the more memorable catches in Notre Dame bowl history. He made a dynamic one-handed grab and raced down the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown with 1:28 remaining to give the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish a 21-17 victory over No. 16 LSU.

The win by Notre Dame (10-3) is its first in a New Year’s Day bowl since the 1994 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M and snaps a nine-game skid in January postseason games.

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LSU (9-4) lost for the third time in four Citrus Bowl appearances since 2004. It had won its last two bowl games, including last year’s Citrus Bowl against Louisville.

“He looked at me like I had two heads. But I felt like he had a chance,” said Kelly about his prediction. “He’s got the ability, if we could get him the football. And Ian got him the football and Miles made a great individual play and, lo and behold, I’ve got the MVP sitting next to me.”

Boykin had only nine catches for 151 yards and a TD coming into the game, but he got his first start after starters Chase Claypool (shoulder injury) and Kevin Stephenson (suspension) were ruled out.

Boykin showed off his wide-catch radius on what proved to be the game-winning play. On first-and-10 from the Irish 45, Ian Book lofted a pass up the right sideline that Boykin was able to snag with his right hand at the LSU 33, eluding cornerback Donte Jackson. Boykin then broke a tackle attempt by Jackson at the LSU 26 before finding a clear path to the end zone.

“Ian put it in a place where only I could reach it,” said Boykin, who finished with three receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. “It was a great pass and I was just lucky enough to pull it down on one hand. I’ve got pretty big hands.”

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said that Boykin made a great grab but lamented his defense’s other struggles on the play.

“We had our best cover guy on him (Jackson) but he’s a big receiver,” he said. “We had two guys on him and missed the tackle. That’s what I’m mostly disappointed with.”

Book entered the game in the second quarter after Brandon Wimbush struggled moving the offense. The sophomore was 14-of-19 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Book’s first touchdown came early in the fourth quarter. With Notre Dame trailing 14-6, he found Michael Young in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard score. Josh Adams then scored on a two-point conversion to tie it.

“It was an awesome opportunity, such a surreal moment that last play with Miles,” Book said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. We just had to stay composed and do what we have been doing since January.”

The game lacked drama the first three quarters. It was scoreless until four seconds remained in the first half when a Justin Yoon 46-yard field goal gave Notre Dame a 3-0 halftime lead. The last time Notre Dame played a scoreless half was in 1998 against Southern California.

LSU missed two field goals in the first half, a 22-yarder by Connor Culp and a 37-yarder by Jack Gonsoulin.

LSU’s Danny Etling was 19-of-33 passing for 229 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns to Derrius Guice. Guice, who was the MVP of last year’s game, had 98 yards on 21 carries.

Guice, who said after the game that he hasn’t made a decision on whether to leave early for the NFL draft, joined Charles Alexander, Dalton Hilliard, Kevin Faulk and Leonard Fournette as the only players in school history to rush for more than 3,000 yards. He has 3,065 yards in 36 games.

The Tigers had it twice on the Irish 1 and managed just three points. In the second quarter they had fourth-and-goal before being called for a false start which resulted in a missed 22-yard field goal by Culp.

In the fourth quarter a Guice 2-yard reception put the Tigers in another fourth-and-goal at the 1 with 2:03 remaining. Orgeron decided to go for a 17-yard field goal by Gonsoulin, which gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead and put the game in the hands of their defense.

LSU outgained Notre Dame 399 yards to 370. D.J. Chark led LSU’s receivers with five catches for 63 yards, and tight end Foster Moreau caught four passes for 64 yards. Guice had three receptions for 24 yards, including the two TDs covering 20 and 2 yards.

“We shot ourselves in the foot too many times,” Etling said. “We executed pretty well every possession, but made one or two bad plays, false starts that put us five yards back and all the sudden we’re in a tougher situation.”

After Gonsoulin’s field goal, the Irish needed just three plays to go 73 yards for the game-winning touchdown. LSU had four sacks and forced two turnovers, but was shredded on two big plays.
Book threw incomplete on the first play, then hit Chris Finke for 18 yards to move the ball to the Notre Dame 45. The deep touchdown to Book followed.

Notre Dame improved to 18-18 all-time in bowl games, and pulled even with LSU at 2-2 in head-to-head postseason meetings. LSU beat the Irish in the 1997 Independence and 2006 Sugar Bowls, while Notre Dame has won the last two meetings Monday and in the 2014 Music City Bowl.