No. 3 Notre Dame Pounds Florida State, 42-13
Twenty-five years ago almost to the day, the Fighting Irish walked out of Notre Dame Stadium with a 10-0 record after a 31-24 victory over No. 1 Florida State to put itself in the driver’s seat for a national title.
Once again in 2018 Notre Dame is 10-0 after toppling the Seminoles at home, 42-13. This was a far inferior Florida State unit, falling to 4-6, and this time the No. 3-ranked Irish won’t rise to No. 1 — but the national title aspirations remain alive and well.
On Senior Day, senior Dexter Williams romped for a career high 202 yards rushing on 20 carries and two touchdowns, leading a physical charge that piled up 365 yards rushing for Notre Dame. The ground game helped take some burden off an offense minus starting quarterback Ian Book, recovering from a reported rib/kidney injury. In his place, senior Brandon Wimbush started for the 16th time in his career and tossed three touchdowns passes — two to senior tight end Alize Mack — while finishing 12 of 25 for 130 yards, although two interceptions also were tossed. Wimbush added 68 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Junior defensive end Julian Okwara’s pass rush (four QB hurries) led the defensive charge, while junior safety Alohi Gilman's 10 tackles paced the Irish.
FIRST QUARTER: Notre Dame 17, Florida State 0
Top Moment: On the game’s second play, Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois’ short toss bounced off receiver Tre McKinney, with good coverage by senior linebacker Te’von Coney, and senior nickel Nick Coleman made the interception that he returned 27 yards to Florida State’s three-yard line. Two plays later, Wimbush found senior receiver Miles Boykin for a score on a three-yard back-shoulder fade for a quick 7-0 lead at the 13:45 mark.
Top Performer: Wimbush was 6 of 11 passing for 44 yards and two scores, and carried four times for 20 yards.
Stats: Notre Dame had 75 yards total offense (44 passing, 31 rushing) while Florida State had 59 (53 passing, six rushing), but the huge difference was FSU’s two turnovers that set up two Irish scores requiring only nine total yards that were covered.
Items: The second Irish possession resulted in a 14-play, 81-yard drive that took 5:03 and resulted in a six-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal to leaping senior Mack with 6:21 left. Notre Dame converted four third downs in that situation, each of which required at least four yards to move the chains.
The third Irish score, a 26-yard field goal by senior Justin Yoon, was set up when junior end Ade Ogundeji forced a fumble by running back Cam Akers that junior end Daelin Hayes recovered at the FSU 15-yard line. It was 17-0 with 5:53 still remaining in the quarter.
SECOND QUARTER: Notre Dame 32, Florida State 6
Top Moment: Following a 17-yard run by Wimbush to convert a third-and-10, Williams exploded through the middle for a 58-yard touchdown romp for a 25-6 lead at 11:37. The extra point was blocked.
Top Performer: With a pass pressure on third down to help end one drive and a half-sack on another to stop another, Hayes led an Irish defense that kept the Seminoles at bay for the majority of the first half.
Stats: Notre Dame’s 37 first-half plays featured 18 rushes for 141 yards and 10 of 19 passing for 111 yards and three scores by Wimbush, a 252-yard total.
Florida State ran 43 plays for 183 yards, 15 of 27 passing for 134 yards and 16 rushes for 49 yards.
Items: Florida State reduced its deficit to 17-6 when Akers scored on a direct snap that resulted in an eight-yard score — but the extra point was blocked by senior tackle Jerry Tillery that junior cornerback Julian Love returned for two points and a 19-6 advantage with 13:17 left. The FSU drive covered 75 yards on 16 plays and took 7:36.
An incomplete pass by Francois on fourth-and-six at the Notre Dame 33 ended an FSU drive with 8:08 remaining.
The Irish followed that stop with a 67-yard touchdown march that featured 21- and 17-yard completions to senior receiver Chris Finke, the latter on third-and-six, and then another outstanding leaping catch by Mack in the end zone with 6:18 left to expand the margin to 32-6.
THIRD QUARTER: Notre Dame 35, Florida State 13
Top Moment: Trailing 35-13, Florida State had second-and-goal from the Notre Dame one-yard line, but running back Jacques Patrick failed to gain and then lost three yards on the next two plays. On fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line, pass pressure by Okwara forced a hurried throw by Francois that fell incomplete.
Top Performer: Williams was the workhorse during the quarter with 11 carries for 83 yards.
Stats: Notre Dame through three quarters had 368 yards total offense (238 rushing, 130 passing), while the Seminoles had 263 (168 passing and 95 rushing)
Items: On the third play of the second half, Wimbush tossed a pass that cornerback Stanford Samuels intercepted and returned 10 yards to the Notre Dame 30-yard line. Four plays later, Akers tallied his second touchdown on a seven-yard run to pull within 32-13 at the 13:35 mark.
Notre Dame answered with a 56-yard drive that was capped by a 35-yard Yoon field goal and a 35-13 lead with 10:08 remaining.
Finke had a 28-yard punt return to the Irish 46-yard line, but an interception by FSU linebacker Dontavious Jackson ended that threat three plays later.
FOURTH QUARTER: Notre Dame 42, Florida State 13
Top Moment: After the goal-line stand in the third quarter, Notre Dame marched 97 yards in 12 plays, all on the ground, concluding with a 32-yard Williams scamper for the score and the 42-13 advantage with 13:10 left.
Top Performer: Williams' final carry in Notre Dame Stadium was the touchdown that continued a stellar senior year.
Stats: Notre Dame finished with 495 yards total offense (365 rushing, 130 passing), while Florida State had 322. Francois completed only 23 of his 47 passes for 216 yards and an interception.
Items: FSU drove to a first down at the Notre Dame 22-yard line, but two false start penalties, three incomplete passes and a 19-yard completion on fourth-and-20 gave the ball back to the Irish at its three-yard line at the 6:45 mark, and it ran out the clock from there.