ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida State rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit and used a pair of touchdown passes by E.J. Manuel and two field goals from Dustin Hopkins to slip past Notre Dame 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Thursday night.
The victory was FSU’s fourth straight bowl win. FSU receiver Rashad Greene, who caught one of Manuel’s touchdown passes, was named the game’s MVP.
The No. 25 Seminoles started four freshman on their offensive line and gave up five sacks, but FSU’s defense picked off Notre Dame quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix three times and also piled up four sacks of its own.
Notre Dame shuffled between Rees and Hendrix throughout the game, but both struggled to get the Irish points inside the red zone.
After some stagnant offense on both sides in the first half, FSU trailed 14-0 early in the third quarter before finding some momentum through the air.
The Seminoles closed the gap to 14-9 with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Bert Reed to open the fourth quarter, but failed on their 2-point conversion attempt.
They took the lead just 1:32 later after Nigel Bradham intercepted a Hendrix pass inside the Notre Dame 20 to set up an 18-yard touchdown catch by Greene to make it 15-14 with just over 13 minutes to play following another failed 2-point try.
The Seminoles added their second field goal of the game a series later.
Notre Dame punted on its next touch, but pinned FSU inside its own 5 and forced a quick three-and-out.
A poor punt by the Seminoles and a face mask penalty on the return gave the Irish the ball on the FSU 28 with 3:56 to play, but Rees was picked off in the end zone with 2:48 left and FSU was able to all but run out the remaining clock.
Notre Dame took a 14-0 lead on its opening drive of the second half by capping a 9-play, 62-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Rees to Michael Floyd. Floyd fought Seminoles cornerback Greg Reid for the ball on to play, juggling it multiple times before finally getting his hands around it.
Reid stayed down on the turf after the play and left the game with concussion symptoms.
FSU bounced right back with a 77-yard kickoff return by Lamarcus Joyner, but Notre Dame’s fifth sack of the night on Manuel helped force the Seminoles to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Hopkins.
Notre Dame’s defense was responsible for the lone score of the first half.
The Irish forced a quick punt on FSU’s opening possession of the game, and used a 41-yard return by Floyd and a series of runs by Cierre Wood to set up a first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
But the threat ended just a play later when Rees was picked off by Joyner in the end zone.
The Seminoles’ ensuing drive lasted only one play itself, with Devonta Freeman fumbling a pass from Manuel into the hands of Notre Dame safety Zeke Motta, who then returned it 29 yards for the touchdown.
Both offenses struggled to find any traction in the opening 30 minutes.
Along with each team’s turnovers, Florida State’s offense gained only 104 total yards to Notre Dame’s 91.
The Seminoles also failed to covert on any of their seven third-down attempts, while allowing four sacks. Notre Dame safety Jamoris Slaughter was responsible for two of them, tying a bowl record.
FSU’s special teams didn’t fair too much better, coming up a yard short on a fake punt run midway through second quarter.