TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — For a few seconds, it looked as if Everett Golson and Notre Dame had another streak-busting victory, this time against the defending national champions from Florida State.
As the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish celebrated an apparent go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, flags flew.
The call: offensive pass interference. The touchdown was gone.
Golson’s last pass was intercepted in the back of the end zone, nowhere close to a receiver. After leading for most of the game, the Irish lost 31-27 to the Seminoles on Saturday night, unable to seal the deal on another streak-busting victory.
Golson still looked a little shocked after and refused to complain about the penalty.
“That’s something you can’t argue with. You just have to play through it,” he said. “That last play on fourth-and-18, I probably could have made a play there, so that’s what I’m more disappointed in.”
Golson was 31 for 52 for 313 yards and three touchdowns, an effort worthy of keeping him in the Heisman Trophy discussion. And Notre Dame will likely stay in contention for the College Football Playoff if it keeps winning. But ultimately Jameis Winston and the Seminoles had just enough to remain unbeaten and run their winning streak to 23.
On its last drive, Notre Dame faced fourth-and-18 from its 43 after a sack by Terrance Smith. Golson bought a little time, rolled right and found Corey Robinson right at that first down marker for a first down, silencing the Florida State crowd for a moment.
Golson did it again with a 17-yard pass to Will Fuller that gave the Irish a first down at the 20. Then a Golson run up the middle made it first-and-goal Irish at the 8 with 45 second left.
Florida State shut down a screen on first down and broke up a slant on second. Golson faced a huge blitz and complete to Prosise for 6. On fourth-and-ball game, Golson found Robinson all by himself, but flags flew as the Irish celebrated, and the crowd exploded when pass interference was called on C.J. Prosise, who locked up Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey in the end zone, helping Robinson get free.
I didn’t see the pass interference,” Robinson said. “I thought we got it.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he didn’t get an explanation from the officials.
“We execute that play every day. And we do it legally and that’s the way we coach it,” Kelly said. “We don’t coach illegal plays. C.J. did exactly what he’s supposed to do.”
After the game Robinson stopped to talk to his famous father, former NBA star David Robinson. The younger Robinson, at 6-foot-4, about 8 inches shorter than his dad, gestured with his hands, seemingly showing what he did on that final play. David Robinson patted his son on the shoulder and then on the hip. While Corey shook his head and rolled his eyes, his father laughed a little then gave his son a hug.
“We came in with the mindset that we were not going to back down just because they’re Florida State,” Robinson said. “We attacked them.”
Notre Dame has a long history of snapping winning streaks, including Oklahoma’s NCAA record 47-game winning streak back in 1957.
Florida State’s streak was modest by comparison, but still the best in the nation. As the Irish harassed Winston with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s blitzes and the Notre Dame offensive line opened up running lanes in Florida State’s defense in the first half, it looked as if ‘Noles streak might become seventh of at least 20 games to be halted by the Irish.
But the Seminoles had Winston. The Heisman showed off his NFL arm on Florida State’s first drive of the second half, driving the ‘Noles to a tying touchdown on 10-yard slant to Rashad Greene.
Golson and the Irish’s response: an 83-yard touchdown drive, an inside screen Will Fuller took 11 yards to the end zone.
Golson went to the locker room after the score to get an apparent leg problem checked. The junior came away a little gimpy after scrambling to avoid a rush and pushing a pass to Prosise for 13 yards on the play right before the touchdown.
Sophomore backup Malik Zaire began warming up on the sideline, but before Florida State completed its second touchdown drive of the quarter and tied the score at 24, Golson had jogged back to the sideline.
He never missed a play.
Kyle Brindza’s 46-yard field goal with 11:40 left in the fourth quarter gave Notre Dame a 27-24 lead, but Winston was just about unstoppable in the second half.
The blitzes that got to him in the first, he stared down in the second half. The Irish secondary couldn’t stay with Greene, Jesus Wilson and freshman Travis Rudolph. Winston picked the Irish apart and Karlos Williams’ second short scoring run gave Florida State its first lead, 31-27, with 7:23 left in the fourth quarter.
Winston finished with 273 yards and two touchdowns.