NOTRE DAME 42, FLORIDA STATE 13
Just what third-ranked Notre Dame doesn’t need going into its final two regular-season games: A quarterback controversy created by its coach.
“We want a full-blow controversy, front-page news,” Brian Kelly said with tongue firmly planted in cheek after watching senior backup Brandon Wimbush’s three-touchdown performance in a 42-13 victory over Florida State on Senior Night in frosty Notre Dame Stadium.
Wimbush, who led the Irish to their first three victories, got the start in place of injured junior Ian Book, who suffered a rib injury last week against Northwestern and is expected to be cleared to play next Saturday at Yankee Stadium when the Irish (10-0, No. 3 CFP) play No. 13 Syracuse.
Wimbush finished 12 of 25 for 130 yards with the scoring passes to fellow seniors — a 3-yarder to wide receiver Miles Boykin and 6- and 15-yard tosses to tight end Alize Mack.
“It was really emotional,” Wimbush said. “The six weeks were tough, but they were inspiring. The first half was one of the best I think the team has had. It felt natural. We got off to a great start.”
Fellow senior Dexter Williams ran for a career-high 202 yards and Notre Dame’s defense came up with two first-quarter turnovers by the Seminoles (4-6).
Kelly admitted it would be tough not to go back to Book, who leads the nation in completion percentage (74.5) and is sixth in passing efficiency (170.0) while passing for 1,811 and 14 touchdowns since taking over in week four.
“When the doctor says he’s cleared to go,” Kelly said after being asked when Book would reclaim his starting role. But he didn’t want to diminish Wimbush’s performance.
“Brandon wants to win for Notre Dame, for his teammates,” Kelly said. “He’s been that way whether in a starting role or as a backup. He led our football team when we needed him. It’s not an individual game but he had a big hand in it.”
With the temperature at 27 degrees — the third-coldest game at Notre Dame Stadium since the 1980 season — the Irish wore green jerseys for the fourth time in Kelly’s nine-year tenure at Notre Dame to honor their seniors.
Williams, who sat out the first four games of his senior season because of a university-imposed suspension, piled up the 202 yards on 20 carries, including TD runs of 58 and 32 yards, as Notre Dame outgained Florida State, 495-322, including 365 on the ground.
“The offensive line came out with the fight,” Williams said. “I told them to keep pushing and I’m going to do what I have to do. I just told them to give me a crease and I would make a couple runs for them.”
Wimbush, however, did throw a pair of second-half interceptions that allowed coach Willie Taggart’s Seminoles (4-6) to stay around after the Irish had taken a 32-6 halftime lead.
“We wanted to start fast,” Taggart said. “We made mistakes. Against a good football team, you can’t do that. We’re not stopping the run. It hurts you mentally.”
Cam Akers had two touchdown runs for Florida State, his second on a 7-yard run following Stanford Samuels’ interception early in the third quarter.
But Notre Dame’s defense denied points after Dontavious Jackson’s third-quarter theft when senior Drue Tranquill and junior Khalid Kareem made stops after the Seminoles had reached the Irish 1. On fourth down, quarterback Deondre Francois (23-47, 216 yards) threw incomplete.
The Seminoles, who practiced in summer-like conditions in Tallahassee before flying into wintry South Bend, saw Francois’ second pass of the game intercepted by senior Nick Coleman and Akers’ fumble recovered by junior Daelin Hayes. The Irish converted them into 10 points while taking a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
Notre Dame’s tall senior receivers dominated the banged-up Florida State secondary with three acrobatic TD catches in the first half. First, the 6-foot-4 Boykin outleaped his defender on a nicely thrown Wimbush pass. Later, the 6-foot-4¾ Mack kept one foot inbounds to give the Irish a 14-0 lead and then outleaped an FSU defender for a 15-yard TD in the second quarter that sent the Irish in at halftime up 32-6.
INDIANA 34, MARYLAND 32
Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Allen changed tactics this week.
Instead of focusing on one game, he took the big-picture approach and his players responded.
Stevie Scott’s late, long run set up Logan Justus for a 42-yard go-ahead field goal with 2:32 to play and Nile Sykes recovered a fumble in the final minute to preserve Indiana’s 34-32 come-from-behind to keep Indiana in the postseason discussion.
“I didn’t want to talk about going to bowl games, but I just said, ‘You know what, forget all that, I’m talking about bowl games’ because they’re big,” Allen said. “I’m going to call these guys out on it and say that’s what we’re playing for.”
After a slow start, the Hoosiers (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) rebounded with three touchdowns in less than 4½ minutes in the first half then closed with a flurry to snap a four-game skid. They need one more victory to become bowl-eligible.
At least they still have a chance and largely because they got contributions from each phase.
Scott carried 19 times for 103 yards and one touchdown. Peyton Ramsey went 16 of 28 with 243 yards, two TD passes and one interception and also made two shifty moves on a 35-yard scoring run in the first half.
The defense held Maryland (5-5, 3-4) to field goals on its first two trips into the red zone and forced four turnovers, including the sealing strip-sack of backup quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome.
Justus made all four extra points and two field goals, something Maryland could not. A missed extra point and a failed 2-point conversion with 4:54 left took crucial points off the board for Maryland, spoiling Anthony McFarland’s career-best day. He ran 29 times for 210 yards in relief of the injured Ty Johnson.
“This isn’t the last game of the season,” interim coach Matt Canada said. “Oh my gosh we wanted to win, we certainly could have.”
It sure wasn’t easy for the Hoosiers, either, even after they took a 31-15 lead midway through the third quarter.
Maryland charged back after Javon Leake returned a kickoff 47 yards to the Indiana 27-yard line. Two plays later, Leake scooted right and sprinted 27 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Pigrome’s 2-point conversion pass to McFarland made it 31-23.
The Terrapins closed to 31-26 on a field goal early in the fourth and retook the lead when Pigrome hooked up with Jeshaun Jones on a 15-yard TD pass.
But when Tayon Fleet-Davis’ run was stopped short of the goal line, Indiana took advantage.
Following a 23-yard kickoff return to the Indiana 40, Scott broke free down the right side of the field and went out of bounds at the Maryland 33. Four plays later, Justus made the decisive field goal.
“It was amazing,” Justus said. “I was kind of just spacing out, I was really excited.”
The Terrapins still need one win to become bowl-eligible — with a home date against No. 8 Ohio State and a trip to No. 21 Penn State remaining.
The Hoosiers still face an uphill battle to reach their 12th bowl game with next week’s trip to No. 4 Michigan before closing out the season at home against rival Purdue.
MINNESOTA 41, PURDUE 10
Known for his catchphrases, Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck had one for his defense that he repeated often in the week after firing defensive coordinator Robb Smith: sound, simple fast.
The Gophers’ maligned defense looked each part as it held Purdue to season-lows in yards and points for a 41-10 win against the Boilermakers in the cold and snow on Saturday.
Quarterback Seth Green had a touchdown rushing and passing, and redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 156 yards for Minnesota, which played its first game under interim defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.
The Gophers entered the game allowing 43.2 points and 507.7 yards per game, but linebacker Blake Cashman forced a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown as Minnesota (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) held Purdue to 233 total yards and 0 of 12 on third down.
“Sound, simple, fast,” Fleck said of the defensive philosophy. “We didn’t change our defense. The defense is the defense, and the defense works. We got back to us.”
Senior quarterback David Blough was 20 of 31 for 142 yards passing for the Boilermakers (5-5, 4-3), who entered the game second in the Big Ten scoring with 35.8 points per game.
“Really, just some selfish things that are going on that can’t happen,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “Too many people that have patted themselves on the back too much, and listened to others instead of working their tail off and finding ways to improve, and understanding that all the little things matter, and realizing that the team comes first.”
Fleck fired Smith a day after giving up 646 yards in a loss to Illinois last week. Rossi was the team’s defensive line coach this season.
The announced 21-degree weather was the third-coldest start for a game in the 10-year history of TCF Bank Stadium. A light snow fell during much of second half in which Minnesota took control.
Cashman’s fumble return for a touchdown on the opening drive started the half. The Gophers capped their first three offensive possessions of the second half with a touchdown.
“Simplified the game plan, which allows guys to play loose, play fast, give them that confidence out there,” Cashman said of Rossi’s impact. “That’s really important because I think we lost some of that against Illinois when they came out and hit us in the mouth early.”
The longest drive for Purdue, which entered with 485.2 yards per game in Big Ten play, was 30 yards until midway through the fourth quarter when Blough connected with Moore for a 9-yard touchdown pass to cap a 75-yard drive.
“They run the same coverages, a few minor changes, but we couldn’t get the run game going,” Blough said. “We weren’t on all cylinders on the pass game, and it made it easier for them to kind of tee off on us.”
After beating then-No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 on Oct. 20, Purdue went on the road and lost to Michigan State 23-13, with their previous worst offensive performance in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers were coming off a 38-36 win against then-No. 19 Iowa last week.
“I’ll take full responsibility for it,” Brohm said. “We didn’t have our guys ready to play. I think we somehow just thought we could just come out there, and the ball would bounce our way, and good things would happen.”
The Boilermakers’ chance to win the Big Ten’s West division were dashed with its loss and Northwestern’s win at Iowa. Of more concern is the bowl outlook gets cloudy as well. Purdue will need at least one win out of Wisconsin and Indiana.