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Notre Dame/LSU: They Were Heroes

Dec. 30, 2017


By John Heisler

Though the tradition-rich programs never met until 1970, Notre Dame and LSU enjoy a savory football history in both regular-season and postseason (this is the fourth time the teams have met in a bowl game) competition.

In advance of their Citrus Bowl meeting on New Year’s Day 2018, here are a dozen names from the past who earned blue ribbons for their contributions in previous Irish-Tiger outings:

1. Kyle Brindza —In the 2014 Music City Bowl in Nashville, his 32-yard field goal as time expired proved the difference in Notre Dame’s 31-28 victory over the Tigers. Injuries, defensive struggles and offensive turnovers had transformed a promising start to the 2014 Irish season into a rough finish. Notre Dame started 6-0 before losing five of its last six regular-season games, setting up a date against one of the best defensive teams in the country. The Tigers gave up only 17.5 points a game during the regular season, but Notre Dame controlled tempo, time of possession and the line of scrimmage in racking up 263 rushing yards on 51 carries in the Irish bowl win. In a game that featured five ties, Brindza broke the final one with his field goal. By holding a 37:00-to-23:00 advantage in time of possession, Notre Dame beat LSU at its own game, running 25 more plays than the Tigers. The Irish also made effective use of two quarterbacks—Everett Golson (six of 11 passing for 90 yards) and Malik Zaire (12 of 15 passing for 96 yards and one TD, 22 rushes for 96 yards and one TD).

2. Tim Brown —It came in a losing cause, but his early 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 1986 in Baton Rouge made it a 7-7 game just more than five minutes into the contest. The Irish never led against the eighth-rated Tigers, but they made it interesting late on a 14-yard scoring pass from Terry Andrysiak to D’Juan Francisco with 3:32 remaining. What might have been a tying two-point conversion pass to tight end Joel Williams failed, and LSU ran out the clock for the 21-19 triumph. The two-point defeat typified the Notre Dame season—Lou Holtz’s first at Notre Dame—as the Irish lost five games by a combined 14 points. The kickoff return for TD by Brown marked the third and last of his Irish career.

3. Autry Denson —Notre Dame came into the 1997 regular-season meeting in Death Valley at 4-5 and a noted underdog against an 11th-rated LSU club that stood 7-2 after shutting out Alabama in Tuscaloosa the previous Saturday. The Tigers came in as the fifth-best rushing team in the nation, but instead the Irish controlled the contest with a running game led by Autry Denson (92 yards and a touchdown) and Clement Stokes (another 92 yards and two TDs) as the visitors rushed for 260 net yards (to 121 for LSU). The Irish led 17-0 after one period and 24-0 after three quarters—and a rare afternoon game at Tiger Stadium saw the stands empty out by the start of the fourth quarter. In an odd quirk, this game marked the only one in Notre Dame football history in which the Irish didn’t have either a turnover or a penalty. Notre Dame prevailed 24-6 long after Denson opened the scoring with a nine-yard TD run two and a half minutes after the opening kickoff. His 34-yard run to the LSU set up Notre Dame’s final touchdown. Denson—now Notre Dame’s running back coach--later added 101 rushing yards (on 20 carries) and three receptions for 32 yards in Notre Dame’s 27-9 Independence Bowl loss six weeks later in Shreveport, Louisiana.

4. Gerry DiNardo —His involvement in the series proved complicated as he went from 1974 Notre Dame consensus All-America offensive lineman to head coach for LSU teams that three times faced his alma mater. His Tiger teams dropped regular-season matchups against the Irish in 1997 (24-6 in Baton Rouge) and 1998 (39-36 in South Bend), while his Tigers’ lone victory came in a 1997 rematch at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana (27-9 for LSU).

5. Gerry Faust --After consecutive 1984 losses to Miami (Florida), Air Force and South Carolina--all at home--Notre Dame (3-4) was reeling when it walked into a rowdy setting at Death Valley to play the unbeaten Tigers (5-0-1). In a game nationally televised by ABC (one media outlet predicted the contest would be a “nationally televised execution”), Faust and his troops pulled an unlikely upset that landed Notre Dame’s head coach on the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week (the cover headline read “I’m Gonna Make It!”) and kick-started a four-game win streak to finish the regular season. Notre Dame rebounded from an early 7-0 deficit with a 20-0 run on two rushing touchdowns from Irish tailback Allen Pinkett and a pair of field goals from placekicker John Carney. An eventual 30-14 Notre Dame lead was never seriously threatened in the 30-22 Irish win.

6. Andy Hamilton —In 14th-rated LSU’s 28-8 victory in 1971 in Baton Rouge over the seventh-ranked Irish, Hamilton caught touchdown passes of 36, 32 and 13 yards on his way to seven receptions for 153 yards. Two of the TD passes came from eventual NFL standout Bert Jones. LSU scored a TD in each period against an Irish defense that had not been scored on in the second half all season or in the fourth quarter in 20 games. Jones ran for one TD and completed seven of his nine throws for 143 yards. Tiger coach Charlie McClendon called it his greatest win in Tiger Stadium in his 19 years.

7. Scott Hempel —His 24-yard field goal with 2:54 remaining provided the only scoring in the 1970 game at Notre Dame Stadium between the seventh-rated Tigers (they had won seven straight after an opening loss to Texas A&M) and the unbeaten, second-ranked Irish. In a brutal defensive contest, Notre Dame managed only 160 total yards against an LSU defense that led the nation in rushing defense (46 yards per game) and had not allowed a rushing touchdown all season. The Irish survived despite four turnovers, as the two teams combined to punt 22 times. Notre Dame’s Walt Patulski had eight stops behind the line for 42 yards in losses. Hempel got the nod (his field goals came after Jim Yoder had punted the ball to the LSU one) despite missing his first field goal of the season the previous Saturday and losing his kickoff job to Scott Smith. Said Irish coach Ara Parseghian of the decision, “This was his chance to kick his final one at Notre Dame. I guess I based the decision as much on sentiment as anything. Thank God.”

8. Jarious Jackson —He led Notre Dame to one of the best comeback wins in the series. LSU went up 34-20 with 8:04 left in the third quarter after Abram Booty’s second touchdown catch of the day. The Tigers had moved the ball at will behind Kevin Faulk’s 108 rushing yards to go with an 88-yard kickoff return. But Jackson threw TD passes to Malcolm Johnson and Raki Nelson to complete 78- and 75-yard drives--with an 89-yard Bobbie Howard interception return for a TD sandwiched in between lifting the Irish to the 39-36 victory. This wacky shootout saw three defensive touchdowns and four blocked kicks as the 10 th-ranked Irish improved to 9-1. The ending included Jackson injuring a knee while taking a safety in his own end zone as he tried to run out the clock. Jackson passed for 276 yards and rushed for 80 that day--but that injury and his subsequent absence made a difference a week later when the Irish fell 10-0 at USC. Jackson on Dec. 18 was named the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. He played nine seasons in the CFL—most of them for BC—while throwing for 7,878 yards and 55 TDs.

9. Rondell Mealey —He had been little more than a random name in the box score in the teams’ 1997 regular-season meeting six weeks earlier—not carrying the ball from scrimmage for LSU while returning a trio of kickoffs. But Mealey took center stage in the 1997 Independence Bowl with 222 yards rushing (second most in a bowl game for LSU) and two touchdowns—both those in the fourth quarter to stretch a 13-9 LSU lead into the final margin of 27-9. LSU wore alternative uniforms--gold jerseys with white helmets instead of its traditional gold helmets. And the Tigers limited Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus to 66 yards passing and sacked him five times in Powlus’ final collegiate appearance on a cold, wet night in Shreveport. After standout Tiger tailback Kevin Faulk sprained an ankle in the opening period, Mealey took over and his biggest blow to Irish hopes came on a 78-yard run to the Irish two early in the final period. Notre Dame actually led 6-3 at halftime and the Tigers never led until an eight-play, 49-yard TD drive late in the third period.

10. Allen Pinkett --His 162 rushing yards in 1984 in Baton Rouge helped fuel one of the more unlikely upsets of the Gerry Faust era for Notre Dame. Pinkett’s career-high 40 carries (tied as the all-time Notre Dame single-game high) translated into a 202-118 Irish edge in ground yards (Notre Dame ran the ball 58 times compared to 23 for LSU), as Notre Dame overall ran 31 more offensive plays. Pinkett scored twice in the opening half on short dives, then 83 of his yards came after intermission. His longest gains of the afternoon were three 10-yard rushes. He also caught a pair of passes for 13 yards. Irish sophomore quarterback Steve Beuerlein completed 16 of his 23 throws for 168 yards, as the visitors punted only twice all day. John Carney added three Irish field goals.

11. C.J. Prosise —The longest rush in Notre Dame’s bowl history? It was a 50-yard scoring dash by Prosise in the third period of the 2014 Music City Bowl that tied the game at 28 and set the stage for Kyle Brindza’s winning field goal in a game that saw nine lead changes and ties. Prosise finished with three rushes for 75 yards and three receptions for 34 yards.

12. JaMarcus Russell —The Irish defense had no particular answer for him as the LSU quarterback threw for 332 yards (second highest total in LSU bowl history) and two touchdowns and the fourth-ranked Tigers racked up 245 more yards on the ground in the Sugar Bowl following the 2006 season. Eleventh-rated Notre Dame trailed 21-14 at the half, but LSU notched 13 points in the third period on its way to the 41-14 victory. Notre Dame managed only 291 total yards as Brady Quinn threw for just 148 yards and was picked off twice. LSU qualified as one of the hottest teams in the country to close out the 2006 season, entering the game in New Orleans riding a six-game win streak (a 7-3 loss to Auburn and 23-10 setback to Florida were the only blemishes).


 

 

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