Notre Dame, seeded No. 9, survived a comeback that usually appears in films about football Notre Dame to defeat Florida State 41-38 in overtime Sunday night at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Fighting Irish blew up a 38-20 lead in the third quarter late in Tallahassee, Florida, thanks in part to the return of Florida State quarterback Mackenzie Milton.
Milton, a former UCF QB, is back on the field for the first time in three years after suffering a disastrous leg injury with the riders that many thought he would never be able to make a comeback.
Unfortunately, Milton’s happy story wasn’t enough to put the Seminoles on top.
Florida State got the ball first in overtime but was unable to move it, missing a 40-yard field goal attempt. Notre Dame didn’t miss her chance, ending the match and avoiding a loss with a 41-yard field goal on her own.
QB Jack Coan threw a Wisconsin move for 366 yards and four touchdowns for the Fighting Irish, with three players finishing the game with a receipt of at least 80 yards.
Here are four notes from the top game that might be the best game of the inaugural college football weekend.
1. Melton won tonight
It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing Milton back on the field. Jordan Travis started the game in Florida State, and while he made some plays and some nice throws to keep Florida State in, he also threw three costly interceptions. Milton’s entry into the game provided a spark that nearly carried the Seminoles to victory.
Sure, Milton’s return to the field in a game like this is ever, given the injury he had, but getting him to play well was the cherry on top. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 48 yards and was able to help with a running game as well – even if you feel the need to cover your eyes every time he starts scrambling because you don’t want to see him get hurt. The ABC cameras kept flashing to Milton’s parents in the stands, and we all felt like his mom was crying and could barely watch.
I have no idea how the rest of the season will go for Milton, but even if he doesn’t step onto the field again, the fact that he ever came back is one of those stories that make all sports great. Not just college football.
2. Coan had an excellent comeback too
It may be buried in Milton’s story, but Cowan lost his primary job to Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz last season due to injury. Sunday night was Quan’s first opportunity to remind everyone that, while he’s not a midfielder of Heisman Trophy caliber, he can still command a solid attack. He’s also shown that sometimes we shouldn’t judge Wisconsin QBs by the abuse they play.
Coan was dynamic, and the Irish offensive ran so many vertical ways that he was able to strike. This is an aspect of Notre Dame crime that hasn’t been around in recent seasons with Ian Book playing. Say what you want about Book — and everyone else on Notre Dame is cheering it on — he’s been credited as a QB. He didn’t have a big arm and was more of a scrambler than a pocket-friendly.
Cowan doesn’t have a cannon, but he does have an arm strong enough to take advantage of outside threats like Kevin Austin (four grabs, 91 yards, touchdown) and Braden Lindsey (receptions, 39 yards). He’s also capable of using Michael Mayer (nine hits, 120 yards, touchdown) midfield and down seams.
Ironically, the rushing attack that carried the Irish offensive last season was virtually non-existent as they ran only 65 yards on 35 coaches. On the flip side, Noles had a massive day on the ground with their upper backs totaling 220 yards and landings on 26 runs.
It was Quan’s arm that led the way. If Notre Dame runs the ball like this against Florida State with Book at QB, you won’t win this game.
3. Kyle Hamilton is amazing
Hamilton will certainly be a top 10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he showed reason Saturday night with two objections. While both were impressive, it was his second pick that made your eyes pop out of your head in awe. Look at how Hamilton starts the play with a cold run and makes his way across the field to the opposite sideline to intercept the pitch. Not many humans on this planet are capable of doing this play, and I’m sure Notre Dame is glad to have someone who can.
4. Florida has a lot to feel good about
I can’t help but think that last season’s Florida State team — and most of the Florida State teams of late — would have left once they trailed 38-20 late in the third quarter. There was no belief in the players or even the coaches on the sidelines that they would be able to come back from such a massive deficit against a top 10 team.
But this FSU team is really different. Coach Mike Norville still has a long way to go in Tallahassee, but there are plenty of signs that this is heading in the right direction. While Milton was the star, he wasn’t the only player to shine tonight. The night to move to Georgia was Jermaine Johnson full of energy, as he finished with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss. It’s been a while since the Noles have had such disruptive force in their line of defense, which is an important reason why the Irish average just 2.6 yards per carry when adjusting for stocking.
There’s a fight in this Florida State team, and there’s a mental toughness I haven’t seen in years. If you’re a Florida State fan tonight, I’m sad that the Seminoles lost the game, but I’m excited about what the rest of this season could look like.
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