Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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36 JANUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI SIMILAR TO 2014? The meeting between Notre Dame and LSU in the Citrus Bowl will be the fourth in the postseason between the two schools, a Fighting Irish re- cord against one team. Notre Dame had met Alabama, Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M and LSU three times apiece in bowl games prior to this season, but the Tigers now stand alone. The first two bowl meetings were held in Louisiana, advantageous cir- cumstances for LSU. • On Dec. 28, 1997, in the Inde- pendence Bowl at Shreveport with a record crowd of 54,459, the Tigers avenged a 24-6 loss at home to Notre Dame one month earlier with a 27-9 victory. It snapped a five-game win- ning streak under first-year head coach Bob Davie for a 7-6 final re- cord, while LSU finished 9-3. • On Jan. 3, 2007, in the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, the two 10-2 teams saw No. 4 LSU trounce the No. 11 Irish 41-14 in a battle of first-round quarterbacks. JaMarcus Russell, the No. 1 overall pick, passed for 332 yards while the Tigers outgained the Irish 577-291, with Brady Quinn fin- ishing 15-of-35 passing for 148 yards in the Superdome, where a sellout crowd of 77,781 was dominated by Tigers faithful. The Tigers would win their second national title in five seasons the next year. • Finally, on Dec. 30, 2014, at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, 7-5 Notre Dame surprised 8-4 and No. 22 LSU 31-28 to snap a four-game losing streak in which the Irish went from 7-1 and a College Football Playoff contender to a November collapse for a 7-5 record. A return to physicality was the point of emphasis for head coach Brian Kelly and his staff against the Tigers, and with first-time start- ing quarterback Malik Zaire — the game MVP — the Irish romped for 263 rushing yards. Kyle Brindza's 32-yard field goal as time expired provided the winning points. Likewise in 2017, the 8-1 and No. 3 Irish had the College Football Play- off in its sights before another No- vember swoon saw losses at Miami (41-8) and Stanford (38-20), with a hard-fought 24-17 win versus Navy at home in between. Another opportunity to end the season by rinsing the bitter taste of November out of its collective mouth is present for Notre Dame. That brings us to … CONTEXT TO 2017 SEASON At the start of November, the Irish had legitimate aspirations of playing Jan. 1 in the four-team College Foot- ball Playoff. The Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl isn't the CFP, but it will define in what context the 2017 Notre Dame season will be remembered. Whereas the 2014 contest in the Music City Bowl against LSU was about a springboard into the next season, this year 's meeting is more about putting a cherry on top of a 9-3 regular season, and maybe even cracking the final top 10 for only the third time the past 24 years. "It's a quest to be special in a sense of getting to 10 wins, and that's really going to be on the backs of the guys that got you to where you are," Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. Another difference is the 2014 team was a more pass-happy operation, at least in the regular season, that aver- aged 285.5 yards passing per game (18th nationally). This group has come full circle with a 279.1 rushing average that ranks No. 7 in the land. "Physicality is the least of my con- cerns when it comes to our football team," Kelly said of the 2017 unit. In both cases, however, what will GAME PREVIEW: LSU Top STorylineS Led by quarterback Malik Zaire, Notre Dame ended its four-game losing streak in 2014 with a 31-28 defeat of LSU in the Music City Bowl. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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