NOTRE DAME, Ind. — If anything, those green jerseys might have imbued No. 3 Notre Dame with an extra pep in the step Saturday night despite taking the field in sub-30 degree temperatures.
More likely, the Irish (10-0) simply channeled the emotions of Senior Day into a near-complete performance against Florida State (4-6), dispatching the Seminoles to the tune of 42-13 at Notre Dame Stadium.
In doing so, the Irish checked off the box labeled “Protect This House” on their list of 2018 objectives, finishing a perfect 6-0 inside the house that Rockne built.
Starting in the place of injured junior Ian Book, senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush finished the night with three touchdown passes, 130 passing yards and 68 yards rushing as the Irish jumped out to a quick lead and never relented.
Classmate and running back Dexter Williams turned in a career performance in his final appearance at home, rushing for a career-high 202 yards to go with two touchdowns. Fellow senior tight end Alizé Mack also had a big night, snaring two of Wimbush’s touchdown passes to become the first Irish tight end to record a multi-touchdown game since Durham Smythe did it in 2016.
Junior safety Alohi Gilman paced the Irish defense with 10 tackles, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Junior cornerback Julian Love finished with nine tackles and a defensive PAT conversion, while senior linebackers Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill registered seven tackles apiece.
How It Happened
Just over a minute elapsed before the Irish found the end zone, having not even started the game with the ball. On Florida State’s second play from scrimmage, safety Nick Coleman snagged an interception off Coney’s deflection, returning it 27 yards to the Seminole three-yard line.
Two plays later, Wimbush found senior receiver Miles Boykin on a fade route to the end zone to stake Notre Dame to the 7-0 lead just 1:15 into the game.
After Florida State went three-and-out on the next drive, Wimbush again led the Irish to the end zone, connecting on a six-yard pass to Mack, who planted one foot in the back of the zone before a Seminole defender pushed him out of bounds with 6:51 remaining in the period. It capped a 14-play, 81-yard drive in which Wimbush threw for 52 yards and ran for another 14.
The Irish recovered the second Florida State turnover of the game two plays later when defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji forced a fumble from Cam Akers and fellow end Daelin Hayes recovered at the 14-yard line. The play ultimately resulted in a 26-yard Justin Yoon field goal to make it 17-0.
Florida State appeared to gain some momentum after Cam Akers scored on an eight-yard rush to cap a 75-yard drive, but the Irish wrested it right back when Jerry Tillery blocked the extra point attempt and Love returned it for two points to make it 19-6 with 13:17 left in the first half. It was Notre Dame’s first defensive PAT return since Cole Luke did so against Syracuse in 2016.
On the next drive, Williams rumbled 58 yards 1:40 later as Notre Dame went up 25-6 (this time it was Yoon’s PAT attempt that was blocked).
After the Seminoles turned the ball over on downs, Wimbush and Mack added to their scoring totals when the former found the latter for a 15-yard touchdown strike inside seven minutes, running the score to 32-6, which the Irish took into halftime.
Florida State started the second half the same way the Irish began the game, scoring after an interception to pull within 32-13 just 1:25 into the third quarter. After Stanford Samuels made the snag, Akers closed out a 30-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Yoon’s 35-yard field goal on the next possession put the Irish back up 35-13 at the 10:08 mark of the third period.
The Seminoles threatened after another interception gave them possession from the Irish 48-yard line. They advanced as far as the one, but Notre Dame stopped a pair of rushes for a loss of two yards and Florida State’s fourth-down pass went incomplete to give the Irish the ball at their own three in the final minutes of the third.
The ensuing Irish drive went 12 plays for 97 yards, ending only when Williams turned a 32-yard carry into his second touchdown run of the night (and team-leading 10th of the season) to extend the Irish lead 42-13 with 13:10 left in the game. The senior eclipsed his previous single-game career high (178) in rushing yards on the play, ending the night with 202.
The Irish will hit the Big Apple next Saturday to face No. 13 Syracuse in the Shamrock Series at Yankee Stadium. The game — which will be Notre Dame’s third in a top-three media market this season and second official home game ever at Yankee Stadium — will kick off at 2:30 p.m. ET and be broadcast on NBC.