Jacksonville, FL — Tyler Buchner finished with five touchdowns, helping to offset two interceptions returning for TD, as No. 19 Notre Dame beat 45-38 in Friday’s Mad TaxSlayer Bowl 20th-ranked South Carolina.
The highest-scoring game in Gator Bowl history is packed with great play and memorable moments. But Buchner found tight end Mitchell Evans slaying on a 16-yard touchdown on 3-and-7 with 1:38 left.
Buchner, who regained his starting job after Drew Pyne entered the transfer portal after the regular-season finale, threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 61 yards and scored twice.
But his three interceptions all but proved insurmountable.
O’Donnell Fortune returned one of those passes for a 100-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, and DQ Smith returned a 47-yard score at the first. But Buchner recovered from two turnovers to earn his first win in three career starts.
Notre Dame (9-4, No. 21 CFP) overcame a 14-point deficit to win, though South Carolina scored on both 6 picks and special teams. Punter Kai Kroger Linked to Long Snapper Hunter Rogers For one of the strangest TDs in bowl lore.
Spencer Rattler completed 29 of 44 passes for the Gamecocks for 246 yards (8-5, No. 19 CFP), and Xavier Legette had an interception and two touchdowns.
South Carolina is missing some key starters, including running back MarShawn Lloyd, versatile tight end Jaheim Bell, tight end Austin Stogner, defensive lineman Zacch Pickens, safety Devonni Reed, cornerbacks Cam Smith and Darius Rush, and receiver Golfers Josh Vann and Jalen Brooks .
Notre Dame is playing without All-American tight end Michael Mayer, terrific edge rusher Isaiah Fowski, cornerback Kam Hart and defensive end Jason Admirola.
Notre Dame: The Irish handed coach Marcus Freeman his first win after a lengthy layoff. Notre Dame lost to Oklahoma State last year after naming Freeman as head coach and forgoing its season opener at Ohio State.
South Carolina: Special teams are usually coach Shane Beamer’s forte, but he made some unusual mistakes, along with a bet on the flutter’s touchdown pass. Dakereon Joyner was flagged for blocking a shot in the backfield in the second quarter, which angered Beamer so much that he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Those penalties resulted in a 45-yard swing. The Gamecocks were also flagged in the second half with two men wearing the same number in punts and two delays.
Notre Dame: The Irish Gladiators are expected to land coveted transfer quarterback Sam Hartman, a three-year starter at Wake Forest who holds the Atlantic Coast Conference record for passing touchdowns with 110. He still has one more year to qualify.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have a lot of holes to fill, none bigger than their offensive coordinator since Marcus Satterfield left Nebraska. In spring training, all eyes will be on his successor, former Arkansas State tight end coach Dowell Loggans.
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