This time, Notre Dame wasn’t perfect and didn’t win.
The Irish failed to repeat the no-penalty, no-turnover performance of seven weeks ago against Louisiana State and thus failed to win the rematch in the Independence Bowl, losing, 27-9, to the Tigers Sunday night.
It was the 13th postseason rematch of a regular-season game, the first for Notre Dame. Only four teams have won both games.
“It didn’t have anything to do with playing them a second time, and really didn’t have anything to do with playing them in Shreveport,” Irish Coach Bob Davie dsof. “It had to do with what always happens in football. If you don’t execute well, you don’t win.”
Scott Cengia’s three field goals, an Independence Bowl record, provided the only scoring for Notre Dame (7-6), which had bounced back from a 1-4 start by winning six of its last seven games just to become eligible for a postseason berth.
“We are disappointed right now, but all in all I’m really proud of this football team right now,” said Davie, who wrapped up his first season after replacing Lou Holtz. “We ended up having a winning record, ended up going to a bowl game . . . and setting the foundation for the future.”
As in the first game, a 24-6 Notre Dame victory, the Irish scored first. But the 3-0 lead on Cengia’s 33-yard field goal midway through the first quarter was not as dominating as the 17-0 first-quarter lead the Irish built in Baton Rouge.
With starter Ron Powlus struggling, backup quarterback Jarious Jackson came on midway through the second quarter. On his first snap, while running right, Jackson was hit by LSU linebacker Joe Wesley. Mark Roman recovered the fumble, setting up the Tigers at the Notre Dame 24. Five plays later, Wade Richey tied the game at 3-3 with a 37-yard field goal.
Notre Dame led 6-3 at halftime but LSU’s defense and backup tailback Rondell Mealey dominated after halftime. Mealey had 192 of his 222 rushing yards in the second half.
Powlus, who completed only eight of 18 passes for 66 yards, was sacked four times in the second half by an LSU defense that had a different coordinator than the first game.
There was not enough time in the two weeks since his hiring for former Illinois coach Lou Tepper to completely transform LSU from a two-linebacker defense to a 3-4 alignment. But the Tigers showed more three-linebacker sets and quite a few five-man fronts.
Mealey, filling in for injured Kevin Faulk, had an His Independence Bowl-record 78-yard run in the fourth quarter. It set up his two-yard touchdown run that made it 20-9.
Faulk, the Southeastern Conference rushing leader who had 105 yards against Notre Dame last month, had just seven yards in three carries. He left the game midway through the first quarter after twisting his left ankle.