Independence Bowl

1997

 

LSU 27

Notre Dame 9

 

LSU Fight Song

 

SHREVEPORT, La.- Kevin who? With Kevin Faulk, the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, out with a twisted ankle, backup Rondell Mealey rushed for 222 yards Sunday, including 26 on the game-winning drive in the third quarter, as No. 15 LSU beat Notre Dame 27-9 in the Independence Bowl. Mealey, a sophomore, also set Independence Bowl and LSU records -- previously held by Faulk- with a 78-yard run in the fourth quarter. He was voted the offensive player of the game.

It was sweet revenge for the Tigers (9-3), who were embarrassed 24-6 by the Irish (7-6) seven weeks ago at Baton Rouge, their worst loss of the season. Teams that lost the regular-season game have now won seven of the 13 rematches in bowl games. The loss brought Notre Dame's turnaround to an end with a crashing, ugly thud. After starting the season 1-4, the Irish won six of their last seven regular-season games and came into the bowl with a five-game winning streak.

When Mealey hit his stride in the second half, he took all of the life out of the Irish, whose offense gained just 14 yards in the third quarter. Quarterback Ron Powlus was sacked four times in the second half, including a brutal hit that seemed to knock the wind out of him. He finished 8-of-18 for just 66 yards.

As the final seconds ticked off, LSU fans stormed the field, waving flags and hugging players. The Notre Dame players walked to midfield with heads bowed to shake hands with LSU. Notre Dame hasn't won a bowl game since beating Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl after the 1993 season.

LSU came out sluggish early, and things looked bleak when Faulk went down with a twisted ankle on the Tigers' second possession. But Mealey picked up the slack, and the absence of Faulk, who set an Independence Bowl rushing record of 234 yards two years ago, wasn't even noticed. Mealey rushed for 38 yards on LSU's first possession in the second half -- one more than he had in the first 30 minutes of the game -- to set up LSU's 42-yard field goal that tied the game at 6.

Notre Dame got a tough break on the kickoff, as Allen Rossum slipped at the 6 and was ruled down, despite making it to the 21. The Irish only managed six yards, and the Tigers got the ball at the Irish 49. That meant more Mealey time. He rushed for seven yards and a first down the first time he touched the ball, then shook off a tackler for a 13-yard gain on his next carry. LSU got down to the Irish 12, and Herb Tyler connected with Abram Booty for the go-ahead score with 4:05 left in the third quarter (video).

Notre Dame added Scott Cengia's field goal with 13:14 left in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late. And just for good measure, Mealey scored twice in the fourth quarter, on runs of 1 and 2 yards (video).

X-rays on Faulk's ankle were negative, but he didn't play again. He finished with just seven yards on three carries, breaking his streak of 100-yard games at five.

LSU finished with 326 yards, including 265 on the ground. Notre Dame finished with 243 yards, just 91 in the second half. All of its scoring came on Scott Cengia's three field goals (video).

Former Illinois coach Lou Tepper, who joined the Tigers two weeks ago as their defensive coordinator after Carl Reese left to become part of Mack Brown's staff at Texas, worked a little of the magic LSU coach Gerry DiNardo hoped he would. Though the Tigers didn't look much different -- all that talk of using three linebackers turned out to be just that, talk -- LSU looked quicker and had the Irish offense completely confused in the second half.

Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said he doubted his team could duplicate its almost perfect, no-penalty, no-turnover performance of the first meeting with LSU, and he was right. The Irish were called for illegal motion on the fourth play of the game, pushing them back five yards. The Irish did start strongly, rushing for 106 yards in the first half. But Notre Dame could never quite put it all together, falling short of those last one or two yards that would have put seven points on the board instead of three.

Notre Dame is just the fourth team in 22 years to not score a touchdown in the Independence Bowl. Cengia's three field goals tied an Independence Bowl record, set in 1983 by Sean Pavlich of Air Force.

 

LSU rushed for 265 yards against the Irish.

 

Rondell Mealey rushed for 222 yards as a replacement for injured Kevin Faulk.

 

ND's Ron Powlus

 

The Notre Dame line held firm in the first half, but was overwhelmed by Mealey and the Tigers in the second.

 

Attendance- 50,459

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
ND- FG Cengia 33
 

Second Quarter
LSU- FG Richey 37
ND- FG Cengia 21
 

Third Quarter
LSU- FG Richey 42
LSU- Abram 12 pass from Tyler (Richey kick)
 

Fourth Quarter
ND- FG Cengia 33
LSU- Mealey 2 run (Richey kick)
LSU- Mealey 1 run (Richey kick)

Individual Statistics

Rushing
ND- Denson 20-101, Barry 8-43
LSU- Mealey 34-222, Banks 6-23, Tyler 9-13

Passing
ND- Powlus 8-18-66, Jackson 5-7-49
LSU- Tyler 5-12-61

Receiving
ND- Johnson 5-49, Denson 3-32, Getherall 3-23
LSU- Booty 5-61
 

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