By Mike Bonts
JACKSONVILLE (Florida Sports Wire) – Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner ran for two touchdowns and threw for three more as the Irish rallied to defeat South Carolina 45-38 before 67,383 in the Gator Bowl Friday.
He was named the MVP. The sophomore threw for a career-high 274 yards with 18 completions on 33 attempts and three scores. He also added 61 yards on the ground.
Tight end Mitchell Evans caught the winning TD from Buchner with 1:38 to play.
The Irish offense ran for 264 yards total. Audric Estime led with 95 yards on 14 attempts. Logan Diggs added 13 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown. Chris Tyree added 21 yards on five rushes.
Braden Lenzy added four catches for a game-best 89 yards and a touchdown.
Buchner ran for an 11-yard score in the third quarter and 15 yards to tie the game with 5:54 to play in the first quarter. He had two passes returned for touchdowns.
Trailing 38-31, O’Donnell Fortune picked off Buchner on the end zone and set a new Gator Bowl record with a 100-yard TD tying the game 38-38 with 7:43 to play.
DQ Smith picked off Buchner in the final minute of the quarter. He returned it 53 yards for a TD. It was Smith’s second interception of his career and second touchdown of 2022
Diggs ran for a 39-yard score to give Notre Dame its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter. Diggs scored on a pass in the flat and ran 75 yards down the sideline to pull the Irish to within a TD with 5:06 to play in the half.
The Gamecocks’ Xavier Legette caught two TD passes.
South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler threw a 42-yard TD to Legette in the corner of the end zone in the second half. The Gamecocks took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards when Rattler completed the drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Legette.
Rattler was 29-for-46 for 246 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Legette had seven catches for 78 yards while Nate Adkins had five receptions for 78 yards.
Carolina was led on the ground by Juju McDowell’s 28 yards on six carries.
South Carolina led 24-17 at the half.
The Irish drove to the South Carolina six-yard line to open the second quarter. But on a third and goal Alex Huntley sacked Tyler Buchner at the 19. Blake Grupe kicked a 37-yard field goal to make it 21-10.
South Carolina responded with a 45-yard field goal by Mitch Jeter.
The Gamecocks drove to the Notre Dame 25 in the p[ening quarter aided by a face mask call. On a fourth and 8 South Carolina scored on a pass from punter Kai Kroeger to Hunter Rogers on a fake field goal. Kroeger is now 4-for-4 passing this season for 107 yards and two touchdowns. It was Rogers’ first career touchdown reception.
Game Notes: The 28 combined points by the two teams in the first quarter set a Gator Bowl record, which was 24 points by Mississippi State and Michigan in 2011…the game was the highest scoring game in Gator Bowl history…the last interception returned for a touchdown in Gator Bowl history was Virginia Tech’s James Anderson in 2006… Sherrod Greene led the Gamecocks with 11 tackles, five solos..the Irish defense was led by linebacker JD Bertrand and cornerback TaRiq Bracy. Each finished with eight tackles, five and four solo, respectively.