Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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As I have explained to all of our dedicated readers before, there is nothing I love more than going to a random sporting event. When the college football bowl games were announced at the beginning of December, there was one game in particular that popped off of the page to me. Down in Nashville, Tennessee on December 30th, two of the most historic programs in college football history, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the LSU Tigers, were set to do battle in the 2014 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Since I have always wanted to visit Nashville and attend a bowl game, my good friend Robert Cannon and I decided to take in the festivities.
Now, before any of you start calling me a Notre Dame or LSU fan, I’m going to stop you right there. Both Robert and I went to that game and left that game not caring at all who the victor was. Call me weird, but I just enjoy taking in any old football game. Granted, both Notre Dame and LSU fans/students surrounded me so I could be as honest as I wanted to be. Since I possessed no allegiance during the game, it allowed me to experience what both teams had to offer through unbiased eyes, and of them all, there were two guys that stood out the most.
Notre Dame: #8 Malik Zaire-Sophomore QB
As we were driving down to Nashville, I decided to check out a few previews on the game. After reading some tweets and preview articles, I realized that coach Brian Kelly would not be starting his senior quarterback, Everett Golson. Instead, the 7-5 Fighting Irish would be handing the reigns over to their unproven sophomore from Kettering, Ohio named Malik Zaire. In all honesty, I was pretty upset to hear of this news because I had watched Golson lead the Irish to a National Championship game just two years prior and wanted to see the young man perform in person. Coming into the game, I had no expectations for Zaire, but by the end of it, the young man had me convinced.
Zaire may have only thrown for 96 yards and a touchdown, but he also ran for the same total. Even with Golson receiving close to the same amount of reps that Zaire did, Zaire was still able to lead the team in rushing and passing, and play a clean game with no turnovers. It is a lot to ask out of an inexperienced sophomore quarterback to make his first ever career start in a nationally televised bowl game, but Zaire was able to secure the 31-28 victory, and in my opinion, he showed the entire country that Notre Dame football is in good hands over the next couple of years.
Louisiana State University (LSU): #7 Leonard Fournette-Freshman RB
When I originally planned this trip, the one guy that I wanted to see play live was Leonard Fournette. As a true freshman out of New Orleans, Fournette had rushed for 891 yards and eight scores during the regular season, with 146 of those yards and a touchdown coming in a season finale defeat of Texas A&M, 23-17. At 6’1” and 230 pounds, Fournette had been a freight train from hell all season long in the SEC and when it came to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, the freshman didn’t disappoint.
Even though Les Miles & Company weren’t successful in garnering the victory, Fournette ran the ball for 143 yards with two touchdowns and even had a 100-yard kickoff return for a Tiger touchdown in the second quarter. Whenever LSU needed to make a play, it seemed as if they just gave the ball to Fournette. There were a couple of LSU students sitting next to me and when Fournette took the kick return back to the end zone, I looked to them and said, “I drove seven hours just to see him do that, and it was worth every minute.” As I watched him use his combination of size and speed to do whatever he wanted to on the field, I had to remind myself that he is only a freshman. Just like Notre Dame with Zaire, Geaux Tiger nation looks to be in pretty good hands over the next few years with one of the best running backs in the country lining up in their backfield.
I may not be a Notre Dame or LSU fan, but the experience was definitely worth it. If you love going to sporting events, especially football, I highly suggest that you take the time to enjoy college football bowl season first hand. I thoroughly enjoyed watching two of college football’s rising stars and historic programs on display in Nashville and look forward to taking in another Music City Bowl in the near future. Thanks for the hospitality, Nashville!