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Florida State Claims Champs Sports Bowl

9:55 PM, Dec 29, 2011   |    comments
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Orlando, FL ---  The injury bug started biting the Seminoles during preseason practice, when they lost a pair of reserve offensive linemen and star wide receiver Willie Haulstead before they left training camp.
 
And the injuries kept piling up throughout the season, with the vast majority coming on offense - on the offensive line, at wide receiver, at running back and even at quarterback.
 
On Saturday, the Seminoles' defense got in on the act. First, sophomore cornerback Xavier Rhodes went down with a knee injury that forced him to miss the second half. Then fellow cornerback Greg Reid landed awkwardly and was sidelined by a concussion.
 
That forced FSU to play most of the final two quarters with senior Mike Harris at one corner and safety Lamarcus Joyner at the other. Sophomore Terrence Brooks filled in for Joyner at safety.
 
Joyner breaks out
 
Florida State sophomore Lamarcus Joyner capped off an impressive sophomore season with a brilliant performance against the Fighting Irish.
 
On special teams, Joyner broke free for a 77-yard kickoff return that set up Florida State's first points of the game - a 42-yard field by place-kicker Dustin Hopkins. It went down as the third-longest kickoff return in Champs Sports Bowl history.
 
But Joyner might have done his biggest damage on defense, where he intercepted a pass in the end zone.
 
Where did that come from?
 
In 12 regular-season games, Notre Dame's special-team unit had produced a grand total of three yards on punt returns. The Fighting Irish had returned just 10 punts all season and averaged 0.3 yards per return.
 
So in a game featuring a number of unexpected plays, one of the biggest surprises came on just the fourth play, when Notre Dame's Michael Floyd hauled in a Florida State punt at his own 22-yard line and broke loose for a 41-yard return.
 
It was Floyd's first return of the season.
 
Shaw makes most of homecoming
 
Few players were more excited about Florida State's appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl than sophomore receiver Kenny Shaw.
 
In the days leading up to the game, the Orlando product said he hoped throughout his entire high school career to play a state championship game in Orlando's Citrus Bowl Stadium, but his Dr. Phillips High team always fell short.
 
On Thursday, Shaw finally got his chance to play in his hometown stadium, and he made the most of it. Shaw caught four passes for 64 yards.
 
Rare miscue
 
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had to expect that there would be some mistakes on a night when he flooded the field with true freshmen on offense, but a fumble by running back Devonta Freeman had to be far down on the list of potential miscues.
 
Freeman, whose first-quarter fumble led to Notre Dame's first touchdown, was the first lost fumble by the Seminoles' leading rusher all season. In fact, it was only the second lost fumble by a Florida State running back all season.
 
After that group went 11 games without a turnover, senior Jermaine Thomas lost one in the Seminoles' victory at Florida in late November.
 
Noteworthy
 
• Sophomore wide receiver Jarred "Scooter" Haggins did not suit up after injuring his leg during bowl practice.
 
• The official attendance for Thursday's game was 68,305 - a new record for the Champs Sports Bowl.

USA TODAY

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