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Tyler Buchner rallies Notre Dame to thrilling Gator Bowl win

Dec 30, 2022; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) throws the ball under pressure from South Carolina Gamecocks defensive lineman Tonka Hemingway (91) and defensive lineman T.J. Sanders (90) during the first half in the 2022 Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Buchner passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more while connecting with Mitchell Evans for a go-ahead, 16-yard TD pass with 1:38 left to boost Notre Dame to a 45-38 victory against South Carolina on Friday at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

No. 21 Notre Dame outgained No. 19 South Carolina 558-352, establishing a program bowl record for yardage in the highest-scoring Gator Bowl in history. The Fighting Irish (9-4) erased a two-touchdown deficit to close the season with six wins in their final seven games.

South Carolina (8-5) was forced to punt on five of its first six second-half possessions, but those struggles were rendered moot when the Gamecocks’ O’Donnell Fortune returned a Buchner interception 100 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 38 with 7:42 to play.

Making his first start since sustaining a shoulder injury in the second game of the season, Buchner led the Fighting Irish on a 12-play, 80-yard drive in 6:01 as Notre Dame took the lead for good. Buchner was 18-for-33 passing for 274 yards and three interceptions while gaining 61 yards on 12 carries.

South Carolina counterpart Spencer Rattler led the Gamecocks into Notre Dame territory in the final minute, but penalties pushed the team back. Rattler was 29-for-44 for 246 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Rattler also rushed seven times for 27 yards.

Xavier Legette had seven catches for 78 yards and two scores, while Nate Adkins had five catches for 78 yards.

Notre Dame’s Braden Lenzy had four catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Audric Estime rushed 14 times for 95 yards to lead Notre Dame, while Logan Diggs ran for 89 yards and a score on 13 carries.

South Carolina visited the end zone on the game’s opening possession, covering 75 yards in 10 plays and 3:12 of clock time. Rattler punctuated the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Legette.

Notre Dame answered with 5:54 remaining in the quarter as Buchner ran 15 yards for a score.

The Gamecocks followed with another 10-play, 75-yard drive, but this time benefited from some special-teams trickery. With South Carolina seemingly lined up for a field-goal attempt, holder/punter Kai Kroeger came up from his crouch and passed to long snapper Hunter Rogers for a 23-yard touchdown.

Less than two minutes later, DQ Smith intercepted Buchner and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown for a 21-7 South Carolina lead.

Notre Dame trailed 24-17 at the half, and eventually outscored South Carolina in each of the game’s final three quarters.

–Field Level Media