They called it New York's College Classic, but "classic" might not have been the best word to describe the matchup at MetLife Stadium between Syracuse and Notre Dame on Saturday night.
A record crowd of 76,802, the largest to see a college game in the stadium, witnessed Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson fumble three times and throw two interceptions -- one a pick-6 -- and he still managed to lead the No. 8 Fighting Irish to a wild and wacky 31-15 victory over the Orange. The game featured six turnovers (five by Notre Dame); a fake punt; blocked PAT; and a field-goal attempt off the upright.
"You could tell in the locker room, there was not the normal chatter, excitement," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said after his team improved to 4-0 on the season. "They knew they did not play the kind of football necessary to win each and every week. This game will get you beat week in and week out."
Golson (32-for-39 passing) had what he could only describe as a "weird" game. He threw for a career-high 362 yards and four touchdowns. He also, according to Notre Dame, completed 26 consecutive passes, which tied an NCAA FBS record, matching the mark set by Dominique Davis of East Carolina, against Navy on Oct. 22, 2011. Not that Golson was particularly proud of the night as a whole.
"When I think of this game, I'll think of my play being sloppy," Golson said. "I've really just got to clean that up."
Syracuse (2-2) in all-gray uniforms with metallic orange helmets, couldn't take advantage of Notre Dame's miscues. The Orange made little headway against the Irish defense and Kelly pointed out that most of the Irish turnovers were deep in the Syracuse end.
"Not that it's a good thing, but we turned the ball over three times inside the 20-yard line [laugh]. So we never put them on a short field," Kelly said. "We were driving the football and shooting ourselves in the foot, more so than cataclysmic kind of mistakes where we put them in plus field position."
Golson, off to a fast start in his return to Notre Dame after missing the 2013 season because of academic trouble, was asked if the Irish might well benefit from winning a game like this, in which they played so poorly. The schedule will get tougher, after all. Stanford visits South Bend next week, and in three weeks, Golson and his teammates will be traveling to Tallahassee to face national champion Florida State.
"Honestly, I wish we didn't have games like this," he said. "I want to come out and perform to the best of my ability. Definitely, I think just handling adversity is good from that standpoint, but you can't keep having too many games like this, as coach Kelly talked about. Going up against those teams, you don't get wins when you turn the ball over five times."
Notes & quotes: Syracuse got to breathe a huge sigh of relief when tight end Kendall Moore, who lay motionless for several moments after a scary fourth-quarter collision, was eventually brought to his feet and departed on a cart while sitting up.