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Irish lose turnover battle again

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — As was the case for most of the 2011 season, turnovers determined Notre Dame’s fate against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. When sophomore safety Zeke Motta returned a Seminoles fumble, forced by junior linebacker Manti Te’o, for a touchdown in the first quarter, it was the first Irish fumble return for a score since Brian Smith ran one back in September of 2008.

But from there, Notre Dame committed three turnovers, while not forcing any. The three interceptions spelled doom for the Irish, as turnovers have since the season-opener.

“Today, as you know, the turnovers were, again, the large reason for us not being able to win this football game,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “It’s been the case all year.”

Notre Dame finishes the season with 29 turnovers, including six games with at least three.

Slaughter’s sacks

Senior safety Jamoris Slaughter showed up in Orlando having played 35 games for Notre Dame. He had amassed a grand total of zero sacks in those four seasons.

When he left the field after the loss, he suddenly had two career sacks, tying the Champs Sports Bowl record in the first half.

“We feel like the skills the teams that spread the field so much now, Jamoris holds up in the running game there,” Kelly said. “And obviously he’s a guy that can cover and blitz off the edge.

“He’s one of the guys that has all the tools, and so we need to get him on the field, and he’s been able to impact greatly what we’ve done defensively.”

Slaughter is expected to return in 2012 for a fifth year with the Irish, as he has one remaining year of eligibility.