East Rutherford, N.J. – — This was the best type of learning experience for Everett Golson and Notre Dame.
Golson offset a four-turnover performance with some pinpoint passing, setting a school record for consecutive completions and throwing a career-high four touchdown passes to lead the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish to a 31-15 victory against Syracuse on Saturday night.
Golson threw his first two interceptions of the season, including one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter by Durell Eskridge. He fumbled the ball away deep in Syracuse territory and bumbled an attempt to spike the ball late in the first half into another giveaway.
"Pretty weird for me," Golson said. "Definitely got to get better. Got to clean up a lot of things."
A total of five turnovers by the Irish (4-0) allowed Syracuse (2-2) to linger. Terrel Hunt's 7-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter cut the lead to 21-9.
"You could tell in the locker room there was not the normal chatter, excitement. They knew they did not play the kind of football necessary to win each and every week," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "This game will get you beat week in and week out. We made enough big plays to overcome it."
Golson came right back with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Torii Hunter Jr., son of the major league outfielder for the Tigers, for his 25th straight completion. Golson was 32-for-39 for a career-best 362 yards, coming one completion short of matching the FBS record for consecutive completions in a game set by Dominique Davis in 2011 with East Carolina. Notre Dame officials, though, were claiming it was 26 straight, unsure about whether a penalty had wiped out one.
Corey Robinson, the son of former San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson, caught eight passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
For the first time since 1943, Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in each of its first four games.
Syracuse has tried to turn MetLife Stadium into a home-away-from-home, but it's not working out so well for the university that calls itself New York's college team.
The Orange have played Southern California, Penn State and Notre Dame at the home of the Jets and Giants over the past three seasons, and lost each time.
"We want our kids to understand that they played hard, gave good effort, but still gave up 517 (total yards)," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. "We can't misunderstand effort for victories. The only ones that count are the ones that end up in the win column."
The Irish's fourth turnover, a fumble by Greg Bryant inside the Syracuse 30 late in the third quarter, led to the Orange's first touchdown. After Hunt's TD run, Jarron Jones blocked the extra point for the Irish.
Hunt, playing with a sore hip, threw for 294 yards, but the team's leading rusher was limited to 26 on the ground.
A nice start to the season has put Golson in the Heisman Trophy discussion, for what it's worth in September. This uneven performance in a win probably didn't hurt the cause too much. Golson had two turnovers in the first quarter, losing a fumble after a nifty scramble and throwing an interception on a pass that sailed badly.
The junior got it together in the second quarter, when Notre Dame went to its "now game" to combat Syracuse's blitzes. Zipping quick screens from side to side and working underneath, Golson directed a 95-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 23-yard pass to Will Fuller, who took a screen into the end zone to make it 7-0.
"He did a lot of really, really good things," Kelly said. "He threw the ball on target down the field and his perimeter throws were outstanding."
Golson showed off his long-range game next. Fuller beat cornerback Corey Winfield to the inside and Golson hit the receiver in stride. Fuller skipped past the end-zone pylon for a 72-yard touchdown to make it 14-0.
Fuller had six catches for 119 yards.
After a Syracuse field goal, the Irish had a chance to add to the lead with a late first-half score, but Golson bobbled the ball away while trying to kill the clock with a spike. He slapped the ball to the ground and it bounced a few yards away with most of the players just standing around, watching it roll. Syracuse's Julian Whigham raced in, picked the ball up and took off toward the end zone.
Syracuse thought it had a fumble return for a touchdown. Notre Dame figured it was an incomplete pass.
After a review, the officials split the difference. Golson's goof was ruled a fumble, but because officials had blown the play dead, the ball was given to the Orange with no advancement.
"He experienced some things tonight that are going to make him a better quarterback," Kelly said.
More Top 25 games
No. 1 Florida State 56, (at) N.C. State 41: Jameis Winston threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns in his return from a suspension, and Florida State rallied from 17 down to win.
The Heisman Trophy winner directed four straight second-half touchdown drives to help the reigning national champions fight through and extend the nation's longest active winning streak to a program-record 20 games.
Rashad Greene caught 11 passes for 125 yards and the go-ahead score for the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), while Karlos Williams ran for three scores — the last with 2:07 left to seal it.
Winston was suspended for making an obscene public comment on campus last week, then watched backup Sean Maguire lead Florida State to an overtime home win over Clemson.
Winston shook off a third-quarter interception to keep the Seminoles pushing forward against the Wolfpack (4-1, 0-1) and Jacoby Brissett.
Brissett, a Florida transfer, threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the program's first home game against the nation's No. 1-ranked team. N.C. State led 24-7 after the first quarter and 38-28 midway through the third quarter after Shadrach Thornton's 10-yard scoring run.
But Winston directed a quick 71-yard drive that ended with his 15-yard scoring toss to Jesus Wilson, then capitalized on a Brissett fumble by zipping the ball to Greene for a 42-38 lead with 3:24 left in the third. Williams' 1-yard scoring run made it 49-38 early in the fourth.
(At) No. 5 Auburn 45, Louisiana Tech 17: Nick Marshall threw three touchdown passes and rushed for 105 yards for Auburn.
Marshall completed 10 of 17 passes for 166 yards for the Tigers (4-0).
Quan Bray caught a 44-yard touchdown pass and returned a punt 76 yards for another score in a 53-second span of the fourth quarter. Those plays turned a competitive game into a rout against the Bulldogs (2-3).
Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries for Auburn.
No. 6 Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 28 (OT): Kenny Hill threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns, with a 25-yarder to Malcome Kennedy on the first play of overtime, and Texas A&M rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in Arlington, Texas.
The Aggies (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 28-14 going into the fourth quarter before Hill threw two long scoring passes — 86 yards to Edward Pope and 59 yards to Josh Reynolds, the latter with 2:08 left and only two plays after Arkansas missed a field goal.
After Hill's strike in overtime, Arkansas faced fourth-and-1 when a handoff went to Alex Collins, who had 131 yards rushing. But Collins was stuffed at the line by defensive end Julien Obioha to end the game.
Hill completed 21 of 41 passes.
Texas A&M is 5-0 for the first time since 2001. Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) has lost 14 consecutive SEC games.
No. 7 Baylor 49, (at) Iowa State 28: Bryce Petty threw for 336 yards and a touchdown and ran for a pair of TDs as Baylor cruised in its Big 12 opener.
Shock Linwood had three TDs rushing for the Bears (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), who have started 4-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 76 years.
Baylor's first game against a Power 5 school was a bit more difficult than its first three against weaker competition. But the Bears jumped ahead 35-7 late in the second quarter and led by at least 21 points for the entire second half.
Quarterback Sam Richardson threw for 212 yards and ran for 99 more for Iowa State (1-3, 0-2), which is 0-3 at home.
The Cyclones did make things briefly interesting in the third quarter, pulling within 42-21. But Petty found Corey Coleman for a 42-yard reception that set up Petty's 1-yard plunge.
The return of receivers Coleman (hamstring) and Antwan Goodley (quadriceps) made Baylor's offense more explosive than ever. The pair combined for 18 catches, 268 yards and a touchdown.
(At) No. 10 Mississippi 24, Memphis 3: Jaylen Walton ran for a key fourth-quarter touchdown, and Mississippi got a dominant performance from its defense.
The Rebels (4-0) are undefeated through four games for the first time since 1970, overcoming a mistake-riddled performance by the offense and special teams.
It was an ugly night for Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, who threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. The senior was 22-of-37 passing for 248 yards and two touchdowns — both to Laquon Treadwell.
Ole Miss led just 7-3 after three quarters. Andrew Fletcher made a 19-yard field goal — after missing his first two attempts earlier in the game — to increase the Rebels' lead early in the fourth.
Walton's 23-yard run with 9:34 remaining pushed the advantage to 17-3.
Memphis (2-2) managed just 104 total yards.
Treadwell finished with five catches for 123 yards. Walton rushed for 78 yards on 10 carries.
It was the first time Ole Miss played as a top-10 team since 2009. The Rebels didn't look the part on offense or special teams.
But the defense was terrific. Trae Elston grabbed an interception in the third quarter that ended a promising Memphis drive and Marquis Haynes forced a fumble — recovered by Issac Gross — that set up Walton's touchdown run.
(At) No. 12 Georgia 35, Tennessee 32: Todd Gurley ran for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yarder in the fourth quarter, and Georgia rallied.
The lackluster Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) struggled with the Volunteers (2-2, 0-1) for the second year in a row. Tennessee wouldn't quit, even after Jalen Hurd fumbled a handoff and Josh Dawson fell on it in the end zone for a Georgia touchdown.
Tennessee has lost 21 straight road games against ranked teams. The Vols might have pulled off the upset if quarterback Justin Worley had not been sidelined for part of the second half with an elbow injury.
Gurley had another brilliant showing, scoring on a 1-yard leap in the second quarter before breaking straight up the middle for a TD with 9½ minutes remaining.
Worley completed 23 of 35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, leading a pair of touchdown drives after he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter.
Missouri 21, (at) No. 13 South Carolina 20: Steve Spurrier was caught up in watching South Carolina's defense play a breakout game for nearly 53 minutes, holding powerful Missouri to 181 yards and 11 first downs while building a 20-7 lead.
That's why, Spurrier said, he didn't even consider going for two after South Carolina's final touchdown — a decision that proved costly when the Tigers rallied.
Especially after Maty Mauk, ineffective much of the game, led Missouri (4-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) to two touchdown drives in the last seven minutes. Russell Hansbrough scored on two 1-yard runs, the last on fourth down with 1:36 to go.
South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC) had a final chance, but Dylan Thompson threw four incompletions and Missouri ran out the clock.
Thompson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Pharoh Cooper for South Carolina's final TD with 7:25 left in the game.
Along with Hansbrough's three TDs, Marcus Murphy ran for 98 yards. Mauk completed 12 of 34 passes for 132 yards.
No. 16 Stanford 20, (at) Washington 13: Kevin Hogan scored on a 5-yard run with 4:29 remaining, and Stanford took advantage of a poorly timed fake punt to hold off Washington.
Hogan and the Cardinal (3-1, 1-1) avoided a potentially costly 0-2 start in Pac-12 play after already losing at home to Southern California.
Stanford dominated statistically, but was still tied midway through the fourth quarter because of continued problems in the red zone. That's when Washington coach Chris Petersen took a gamble running a fake punt on fourth-and-9 at the Huskies 47. The play was stuffed and Hogan scored on the ensuing possession.
The Huskies (4-1, 0-1) had 179 total yards, including just 98 passing.
(At) No. 17 LSU 63, New Mexico State 7: Backup quarterback Brandon Harris led touchdown drives on each of his seven series for LSU.
In vastly outplaying starter Anthony Jennings, Harris may have made himself a candidate to take over as the Tigers' No. 1 quarterback when LSU (4-1) returns to Southeastern Conference play next Saturday at Auburn.
Harris completed 11 of 14 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a pair of scores.
Jennings, who played for LSU's first seven offensive series, completed two of five passes for 11 yards and turned the ball over three times, twice on interceptions and once on a fumble.
Freshman running back Leonard Fournette had his first 100-yard game, finishing with 122 yards and two TDs rushing.
Andrew Allen had a 79-yard touchdown run for New Mexico State (2-3).
(At) No. 18 USC 35, Oregon St. 10: Cody Kessler passed for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and Su'a Cravens returned an interception 31 yards for another score for USC. Darreus Rogers caught a 48-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass at the halftime gun as the Trojans (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12) rebounded smartly from their first loss with solid defense and another stellar game from Kessler, who went 24 for 32 while leading a 461-yard offensive performance.
Justin Davis caught a 16-yard TD pass and rushed for a fourth-quarter score for the Trojans. Javorius Allen added 115 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Ryan Murphy returned a kickoff 97 yards for a TD for Oregon State (3-1, 0-1), which struggled in its first serious test of the season.
(At) No. 25 Kansas State 58, UTEP 28: Charles Jones ran for three touchdowns, Tyler Lockett returned a punt for another score and Kansas State romped.
DeMarcus Robinson and Jake Waters also had touchdown runs, and Waters threw for 209 yards and another score as the Wildcats (3-1) finished nonconference play.
UTEP (2-2) managed one first down and 23 yards of offense in the first half, when Kansas State raced to a 31-0 lead. Running back Aaron Jones, the nation's second-leading rusher, was held to 47 yards. Jameil Showers threw four TD passes for the Miners, all with the game well out of reach.