Tallahassee, Fla. — Notre Dame ran almost the same play for its first touchdown against No. 2 Florida State.
Three receivers bunched to the right, close to the line. The front two jam into the middle and the back one, Corey Robinson, cuts to the outside. It appeared to work perfectly again when Everett Golson hit Robinson for an apparent go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
As the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish celebrated the 2-yard score, flags flew.
The call: offensive pass interference. The touchdown was gone. Instead it was fourth-and-goal from the 18.
Golson's last pass was intercepted in the back of the end zone, nowhere close to a receiver. After leading for most of the game, the Irish lost 31-27 to the Seminoles on Saturday night, unable to seal the deal on another streak-busting victory.
Golson still looked a little shocked after and refused to complain about the penalty.
"That's something you can't argue with. You just have to play through it," he said. "That last play on fourth-and-18, I probably could have made a play there, so that's what I'm more disappointed in."
Golson was 31 for 52 for 313 yards and three touchdowns, an effort worthy of keeping him in the Heisman Trophy discussion. And Notre Dame (6-1) will likely stay in contention for the College Football Playoff if it keeps winning. But ultimately Jameis Winston and the Seminoles (7-0) had just enough to remain unbeaten and run their winning streak to 23.
On its last drive, Notre Dame faced fourth-and-18 from its 43 after a sack by Terrance Smith. Golson bought a little time, rolled right and found Robinson right at that first down marker for a first down, silencing the Florida State crowd for a moment.
Golson did it again with a 17-yard pass to Will Fuller that gave the Irish a first down at the 20. Then a Golson run up the middle made it first-and-goal Irish at the 8 with 45 second left.
Florida State shut down a screen on first down and broke up a slant on second. Golson faced a huge blitz and completed to C.J. Prosise for 6 on third. On fourth-and-ball game, Golson found Robinson all by himself, but the crowd exploded when pass interference was called on Prosise, who locked up Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey in the end zone, helping Robinson get free.
"I didn't see the pass interference," Robinson said. "I thought we got it."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he didn't get an explanation from the officials.
"We execute that play every day. And we do it legally and that's the way we coach it," Kelly said. "We don't coach illegal plays. C.J. did exactly what he's supposed to do."
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he thought Notre Dame might have run an illegal pick when the Irish used a similar play for a short touchdown pass to Robinson in the first quarter, and he mentioned it to officials.
"We thought it was close to that. We said just be aware of it," Fisher said.
After the game Robinson stopped to talk to his famous father, former NBA star David Robinson. The younger Robinson, at 6-foot-4, about 8 inches shorter than his dad, gestured with his hands, seemingly showing what he did on that final play. David Robinson patted his son on the shoulder and then on the hip. While Corey shook his head and rolled his eyes, his father laughed a little then gave his son a hug.
"We came in with the mindset that we were not going to back down just because they're Florida State," Robinson said. "We attacked them."
Notre Dame has a long history of snapping winning streaks, including Oklahoma's NCAA record 47-game winning streak back in 1957.
Florida State's streak was modest by comparison, but still the best in the nation. As the Irish harassed Winston with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's blitzes and the Notre Dame offensive line opened up running lanes in Florida State's defense in the first half, it looked as if 'Noles streak might become seventh of at least 20 games to be halted by the Irish.
Notre Dame led 17-10 at the half.
But the Seminoles had Winston. The Heisman winner showed off his NFL arm, going 15 for 16 in the second half. He finished with 273 yards and two touchdowns. Florida State took its first lead, 31-27, on a 1-yard TD run by Karlos Williams with 7:32 left in the fourth.