ORLANDO, Fla. — On a field 100 yards long, LSU’s 21-17 loss to Notre Dame on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl was basically decided within the 2 yards outside each goal line.

LSU’s inability to convert point-blank scoring opportunities contributed greatly to its demise, sending the Tigers into an offseason sure to be filled with frustration and thoughts of what might have been.

After a scoreless first quarter, LSU marched from its 35 to the Notre Dame 1 in 11 plays. When quarterback Danny Etling was stuffed on a goal-line sneak for no gain, coach Ed Orgeron decided to go for it.

But on fourth-and-goal, fullback Tory Carter was flagged for a false start. Backed up to the 6, the Tigers were forced to go for a 22-yard field goal. Place-kicker Connor Culp couldn’t negotiate the tight angle of the short-range attempt, the ball sailing outside the right upright with 7:45 left until halftime.

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Gonsoulin made a 17-yard field goal with 2:03 left for a 17-14 LSU lead, but again it was too little, too close to paydirt. On third-and-goal from the 4, Danny Etling pitched a shovel pass to Derrius Guice, but he was brought down inches short of a touchdown. Notre Dame got the ball back and scored the winning points on Myles Boykin’s 55-yard one-handed grab of a pass from Ian Book with 1:28 remaining.

“I did think I was across,” said Guice, who earlier caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Etling. “Next time I have to make it more clear.”

LSU’s issues near the goal line weren’t confined to the offense. DJ Chark fielded a Tyler Newsome punt at his 1 that looked like it was headed for the end zone. He was brought down at the 3 by Julian Love. The Tigers eventually moved the ball out to their 40 before having to punt back to Notre Dame.

While that move didn’t come back to haunt the Tigers, their inability to cash in down deep in Notre Dame territory did. It’s easy to make the argument that LSU could have gotten two touchdowns instead of coming away with only one made field goal.

“We’d get into the red zone then we’d have one play set us back,” wide receiver Russell Gage said. “We really shot ourselves in the foot.”

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And it left an opening for Notre Dame to score a touchdown on the Book-to-Boykin pass when the game was on the line.

“We were more physical than they were,” Gage said. “They just made the right plays at the right time.”

LSU, again and again, did not.

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Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.​

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