Pinstripe Bowl closes Tommy Rees’ ‘unique’ career

The last time Tommy Rees played at Yankee Stadium, he got to use

Derek Jeter’s locker and led Notre Dame to a victory against

Army.

That was 2010 and Rees was a freshman.

Since then he’s been beaten out, benched, booed and suspended.

He’s also been called on repeatedly to bail out the Fighting Irish

when they have been in a jam, and come through more often than

not.

Rees returns to Yankee Stadium on Saturday to play his final

game for No. 25 Notre Dame (8-4) against Rutgers (6-6) in the

Pinstripe Bowl.

”I’ve had a unique four years, but I wouldn’t trade them for

anything,” Rees said. ”The relationships I’ve built, the memories

I have and some of the things I have been able to do, I’ll

definitely look back at that. It’s been a very humbling

experience.”

Rees wasn’t supposed to be the starter for Notre Dame this

season, but when Everett Golson was suspended from school for

academic issues the senior quarterback was again there to patch the

leak.

”It takes an incredible amount of confidence in one’s own

ability when you’re under such scrutiny when it comes to your

play,” coach Brian Kelly said Friday. ”He’s going to obviously be

remembered as somebody that has persevered and overcome some highs

and some lows.”

Rees passed for 2,938 yards with 27 touchdowns (highs) this

season. He has also thrown 13 interceptions and completed 53.7

percent of his passes (lows).

”I’m not in the business of rating myself,” he said. ”As long

as I have the confidence of my teammates that’s really at the end

of the day what I care most about.”

Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd has had a Rees-like career for the

Scarlet Knights. He shared the No. 1 quarterback job in 2011,

helping Rutgers win two games at Yankee Stadium – against Army in

the regular season and the Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State.

Dodd hardly played last year as Gary Nova’s backup. This season

Nova struggled mightily and Rutgers turned to Dodd late in the

season. He was 19 for 24 for 179 yards and two TD passes in a 31-6

victory against USF in the season finale.

”I was prepared and I was ready when my number was called,”

Dodd said.

As for the locker room setup, Rees won’t find out until Saturday

if he draws Jeter’s again.

”I definitely wouldn’t be disappointed to get it again,” he

said.

Five things to know about the Pinstripe Bowl:

1) PAUL JAMES IS HEALTHY.

The former walk-on tailback for Rutgers was one of the breakout

stars of the early season before a leg injury sidelined. Finally,

against USF, he looked like the player he was in the first four

games, running for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He needs 167 yards

to reach 1,000 for the season.

”He’s been a difference maker for us on offense,” Rutgers

coach Kyle Flood said. ”He opens up all the play-action game in

every game plan regardless of who we’re playing against.”

2) RESUME TAPE.

Notre Dame is playing with two interim coordinators. Mike

Denbrock runs the offense after Chuck Martin left for Miami, Ohio.

Kerry Cooks took over the defense after Bob Diaco became head coach

at UConn. Denbrock has a long history with coach Brian Kelly and

the conventional wisdom is that if Notre Dame promotes one of the

two interim coordinators to full time it would be Denbrock.

3) MISMATCH?

Notre Dame is a 14-point favorite, which is among the biggest

for any of this season’s bowl games. The Fighting Irish are a

legitimate Top 25 team, with victories against No. 4 Michigan State

and No. 16 Arizona State. Rutgers did not beat an FBS team that was

bowl-eligible.

4) FINALE?

Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt is a possible

first-round draft pick, though his production fell off this season

and he received a second-round grade from the NFL evaluation

committee. Tuitt has said he’ll decide after the game whether to

skip his senior season.

5) LOOKING AHEAD.

This is the final season of the Pinstripe Bowls’ affiliation

with the Big 12 and American Athletic Conference (the former Big

East). Next season contracts with the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast

Conference kick in. Notre Dame, which will have access to the ACC’s

bowl lineup starting next season, took the spot the Big 12 could

not fill this year. Rutgers is joining the Big Ten next year.