Rutgers-Notre Dame Preview

Notre Dame would like to close out a mostly disappointing year

with a victory at the site of some of the greatest moments in its

storied history. Rutgers certainly wants to claim a winning record

the season before it moves to a tougher conference.

The No. 25 Irish and Scarlet Knights meet in the Pinstripe Bowl

at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.

A season after a stunning run to the BCS title game, Notre Dame

endured an uneven year. A four-game winning streak left the Irish

at 7-2 on Nov. 2 before they dropped two of their last three.

Notre Dame (8-4) nearly rallied from 15 down at then-No. 8

Stanford in its regular-season finale Nov. 30 before falling 27-20.

The Irish closed to within four after three quarters, but Tommy

Rees threw two interceptions late in the fourth.

”Not good enough obviously. Proud of the guys and my teammates

and how we fought all year but you don’t come to Notre Dame to go

8-4, and everyone understands that,” said Rees, who took over when

last season’s starter Everett Golson was suspended for a semester

due to academic reasons. ”You have to be better.”

The Irish were chosen for the four-year-old Pinstripe Bowl after

the Big 12 finished without enough bowl-eligible teams.

Nonetheless, Notre Dame will add another chapter to its history in

the Bronx, where it last played Nov. 20, 2010, beating longtime

rival Army 27-3.

The Irish played some famous games at the old Yankee Stadium,

including in 1928 against Army when coach Knute Rockne gave his

famous ”Win one for the Gipper” speech. No. 1 Army and No. 2 Notre

Dame played the Game of the Century there in 1946 in a game that

featured four Heisman Trophy winners and ended in a 0-0 tie.

Coach Brian Kelly said the Irish are looking forward to

returning.

”We were privileged to play in New York City and Yankee Stadium

in 2010. The treatment our university received from the

Steinbrenner family, the New York Yankees and the entire

organization was unlike anything we’ve experienced in my tenure at

Notre Dame,” he said.

Next season the Irish will be part of the ACC bowl lineup, which

will include the Pinstripe Bowl.

Rutgers (6-6) ended the season in even more lackluster fashion

than Notre Dame, needing to defeat South Florida 31-6 on Dec. 7 to

become bowl eligible and end a three-game losing streak. The

Scarlet Knights earned their eighth bowl bid in nine years, but

hardly put together a strong season in the AAC before their move to

the Big Ten for next season.

“We came out today and it was do or die,” said running back Paul

James, who rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns. “We were

fighting to get to that bowl game. Now that we are there everyone

is excited and happy to get there.”

It may not be a pleasant experience for the Scarlet Knights if

they don’t play better defense. They shut down woeful South

Florida, but Rutgers gave up an average of 38.0 points in the

previous seven games, and its 311.4 passing yards allowed per

contest is among the worst marks in the nation.

The Scarlet Knights have given up 3,596 yards through the air,

the most in school history.

That could spell trouble against Rees, who passed for 2,938

yards and 27 touchdowns with a 138.1 rating. TJ Jones paced the

Irish receiving corps with 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns.

Despite the less-than-spectacular seasons from the Irish and

Scarlet Knights, they seem likely to play before a large and

enthusiastic crowd. Notre Dame has a significant fan base in the

New York City area to go along with Rutgers’ proximity to the game

site.

The Notre Dame-Army matchup in 2010 drew a Yankee Stadium-record

crowd for football of 54,251. Both schools have sold out their

ticket allotments of about 10,000 apiece.

“It’s a really attractive matchup,” embattled second-year

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “It will certainly be an attractive

matchup for their fan base and I think it will be attractive to

just the casual college sports fan that wants to see an event and

to get an opportunity to go watch a football game in Yankee

Stadium, one of the premiere venues in the world.”

Chas Dodd is likely to make his third straight start at

quarterback for the Scarlet Knights since replacing Gary Nova. Dodd

went 19 of 24 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions

against South Florida.

James ran for team highs of 833 yards and nine touchdowns this

season.

Notre Dame has won all four games against Rutgers in a series

that dates to 1921, the most recent matchup being a 42-0 home

victory Nov. 23, 2002.