Saturday, December 28, 2013

Notre Dames Uses Ground Game To Defeat Rutgers In Pinstripe Bowl

                                                                      (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
                                            Notre Dame celebrating their victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl with fans

     Notre Dame headed into its Bowl Game as 14 point favorites over Rutgers. It took a while, but eventually the Irish would runaway late in the game and come away victorious, defeating the Scarlet Knights 29-16.

     Notre Dame's offense got off to a fast start, going all the way down to the Rutgers 4 yd. line but had to settle for a Field Goal, giving the Irish a 3-0 lead. A key play from the drive came on 3rd & 12 when Notre Dame Quarterback Tommy Rees hooked up with Tight End Ben Koyack for 13 yards.

     Rutgers would go 3 & out on its first possession, but a muffed punt by Notre Dame's T.J. Jones was recovered by Quentin Gause to give the Scarlet Knights possession deep in the Fighting Irish's territory. Rutgers again could not move the ball, but the turnover allowed them to convert for a FG and tie the game up 3-3.

     Notre Dame again would drive down inside the five and this time come away with a touchdown (TD)! On 2nd & 2 from the Rutgers 30, Rees and Wide Receiver T.J. Jones hooked up on a pass that went for 22 yards. Jones followed up on the big pass play by getting into the end zone from eight yards out to put Notre Dame up, 10-3.

     After going 0-5 on his passes on the Scarlet Knights first two possessions, Rutgers Quarterback Chas Dodd finally completed his first pass, going for a huge 51 yard pickup with Receiver Brandon Coleman coming down with the reception. Two plays later, Dodd hooked up with Coleman again for a 14 yd TD Pass to tie the game back up 10-10!

     Notre Dame could not move the ball on its next possession, despite having good field position they were forced to punt. But on Rutgers first play of its new possession, Notre Dame Cornerback Bennett Jackson deflected a pass that allowed teammate Kendall Moore to come away with the pick! Once again though, Notre Dame, even with good field position, had to settle for another FG as Kyle Brindza connected from 38 yards out to regain the lead for the Irish, 13-10.

     Notre Dame had Rutgers on 3rd and long twice on the their following possession but a huge run by QB Dodd and Personal Foul by Jarron Jones, respectively, gave the Scarlet Knights a fresh set of downs. Rutgers got the ball all the way down to Notre Dame's 1 on 2nd & Goal, but could not punch the ball across the goal line and had to settle for a FG. Kyle Federico easily made an 18 yarder to tie the game up once again 13-13.

     The Fighting Irish drove the ball into Rutgers territory once more, but again could not find the endzone after three straight passing plays by Rees from the 26 fell incomplete. Kicker Kyle Brindza missed the 44 yd. attempt, shifting the momentum towards the Scarlet Knights! Rutgers would threaten. After an Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Notre Dame lineman, Stephon Tuitt, followed by a pass from Dodd to Tight End Tyler Kroft that went for 19 yards, set up shop for Rutgers at the Notre Dame 20. Instead of keeping things simple, Rutgers decided to get creative with a little bit of trickery when Running Back Justin Goodwin received the ball and would end up throwing it. The pass would be end up being picked off by KeiVarae Russell! Russell already had a couple of big plays prior to his interception when he deflected two passes in the end zone that could have easily been TD's for the Scarlet Knights!

     After the turnover, Notre Dame took a conservative approach to move the ball out near their own 30. The Irish would punt to Rutgers, who received the ball with :21 remaining, had two timeouts remaining from their own 37. However the Scarlet Knights decided to go into the locker room happy with a 13-13 ties as they ended up taking a knee.

     Rutgers Janarion Grant gave the Scarlet Knights great field position to start the second half after returning the kickoff all the way to Notre Dame's 47! Unfortunately for Rutgers, they could do nothing with the great field position and went 3 & out and were forced to punt. Notre Dame would chew up a lot of time off the clock on the ensuing possession.

     A drive that took 7:17 off the clock, the Irish converted on 3rd Down twice and on 4th Down in Rutgers territory. Several miscues would push Notre Dame back, forcing them to settle for yet again another FG try. Brindza missed for a second straight attempt, but would receive a mulligan when Rutgers Nadir Barnwell made incidental contact with the kicker. Brindza would make good on his 2nd chance, reclaiming the lead for the Irish 16-13.

     Rutgers would see if they could once again match Notre Dame, or do one better by scoring a TD. The Scarlet Knights appeared to be doing so. A Pass Interference call against Bennett Jackson gave Rutgers a 1st Down at its own 40. On 3rd & 5, Dodd threw a pass intended for Running Back Savon Huggins. Huggins who had daylight ahead of him, could not haul in the catch and cost Rutgers a chance at pointing some points on the board. Rutgers would though, punt the ball and down it at the Notre Dame 2, putting their Defense in great position to make a big play!

     Notre Dame escaped from the dangers of its own endzone when Running Backs Cam McDaniels and Tarean Folston ran for 5 and 8 yards respectively. The Irish would eventually get the ball on Rutgers side of the field. On 3rd & 9 from Rutgers 32, Rees found Tight End Troy Niklas for a reception, and picked up 26 yards before being brought down at the Rutgers 6. But once more, the Irish could not get the ball into the end zone and had to settle for just three points as Brindza connected from 25 yards out to extend Notre Dame's lead to 19-13, as the game remained just a one possession game.

     Janarion Grant, who already had a huge return on the opening kickoff of the 2nd half (51 yds.) returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards all the way to the Notre Dame 45 yd. line! Rutgers managed to get inside the Redzone to the Irish's 18 yd line. However, a false start followed by a sack pushed Rutgers back and faced a 3rd & 20 situation, which saw QB Dodd under throw a pass intended for Tight End Kroft. Rutgers opted to go for the FG, despite windy conditons. Federico had no problem though as he easily hit from 47 yards out to bring the Scarlet Knights back within three, 19-16!

     Hoping for a big stop and a chance to tie the game or take the lead, the Rutgers defense would need to make a play to put them in position to do so. Instead Notre Dame would end up going on another lengthy drive chewing up the clock!

     The Fighting Irish's ground game wore down the Rutgers defense. Running Back Folston provided 41 yards of offense (37 Rushing, 4 Receiving) which ended up with him finally getting Notre Dame into the endzone again with a 3 yard TD Run. The drive took off 5:19 from the clock. Notre Dame would seal the deal on Rutgers first play from scrimmage on its ensuing possession, when Linebacker Dan Fox, picked off Dodd at the Scarlet Knights own 36. A few plays later Brindza would hit another FG, this from 49 yds. to put Notre Dame up 29-16 with 2:28 remaining.

     QB Dodd would try to lead his team with a comeback effort, but time was already against them, and as time expired, Dodd threw a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by Austin Collinsworth.

     With the win, Notre Dame finishes the season 9-4 to go along with their Pinstripe Bowl victory. As for Rutgers, who will be joining the Big Ten next season, finish with a losing record of 6-7.


- Notre Dame Running Back George Atkinson was suspended from the game for violating team rules

- Notre Dame out-gained Rutgers 494-236 in offensive yards (ND- Passing 319, Rushing 175  RUT- Passing 156, Rushing 80)

-  Turnover Margin- Rutgers 4  Notre Dame 1

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