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Rutgers1030316
Notre Dame10331329
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29


Rutgers (6-6) vs. (25) Notre Dame (8-4)



Saturday, December 28, 12 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Although the stakes will be lower than last year, the stage remains prestigious, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in the Pinstripe Bowl at New Yankee Stadium.

A year ago at this time Notre Dame was preparing for the BCS National Title game against Alabama, while dealing with some off-field controversy involving star linebacker Manti Te'o.

There is not as much fanfare this time around. The Irish finished the 2013 regular season at a solid 8-4, with marquee wins over Michigan State, Arizona State and USC. However, this year's results have clearly not lived up to the 12-0 mark the Irish had heading into last year's postseason.

"I don't know what goes into that kind of thinking. We have to prepare our football team. We want to win for our program to get to nine wins," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of his mind-set about a bowl game considered a step down for his program. " If we don't play well, (Rutgers will) beat us. We have everything to lose. We want to win the football game."

The good news is the Irish have remained competitive under Brian Kelly. He is the first head coach in program history to bring the Irish to a bowl game in his first four seasons. However, for a program heralded as one of the greatest in the nation, the Irish haven't always proven it come the postseason. In their 33 previous bowl appearances they are just 15-17, including losses in 11 of the last 13.

The final campaign for Rutgers, before joining the Big Ten next season, was an eventful but ultimately mediocre one. The Scarlet Knights were involved in two thrilling overtime matchups with a 52-51 loss to Fresno State and a 55-52 triple overtime victory over SMU. However they also dropped lost five of their final seven contest to close out the schedule at just 6-6 overall and 3-5 in American Athletic Conference play. It was quite a step backwards for a program that has had at least eight wins in six of the last seven seasons. That doesn't mean the head coach Kyle Flood doesn't appreciate the stage his team will be playing on.

"It's a really attractive matchup," Flood said. "It will certainly be an attractive matchup for their fan base and I think it will 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."

Flood has continued the renaissance for the Scarlet Knights that began under Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights had been to just one bowl game before 2005, but have been to one in eight of the last nine years. They are 5-2 in those postseason showings, though they were dropped by Virginia Tech, in overtime, (13-10) last year in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

In four all-time meetings with Rutgers, Notre Dame has never lost. The most recent matchup between them occurred in 2002. Spectators at the Pinstripe Bowl will certainly be hoping for a more even contest than that 42-0 rout.

Rutgers was not one of the more productive offensive teams in the AAC. The Scarlet Knights ranked seventh in the conference in total offense (375.9 ypg) and fifth in scoring (27.4 ppg).

The struggles on offense eventually forced Flood to slot in Chas Dodd at starting quarterback. Dodd started in the last two games of the season. In those two games he amassed 465 yards, two touchdowns and as many interceptions, while completing 59.3 percent of his pass attempts. Gary Nova (165-of-303, 2,159 yards, 18 TDs, 14 INTs) spent the bulk of the season as the starter but his tendency to force throws often led to mistakes, and eventually a loss of his job.

Dodd may be without one of his top targets in this bout. Leonte Carroo (28 receptions, 478 yards, nine TDs) made a name for himself as a big-play receiver but missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He remains questionable for this contest. That will leave more opportunities for tight end Tyler Kroft (40 receptions, 530 yards, four TDs), who saw a boost in his numbers once Dodd got more playing time. Quron PRatt (31 receptions, 493 yards) and Brandon Coleman (32 receptions, 473 yards, three TDs) should also get targeted.

Paul James (833 yards, nine TDs) seemed to reclaim the starting running back role in the season finale against South Florida. The Scarlet Knights' lead rushing missed four games in the middle of the season but had 113 yards and two scores on 26 carries against the Bulls. Justin Goodwin (518 yards, five TDs) will provide fresh legs when James is subbed out.

There is a great deal of talent on the defensive side for Rutgers, led by linebacker Steve Longa, who led the nation in tackles by a freshman (111). Kevin Snyder (89 tackles) is another sturdy player in the linebacking corps, while Marcus Thompson (5.5 sacks) is the top pass rusher. However the Scarlet Knights were not as strong a unit as they were a year ago. Last season they ranked 10th in total defense nationally, but fell to 69th (409 ypg) in 2013.

There was not a great deal of excitement on the offensive side of the ball for Notre Dame this season. The ever-traditional program held fast to a pro-style system that netted 27.1 points and 398.5 yards per game. The Irish ranked 75th nationally in each category.

Tommy Rees managed to hold onto the starting job at quarterback all season, after last year's starter, Everett Golson, left the team last spring for academic violations. Rees did not provide the same element to the running game as Golson, but was solid enough, producing 2,938 yards and 27 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Rees was not a consistent enough passer though, completing just 53.7 percent of his pass attempts. In fact in five games he completed less than half of his pass attempts.

It is no secret who Rees will be trying to get the ball to during this contest. All season long TJ Jones (65 receptions, 1,042 yards, nine TDs) has been the go-to option. Jones leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns through the air. DaVaris Daniels (46 receptions, 720 yards, seven TDs) helped out as well, along with tight end Troy Niklas (28 receptions, 422 yards, five TDs).

The Irish have not relied on just a single back when running the ball. Cam McDaniel (659 yards, three TDs), George Atkinson III (555 yards, three TDs) and Tarean Folston (397 yards, two TDs) have all gotten their fair share of opportunities this season.

On the defensive side of the ball the Irish were much more effective. They held opponents to 22.9 points and 377 yards per game. However the team struggled to get a ton of pressure, with only 17 tacks and 59 tackles for loss. That effort wasn't helped with Louis Nix missing four of the final five games with a knee injury. He will be out for the bowl game as well. That has left a lot on the shoulders of defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks) and linebacker Prince Shembo (5.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks).

Clearly both of these teams are hoping to claim a victory that could salvage recessionary seasons and send them into 2014 with some momentum. The Irish are more likely to accomplish that goal thanks to a more proven quarterback and their ability to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Notre Dame 31, Rutgers 17

12/25 09:26:46 ET

Other Stories

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    Tonight at 11:35 on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: NC State at UNC

    Tomorrow at 12:58 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Mississippi State at Ole Miss

    Tomorrow at 3:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: San Diego at Baltimore

    Sunday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CFB: NC State at UNC

    Tomorrow at 12:30 pm on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
Final
PIT 2
CAR 4
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
Final
UF 64
UNC 75
 
Half
TULSA 14
ECU 21
 
Final
BOS 102
CHI 109
Final
CHA 101
GSW 106
Final
TOR 102
DAL 106
 
Final
DET 88
MIL 104
 
Final
ATL 100
NOP 91
 
Final
HOU 85
LAC 102
 
Final
OKC 105
NYK 78
 
Final
IND 98
ORL 83
 
4th
SAN 98
SAC 86
 
3rd
DEN 74
PHO 53
 
1st
POR 24
MEM 18
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
MIN
Final
WMICH 21
NILL 31
Final
SMU 9
HOU 35
Final
IOWA 34
NEB 37
Final
SFLA 0
UCF 16
Final
MARS 66
WKENT 67
Final
KSU 27
AKR 24
Final
BGU 24
BST 41
Final
UMASS 21
BUF 41
Final
EMICH 16
TOL 52
Final
MIZZ 21
ARK 14
Final
SALABAMA 40
NAVY 42
Final
ARZ 42
ARST 35
Final
AFA 27
COLST 24
Final
UCLA 10
STAN 31
3rd
VT 10
UVA 13
 
Half
TULSA 14
ECU 21
 
Final
NCCU 65
EILL 40
Final
KU 82
TENN 67
Final
TEXAM 87
NO 65
 
Final
NCAT 57
RAD 65
 
Final
GEOR 58
BUT 64
Final
BRO 81
PVU 71
Final
RIU 66
SCU 44
Final
NARZ 70
SOUTH 63
Final
DART 68
MAST 67
Final
WRST 59
FIU 61
Final
XAV 73
UTEP 77
Final
OSU 73
JMU 56
Final
TXSOU 71
LAM 59
 
Final
TAMCC 75
MVSU 66
 
Final
AKAN 51
MIZST 55
Final
BUCK 80
PSU 88
 
Final
PROV 72
YALE 66
Final
UGA 62
MINN 66
Final
WISC 69
OKLA 56
Final
Terriers 70
NORST 72
 
Final
PEAY 62
STEPH 83
Final
FSU 58
CSOU 47
 
Final
VALPO 66
DRAK 46
Final
CIN 69
MTST 51
Final
SDU 75
PRIN 65
Final
WASU 76
RICE 74
Final
CSFU 64
USCU 79
Final
GT 61
RIDE 54
 
Final
TXPA 79
ALAST 91
Final
NCSU 60
BSU 54
Final
TCU 57
BRAD 49
 
Final
WAKE 65
DELST 72
 
Final
HART 83
EMERSON 50
 
Final
STJ 66
GONZ 73
 
Final
CLEM 62
HIGH 59
 
Final
SYR 72
HC 48
 
Final
MD 61
MON 56
Final
JVST 74
SAV 71
 
Final
MIAMI 87
SALA 75
Final
RUTG 68
VANDY 65
 
Final
PETE 66
TENST 58
 
Final
MARS 59
CLST 68
 
Final
JST 56
HOF 86
 
Final
INDST 62
MEM 72
 
Final
UF 64
UNC 75
 
Final
LATU 77
SAMF 64
 
Final
TULA 71
SELA 61
 
Final
NEB 75
TENNM 64
 
Final
MISS 75
CREI 68
 
Final
PORT 64
MURST 61
 
2nd
MARQ 46
MSU 52
 
2nd
ARK 57
UNT 55
 
2nd
NCOL 64
STET 46
 
2nd
IND 65
UNCG 49
 
2nd
SJST 38
WMICH 55
 
2nd
MNTST 70
TXARL 50
 
Half
UVA 37
LAS 19
 
Half
STLU 27
MSST 37
 
Half
COLST 43
PAC 26
 
1st
UTAH 18
NDAK 7
 
10:30pm Tonight
ILL
BAY
10:30pm Tonight
UAB
UCLA
11:30pm Tonight
WASH
LBSU
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
MERC
Final
PHI 0
NYR 3
Final
ANA 1
CHI 4
Final
WAS 5
NYI 2
Final
PIT 2
CAR 4
Final
NJD 4
DET 5
 
Final
BUF 2
MON 1
 
Final
CLB 0
VAN 5
 
Final
BOS 2
WIN 1
 
Final
FLA 3
OTT 2
 
3rd
STL 3
EDM 3
 
2nd Intermission
DAL 3
MIN 3