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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

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14
 
1:00pm Today
CAR
SEA
Final
SFG 11
KAN 4
8:07pm Tonight
SFG
KAN
 
Final
WISC 52
MD 7
Final
SMU 10
MEM 48
Final
ILL 28
MINN 24
Final
RICE 41
UNT 21
Final
NEB 42
RUTG 24
Final
KST 23
TEX 0
Final
ARK 45
UAB 17
Final
UVA 27
UNC 28
Final
EMICH 17
NILL 28
Final
NAVY 41
SJST 31
Final
BST 35
AKR 21
Final
GASTATE 31
GASO 69
Final
TOL 42
UMASS 35
Final
WMICH 42
OHIO 21
Final
COL 37
UCLA 40
Final
UMO 10
KSU 3
Final
WAKE 17
BC 23
Final
BUF 14
CMICH 20
Final
MARS 35
FATL 16
Final
PITT 28
GT 56
Final
SMISS 20
LATU 31
Final
MSU 35
MICH 11
Final
KENT 31
MSST 45
Final
STAN 38
ORST 14
Final
TCU 82
TTU 27
Final
OKST 10
WVU 34
Final
WKENT 66
ODU 51
Final
UTST 34
UNLV 20
Final
MIZZ 24
VANDY 14
Final
UCF 34
TEMPL 14
Final
WASU 37
ARZ 59
Final
CLEM 16
SYR 6
Final
LAMON 18
TXST 22
Final
TXSANANTO 0
UTEP 34
Final
COLST 45
WYO 31
Final
LSU 10
MISS 7
Final
TENN 20
ALA 34
Final
AUB 42
SCAR 35
Final
PSU 24
OSU 31
Final
UTAH 24
USC 21
Final
WASH 10
ARST 24
4th
HAW 10
NEV 19
 
Final
SJS 1
BUF 2
Final
TOR 1
BOS 4
Final
NYI 7
DAL 5
Final
PHI 4
DET 2
Final
OTT 2
NJD 3
Final
MON 3
NYR 1
Final
STL 3
CHI 2
Final
NAS 0
PIT 3
Final
MIN 7
TAM 2
Final
ARI 2
FLA 1
Final
CAL 1
WAS 3
3:00pm Today
WIN
COL
 
4:00pm Today
LOS
CLB
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
OTT
 
8:00pm Tonight
ANA
SJS
 
9:30pm Tonight
VAN
WAS
 
9:30am Today
ATL
DET
1:00pm Today
CIN
BAL
1:00pm Today
NYJ
BUF
1:00pm Today
NEP
CHI
1:00pm Today
TEN
HOU
1:00pm Today
JAC
MIA
1:00pm Today
TAM
MIN
1:00pm Today
CAR
SEA
1:00pm Today
KAN
STL
4:05pm Today
ARI
PHI
4:25pm Today
PIT
IND
4:25pm Today
CLE
OAK
8:30pm Tonight
NOS
GBP
Final
NCCU 42
SAVST 14