Well, that’s it. No more football until April. As the sun dropped behind the skyscrapers and the shadows engulfed the canyons of Yankee Stadium, as Jay-Z cruised by State Street and theatre-goers spilled from their matinees, The Figthing Irish closed the books on the 2013 season by defeating the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights 29-16. It was a good win for Notre Dame, but one that featured many of the problems that denied the Irish a ten win season. Perhaps as a tonic to some of those ailments, almost immediately, various media outlets began reporting that Notre Dame had hired a new Defensive Coordinator, the New York Jets’ linebackers coach,
Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico Brian Van Gorder.
Against the 117th-ranked passing defense in the country, Tommy Rees ended his Notre Dame career with a competent performance. Completing 27 of forty-seven passing attempts, Rees threw for 319 yards and no interceptions. Frustratingly, he also threw no touchdowns, a symptom of Notre Dame’s red-zone woes on the day. From the opening drive to the final whistle, the Irish were able to move the ball at will between the Twenties, only to see their efforts founder. Had Kyle Brindza not turned in a fine five-for-six day, Notre Dame’s inability to get over the goal line could have been fatal.
As the seniors walked away from the game for the final time, Brian Kelly’s post game comments indicated that the Pinstripe Bowl was both finale and prelude. The pace of the offense, he said, is where he wants the Irish to be. His goal was ninety plays, and he got ninety plays. It was a balanced attack, too, with 47 passes and 43 runs. Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston each carried the ball seventeen times, McDaniel for 80 yards and Folston for 73 yards and one touchdown. Though Rutgers’ battled the Irish well for the most part, but they were undone by overthrows, underthrows and three Chase Dodd interceptions.
The hiring of Brian Van Gorder away from the New York Jets is an interesting move by Notre Dame. It reunites Kelly and Van Gorder, who worked together at Grand Valley State from 1989 to 1991. Van Gorder, 54, has a considerable amount of NFL and SEC experience, with stints at Georgia and Auburn, Jacksonville, Atlanta and the New York Jets. He was the Falcons’ Defensive Coordinator from 2008 to 2011 and won the Frank Broyles Award with the third-best defense in the country at Georgia in 2003. Notre Dame’s previous DC, Bob Diaco, won the same award in 2012, a season in which Van Gorder’s Auburn defense was ranked 81st in the nation.
Another item that bears noting on the day, the win against Rutgers, when coupled with Michigan’s disaster of a performance against K-State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, gives Notre Dame the best winning percentage in college football. The Irish now have a winning percentage of 0.7333, while the Wolverines can only show 0.73244. My, my, Michigan men, what five years can do to a program, right? It will be curious to hear Brady Hoke’s response, once he empties his mouth of all those yummy wings.
So that’s it, loyal readers. Another season, done and dusted. In the words of Coach Kelly, a good season “that could have been great.”
Your game day experience here: