Coming into the season, a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium is definitely not where the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had their sights set.
Keep in mind that just short of a year ago, the Irish were playing in the BCS National Championship Game to close out a truly amazing 2012-13 campaign. To their credit, Notre Dame seemed to put any lingering disappointments behind them and ended 2013 on a high note on Saturday afternoon by defeating the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.
En route to the 29-16 final, Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees topped 300 yards passing for the fifth time this season. The senior capped off his collegiate career in fine fashion, completing 27-of-47 attempts for 318 yards. Without question, Rees has been the leader of the Irish attack over the course of their 13-game docket. Nine wins, a bowl trophy, 27 touchdowns and 3,256 passing yards all give him reasons to hold his head high.
Notre Dame’s balance was the key factor in the victory over the Scarlet Knights. In support of the effort Rees put forth, the duo of Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston gashed the Rutgers’ defense for a combined 155 rushing yards and one score. Each of the backs carried the ball 17 times with Folston finding the end zone late in the fourth quarter.
Back in late August, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly certainly had ideas of a second consecutive invitation to the BCS party. However, going home after a sound win instead of a total embarrassment at the hands of a far superior opponent has to feel better on some level.