Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, January 12, 2005
PHOENIX – It was much of the same images Notre Dame has seen all season – getting beat in the air early and often and an inability to make the big play.
And with that, the Tyrone Willingham era ended Dec. 28 with a Notre Dame loss to Oregon State 38-21 in the Insight Bowl.
Beaver quarterback Derek Anderson threw for 358 yards including four touchdowns and no interceptions en route to claiming the game’s Most Valuable Player honor.
“We knew they were going to throw the ball,” Irish linebacker Derek Curry said. “It was a matter of us stopping it or not, and we didn’t do it effectively enough. We gave up some easy touchdowns early on and couldn’t quite recover.
Oregon State (7-5) jumped out to a 21-0 lead after a 52-yard punt return by Sammie Stroughter and blocked punt by Derrick Doggett led to two straight Beaver scores.
“The short field position in the first half just killed us,” Irish interim head coach Kent Baer said. “You take that away and it’s a much closer game, but that’s all part of it.”
Brady Quinn threw for two touchdowns and 214 yards, with one interception for Notre Dame (6-6), playing for the first time without former head coach Willingham, who was fired last month.
Oregon State began the scoring with a 12-yard Anderson touchdown pass to George Gillett. The Beavers started the drive at the Notre Dame 27-yard line to start the drive after a punt return by Stroughter.
After the blocked punt, Oregon State started at the Notre Dame 4-yard line, only to lose seven yards on a Kyle Budinscak sack. But Anderson responded, throwing an 11-yard bullet to Joe Newton for the score.
With the Beavers up 14-0 after one quarter, the Irish were unable to mount any scoring drives, as they were forced to punt each of their first five possessions.
“I think it really came down to us not making the plays when we needed to,” Quinn said.
Finally, the Irish put together a 13-play, 84-yard drive highlighted by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Quinn to tight end Anthony Fasano to get on the board with just under a minute to play in the half.
“We knew we could stop them defensively,” Budinscak said. “Obviously, we had some of the same problems we had all year. We gave up some passes, but we settled down on defense, but we couldn’t stop them. The offense had a big touchdown with Anthony [Fasano] going in. We weren’t ready to quit the whole game.”
The Irish continued to fight back in the third quarter when Jerome Collins blocked a Sam Paulescu punt, giving Notre Dame the ball on the Oregon State 49-yard line. Notre Dame cut the lead to 10 after a 5-yard touchdown scamper by Darius Walker capped a 49-yard drive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chinedum Ndukwe stopped Lamar Herron at the Oregon State 10-yard line to pin the Beavers with 2:49 to play in the third quarter.
But that was as close as Notre Dame would come.
Plagued once again by poor play in the secondary, Oregon State marched downfield, starting with a 25-yard pass from Anderson to Newton on second-and-10, and ending with a one-yard toss from Anderson to Newton (seven catches, 85 yards) for his second touchdown and a 31-14 lead.
“It was frustrating because I thought we were right back in it,” Baer said. “We had to get a couple stops there and we didn’t do it.”
Notre Dame would score two possessions later on a pass from Quinn to Rhema McKnight from 18 yards out to make it 31-21, but it was too little too late.
Oregon State recovered the onside kick and proceeded to score after a 21-yard completion to Mike Hass and a Dwight Wright 2-yard touchdown scamper to make it 38-21. Hass finished with 105 yards receiving on five catches.
For Notre Dame, McKnight finished with 90 yards receiving on four catches, and Jeff Samardzija had five catches for 89 yards. Walker had a game high 43 yards on the ground.
Oregon State continued its winning streak, finishing the season with wins in six of its last seven games after starting 1-4.
Meanwhile, the Irish are set to begin a new era with new coach Charlie Weis, offensive coordinator of the NFL’s New England Patriots.
“There’s so much talent here,” Curry said. “There’s a lot of young guys who can do a lot of great things with the new system coming up. And I hope those guys really play like they can play. They’ll be fine.”