Careers end with proud performances
Mike Gilloon | Wednesday, January 18, 2006
TEMPE, Ariz. – The sun set on Notre Dame’s senior class when the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl ended in a 34-20 loss to Ohio State on Jan. 2. But that’s not without several players making significant contributions during their final games in an Irish uniform.
Maurice Stovall and Matt Shelton paced the Irish receivers by combining for 14 catches for 178 yards.
All of Shelton’s five catches came in the second half, with three coming on a third-quarter drive resulting in a Darius Walker touchdown run to bring the Irish within eight at 21-13.
Linebackers Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays were the top two tacklers for the Irish as Mays talled 12 stops and Hoyte racked up 10. Mays also forced a fumble, sacked Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith once and had two tackles for loss.
The season didn’t end as they would have preferred, but the seniors were optimistic about the end of their careers at Notre Dame.
“I learned a lot [during my time at Notre Dame],” Hoyte said. “I learned a lot from the coaches about the game of football and things aside from football.”
One of the few highlights for the Irish against the Buckeyes came on special teams as Irish free safety Chinedum Ndukwe and defensive tackle Trevor Laws each blocked a field goal.
Ndukwe’s deflection came at the end of the first half as Ohio State aimed to extend its 21-7 lead as Buckeyes’ kicker Josh Huston lined up for a 28-yard field goal.
But Ndukwe slipped through the line to block the kick and keep the deficit at 14 points.
Laws’ play came after Ohio State’s second drive of the second half and with the Irish still trailing 21-7.
Huston lined up for a 46-yarder after Ohio State had driven from its own 41 down to the Irish 29 when Laws got enough of his hand on the ball to turn back the Buckeyes once again.
The blocks were the second and third of the season for Notre Dame, as Laws blocked a 44-yard attempt by Purdue’s Ben Jones during a 49-28 Irish victory over the Boilermakers on Oct. 1.
Packin ’em in
The attendance at Sun Devil Stadium for the Fiesta Bowl was 76,196 – a record crowd for a non-championship BCS game.
It was also the last Fiesta Bowl ever played at Sun Devil Stadium, as the bowl will move across the Phoenix metropolitan area to the new Cardinals Stadium in Glendale, Ariz next year.
The Fiesta Bowl has been played in Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium for 35 years and hosted five national championship games, including Notre Dame’s 34-21 win over West Virginia on Jan. 2, 1989 to give the Irish the national title.
Captains for the bowl game were Hoyte for the defense, Quinn for the offense and Mays for special teams.
Ohio State won the toss and deferred to the second half. Notre Dame chose to defend the north end zone and received the opening kickoff.