Irish fill up the record books in Honolulu
Dan Murphy and Bill Brink | Sunday, December 28, 2008
Notre Dame set new Hawai’i Bowl records in passing yards, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, player receiving yards and touchdowns, longest pass, total offense and longest kick return.
“We came here knowing that Hawaii has good offensive firepower,” Weis said. “We wanted to mix the run and the pass, and get them out of their Cover Two.”
Sophomore wide receiver Golden Tate also picked up several records of his own. He became the sixth Irish receiver to pick up over 1,000 yards in a season and he also set bowl record for most touchdown catches (3) and receiving yards (177).
“I had no clue that I was in the record books, but I’ll take it. It’s a great tradition,” he said.
Tate and Jimmy Clausen split MVP honors for the game.
Irish coach Charlie Weis called the plays from the press box rather than on the sideline against Hawai’i. He said he took a shot for the pain in his knee, resulting from torn ligaments during the Michigan game when a player was blocked into him. The shot, however, sent pain into his calves and feet and rendered him unable to walk.
The move was not new to him. He coached in the press box as an offensive coordinator with the Patriots until quarterback Drew Bledsoe got injured, and he and Patriots coach Bill Belichick felt his presence on the sideline would benefit an inexperienced Tom Brady.
“We won the Super Bowl, so we decided to keep doing it,” he said.
Weis said coaching from the press box was 10 times easier – “Calling the game was pretty sweet up there” – but said as a coach, he wants to be on the sideline.
Notre Dame deflected five of Warriors quarterback Greg Alexander’s passes, which is something they practiced for because of the quick release and Alexander’s low release point.
“We expected a quick release out of the quarterback today, reminiscent of San Diego State and some of the earlier games we had,” Kuntz said. “We emphasized get our hands up because a lot of teams try to get it away quick, before we get there, and that’s a way of shutting them down.
“I liked that release point. It was a little lower, and I could see over the lineman so it was kind of nice.”
Pouring on the pressure
The Irish defense also had a big night out with seven sacks and five more passes tipped at the line of scrimmage. Freshman Ethan Johnson and senior Steve Quinn led the way with two apiece.
“It was a good a chance to try to make some plays. I tried to do that and I made some plays tonight,” Johnson said.
Darius Fleming, Maurice Crum and Kerry Neal all got to the quarterback as well. Hawai’i quarterback Greg Alexander was no stranger to defensive linemen. The Rainbow Warriors gave up a total of 56 sacks this season.
Off to the Races
With just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter sophomore running back Armando Allen returned a Hawai’i kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to make the score 49-14 for the Irish.
“It was open and once I saw that I was just thinking I can’t fall. I was just riled up that we finally got one, its been a long time,” Allen said.
It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown for any Notre Dame player since Vontez Duff returned a kick in a 30-23 win over Navy in 2003. It was also the first return ever in the Hawai’i Bowl. Allen finished the game with 180 all-purpose yards including an 18-yard touchdown on a screen pass to start the second half.
The Name Game
The Irish wore their names on the back of their jerseys for the first time in over 20 years against Hawai’i. The last time was in the 1987 Cotton Bowl when Texas A&M beat Notre Dame 35-10.
The jerseys were a flashback to a tradition during the Ara Parseghian years when the team would regularly put names on their jersey for the bowl games only.
Even though freshman receiver Michael Floyd only caught two passes for 17 yards, his presence was enough to ensure the rest of the passing game shined.
“It’s great to have Michael Floyd back, he’s a great playmaker on offense,” Clausen said. “In previous games they could double-team, but they couldn’t do that today.
Floyd’s presence opened the field for Tate and freshman tight end Kyle Rudolph, who finished with four catches for 78 yards.
“Floyd’s a stud. [Rudolph’s] a stud, he’s small right now but if he puts on weight…” Warriors coach Greg McMackin said.