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ND wins big in Honolulu

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Click here to view a slideshow of images from the game
HONOLULU- Christmas came a day early for the Irish this year, and their stockings were stuffed to the gills with points and records.

Notre Dame ended its 15-year, nine-game bowl win drought with a 49-14 rout over the Rainbow Warriors in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.

“I think it will be a happy time for our players,” Weis said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve won a bowl game.”

Leading the way for the Irish offensive attack was sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns in only two and a half quarters of work.

“It felt great,” Clausen said. “The coaches had us very prepared, but I have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line, I think I got hit maybe one time tonight.”

Clausen completed 22 of his 26 pass attempts and the four that hit the turf were all catchable passes. Clausen set Notre Dame records in the game for total offense in a bowl game and passing yards in a bowl game.

“[Clausen] was as accurate as I’ve ever seen him. He was outstanding,” Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said.

The sophomore Southern Cal native said that a few days relaxing on the beach may have been just what he needed to get back on track.

He threw his first touchdown pass with 10:25 left in the first half. After stiff-arming defensive lineman David Veikune he hit senior wide receiver David Grimes on the run in the back of the endzone.

After that it became the Golden Tate show.

On the third play of Notre Dame’s next drive Clausen and his sophomore receiver connected for a 69-yard bomb on a play action pass to put the Irish up 21-7.

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to get very many go routes, but Jimmy gave me the signal and I just stuck them inside and he threw it up and made some perfect passes,” Tate said.

With one second remaining in the half Clausen found Tate again for a touchdown from 18 yards out. The play was challenged but upheld by the officials.

The duo completed their hat trick midway through the third quarter with another long pass on a 3rd and 20 from the Hawaii 40-yard line. Tate set Irish records for most receiving touchdowns and yards in a bowl game. He and Clausen shared the MVP honors for their work in the game.

Both players benefitted from Weis calling plays from the press box throughout the game. “It was ten times easier, it was like night and day,” Weis said.

He decided to coach from the booth because of the pain he was in from his bad knees. Weis said that the view helped him but he couldn’t imagine making a regular habit of not being on the sidelines – despite the fact that it led to five touchdown passes.

Clausen’s fifth came on the opening drive of the second half when he marched the Irish 88 yards down the field on six plays.

Freshman running back Robert Hughes started the drive with back-to-backs 14 yard runs. Then sophomore running back Armando Allen scampered 41 yards down the sideline on a screen pass. Two plays later, Weis called almost the exact same play and Allen took it 18 yards for a touchdown.

“Armando has always been a playmaker for us,” Weis said. “He got it done in all three facets tonight.”

Allen also returned a kickoff for a touchdown late in the third quarter to put Notre Dame up 49-14. The 96-yard return was the first by a Notre Dame player since Vontez Duff ran one back against Navy in 2002.

“We talk about it all the time in meetings, it was one thing we really wanted to accomplish this year. Unfortunately, we had to come to Hawai’i before we got it done but, hey, I can’t complain,” he said.

The return came seconds after Hawai’i quarterback Greg Alexander threw his second touchdown pass of the game to senior wide receiver Aaron Bain. Bain had 109 yards receiving in the game and was named the Warriors’ MVP.