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Team accepts invitation to Dec. 28 Insight Bowl

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, November 30, 2004

After closing out the regular season with a 41-10 loss to USC Saturday, Notre Dame announced Sunday it has accepted an invitation to the Insight Bowl Dec. 28, in Phoenix.

“We’re excited and I think our young men are excited,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said Sunday evening. “There are a lot of places in this country where you could spend the holidays and Phoenix will be a delightful spot for our team and our fans.

“Hopefully, we can go in there with a positive mindset and a lot of energy, and get a win. I think it gives our football team another opportunity to play football and I think they will enjoy doing that. I believe the game gives us that feeling that we still have some business to take care of and we’d like to be able to do that.”

The Irish finished the regular season 6-5 and will face a Pac-10 opponent, who will be announced Dec. 5. The game will be held at Bank One Ballpark, capacity 42,915 and home of the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball.

The bowl appearance is Notre Dame’s 26th postseason appearance, and its first in the Insight Bowl. The payout for the bowl is $750,000 for both teams.

Willingham hopes the bowl game will give the Irish positive momentum for next season.

“It makes the winter a lot easier,” Willingham said of a possible bowl win. “You finish on a higher note, as opposed to finishing with that losing taste in your mouth. Even though our season should provide great motivation for us through the winter – because it was a season in which we didn’t reach our expectations – but you like to go into the next season feeling good about where you are.”

Notre Dame has not won a bowl game since they defeated Texas A&M, 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl following the 1993 season. Willingham recognized this and said the seniors can use this game as an opportunity to leave their legacy.

“Of course, the big thing there for us is to win a bowl game,” he said. “That’s something that Notre Dame hasn’t done in about 11 years. So, it would be a great way for the seniors to leave something very positive with this program.”

Despite the fact that with a win over USC, the Irish could have possibly been participants in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl due to Boston College and West Virginia’s losses, Willingham sees the Insight Bowl as a good opportunity for players,

“Number one, it’s a chance to get a win,” Willingham said. “It’s also a great opportunity for our underclassmen to continue their preparation because what we hope and believe is there are great things on the horizon for this football team. So, this is an opportunity to continue that because you can’t get better sitting in the dorm. You can only get better by practicing and performing on the football field and this is an opportunity to do that.”

The Irish will have to wait until this weekend’s games in the Pac-10 Conference, California against Southern Mississippi and USC against UCLA, to see who they will face.

“I think that this team, coming off of two losses, is hungry for a win,” Irish quarterback Brady Quinn said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of things that we need to fix within ourselves, fix some things that we weren’t executing to the best of our ability.”