Football: Irish to face Rutgers in Pinstripe Bowl in NY
Joseph Monardo | Sunday, December 8, 2013
The schedule hanging in the Isban Auditorium inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex since the beginning of fall had a bowl destination already picked out for the Irish – the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 6. But after a four-loss season, Notre Dame (8-4) had to readjust its postseason plans and will face Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York on Dec. 28.
“It’s been a great place for us,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of the destination. “I remember us being at Yankee Stadium [in 2010 against Army] and the way we were treated there. New York is certainly a great place for Notre Dame, and we’ve got great support in that area, ‘subway alums.’ It’s a home away from home … the Pinstripe Bowl has been terrific to work with, they’ve done everything to make it a great event for our players.”
Rutgers (6-6, 3-5 AAC) enters the game coming off 31-6 victory over USF on Saturday, but have won only two of its past seven contests. The Scarlet Knights have been outgained by their opponents by an average of more than 30 yards per game this season, and in their six losses have been outscored by an average of 20 points. Despite Rutgers’ struggles this year, Kelly said he does not view the Pinstripe Bowl as a game in which Notre Dame has nothing to gain.
“I don’t see how that’s the case when they’re a BCS team,” he said. “They beat Arkansas this year, you know they played Louisville and Fresno tight. They’re going to the Big-Ten, this team is going to be in the Big Ten next year, so if we don’t play well they’ll beat us. So we’ve got everything to lose. We want to win the football game.”
Notre Dame had considered participating in other bowl games before accepting the bid to play in the Pinstripe Bowl, including the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego and the Hawai’i Bowl in Honolulu.
“There were three or four bowls that were certainly vying for Notre Dame as we were going through this process,” Kelly said. “The Poinsettia Bowl was certainly one of those we were interested in … But once Northern Illinois lost that football game [to Bowling Green on Saturday], that kind of evaporated any opportunity for us in that game. The other one was the Hawai’i Bowl, but because of our exam schedule, which took us through the 20th, we would have had to gone out there on [the 21st, 22nd and 23rd], and it would have been practice, practice, practice and play the game. And then they don’t hold the hotel rooms after the game for you, so you gotta leave, or you gotta find other accommodations … So it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to go there for three days and practice, play the game and then, ‘sorry guys.'”
Although the Pinstripe Bowl does not offer the warm weather some of Notre Dame’s other bowl options did, the opportunity to spend Christmas in New York and the attractive gift package that includes clothes, hats and a PlayStation 4 were determining factors in the Irish players’ excitement to face Rutgers in Yankee Stadium.
“It’s Yankee Stadium,” Irish senior receiver and tri-captain TJ Jones said. “We went there my freshman year, we had a great time. Everything from the game to just being in the city, being around the area, it was a great experience for us and we are happy to be experiencing it again.”
The Irish will travel together to New York on Dec. 23 after the players finish exams on Dec. 20, but Kelly said they still have a lot of work to do to finish their season on a high note.
“We’ve got to prepare our football team,” he said. “We want a win for our program to get to nine wins, we want to win for our seniors. And then in that preparation if we can get some of our younger players some working during this bowl practice, this is a worthwhile time for us and very helpful for our program.”
Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected]