It was always going to be a rough return to uncharacteristic mediocrity for Notre Dame after last season, so at least it ended happily for the Fighting Irish with a comfortable win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, giving senior quarterback Tommy Rees a proper send off from the collegiate game.
Notre Dame finished the season with a 9-4 record, winning only once against a ranked opponent (Arizona State) but also claiming a controversial win against Michigan State. However, there was nothing remarkable about 2013 when compared to the undefeated run that got them into the BCS national championship game, which ended quite embarrassingly for them.
The questions regarding the decision to remain independent continue to hover. Notre Dame remain a lucrative name, getting to negotiate their own TV deals without having to split the money with anyone, but as we’ve seen by their partial joining into the ACC, those days might be over soon. It might not be worth it financially, but joining the Big Ten, which makes the most sense, could be the best thing for the school in terms of achievements and success.
Rutgers had one of the worst defenses in the nation this past year, but still managed to hang on quite well with the Irish until the final quarter, as Tarean Folston finally ran for a touchdown after both teams spent most of the time trading field goals. Folston finished the game rushing for 73 yards on 17 carries, joining Cam McDaniel in doing a good job as fillers for the missing eorge Atkinson III.
The only reason this game was close? Notre Dame couldn’t finish the job near the end zone for most of the game. They outdid Rutgers in first downs (31-16), total yards (494-236), takeaways (4-1) and time of possession (38:16-21:44), but actually won only 29-16.
Part of it was Tommy Rees, a quarterback with a weird college career for Notre Dame. Some big wins with remarkable comebacks, some turnover-filled performances that no one is going to miss. Rees completed 27-of-47 passes for 319 yards, and at least he didn’t throw any interception. Chas Dodd was awful on the other end, completing only 10-of-28 throws, three of them being intercepted. Notre Dame didn’t do much but hit field goals with those picks, but they never had too much trouble getting good field position.
He’s going to keep chasing that football dream. But I told him he’s got a bright future as a graduate assistant for Brian Kelly anytime.
Rees wasn’t supposed to be starting for Notre Dame this season, but Everett Golson was suspended for academic cheating. Now Rees is going to try and get some pro scouts to notice, although few believe he has what it takes to make it in the NFL or even get drafted.
Notre Dame remain a big name, but haven’t shown anything for it for quite some time. Brian Kelly has turned something over for the program, but it’s going to take a lot more than these kind of seasons to make the Fighting Irish a part of the nation’s elite in college football in more than name only.