PINSTRIPE BOWL:?No. 25 Notre Dame 29, ?Rutgers 16
This nicely sums up Tommy Rees’ Notre Dame career.
The senior threw for 319 yards and no interceptions in his final college game, leading Notre Dame to victory against Rutgers in New York City that was far from pretty but ultimately successful — and an offensive lineman won the MVP award.
“I was giving Tommy a hard time,” said senior tackle Zack Martin, who took home the award. “I think he got snubbed a little bit.”
Rees finished four years of football for the Fighting Irish packed with both memorable and forgettable moments with a solid performance, going 27-for-47. He has been “The Closer,” rallying Notre Dame to victories with late drives, and “Turnover Tommy,” making crushing mistakes at the most inopportune times during his time in South Bend, Ind.
For his finale, against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation, Rees was mistake free and productive. He missed some throws that could have broken open the game, but, typically, he persevered.
“I’m a Tommy Rees fan for life,” coach Brian Kelly said.
Kyle Brindza kicked five field goals for the Fighting Irish (9-4), who completed their follow-up season to last year’s run to the national championship game a long way from the BCS — facing a two-touchdown underdog that was trying to avoid a losing record.
Notre Dame’s play was less than inspired — Kelly said about a dozen players were fighting a flu bug — but the win prevented the Irish from finishing with eight victories for the third time in his four seasons.
“A good season that could have been a great season,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame’s TJ Jones scored on an 8-yard run in the first quarter and Rutgers star Brandon Coleman answered with a 14-yard touchdown catch soon after. Tarean Folston’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:38 in the fourth made it 26-16 and finally gave the Irish a comfortable lead.
On the slick turf at Yankee Stadium, the Pinstripe Bowl turned into a field-goal kicking contest. Brindza was 5-for-6. Kyle Federico made 3-of-3 for the Scarlet Knights (6-7).
The Irish dominated in yards (494-237) and time of possession (38:49) but bogged down in the red zone repeatedly.
“I loved the way we were able to stay calm and stay within our offense and continue to kind of monotonously move the ball down the field,” Rees said.
Twice Notre Dame put together double-digit play drives that ended in short field goals for Brindza. A 15-play, 90-yard march that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth with Brindza’s 25-yarder made it 19-13 Notre Dame with 12:46 left.
“I love the fourth quarter,” Brindza said. “That’s pretty much what a kicker’s job is supposed to be.”
Brindza’s third field goal, a 26-yarder with 6:03 left in the third quarter, gave Notre Dame a 16-13 lead — after the Irish caught a break. Brindza had missed from 36 yards but Rutgers was flagged for running into the kicker to give him a second, easier, try.
“We thought we played good red zone defense and we could make them kick a few field goals and attempt some field goals, maybe we could block one and then win the game in the fourth quarter,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “We were kind of poised to do that.”
Senior quarterback Chas Dodd finished with 156 yards passing for Rutgers.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL:?No. 18 Louisville 36, ?Miami 9
Teddy Bridgewater threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score in Louisville’s rout of Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
The Cardinals (12-1) spotted Miami (9-4) an early 2-0 lead, then dominated the rest of the way, racking up 554 total yards to the Hurricanes’ 174. Bridgewater was 35-for-45 for career-high 447 yards.
The win was the second consecutive bowl victory for Louisville and also marks the program’s second 12-win season.
The Hurricanes, playing in their first bowl game since 2010, haven’t had a bowl victory since 2006, losing four in a row.
BELK BOWL:?Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
The North Carolina Tar Heels have broken their Belk Bowl jinx in Charlotte.
T.J. Logan returned a kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, and Ryan Switzer scored on an 86-yard punt return to help North Carolina beat Cincinnati for its first Belk Bowl victory in four attempts.
Marquise Williams threw for 171 yards and a touchdown for the Tar Heels (7-6) in their first bowl victory since 2010.
Romar Morris scored on two short touchdown runs and Jack Tabb caught a touchdown pass as the Tar Heels (7-6) closed the season by winning six of their final seven games under second-year coach Larry Fedora.
Cincinnati (9-4) was looking to become the bowl’s first back-to-back champion since Virginia did it 10 years ago, but last year’s MVP Brandon Kay was limited to 181 yards passing and no touchdowns.
Late Friday,?FIGHT HUNGER BOWL:?Washington 31, BYU 16
Bishop Sankey ran for 95 yards and two scores to tie Washington’s career touchdown record and the Huskies went on to beat BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. Keith Price added a 16-yard TD pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and John Ross returned a kick 100 yards for another score to help the Huskies (9-4).