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2008 Hawaii Bowl – Charlie Weis Era at Notre Dame Finally Arrives, Irish Speed Past Hawaii, 49-21
It’s been a very, very long two years, but the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame finally arrived in the Hawaii Bowl when the Fighting Irish blanked a slower Hawaii team, 49-21, mercifully ending Notre Dame’s negative, burdensome 9-game bowl losing streak. The Irish have not won since their 24-21 victory over Texas A&M in the 1994 Cotton Bowl, 15 years ago following the 1993 season.
When Notre Dame’s regular season just ended with a very average 6-6 mark after a 3-9 season a year ago, it was questionable if the apologists outnumbered the angry Irish fans calling for Charlie Weis’ head on a platter. It wasn’t like Weiss took a successful program and ran it into the ground.
He inherited a team Tyrone Willingham led to an 11-12 record over two seasons and, given the recruiting talent he inherited from Willingham, led Notre Dame to a 9-3 record his first year before losing in the BCS Fiesta game Bowl.
Weiss went 10-3 his second season, but then his Irish suffered their second straight loss in the BCS Sugar Bowl game. There has already been rumblings among the Notre Dame faithful, who are very loyal to the Fighting Irish tradition but impatient and disloyal to the losing coaches. That’s because Notre Dame’s tradition is unmatched in college football history.
Notre Dame has 11 consensus national championships and has been selected for 10 other joint national championships. Notre Dame has 102 winning seasons in 120 years of play, has had 12 undefeated seasons and 10 more with just 1 loss or tie at most. Notre Dame has the 2nd highest winning percentage (.736) among all Division IA schools, second only to Michigan (.738).
Notre Dame has storybook coaches including Knut Rockn (105-12-5), Frank Leahy (87-11-9), Ara Parseghian (95-17-4) and Lou Holtz (100-30-2). And the players. The Fighting Irish have 7 Heisman Trophy winners and have produced more All Americans than any other school.
When you go 9-15 over 2 seasons at Notre Dame, you’re in trouble, and Charlie Weis was all the way to the Hawaii Bowl. The Irish faithful kept asking “where is all the talent he supposedly recruited?” Plenty of that freshman and sophomore talent finally showed up in the Hawaii Bowl. Sure, you could argue that Hawaii isn’t exactly a college football powerhouse, but for those who watched the game, this much is clear:
Sophomore Golden Tate’s speed was evident with 6 catches for 177 yards, including 3 catches and touchdown runs of 18, 40 and 69 yards running from a defensive back. Tate led the team with 52 receptions for 903 yards and 7 TDs during the regular season.
Freshman Amanda Allen’s speed was evident with 2 catches for 59 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown and an electrifying 96-yard punt return for a touchdown.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound size and fists of freshman wide receiver Michael Floyd, who set a Notre Dame freshman regular-season record with 46 receptions for 702 yards and 7 TDs.
6-foot-6, 252-pound freshman tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught 4 passes for 78 yards.
The play of 6-foot-5, 304-pound freshman right tackle Trevor Robinson, who helped the offensive line drop its regular-season sacks from 58 to 20, its lowest total in 8 years.
Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s accuracy has been nothing short of amazing. Clausen was 22 of 26 for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. Hawaiian Warrior coach Greg McMacklin said, including his years in the NFL, Clausen was “as accurate as I’ve ever seen.”
Notre Dame clearly has some impressive position players who have come of age despite their youth. Now Charlie Weis needs to find some more players to protect them and help them succeed. The Irish defense had 8 sacks and 2 forced turnovers in the win at Hawaii. Notre Dame is developing a “we are one” mentality. As the Hawaii Bowl football pineapple trophy was handed out at midfield after the victory, every Irish player came to lay their hands on the prize; they were so interested in what the statute meant for Notre Dame, the Irish football tradition and themselves.
Did anyone notice that Charlie Weiss made a devilish play from the upstairs booth? Trust me when I say that the Hawaiian Warriors took notice. Notre Dame fans don’t have to wonder anymore, the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame has officially begun with his players, his system and his first bowl win as coach of the Fighting Irish.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
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