On December 24th Notre Dame Football brought home their first bowl victory since January 1st, 1994. After checking the record books… I was a senior at Clay High School in South Bend the last time the won a bowl game.
It was an impressive waxing of an offensive heavy Hawaii team. This team of freshmen and sophomore players gave a glimmer of hope for next season. Jimmy Clausen was unstoppable. He had 300 yards and 3 TDs in the first half. At Notre Dame that is unheard of. Without touching the ball in the 4th quarter he finished the day with 5 TD passes and 401 yards. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Hawaii’s pass defense ranked 118 out of 119 Division 1 teams.
For fans, there were some reasons to be excited about this game.
#1 Not a word about the Charlie Weis death watch. With this win, you won’t hear that again until their first loss of the 2009 season.
#2 The team had fun. In Weis’s early years he relished in having his team wound tight and nervous. I think we finally are seeing a new philosophy breaking in. These are college kids in Hawaii so let them have fun!
#3 Jimmy Clausen proved he wasn’t Ron Paulus. (Notre Dame’s Quarterback coach) Like Paulus, Clausen was highly recruited and everyone assumed he was the next Joe Montana. Paulus was extremely talented but never lived up to the hype. Clausen finally showcased his talents in a big way. Now we need to know if he can do that next year at Michigan or at home against USC?
#4 They broke the losing streak. Sure, it was against lowly Hawaii. But the Warriors were favored to win in their home stadium. Notre Dame not only won but they completely dominated this game. This is a great lead in to 2009. And when they get to a big bowl next year they won’t have the record over their heads.
#5 It was clear they needed to get better in the secondary. The defensive front four and linebackers are very solid for next year. They’ve long struggled to have a decent secondary… maybe it’s time to convert some tall offensive players?
#6 I love how exciting the special teams have been. Blocked punts, long kickoff returns, ridiculous speed returning punts. Let’s hope Weis keeps putting first string players out there on special teams.
#7 Keep Weis in the box. Just like Lou Holtz was a better coach without the headset on, Charlie Weis is a better play caller from the press box.
#8 The tide is turning in South Bend on Charlie Weis. I’ve heard that Weis is doing some things in the area to endear himself to the locals. The Bend is still a small town… if you don’t manage the politics the politics will manage you.
#9 Great for recruiting. I’ll presume that some high school kids, sitting in their living rooms, could envision themselves having fun at a bowl game and scoring lots of touchdowns for Notre Dame. Playing on Christmas eve had few advantages… but being the only game on during a terrible TV night was one big one.
#10 I think the coaching staff should stick with the Rick Warren costumes. Hawaiian shirts at the opener against Nevada?
Bonus: Looking at the 2009 schedule two things pop out. First, they have a favorable schedule. Second, until October 31st they don’t go more than 4 hours from home.