Tommy Rees passed for 319 yards in his final game for Notre Dame, but it was the leg of kicker Kyle Brindza who helped Notre Dame put away Rutgers in a 29-16 victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Irish defense was tested at times by Rutgers but managed to come up with the big stops and forced three turnovers (not including an interception on the final play of the game) to capture a win in Yankee Stadium.
Just hours before kickoff the Irish suspended running back George Atkinson III for a violation of team rules. Tarean Folston got the start for the Irish anyway and led Notre Dame with 73 rushing yards and a touchdown. Cam McDaniel also contributed with 73 yards as Notre Dame found a rhythm on the ground in the second half to pull away from Rutgers, who ends the season with a 6-7 record. The real player of the game for Notre Dame was place kicker Brindza, who successfully kicked five of his six field goal attempts.
Both programs will now enter an offseason centered around changes for the program. Rutgers is off to join the Big Ten while Notre Dame will remain independent in football but begin a new scheduling agreement with the ACC. The Irish will also have some shoes to fill on the coaching staff and on the defensive line.
Notre Dame’s 2014 outlook could be a bit more promising after taking a step back from the national stage in 2013. Quarterback Everett Golson will give the offense a spark if he returns in good shape starting this spring. Golson’s absence from the team this season due to academic suspension threw a curveball at the Irish heading in to the year, but Notre Dame has some jobs to fill before even thinking about what the roster will look like. Notre Dame must replace both coordinators this offseason after both were hired away to serve as head coaches elsewhere. The defense will also lose some key players with Louis Nix III on his way to the NFL and Stephon Tuitt potentially joining him.
Rutgers will now begin to make the transition in to the Big Ten. Rutgers will join Maryland as new members of the conference next summer and begin competing in the Big Ten’s new eastern division along with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana. Rutgers will have their work cut out for them in their debut in the new conference. Rutgers will make their Big Ten debut at home against Penn State and will also host Michigan and Wisconsin. The Scarlet Knights will also visit Ohio State and Michigan State.