The field goal kickers almost outscored the offenses, and the rushing game and turnovers ultimately decided the fate of the game.
Unfortunately for Rutgers both areas benefit the other team.
Notre Dame defeated Rutgers, 29-16, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Notre Dame improved to 9-4 with the win, while the Scarlet Knights dropped below .500 at 6-7.
Notre Dame field goal kicker Kyle Brindza connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts, including a 49-yarder. Rutgers kicker Kyle Federico was 3-for-3, including a 47-yarder.
Rutgers junior wide receiver Brandon Coleman provided the offensive highlight for the Scarlet Knights.
Quarterback Chas Dodd connected with the NFL Draft-bound receiver on a 51-yard pass to set the Scarlet Knights up at the Notre Dame 21. Two plays later, Dodd connected with Coleman on a 14-yard scoring play that tied the game at 10-10.
“We liked the defense that we got there, and we were able to execute and finish the play,” said Coleman, who had an 86-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl, but didn’t have another catch for the rest of the game on Saturday.
After the first quarter, the entire Rutgers’ offense couldn’t muster much else. Tight end Tyler Kroft made three catches for the game, and Coleman didn’t have another reception the rest of the game.
“Their defense was capitalizing on our mistakes,” Coleman said. “ … It was hard for us to get in a rhythm. We weren’t converting, we had some false starts, we were making mistakes.”
Dodd was 10-of-28 for 156 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“We had a great game plan, but we didn’t do what we needed to do execution wise,” Dodd said. “We wanted to be out there longer, but we didn’t put together long drives. The entire day, we left points on the board. We fought hard, but it wasn’t enough.”
Dodd led Rutgers’ rushing attack with 55 yards on 10 carries, while sophomore running back Paul James collected 48 yards on the same number of rushes.
The Scarlet Knights also failed to capitalize on kickoff returns of 47 and 45 yards by Janarion Grant.
“We tried to limit their big plays,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said. “We wanted to limit them to field goals, maybe block one and win it in the fourth quarter. They had drives throughout the game. Ultimately, we had our opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize.”
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was 27-of-47 passing for 319 yards. He eclipsed the 3,000 yard passing mark for the season, finishing with 3,257 yards for the season. He became the third Notre Dame quarterback to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season.
Brady Quinn threw for 3,919 in 2005 and 3,426 in 2006. Jimmy Clausen threw for 3,722 in 2009.
Beyond that, Notre Dame’s offense wasn’t very productive.
Cam McDaniel and Tarean Folston provided the offensive outbursts for the Fighting Irish.
McDaniel collected 83 yards on 17 carries. Folston, who picked up the bulk of the carries in the absence of Fighting Irish running back George Atkinson III, collected 78 yards on 17 carries and scored on a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped the Irish pull away.
T.J. Jones rushed for 16 yards on four carries and scored on an 8-yard run in the first quarter for the Irish.
Atkinson III didn’t play due to a violation of team rules. Atkinson accounted for 583 yards and three touchdowns during the season.
The game marked the final outing for Rutgers as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Knights officially become members of the Big 10, a football conference known for playing smashmouth football.
“The kind of team we were playing against kind of gave us that experience of what it’s going to be like to play in the Big 10,” James said.
“Anytime we’re in a stadium, we’re ready to compete,” Flood said. “We felt that way when we (beat) Arkansas, and we felt that way when we came in here to play Notre Dame.”
On Saturday, Notre Dame struck first, on a 21-yard field goal by Brindza with 10:05 left in the first quarter following an opening drive that went 71 yards in 14 plays.
Rutgers answered on its first possession with a 46-yard field goal by Federico with eight minutes left in the quarter on a drive that was kept alive by an Irish miscue when a Notre Dame player fumbled the punt, and Rutgers sophomore Quentin Gause recovered at the Irish 21.
Notre Dame had the first touchdown of the game when T.J. capped a six-play, 62-yard drive with the 8-yard score with 4:30 left in the first.
After Coleman’s score, an interception by senior linebacker Kendall Moore put Notre Dame on the Rutgers’ 22
That set up a Brindza 38-yard field goal with 12:59 left in the second quarter that gave Notre Dame a 13-10 lead.
The Scarlet Knights knotted the score on an 18-yard field goal by Federico on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 8:35 left in the half.
Notre Dame missed a chance to take the lead when Brindza’s 44-yard field goal attempt fell short, but the defense prevented Rutgers from capitalizing when KeiVarae Russell picked off a Justin Goodwin pass attempt on a halfback option.
Brindza missed a second field goal in the third quarter, this one a 32-yard attempt, but was given a second chance was a Rutgers player was called for running into the kicker.
He then connected on a 26-yarder to give the Fighting Irish the 16-13 lead with 6:03 left in the third quarter.
Brindza’s third field goal capped a 15-play, 90-yard drive that began on the Fighting Irish 3 yard line and last over six minutes, bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Federico’s third field goal was good from 47 yards and capped an eight-play, 15-yard drive.
Tarean scored his touchdown with 3:38 left in the game, and Brindza added a 49-yard field goal with 2:28 left to seal the game for the Irish.
The paid sellout crowd of 47,122 was the largest crowd in Pinstripe Bowl history.