As we slowly tread our way towards the Sun Bowl on New Years Eve, lets relive Notre Dame’s last bowl. Ironically, it was also played on an eve.
Christmas Eve. 2008
And what a bowl it was! The 49 – 21 win over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl snapped a nine game bowl loosing streak for the Irish. It was arguably theshining moment for two of the Irish’s most talked about characters.
First, Charlie Weis. The importance of this game to the beleaguered coach cannot be understated. I believe that the game saved his job. This was the season after the disastrous 3 – 9 2007 campaign. The “maybe he shouldn’t get a pass for that” voices had become ever louder following a 1 – 4 end of the season. Even the one win came under fire. A too – close – for – comfort win over Navy did nothing to erase the memories of the 2007 embarrassment at Notre Dame Stadium (remember, this was back when loosing to Navy was happened once every 47 years…not, well, every two out of three seasons.)
Weis needed to show that he was capable of turning the team around. If for only a day, he did that. The offense looked better then it had since the Brady Quinn era. How could Notre Dame break up this new found juggernaut? They didn’t. Weis got another year (after which, of course, he was canned)
The second career defining moment came from Jimmy Clausen. Clausen threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns. A compleation percentage of 84.6% was only the second best in the history of bowl games.
That’s right, bowl games.
This was one of the few games that allowed fans to see the magnitude of Clausen’s talent. He was never as dominant as he was on this night. One of the true tragedies of Notre Dame football history is that we never got to see how Clausen would play on a BCS caliber team. If Jimmy had the kind of talent (and health) around him that Brady Quinn had during his final two seasons (both BCS losses), he might have gone down as a top quarterback in school history. Instead, I fear that his Irish tenure will be forgotten if he doesn’t have a good NFL career. That’s a real shame, too. The Hawai’i bowl was one of few full games that showed what kind of player Jimmy Clausen was, or maybe, what he could have been.
Receiver Golden Tate (who was always a bit underrated, I thought) set an Irish record with 177 yards receiving and three touchdown catches. Robert Hughes, David Grimes (yup!), and Armando Allen also scored.
I’ll never forget the image of Charlie Weis walking off the field in crutches (he had hurt himself after a spill earlier in the season), decked out in a Hawaian shirt. He knew he had saved his job. He also knew he had one more chance and had better not blow it…he did
The win was, at that moment, the beginning of a great 2009, or so we thought. It turned out not to be. Things went back to normal the next season, they lost embarrassing games and Brian Kelly replaced Weis less then a year after the win.
But, for a moment, it was a great.
Here’s what I wrote about it two days after the win:
The Irish’s 49-14 win over Hawaii on Christmas Eve was bar none the best I’ve seen this team play since 2006. They played with heart. They played with energy. They played with a purpose…and it showed. I had criticized Charlie Weis in the last few weeks for not having his team ready to play. Despite the relaxed atmosphere that Weis preached while the team was in Hawaii, they looked more prepared to play then this group ever has. Jimmy Clausen played his best game since high school. He was 22/26 for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. He single handily broke three ND bowl records. Golden Tate had his best game is ages. He caught seven balls for 177 yards and three touchdowns. A big reason for this was the return of Michael Floyd. Floyd didn’t do much in the game, but the Freshman still has the ability to draw coverage away from Tate. The win was a fantastic way to move forward towards 2009. It’s no secret that the team has to do well next year for Weis to keep his job. Six or seven wins is no longer good enough. I performance like this makes it a whole lot easier for Notre Dame fans to get excited about 2009. I know I am…
Do you have any memories of this game? I know I can close my eyes and watch it again (I know, too intense for a Hawaii Bowl)…Leave a comment!
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1