Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2014 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 46 of 107

Game Preview: Rutgers Earning Their Stripes The Scarlet Knights are enthused about playing the Irish in the Pinstripe Bowl T By Andrew Owens he reaction to the Pinstripe Bowl between Notre Dame and Rutgers could not be more different. For the 8-4 Irish, many have contended that the team is in a nowin situation when facing the Scarlet Knights a year after playing in the BCS National Championship Game. For 6-6 Rutgers, however, this is being called the most important bowl berth in program history. "Everyone from the Rutgers point of view seems to be pretty excited for it and for the magnitude of playing Notre Dame in a bowl," said Mike Vorkunov, the Rutgers football beat reporter for The Newark Star-Ledger. "All the players, all the students and the program are really selling it as the most prestigious bowl game they've played in yet. "Obviously, the fact that it's Notre Dame and the magnitude of that program says a lot, and everyone recog- nizes that, whether it be people in the program or fans." Rutgers stumbled to three consecutive losses in November and had to beat South Florida in the regular-season finale to become bowl eligible. On the day the bowl pairing was announced, Rutgers fired three assistant coaches from its staff, including defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. The Scarlet Knights went 3-5 in American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East) play and lost the five contests by an average of 23.8 points per game. Cohen's defense finished 83rd nationally and allowed an average of 29.8 points per game during the season. "Their secondary has kind of been hit hard this year," Vorkunov said. "By the end of the season, they were starting two [freshmen among] their top three cornerbacks … and then they were playing a receiver as a corner a bit as well with Ruhann Peele. That didn't help obviously, but the defense has been struggling the entire year. …

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