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2008 Hawaii Bowl – Charlie Weis Era at Notre Dame Finally Arrives, Irish Speed Past Hawaii, 49-21

It was two very, very long years, but the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame finally came to the Hawaii Bowl when the Fighting Irish flew past a slower Hawaiian team, 49-21, thankfully ending the negative 9-game bowl and heavy of Notre Dame. losing streak. The Irish hadn’t won since beating Texas A&M 24-21 in the 1994 Cotton Bowl, 15 years ago after the 1993 season.

When Notre Dame’s regular season just ended on a very average 6-6 mark after a 3-9 season a year ago, one wondered if the apologists outnumbered the rabid Irish fans who were clamoring Charlie Weis’ head on a platter. It wasn’t as if Weis had taken over a successful program and put it down.

He had inherited a team that Tyrone Willingham had taken to an 11-12 record in two seasons and, given the recruiting talent he inherited from Willingham, had taken Notre Dame to a 9-3 record his first. year before losing in a BCS Fiesta Bowl game. .

Weis’ second season was 10-3, but his Irish then suffered a second straight loss in a BCS Sugar Bowl game. There were already rumblings among the Notre Dame faithful, very loyal to Fighting Irish tradition but impatient and disloyal to its losing coaches. That’s because Notre Dame’s lore is unmatched in college football history.

Notre Dame has 11 consensus national championships and has been selected for another 10 shared national championships. Notre Dame has 102 winning seasons in 120 years of play, had 12 undefeated seasons and another 10 with at most one loss or tie. Notre Dame has the 2nd highest winning percentage (.736) of any Division IA school, second only to Michigan (.738).

Notre Dame has the storybook coaches including Knute Rockne (105-12-5), Frank Leahy (87-11-9), Ara Parseghian (95-17-4) and Lou Holtz (100-30-2) . And the players. The Fighting Irish have 7 Heisman Trophy winners and have produced more All Americans than any other school.

When you go 9-15 over 2 seasons at Notre Dame, you’re in trouble and Charlie Weis was in trouble until the Hawaii Bowl. The Irish faithful kept asking “where is all the talent he was supposed to recruit?” Many of these freshman and sophomore talents eventually showed up in large numbers at the Hawaii Bowl. Sure, you can argue that Hawaii isn’t exactly the powerhouse of college football, but for those who watched the game, it’s pretty clear:

Second-year wide receiver Golden Tate’s speed was evident with 6 catches for 177 yards, including 3 catch-and-run touchdowns for 18, 40 and 69 yards running away from the covering defensive back. Tate led the team with 52 receptions for 903 yards and 7 touchdowns during the regular season.

Freshman running back Amando Allen’s speed was evident with 2 catches for 59 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown, and an electrifying 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound height and hands of freshman wide receiver Michael Floyd, who set Notre Dame’s regular-season freshman record with 46 receptions for 702 yards and 7 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-6, 252-pound height of freshman tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught 4 passes for 78 yards.

The play of 6-foot-5, 304-pound freshman right guard Trevor Robinson, who helped the offensive line reduce the number of sacks allowed in the regular season from 58 to 20, the lowest total in 8 years.

Second-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s accuracy was nothing short of amazing. Clausen was 22 of 26 for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns. Hawaiian Warrior coach Greg McMacklin said, including his years in the NFL, that Clausen was “as accurate as I’ve ever seen.”

Notre Dame clearly has some impressive positional players who have come of age despite being young. Now Charlie Weis must find other linemen to protect them and help them succeed. The Irish defense had 8 sacks and 2 forced turnovers in their Hawaii Bowl victory. Our Lady develops a “we are one” mentality. As the Hawaii Bowl pineapple football trophy was presented to midfield after the victory, every Irish player came to get their hands on the prize; they were so interested in what status meant to Notre Dame, the tradition of Irish football and themselves.

Did anyone notice Charlie Weis calling a hell of a game from the cabin upstairs? Believe me when I say Hawaiian warriors noticed. Notre Dame fans need wonder no more, the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame has officially begun with his players, his system and his first bowl victory as a Fighting Irish coach.

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

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