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Kelly trying for historic bowl win

Dec 9, 2010, 7:30 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

We’ll dig into the actual bowl against Miami next week, but Blue&Gold‘s Lou Somogyi had an excellent piece breaking down the historic opportunity head coach Brian Kelly has in front of him: Win a bowl game in his first season.

More from Somogyi on the last Irish coaches’ debuts:

Gerry Faust (1981) — Pegged as a preseason national title favorite after losing to No. 1 Georgia in the previous year’s Sugar Bowl, the Irish instead faltered badly in Faust’s first season and finished with their first losing record (5-6) in 18 years. That wasn’t bowl-worthy.

Lou Holtz (1986) — A 1-4 start led to a 5-6 finish. Five of the defeats were by a combined 14 points, and four of them were to top-10 programs, including national champ Penn State, Big Ten champ Michigan, SEC champ LSU, and at Alabama. The Irish were probably one of the 15 or 20 best teams in the country by the end of the year, but the final record was still under .500.

Bob Davie (1997) — After a 2-5 start, Davie was on the threshold of becoming the third straight Irish first-year coach to finish with a losing record and no bowl bid.

Instead, similar to the 2010 team under Brian Kelly, Notre Dame hit its stride in November and finished the regular season with five consecutive wins, highlighted by a 24-6 victory at No. 11 LSU in which it didn’t commit a penalty nor a turnover for the first and still only time in its history.

Alas, the destination for the 7-5 Irish was a rematch with LSU in Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl. The Tigers, coached by 1975 Notre Dame grad Gerry DiNardo, rolled to a 27-9 win.

Tyrone Willingham (2002) — Billed as the “Savior of South Bend” after an 8-0 start, Willingham’s Irish were passed over for a BCS bid when they closed the regular season 2-2 following a 44-13 loss at USC.

The consolation prize was a trip to the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against North Carolina State, led by quarterback Philip Rivers. After Irish starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday was sidelined the remainder of the game with a first-quarter injury, the Irish offense became hapless in a 28-6 defeat to the Wolfpack.

Charlie Weis (2005) — Two plays away from an 11-0 regular season mark, the blustery Weis led the 9-2 and No. 5 Irish to a BCS bid against No. 4 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Buckeyes racked up 617 yards total offense, the most ever yielded by a Notre Dame team, in a 34-20 conquest of the Irish.

It’s like a trip down memory lane looking back at some of those Irish postseason debuts. (Think Irish fans wouldn’t go nuts if they were forced into a rematch like they were back in ’97?) It also marks an ugly trend that Kelly and the Irish will try to bust, with the average Notre Dame bowl loss coming by 18 points.

There’s every reason to believe that the Irish will been in a much closer game, and potentially keep their one-game bowl winning streak going come New Years’ Eve. Vegas opened this game as a Pick ’em, giving us a good idea that it’s hard to predict what kind of Miami team with show up after firing head coach Randy Shannon. Between the Hurricanes’ instability and a stout Irish defense and a Irish offense that should greatly benefit from 14 scheduled practices, there’s plenty of intrigue going into El Paso.

  1. vegasmark - Dec 9, 2010 at 11:37 PM

    Ugh…I threw up in my mouth a little bit when I got to the part about the 2005 bowl, that was horrific.

  2. papadec - Dec 10, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    Miami has an excellent pass defense. Opening as a “pick ’em” is probably right on the money. It will probably come down to who has the fewest turnovers, and last team with the ball.

    • tedlinko - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      Actually, as in most bowl games it will probably come down to which team is more focused and motivated.

  3. dh75 - Dec 10, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    Keith: This is the best blog, thanks for all your hard work.

    A point of trivia perhaps – Gerry DiNardo did graduate in 1975 but I believe it was his older brother Larry DiNardo, who also graduated from ND, who was the coach at LSU.

    Just in case anyone ever needs this bit of trivia: “Where was the first head coaching job Dan Devine had?”
    Answer: East Jordan High School, Michigan
    I was attending a game there for my son this past fall and heard the ND fight song being played by the home team band. Since this is a public school that seemed a little out of the ordinary. Walking around the field I found a plaque honoring Coach Devine for his undefeated seasons in 1945 and 1946.
    If you ever win a trivia contest based on this you owe me a cup of coffee.

    • tedlinko - Dec 10, 2010 at 12:40 PM

      Nope. Keith’s got it right. Both DiNardo’s did play for the Irish but it was Gerry who coached LSU.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 10, 2010 at 8:10 PM

        As my Dad used to say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    • dochrd - Dec 11, 2010 at 1:35 AM

      I would have loved having the Irish fight song for my high school. Mine was the USC fight song! (South Bend LaSalle.)

  4. bodybaggame - Dec 12, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    Only at ND, could a 7-5 team playing in a garbage bowl game against another 7-5 team use the word “historic”…

    • papadec - Dec 12, 2010 at 7:46 PM

      It may not be a BCS game, but it is a 77 year old game with tradition. As described – it is “historic”. The 7-5 records of the two teams don’t change that. It should be a very good game. It will be a damn sight better than Nebraska pounding UWash, yet again this season. GO IRISH!!!!

  5. derf2 - Dec 17, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    Great article.

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