Notre Dame, Rutgers plenty motivated for Pinstripe Bowl
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media December 27, 2013 7:44PM
Updated: January 29, 2014 6:09AM
NEW YORK — Quarterback Tommy Rees remembers being blown away when he walked onto the field at Yankee Stadium for Notre Dame’s game against Army in 2010.
He also remembers having Yankees star Derek Jeter’s locker.
‘‘That completely blew me away as well,’’ Rees said.
Rees was a freshman and was making his second start for the Irish.
‘‘As an 18-year-old kid, barely 190 pounds, coming out here, it was an awesome experience because we won the game,’’ Rees said.
Now a senior, Rees wants to duplicate the result at the same venue in his final start for Notre Dame on Saturday against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.
‘‘That’s the mind-set heading into this,’’ Rees said. ‘‘When you head into a bowl game, the only thing you ever really remember is how the game ends up. That’s the mentality we’ve had, and that’s how we are going to be prepared heading into the game.’’
There’s no championship on the line, but both teams have reasons to be motivated.
“You hear, ‘It’s not a BCS game,’ ’’ Irish coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘[Rutgers] coach [Kyle Flood] and I, we’re competitors. Any game you put in front of us, we want to win the game. It doesn’t matter about the venue. We love the venue, we love the bowl, we love what’s happened for our kids this week, but we’re competitive. [It’s like] the old phrase: A game worth playing is a game worth winning. That’s where we start this.’’
Notre Dame (8-4) will look to avoid finishing 8-5 for the third time in the last four seasons.
‘‘We’ve seen eight wins in our program,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘We’ve seen eight; we’ve seen 12. Nine is one that definitely looks better for us as a group.’’
The Scarlet Knights (6-6) want to avoid a losing record, and their overtime loss last season to Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl also lingers.
‘‘We remember what it was like to lose a bowl game against a good program in overtime,’’ Flood said. ‘‘It’s not a good feeling in that locker room for the team. It’s not a good feeling for the seniors who are going to walk out of that door for the last time.
‘‘Those memories are burned in our minds. They’ve worked this bowl prep like a football team that is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again.’’