Lou Holtz finally broke down.
“I will miss this place and I will miss it greatly,” a tearful Holtz said after coaching his final game at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, a 62-0 rout over Rutgers.
“My heart’s here, and it will always be here. In fact I’ve asked my wife to bury me here. Of course,” he added a moment later, “she’s wanted to do that a couple of times before.”
It was the one funny moment during a news conference where Holtz struggled to keep his composure. After a week of keeping his emotions bottled up, they finally came rushing out.
The magnitude of what Holtz was leaving behind finally got to him. His voice choked. His eyes filled with tears.
“I lived and tried to have our players live by the values that Notre Dame espouses,” Holtz said. “I can look up at the lady on the Dome, I can look up at God and say, ‘I think I left it clean, I think I left it clean.”’
Before another question could be asked, he thanked everyone and turned away. By the time he left the tent, the tears became sobs.
Holtz announced his resignation Tuesday, and his players did their best to make his final game memorable. The victory by No. 10 Notre Dame (8-2) over Rutgers (2-8) was his 100th as Irish coach. It was also the last game played at Notre Dame Stadium before a 21,915-seat expansion is complete.
Ron Powlus threw for four touchdowns, setting a school record with 42 career TD passes and tying the single-game record. Autry Denson rushed for 116 yards, giving him 1,019 yards this season.
As the clock ran out, players hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him to midfield. He then ran to the end of the field where, surrounded by his players, he thanked the students for their support.
Players later gave Holtz the game ball.
“Today I went down there with one thought: gratitude,” Holtz said. “Just gratitude.”
Holtz has a 100-29-2 record, five victories shy of Knute Rockne’s record of 105 at Notre Dame. He is 216-94-7 overall. Defensive coordinator Bob Davie will replace him, with the formal announcement today.
A sign in the student section read, “Thanks Lou! From the Students,” while another read “We Love Lou” with a big, red heart and blue letters. At halftime, the band spelled out “Lou,” drawing a huge roar.
The players showed their affection for Holtz on the field, playing with the intensity he’d asked for all week. Rutgers couldn’t get past the Irish defense, managing 49 yards passing and minus-6 rushing.
“This day belongs to coach Holtz,” Powlus said. “And I’m just happy to be a part of it… . We didn’t want to announce in public we were going to win it for the coach. We decided we wanted to make the second half a victory lap for the coach.”