November 21, 2010 in Sports

Notre Dame becomes bowl-eligible in return to Bronx

Ralph D. Russo Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Army kicks off to Notre Dame to begin Saturday’s football game at Yankee Stadium, the Irish’s first return to the Bronx in 41 years.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – Instead of a walkthrough on Friday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly gave his players a chance to soak in the sites at Yankee Stadium.

Monument Park and the short porch in right field. The famous white facade atop the upper deck and the clubhouse that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez use.

“We just stood around with our eyes wide open and took pictures and marveled at the stadium and walked around here and then after they got enough of that … we came in here and showed a video of the Army-(Notre Dame) history,” Kelly said Saturday night.

The Fighting Irish returned to the Bronx for the first time in 41 years and gave their subway alumni a happy train ride home.

Tyler Eifert caught a touchdown pass a few steps away from the home dugout, Darrin Walls returned an interception 42 yards for a score and Notre Dame beat Army 27-3 Saturday night in the first football game at the new Yankee Stadium.

“Well, New York is a lot of things,” Kelly said. “And what it was tonight was a college football town.

“Our kids fed off the energy that was here in New York the past 48 hours.”

Freshman Tommy Rees, who got to use Jeter’s locker, threw for 214 yards in his second career start.

“Every week I feel a little more comfortable, the game slows down a little bit,” Rees said.

The Fighting Irish (6-5), dressed in kelly green jerseys, became bowl eligible with a second consecutive strong defensive performance.

Combined with last week’s 28-3 victory against Utah, it’s the first time the Irish have held two straight opponents without a touchdown since their 1988 national championship season, when they did it to Rice and Penn State.

“I feel like we’re playing with a lot of energy, a lot more physical,” defensive back Robert Blanton said.

The triple-option befuddled the Irish when they lost to Navy last month, but Army’s version managed one long drive that produced a field goal on its opening possession and not much after that. The Black Knights (6-5) ran for 135 yards.

Second-year coach Rich Ellerson, who has the Black Knights bowl eligible for the first time since 1996, called the atmosphere “electric.”

The 50th meeting between Army and Notre Dame dripped with nostalgia.

The Irish and Black Knights played 22 games in the original Yankee Stadium, the last in 1969, and Notre Dame built up a huge following in the Big Apple. Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne’s “Win One for the Gipper” speech was delivered at halftime of the 1928 game in the Bronx and in 1946 No. 1 Army and No. 2 Notre Dame played the Game of the Century at Yankee Stadium, a game that featured four Heisman Trophy winners and ended in a 0-0 tie.

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