Notre Dame's Tate was great in record-setting bowl performance
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
On a record-setting night in which he scored three touchdowns, Notre Dame sophomore wide receiver/punt returner Golden Tate's best play was one that didn't count.
Tate, the Fighting Irish's co-MVP of the game with quarterback Jimmy Clausen, broke three school bowl records in the 49-21 win against Hawai'i in yesterday's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. His 177 yards from six receptions and three TD catches broke previous school marks of 126 yards and two TDs. Also, his 69-yard TD catch shattered a 37-year-old mark of 60 yards by Jim Yoder from Joe Theismann in the 1971 Cotton Bowl.
"It's great to be in the record books," Tate said. "I'll take it."
But his most electrifying moment came late in the third quarter when he had an apparent TD from a 50-yard punt return nullified by a roughing the punter penalty. On the play, Tate escaped the grasp of at least three would-be tacklers to spring loose for the end zone.
"After Armando Allen took one to the house, I was feeling good. If he could do it, I could do it," Tate said. "I looked back and didn't see my guys celebrate, so I figured something's gone wrong. But no big deal. We won."
Tate was referring to Allen's 96-yard kickoff return — the longest in Hawai'i Bowl history and the first kickoff returned for a score for Notre Dame since 2002 — that put the Fighting Irish up 49-14.
"We had guys there, but (the Fighting Irish) made plays and we didn't make plays," UH coach Greg McMackin said in general of his team's performance.
Tate's receptions all seemed to be integral in Notre Dame's scoring, even when he wasn't the one making the TD catch.
Notre Dame's first score — a 2-yard TD run by running back Robert Hughes — came after a 27-yard reception by Tate that put the ball inside the UH 5 with the help of a personal foul penalty against UH.
Tate also had an 18-yard catch to the UH 14 that set up Clausen's 14-yard TD pass to David Grimes that increased the Irish lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.
After UH cut the deficit to 14-7, the Irish struck back quickly and in long fashion. Two plays after taking the ensuing kickoff to the Irish 21, Clausen audibled at the line and hit Tate for a 69-yard TD pass that left UH corner Jameel Dowling in the receiver's wake. It was Notre Dame's longest play from scrimmage this season.
"He just gave me the signal," Tate said of the audible.
Later in the quarter, an interception by David Brunton set up Tate's second TD catch of the game, an 18-yarder in which he barely got one foot in bounds that gave Notre Dame a 28-7 lead at the half.
Tate capped his night with a 40-yard TD catch from Clausen in the third quarter that increased Notre Dame's lead to 42-7.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who called the offensive plays from the coaches' box, felt his team could challenge UH's secondary.
"We figured they would be very aggressive on us," Weis said. "They come out in a cover two, which is what they like to play. They tried to come up on us and we thought we could get by and fortunately, we made some big plays."
It was a career game for Tate, who entered the game with seven TD catches on the season. His previous best game was seven catches for 146 yards and two TDs against Syracuse in a 24-23 loss Nov. 22.
It also was a milestone day for Clausen, who was 22-of-26 for career-highs and school bowl records of 401 yards and five TDs.
"He gets the ball off quickly," McMackin said of the sophomore quarterback. "He could've beat a lot of teams today. He's going to be a Heisman Trophy winner."
It was a far cry from his previous game, a 38-3 shellacking at Southern California on Nov. 29, when Clausen was 11-of-22 for 41 yards with two interceptions.
As for Tate, he looked at the bigger picture rather than his individual performance.
"I'm happy for the seniors on the team," Tate said. "We sent them out happy and over .500 (7-6) and this is a boost for next year."
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.