Freshman Tommy Rees passed for 201 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Floyd as Notre Dame beat Miami 33-17 in the Sun Bowl on Friday, making Brian Kelly the first Fighting Irish coach to win a bowl game in his first season.
After a 20-year break, it was all Irish in the latest installment of a storied rivalry that became known during the 1980s as Catholics versus Convicts.
Notre Dame (8-5) reached the end zone on three of its first four possessions. Rees tossed TD passes of 3 and 34 yards to Floyd and Cierre Wood broke free on a 34-yard scoring run before David Ruffer added field goals from 40, 50 and 19 yards in El Paso, Texas.
The Irish closed with four victories to cap an up-and-down season under Kelly. After a 1-3 start, they endured the death of the team's student videographer and the loss of quarterback Dayne Crist to a season-ending injury during a stunning 28-27 loss to Tulsa in South Bend, Ind.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The Irish recovered to beat Utah, Army and USC down the stretch, then handled Miami (7-6) easily for Notre Dame's second straight postseason victory.
The Hurricanes trailed 30-3 going into the fourth quarter, completing a season in which their coach was fired with an ugly loss.
Notre Dame's 30th bowl appearance was a New Year's Eve fiesta in El Paso, a predominantly Roman Catholic city on the Mexican border that embraced the Irish with huge cheers from the first glimpse of a golden helmet coming from the locker rooms.
Rees hardly looked like a freshman, completing 15 of 29 attempts without an interception. His performance marked the first time a first-year starting quarterback at Notre Dame won a bowl game.
Floyd had a big day, too, with six catches for 109 yards receiving, and his numbers would have been even better if he'd brought in what would have been two more TD catches.
The game sold out in 21 hours, the fastest in the Sun Bowl's 77-year history, and the crowd of 54,021 set a bowl attendance record. Many fans wore Notre Dame jackets to ward off the 34-degree weather as a round of overnight snow dusted the Franklin Mountains.
The warm-weather Hurricanes — many wearing head covers under their helmets — struggled much of the afternoon to get anything going.
Miami scored twice in the fourth quarter when Stephen Morris threw a 6-yard TD pass to Leonard Hankerson and a 42-yard scoring play to Tommy Streeter, but it was too late by then.
The Canes trailed 27-0 late in the first half and the player with the most catches from a Hurricanes quarterback was Irish safety Harrison Smith, who intercepted three passes. Robert Blanton also had an interception during Miami's turnover binge.
Not everything went perfectly for Notre Dame. Ruffer was wide right a 36-yard try late in the third quarter, his first miss on 24 career attempts.
Still, it was a rough finish to a tough season for the Hurricanes, who saw coach Randy Shannon fired in November. With interim coach Jeff Stoutland working the game for Miami from the sideline, newly hired coach Al Golden watched from a Sun Bowl suite.
Jacory Harris started at quarterback for the Canes after Morris sprained an ankle in practice this week. Harris couldn't get anything going, completing just 4 of 7 with three interceptions. Morris took over the second quarter and finished.
Notre Dame14 13 3 3—33 Miami 0 3 0 14—17
ND—Floyd 3 pass from Rees (Ruffer kick), 11:02.
ND—Floyd 34 pass from Rees (Ruffer kick), 4:35.
ND—C.Wood 34 run (Ruffer kick), 13:21.
ND—FG Ruffer 40, 4:50.
ND—FG Ruffer 50, :27.
Mia—FG Bosher 47, :00.
ND—FG Ruffer 19, 7:12.
Mia—Hankerson 6 pass from Morris (Bosher kick), 10:36.
Mia—Streeter 42 pass from Morris (Bosher kick), 4:01.
ND—FG Tausch 34, 1:21.
Rushing—Notre Dame, C.Wood 12-81, Hughes 27-81, Riddick 8-32, Rees 1-2. Miami, Berry 9-34, Morris 4-22, S.Johnson 2-20, James 4-14, Miller 5-13.
Passing—Notre Dame, Rees 15-29-0-201. Miami, Morris 22-33-1-282, J.Harris 4-7-3-37.
Receiving—Notre Dame, Floyd 6-109, Eifert 4-31, Goodman 1-30, Jones 1-19, Hughes 1-8, Riddick 1-2, C.Wood 1-2. Miami, Hankerson 6-71, Byrd 4-47, James 4-14, Benjamin 3-44, Ford 2-37, Miller 2-32,
Streeter 1-42, Cleveland 1-15, S.Johnson 1-9, Berry 1-4, Gordon 1-4.
South Florida 31, Clemson 26 — Skip Holtz came to South Florida in a tough spot, replacing a popular coach whose firing left some bad feelings in the locker room. The 3-3 start fueled by a shaky offense didn't help matters.
Slowly, Holtz got a grip on the young program and thanks to an impressive comeback from an injury by his quarterback, the Bulls have reached another milestone.
B.J. Daniels threw two touchdowns passes and ran for a third and in South Florida's victory over Clemson on Friday in the Meineke Bowl that gave Holtz a strong finish to his first season and left his team full of smiles.
South Florida71077—31 Clemson310013—26
Clem—FG Catanzaro 27, 5:30.
USF—Murray 25 pass from Daniels (Bonani kick), :39.
USF—FG Bonani 27, 13:42.
USF—Bogan 15 pass from Daniels (Bonani kick), 7:19.
Clem—FG Catanzaro 44, 3:55.
Clem—Harper 1 run (Catanzaro kick), :30.
USF—Plancher 2 run (Bonani kick), 9:47.
USF—Daniels 8 run (Bonani kick), 13:58.
Clem—Ford 6 pass from Boyd (pass failed), 1:47.
Clem—Ford 10 pass from Boyd (Catanzaro kick), :43.
Rushing—South Florida, Plancher 14-50, Murray 8-25, Daniels 11-22, Team 2-(minus 3), Lamar 2-(minus 4). Clemson, Harper 20-34, Wade 1-8, K.Parker 2-8, Boyd 3-1, J.Brown 1-(minus 1).
Passing—South Florida, Daniels 20-27-1-189, Landi 0-1-0-0. Clemson, Boyd 13-23-1-112, K.Parker 11-17-1-134, Team 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—South Florida, Lamar 5-40, Murray 3-35, Gidrey 3-34, Landi 2-36, Miller 2-10, Plancher 2-8, Bogan 1-15, Hornes 1-7, Bravo-Brown 1-4. Clemson, Hopkins 8-94, Harper 6-12, Ford 4-45, J.Brown 3-40, Allen 2-17, M.Jones 1-38.
Washington 19, No. 17 Nebraska 7 — Jake Locker bounced back from an injury he said looked worse than it was, scoring on a 25-yard run in the third quarter to help Washington beat Nebraska on Thursday night.
The Huskies were 0-12 in 2008 before Steve Sarkisian took over as coach.
Tailback Chris Polk ran for 177 yards and a score as the Huskies (7-6) avenged a 56-21 loss to the Huskers (10-4) in Seattle on Sept. 18. The Cornhuskers piled up 533 yards of total offense in that game, including 383 rushing.
Nebraska0700— 7 Washington10072—19
Wash—C.Polk 3 run (Folk kick), 9:08.
Wash—FG Folk 39, 1:29.
Neb—Reed 15 pass from Martinez (Henery kick), 10:24.
Wash—Locker 25 run (Folk kick), 13:18.
Rushing—Nebraska, Burkhead 12-39, Helu 11-34, Martinez 14-23, C.Green 3-(minus 2), Team 1-(minus 3). Washington, C.Polk 34-177, Locker 13-83, Callier 4-9, Team 1-(minus 1).
Passing—Nebraska, C.Green 3-12-0-45, Martinez 7-9-1-53. Washington, Locker 5-16-0-56, Callier 1-2-0-16, Team 0-1-0-0.
Receiving—Nebraska, McNeill 3-33, Reed 2-31, Kinnie 2-21, Burkhead 2-12, Martinez 1-1. Washington, Goodwin 2-30, C.Polk 2-22, Locker 1-16, Je.Kearse 1-4.