Tate looks golden right from the start


POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

Notre Dame had more than enough ammunition on both sides of the football to beat Hawaii in yesterday's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, but the presence of one Fighting Irish player put a lock on the 49-21 blowout at Aloha Stadium.

The performance of Irish wide receiver Golden Tate outmatched anyone on the field, including smooth quarterback and fellow co-MVP Jimmy Clausen, who threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns.

Early in the first quarter, Tate gave a glimpse of what was to come by catching a Clausen pass and slipping past a defender before going wide and getting run out of bounds at the Warriors 5-yard line. It completed a 27-yard play and set up Notre Dame's first touchdown for a 7-0 lead.

Tate looked like he was going to dive into the end zone before he realized he was too far away, and a shove by UH's Keao Monteilh gave him enough momentum for an eventual crash into the metal barrier guarding the stands. It was the first sign that only inanimate objects would be able to stop Tate the rest of the day.

The sophomore receiver finished with six catches for 177 yards and three spectacular touchdowns. A potential fourth touchdown for Tate—a razzle-dazzle, 50-plus-yard punt return—was called back because of a roughing-the-kicker penalty.

“;What I heard afterwards was the punter was barely nicked on the play,”; Tate said.

During that punt return, Tate exhibited his elite athletic ability with several cutbacks before he put on the afterburners and ended up exhausted, tapping his helmet on the goal-post padding with 21 mere mortals lagging behind.

Earlier, Tate hit the end zone for TDs twice by leaving his man-to-man defender—Jameel Dowling—in the dust. On his other scoring catch, Tate beat double coverage on a flag route in the corner of the end zone before running into his old nemesis—the metal barrier.

“;What sticks out in my mind is that one of my touchdowns was on something other than a fly route,”; Tate said. “;We came into the game knowing they were going to be in a cover-2. That leaves the ends open and we took advantage of it.”;

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said, “;We knew (Hawaii) was going to come out aggressive on defense, so we thought we could be successful going over the top, going deep. It worked.”;

Tate finished the season with 58 catches for 1,080 yards. He also compiled 1,754 all-purpose yards.

Tate and Clausen weren't the only players clicking for the Fighting Irish. Halfback Robert Hughes gained some tough rushing and receiving yards early in the game to set up the deep balls to come, and Armando Allen returned a kick 96 yards for a score.

Defensively, safety David Bruton had a fumble recovery and an interception, Ethan Johnson and Steve Quinn split four of the team's eight sacks, and Sergio Brown blocked a punt.

Most important for the 2008 version of the Fighting Irish: They came to Hawaii with a mediocre .500 record but are going home as bowl victors, breaking an NCAA-record string of nine straight bowl losses in the process.

“;We showed up today,”; Weis said. “;We were ready to play from the start to the end and it's going to leave a good taste in our mouths for 2009.”;