Senior tailback Ryan Grant will close out his Notre Dame career in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28.

Notre Dame Accepts Invitation To Play In Insight Bowl

Nov. 28, 2004

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame’s football team is headed to the 16th annual Insight Bowl based in Tempe, Ariz., for a Tuesday, Dec. 28 game at Bank One Ballpark against a Pacific-10 Conference team to be determined Dec. 5.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. MST (9:30 p.m. EST in South Bend) at the home of the baseball Arizona Diamondbacks (capacity 42,915 for football) in Phoenix. ESPN will televise the game.

Notre Dame’s ticket allotment goes on sale Monday to the public. Tickets are $52 each and can be ordered by calling the Notre Dame athletic ticket office at 574-631-7356. VISA, MasterCard and American Express are accepted forms of payment. There is also a $15 charge per order for trackable delivery service. There is no limit on ticket purchases.

This marks Notre Dame’s 26th postseason bowl appearance, its first in the Insight. The Irish have played three times previously in the postseason in Tempe, appearing in the Fiesta Bowl following the 1988, 1994 and 2000 seasons. Notre Dame also played a regular-season game at Arizona State in 1998.

Including the 2004 Insight appearance Notre Dame now has played in bowl games in 25 of 36 seasons since the Irish played in the Cotton Bowl following the 1969 season. Notre Dame has played in bowl games in two of Tyrone Willingham’s three seasons, in three of the last five seasons, five of the last eight, and 14 of the last 18. The Irish will be looking to end a current six-game losing streak in bowl games. The last Irish bowl win was a 24-21 triumph over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl following the 1993 season.

Notre Dame’s bowl history includes seven appearances in the Cotton Bowl (following the 1969-70-77-78-87-92-93 seasons), five in the Orange Bowl (1972-74-89-90-95), three each in the Fiesta (1988-94-2000), Sugar (1973-80-91) and Gator Bowls (1976-98-2002) – plus one appearance each in the Rose (1924), Aloha (1984), Liberty (1983), Independence (1997) and Insight Bowls (2004).

Here is reaction from Willingham following today’s announcement:

What is your reaction to the invitation to play in the Insight Bowl?

“We’re excited and I think our young men are excited. There are a lot of places in this country where you could spend the holidays and Phoenix will be a delightful spot for our team and our fans. Hopefully, we can go in there with a positive mindset and a lot of energy, and get a win. I think it gives our football team another opportunity to play football and I think they will enjoy doing that. I believe the game gives us that feeling that we still have some business to take care of and we’d like to be able to do that.”

What are the benefits of being in a bowl game?

“Number one, it’s a chance to get a win. It’s also a great opportunity for our underclassmen to continue their preparation because what we hope and believe is there are great things on the horizon for this football team. So, this is an opportunity to continue that because you can’t get better sitting in the dorm. You can only get better by practicing and performing on the football field and this is an opportunity to do that.”

Have you been able to talk to any of the players to tell them about the game? Or, all they all still asleep right now (after an all-night plane ride back from USC)?

“I spoke to the guys who are responsible for our leadership. I was able to get three or four of those guys and they felt it was a good opportunity for them to go out and leave their mark on this program. I think it’s also an opportunity for our young players to really kick things into gear for next year.”

Was that (reaction) something you were unsure of?

“First of all, I didn’t assume there would be an offer (of a bowl invitation). I don’t like to assume things, so I wasn’t really intimating that to our players. I could tell they felt good when they heard the news.”

How do you balance the preparation, in terms of between the bowl game and for next season?

“I think the good thing is that a bunch of our young guys have already been involved. They’ve had critical roles this year, so it’s a continuation of that for them. My focus will always be, number one, to win the game. I think that serves you better than (focusing on) developing players because, if you establish that winning attitude that speaks well for that next group coming forward.”

How important would it be to get a win in the final game of your season?

“It makes the winter a lot easier. You finish on a higher note, as opposed to finishing with that losing taste in your mouth. Even though our season should provide great motivation for us through the winter – because it was a season in which we didn’t reach our expectations – but you like to go into the next season feeling good about where you are.”

Obviously, a 7-5 finish would be a lot better than a 6-6 finish…

“It would be and, of course, the big thing there for us is to win a bowl game. That’s something that Notre Dame hasn’t done in about 11 years. So, it would be a great way for the seniors to leave something very positive with this program.”

Last night, (ND offensive guard) Bobby Morton said he didn’t know what the bowl situation was going to be but, if you didn’t go to a bowl, he wouldn’t want to be the first team that plays Notre Dame in the first game next season. Do you feel that kind of reflects the attitude this team has, that they really just wanted to get back out on the field after the game (a loss at USC) last night?

“Very much so. I think you could see last night in their play that at no point in our game with USC did you see our players give up. I think there’s really a lot of fight in this group. They’re really their own worst critics.”

Is the primary value of this bowl game just a chance to play?

“That has to be our focus, to get back on the field and find some way to be successful. That would be number one, but you always want to point toward as high a bowl game as possible because that elevates your thought process, elevates your energy.”

What is your schedule now?

“Well, it’s very difficult for me to say right now because they (the players) need a break, some time off. But we’ve also got a study week coming up and some exams coming up which should be priorities on their calendar, so I will try to balance that time with what we need from a football standpoint. We’ll probably try to (practice) a couple days a week or so from now of light skeleton practices, maybe comprising about an hour or an hour and a half of their time. Then we’ll move into more serious workouts as we get closer to the ballgame.”