(Long Island, N.Y.) One of the goalposts stood where home plate usually is and foul territory on both sides was taken by benches, but this was certainly still Yankee Stadium. The South Bronx was transformed into South Bend, Indiana for one late November evening as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish was the ‘home’ team in their latest battle with Army.
In the latest chapter of their storied rivalry, the Irish prevailed 27-3, but that was only part of it. Having college football back in one of the sport’s original dens for it was the main focus.
“New York is a lot of things,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelley said. “What it was tonight was a college football town.”
The new Yankee Stadium made its predecessor proud by being a gracious host. The original ‘House That Ruth Built’ was the location for many a great collegiate gridiron contest and both clubs that kicked off the new building’s football schedule started it off on the right foot.
“A night like tonight reinforces our goal of continuously bringing memorable, meaningful events to Yankee Stadium and the Bronx throughout the years to come,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “We want to thank and commend Notre Dame and Army for their dedication and desire in bringing a historic night of football to Yankee Stadium. We can think of no two finer educational institutions to christen our new home with the great game of football.
“Their impact on the landscape of our nation – scholastically, athletically, and through service – cannot be overstated enough.”
Having the Army cadet section in the left field bleachers and the Notre Dame Marching Band take the field during halftime gave this night a feel for the nostalgic. “That was electric,” Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. “Our guys were excited to play. That makes it even more painful that we didn’t put our best foot forward.”
At the outset, it appeared that Army was going to be successful. Donovan Travis intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone during Notre Dame’s opening drive and the Black Knights took over on offense. They moved the ball down the field but stalled after gaining a first-and-goal. A 20-yard field goal put Army up 3-0, and it was their last points of the evening. “It was absolutely crucial that our defense came up big in the red zone,” Kelley said. “We haven’t given up a touchdown in the month. You don’t do that by accident.”
The Irish defense paved the way for their offense to take the lead and win. Freshman quarterback Tommy Rees found tight end Tyler Eifert on three big pass plays, one for a touchdown and another for an apparent score which was overturned to him being down at the 1-yard line.
When it was all said and done, a sea of green and gold prevailed and sent the vast majority of the sellout crowd of 54,251 home happy. For anyone who missed out on the game, December 30 and the annual Pinstripe Bowl is right around the corner.
So the goalposts and benches will stay right where they are for a little while longer.