5 Thoughts - 2008 Hawaii Bowl
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
Posted Dec 25, 2008

Notre Dame made a huge statement going forward into the 2009 season as Jimmy Clausen was nearly unstoppable in the 49-21 win over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Why was the Irish running game so poor? Have the expectations been jacked up again? Check out these topics and more in the 5 Thoughts on the 2008 Hawaii Bowl.

5 Thoughts ... 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Notre Dame 49 ... Hawaii 21

GAME REVIEW: Clausen throws for five scores in blowout 
- 2008 Hawaii Bowl Preview

2008 Hawaii Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

1. They had to win 49-21 and they had to get a record-setting, perfect performance from Jimmy Clausen. After all the drama and all the issues for Charlie Weis and Notre Dame over the last several weeks, they got a cathartic performance against Hawaii in what amounted to a  road game. While it might be easy to grouse where the 401-yard, five passing days were from Jimmy Clausen throughout the season, the bigger question becomes whether or not this has anything to do with the 2009 season. The call has come down from up high that Weis had better get the Irish to the BCS, or come darn close, or there will be a new coaching era starting in 2010, but all the blowout win over a mediocre Warrior team did was jack the expectations back through the roof. If the team could play this well with a little time off, what's it going to do with most of the key parts returning, and with a not-that-bad schedule, going into next year? Expectations are what screwed things up in the first place. The two BCS teams in 2005 and 2006 weren't nearly as good as advertised and masked the problems (lack of developed young stars) that proved to be such a big problem over the last two seasons. This win showed what Clausen and the team are capable of, and now the trick is to do this against Nevada on September 5th, and more importantly, against USC at home on October 17th.  - Pete Fiutak

2. I don’t get it. Was this the real Jimmy Clausen or was it the young quarterback that was clearly regressing toward the end of the regular season? The answer will dictate how far Notre Dame goes in 2009 and 2010. The sophomore pretty much pitched a perfect game, going 22-of-26 for 401 yards and five touchdown passes. For one of the first times since choosing the Irish over a slew of suitors, Clausen looked like a can’t-miss prospect who’d someday contend for All-America honors. Was it a mirage built upon the back of a really bad Hawaii pass defense? Or has the light suddenly gone on for No. 7? Welcome to a hot offseason debate topic that won’t provide many clues before next September.
- Richard Cirminiello   

3. Clausen was brilliant, the pass rush was dominant against an awful Hawaii offensive front, the return game was fantastic, and the defense did what it had to do to dominate. Going into the off-season, Weis and his staff have to work on one thing above all else considering what happened in this win: find a running game. It's not like Hawaii is a brick wall against the run, allowing a mediocre 148 yards per game, but the Irish ground game was awful all season along and only gained 65 yards, averaging 1.9 yards per carry, against the Warriors. Even with the Hawaii defense starting to concentrate fully on stopping Clausen, the running games failed to find too much room to move with Robert Hughes leading the way with 55 yards on the ground averaging 3.2 yards per carry. As good as this passing attack should be going into next year, this team won't be good enough to reach goals they expect without a steady ground attack  - Pete Fiutak
4. This was, by no means, on par with the 1971 Cotton Bowl, 1973 Sugar Bowl, or 1989 Fiesta Bowl. Still, it was big for the Irish. As much as any of the 68 postseason participants, Notre Dame needed something positive to carry it into the offseason. Ditto Charlie Weis, the program’s beleaguered head coach. Critics, and there are plenty, will snicker and point to the opponent and the event. These days, none of that matters to the Irish. The nine-game bowl losing streak is over. QB Jimmy Clausen has regained his confidence. Notre Dame has won its final game of the year for just the third time in the last 15 seasons. It’s a classic turning-lemons-into-lemonade scenario. If the Irish happen to raise the bar in 2009, it’ll surely point to Wednesday’s effort in the Hawaii Bowl as a crossroads moment.
- Richard Cirminiello   

Simply stated, it would appear that Cincinnati basically launched into celebration mode when the Big East champions went to Hawaii for a very anticlimactic 13th regular season game in early December. The Bearcats, by hitting the snooze bar for the first three quarters, made the Warriors look better than they were. Notre Dame had a certain amount of pressure heading into this game, but not the quick turnaround faced by Cincinnati. By gaining rest, a break from the USC finale, and geographic separation from South Bend, the Fighting Irish evidently found mental refreshment instead of stress. There's your difference maker in Aloha Stadium. - Matthew Zemek