Gator Bowl



Georgia Tech 35

Notre Dame 28

Georgia Tech Fight Song


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CNN/SI) -- Georgia Tech saw the Gator Bowl as its reward for an amazing but somewhat understated season. Notre Dame seemed to back into the New Year's Day bowl after a pathetic performance in its regular-season finale against USC. That tide of emotion seemed to carry over into Jacksonville as the Yellow Jackets stung the Irish 35-28 in an entertaining shootout.

Jacksonville native and Georgia Tech wideout Dez White caught two long touchdown passes and helped overshadow the return of Notre Dame's Jarious Jackson. White and quarterback Joe Hamilton outdueled Jackson and Autry Denson to lead Tech (10-2) to the 10-win mark for the first time since 1990 and just the second time in history.

White had a 44-yard touchdown catch to stifle Notre Dame's momentum in the third quarter and a 55-yarder in the fourth for the winning score (video). All in all, it was quite a homecoming. "All week long, I felt real comfortable," White said. "Then, coming in here today, it just felt like a home game. I was fired up, ready to play in front of my friends and family."

Trying to snap a three-game bowl losing streak, Notre Dame (9-3) broke out its green jerseys for the first time since the 1995 Fiesta Bowl. But those uniforms couldn't defend White nor Hamilton, and the Fighting Irish came up short of pulling out another last-second victory. Trailing 35-28, the Irish got the ball twice in the final three minutes. Neither series produced a yard, and Nate Stimson - who finished with 2 1/2 sacks, ended the final drive by forcing a fumble recovered by defensive end Jesse Tarplin. "This is great," Stimson said. "It's the last game of my career, the game's on the line late and I'm able to sack the quarterback and force a fumble. You couldn't ask for a better ending."

The victory reversed a long trend in this series for Georgia Tech and might be a good indicator of just how far the Yellow Jackets have come in two years. They opened last season as 17-13 losers to Notre Dame and closed this one with only their fifth victory over the Irish in 32 meetings and their first since Pepper Rodgers' team won 23-14 in 1976. "Anytime you get to 10 wins, I think that's outstanding," said Tech coach George O'Leary. "It catapults you to next season."

Wearing a knee brace because of an injury he sustained in November, Jackson finished 13-for-24 for 150 yards and led the Irish on three touchdown drives in the second half. Denson, Notre Dame's career leading rusher, had 130 yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn't enough for an offense that struggled in the first half and a defense that gave up 436 yards and five long scoring drives. "Really, we didn't play very well in the first half," said Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. "But it was a credit to our players. In the second half, they came out and competed extremely well."

But Hamilton and White were better, connecting on their first score - the 44-yarder - after the Irish had cut a 21-7 deficit to one point. The second came on a fly pattern for a 35-28 lead with 7:55 left. It highlighted a 91-yard drive that came right after Jackson had driven the Irish 88 yards to tie the score at 28.

White had 129 yards receiving on four catches. Hamilton threw for 237 yards and three scores, ran for 19 yards and caught his first career pass, a 5-yard touchdown from running back Joe Burns to open the scoring in the first quarter.

Trailing 21-7 at halftime, Jackson led the Irish on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by Denson's 1-yard touchdown run. On the ensuing kickoff, Tony Driver stole the ball from Virgil Johnson, and Jackson led the Irish to another quick touchdown. But Kofi Smith blocked Jim Sanson's extra point attempt, keeping the Yellow Jackets in front 21-20.

The teams traded touchdowns, and after Denson's third score, Jackson hit Bobby Brown for a 2-point conversion to tie the score. But the Irish, who had pulled out fourth quarter wins four times this year, departed Jacksonville with yet another postseason disappointment. It was hardly what Notre Dame expected, after a 9-1 start brought with it hopes of a berth in the Bowl Championship Series. The seniors will graduate without experiencing a 10-win season or a bowl victory.

"It's big, especially since going into this season, we had two chances to get 10 [wins] and we didn't do it either time," said offensive lineman Mike Rosenthal, a senior. "But you can't dwell on that. The game is over. I can't ever again put on a Notre Dame jersey, or anything like that, so I have to go on and live my life."


Dez White scored twice on long 2nd half receptions.

Joe Hamilton


A Notre Dame goal line stand.


Jarious Jackson

Autry Denson


Attendance- 70,791

Scoring Summary

First Quarter
GT- Hamilton 5 pass from Burns (Chambers kick)
ND- Denson 9 run (Sanson kick)

Second Quarter
GT- Rogers 3 run (Chambers kick)
GT- Sheridan 9 pass from Hamilton (Chambers kick)

Third Quarter
ND- Denson 1 run (Sanson kick)
ND- Jackson 2 run (kick failed)
GT- White 44 pass from Hamilton (Chambers kick)

Fourth Quarter
ND- Denson 1 run (Brown reception for two-point conversion)
GT- White 55 pass from Hamilton (Chambers kick)

Individual Statistics

GT- C Rogers 13-82, Burns 12-55, P Rogers 10-28, Hamilton 10- 19, Wilder 2-10
ND- Denson 26-130, Spencer 3-17, Jackson 12-12

GT- Hamilton 13-20-237
ND- Jackson 13-24-150

GT- White 4-129, C Rogers 4-52, Matvay 1-28
ND- Johnson 5-43, Brown 2-42, Nelson 2-20, Holloway 2-11, J Johnson 1-27