Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson did not have a successful Bronx homecoming at Yankee Stadium Friday. The former head coach at Fordham University built a program up a few miles away at Rose Hill for three years and moved on before taking over at Wake Forest in 2014.
“This is the palace; this is the most famous place in the Bronx,” he said this week about coaching at Yankee Stadium leading up to the 10th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Michigan State.
But the Palace did not treat him well. There was a moment when his Demon Deacons had control and appeared to be going home with their fourth consecutive bowl victory coached under Clawson.
Michigan State had other ideas as their defense came up strong. And Brian Lewerke, in his final game, threw for 320 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score and copped MVP game honors in leading Michigan State to a 27-21 victory.
“They did a good job of pressuring us,” said Clawson. “I thought their defensive line did a good job of rushing the passer. We just didn’t get open on the perimeter. We didn’t make enough plays. Credit to them, they did.”
Clawson was proud of his players. Not every team gets that opportunity to compete in a late December football game at Yankee Stadium, and this Pinstripe Bowl has become a premiere event.
Syracuse, Penn State, Rutgers, and Notre Dame have been there. They also battled on the turf at Yankee Stadium in previous years in the Bronx.
Clawson and his team knew this was going to be a struggle against that Spartans defense and a historic program that appeared in their 29th Bowl game.
“I’m proud of the way our players competed, battled,” Clawson said. “ We got really thin. That was a little bit the story of our season. I think when we were a healthy football team, we could play with pretty much anybody in the country.”
Yes, Clawson had to battle and keep his players on the field during a 8-4 season, 32.8 points per game that was second in the ACC.
Junior quarterback Jamie Newman, an all ACC honorable mention selection, second in the conference with 289.1 yards of total offense per game, threw three touchdown passes in the first half.
But his team with 250 yards offense in the first half could only compile 101 in the second. That also told the story of this 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.
“I thought we missed some throws,” Clawson said. “ We ran that little speed-out a couple times. Didn’t throw that well. We had opportunities to make plays. We’ll go back and watch that film. We’ll have a hard time sleeping for a couple of days.”
Similar to his days at Fordham, when his team lost to good teams in the Patriot League, Clawson provided the proper analysis ro this loss.
“There were chances to win that game,” he said.” I think as we became one-dimensional, we played from behind, they did a pretty good job rushing the passer. Again, credit to Michigan State. They’re a good football team. Sometimes when you don’t make plays, the opponent has something to do with it. I certainly want to give them their credit and their due.”
Michigan State finished the decade 92-40, though they finished 7-6 two straight years. And they were able to contain Newman in the second half, which also contributed to their win.
And for Mark Dantonio, the Spartans’ all-time winningest coach, this was his sixth Bowl Game victory that goes with three Big 10 championships.
“ I thought we did a pretty good job rushing their tackles back into the quarterback’s lap pretty much, cut down his running opportunities,” Dantonio said.
About Newman, he said, “A good football player. To look at it, 17 rushes per 112 yards for their quarterback. He threw the ball down the field effectively, as well. Good football player. We needed to contain him.”
This wasn’t the Penn-State 31-30 thriller and win in overtime against Boston College in 2014. But this was a good one as the college football tradition continued at Yankee Stadium and Michigan State took home the George M. Steinbrenner III Trophy.
“Obviously when you win the football game, it’s sort of icing on the cake,” Dantonio said. “We had a great experience here.”
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