JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Ticker) -- New coach, same result.
No. 17 North Carolina State knocked out Carlyle Holiday early, then added to Notre Dame's bowl woes by routing the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish, 28-6, in the Gator Bowl.
Phillip Rivers picked apart Notre Dame's secondary in the first half, completing 13-of-15 passes for 134 yards in the opening 30 minutes and directing three long scoring drives in the second quarter.
North Carolina State (11-3) closed the most successful season in school history on a high note. After setting a school record by winning their first nine games, the Wolfpack endured a three-game losing streak. But they ended the year with wins over Florida State and Notre Dame.
Safety Rod Johnson led North Carolina State's dominant defensive effort with three interceptions. The three picks set a record for a Notre Dame opponent.
Tyrone Willingham brought some excitement back to Notre Dame in his first year in South Bend, but the season ended in disappointing fashion for the Fighting Irish (10-3), who suffered their sixth straight bowl loss.
Notre Dame lost its last two games by a combined score of 72-19. The Fighting Irish ended the regular season with a 44-13 setback at Southern California.
North Carolina State pounded Notre Dame physically as tight end Gary Godsey and Holiday suffered injuries in the first quarter and did not return. Godsey suffered a leg injury on Notre Dame's first series and hobbled to the locker room on crutches.
Holiday's 12-pass completion to Arnaz Battle gave the Fighting Irish a first-and-goal on the North Carolina State 2 on their next possession, but the Wolfpack's defense stiffened.
After Ryan Grant was held to a one-yard gain on first down, Holiday was knocked out of the game after being stopped for no gain on second down. He was slammed to the turf by linebacker Antonio Burnette, suffering a separated shoulder.
Notre Dame settled for Nicholas Setta's 23-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first quarter, but the goalline stand clearly changed the complexion of the game.
North Carolina State scored touchdowns on its next three possessions, starting with a 96-yard drive, and opened a 21-3 lead at halftime.
Backup Pat Dillingham finished the game at quarterback for Notre Dame and was ineffective. The Fighting Irish came into the game ranked 107th out of 117 teams in Division I-A in total offense, and played like it.
Dillingham completed 19-of-37 passes for 166 yards, a large chuck of its on Notre Dame's final drive. To add to the frustration, the Fighting Irish reached the North Carolina State 1 before turning the ball over on downs in the final minute.
The six points matched a bowl low for Notre Dame, which suffered a 40-6 loss to Nebraska in the 1973 Orange Bowl. The Fighting Irish were held to just 86 yards on the ground.
The defense came out inspired in the third quarter, giving the Fighting Irish a chance to climb back into the game. Notre Dame twice drive into North Carolina State territory, but could only come away with Setta's 41-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the third.
The Wolfpack put away the contest on Rivers' seven-yard TD pass to Sean Berton with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter. Rivers finished 23-of-37 passes for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jerricho Cotchery repeatedly burned the Irish, catching 10 passes for 127 yards.
Freshman T.A. McLendon capped off North Carolina State's first two scoring drives with TD runs of two and three yards. Rivers tossed a nine-yard TD pass to Cotchery to make it 21-3 with 1:16 left in the first half.