My stomach felt like a shoe that a 1st grader just got done trying to tie. When I saw 1:05 left on the clock, all I could think of was how much optimism there was coming into this season, how the Irish were destined for glory, and a National Title was waiting in the wings. All I could think about was how in just 65 short seconds, those dreams would be stomped on and crushed by an opponent whom we haven’t seen since the hippie days. I knew Brady Quinn was good…but with no timeouts, the stupid new rule of the game clock running after a change of possession, and the way the offense was playing, I thought there was no way Brady Quinn could march us down the field in just 65 seconds.
I was right about that. It only took him 38.
Faced with the task of saving the Notre Dame football season with the odds stacked up against him, Brady Quinn grinned and said “Bring it”, jogging out to the huddle for that final drive, trailing 17-13, with the cool attitude and composure that only a heisman winner could have.
The drive started at the Notre Dame 20-yard line, with as I said, 65 seconds and no way to stop the clock in the way of timeouts. And in a true Charlie Weis-team run manner, they found a way to stop the clock in by getting out of bounds and getting first downs. On the first play of the drive, Quinn found Samardzija for 21 yards and a first down up to the Irish 41 yard line. After that Quinn would find David Grimes up at the UCLA 45 yard line for another first down. This set up a play that will be talked about big time when the Heisman voting starts, and when the scouts check out a certain wide receiver for the NFL Draft.
Quinn dropped back to pass, made a pump fake that was so good it threw the camera man off, and makes me wonder if he really did intend to throw the football or not…and then saw the arm of Samardzija go up. It was like a dorsal fin rising out of the water, and Quinn threw a ball right on the money to him. Jeff did the rest of the work, looking like he was wearing an Oregon jersey the way he made the Bruin defenders miss, and strolled into the end-zone for the game winner. And that’s all she wrote…I wish I could go three or four pages deep into this drive, breaking down the 12 plays of it, but the Irish offense made the thing look so damn easy. It was a perfect drive for an offense that was anything but perfect for 58 minutes and change of the game. The offensive line, for the first time in the game, actually gave Brady a chance to dissect the Bruins defense, and the offense moved down field as well as it did all season.
This isn’t the first time Quinn has displayed the demeanor of a Joe Montana or a John Elway, check out a few of the games from last season.
The game nobody will ever forget, October 15th, 2005 in Notre Dame Stadium against the top ranked Trojans, featured a Quinn comeback. After the Trojans just scored to take a 28-24 lead, Quinn took the field with under 7 minutes left. What did he do? He only led a drive 70 some yards down field and ran in the go-ahead touchdown with just over 2 minutes remaining. Now, it turned out Mr. Matt had a little more magic in his bottle than Quinn, but the coolness Brady displayed under pressure during that drive showed us he was something special.
Ah, then we have the last regular season game of the 2005 season. Heavenly favored Notre Dame at Stanford for a battle with the Cardinal. After Stanford took a 31-30 lead with just over 1:46 to play, Brady took the ball inside his own 20, and under a minute later, and without using a timeout, Darius Walker was running into the end zone for a touchdown. It only took Brady about 50 seconds to sign that 14 million dollar check Notre Dame would receive because of that drive.
He’s been called overrated in his career. Some opposing fans, calling him “Brady Queen” and other clever and original nicknames questioned his toughness. But the fact of the matter is, unless you are an Ohio State fan, opposing fans would give a limb to have a quarterback like Quinn running their team with under 2 minutes left in the ball game. The guy is beyond clutch. He’s been the Reggie Miller of Irish football the past 2 years. Down 21 points to Michigan State in 2005 he rallied the troops back, throwing for 3 touchdown passes in the 4th quarter to tie the game. Down 16 in the 4th quarter this year to the same Spartan team, he matched Sparty score for score keeping the Irish in it until the defense finally broke through and won the game.
Say what you want about the UCLA Bruins being a team the Irish should have chewed up and spit out, but the fact of the matter is their defense was playing like their hair was on fire the whole game. After getting stopped on 4th down and 1 inside of UCLA territory, things looked extremely dim for this Notre Dame football team. But like a true leader, Quinn took the ball expecting to win on that final drive. For a few moments there that #10 on his jersey looked like a #16.