Brady Quinn had his first multiple interception game of the season with 2 first half picks. Quinn didn’t look comfortable in the first half and had his worst half of the year despite throwing 2 touchdowns to Jeff Samardzija before halftime. Quinn looked much better in the second half however and lead the Irish on a game winning touchdown drive with under two minutes in the game — something he had not done this season up until Saturday night.
For the game Quinn was 25 of 38 for 432 yards and 3 touchdowns along with the 2 interceptions. Quinn now has four (4) 400 yard passing games this season and 3,631 passing yards with 32 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Still, the Irish had the opportunity to open this game up in the first half and didn’t in large part because of Quinn’s lackluster first half.
I’ve been a little critical of Darius Walker of late saying I’m still waiting for Walker to have a real breakout game. Well, 186 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving with a game winning touchdown and two point conversion qualify as a breakout performance. Walker would not go down in the second half and willed his way into the end zone on the game winning score after it looked like he was going to go down at the 1. Walker went over 1,000 yards for the season with his 186 yards Saturday night.
Travis Thomas also saw the end zone for the Irish on his first carry of the game — an 8 yard score. Thomas only saw three carries but still found his way into the end zone for the 5th time this season.
Jeff Samardzija had another amazing game with 9 catches for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns, including an 80 yarder on the 2nd play of the game. Samardzija became the single season receiving leader for Notre Dame in yards with 1,215 and added to his calready record total of single season touchdowns with his 14th and 15th touchdowns on the season.
Maurice Stovall also went over the 1,000 yard mark with a 7 catch 136 yard 1 touchdown performance. Stovall and Samardzija became only the 3rd and 4th receivers in Notre Dame history to go over the 1,000 yard mark in receiving in a single season.
Darius Walker didn’t run for 186 yards on his own — his offensive line opened some holes for the sophomore running back. The offensive line however had some trouble protecting Quinn in the first half. Stanford only managed 1 official sack in the game, but Quinn was flushed out of the pocket often in the first half. The line had no penalties this week for motion of holding which is a big improvement from a few weeks ago.
Victor Abiamiri had his breakout game of the year Saturday night with a career high 4 sacks of Stanford quarterbacks including a sack on Stanford last gasp 4th and 19 with 12 second remaining. Abiamiri spent most of his night in the Stanford backfield without the aide of the blitz most of the time. He had just 4 sacks heading into this game.
The other defensive linemen turned in strong performances as well with Stanford having a hard time running all game. Derek Landri had a couple nice plays and Brian Beidatsch made a big stuff on 3rd and short deep in Notre Dame territory to force a Stanford field goal. Justin Brown also played well in place of Ronald Talley. Brown showed some great quickness and made some big stops.
Brandon Hoyte registered 2 sacks in his final regular season game while Corey Mays best play of the night actually came on special teams on the last kickoff of the game. Maurice Crum got sucked in on a couple play actions that resulted in a couple catches by Matt Traverso who had a career day against Notre Dame.
The linebackers as a group did a pretty good job tackling, but when despite Hoyte’s 2 sacks were fairly ineffective when they were sent on the blitz.
Mike Richardson recorded a sack, but overall the secondary had one of their worst outings of the year. The backup quarterback for Stanford completed 11 of 15 passes for 197 yards including the 76 yard bomb to Mark Bradford to set up their last touchdown. On Brandford’s 76 yarder, Leo Ferrine misplayed the ball and let Bradford behind him.
The safeties provided little help against the deep ball and Stanford exploited this. Ambrose Wooden lost the ball on Bradford’s first quarter touchdown. Ostrander and Trent Edwards combined to throw for 347 yards against the Notre Dame secondary that had been improving in the 2nd half of the year.
Two missed field goals and a missed extra point allowed Stanford to make their late run. Notre Dame could have put the game out of reach earlier if the kicking game was sound this week. DJ Fitzpatrick was hurt coming in, but connected on his first two extra points before bouncing his third off the left upright. Carl Gioia came in an hit a field goal, but Fitzpatrick’s 2 misses nearly cost the Irish dearly.
Notre Dame also allowed an 87 yard kick return for a touchdown and didn’t make any significant returns of their own. Special teams is the one area in which the Irish were completely dominated this week.
Charlie Weis made my favorite and least favorite calls of the season this week. First off, my least favorite — putting Fitzpatrick in to kick the 29 yard field goal late in the 4th after Gioia connected on a 29 yarder earlier. Granted Weis knew much more about Fitzpatrick’s health than I, but after missing an extra point and a field goal it was clear that he was not himself. Had the field goal been longer or at a crazy angle I could see Weis going with Fitzpatrick but the kick was dead center from only 29 yards out.
Ok, now to my favorite. The direct snap to Walker on the two point conversion was my favorite play call of the season. It was a bit ballsy since the direct snap to the running back could backfire with a bad snap. It was also the perfect call since Stanford hadn’t seen it and was coming with the blitz.