Notre Dame, Ind (UHND.com) – Brady Quinn threw four touchdown passes and 346 yards with 177 of those yards and one of the four touchdowns going to senior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija as Notre Dame won their eight game of the season with a 45-26 victory over North Carolina.
North Carolina came into South Bend with the 115th ranked rushing defense in the country, but it was the Irish passing game that did the damage in the Irish’s 19 point victory, their sixth in a row. Brady Quinn added to his Heisman resume with a 23 of 35 performance for 346 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
Quinn got the Irish offense off to a fast start, engineering a six play 65 yard drive culminating with the first of two receiving touchdowns for senior Rhema McKnight on a 7 yard scoring strike.
Carolina would stick with the Irish in the first quarter, however, and responded with their own eight play, 80 yard drive ending with a 12 yard pass from Joe Dailey to Jesse Holley.
The game would not remain tied very long. Brady Quinn led the Irish on drives of 74 and 57 yards each ending with touchdown passes by Quinn – one to tight end John Carlson and the other being McKnight’s second of the game.
Carlson would end up leading the Irish in receptions against Carolina with eight for 91 yards. McKnight would add six catches for 56 yards and his 2 TDs.
While McKnight was busy near the end-zone in the first half, Samardzija was busy everywhere else on the field – topping 100 yards by half time and nearly pulling down his 23rd career touchdown in the second quarter. Samardzija, tied with Derrick Mayes for career touchdown catches coming into the game, nearly broke Mayes record in the second quarter but lost control of a Quinn pass in the end zone. The two sport star would later break Mayes’s mark with a 45 yard third quarter score.
Despite an overpowering offensive performance, the Irish found themselves up just 24-13 after giving up a 90 yard tackling breaking kickoff return by North Carolina return man Brandon Tate just under midway through the second quarter.
Notre Dame would add a big special teams play of it’s a few minutes later when Tommy Zbikowksi returned his first punt for a touchdown this year. The senior safety returned two for a touchdown last year and had some nice returns so far this year, but did not reach the end zone until Saturday giving the Irish a 31-13 lead going into half time.
Coming out of the half, it looked like the Irish were on to an easy route but the big play bug hit the Irish again in the third quarter. Joe Dailey marched the Tar Heels 83 on the opening drive of the second half and then on Carolina’s next drive, Dailey connected with Hakeem Nicks on a 72 bomb to keep the Heels in the game.
Darius Walker would add Notre Dame’s sixth touchdown of the game early n the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach and the Irish went into cruise control in the fourth with the game securely in hand. Notre Dame had a chance to score more points, but as is Charlie Weis’s policy, they didn’t run up the score just for the sake of scoring points with the pollsters.
Walker would end the game with 86 yards on 20 carries failing to top the 100 yard mark for the sixth time this year. His fourth quarter touchdown was his fourth rushing TD of the season.
Despite the 19 point win, questions about Notre Dame’s defense remain to linger. After surrendering just 13.6 point over their last three games, the Notre Dame defense allowed 26 points to an offense that was averaging just over 15 points a game this season.
The Irish defense also allowed North Carolina quarterback Joe Dailey to throw three touchdown passes after throwing just two all season. In fact, North Carolina quarterbacks had a 2:5 touchdown to interception ratio coming into this game, but the Irish secondary could not manage a pick on either Carolina quarterback.
The Notre Dame rushing was also rather unimpressive against one of the nation’s worst rushing defenses. North Carolina’s 115th ranked rush defense gave up just 106 yards on 30 attempts against the Irish.
Up next for the Irish will be a trip to Colorado Springs for a road game against an Air Force (4-4) team coming off a dominating performance of Army this past weekend.