Post Game Report Card: Notre Dame v. Washington ’05

Brady Quinn may not have had 5 touchdown passes as he did a week ago or throw for nearly 500 yards as he did against Michigan State, but I was more impressed with his performance against Washington as a whole. While Quinn put up gaudy numbers last week he put up one number this week that supersedes the yards and TD’s from last week and that’s his 68% completion percentage.

Quinn hit on 25 of 37 passes for 327 yards for an average of 13.1 yards a completion so he his high completion percentage wasn’t a result of dink and dunk passes as it was early on this season. Quinn was much more accurate this week and didn’t miss many open receivers. His 52 yard touchdown to Jeff Samardjiza was the first real deep ball I’ve seen him throw this year where he put the ball right in front of the receiver giving the Samardjiza the chance to catch it and run it in. He’s had other long completions, but none where he gave the receiver a chance to take it to the house like that.

Quinn also had a couple of balls go just a bit too far in the endzone to Stovall and Samardjiza. He had both receivers for touchdowns but neither could come down with the ball in bounds. Look for Weis to work with Quinn on his touch on those passes and expect Quinn to start making those throws as the season progresses.
Grade: A

Running Backs
Darius Walker ran for his 4th straight 100 yard game with a career high 128. His 4th 100 yard game makes him the first Irish back to accomplish this to start a season and the first to accomplish it at any point in the season since Randy Kindner in 1995. While Walker ran for 128, he could have had close to 200 if he turned a couple of the toss plays the Irish ran up field sooner.

There were a couple times when Walker stretched some of those tosses out too long and would have seen more yardage if he turned them upfield. On the flip side of that, his patience paid off a couple times where he turned short gains into nice runs so you take the good with the bad. It’s hard to argue with 448 yards in 4 games.

Travis Thomas saw some action in the 4th quarter and responded with 52 yards on 7 carries and his first career touchdown. Thomas looked explosive and hit the hole hard when he got in the game and earned himself some carries in future games. Rashon Powers Neal saw time at half back and put up 30 yards on 9 carries.
Grade: A

Wide Receivers
Jeff Samardjiza is emerging as a legit star receiver for the Irish. He has been steady and shown excellent hands through the first 3 games and added the deep ball to his repertoire this week with a 52 yard bomb from Quinn for a touchdown and another long completion where he adjusted to the ball well in the air and came down with it. Samardjiza had career highs of 8 catches and 164 yards. He now has 6 touchdowns in 4 games and needs 5 more in the final 7 games to tie the Notre Dame single season record.

The first offensive play for the Irish was pass to Anthony Fassano from the end zone. Fassano took the pass and then hurdled the Washington defender. Fassano showed why he is one of the best tight ends in the country while adding 66 yards on 6 catches to his season total which sits at 21 catches for 219 yards.
Grade: A

Offensive Line
Brady Quinn was sacked just once for a loss of 2 yards and Notre Dame ran for 233 yards as a team. The offensive line gave Quinn plenty of time to pass and paved the way for Walker’s 4th straight 100 yard game. The offensive line also allowed the Irish to control the ball for over 36 minutes against the Huskies.

After having trouble with Michigan State’s offensive line last week, the Irish offensive line handled the Huskies line well. The Notre Dame running backs averaged nearly 5 yards a carry against Washington and helped the offense gain 560 yards.
Grade: A

Defensive Line
Washington found it hard to run against the Irish on the few occasions when they weren’t testing the Notre Dame secondary. The front four got an average pass rush on Washington, but the pass rush was not much to get excited about. The Irish haven’t been blitzing much this year and have relied upon the front four to get pressure. So far, they haven’t had too much success but Victor Abiamiri did record a sack for a loss of 12 yards, his 2nd of the season.

Derek Landri added a sack and played well against the run. He also came within inches of stuffing a Washington screen play that he read, but just couldn’t get enough of the runner to make the tackle.
Grade: B

Corey Mayes forced a fumble which he recovered for another strong performance. Mayes has been a beast this year and is playing his way into the NFL Draft. Brandon Hoyte was all over the field as well with 3 tackles for loss and a sack.

The linebackers also did a better job of not letting the tight end for Washington as they have in previous games this year. Most of Washington’s damage done through the air came deep in the secondary and not on the linebackers.
Grade: B

Another game, another 300+ yards surrendered through the air. Isaiah Stanback threw for 353 yards and Washington threw for 408 as a team. Notre Dame got burned deep multiple times for the second week in a row. The Irish safeties showed a vulnerability to the play action this week because of their aggressiveness in stopping the run. Zbikowksi and N’Dukwe are physical safeties, but they are not playing good deep coverage so far this season.

At the corner position, Ambrose Wooden got his first career interception and is improving each week. A question mark heading into the season, Wooden is developing into a very good corner for the Irish. Mike Richardson didn’t have the greatest of games this week but is still improved from a year ago. Terrail Lambert saw action this week and showed a lot of promise. With some more experience, Lambert looks like he has a lot of potential at the position. He was tested in the end zone and made a good play to prevent a touchdown.

The deep passing game is a real concern here though. Notre Dame is going to be continually tested with the vertical passing game until they show they can stop it. The secondary has shown that they can stop the run, but are susceptible to the big play because of their aggressiveness in stopping the run. Washington could have passed for 500 yards with a more experienced quarterback and that is definitely major cause for concern. Props to N’dukwe for forcing the fumble on the first drive of the game at the one and recovering his 4th fumble of the season in the process.
Grade: D

Special Teams
Miscues in the kick team resulted in a missed extra point and a botched field goal. A bad snap resulted in the botch field goal and a drop on the hold of a PAT resulted in lame kick. This is something that will be addressed in practice this week and is not something I think will become a trend.

In the return game, David Grimes saw his first kick return of the year late in the game and ran it back 31 yards. Grimes showed very good speed and quickness on the return and looks like he could find a home on the kick return team. Kick coverage was good and Notre Dame did not have to punt until there were under 10 seconds left in the game.
Grade: C

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