Notre Dame, Ind (UHND.com) — Notre Dame jumped out to an early lead, but needed a big 4th quarter to pull away from Tennessee and end the Vol’s upset bid with a 41-21 victory. Tommy Zbikowski capped the scoring in the first half with a punt return for a touchdown and then capped the scoring in the 4th quarter with an interception return for a touchdown to put the nail in the coffin.
Notre Dame came storming out of the gates with a 95 yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 43 yard touchdown pass from Brady Quinn to Anthony Fassano — Fassano’s first of the year.
After a Tennessee fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Quinn tossed his second touchdown of the game when he connected with Maurice Stovall for a 35 yard strike. Quinn completed 20 of 33 passes for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Tennessee defense dug in after the 2nd Irish touchdown however and held the Irish offense in check until the fourth quarter keeping the Irish off the scoreboard for 7 possessions.
Notre Dame’s special teams got the Irish into the endzone in the 2nd quarter when Tommy Zbikowski returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, his second of the season giving him a touchdown for 3rd straight week.
Tennessee’s offense showed some signs of life in the 2nd half by tying the game at 21 in the 3rd quarter before the Irish rallied off 20 straight points after Quinn connected with Jeff Samardjiza for a 73 pass on 3rd and 10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
Quinn added his 3rd touchdown of the game a few plays later when he connected with Jeff Samardjiza for a 4 yard pass on 3rd and goal. Samardjiza now has a touchdown in 8 straight games and has 12 on the season, giving him the Notre Dame single season record he tied last week.
The Irish added 2 DJ Fitzpatrick field goals before Zbikowski scored his second touchdown of the game on a 33 yard interception return, the 2nd interception in the game for the Notre Dame secondary. Ambrose Wooden intercepted an earlier Eric Ainge pass for his 2nd interception of the season.
Brady Quinn added to his already impressive totals for the season with his 3 touchdown performance which pushes his season total to 23 — adding to the single season record he set last week. Quinn now has 2,647 yards while completing 195 of 299 passes and continues to make his way up the Notre Dame single season and career passing charts.
Heading into the game the most points Tennessee had given was 27 to Georgia and LSU before the 41 points the Irish hung on the Vols on Saturday. Brady Quinn’s 3 touchdown passes equaled the combined number of touchdown passes Tennessee had given up all season.
The win pushed the Irish to 6-2 and in cruise control for a BCS bid with 3 games remaining in which the Irish should be double digit favorites while it pushed Tennessee to 3-5 adding to their already disappointing season.