Notre Dame Starts Fast, Then Coasts to Win over Falcons

Colorado Springs, CO ( – Notre Dame scored on its first three offensive possessions, all Brady Quinn touchdowns, and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the second quarter to jump to a 27-3 lead at halftime before coasting to a 39-17 victory over Air Force.

It took Brady Quinn exactly two plays and all of 54 seconds before getting the Irish on the board with a 51 yard touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija.  After a 29 yard completion to Samardzija on the first play of the game, Quinn hit his senior wide receiver in stride for the score.

The Notre Dame defense its only three and our of the first half to give Quinn and the Irish offense the ball back with excellent field position and they responded with seven play, 56 yard drive ending with a one yard touchdown pass to tight end John Carlson who would later get injured and will be out for two to four weeks.

Quinn would add his third touchdown pass of the first quarter after a roughing the kicker penalty on a Notre Dame punt gave the Irish offense a second chance.  Darius Walker gained 29 yards on two carries and Quinn hit Rhema McKnight from 24 yards out for his third touchdown of the game and McKnight’s 12th of the season.

The catch by McKnight also gave the fifth year senior the all time Notre Dame record for receptions with 158.  McKnight will now battle with Jeff Samardzija for the record with Samardzija being just three receptions behind his fellow wide receiver.  Samardzija ended up with five catches for 106 yards – his second consecutive 100 yard receiving effort.

The extra point after McKnight’s touchdown was blocked giving the Irish a 20-7 lead.  Air Force wouldn’t be the only ones to get their hands on a kick.  On the ensuing Air Force drive, Trevor Laws blocked a Zach Sasser field goal attempt which Terrail Lambert recovered and returned 76 yards for second special teams touchdown in as many weeks for the Irish.

Quinn completed his first eight passes and should have completed all 10 of his first half passes, but David Grimes and Darius Walker had back to back drops on Notre Dame’s final drive of the half.  Notre Dame’s Heisman hopeful still completed 14 of 19 passes for 207 with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Notre Dame started the second half just as impressively as they started the first.  The defense forced a punt and the Irish marched 87 yards down the field in just nine plays for their five score of the game behind the legs of Darius Walker.  Walker ran the ball five times for 53 yards on the drive which Quinn capped off with a 23 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Freeman – the first of the fifth year senior tight end’s career.

On the day Walker ran 15 times for 153 yards – easily his most impressive performance of the year.  Walker seemed to be in the second level of defenders every time he touchdown the ball and didn’t get tackle for a loss once while averaging a gaudy 10.4 yards per carry.

Air Force, however would get their offense rolling in the third quarter and finished the game with 405 yards of offense – 200 on the ground, 205 through the air. The Falcons got two touchdown passes from Shaun Carney in the second half to give Air Force 17 points in the game, but this contest was never in doubt.

Defensively the Irish were led by Chinedum N’Dukwe and Derek Landri.  N’Dukwe recoreded a career high 22 tackles most of which came on option runs.  N’Dukwe was palying outside contain on the option and he rarely allowed a play to get by him.  Landri meanwhile was a terror up the middle again this week and has really become a monster at nose tackle this year.  Landri has been disruptive all year and continued that trend Saturday with 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack.

The win pushes the Irish to 9-1, their best record this late in the season since the Irish were 10-1 in 2002 in Tyrone Willingham’s first year.  The Irish would go on to get blown out by USC in the season finale and then again the Gator Bowl against NC State.  Hopefully this year’s Irish squad won’t suffer a similar fate.

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