From Michigan State to Army: The Defining Moments of Brady Quinn at Notre Dame

( – Brady Quinn walked off the field last Saturday for the final time in Notre Dame Stadium and will only have two more chances to wake up the echoes as the quarterback for the Fighting Irish. He already owns 35 different Notre Dame records most of which where accomplished in the past two seasons, but there has been one thing eluding one of Notre Dame’s all time greats – a win over arch rival USC.

So far Quinn has faced the Trojans three times, and three times the Irish have come up short behind the strong right arm of Brady.

If it wasn’t clear before this past week just how much a win over the Trojans means to the Dublin, Ohio native all one has to do is read the transcript from his press conference last week or simply watch the post game footage from Saturday’s Army game.

We learned last week that Quinn keeps a USC hat – a gift from an uncle – in his room as reminder of Notre Dame’s rival. “At first I was confused because I didn’t sign with USC. But then he told me, look at the hat, being one of our biggest rivals and just remember every day when you’re preparing to go there that there’s someone out there always looking to beat you,” Quinn explained last week.

A few days later Quinn would be seen standing in front of the Notre Dame student section leading a stadium wide “Beat S.C” chant along with wide receiver Rhema McKnight. Quinn took over the post game show set and got the crowd of 80,000+, most of whom stayed to send off the Notre Dame seniors, chanting “Beat S.C” in unison.

While the victory over USC might still be absent from Quinn’s impressive body of work at Notre Dame, he’s had plenty of other memorable moments under center for the Irish.

A win on Saturday will truly be THE defining moment of Quinn’s Notre Dame career, but even without such a moment, Quinn has had plenty of other defining moments. Here’s a chronological look at his career progressions.

September 20, 2003 – First Career Touchdown: vs. Michigan State
Quinn saw some action in the first game of his career when Carlyle Holiday got knocked out of the Washington State game briefly. He wouldn’t throw his first career pass till a week later once Michigan was well into a 38-0 drubbing of the Irish. His first career touchdown would follow in week 3 against Michigan State.

Carlyle Holiday struggled for the third straight game and Willingham decided to put his freshman quarterback in with the game still in doubt. Brady 7 of 17 passes for 103 yards including the first career touchdown pass – a 29 yard toss to Rhema McKnight. Quinn sparked an Irish offense that couldn’t move the ball. His performance was enough to prompt Willingham to make Quinn his starter – a role he’s held since.

September 27, 2003 – First Career Start: at Purdue
In recent week’s Brady’s told the story of how he was “prepared” by the old coaching staff for that first career start. “It was funny, because back then, you know, no one had necessarily said, Hey, you’re going to be starting. It was more or less something where you just kind of understood because of the way the reps were going,” reminisced Quinn during the Purdue game week. He would add, “But no one really came in and said, Hey, this is the direction we want to go, you’re going to be starting this game, you’re our guy, we’re going to stay with you.”

The game itself had plenty of ups and downs. Quinn would throw what is today still a career high 59 times in Notre Dame’s 23-10 loss. The one lasting image from that game, however, is the beating Quinn took while throwing the ball nearly 60 times. Purdue may have only registered one sack in the game, but Quinn took a beating that day from the Boilermaker defense.

Interestingly enough, Quinn’s career long pass also came in his first start – an 85 yard touchdown to Maurice Stovall at the end of the first half. The game would be a microcosm for Quinn’s career – he took a lot of hits, but he got up every time something he has been doing now for four years.

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October 11, 2003 – First Career Win: at Pittsburgh
His first start may not have earned a win for the Irish, but his second would. Notre Dame was just 1-3 heading into a road game against #15 Pitt. This was the game when Willingham discovered that Julius Jones was on the roster. Jones ran 24 times for 262 yards and two touchdowns to lead Notre Dame to the upset. Side note – how nice is that a win over Pittsburgh would no longer be considered an “upset.”

Quinn was not overly spectacular completing just five of 17 passes for a mere 33 yards, but the win over was the first win of the Quinn Era and was a welcomed site after losses to Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue in consecutive weeks.

September 25, 2004 – 4 Touchdown Game: vs. Washington
The 2004 season did not see too many high points for Quinn or Notre Dame, but when Washington traveled to South Bend at the end of September, the Irish put on one of the few offensive explosions of the season. Quinn had his first career four touchdown game of his career – he know has seven career four touchdown or better games.

Quinn connected with Matt Shelton and Anthony Fasano each two times for his four TD’s. The win moved the Irish to 3-1 on the season and the four touchdown passes gave Notre Dame fans hope the Irish were about to turn the corner. A 41-16 loss to Purdue to following week tempered the enthusiasm and Notre Dame would finish the season 6-5.

September 1, 2005 – Game One of the Weis Era: at Pittsburgh
The first game of the Weis Era started with a bang. Quinn threw a 51 yard screen pass to Darius Walker for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. The second drive would end with an interception, but Quinn would lead the Irish to touchdowns on the next four drives – all in the first half for a 35-13 half time lead.

Quinn looked like a different quarterback in game one under Weis. Little did Notre Dame fans know – it was just the beginning.

September 8, 2005 – A Win in the Big House: at Michigan
A week after the unranked Irish went into Pittsburgh and “upset” the 23rd ranked Panthers (again, how nice is that we don’t have to classify a win over Pitt as an upset anymore), Quinn led the Irish into the Big House to face the 3rd ranked Wolverines. Despite scoring 42 points in their first game, no one gave the Irish much of a chance on the road. Two touchdowns passes by Quinn in the first half later and people were believing.

Brady’s stats in the game weren’t amazing, but he completed 19 of 30 passes for 140 yards and managed the game extremely well. Quinn avoided the rush well and avoided making the big mistake unlike Chad Henne who fumbled the ball away at the goal line and threw another interception in the redzone.

September 15, 2005 – Comeback Falls Short in Overtime: vs. Michigan State
The Spartans were a thorn in the side of Notre Dame during the Davieham Era and after the 2-0 start under Weis, Irish fans thought the Spartans mastery over Notre Dame would end. The Spartans jumped out to 38-17 with under two minutes to go in the third quarter after scoring 21 unanswered points.

Notre Dame’s chances looked grim, but Quinn would lead his team on a furious fourth quarter comeback to force overtime. Darius Walker, Maurice Stovall, and Jeff Samardzija each caught touchdown passes from Quinn over the final 17 minutes of the game to send the game into overtime.

Notre Dame would fall short after Jason Teague took an option pitch from Drew Stanton into the endzone for the game winner, but the game showed an ability to comeback that Notre Dame simply hadn’t had in years. Quinn broke the Notre Dame single season game touchdown record with five in the game.

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October 15, 2005 – Quinn for the Win (Almost): vs. USC
A season ago against the Trojans, Quinn came inches and seconds short of getting his first win over USC. The heavily favored and #1 ranked Trojans came into Notre Dame Stadium and one of the best regular season college football games in years was the result.

Trailing 28-24 after Reggie Bush’s third touchdown of the game, Quinn engineered one of the finest drives of his Notre Dame career. Eight plays, 87 yards, in three minutes and five seconds all capped off with a five yard scramble for the go ahead touchdown with 2:04 left in the game.

Quinn was four of four for 53 yards on the drive with each completion going to a different receiver. The drive should have been THE defining moment of his Notre Dame career, much like this weekend could become, but Matt Leinart just had to converet a 4th and 9 for 61 yards to Dwayne Jarrett just over the outstretched arm of Ambrose Wooden. The “Bush Push” would occur a few plays later and USC would escape with their winning streak intact.

October 22, 2005 – Quinn Downs a 6 Pack: vs. BYU
A week after nearly pulling off one of the biggest wins in Notre Dame history, Quinn and the Irish avoided a let down when BYU came to town. Heading into this game Weis was winless at home after the Michigan State and USC heart breakers. Brady broke his own record of five touchdowns in a game with six against the Cougars – four of which went to Maurice Stovall. The six touchdowns gave Quinn 20 on the season which broke Ron Powlus’s Notre Dame single season record of 19.

November 19, 2005 – More Records for Quinn: vs. Syracuse
Not even one full season under Weis and Brady was already well on his way to rewriting the Notre Dame record books and against Syracuse on Senior Day another couple big records were broken. With a second quarter touchdown pass to Maurice Stovall, Quinn broke Powlus’s career touchdown record of 52 with his 53rd career touchdown pass.

Another Powlus record would fall as well when Quinn finished the game with 7,618 career passing yards – breaking Powlus’s record of 7,602.

November 26, 2005 – The $14 Million Drive: at Stanford
Notre Dame closed out the 2005 regular season with would should have been a “gimme” on the road against Stanford. No one told Stanford, however, and Notre Dame found themselves trailing 31-30 with less than two minutes to go and a BCS Bowl and $14 million payout on the line.

Thirty yard pass to Samardzija. Seventeen yard pass to Samardzija. Three yard scramble. Twenty yard pass to Stovall. Four yard run by Darius Walker. Six yard run by Darius Walker. Six plays, 80 yards, 51 seconds off the clock, and no timeouts. Game over, hello Fiesta Bowl.

January 2, 2006 – Another Fiesta Bowl Disappointment: vs. Ohio State
Notre Dame’s comeback win over Stanford pushed the Irish into the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Quinn’s first pass of the game to Samardzija who had gotten behind the defense was just overthrown, but Notre Dame would end up scoring on the opening drive anyway. The lead would be the only one Notre Dame had in the game.

Ohio State’s offense piled up over 600 yards on the Notre Dame defense and the Notre Dame offense was bottled up for most of the second and third quarters. Quinn was average against a Buckeye defense that brought a lot of pressure on him, sacking him five times. Quinn took a beating, but as always got up after each hit and keep chugging away.

Notre Dame would go on to lose 34-20 showing they were not quite ready for prime time just yet.

September 2, 2006 – QB Draw for Six: at Georgia Tech
Notre Dame received a lot of hype heading into this season but found itself down 10-0 in the first half of the season opener. Georgia Tech had the Notre Dame offense thoroughly confused for the first 25 minutes, but on the final drive of the half Quinn marched the Irish 80 yards on 14 plays and ended the drive with a 5 yard quarterback draw with no timeouts remaining.

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Had Quinn been stopped, the Irish may not have gotten any points, but he forced his way into the endzone and Notre Dame went on to leave Atlanta with a 14-10 over the Yellow Jackets.

September 16, 2006 – Title Hopes Dashed: vs. Michigan
Coming off a 41-17 thumping of Penn State, Notre Dame’s spirits were high with Michigan coming to town. A win and the table would have been set for the Irish to be a frontrunner for the National Title.

Michigan came at Notre Dame from every angle and nearly derailed any hope of a national title for the Irish or a Heisman for Quinn. The loss knocked the Irish out of the top 10 and put Troy Smith firmly in the lead for the Heisman. Quinn has not been able to regain the ground he lost in the Heisman race against the Wolverines and after Smith’s performance against that same Michigan team it’s probably safe to assume, the award is completely out of reach.

September 23, 2006 – Another Michigan State Comeback: at Michigan State
Quinn found himself in the middle of a downpour in East Lansing with his team trailing by 16 points in the fourth quarter. A loss would have been devastating for Notre Dame’s season and the Irish were definitely on the brink of a 2-2 record after starting the season with national championship hopes.

Quinn threw two fourth quarter touchdowns – one to Jeff Samardzija and another to Rhema McKnight to have the Irish within four points with just under five minutes remaining. He wouldn’t get the chance to throw his sixth touchdown of the game for the win when Terrail Lambert intercepted Drew Stanton and returned it for the game winning touchdown.

October 21, 2006 – 80 Yards, 62 Seconds? No Problem: vs. UCLA
UCLA come into South Bend with a highly ranked defense and used what has become a familiar formula to slow Notre Dame’s offense – pressure, pressure, and more pressure. The Bruins sacked Quinn five times and held the Irish offense to 13 points through the first 59 minutes of the game.

With 1:02 left in the game, Notre Dame got the ball at their own 20 yard line and their season on the line. Quinn completed 3 straight passes – two to Samardzija and one to David Grimes – culminating with a 45 yard touchdown pass to Samardzija for the game winner. The score was only the third time in Notre Dame history that the Irish won a game with a touchdown in the final thirty seconds of the game.

November 18, 2006 (2:45 PM) – Interception-less Streak Ends: vs. Army
Brady Quinn went seven games without throwing an interception – a streak that included 226 consecutive passes without throwing one to the bad guys. The streak surprisingly ended against Army just 45 passes short of the NCAA record held by Trent Dilfer.

November 18, 2006 (6:00 PM) – “Beat SC”
In a rare display of emotion from Quinn, Notre Dame’s all time leading passer took a victory lap around Notre Dame Stadium with his fellow senior classmates and then stormed the post game show set and led the student section in a “Beat SC” chant.

Flanked by Rhema McKnight, Quinn stood in front of the Notre Dame students one last time and let everyone know what exactly what was on his mind. It’s clear that he wants this game more than any other game this year despite whatever politically correct answer he may give in any interview this week.

Even if Quinn and the Irish come up short this weekend, the image of Quinn in the stands chanting “Beat SC” is one Notre Dame fans will be remembering for a while.


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