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Role reversal for both sides of Irish

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Roles reversed Saturday against Pittsburgh.

The usually-consistent defense became a liability, and the usually-inconsistent offense became an asset.

The Irish offense put up 38 points against Pittsburgh, tying the season-high previously posted against Washington. Notre Dame registered 438 yards of total offense, and scored five touchdowns against the Panthers.

“I would hope that we would be able to take what we accomplished on Saturday and continue to build on that and feel very confident in what we’re capable of doing, and then go out on a week-to-week basis and do that,” Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said.

The Irish (6-4) registered 179 yards on the ground, and 259 yards in the air, a balanced performance in a system that preaches balance. The offense turned the ball over two times on two interceptions; however, one of the interceptions was caused by what appeared to be defensive pass interference.

Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham was pleased with quarterback Brady Quinn, who finished with 259 yards on 15-for-26 passing.

“I thought Brady did an excellent job, that’s not withstanding the two interceptions in there,” Willingham said. “He really had command of his football team. He put the ball, in most cases, where it needed to be. And our guys responded.”

Quinn threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers – Maurice Stovall, Matt Shelton and Rashon Powers-Neal. Diedrick was pleased with the play of his young quarterback as well.

“I think after midpoint of the first quarter, I was very pleased with his performance,” Diedrick said. “I thought he really handled things well. He had to regroup after the midway point of the first quarter, and after he did that I thought he played very solid, made good decisions, took care of the football and I thought he threw the ball very well after that.”

On the ground, the Irish were also effective against the Panthers. Darius Walker broke the 100-yard rushing mark for the second time in his career, finishing with 112 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Ryan Grant added 48 yards.

In the air, Quinn found Shelton three times for 128 yards, a career-high for Shelton. Tight end Anthony Fasano also caught three passes for 27 yards.

As a whole, the Irish offense finally executed the way they thought they could the entire season. However, it was little consolation in a devastating loss.

“I think [the success of the offense] is something to build on and use on something to get through this week,” Quinn said. “[But] I’m disappointed with the way the game turned out.”

Diedrick said he thinks the Irish can use this game as a stepping-stone for the final regular season game against Southern California, and then a possible bowl game.

“I think that before you can get to that next step, you’ve got to do it one time, and I think that Saturday was that one time where, from start to finish, we felt like we executed with the success that we needed to have,” Diedrick said. “I think regardless of who you’re going in against, it’s something that you can most definitely build on because that’s what you’re striving for all along. Until you ever get a game like that, you don’t know what it feels like.

“It’s been so frustrating to have a good first half, slow second half; a slow first half, good second half. Being able to do both for a full 60-minute game was quite beneficial, because now you can challenge the kids, that we’ve done it. We’ve done it before, we know what it feels like, let’s go duplicate it.”