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Irish Insider: Offense clicking at perfect time

Mike Gilloon | Monday, November 13, 2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Every ball that left Brady Quinn’s hand in Saturday’s first quarter against Air Force was caught. He barely had another chance to throw before halftime.

Notre Dame’s offense came through with perhaps its most efficient game of the season in Colorado Springs. The Irish ran when they had to, passed when they needed to and scored touchdowns when they wanted to in a 39-17 win over Air Force.

Notre Dame scored six times against the Falcons – and despite three shaky extra point tries – there wasn’t much offensively that looked bad for the now No.5 team in the BCS against unranked Air Force, on a weekend when Texas, California, Auburn and Louisville couldn’t come up with enough offense against upset-minded opponents.

From its two-play, Quinn-to-Jeff Samardzija, less-than-a-minute opening drive, the Irish offense never looked back. Quinn did nothing to hurt himself against an Air Force secondary previously ranked 52nd in the country against the pass. He spread the ball around, hitting Samardzija, Rhema McKnight, John Carlson and Marcus Freeman for scores.

That was all before Notre Dame turned to the run. Irish running back Darius Walker was similarly productive, getting just 15 carries but tallying 153 yards for a stellar, 10 yards per carry. And. in a move that surprised some in the Falcon Stadium press box, freshman running back James Aldridge had three solid first-quarter carries.

Nothing seemed to go wrong for the offense – except maybe its time standing on the bench in the chilly mountain air.

Air Force controlled the clock for almost all of the second and third quarters, using the option and quarterback Shaun Carney’s 14-for-17 passing day to keep Notre Dame off the field.

It turned out to be more effective than Air Force’s defense. The Falcons rarely slowed the Irish attack and even when they forced a punt in the first quarter, a roughing penalty gave Notre Dame the ball back and just a couple plays later, the Irish scored again to extend their lead 20-3.

Quinn only ended up with 207 yards through the air – just two more than Carney – but, with three drops, all but two of the Heisman candidate’s balls appeared on the mark.

The bottom line for Notre Dame after the victory was that it made the most of its opportunities.

“We expect perfection,” Quinn said.

It was hard for his head coach to find anything that showed the Irish didn’t do exactly that.

But Charlie Weis eventually came up with something that tempered his mood.

“That’s the one he’ll remember,” said Weis of Quinn’s last attempt of the day, a long pass toward the end zone that fell several yards past a streaking Samardzija.

Still, after Saturday’s offensive performance, it’s hard to see anyone besides Quinn himself criticize Notre Dame’s play.