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Irish face challenge in Cardinal quarterback Luck

Laura Myers | Thursday, September 23, 2010

The last time Notre Dame faced Andrew Luck, the redshirt freshman broke a finger in the fourth quarter of what turned out to be a 45-38 Stanford win on Nov. 28, 2009. Despite his inability to lead his team in a bowl game, Luck earned freshman All-America honors, among other awards, for his first season.

Before the 2010 season, Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh had high praise for his now-sophomore quarterback.

“He’s the best I’ve been around, pro or college,” Harbaugh said in a press conference before the season. “He’s just got no red flags about him whatsoever.”

In a press conference Tuesday, Irish senior cornerback Darrin Walls had a similar sentiment.

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks we’re going to play this year,” Walls said.

Through three games, Luck has lived up to the praise — he is 45-for-70 passing for 674 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also has 13 rushing attempts for 150 yards and a touchdown. He has yet to throw an interception.

“[Luck] is a great player. He can run it and throw it,” senior safety Harrison Smith said. “Obviously he’s got a big arm. He’s got a lot of guys around him, including his offensive line, that are great players. So that just helps him. He’s really got a lot of weapons. He’s comfortable in their system. He really runs it well so he’s a tough challenge for us.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly said Luck is at the center of a tough Stanford offense.

“They’re physical, they’re multiple on offense,” Kelly said. “You can see the quarterback is kind of at the helm there in terms of calling plays. He’s always probing and looking for opportunities.”

Luck’s supporting cast includes receivers Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen, who have each caught 10 passes for 194 and 113 yards, respectively, and running back Stepfan Taylor, who has rushed 31 times for 162 yards.

Against Wake Forest on Sept. 18, Luck went 17-for-23 passing for 207 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 69 yards, including a 52-yard run for a touchdown. The Cardinal won the game 68-24; they have won their first three games by an average of 38 points.

Luck would only credit his teammates for the success.

“We got lucky sometimes,” Luck said after the Wake Forest game. “Our coaches put us in a great position, the o-line blocked their butts off, the running backs ran hard. It was a great team effort.”

His coach was more effusive with the praise.

“[Luck] played a flawless game,” Harbaugh.

Kelly said it was hard to judge Luck’s play based off of the film of the lopsided victory, but it is easy to see what type of player he is.

“The game is out of hand, but he was making all of the throws against Wake Forest,” Kelly said. “He was hitting the wide field, go route, intermediate. The thing that really got my attention is his ability to run. … His ability, his escapability, I didn’t know what it was. I now know what it is. The guy is extremely athletic.”