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Zbikowski earns national award

Kate Gales | Monday, September 20, 2004

EAST LANSING, Mich. – After his two outstanding plays in the first quarter helped Notre Dame to build a lead that would prove insurmountable to Michigan State, Tom Zbikowski was named the national Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation Sunday. His interception stopped a potential Michigan State scoring drive with the Irish trailing 7-0, and he would strip Jason Teague of the ball later in the quarter and take it in for a 75-yard touchdown.

“That was truly a great play on Zibby’s part,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. “It is something we talk about and work on every week in terms of stripping the ball.”

The redshirt freshman safety, who played quarterback and defensive back in high school, has stepped up as one of the defense’s major playmakers.

“I think he’s pretty physical, he’s really got a knack for getting after the football so we just have to keep him going,” defensive coordinator Kent Baer said.

In the defensive backfield, Zbikowski proved vital to the Notre Dame offensive effort.

“We got the win, that’s the most important [thing],” Zbikowski said. “Just being in the locker room we’re not satisfied, we know there’s a lot more improvement and we’re going to keep that every single week.”

Quinn runs it in

Quinn’s touchdown in the first quarter, which came on a bootleg after a fake handoff to Grant, was the first rushing touchdown of his career. Quinn had most on the field fooled as he ran into the endzone untouched and handed the ball to the referee.

He would also connect with five different receivers during the game for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“Brady’s seeing a lot of things and will continue to see a lot of things a lot better,” Willingham said.

However, there were a number of incomplete passes that Quinn attributed to nervousness.

“You have to settle yourself down and be clutch in those situations,” he said.

Vaughn sees first action

True freshman Chris Vaughn played in his first college game this weekend, registering one tackle and catching a seven-yard pass. His tackle came on special teams, where he played as a “gunner” for the first time in his career. Vaughn said he was glad to get into the game.

“The last two weeks have been tough but I think they’ve definitely made me a better person and a better player,” Vaughn said. “I wasn’t looking to do anything but help the team win.”

Where’s Willingham?

Coach Tyrone Willingham was absent from the game at the beginning of the third quarter. He was seen running out of the tunnel approximately five minutes into the period, after Michigan State’s DeAndra Cobb returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

After the game, Willingham declined to comment on his whereabouts.

Game captains

Captains for Saturday’s game were running back Ryan Grant, kicker/punter D.J. Fitzpatrick, linebacker Brandon Hoyte and cornerback Dwight Ellick.