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Quinn’s solid play leads offense

Bobby Griffin | Monday, October 3, 2005

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Welcome to the upper echelon of college quarterbacks, Brady Quinn.

After Quinn’s 29-of-36 passing, 440 yards and three touchdowns – 20-of-23 in the first half – Saturday at Purdue, the Irish quarterback has solidified his position as one of the elite passers in the nation.

And for good reason.

His 13 touchdowns to three interceptions this season show that Quinn is playing up the expectations that were set for him upon his arrival two years ago as a highly-touted prospect from Dublin, Ohio.

He is completing 65.26 percent of his passes, and his 1,621 yards passing place him second in the nation behind Sam Keller of Arizona State, who has thrown for 1,790 yards in a traditionally pass-first conference.

Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Chad Henne and Chris Leak? Quinn is trumping all four in passing yards and touchdowns.

And most importantly, he is winning, and winning big.

“When we go out there obviously we just have the mindset of keep putting points on the board,” Quinn said. “That’s one of our goals coming into the game, just allowing ourselves to keep our defense off the field.”

So far this season the Irish have done exactly that.

With the exception of its 17-10 win at Michigan, Notre Dame has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game this season. Notre Dame put up 42 against Pittsburgh, 41 in a loss against Michigan State, 38 against Washington and now 49 against Purdue.

“I really expected Brady to have a good game,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “This kid’s a hard worker and it’s important to him. Each week he has signs of evolving and getting better, and I thought today, I thought that was his best performance.”

After two years of adjusting to the college game, Quinn has stepped up his play when it has mattered most this season.

His growth and maturity have extended from his ability to read a defense’s pass coverage to his tendency to escape pass rushes to his overall control of the offense.

And he looks as if he is doing it with relative ease.

When considering some of the balls that Quinn threw Saturday, including the off-balance toss to Jeff Samardzija that resulted in the one-handed grab at the Purdue 1-yard line, it is clear that Quinn is playing with a new degree of confidence, almost willing balls into tight spots.

An interception last year is a 30-yard first down this year.

Following Saturday’s win, Weis spoke about the number of plays that Quinn changed with audibles when he got to the line of scrimmage. The mark of a mature quarterback, Quinn has shown leadership in his ability to take a run-pass option from his coach and go with what the situation calls for.

“We have a lot of plays in there that were run-pass option,” Weis said. “I probably called 15 more runs in the game than we actually ran. And then Brady just picked them apart.”

Quinn points to Notre Dame’s offensive line, running backs and receivers for his development this season.

“You have to give a lot of credit to our wide receivers,” Quinn said. “[Samardzija, Stovall,] Shelton and Fasano, all those guys. Those are the guys who make me look good.

“Everyone overlooks [the play of the offensive line.] Every time there is a big statistical game like today you have to give the O-line credit.”

He also pushes aside his own play in order to give credit to Weis, and his coach’s lessons about playing quarterback.

“I think the biggest thing is his relationship,” Quinn said. “He has taught me so many things about the quarterback position, how to run an offense, and be a leader. I think a lot of the things that made him successful in the NFL he’s kind of brought down.”

But as quick as Quinn is to defer the attention away from himself and to credit those that surround him, his teammates are just as quick to throw the attention right back at the 6-foot-4 junior quarterback.

“He’s shown great improvement,” tight end Anthony Fasano said. “He puts us in great situations on the line and in different calls. Our game plan going in each week is different and he really handles it well.”

Maurice Stovall, a senior receiver who has improved this year with Quinn’s emergence, feels that his quarterback has grown as a player, and takes pride in the fact that the team is somehow partly responsible for this development.

“We definitely take a lot of pride in it,” Stovall said. “He plays a big part in our offense. We’re going to be just as well as he is.

“[If] he’s having a great game, then we’re going to be more efficient.”

After all, as Quinn goes – so does the Notre Dame offense.