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Win at the half

Chris Khorey | Monday, October 9, 2006

Junior tailback Darius Walker ran for 153 yards on 25 carries as No. 12 Notre Dame improved its record to 5-1 with a 31-10 win over Stanford Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“It was a good team collective effort,” Walker said. “Everyone played really well, especially the offensive line. It was good day all around for us.”

As a team, the Irish rushed for a season-high 204 yards on 39 carries.

“I’d always like to call a game that’s balanced 50-50,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. “It puts the defense in a mental bind when they know you can run or pass.”

Irish quarterback Brady Quinn completed 27-of-37 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. His counterpart, Stanford signal-caller Trent Edwards was 7-of-13 for 68 yards. Edwards was also sacked five times.

“We weren’t able to make the plays we needed to make when we needed to make them to keep it a closer game,” Stanford coach Walt Harris said.

The Cardinal, who have struggled running the ball this year, managed 72 yards on 38 carries, led by 64 yards on 15 carries by junior Anthony Kimble.

Stanford was 1-of-8 on third down for the game. Notre Dame converted 7-of-13 attempts.

“That’s where you win games and that’s where you lose games,” Harris said. “We’ve been struggling with [third downs] all years.”

The Irish opened the game with a 17-play, 91-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock and ended with a pass from Quinn to receiver Jeff Samardzija for the touchdown. It was the longest drive of the season for Notre Dame in terms of yardage, plays and time.

The Cardinal responded with a 71-yard drive of their own that ended in a field goal by junior Aaron Zagory to make the score 7-3 at the end of the first period.

Neither team scored for most of the second quarter.

“I was really pleased with that long meticulous drive to start the game, but then they had a drive of their own,” Weis said. “It seemed like our offense kind of fell asleep after that and there was kind of a lull in the action.”

With the score still 7-3 with three minutes left in the first half, the Irish switched to their no-huddle offense and drove 68 yards in 9 plays, capped by a 15-yard pass from Quinn to senior Rhema McKnight to take a 14-3 lead into the locker room. It was the fifth time in six games that Notre dame has scored on its last possession of the first half.

“Every time we go to [the no-huddle], it seems like we make something happen,” Quinn said. “It’s not a ‘go-to’ thing for us, but we know when we use it we can be successful.”

Notre Dame extended its lead to 21-3 on the team’s first possession of the third quarter, going 76 yards on six plays. Walker scored the touchdown on a 32-yard run, his longest carry of the season.

The Irish added a field goal with 1:02 left in the quarter with a 10-play, 47-yard drive that included five rushes by Walker for 24 yards.

Stanford got a ray of hope with a 57-yard halfback pass from Kimble to junior wide receiver Kelton Lynn on the second play of the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame answered with a 78-yard drive to follow, culminating in a one-yard touchdown pass from Quinn to tight end John Carlson. Carlson made a one handed, diving catch for the score.

“That was phenomenal. It was a heck of a catch,” Weis said of the play. “Of course, when he came to the sideline I said, ‘Two hands next time, please.'”

The Irish have a bye week next week before playing UCLA at home Oct. 21.

“Getting a win before a bye week is always good,” Walker said. “You get to feel good about it for two weeks.”