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Quinn has a ‘good day at the office’

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 6, 2006

Brady Quinn spoils football fans.

After passing for 348 yards against North Carolina Saturday, with four touchdowns and no interceptions, no one’s really that impressed.

“There were a couple more [passes] that we had our hands on,” Weis said. “Could have been a better day at the office.”

As it was, Weis called it a “good day at the office.”

In seven of the team’s nine games this year, Quinn hasn’t thrown an interception. After Saturday’s 45-26 win, he has 25 touchdowns against just four picks.

He’s seventh in Division I-A for both total passing yards and passing yards per game. He’s also eighth in total offense, despite compiling a season net rushing yardage of -37.

It’s easy to forget how much rests on Quinn’s shoulders. Weis went into Saturday’s game with a gunslinging mentality – to get ahead quickly by throwing a few touchdowns and control the tempo of the game from there.

That’s all well and good, but it means that a quarterback has to be nearly flawless from the moment he steps onto the turf.

The two-minute offense gives Notre Dame an edge as the team tries for an early lead. But that puts even more pressure on a quarterback – to make good decisions and to make them quickly.

One slip-up, and instead of gunning for the lead you’re digging yourself out of a hole – see the end result of the Michigan game on Sept. 16.

But Quinn has been masterful out of the gate this season, particularly recently. Against Navy two weeks ago and North Carolina last week, he started out games with almost inhuman efficiency – scoring on six of the first seven possessions against Navy and four out of the first five against the Tar Heels.

Most of the offensive production seems to come when Quinn is throwing the ball. Part of that is having talented receivers like Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and David Grimes.

Part of it is having John Carlson, a big tight end who’s a formidable target across the middle.

Part of it is Darius Walker’s pass-catching ability, enabling Quinn and Weis to keep drives alive with screens and draws.

But Quinn consistently puts these receivers in a position to make a big play. Sure, Samardzija’s height doesn’t hurt Quinn’s stats. Carlson is a tough matchup for any linebacker. But Quinn gets the ball there, and that’s what he did against the Tar Heels.

And that’s why the Irish are 8-1.

Quinn’s a perfectionist, and he isn’t satisfied with his performance against North Carolina either.

“I was hoping to have a little bit better day at the office, if you want to put it that way,” he said Saturday night.

Maybe a better offensive line would help with that. Quinn was sacked three times and hurried four more.

On the season, Quinn has been sacked 24 times for a total loss of 178 yards and hurried another 23 times. He’s taken countless hits to the ribs and been knocked down more times than Irish fans care to think about.

Maybe a better running game would help Quinn. Walker picks up blitzes and catches passes, but is averaging just 85.3 yards per game as Notre Dame’s go-to back. The team is averaging just 107.1 yards per game on the ground, compared to 287.3 in the air.

So defenses can be confident – especially in the beginning of the game – that if Weis wants to get on the board, Quinn is going to be throwing.

Under that kind of pressure, he’s performed admirably. Against Michigan State, Quinn lifted the team on his shoulders and carried it as far as he could, putting Terrail Lambert in the position to ice the game with an interception returned for a touchdown.

Against Georgia Tech, he played a good defense in a hostile stadium with the calm and poise of an elite quarterback, which he is.

No one does more for his team than Quinn does. He might not be perfect. Every spiral doesn’t lead the receivers. He overthrows in the end zone. No one is more aware of Quinn’s shortcomings than Quinn himself.

But every time Quinn gets hit, the Irish season is on the line. Evan Sharpley is 1-of-2 in passing this season with seven yards, and Samardzija is 0-of-2. The running game isn’t going to carry Notre Dame past Air Force next week.

Quinn doesn’t care what you say around the water cooler. He cares about how he’s doing in the office.

The problem is that he’s supposed to be exceptional every game. When he does that, it’s just living up to expectations. There’s no human way to surpass these prospects.

When he performs like the elite quarterback he is, there’s no raise, no promotion, no bonus – it’s just another day in the office.

But a little appreciation is always nice.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Kate Gales at [email protected]