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Efficient Irish offense picks apart Air Force in blowout

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Brady Quinn didn't need much
time to do his thing.

Efficient and effective, No. 9 Notre Dame manhandled Air Force
39-17 Saturday despite watching the Falcons control the clock for
what coach Charlie Weis called "an eternity."

The Irish (9-1) struck early and dispatched the Falcons (4-5),
who never could capitalize on their ball-control option offense
that kept Quinn & Co. on the sideline for much of the game.

"It's crazy to sit on the sideline for that long," left tackle
Ryan Harris said. "You feel like you're not even in the game. We
knew that's how they play, so we were fortunate to get away with a
win and I can't wait to breathe again."

The Falcons had the ball for nearly 39 minutes, but the Irish
didn't need long to do damage.

Quinn threw for 207 yards and four touchdowns despite throwing a
season-low 19 passes, Darius Walker rushed for 153 yards and a
touchdown on 15 carries and Jeff Samardzija caught six passes for
106 yards and a touchdown.

After surrendering three touchdown passes to Quinn in the first
quarter, Air Force finally succeeded in keeping him off the field
for all but one minute of the second quarter, when the Falcons
snapped the ball an amazing 34 straight times but had nothing to
show for it.

Trevor Laws blocked Zach Sasser's 32-yard field goal attempt and
Terrail Lambert scooped it up and followed a wall of blockers 76
yards down the Irish sideline to make it 27-3.

"I was so tired I couldn't even celebrate," Laws said.

None of the exhausted defenders could.

"I know Terrail was a little winded and so was everyone else,"
safety Tom Zbikowski said. "We got to him and tried to pretend
like we were celebrating but we couldn't say anything."

Then, they went right back out and allowed the Falcons to go
from their 11 to the Notre Dame 24 before holding them on fourth
down, trudging off the field and gasping for oxygen in the high
altitude.

"It's always more tiring to play the option teams, too, because
you've got to run the field laterally," Laws said.

While the defenders were getting gassed, the Notre Dame offense
was fidgeting on the sideline as night fell.

"Man, it felt like two days," Walker suggested.

Quinn tried to keep loose by running around, tossing the
football and huddling his teammates together.

"We were talking back and forth, making sure everyone stays
loose and focused and doesn't get frustrated with not being out
there on the field," he said.

Quinn wasn't the only anguished quarterback at Falcon Field.

"It was frustrating because we were moving the ball very
successfully. We just didn't capitalize on our opportunities,"
Falcons quarterback Shaun Carney said. "It was frustrated to come
off the field without any points."

Quinn completed 14 of 19 passes -- numbers he usually puts up by
halftime.

"We only threw it 19 times. For me, that's a miracle," Notre
Dame coach Charlie Weis said.

The Irish expected to have to do more with less, so they came
out gunning for the end zone, moving 80 yards in two plays.

"The biggest point of emphasis I made to the offense is we have
to score early and in multiple times because you don't know how
many possessions you're going to end up having in the game," Weis
said.

Quinn hit Samardzija for a 29-yard gain on the game's first
snap, then found him all alone behind the defense for a 51-yard
score when cornerback Garrett Rybak bit on the fake.

Tight end John Carlson made it 14-0 with a 1-yard TD catch
before watching the second half in street clothes with an injured
right knee that Weis said will sideline him against Army and USC.

Runs of 14 and 15 yards by Walker set up Quinn's 24-yard scoring
strike to Rhema McKnight, who slipped cornerback Chris Sutton like
a winter coat just inside the 10-yard line and trotted in for a
20-3 lead.

"We definitely felt like that would be a key to our success,
scoring every time we got the ball because you never know how many
times you're going to get it," Walker said. "With the very few
chances we had, we had to make them count."

The Falcons' staggered secondary was certainly impressed by
Quinn.

"I don't know if they have something against our secondary,"
cornerback Nathan Smith said. "We were still caught off guard by
their deep passes. One false step and he capitalized on them right
off the bat. He went to the air and made plays whenever he needed
to."

That is, when he wasn't on the sideline trying to keep warm.