4:00 PM ET, November 11, 2006
Falcon Stadium, UNITED STATES AF ACA, CO
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.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Brady Quinn fired his third touchdown pass of the first quarter, a 24-yarder to Rhema McKnight.
Gameball goes to... Quinn. The Irish quarterback completed 14 of 19 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 9. Notre Dame secured its first back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in 13 years.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-7||9-17|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||1-4|
|TD||14:06||JEFF SAMARDZIJA 51 YD PASS FROM BRADY QUINN (CARL GIOIA KICK)|
Drive info: 2 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||9:21||JOHN CARLSON 1 YD PASS FROM BRADY QUINN (CARL GIOIA KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 56 yards.
|FG||6:20||ZACH SASSER 32 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||1:19||RHEMA MCKNIGHT 24 YD PASS FROM BRADY QUINN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||7:06||TERRAIL LAMBERT 76 YD BLOCKED FG RETURN (CARL GIOIA KICK)||27||3|
|TD||8:33||MARCUS FREEMAN 23 YD PASS FROM BRADY QUINN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 87 yards.
|TD||0:17||BEAU SUDER 12 YD PASS FROM SHAUN CARNEY (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 16 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||12:17||DARIUS WALKER 4 YD RUN (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 65 yards.
|TD||8:44||JACOBE KENDRICK 7 YD PASS FROM SHAUN CARNEY (ZACH SASSER KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 70 yards.