Is Quinn Turning the Corner?

As upsetting as the Irish loss was on Saturday, lost in the disappointment was the excellent play of sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn. Quinn's performance on Saturday was, in this writer's opinion, his best game to date, and that should be something for Irish fans to get excited about.

Looking at the stat sheets of Quinn's performance on Saturday, you'll see two interceptions that might stand out to some. Quinn's second pass of the game was a very poor choice that resulted in what could've been a costly interception. However, after that early throw, the Dublin, Ohio native looked poised and in control.

The Irish took their second possession and marched right down the field behind Quinn's arm. His 46-yard pass to Matt Shelton was right on the money and set the Irish up at the Pitt 26-yard line.

Quinn also complete his only two other throws on the drive--both for first downs--that set up the Irish on the Pitt 3-yard line. The drive gave the Irish the early 7-0 lead.

The Panthers responded with a touchdown drive of their own to even the game 7-7. The Irish offense then went three-and-out, but Quinn was sacked on second down and thrown for a 6-yard loss stalling the drive.

Palko threw his second touchdown early in the second quarter and the Panthers looked like they were on a roll.

But it was Quinn making another big play, and another perfectly thrown 46-yard strike to Matt Shelton that put the Irish back in business at the Pitt 21-yard line. Quinn also completed his only other pass in the drive, this time to Rhema McKnight on a key third down to set up the Irish at the Pitt 5-yard line. Darius Walker scored on the next play to tie the game 14-14.

What is important here, I think, is the Irish responded—something they haven't been able to do often when the chips are down. Quinn had a lot to do with their response.

Palko marched the Irish right back down and scored again, but the bounced right back.

Darius Walker kicked off the drive with a 40-yard run to the Pitt 40-yard line, and then Quinn went to work. Quinn threw a beautifully placed 16-yard strike to Josh Schmidt on first down. The Irish then ran twice, and with Quinn faced with another critical third down, he found Maurice Stovall with another impressive throw for a 17-yard touchdown to tie the game 21-21.

Pitt and Palko marched right down the field again and scored giving the Panthers the 28-21 lead.

The next Irish drive was probably Quinn's most impressive. With 2:55 left on the clock, the Irish needed to respond. Quinn found Walker for 22-yards, but the Irish were called for holding. Faced with a first down and 21 yards to go, Quinn completed two straight 9-yard passes and running back Ryan Grant picked up the change on a third down run to put the Irish back in business, and overcoming a costly penalty.

Quinn misfired to Grant on first down, but then found Maurice Stovall on a beautifully thrown ball that would've set the Irish up inside the Pitt 5-yard line, but the Irish were once again called for holding, a terrible call in my opinion, that stopped the Irish drive.

Pitt went in at halftime with the 28-21 lead.

The Irish forced a Pitt three-and-out series in their first possession of the second half, and then Carlyle Holiday went on his 68-yard punt return to the Pitt 19-yard line.

Quinn then executed a fantastic ball fake and bootlegged to find Rashon Powers-Neal for a 19-yard touchdown strike on the very next play to tie the game 28-28.

The Irish defense forced another three-and-out series and the Irish looked to be in business.

Walker rushed for 30 yards and then two and six yards on the ensuing first and second down. Quinn, faced with another third down, threw another excellent ball to receiver Matt Shelton on a crossing pattern, but Shelton was hit before ball arrived, and Pitt's Josh Lay intercepted the ball and returned it to the Notre Dame 39 yard line.

The hit on Shelton was clearly before the ball arrived, and an interference call would've set the Irish up at inside the Pitt 15-yard line with first down.

On the next drive, the Irish gained a first down rushing the ball, and Quinn then threw a pass to for 5-yards on first down. Ryan Grant picked up four of the five yards needed for a first down on the next play, but Walker was thrown for a 1-yard loss on third down ending the drive.

Pitt then added a field goal to give them the 31-28 lead.

Both teams failed to score on their next drive, but it was Quinn again coming up with the big play late in the fourth quarter.

Faced with a third-and-four situation, Quinn pump-faked to Rhema McKnight on the middle screen and threw the prettiest pass I've ever seen him throw and found Matt Shelton again, this time for a 36-yard strike and the lead, 35-31.

We all know what happened next. Two pass interference calls on fourth down landed the Panthers in the end zone and the 38-35 lead.

But Quinn would not be denied. With 2:24 on the clock, Quinn marched the Irish down the field, fueled by his 19-yard scramble that set the Irish up at the Pitt 32-yard line. Ryan Grant picked up 9-yards on a first down run, but was thrown for a 4-yard loss on second down.

Quinn was faced with another key third down and threw a perfectly thrown strike to Anthony Fasano, but Fasano dropped the ball, and the Irish had to settle for three.

We know what happened next, and Quinn didn't get another shot. He wasn't beaten on Saturday, the sophomore just ran out of time.

When you look at the sequences of drives, and how the Irish scored, Quinn played a huge role in every drive. I encourage you to go back and read the sequence again to truly understand how productive Quinn was on Saturday.

I doubt very much that many quarterbacks had as productive of a day as Quinn did last Saturday, and that is something Irish fans should be excited about. If Quinn has more days like he did on Saturday, you won't be seeing the Irish in the loss column often.


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