For starters, Darius Walker set the table for the Irish offense, racking up 128 yards on 21 carries. It was the most yards the sophomore running back has had in his two-year career. Walker also notched his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game of 2005. He is the first player since Randy Kinder back in 1995 to have four consecutive 100-yard games. Walker gives the credit to his front five blocking for him.
"The offensive line always does a great job for me," Walker said. "The holes are always there. It's nothing I'm really doing. The holes are always wide-open for me to run through. The guys upfront do such a good job for me. It feels good to get out there and see some of that hard work pay off."
"I thought he showed very good patience in the run game," head coach Charlie Weis said. "There were a lot of times where he wasn't just turning the corner but setting up the blocks. Sometimes they have to help those big linemen get out there and not outrun your blockers. I said to him on the sidelines, 'You showed pretty good patience but you ran about as fast as me.'"
Another prime-time performer was Jeff Samardzija. The junior receiver had eight catches for 164 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown grab from Brady Quinn in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Samardzija has caught a touchdown in every game this season and has six on the year. The record for touchdown receptions in Notre Dame history is 11. Samardzija is producing when called upon.
"I took advantage of coverages," Samardzija said. "I took advantage of the situation. I think in one they were in press, and we ran a play-action. I got a good release, and got out. You never know when you might get a chance to make a play."
Weis likes several features of Samardzija'a game.
"He has very good body control, very good hands and he's very dependable," Weis said.
*What defense is the real Notre Dame defense? They allowed 449 yards but only 17 points. They give up big play after big play but come up huge with turnovers in critical moments. Weis said it's not all the defense's fault for the miscues.
"They made a bunch of plays," Weis said. "The one thing that did bother me was play action post and this is going back to the Pittsburgh game. We have to have a better awareness when it comes to that. When they're out there and throwing it up and it's one on one and they're making the plays, you have to give credit to Washington. Sometimes you want to chastise your own players but there were guys out there making some plays for them."
The 408 passing yards in particular stands out. This is coming from a Washington team with nowhere near the talent level of some of the top programs in the nation. It is the second straight week that the Irish defense has allowed more than 300 yards passing. The players know there is some work to be done to correct this continuing problem.
"We're happy about the win but we don't want to give up that much yardage," Zbikowski said. "We stopped the bleeding when it counted but we can't let that happen."
"I wouldn't say we had a great day," sophomore cornerback Ambrose Wooden said, who nabbed his first career interception. "We got a lot of improvement to do. We got to learn some things technique wise and make sure we're a unit. We can't give up that many pass yards in a game."
*Weis and Washington coach Tyrone Willingham met before the game and chatted it up for a few moments. The past and present of Notre Dame football shared a laugh about the hype surrounding the game.
"We both acknowledge it's been a little bit of a circus in a very friendly, cordial way," Weis said. "We're both glad to get to kickoff and get it over with because no matter how hard you try, you know what it's going to be about. We both got to share a little chuckle because we were both thinking the same thing."
*Remember earlier in the week when Weis made it known through the media that Kent Baer might have left Notre Dame but his playbook didn't? Weis responded in this fashion to a question about each side knowing the personnel and schemes that might be employed on Saturday. Weis used the media as an outlet to send a message to his players.
"Everything I do is calculated," Weis said. "I didn't throw that out there for no reason and they knew it, too. But it was kind of letting our players know that ‘hey fellas, it's not big deal that they know who you are.' We got the playbook. What else do you want? Sometimes you are playing to your own players psyche by letting them know you have no advantage over them. You have something on them and they have something on you."