News and Notes: 10/3/2005

*The accolades for Brady Quinn's play Saturday night at Purdue are starting to accumulate. The junior Irish quarterback was named College Football National Player of the Week by The Sporting News magazine for his 29-of-36, 440-yard performance against the Boilermakers. Quinn also added three touchdowns in a game that might have been his best performance in a Notre Dame uniform. He's also a nominee for the Cingular Wireless/ABC Sports All-American of the Week.

It was his third straight 300-yard game of the year, his second 400-yard game of 2005 and the 283 passing yards in the first 30 minutes were the most ever by an Irish quarterback in the first half. Head coach Charlie Weis's offensive system has been a boon for Quinn this season, who has 13 touchdown tosses in five games. Last year, he had 17 total. Quinn also threw a touchdown pass in his 10th straight game, tying John Huarte's record set back in 1964. Weis is not surprised by his spectacular play.

"I am pleased more than surprised," Weis said. "I am pleased that he's come along that way. Brady is a very smart, intuitive player. So surprise would really indicate that you really didn't believe that he could do it. I am just pleased that he's come along this fast."

Weis calls the offensive plays but his job title is head coach, not offensive coordinator. He spends most of his time with that side of the ball but is responsible for overseeing the entire team, defense and special teams included. Weis does not get to spend every waking second with Quinn.

This is where quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas comes into the equation. Vaas came to Notre Dame earlier this year when the initial quarterbacks coach, David Cutcliffe, had to resign because of medical problems. Vaas also has to be given some credit for Quinn's maturity to a big-time college quarterback. Weis has a high level of confidence in Vaas's coaching ability.

"First of all, it's really helped me personally because it's allowed me to be able to watch different things in practice that I used to not have a chance to watch," Weis said. "It's totally different when you have to worry about coaching a quarterback and either being a head coach or being a play caller because there's so many other places your eyes have to be. I have total confidence that Brady is being coached by an upper level person and that -- it frees me up from having to worry about what is he going to do if I am not there.

*Darius Walker had his first game this season with less than 100 rushing yards. He finished the game with 23 carries for 80 yards. This ends the streak of four consecutive contests breaking that barrier. Backup running back Travis Thomas got into the game late and scored a 10-yard touchdown with the second team offense. Weis likes his running style.

"Every time he plays he runs hard," Weis said. "That's the way he plays. He's a hammer type of guy. He's a very physical, stout player and he plays that way as a runner and he plays that way on special teams. I have lot of confidence in Travis. I'd use him at any time. Our running back situation which coming into the season everyone says, oh, what are you going to do if Darius isn't there, throw Rashon (Powers-Neal) in there and Travis in there, we have a very good situation head to head at that position."

Thomas has not seen a lot of carries with the first team offense this season. He only has 19 carries for 109 yards but is averaging 5.7 YPC. In those 19 carries, he has yet to be tackled for a loss. Walker has been the workhorse of the ground attack, carrying the ball 116 times for 528 yards for an average of 4.6 YPC. Could Thomas be seeing more carries as the season progresses? Weis quickly put an end to the thought as of now.

"I don't believe in running back by committee," Weis said. "You have a main stay at running back and then you supplement and that's the plan. Darius is our starting running back and between Rashon and Travis, they'll pick up the rest of the snaps."

*The defense stepped up in the first half versus Purdue with another critical takeaway at a crucial moment of the game. Korey Sheets took an option pitch from Purdue quarterback Brandon Kirsch in the first quarter and rumbled down the right sideline for 38 yards. Notre Dame quarterback Ambrose Wooden hustled and knocked Sheets out of bounds at the Irish one-yard line. On the next play, Brandon Hoyte caused Boiler back Jarod Void to fumble and Mike Richardson recovered the ball for a Notre Dame first down. It was the Irish's fifth red zone takeaway. The Irish took advantage of the miscue by driving the ball 98 yards in 15 plays for a one-yard Powers-Neal touchdown on fourth and goal.

The turnover and subsequent touchdown drive hid the fact that the Irish defense once again gave up a big play. Weis counted 10 plays Purdue had that translated into over 300 yards of offense. Can you imagine what the yardage total might have been if Boiler coach Joe Tiller decided to pass the ball more frequently in the first half? Weis said the defense is trying their best to lower the number of backbreaking plays.

"You are trying to get none," Weis said. "You are trying to get no runs for 10 yards; trying to get no passes for 20 yards. It's not what you can live with, it's what you are shooting for. I think that's what everyone is shooting for. I don't know how realistic that is. But that's what you are shooting for. To give them a four-yard gain is different than you give them an 11-yard gain because an 11-yard gain is a first down. So what you are shooting for and what is realistic are two different things."

*Matt Shelton, the go-to-receiver in 2004, caught seven balls against the Boilermakers. This is a career high for the senior wide out. Most his receptions were for first downs.

*Jeff Samardzija is on fire this season. The junior pass catcher is 18th in the nation in receiving yards with 99.8 per game and is tied with Bowling Green's Steve Sanders for most touchdown receptions with eight. Samardzija has caught a touchdown in the first five games of the season, the first Notre Dame player to achieve this feat. He is also one touchdown off the Irish consecutive game streak of six by a wide receiver set in 1996 by Malcolm Johnson. Top Stories