Notre Dame Offense Exciting, Fun and Fresh

It's fun to watch Notre Dame football again. A fan has no idea what to expect from the explosive Irish offense. Last week against USC, it was ball control and 52 runs in playing keep away from the high-scoring Trojan offense. This week vs. BYU, head coach Charlie Weis's game plan was to throw the ball early and often to exploit a blitzing Cougar defense. Several record-breaking performances later, it's safe to say Notre Dame is a tough riddle to crack.

The Irish offensive players are playing up to their potential and more. When Weis took over last December, he had a group of players on offense loaded with talent but short on accomplishments. Brady Quinn's inconsistent play symbolized the team's overall ups and downs. Maurice Stovall was considered a bust. Jeff Samardzija barely even sniffed the field.

This is a new year. A case could be made that Quinn is the most improved player in college football. The junior was solid in 2004 but has been nothing short of great this season. The 50 percent career completion percentage heading into the year has been erased from memories as Quinn is hitting on almost 66 percent of his passes. The 20 touchdown passes is already a Notre Dame single season record. The six scoring throws vs. BYU is now the new standard for a quarterback in a game. It's in Quinn's play where Weis's influence and tutelage is more evident than anywhere else on the team.

A 14 catch and four touchdown outing on Saturday had the sports information department inserting the name Stovall into the Irish receiving record book. The 6-5 senior lost some weight in the off-season at the urging of Weis and is flourishing in the pass friendly offense. He looks more confident and is fulfilling the high expectations put on him the moment he stepped onto campus.

Samardzija is just being Samardzija. He made a comment after the game that if this is just a normal day at the office, he'll gladly sign up. The routine day included 10 grabs for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Samardzija is the symbol of the past and present of the football program. A talent that is so evident this year barely saw the ball thrown his way last season. Now, Samardzija is on everyone's midseason All-American lists and in the mix for the Biletnikoff Award.

The BYU game was one more notch in the belt for Weis. The game plan was flawless and was run to perfection by a growing number of confident players. The confidence of this team is bursting out of the seams. Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said as much after the game.

The next game might be the toughest test for the Notre Dame offense. Tennessee comes a calling to South Bend in two weeks. Last year, the Irish upset the Volunteers in Knoxville and that will be fresh on their minds. Tennessee's defense is ranked 13th nationally and only allowing 291 total yards per game.

The Volunteers, however, have yet to see an offense as dynamic as Notre Dame's. Weis, with the bye week, has two weeks to craft a game plan to confuse the tough Tennessee defense and move the Irish one step closer to a possible BCS berth. Could Quinn, Stovall and Samardzija threaten the record books once again or will Darius Walker get back on track? Your guess is as good as mine and that's the fun part of watching this year's Notre Dame team.


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