News and Notes: 10/26/2006

*The clock was ticking down and Notre Dame still had 45 yards to go for the winning touchdown last weekend vs. UCLA with under 40 seconds remaining. Irish quarterback Brady Quinn showed why he's one of the premier signal callers in college football as he threw an in-stride pass to Jeff Samardzija, who did the rest with some nifty running for the score. Result: Notre Dame 20 UCLA 17.

"That play was more or less a deak or pump-fake, whatever you want to call it," Quinn said on Wednesday, who froze multiple defenders with the fake, ran right and hit No. 83 down the field. "There wasn't a lot whole lot open. I'm not a guy to pump-fake, but in that situation, you've got to make a throw and run for yourself because there's not much out there, especially when they drop that many guys deep."

This week, Quinn will try to attack a Navy unit that ranks 77th nationally in total defense. More eye-popping is that the Midshipmen are 81st in the nation in pass defense and they've only faced three teams in the top-90 in passing offense.

Notre Dame will be the best air attack Navy sees all season long. Quinn has not thrown an interception since the second quarter of the Michigan State contest. One week it's Samardzija, another it's Rhema McKnight that slices up opposing secondaries. One bonus for the Midshipmen: they are 8th in the country in time of possession margin, holding the ball for nearly 33 minutes a game. If Navy can get their No. 2 rushing offense going on the ground, it'll keep Quinn and company spectators on the sidelines.

"I think it puts a lot of pressure on you as an offense because you have to be extremely efficient with your production out on the field," Quinn said. "Every drive counts. You've really got to make some points and put them on the board quickly, otherwise it's half time as soon as you know it and it's the end of the fourth quarter. It's scary when you look at a team that's able to possess the ball for such a long amount of time and really take the ball out of your hands."

One final point: last season's contest between Navy and the Irish was the quickest all season in Notre Dame Stadium. Most of this has to do with the Midshipmen's option attack that eats up the clock. The Irish are no slouch either in the time of possession category, ranking 15th in Division 1A. Another brisk game could be at hand on Saturday.

*The least amount of passes the Notre Dame defense has seen this year were the 18 attempted by Stanford two games ago. On average, the Irish see 29 passes a contest by opposing offenses. This year, the most times Navy has put the ball in the air has been 12 in a 37-9 win over the Cardinal. On average, the Midshipmen throw a little less than ten times a game. It'll be a different look for the Notre Dame defense.

"You'd rather play the teams that throw 40 times," senior safety Tom Zbikowski said. "It's a little more one dimensional when they keep running for quarter and a half, two quarters straight and hit you with a pass that comes out of nowhere. That's the thing that puts you to sleep and hits you over the top for a touchdown. It's all fundamentals. You have to keep doing your job and you can't fall asleep."

But don't think Navy plods slowly up and down the field for 60 minutes. The Midshipmen have nine touchdown drives of under 2:00, good for 7th in the nation. Notre Dame only has seven. In touchdown drives of five plays or less, Navy has totaled eight of them. The Irish have six touchdown drives of five plays or less.

"They have put in a few more blocking schemes where there's a few more counter options," Zbikowski said. "You've definitely seen this offense grow the last couple of years. They are taking a few more shots, even early on in the game. I think it was UCONN that they went for 77 yards on the first play when usually that was happening on the first or second quarter when they were just grinding the ball. I think it's starting to become a little bit more of an explosive offense where they just don't try to get ahead and stay ahead. I think they have a little more opportunity if they do fall behind that they can makeup with a big play."

*Notre Dame has played 16 games on October 28th. All-time, they hold an impressive 14-2 record. The most notable contest was back in 1905. Notre Dame routed American Medical 142-0. Yes, it doesn't sound like the most formidable competition in the world but the Irish scored 111 points in the first half that lasted 25 minutes. Notre Dame racked up another 31 points in the eight-minute long second half before the battered players from American Medical boarded a train back to Chicago. All together, the Irish totaled 27 touchdowns but somehow missed 20 extra points.

*Navy has three of the top-10 rushing performances of the year in Division 1A. The Midshipmen totaled 464 yards on the ground in a win over Connecticut, which is No. 1 on the list. Navy also holds spots No. 4 (403 yards vs. East Carolina) and No. 9 (368 yards vs. Stanford).

*Darius Walker fumbled for only the second time in his career last week. He better watch out in the middle of the Midshipmen defense. Senior linebacker Rob Caldwell, who also leads the team in tackles, is sixth in the nation in forced fumbles per game. Caldwell has created three fumble opportunities for his teammates in seven games. Top Stories