Quinn was the trigger man behind a highly effective offense in Saturday's 38-14 win over Navy in Baltimore. Notre Dame scored on its first five possessions and they didn't punt once in the game. This outing was a week after the UCLA defense ran roughshod over the Irish, almost pulling the upset in South Bend before Quinn's last minute heroics. The carry over from the final drive might have given this group the kick in the butt they needed.
"One of the things we worked on this week on offense was being consistent for the entire game," Quinn said. "I think you saw that, with the exception of that one drive where we didn't get it in by the goal line. But we did a real good job today."
A high priority for quarterbacks is not to turn the ball over. A miscue can give the opposing team great field position or added confidence. Quinn has been stellar in this department. The senior has not thrown an interception in the past 18 quarters, which is a time span of over 270 minutes.
"He's a really good player," head coach Charlie Weis said about Quinn. "We haven't had a bad game since earlier in the year. On that subject, a little luck is involved in that. There was close to one being picked off today and there's been a few others in the past that have been close. I thought he played very well. It was a technically sound game."
And for a player who usually kills teams with his arm, how did Quinn feel about the third quarter 19-yard touchdown run, which is the longest of his career?
"A touchdown is a touchdown," a smiling Quinn said. "I'm more the type of guy who likes to throw a touchdown. You can share that. Everyone has a part in the whole play. Running it in, it's depending on what works out."
*It might be the year of the homecoming for Notre Dame football players. First, Georgia native Darius Walker carries the load with a touchdown and a strong second half rushing effort in the Irish's 14-10 win over Georgia Tech down in Atlanta. On Saturday, it was Victor Abiamiri's turn. The Baltimore-born defensive end made his presence known, totaling two sacks and six total tackles. For the season, Abiamiri now has eight sacks, which ties his career high set last year.
"It means a lot to be able to come home senior year and play in front of the home crowd," Abiamiri said, who could only muster 12-13 tickets for his entourage. "I had all my family and friends in the stands. It was good for me."
"He was very active," Weis said. "As a matter of fact, he's one of those guys who has been geeked up all week. Sometimes, we forget sitting in South Bend, Indiana, how special it is for guys to have games in their area of the country. He had a lot of adrenaline flowing. I don't know how many tickets it cost him but it was multiple."
*It was the tale of two halves for the Irish defense. In the first 30 minutes, Navy's option offense racked up 211 rushing yards. Most of them were on pitches to the outside. In the second half, it was a different story. Notre Dame surrendered just 60 yards on the ground and held the Midshipmen 45 yards underneath their average.
The problem in the first half: the speed at which Navy executed the option. Notre Dame had a week to prepare for the complex attack and the scout team, led by freshman quarterback Demetrius Jones, tried as best they could to simulate game conditions. But the difference in the Irish in practice and Navy on Saturday was two worlds.
"The first half, they didn't do too much wrong," Weis said. "They just didn't score on us every time. They were moving up and down the field. I thought the quarterback played admirably. I thought they played stout and moved the ball and ran the reverse for a big play. They did good things out there. The second half, we got the best of them."
Adjustments were made at halftime. Notre Dame forced Navy into a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half. The closest the Midshipmen got to scoring was the Irish 34-yard line in the second half. A Trevor Laws sack on fourth down stifled the drive.
"It's hard to do it on one week," Weis said about defending the option. "We try to expose them to it on down times. But the reality, exposing it to them in practice still isn't the same as a game because the show team might give you a similar look but they can't simulate the speed of the game. That No. 7 (Reggie Campbell) is pretty fast. We don't have a guy to simulate him. Knowing it is one thing but getting used to the tempo of the game is totally different."
"The main thing is the speed difference in the game," Abiamiri said. "You can't simulate the speed in practice. The first real good look is the first half of the game. They are good at what they do and they were good today."
*All week long, Weis repeatedly said that the ground game would be given a high priority in practice and in the game vs. Navy. True to his word, Notre Dame pounded the ball 37 times for 176 yards. The Irish averaged 4.8 yards per rush, led by Darius Walker's 103-yard effort. Last week against UCLA, Notre Dame only mustered 41 yards on the ground. Practice must make perfect as the effectiveness rushing the football provided balance. The Irish ran it 37 times and passed it 25.
"I was much more pleased with how we did in the running game," Weis said. "Across the board, we were more physical at the line of scrimmage. That's one of the areas where we've been a little tentative and passive at times. Part of that is scheme. I had a lot of runs where it was smash mouth. I'm always a big draw guy. I didn't call a lot of draws and gave them a chance to tee off at the line of scrimmage."
The big lead in the fourth quarter allowed heralded freshman James Aldridge to get some carries. He had 12 attempts for 29 yards. It was Aldridge's second appearance this season with the other showing against Stanford.
"We wanted to get him between 10-15 carries to start building his stamina," Weis said. "I didn't know exactly where it was going to play out. But fortunately, we got him in there and he got hit. That's a good thing for him too because now he's been hit a little bit. Physically and mentally, he'll get better."
Travis Thomas earned a carry and he made good on it. The senior, who moved from running back to linebacker before the season started, was sent into the game with Notre Dame facing a 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter. Thomas darted left and found the end zone 16 yards later to make it 17-7 Irish. It was his first carry since the Penn State contest. That rushing attempt also went for a score.
"The reason he hasn't been playing any offense is because he's been banged up and wasn't playing on defense," Weis said. "I wouldn't flip him over to offense until he's healthy and back in a full-time flow on defense. He didn't lose his spot. He was back into this week. Last week was his chance to get back into full time on defense. This week, I was able to flip him over and practice him over on offense."
"I didn't know when," Thomas said about possibly carrying the ball on offense. "I didn't know if. But it happened and worked out good."
"The one thing he does bring is a lot of speed and a lot of power," Quinn said about Thomas. "I think you saw that on the one run. He came in and really pounded it and broke it for a touchdown."
*Running back Munir Prince did not make the trip to Baltimore. Weis said after the game that the freshman didn't deserve to travel with the team.
*Linebacker Anthony Vernaglia was injured on Saturday. It wasn't on defense but on special teams where the junior hurt his knee/leg. Weis said Vernaglia was taken back to the locker room to receive treatment on the injury. The extent of it will be known later in the week.
*Weis has been the head coach now for 20 games. In 15 of those contests, the Notre Dame offense has scored 30 or more points.