Jeff Samardzija got open for six receptions, going for a season-high 177 yards and a touchdown. McKnight hauled in six passes for 56 yards and two scores. With those guys open all afternoon, quarterback Brady Quinn easily threw for a season-high 346 yards and four touchdowns, in No. 9 Notre Dame's, 45-26 victory over the Tar Heels, Saturday afternoon.
"I think North Carolina tried to get as many guys as they could in the box and try to make us one dimensional," Quinn said. "If you want to play that game, we're willing to play it as well."
"It kind of goes back to our offense, we have so many guys out there running around making plays and stuff, it's kind of hard to take one guy out of the offense," Samardzija said. "Rhema's stats speak for itself and Johnny (Carlson) too and (David) Grimes and Darius (Walker) too."
On a weekly basis, Samardzija and McKnight have been making moves up the charts in the Notre Dame record book. Today wasn't any different.
For Samardzija, the senior caught his 23rd career touchdown pass, a 42-yard reception in the third quarter, where he out jumped the Carolina defender and Derrick Mayes for the most scoring receptions in school history.
"I'm sure down the road it will be a cool thing to look back on, but I'm just happy that it was a big touchdown in the game that helped us really pull away and put the game away," Samardzija said.
The Valparaiso product also passed Jim Seymour (2,113 yards) and Maurice Stovall (2,195) to move into fourth place all time with 2,262 yards receiving. Samardzija, who has done most of this the past two seasons, will likely pass Tom Gatewood (2,283 yards) next Saturday against Air Force.
"It's exciting and it's cool to hear people talk about it, but it's real exciting to share it with your teammates," Samardzija said.
McKnight's two touchdowns make him the fourth Irish receiver to ever register 10 or more touchdowns in a single season. The fifth-year senior now has 11 on the year, approaching Samardzija's single-season record of 15. His 2,043 yards receiving during his career puts him right on Seymour's tail.
"It means a lot but I think my biggest focus is to trying to do anything I can to keep winning, help contributing in each win the rest of the season," McKnight said. "If I break a few records good."
* Early in the fourth quarter, Quinn was hit out of bounds by linebacker Durell Mapp, almost starting a melee that resulted in two personal foul calls against the Tar Heels. Quinn was a step or two out of bounds when Mapp layed into him.
Following the hit, McKnight and Samardzija were quickly there to aid their quarterback. McKnight was lucky not to be called for a personal foul as well, pushing Mapp after sharing words.
"I just felt that was a little unnecessary," McKnight stated. "Brady was definitely out of bounds a few steps. I was just going over to protect my quarterback and thank goodness I didn't get a personal foul."
"Football is football and things like that happen," Samardzija said. "Obviously our team tries to stay away from things like that, but things happen. It's your quarterback out there and we try to stay away from it, but it's your teammate and you've got to protect him."
The hit looked vicious but Quinn popped right up.
"A lot of people were asking me if I was ok and I was fine," Quinn explained. "It didn't faze me at all. I just wanted to make sure nothing stupid happened there, have our guys stay out of that whole mess and let them commit the personal fouls."
Weis was not slapped this time, like he said he was against Michigan State during a sideline scuffle.
"I'm not going to be disrespectful to North Carolina," Weis said. "But when you hit a quarterback like that on the sideline, the least you should expect is your guys to go in there and make sure if they are okay.
"After an experience we had earlier in the year, I think our coaching staff jumped in there early because they had orders from me and everyone that when that situation happens again to make sure it didn't escalate. I thought that it ended up getting under control very quickly, including their guys that were coming from the other side of the field to come in there. I thought they did a good job of not, you know making it into something worse than it could have been potentially."
*It was obvious the Irish wanted to come out and pass the ball early, get control of the game, then start running. In a nutshell, that's what happened. The Irish gained 18 yards in the first half on 14 carries, but finished with 106 yards rushing on 35 carries.
Walker gained 86 yards on 20 carries, passing Jerome Heavens (2,682 yards) for fifth on the school's all-time rushing list. The junior tailback now has 2,750 yards.
* Samardzija and McKnight weren't the only pass catchers to have a big day. Carlson had a career day, hauling in a career-high eight passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
"I think any competitive athlete expects to be successful, that's what we prepare for," Carlson said. "I didn't know what was going to happen. I did my best to prepare myself in the off-season and things seem to be working out."
"He's a big dude, now," Weis said. "He is, has a big body now. He's a good football player. He blocks well. He's athletic, he can catch, he's dangerous with the ball."
*James Aldridge carried the ball eight times for 45 yards during mop-up duty. The freshman also made an appearance in the second quarter, coming in for one play, a play-action pass where he made a block protecting Quinn.
"Well, he's been ready to play physically for a while," Weis said. "Mentally he's getting closer and closer to being able to handle our whole package. See, for a freshman, this package, me running the ball inside is the easy part. Just turn around and hand it off. As a matter of fact, the first play he was in there the first half, we actually threw a play-action pass and they actually brought the guy I was concerned about. I said oh no here he comes."
"The fact that he's starting to grasp the whole concept of the offense just bodes well for his future here with us," Weis later said.
* North Carolina won the toss and deferred.