News and Notes: 11/16/2006

*On Saturday, the Notre Dame home crowd will get one last chance to salute the seniors on the football team. They're going out on a positive note. After enduring a few losing seasons during the tenure of Tyrone Willingham, the outgoing players are on the verge of two straight BCS bowl appearances, possibly a national title game this season.

The senior who probably will get the biggest ovation is Brady Quinn. Let's take an overview of his marvelous career in an Irish uniform. Quinn owns 35 school records, including most career touchdown passes, completions, attempts, yards and maybe most importantly, lowest interception percentage. He's also tough as nails. Quinn has started 42 straight games under center. Despite getting pounded his first two seasons and at points this year, it's still always No. 10 taking the snap. On Saturday against Army, he'll get another chance to show his supporters what they are going to miss next season.

"We've really placed a lot of importance on this game, sending the seniors out the right way," Quinn said on Wednesday. "I have an obligation to the rest of my class and the rest of the seniors on this team, giving them a win in their last home game. I think just as much as you want it for yourself, you want it for everyone else around you."

There was some thought last season that Quinn could jump to the professional ranks. Head coach Charlie Weis said last week that his signal caller would have gone in the first round in the 2006 NFL Draft. Three quarterbacks were taken in the first ten picks. Another year of nurturing from Weis has elevated his stock more than likely into the top-5. But how close was Quinn to going to the NFL and make millions of dollars?

"I first announced it actually before the Bowl game because just I didn't want it to be a question at all with anyone on our team or with the media and all that," Quinn said. "I wanted to just focus on Ohio State at that point and really focus on doing the best I could in that game. I think it was a little bit of a release to them, too, because once one guy kind of starts making the decision there, I think to some guys, it's a little easier on them as well.

"But for me, I had to feel like I was ready. I thought about really what I came here to do coming in as a freshman, and I didn't feel like I had succeeded all of the goals I had set out for myself."

If there was ever any doubt to how vital Quinn is to the Notre Dame football program, read what his head coach said about him on Tuesday.

"I can't imagine any player in this country being more important to his team than Brady Quinn is to ours," Weis said. "I can't imagine it. Maybe that exists. I just can't imagine it. Therefore, he's meant it to our team, he's meant it to our coaching staff and to our entire university. He'll be dearly missed."

*Another player will be in the same boat Quinn was in last season. Tommy Zbikowski is a senior but did not see the field in his freshman year. This gives him the opportunity to come back for a fifth-year. The Notre Dame safety is a fan favorite because of his toughness and propensity to score touchdowns despite playing defense. Zbikowski has scored seven times in his Irish career. He has not made a public decision yet as to whether he'll jump to the NFL or come back to Notre Dame.

"I won't really think about it until after the season," Zbikowski said. "Like I said before, there's too much at stake here to even be thinking about other things than our season.

*Notre Dame fans will celebrate the seniors last home game on Saturday. There will be another reason to celebrate this weekend. One of the all-time Irish greats, Rahgib "Rocket" Ismail, was born on November 18th, 1969 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Ismail, a threat to score every time he touched the ball because of his blazing speed, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting twice.

*Army does not have many impressive statistics. Here's another: the Black Knights have not defeated a nationally ranked opponent since 1972. During this time span, Notre Dame has beaten back two upset bids from Army. In 1995, the Irish beat the Black Knights when Ivory Covington stood up Army tight end Ron Leshinski at the goal line. Jim Sanson's 48-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining let Notre Dame escape with a 20-17 victory in 1998.

Another bad stat is turnovers. An upset-minded team must protect the ball against a superior opponent. However, the Black Knights have committed 32 turnovers this season. Army has thrown 20 interceptions and lost 12 fumbles. They rank dead last in turnovers lost and turnover margin. On the contrary, Notre Dame is first Division 1A in turnovers lost with just nine on the year.

*Zbikowski on Wednesday not looking past the Black Knights this weekend with USC looming on Thanksgiving Day weekend: "Like I said before, Coach (Weis) mentioning about the seniors, you owe it to seniors and guys that are in their last home games to be focused and to keep watching film. There's proof, at least on the defensive side, of Army's offense making big time plays and seeing their quarterbacks making proper throws. Then once you think you're done with option, they still have a little bit of an option attack. So you have to take focused on everything."


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