Jan. 6, 2006
The University of Notre Dame football team finished ninth in the final Associated Press college football rankings for 2005, marking the first appearance in the final AP top 10 by the Irish since holding the runnerup spot in the final ’93 standings.
It marked the 35th time that the Irish have finished in the final AP top 10 since the poll began in 1936. Notre Dame has won eight AP national titles (1943, ’46, ’47, ’49, ’66, ’73, ’77 and ’88), more than any other school. Oklahoma is second with seven Alabama third with six. Notre Dame has ranked first in the AP poll on 89 occasions since 1936, more than any other school – and also boasts a record eight wins over AP top-ranked teams.
Charlie Weis led the Irish (they also finished 10th in the Football Writers Association of America Grantland Rice Super 16 Poll and 11th according to USA Today) to a 9-3 mark in his first season as Notre Dame head football coach in 2005. His team finished sixth in the final regular-season Bowl Championship Series standings and played in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl for Notre Dame’s first BCS appearance in five years.
Weis quickly transformed the Irish offense into one of the most prolific in the country, as Notre Dame became the second-highest-scoring team in modern school history at 36.67 points per game (just behind 37.6 from 1968) – and also qualified as the most improved offensive attack in the nation, jumping its total offense production (477.33 yards per game) a national-best 131.8 yards per game better than in ’04.
That success made Weis winner of the 2005 Eddie Robinson Award as national college coach of the year as selected by the FWAA. He also was one of three finalists for the `05 Munger Award as the college coach of the year (presented by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia), one of five finalists for the ’05 Schutt Division I-A Sports Coach of the Year (presented by American Football Monthly) and finished third in the balloting for The Associated Press college football coach of the year award.
Weis saw his Irish offense flourish right out of the gate in ’05 — as Notre Dame set a school record by scoring at least 30 points in all but two outings and tied another record by scoring 40 points on six occasions. He helped put a handful of Irish players in contention for major national awards, as quarterback Brady Quinn was a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award presented to the top quarterback in the country – and finished fourth in the ’05 Heisman Trophy voting. In addition, first-team All-America wide receiver Jeff Samardzija was one of three finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver nationally, as was tight end Anthony Fasaso for the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in the country. Quinn, only a junior in `05, turned into a star under Weis’ tutelage, as he broke almost all the Irish career, season and single-game passing records in 2005. Quinn already is the Notre Dame career and single-season leader in passing yards (3,919 in ’05; 8,336 in his career), pass completions (292 in ’05; 640 in his career) and touchdown passes (32 in ’05; 58 in his career). He ranked third in the country in `05 with 32 TD passes (behind only Hawaii’s Colt Brennan with 35 and UCLA’s Drew Olson with 34) — and he also set an Irish single-game record with his six TD passes versus BYU in ’05. Meanwhile, Samardzija (a first-team All-American on the Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America team) finished as runnerup for the NCAA title in TD receptions with 15.
Weis guided the `05 Irish offense to final national rankings of fourth in passing offense (330.25 yards per game), eighth in scoring (36.67 points per game) and 10th in total offense (477.33 yards per game). On an individual basis, Quinn ranked fifth nationally in total offense (334.08 yards per game) and seventh in passing efficiency (158.40 rating points), and Samardzija stood fourth in receiving yards per game (104.08). Samardzija broke the Notre Dame season marks for receiving yardage (1,249) and TD receptions (15) and tied Tom Gatewood’s 35-year-old single-season record of 77 receptions from 1970.
The Irish in 2005 were easily the most productive passing team in Notre Dame history, with their average of 330.25 passing yards per game shattering the previous high of 252.7 aerial yards per game from 1970. Notre Dame set another school record by topping the 500-yard mark in total offense seven times in ’05, including a 663-yard performance against Stanford in the regular-season finale that marked the fifth-best single-game effort in the Irish record book. Notre Dame in ’05 became the first Irish team in history to boast a 3,000-yard passer (Quinn with 3,919), a 1,000-yard rusher (Darius Walker with 1,196) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Samardzija with 1,249 and Maurice Stovall with 1,149).
With the season-opening Irish victories at 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh and at third-rated Michigan in `05, Weis became the first Irish head coach to win his first two career games on the opponents’ home fields since Knute Rockne in 1918 and the first Notre Dame head football coach ever to open with two victories over ranked opponents. The Irish also won at 22nd-rated Purdue in ’05 to post three wins over ranked opponents (all on the road) in their first five games of the campaign.
Weis’ impact on the Irish program both on and off the field (his players achieved a program-record 3.04 combined grade-point average during the ’05 fall semester, with 56 of 97 players earning a 3.0 average or better) proved monumental enough that midway through the ’05 season he agreed to a new 10-year contract that takes effect in 2006 and extends through the 2015 season.