Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn was selected as the Cingular All-America Player of the Year.

Last Word for Army

Nov. 17, 2006

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve picked up on the fact this guy Brady Quinn, Notre Dame’s senior quarterback, has been rather proficient of late when it comes to throwing the football.

Proficient as in 18 touchdowns and no interceptions over his last six games combined.

Put that in perspective by remembering that no Irish quarterback had ever thrown 20 of those (TD passes) in a full season until Quinn showed up on campus.

As Irish coach Charlie Weis suggested a week or so ago, we’ve all become rather spoiled watching Quinn (who plays for the final time in Notre Dame Stadium this afternoon) do his thing week after week.

Last Saturday at Air Force, for example, you watched as Quinn displayed all his usual poise and calmness in picking apart the Falcon defense starting with the very first play from scrimmage. He completed his first eight passes for 150 yards and three TDs. His first period of play was so dominant, staking the Irish to a 20-3 lead after 15 minutes, that it was almost as if Air Force never had a chance once Notre Dame won the coin toss and took the ball.

There were a couple of incompletions late in the first half that easily could have been caught. Then, there was a second-half throw that was altered because Quinn was hit as he threw. Then, there was the fourth-down attempt that flew over Jeff Samardzija’s head – and that one seemed to bother Quinn after the game more than any of his successful throws pleased him.

The bar has been set so high that you almost had the idea that Quinn really does think he ought to be able to complete every throw he attempts. Against Air Force that idea wasn’t that far-fetched.

Just think – exactly two years ago today, Quinn came into the final home game of his sophomore season with 22 career TD passes and 20 career interceptions.

A few weeks later Weis became the Notre Dame football coach, and maybe there’s never been a more perfect marriage of a player, a coach, a philosophy and a system.

At a school that had not been known for its prolific passing numbers – with all apologies to Terry Hanratty, Joe Theismann, Joe Montana, Rick Mirer, Ron Powlus and lots of others – Quinn has made proficiency commonplace.

And, think of what Quinn’s numbers would be if he and Weis had had four years together in this offense.

Here’s an eye-opening statistic for you: A year ago in 2005, Quinn had 32 TD passes in his 12 games. This fall, he has 29 so far in 10 games. That’s 61 in 22 games since Weis arrived – or an average of 2.7727 per game.

Now, if Quinn played four seasons in the current configuration (12 regular-season games, plus a bowl game), his fantasy 52-game career would project to 144 TD passes.

Balance that against the fact no quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history has thrown for more than 121 (BYU’s Ty Detmer did that from 1988-91).

As it is, Quinn last week passed Tennessee’s Peyton Manning on the all-time pass completions list. He eclipsed the 11,000 mark in career passing yards last weekend – and, for example, needs only 267 today to move past USC’s Carson Palmer.

His 87 career scoring throws rank him 11th on the NCAA career chart. He’s probably a longshot to become only the sixth player to throw for 100 in a career.

Pretty heady stuff. Yet, you won’t find many players more even-keeled and nonchalant in terms of reacting to any of those accomplishments.

On top of all that, you today will be watching the final home performances of the two players who will end their careers as the most prolific pass-receivers in Notre Dame history.

Rhema McKnight has been doing that since the very first game of his freshman season in 2002 when he caught two passes for nine yards from Carlyle Holiday in Notre Dame’s Kickoff Classic win over Maryland. Meanwhile, Chicago Cub baseball fans might argue that Jeff Samardzija has been running neck and neck with McKnight in that career receptions category while doing most of his damage in his spare time away from the pitching mound. Remember, Samardzija came into his junior season in ’05 with no career TD receptions and only 24 total catches.

And don’t forget some of the other seniors – offensive line stalwarts like Ryan Harris, Dan Santucci and Bob Morton, and tight end Marcus Freeman. In particular, Harris walked onto the field as a rookie and never left – and when Weis singles out an offensive lineman for his play, it’s unusual when Harris is not the name he calls.

Defenders like Derek Landri and Chris Frome and Mike Richardson may not have earned the headlines of people like Quinn and the receivers – but they’ve put themselves in position to be consistent contributors Saturday after Saturday.

Defensive end Victor Abiamiri earned Weis’ attention in such a way that Notre Dame’s coach suggested that opposing offenses are now having to account for Abiamiri from play to play. And Chinedum Ndukwe took time out last weekend from being Quinn’s buddy, roommate and media biographical contact to make the most tackles of any Notre Dame player in 27 years.

Check out some of those seniors when they head over to the student section today to raise their helmets and sing the alma mater for the last time on their home field.

In a couple of cases, we may not see anyone quite like that pass this way again any time soon.