Jeff Samardzija catches a 52-Yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brady Quinn during the fourth quarter against Washington (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

No. 16 Notre Dame Dominates Washington, 36-17

Sept. 24, 2005

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SEATTLE (AP) – The Ty Bowl turned into a showcase for Notre Dame – again.

Charlie Weis led Notre Dame to the same kind of lopsided romp over Washington on Saturday that Tyrone Willingham did a year ago when he was coaching the Fighting Irish. This time, Willingham was beaten by the players he recruited.

The 16th-ranked Irish, clicking in the air and on the ground after a sluggish start, rolled past the Huskies 36-17 Saturday in a game that had little to do with coaches matching wits and everything to do with slick execution by Notre Dame (3-1) and huge blunders by Washington (1-3).

“If you look at five plays, we get those plays, we win,” Willingham said of the goal-line fumble, end-zone interception and other mistakes that went against Washington. But he quickly added, “It won’t be our coaching style to be into moral victories.”

Weis facetiously dubbed this game “The Ty Bowl” because of all the attention on Willingham’s three years with the Irish, which ended with his firing mid-contract last December, and his move to Washington. Weis and Willingham shook hands before the game, then got down to business. At the end, Notre Dame players swarmed around Willingham to shake his hand and wish him well.

A year after Notre Dame won 38-3 in South Bend, Ind., against Washington, the Irish took their show on the road to do virtually the same thing against their former coach on a brilliantly sunny fall afternoon before 71,473 fans in Husky Stadium. This win made Notre Dame 6-0 against Washington.

“I think, psychologically for the players, this (game against Willingham) will be a good thing to have behind them and move on to the next game,” said Weis, who now prepares his team for Purdue.

Quarterback Brady Quinn, who threw four touchdown passes last year, threw only one this time but compiled 327 yards passing in a more balanced attack that saw sophomore halfback Darius Walker rush for a career-high 128 yards on 21 carries. Walker became the first running back in Notre Dame history to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first four games.

“Offensively, we were really concerned with getting back to mixing and matching and not being one-dimensional and having to throw the ball on every play,” said Weis, who brought the Irish the playbook he used so successfully as offensive coordinator of the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

“We ran the ball significantly better this week than we did last week (in an overtime loss at home to Michigan State). Anytime you can have balance, it makes it easier as a play-caller. Last week we let one get away, and we just wanted to make sure we got back to business this week.

“I thought (Walker) showed a lot more patience in the run game today. He wasn’t just turning the corner. He was letting the blocks get set up first. I said him, ‘You ran about as fast as me, but you showed real good patience.”

Quinn, who also ran for 29 yards, spread the wealth of passes around to his targets, with wide receiver Jeff Samardzija leading them all and gaining a career-high 164 yards.

Notre Dame’s dominating offense controlled the game, and the Irish never punted until 11 seconds were left. They held possession of the ball for 36:56, breaking open the game with 24 points in the second half. Rashon Powers-Neal had a 2-yard TD run, Samardzija scored on a 52-yard pass and Travis Thomas scored on an 11-yard run.

The Irish insisted that seeing Willingham across the field didn’t weigh on their minds, even if it seemed strange to go against a coach who had recruited most of them. Nor were they trying, like sons showing off for their father, to prove anything to him.

“We’re just trying to show the country who we are,” linebacker Corey Mays said.

Washington, down 29-3 in the fourth quarter, made the final score slightly more respectable with two late touchdowns, the first on a 1-yard run by Mark Palaita, and the second with 2:26 left on a 41-yard pass from reserve quarterback Johnny Durocher.

“We know what happened at Notre Dame when coach (Willingham) was there, but we wanted to win it for ourselves,” Washington safety C.J. Wallace said. “We knew that the game really meant a lot. That’s why we feel so bad right now, we wanted to win the game for coach Willingham.”

Starting Husky quarterback Isaiah Stanback finished with 353 yards on 17-of-34 passing.

A fumble near the goal line on Washington’s game-opening, length-of-the-field drive cost the Huskies one touchdown, and an interception in the end zone, after Stanback’s career-high 69-yard pass to Marion Wood, cost them another in the second quarter. Notre Dame’s only costly turnover came on a botched field goal snap after driving to the Huskies’ 24 on its first possession.

Notre Dame led 12-3 at halftime, scoring on Walker’s 17-yard touchdown run, blowing an extra point, making field goals from the 25 in the first quarter, the 39 in the second quarter and holding Washington to a 27-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

Washington gained all but five of its 243 yards in the first half on passes, while Notre Dame had the more balanced attack – 146 yards in the air, 102 on the ground.