Nov. 18, 2006
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Bring on USC.
A few minutes after leading Notre Dame to a 41-9 rout of Army on Saturday quarterback Brady Quinn went over to the student section to join in the cheers:
“Beat SC! Beat SC!” Quinn shouted, pumping his arm to keep the fans’ rhythm.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis agreed with the message, but added, `They could have been louder.”
It was a big day for the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish (10-1), who won their eighth straight to set up next weekend’s showdown at No. 4 Southern Cal, where a win would give Notre Dame a chance of playing Ohio State in the BCS national title game on Jan. 8.
The win over Army (3-8) was the last home game for Quinn and the rest of the Notre Dame seniors.
“This was a special moment,” Quinn said after throwing for three touchdowns. “We don’t have too many opportunities to play your last game in Notre Dame Stadium. I did my best today to just take it all in.”
Weis doesn’t usually admit looking ahead, but he’s already watched every offensive and defensive play USC has run this year. He even said that two-thirds of the plays the Irish practiced the past week were to prepare for the Trojans. He didn’t let the players know that.
“You can never look past one opponent and get yourself caught short,” he said.
To make sure the Irish weren’t focusing on anything else, Weis ordered that the Michigan-Ohio State score not be announced during the game.
Despite being heavy favorites, the Irish came out wearing green uniforms for motivation. The rare appearance of the jerseys didn’t do much at first as Notre Dame came out flat.
Quinn threw his first interception in seven games on Notre Dame’s first possession, and the Irish trailed 3-0 late in the first quarter. But Notre Dame scored on its next five possessions and cruised to the victory.
Darius Walker ran for 162 yards and two scores for the Irish.
Weis said Notre Dame was ready to throw deep, but Army was ready. So he called the offense together for a chat.
“We are going to nickel and dime them because that’s what they have been dictating for you to do,” he told them.
The Black Knights have lost five straight heading into their season-finale against Navy on Dec. 2. Coach Bobby Ross said the Irish were too good.
“Notre Dame is a better team than we are. We all know that,” he said.
The victory ended a four-game losing streak for the green jerseys. The Irish lost 34-31 to top-ranked USC last October; 14-7 to Boston College in 2002; 35-28 to Georgia Tech in the 1999 Gator Bowl; and 41-24 to Colorado in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.
“At least I got that stigma out of the way,” Weis said.
Weis said Thursday night his 13-year-old son, Charlie Jr., suggested wearing the green. Weis resisted at first, telling his son Notre Dame has an unwritten rule that the jerseys are saved for highly ranked opponents.
“He goes, ‘Dad you tell me how special this senior class is. It just doesn’t seem right that they don’t get an opportunity to be honored as seniors going out,” he said.
Weis agreed, so he asked his captains what they thought. Weis said Quinn hesitated.
“I called him a wimp and he said, ‘OK, I want to wear them,” Weis said.
Their last victory wearing green was 1985, when they came out in the first half wearing blue against USC and at halftime switched to green in a 37-3 victory.
Notre Dame’s most well-known green day was 1977 – Weis’ senior season as a student – when the 11th-ranked Irish beat No. 5 USC 49-19.
The only disappointment for the Irish was the interception thrown by Quinn ended a streak of 226 straight passes without an interception – the longest such streak in Division I-A this season. The record is 271 consecutive passes by Trent Dilfer at Fresno Sate in 1993.
Quinn was 22-of-30 for 218 yards. He threw a 16-yard TD pass to Jeff Samardzija, who had nine catches for 87 yards, and add scoring passes of 8 and 24 yards to Rhema McKnight. Walker ran for TDs of 10 and 7 yards. He had another shot at a TD, but fumbled on the 1. David Grimes recovered in the end zone for the touchdown.
The 162 yards rushing gave Walker his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, becoming just the fourth player in school history to accomplish the feat.
Asked what he thought about Quinn climbing up into the student section, Weis joked that Quinn has been watching too many Green Bay Packers games, where Quinn’s brother-in-law, linebacker A.J. Hawk, plays.
“I think he wanted to share that moment with the fans, especially the student body at the end,” Weis said. “He’s really a special person.”