Nov. 19, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Trailing by three points late in first quarter, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis thought the Fighting Irish were playing as if they were down by 50.
So he knew the offensive players were expecting an outburst from him when he approached them on the sideline. Instead, Weis does what he does best: the unexpected.
“I said, ‘Relax. Just gain your composure,”‘ he said.
The Irish responded to the unexpected calm command with two TD quick passes by Brady Quinn in the second quarter, scoring on drives of three and two plays to gain control en route to a 34-10 victory.
Notre Dame (8-2) needs to beat Stanford next week to remain eligible for its first Bowl Championship Series berth since 2000. Students threw tortillas back and forth throughout the game in anticipation of a possible Fiesta Bowl invitation. Someone also threw an orange on the field after an Irish touchdown.
Syracuse (1-9) lost its eighth straight – its longest losing streak since losing its final game of 1972 and the first eight games of 1973 – and must beat No. 18 Louisville to avoid the first 10-loss season in school history.
“It’s frustrating because you want it to happen. You want to see it start to go,” Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said. “We got a little something going there in the first quarter and then we went dormant.”
Quinn thought the Irish started slow because they wanted to play well for the seniors playing their last home game.
“We weren’t as loose as we usually are,” he said.
The Irish offense finally kicked into gear in the second quarter after Chase Anastacio partially blocked a punt by Brendan Carney, giving them the ball on Syracuse’s 36. Notre Dame scored just three plays later, a 25-yard TD pass from Quinn to Maurice Stovall.
After Notre Dame held Syracuse to a three-and-out, the Irish struck quickly again. Tom Zbikowski returned the punt 8 yards to the Syracuse 40. After an 11-yard run by Darius Walker, Quinn threw a 29-yard TD pass to Jeff Samardzija.
On Syracuse’s first possession of the second half, Leo Ferrine returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown.
“That was probably the biggest disappointment to me, that we found a way to turn that ball over and it turned into seven points,” Robinson said.
Walker, who rushed for 123 yards on 26 carries, added a 3-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Walker had his sixth 100-yard game, the first Notre Dame player to do that since Autry Denson in 1998.
The Irish struggled on offense, with Quinn not as sharp as he has been and receivers dropping catchable balls, but were still too good enough for the Orange.
The West Coast offense that Syracuse ran was reminiscent of the offense the Irish ran the past three season: ineffective and riddled with mistakes. After managing 105 yards and a field goal in the first quarter, Syracuse managed just 47 yards of total offense the rest of the way until Weis took out the defensive starters with 7 minutes to play and put in seniors, some of whom had not played this season.
Weis was most pleased with a 16-yard pass from Marty Mooney to Michael O’Hara, both senior walk-ons.
“My favorite play of the game,” he said.
Syracuse scored its only touchdown, on an 18-yard pass from Perry Patterson to Joe Kowalewski, after the Irish emptied their bench. Much of Syracuse’s offense against Notre Dame’s starters came on three plays: runs of 30 and 23 yards by Patterson and a 51-yard run by Damien Rhodes, who finished with 112 yards rushing. Patterson was 9-of-22 passing for 78 yards.
“I wish his numbers were better, but I don’t think he was the reason we lost,” Robinson said.
Quinn was 21-of-37 passing for 270 yards, becoming Notre Dame’s all-time leading passer. Quinn has 7,618 yards passing, moving past Ron Powlus, who threw for 7,602 yards from 1994-97. He has 3,201 yards passing this season, becoming the first Irish quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season.
Still, it wasn’t a good performance by Quinn’s standards.
“I would probably have to stretch back to maybe the Michigan game to feel as bad as I do now as how I played today,” Quinn said.