Saturday, November 18, 2006

Irish Blast Black Knights 41-9

Perhaps if the Army paratroopers who parachuted into Notre Dame Stadium before the game had kidnapped Brady Quinn and the rest of the Irish starters, this football game would have been more of a contest. But as it was, the Army had about as much chance beating Notre Dame in South Bend as they do defeating the Islamic insurgency in Iraq, and the Irish prevailed 41-9.

Ironically, just as in those early heady "Mission Accomplished" days in Iraq, the Army lead the Irish after one quarter, not only marching deep into Notre Dame territory twice, but forcing Brady Quinn into his first interception in eight games and 227 attempts. But in honor of Saturday's saint, Rose-Philippine Duchesne, the Irish defense "rose" to the occasion allowing one field goal and blocking another, so when the smoke cleared, the Black Knights were up only 3-0. At this point, Quinn and the Irish offense took over, scoring three 2nd-quarter touchdowns to make the halftime score (yes, Carl Gioia missed another PAT) 20-3.

In fact there was actually more drama during halftime than the game itself Saturday, when the 10,000-strong Notre Dame student section launched a massive surprise marshmallow offensive. Until the start of the 3rd quarter, the late autumn sky was a blizzard of the mini-missiles, but since the students mostly aimed the sweets at each other, stadium security let the collegiate fun go on until a few errant throws nearly knocked an NBC cameraman off his perch.

When the play resumed, the Irish, thanks to a Rhema McKnight catch and a Darius Walker run, scored two quick touchdowns and the fans again became distracted, concentrating on "The Wave" rather than the players. Charlie Weis actually went for it on 4th and 2 at his own 20 in an attempt to get their attention, but even though the Army stuffed Walker on this occasion, the Black Knight offense could not score to make it close.

For the game, Brady Quinn (who was by far the kindest player in the pre-game walk to the stadium, hugging young fans and shaking the hands of older ones) finished 22 of 30 for 218 yards and 3 TDs. Jeff "The Shark" Smardzija caught 9 for 87 yards and 1 TD. Meanwhile, Walker had another huge game on the ground, gaining 162 yards on 24 carries, and on defense, senior Mike Richardson made the most of Senior Day, intercepting two Army passes.

But with the game out of reach, the Army still managed to get the fans' attention when, after recovering a fumble by the Irish senior reserves on the Notre Dame 34 with 35 seconds left in the contest, instead of running the clock out, they turned the last half minute into 15 by calling three timeouts. Clearly annoyed, the Irish fans began to chant "Beat USC" as the Black Knights came up with their only touchdown of the day, against the Irish second and third strings, on the last play of the game. But all was forgiven when after the game the Army players, lead by their devout Catholic head coach Bobby Ross, joined Weis and the Irish in their new religious tradition under their second-year head coach, that of singing the "Notre Dame Our Mother" tribute to Our Lady.

Post Game Note: As soon as the game ended, the stadium scoreboard mysteriously changed from "ND 41, Army 9" to "ND 0, USC 0." Coach Weis, clearly a mastermind on strategy, no doubt realized that St. Rose-Philippine, who came over from France to the United States to found convents in the same era as Fr. Sorin came from that country to found Notre Dame, was a perfect saint to intercede for his team, and changed the scoreboard to obtain her prayers for next week's critical contest as well. Don't think so? Well, that's probably because you don't realize that St. Rose was canonized by John Paul II in 1988 - the same year Notre Dame won its last National Championship!

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