ATLANTA (AP) -- Notre Dame found itself in a defensive struggle,
which didn't happen very often last season.
The Fighting Irish knew how to handle it.
In 2005, Notre Dame had its fair share of ups and downs putting the clamps on opponents. And while the Irish defense had moments of greatness, it was the outstanding play of the offense that carried the team to a 9-3 record and a BCS berth. On Saturday, the roles were reversed as Notre Dame stifled Georgia Tech's offense, shutting out the Yellow Jackets in the second half. Here's a breakdown of how Notre Dame's defense performed Saturday night, in relation to its 2005 numbers.
Pass yards allowed
Rush yards allowed
Total yards allowed
Brady Quinn and hometown favorite Darius Walker each ran for a
touchdown Saturday night as No. 2 Notre Dame, with its highest
preseason ranking since 1994, rallied for a 14-10 victory over
The Fighting Irish fell behind 10-0 in the season opener and
were on the verge of going scoreless in the opening half for the
first time in nearly two years. But Quinn ran it in from the 5 on a
gutsy call by coach Charlie Weis with just 11 seconds remaining.
Then, taking advantage of a personal foul against the Yellow
Jackets, Walker raced to the corner for a 13-yard touchdown with 6½
minutes to go in the third period. There was a smattering of cheers
in the crowd for the former high school star from suburban Atlanta,
who finished with 99 yards rushing and caught four passes.
The offense did a good job of holding onto the ball and the
defense did the rest, limiting Georgia Tech to 259 yards and
removing some of the sting from its last performance. The Fighting
Irish gave up a school-record 617 yards in a Fiesta Bowl loss to
"I give the game to the defense," Walker said. "They did a
great job for us."
Quinn, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting while
breaking nearly every Notre Dame passing record last season,
completed 23-of-38 for 246 yards and converted a fourth-and-1 sneak
near midfield with 1:07 remaining that sealed the victory.
"We knew it would be a defensive fight in a hostile
environment," Quinn said. "I think this game would have been a
lot more wide open if I had done a better job."
Georgia Tech's star receiver, Calvin Johnson, came up with seven
catches for 111 yards and his team's lone TD. But he did most of
his damage in the first half, coming up with two catches for 16
yards over the final two quarters against a team that ranked 103rd
nationally against the pass in 2005.
Notre Dame switched up its defensive schemes at halftime,
putting two and three defenders on Johnson the rest of the way. It
worked. No one else had more than 10 yards receiving.
"It's important for the other guys to step up," Johnson said.
Notre Dame scored the winning touchdown after a personal foul on
Philip Wheeler kept the drive going.
On third-and-10 at the Georgia Tech 18, Quinn couldn't find
anyone open, so he took off running. He was heading out of bounds
well short of the first down when Wheeler came up and delivered a
helmet-to-helmet hit while the quarterback was still in bounds.
Quinn went flying and so did the penalty flag that gave Notre
Dame first-and-goal. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey screamed at
referee Dan Capron, who was nearly hit by a water bottle that came
flying from the stands as he signaled the penalty.
"It was a clean hit," Georgia Tech cornerback Kenny Scott
said. "But that comes with the territory. These were Big 10
officials and we're playing Notre Dame."
After a holding call backed Notre Dame up, Walker got the
handoff on a draw, cut to the outside and outraced Scott to the
corner. Just to make sure he got in, Walker stuck the ball over the
line with his right arm as he dove at the pylon.
"It was great to play in front of my home crowd and some
of my old friends," he said.
Georgia Tech had a chance after new Notre Dame kicker Carl Gioia
missed his second field-goal attempt of the night. Quarterback
Reggie Ball broke off a couple of runs that gave the Yellow Jackets
first down at the Notre Dame 45.
But a low snap led to a 5-yard sack of Ball, and he was dumped
again for a 14-yard loss by Maurice Crum Jr. Georgia Tech had to
punt it away, and the Fighting Irish ran out the final 5½ minutes.
Georgia Tech went ahead late in the first quarter, taking
advantage of its most dominating weapon. Johnson lingered at the
line to haul in a short pass from Ball, then burst through two
defenders and rumbled all the way to the Notre Dame 4 for a 29-yard
On the very next play, Ball took a couple of steps back and
simply lofted the ball toward the 6-foot-5 Johnson in the corner of
the end zone. He easily outleaped helpless 5-foot-11 cornerback Mike
Richardson for the touchdown.
Johnson went deep in the second quarter, running past Darrin
Walls to haul in a 45-yard pass to the Notre Dame 12. The Yellow
Jackets stalled there and settled for Travis Bell's 30-yard field
At that point, Notre Dame's five possessions had produced four
punts and Gioia's first miss from 42 yards. Hardly the sort of
production that was expected from one of the country's most dynamic
But Quinn and the Fighting Irish finally got going, converting a
couple of key third-down plays before they reached the Georgia Tech
5 and called their final timeout with 16 seconds remaining in the
Notre Dame lined up with two receivers to one side, three to the
other and no one behind Quinn. It was all a ruse, designed to
spread out the Georgia Tech defense.
Quinn took one step back, then burst up the middle and dove into
the end zone. If he had come up short, it's doubtful the Fighting
Irish would have been able to line up for another play.
"We really had to score on that play," Quinn said, "one way
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