Today we take a trip back to 2006 and the date is September 9th in the second weekend of the season. The Irish had traveled back from Atlanta in the season opener scraping by with a gutty 14-10 victory over Georgia Tech that nearly derailed the season in a big way. The following Saturday they returned home to face a resurgent Penn State team coming off an 11-1 Orange Bowl winning season and an easy win over Akron to begin 2006.
Most do not forget how strong the hype was for Notre Dame coming into this season beginning at No. 2 for the pre-season and only dropping to No. 4 following the close win at Georgia Tech. The Nittany Lions for their part suffered a lot of personnel losses from 2005 and came into the game a respectable 19th in the country.
Few knew it at the time but this would be the last hurrah for the Weis era (just the 14th game and 10-3 overall to this point) before a visit from Michigan officially ended the facade. Through Weis’ 5 seasons this win over Penn State would be the lone victory over a ranked team.
Let’s get to the action!
I don’t remember this being the first game against Penn State since the famous “Snow Bowl” in 1992 which is odd because the broadcast immediately points it out. This and the return visit to Happy Valley the following year are the only games in this series since Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came out on Genesis. Who feels old?
That’s quite the first pass in the highlight tape from Brady Quinn. Plus, the beginning of a wonderful 2-year tear by tight end John Carlson with 87 receptions for 2006-07. He sadly retired just over 3 years ago with 210 receptions in 90 NFL games.
The second featured play amazes me in that Weis had such creative play-calling at times–plus a potent passing game with Quinn–and the running game just never took off. For this game, 36 rushing attempts for 110 yards.
Does anyone remember the brief Anthony Morelli hype from Penn State? He’d get benched in this game and would finish with 189 passing yards on 33 attempts.
The first touchdown pass from Quinn to Samardzija was the quintessential offensive play from this era for me. It was the 2005-06 cheat code and probably made Quinn’s NFL stock look 29.6% better than without it. Now in his 11th season in the Majors, Samardzija has made $83.1 million through this year and is still owed another $39.6 million through 2020. We were discussing in our writer’s Slack chat that he must be the wealthiest Notre Dame alum in professional sports ever.
Doesn’t everyone look like they’re lumbering in the next series of completions? I know this team wasn’t particularly fast and everything. The shag carpet grass was so silly. Imagine Will Fuller chugging through that stuff.
At 1:45 look another back end zone touchdown pass!
Today’s main photo screen grab is a reminder that Joe Paterno was a couple months from turning 80 years old for this game. He’s already in full Bobby Bowden mode of pacing around the sidelines kind of aware of what’s going on but not really full with it anymore. At least Bowden retired around this age, Paterno would go on to leads another 72 games! His halftime speech is either edited heavily into mush or Paterno was overtaken by the Devil. Of course, Tom Hammond seemed to enjoy the speech.
This game featured one of Tom Zbikowski’s 7 career touchdowns, scooping up a fumble return for a score. Looking back I was shocked to see he went 86th overall in the NFL Draft even though he was a very good college player if a little hot and cold.
The fake punt encapsulates this game so perfectly. There were a handful of truly fun, absolutely no worries, purely cruising games during the Weis era. Pitt 2005, Washington 2005, BYU 2006, Army 2006 were all among the best in these first 2 years under Chuck along with this Penn State game. The stats for this one really don’t do this one justice for pure Notre Dame entertainment. The Irish only had 14 more yards and even 3 fewer first downs but the score was 41-3 early in the 4th quarter. Never in doubt.