No. 2 Notre Dame edges Ga. Tech in defensive struggle

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.

By the numbers:
Notre Dame's defense

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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



Points 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

Georgia Tech.

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

Ohio State.

"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

or another."