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September 3, 2006
A Narrow Escape

Notre Dame started its 2006 campaign with a near-stumble against Georgia Tech, a team regarded as a test for the pre-season #2 team in college football. The Fighting Irish escaped with a 14-10 win and likely a lower ranking:

The best thing you can say about Notre Dame's game against Georgia Tech is that it's over. And if the Fighting Irish don't figure how to play more like the No. 2-ranked team in the country rather than something from the Also Receiving Votes agate, then they can pucker up and kiss the Holy Trinity of college football goodbye.

We're speaking, of course, of the national championship, the Heisman Trophy, and Lee Corso wearing your mascot's headgear near Cardinals Stadium come Jan. 8. Notre Dame remains in the team picture for all three, but only because ND's 14-10 victory came in the first week of the season, not the last. ...

There's no nice way to say it: for the first 30 minutes of this game, Tech turned ND into a bumblin' wreck. The Yellow Jackets left bee stings all over the Fighting Irish's ranking, quarterback Brady Quinn's Heisman hype, and coach Charlie Weis' reputation as an offensive mastermind.

Tech led, 10-7, and had a first-half shutout until Quinn scored on a quarterback draw with 11 seconds remaining and no timeouts left. It was the lowest first-half point total during Weis' 13-game tenure and it produced the usual panic from visiting Golden Domers.

I didn't get a chance to see the opener, as I spent the evening at the movies with the family, but after reading this I'm glad I missed it. I would have definitely joined the panic, and I was 1500 miles away from Georgia Tech.

The Irish have this maddening habit of playing up or down to the level of their opponents, and they also have spent the last few seasons coming out of the gate very slowly -- both in games and in seasons. They tend to finish stronger than they start in both perspectives, but it isn't easy to overcome the handicap they give away.

The upside is, of course, that the Irish won the game and that their second half appeared somewhat better than the first. The defense tossed a shutout in the second half on the road, an impressive feat against a skilled opponent. Brady Quinn managed to put up some decent numbers and show some leadership in rallying the team. Darius Walker ran for 99 yards -- not great, but not bad at all. The Irish have plenty on which to build.

They'd better build fast. The legendary Joe Paterno and his Penn State Nittany Lions pay a visit to Touchdown Jesus next week, followed by Michigan and then a road game at their bete noir, Michigan State. It's a grinder of a schedule, and what's worse is that CQ commenter Monkei will be on my backside this entire week about the Penn State game.

Let's go, Irish. Don't make a Monkei out of us.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 3, 2006 7:52 AM

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