#4: Tom Zbikowski vs Tennessee (November 5th, 2005)
The Stat Line:
9 Tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 INT/TD, 1 PR TD
The Final Score:
#8 Notre Dame 41 - Tennessee 21
In a season where ND's offense was prolific, the first appearance from 2005 is actually from a defensive player. Tom Zbikowski was the poster child of the Irish defense, and was proving to be a real handful on punt returns as well. This game would highlight both of those descriptions.
The Irish were still in the first season of the Weis era, and were coming off of a bye week, only two games removed from the "Bush Push". The fans were all kinds of jacked up at a potential BCS season, and were looking for a big victory versus Tennessee to further validate their top 10 ranking.
An average Tennessee team came into town with Arik Ainge at the helm and Arian Foster in the backfield (Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, and George Atkinson III thank you for the celebration, Mr. Foster). They were a team that was just hoping to grind down on the Irish and hopefully eke out a victory.
To the dismay of the Vols, the game looked to be in no doubt from the opening whistle, with Quinn throwing two quick back to back TDs in the first quarter to put ND up 14-0. The offense appeared to be clicking on all cylinders and it was going to be a long day for the Volunteers... and then Zbikowski broke it open with a 78 yard man-sized punt return for a TD to put ND up 21-3.
Despite getting punched in the mouth to start the game, Tennessee would close the gap and even tie the game at 21-21 on an Arian Foster run late in the 3rd Quarter. Notre Dame, led by Brady Quinn would respond with a TD and a couple of field goals in the 4th quarter to go up 34-21.
Tennessee took the field with 4 minutes remaining needing a touchdown to cut the game back within one score. Erik Ainge threw an ill-fated pass straight into the arms of Zbikowski, who put the game on ice with a 33 yard INT return for a touchdown, his second touchdown on the day. The Irish would go on to win by a final score of 41-21.
Zbikowski really was THE defensive player of the Weis era, who always seemed to be able to come up with totally game-changing plays on a regular basis. In our days of fair catches, wouldn't we love to have a Zibby back there to truck some people on the way to the end zone?
(Side note, I really miss oldie's videos)
#4 - Tom Zbikowski vs. Tennessee (November 5th, 2005)