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Notre Dame Football: Top 5 Fighting Irish Quarterbacks – Passing Touchdowns

A data breakdown of the Irish’s top 5 passers in terms of passing touchdowns over the last 30 years.

Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Matt Cashore-Pool/Getty Images

So we’ve come to the last part of our 30 year QB review. If I could’ve done it otherwise, the sequencing would’ve been very different. Touchdowns are probably one of the most important metrics we think of when it comes to football, but pretty anticlimactic in this situation. Touchdowns are the best and most effective way to put points on the board and the tape from when they’re successful (and unsuccessful) end up being the things we seem to talk about the most for weeks following games. But in the larger scheme of things touchdowns are pretty random and tell small bits of the story.

Especially when it comes to analyzing Notre Dame quarterbacks. From season to season the offensive formula has been tweaked to suit personnel strengths/weaknesses and for whatever reason passing touchdowns generally and the deep ball that makes for really prolific passing TDs seasons haven’t been the centerpiece. From a lot of the chatter, I’ve gathered that the fan base is expecting Sam Hartman to change that.

So let’s see where we’ve been in the area of passing touchdowns the last 3 decades to see how we should set up our expectations.

#1 – Brady Quinn (2006)

Once again, Brady Quinn lays claim to a lot of the real estate on this list. His 2005 season is where he got a lot of his big accomplishments but his 2006 performance buts him at the top in terms of passing touchdowns. Across 13 games, Quinn tallied up a total of 37 touchdowns through the air, averaging 3 per game.

His season high was 5 TDs in an early win against Michigan State. The randomness of touchdowns, especially through the air, is on full display from this angle. Quinn hit a season low of zero passing TDs in the season opener against Georgia Tech but in the larger scheme of things it didn’t matter because the Irish still pulled out a 14-10 victory.

#2 – Ian Book (2019)

Ian Book’s 2019 performance earns him the second slot on this list. Across 13 games, Book racked up 34 total passing touchdowns and averaged 3 per game. It was a real feast or famine season for the Irish in terms of putting up points through the air. Book had zero passing TDs in a win against Virginia but passed for 5 in victories over New Mexico, Bowling Green and Navy.

#3 – Brady Quinn (2005)

Quinn’s outstanding 2005 season places him on the list again, this time in the #3 spot. Across 12 games he threw 32 total touchdowns and averaged 3 per game. His floor this season was a 0 passing TD outing in the Ohio State bowl game loss while his ceiling was 6 during a 49-23 win over BYU.

#4 – Everett Golson (2014)

If any common thread has emerged from this series it’s the idea of what Everett Golson’s 2014 season could’ve been. During his final season with the Irish, he tallied up 29 touchdowns over 13 games and averaged 2 per game.

He hit a season high of 4 passing TDs in a win against Syracuse. The main storyline of that season was the second half drop off, though. In the regular season finale against USC Golson went for 0 touchdowns through the air and repeated that performance in the bowl game loss to LSU. Touchdown randomness again, the Irish pulled out the win against LSU but loss to USC.

#5 – Jimmy Clausen (2009)

Jimmy Clausen’s 2009 performance earns him the #5 spot on the list. Across 12 games, Clausen tallied up 28 total touchdowns through the air and averaged 2 per game. His distribution of passing TDs is uniquely loaded on the bookends. He kicked off the season with 4 passing touchdowns in a win over Nevada and threw for 5 in the regular season finale loss to Stanford. The rest of the season was mostly a sprinkling of 1 to 2 passing touchdown outings.

Final Thoughts

In his last couple seasons, Sam Hartman has excelled in putting points on the scoreboard through the air. In the Demon Deacon’s 2021 season, Hartman passed for a career high 39 touchdowns. He racked up 38 touchdowns through the air in his follow up 2022 season. So a lot of our expectations for what he can do for the Irish offense, especially in terms of passing touchdowns are well founded.

As we get closer to Notre Dame’s journey to Dublin, the big questions look to be 1) what level the Irish receiving corps will be performing at and 2) what cards are the defense going to leave the offense to play with.

But then again, is any of that new this year?

Cheers and Go Irish!!