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Quinn, Morelli face different expectations Saturday

| Friday, Sept. 8, 2006

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Anthony Morelli completed 50 percent of his passes for 206 yards. Brady Quinn completed 61 percent of his passes for 246 yards.

Morelli was widely praised. Quinn was widely panned. The difference: expectations.

Morelli, making his first career start at Penn State, did better than hoped, throwing three touchdowns with no interceptions in leading the No. 19 Nittany Lions to a 34-16 victory over Akron.

Quinn, tagged by some as the preseason Heisman favorite, led a struggling Notre Dame offense and failed to throw a touchdown pass as the fourth-ranked Fighting Irish (1-0) escaped with a 14-10 win over Georgia Tech. Talk followed about how it might hurt his chances for the Heisman.

Despite a few poorly thrown passes and misreads by Quinn, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was more upset at his offensive line.

Weis said Quinn still managed to help the Irish win. He had a key 16-yard run to set up his 5-yard TD run and was 10-of-15 for 76 yards on Notre Dame's two touchdown drives.

"The guy made some plays to help us win the game, some critical plays," Weis said. "And he got hit multiple times in the game. I mean, he's a tough guy."

Quinn tried to brush aside questions Wednesday about his performance last week by saying the team is focused on Saturday's game against Penn State. But he smiled when asked how his struggles last week would help him prepare for the matchup.

"I think the biggest thing is just how to work the team," he said. "When things are a little bit tough and things aren't going the way you want them to be, I think especially in practice this week, you have to keep things up. You've got to keep guys yearning to get the extra yard, not get complacent and just keep looking forward."

What pleased Weis most about Quinn's performance against Georgia Tech was the composure he showed when things weren't going right and he repeatedly was being pressured and knocked down.

"It's a big plus when you have somebody who's been there and doesn't get rattled," he said.

The Irish are hoping to rattle Morelli on Saturday.

"I think if you give this guy time to throw, you better look out because this kid has a cannon for an arm. He's tall and he can stand there and see things," Weis said. "It's not very encouraging as the coach of the opposing team when the guy's first pass goes for a touchdown. That didn't exactly lift my spirits."

Morelli may have lifted coach Joe Paterno's spirits with his performance against Akron, showing composure in the rain. One of the biggest question marks heading into the season was whether Morelli, known for his strong arm, could play well enough for the Nittany Lions (1-0).

His play against Akron gave Penn State fans hope, although Paterno still found room to criticize.

"Morelli did a really good job until he started to get a little bit careless on some reads," Paterno said. "Anthony Morelli will get better as the season goes. I think we will be pretty good there."

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