January 4, 2007

Walker thrives early, shelved late

NEW ORLEANS - Darius Walker entered the Sugar Bowl primed to finish his junior season as the feature back in the worst rushing offense in Notre Dame history. Instead, he left the Superdome as just the third back to crack 100 yards against the LSU defense all season, powering the Irish offense with 125 yards in the first half alone.

Walker's heroics weren't enough for No. 11 Notre Dame to knock off No. 4 LSU or for the Irish to snap an eight-game bowl losing streak, but the running back's night proved to be an upset unto itself in the 41-14 blowout. Walker ripped off a 35-yard run around the end in the second quarter, his second-longest burst of the season, hardly expected against a defense also billed as a part-time track team.

"I think we came out and played smash mouth ball and did everything we wanted to do in the first half," Walker said. "We just knew that we were going to be physical and bring it to them."

The rushing success represented a surprise considering Walker was held in check by every accomplished defense this season and even some mediocre ones. He'd rushed for triple figures against just two teams with winning records (Purdue and Navy), fattening up on the service academies. He gained more than 100 yards against all three.

Against Michigan and USC, Walker ran for 81 yards in both games combined.

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