SOUTH BEND, Ind. - They talk often about "waking up the ghosts" in these parts.
The Notre Dame faithful like to think Knute Rockne, George Gipp and The Four Horsemen did for football what Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin did for socialism. And they hold Notre Dame Stadium in the same reverence as the basilica church located steps away.
Yet Georgia Tech did the awakening Saturday.
The ghosts no doubt cowered in the wake of the Yellow Jackets' 33-3 trouncing of the beloved Irish.
College football fans elsewhere just sat in shock.
Georgia Tech's defense embarrassed an offense devised by Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, one of football's most respected minds. The Yellow Jackets recorded nine sacks, held the Irish running backs to 64 yards rushing and forced three fumbles.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets offensive line and tailback Tashard Choice made a mockery of Notre Dame's redesigned defense. Choice rushed for a career-high 196 yards and five other backs added 77 more.
"I'll be honest, I did not see this coming," "Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey said. "I thought we would play pretty well defensively. I thought we had a great offensive line coming back and a good set of skill people, but to be able to run the ball the way we did, I didn't know that."
Gailey's team's dominance was hard to fathom afterwards, let alone beforehand. The three points are the fewest scored by the Irish since Weis left the New England Patriots to return to his alma mater in 2005.
Weis tried three quarterbacks Saturday, starting running threat Demetrius Jones. But Jone fumbled twice on the first four possessions.
Weis benched Jones in favor of pocket-passer Evan Sharpley in the second quarter. Georgia Tech sacked him twice and hit him as he threw on two more on his first possession of the game.
The Jackets went on to sack him five more times before Weis put in heralded true freshman Jimmy Clausen in the fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jacket pass rushers treated the Irish's young offensive linemen like traffic cones in a driving test, motoring around them at will. Defensive linemen Darryl Richard, Vance Walker, Darrell Robertson, Adamm Oliver and Michael Johnson pushed Notre Dame's frontmen backwards, and Georgia Tech's linebackers and defensive backs dogged Jones and Sharpley.
"You could tell they were very uncomfortable," Oliver said. "We were coming after them every play. I don't think they were very quick with their reads. They couldn't really read our defense and tell where we were coming from. We had them all messed up."
Oliver called the defensive performance the best of his Georgia Tech career, and coordinator Jon Tenuta concurred. Tenuta expected as much from a unit that returns eight starters from last season and is deep enough along the defensive line to rotate personnel and bring constant pressure.
"I'm not a guy who makes predictions, but I just know if they come out and play and execute what we ask them to execute, and then the experience factor comes into play, the result is going to be tremendous," Tenuta said.
The same could be said of Choice. The Atlantic Coast Conference's reigning rushing champion announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy against the Irish.
He scored two touchdowns, both on direct-snap plays with quarterback Taylor Bennett lined up as a wide receiver. Choice also caught three passes for 22 yards.
Choice said he felt like a "caged animal" still furious from Georgia Tech's three straight losses to end the 2006 season. His offensive line shared the sentiment - Choice, a between-the-tackles runner, had several carries where he didn't get touched until he was five yards downfield.