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Football: Conservative no more

Chris Khorey | Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Notre Dame’s offense was conservative against UCLA.

So conservative, in fact, that Irish coach Charlie Weis admitted Tuesday that “there wasn’t a prescribed intermediate passing game” in the game plan for the Bruins.

“We were either dinking and dunking or taking play-action shots,” Weis said.

The strategy paid off for Weis. Although the Irish gained only 140 yards of total offense, they didn’t turn the ball over and they earned their first win of the season, 20-6.

But that game plan won’t be a recipe for success this week against high-powered Boston College. The Eagles come into Saturday’s contest averaging over 35 points per game.

“You can’t stay conservative,” Weis said. “They know that, too. This isn’t like I’m giving away any big secret. It’s not like we’re going to go in with three tight ends and run the ball inside the whole game. We’re going to have to score some points to win.”

Irish quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen is ready to take the next step in game plan complexity.

“I think Jimmy has shown that he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him,” Powlus said. “He’s very excited to execute the game plan.”

Weis said Clausen will have to be ready, because beating the No. 4 Eagles will take an effective downfield passing game.

“As he continues his progression, it allows you to do more, but really the style of the defense you play against dictates what you end up doing,” he said.

Clausen threw for over 150 yards in less than three quarters of action against Purdue two weeks ago, but passed for only 84 yards against UCLA.

Powlus said the changes in game plan and offensive success have not affected Clausen’s emotions and confidence.

“The most important thing for his confidence is to try his best to execute the game plan every week,” Powlus said.

Linebacker shake up

On the weekly depth chart, senior Anthony Vernaglia was moved from starting right outside linebacker to second-string left outside linebacker. Meanwhile, freshman Kerry Neal was promoted to first-string right outside linebacker.

Weis said the move reflected Vernaglia’s versatility and Neal’s improvement. The senior played at both inside and outside linebacker against UCLA.

“We moved him inside out of need last week,” Weis said. “I think this week he’s going to practice at both inside and outside. He’ll be listed at one [position on the depth chart].”

Price punting again

Weis said fifth-year senior Geoff Price recovered well in the UCLA game from his rough outing against Michigan State. Price punted nine times for an average of 40.3 yards per punt.

“The biggest problem he’s had this year is consistency,” Weis said. “I think that last week, with the exception of one kick, he had a very, very good day.”

Injuries

Weis said injured junior wide receiver David Grimes will “probably” suit up Saturday for the Irish.

“He’s practicing today, so he looks like he should be a go, but I’ll just have to wait and go by what I see,” Weis said.

Sophomore offensive guard Dan Wenger, who has missed the past three games, is practicing again at full speed this week. Weis said Wenger, who started the first three games of the season, will have an opportunity to win his job back from sophomore Matt Carufel.

“He’s not going to just automatically get thrown in there,” Weis said. “He’ll have to earn his way back out there.”

Weis said freshman wide receiver Golden Tate got “dinged up a little bit” against the Bruins, but he should play against Boston College.

“Golden will be involved in the mix,” he said.