Football: Weis: “We got ourselves a quarterback”
Chris Hine | Monday, November 12, 2007
After weeks of ineffective performances, Notre Dame freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who started for the first time since Notre Dame’s 27-13 loss to Boston College on Oct. 13, had the best game of his young college career Saturday.
The highly touted signal-caller threw for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 22-of-40 passing.
“Jimmy did a very, very good job in the second half stepping up and throwing the ball,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “I’d say if there was one thing you walked out of that game saying, [it would be,] ‘We got ourselves a quarterback.'”
Weis had benched Clausen the last two games in part because junior quarterback Evan Sharpley was able to move the ball downfield easier and put more points on the board than Clausen, but Clausen showed the ability to sustain long drives and lead Notre Dame into the end zone against the Falcons – especially in the second half.
Clausen threw for only 54 yards in the first half on 5-for-11 passing, but one of those completions was his touchdown pass to tight end John Carlson to tie the score at 10-10
Clausen threw a lob pass to Carlson in the corner of the end zone, a play reminiscent of Clausen’s only previous collegiate touchdown pass, in Notre Dame’s 33-19 loss to Purdue on Sept. 29.
In the second half, Clausen ignited a Notre Dame comeback effort that ultimately fell short, but he showed his coach that he was maturing as a quarterback.
“He shows very great composure for a young guy, a freshman in college. He’s into that drive,” Weis said. “Usually with a young quarterback you see him getting flustered as the game goes on, and I don’t see that with him, which is an encouraging thing.”
Clausen threw for 192 yards on 17-for 29 passing in the second half, including touchdown passes to junior wide receiver David Grimes and freshman running back Armando Allen. Overall, Clausen’s completion percentage could have been higher, but Notre Dame dropped more passes against the Falcons than it had in any game this season by Weis’ count, eight.
“[The drops were] very surprising,” Weis said. “They were all over. It wasn’t like you could sit there and say it was one person; there were a number of them. It was disappointing.”
A cause for concern with Clausen over the past few weeks had been his health. The freshman had a minor elbow surgery over the summer, and during his first starts at Notre Dame, opposing defenses hit Clausen as much as – if not more than – any quarterback in college football.
Air Force sacked Clausen six times, with multiple hits coming to Clausen’s blind side thanks to a blitz scheme that involved Air Force bringing two defenders around the left edge of the offense line – a scheme Weis said Notre Dame worked on protecting all week in practice. Despite Notre Dame’s preparation, the Falcons were still able to get to Clausen.
After the game, Weis compared the volume of treatment in Notre Dame’s post-game locker room to a mobile army hospital but said Clausen was not being treated for anything serious.
“Other than bumps and bruises, there’s no injury,” Weis said of Clausen. “He’s not one of the people in the MASH unit, and he got probably got hit as many times as anyone, and that’s an encouraging thing.”