Football: Blue skies ahead
Chris Hine | Monday, April 21, 2008
Facing fourth-and-goal from the eight-yard line with 29 seconds remaining, rising sophomores Jimmy Clausen and Duval Kamara connected on a fade pattern near the sideline of the end zone to lift Blue (offense) to a 47-46 victory over Gold (defense) in a uniquely-scored – and at times heated – 79th Blue-Gold Game.
“When we were on the sidelines, we were going to run a fade to one of our receivers,” Clausen said of Kamara’s touchdown. “And coach is like ‘We’re going to 18’. And I looked at Duval and said, ‘Are you going to catch it or not?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to catch it’. And I was like, ‘You better go up and get it because I’m throwing it up.'”
Kamara’s touchdown, preceded three plays earlier by a 58-yard pass to rising sophomore Golden Tate off of a go-route, was only the third touchdown of the game. But in a game where a first down earned one point; a sack, a 10-yard run, a 20-yard pass and a defensive stop earned two points; and a three-and-out earned the defense five points – the scored climbed quickly.
The offense dominated much of the first half, jumping out to a 32-13 lead. Rising sophomore running back Robert Hughes carried for 72 yards on 16 carries in the first half, and he finished with 22 carries for 102 yards, earning offensive MVP honors. Blue did not pass the ball on its second drive, going 69 yards on 15 plays capped off by a Hughes 1-yard touchdown run.
But Gold climbed its way back in the second half. On Blue’s second drive of the half, linebacker/safety and defensive MVP Harrison Smith picked Clausen off on Blue’s 15 and returned it for a touchdown, giving the defense 10 points and putting it back in the game.
“I call that a happy moment watching one of my defensive players scoring a touchdown on an interception,” coach Charlie Weis said. “And a sad moment watching my quarterback throw an interception for a touchdown.”
After the play, a small fight broke out in the end zone involving multiple players. Punches were thrown, and in an actual game, penalties, and possibly some ejections might have ensued from the altercation. This spring, Weis has tried to get his players to play with more emotion on the field. The fight Saturday, Weis said, was an example of taking emotion too far.
“As far as everything else, what would I call it? A perfect example to teach, that’s what I would call it,” Weis said. “That’s probably five minutes of what I talked about in [the locker room after the game]. That was a perfect example to teach the team about composure.”
Blue managed just 45 yards the rest of the half before the final drive.
In the two 30-minutes running halves, Clausen went 10-for-27 for 183 yards the one touchdown and one interception.
Weis said there was a difference in his quarterback situation this spring, with Clausen the clear-cur starter, as opposed to last spring when four candidates including an injured Clausen were vying for the starting job.
“At this point last year I knew that in a couple of days he was going to go get his elbow scoped. And it was going to be a recovery time, and it was going to be a while before he could get his arm strength up to be able to throw the ball,” Weis said. “It was really that whole quarterback situation was a little bit of a chaotic at the time, I’d have to say. You know, because nothing was really going as I scripted it.”
That injury prevented Clausen from throwing with any regularity until the final weeks of summer camp. Clausen’s also needed time to recover, and said the long pass to Tate probably would not have reached its target a few months ago.
“I’m a lot healthier right now,” Clausen said. “I’m 100 percent. Last year coming off the elbow surgery, and being banged up, I really wasn’t able to be 100 percent like I am now. So I’m just happy to be 100 percent.”
But Notre Dame came into the Blue-Gold Game wanting to run the football.
Aside from Hughes’ 22 carries, rising junior James Aldridge had six carries for 18 yards and rising sophomore Armando Allen had 11 carries for 53 yards.
“What we wanted to do is make sure we ran the ball about 40 times. That’s how it turned out….” Weis said. “I wanted to let the offensive line tee off. You can’t build physicality if you don’t let them tee off.”
Tate finished with three catches for 73 yards, while Kamara had four catches for 48 yards.
uThe attendance at the game was 30,286, the fifth highest total for any Blue-Gold Game.
uRising fifth-year linebacker Maurice Crum Jr., rising senior wide receiver David Grimes and rising senior safety David Bruton were named captains for next season. Crum will captain the defense, Grimes the offense and Bruton special teams