Jimmy Clausen Leads Notre Dame in Opener

Jimmy Clausen led Notre Dame to a 35-0 victory Saturday with a 15 fo 18, 315 yard, 4 TD performance. (Photo – Icon SMI)

Notre Dame, IN (UHND) – Junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen took another step towards fulfilling the lofty expectations placed on him as the nation’s #1 recruit three years ago on Saturday in Notre Dame’s impressive 35-0 season opening win over Nevada.  The quarterback’s work on the sideslines, however, might have been just as impressive as his work on the field.

Clausen was on fire from the get go Saturday.  He completed 15 of 18 passes for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns without anything close to an interception.  He went through his progressions quickly when he had to and was decisive with the football.

Charlie Weis told the media after Saturday’s game that he could remember just two mistakes made by his junior quarterback.  “But other than those two plays, I can’t remember a play that he wasn’t right on. So I was pleased with his effort,” said Weis.  Those two plays were two of Clausen’s three incompletions – one coming when he missed a wide open Kyle Rudolph down the seam and the other when he threw a jump ball out of bounds to Golden Tate on a fourth and short.

The jump ball to Tate did show that while Clausen was nearly perfect, he still has room for improvement.  Weis has given Clausen more freedom at the line of scrimmage in terms of audibling and that play was an example of Clausen audibiling out of a play when he shouldn’t have.  “They ran one cover, and originally Golden was going to run the slant, he tapped and tried to have him run a go, and really I would have liked him run the slant and go ahead,” said Weis.

Clausen showed his maturity in his post game comments when he talked about the fourth down play to Golden Tate as well.  “I had him on a go, and I shouldn’t have done that. I should have just kept the play on on, and we probably would have picked up the first down. He might have run it in for a touchdown,” he said afterward.  While it might seem minor, it says a lot about a quarterback when he can talk about the plays he missed after turning in a nearly flawless performance.

Still, it’s pretty hard to argue with 15 of 18 for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns.  If Weis can count Clausne’s mistakes on one hand every game this season, it’s going to be a fun year to be a Notre Dame fan.

Nevada head coach Chris Ault took notice of Clausen’s strong performance as well.  “I thought Jimmy did a nice job. He kept his poise. He threw the ball very well. It looked to me he did, in my opinion, he had some nice pocket presence, some of the things we’re trying to do.”

Clausen’s work on the sidelines though was equally as impressive as the gaudy numbers he put up on the stat sheet.  Over the course of the past two seasons the biggest knock on Clausen has been his leadership capabilities.  His teammates elected him a captain over the summer and on Saturday Clausen validated their selection by displaying the kind of leadership that we had yet to see out of him previously.

Charlie Weis made mention throughout the summer that Clausen had made big strides in the leadership department.  On Saturday he backed up his coach’s statements with his actions.

Throughout the game Clausen was seen walking up and down the sidelines encouraging his teammates and congratulating the defense as they came off the field.  We all got used to seeing this kind of behavior from Brady Quinn while he was at Notre Dame, but prior to yesterday that type of behavior was the exception, not the norm from Clausen.

NBC’s Pat Hayden made mention during yesterday’s telecast that when he talked to Clausen during their weekly production meeting that it was like talking to a different quarterback.  He said that he could tell in his dealings with Clausen that he had indeed matured during the off-season.  Hayden also drew attention to Clausen’s interaction with his teammates while on the sidelines throughout the game.

Clausen’s great opener comes on the heels of the best game of his college career in the Hawaii Bowl.  In his last two games, Clausen has completed 37 of 44 passes (84%) for 716 yards with 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions – the kind of numbers everyone’s been hopeful he would be capable of since he was named the starter two years ago.   He’s also taken just two sacks combined in his last two games.

Saturday was in many aspects a perfect season opener for Clausen.  He performed well both on and off the field, but still has a few plays to sit down and look at with Weis in the film room. The next step for Clausen to make will be to continue this kind of success on a consistent basis and to do it against some better defenses.  Not to take anything away from Clausen’s performances these past two games, but the WAC isn’t known for its defense.  Clausen will start to silence any remaining doubters if he can put up similar numbers against teams like Michigan and Michigan State the next two weeks.

For now though, things are looking pretty good for Clausen and the Irish.  To borrow a line that Charlie Weis likes to use a lot, the arrow is pointing up for Clausen right now.

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  1. I thought the same thing about the secondary. I think Tenuta had them playing off and giving cushion because Nevada would go for the long balls. But the defense up front rarely let them air it out, so the secondary had a relatively “easy” day.

    It’s hard not to get excited and be very hopeful after such an amazing performance by our boys. But I’m going temper that excitement with the reality that we have alot of games ahead of us, with next week’s game at the BIG HOUSE! Never an easy task to win there.

    But to be sure, it’s hard to imagine a better start to the season or a better way to “set the tempo”. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen ND give an almost “flawless” performance.

    If Navy just could have pulled it out against OSU, it would have been a PERFECT weekend! GO IRISH!

  2. Tom –

    Absolutely the game plan dictated the set. Overall a lot of pressure on the Nevada QB – took him out of theri game plan totally. I thought they would come out passing – but they seemed to focus on the run quite a bit early on. That tripped up the Irish a little. Definitely a better looking team all around this year so far. Remember this was a potent Wolfpack team and bottom line they weren’t shut down – they were SHUT OUT! Tenuta knows how to prepare for sure!

    1. i would like to think that every dc tells his dbs to keep everything in front of them. i wouldnt call that game planning, hardly. fact is, our “strength” was exposed and our weakness was validated.

      i just thought the base of our defense this year was pressure up front with blitzing resulting in turnovers, esp. interceptions, due to our “lockdown” corners. hard to pick anything off when you are 5-10 yards away from the wr when he catches it.

  3. The reason that the corners gave so much room was probably because of the gameplan. I think they were probably just told to keep everything in front of them and not give up the big play, which is what Nevada thrives on, the big play.

  4. I told you guys – the defense is the best kept secret of the Irish this year! Stout – very stoutand summed up in two words Jon Tenuta! See this previous post for all of you that thought this was gonna be closer than most thought….oh ye of little faith – GO IRISH!

    Chris commented on September 3rd, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I see a storm brewing in the Irish this year – aint gonna be no losses even to USC – this is the year and we will see the edge of the stormfront a comin’ September 5 – ND 38 Nevada 10.

    1. i would not go that far. i love our defense but if that is a sample of things to come then we are in trouble. was there even a db that was not giving these average wrs a 10-15 yard cushion? i thought we had a couple “lockdown” corners??? where were they at? be thankful nevada kept shooting themselves in the foot. hope it was just the first game jitters and getting used to game speed again. the dline showed their inexperience, although not bad considering nevadas rush attack. one thing is certain, teo needs to be in the game somewhere at all times. the kid is scary fast and can hit! anyone else see when he put that olineman on his ass at the end of one play! he just needs to hit something to be happy.

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