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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clausen Leads Great Escape

posted by John Vannie
Jimmy Clausen limped off the bench with three minutes left to lead Notre Dame on a game-winning drive as the Irish rallied past Purdue by 24-21 on Saturday night. The Heisman hopeful hit Kyle Rudolph with a two yard scoring pass with just 29 seconds remaining. Dayne Crist had played most of the way at quarterback after the first quarter while Clausen cheered from the sidelines, but a second-half comeback by the Boilermakers necessitated his return.

Notre Dame built a 17-7 halftime lead behind a strong running game and a defense that solidified after a shaky opening series. Coach Charlie Weis implemented a package for Crist that featured runs by Golden Tate out of the Wildcat formation and effectively used both Jonas Gray and Robert Hughes at running back in the absence of injured starter Armando Allen. The patchwork lineup was productive as the offensive line dominated play.

The Irish defense gave up an easy touchdown on the opening series as Aaron Valentin turned a slant pass from Joey Elliott and several missed tackles into a 35-yard score. Ralph Bolden contributed a 26-yard run during the drive, and Notre Dame appeared to be in trouble. Remarkably, Purdue did not threaten for the rest of the half as the Irish tightened up and shut down Bolden and Elliott’s short passing game.

Meanwhile, Tate led the offense to three scores. A series of well-conceived sweeps, draws and misdirection with Crist at the helm had the Boilermakers on their heels. Hughes and Tate ran for touchdowns while Nick Tausch added a field goal after a penalty negated another score.

Notre Dame continued to dominate the game in the third quarter, but two time consuming drives failed to yield any points. Purdue’s defense adjusted to the run with Crist in the game, but the Irish were still in control. Momentum turned in favor of the Boilermakers when Weis elected to try a fourth and 10 pass at the Purdue 35. Crist was sacked on the play, and Purdue took over with two minutes left in the period.

Elliott quickly moved his team downfield as the senior started to find his receivers. Keith Smith, who finished with 11 receptions for 136 yards, caught a three yard slant early in the fourth quarter to pull Purdue to within 17-14. Elliott moved the hosts down the field again moments later, but a fourth down pass was intercepted by Darrin Walls at the Notre Dame 20.

Weis countered by reinserting Clausen at the 7:30 mark, but the Irish gave up a sack and went three and out. Starting from his own 30 with six minutes left, Elliott and Bolden worked the ball to the Irish 38. The Boilermakers then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a perfectly executed wheel route by Jaycen Taylor, who was wide open in the left flat and waltzed into the end zone. Carson Wigg’s extra point put Purdue ahead by 21-17 with 3:41 remaining.

With the game on the line, Clausen was sharp. He hit Tate for 12 yards and Kyle Rudolph for 22 before being sacked by Gerald Gooden. Facing a third and 14, he found Robbie Parris on the right sideline for a first down at the Boilermaker 21. Two plays later, a reception by Tate brought the ball inside the Purdue five with a minute left in the game.

After two plays netted only one yard, the Irish were out of timeouts and faced a third down with the clock running. Just as Weis signaled Clausen to spike the ball to set up a game-deciding fourth down play, Boilermaker coach called timeout to set his defense. This turn of events allowed Notre Dame to run two plays instead of one in the time remaining. Clausen rolled out and misfired on third down, but his last pass was on target to the big tight end from Cincinnati.

The narrow escape against a mediocre opponent was a relief more than a statement for the depleted Irish, who just need to keep winning until their injured offensive starters can return to health. Jon Tenuta’s defense showed improvement this week and even some restraint from the all-out blitzing strategy that was largely ineffective.

Let’s review the questions that were key to the outcome:

How effective will Clausen and Allen be after walking around with protective boots all week? Clausen blocked out the pain when his teammates needed him, while Allen got some much needed rest.

Will Bolden replicate his lofty 6.8 yards per carry and help Purdue approach its weekly average of 211 rushing yards? Bolden managed only 67 yards in 17 carries, and had only two runs that produced any real yardage.

Will Elliott surprise everyone with a breakout performance this week? He looked poised and displayed accuracy despite the fact that everyone knew he was going to throw it short.

Can the Irish defense finally force a few turnovers? Yes and no. Walls’ interception on a fourth down cost Notre Dame 15 yards of field position and Purdue fumbled on its last desperation play.

Can Notre Dame’s running game dominate if Allen is not 100%? The Irish managed a healthy 167 yards on the ground, with most coming in the first half. They needed the threat of Clausen’s passing to sustain the offense in the second half, and ultimately needed Clausen’s heroics to win.

Will the Irish special teams finally show some improvement? Baby steps. Tausch kicked off well and Riddick had a nice return, but punt coverage was weak.

Can the Irish close out the game in style or will they have to hang on for dear life? Irish fans had better keep their cardiologists on speed dial.

At 3-1, Notre Dame returns home to host an improved Washington team before the midterm break. Clausen’s health remains the most important factor and difference maker for the Irish, but the running game and the defense must do their part since this team’s margin between victory and defeat remains razor thin.
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Anonymous Patrick Mikes '79 said...

A W is a W is a W!.

I'd like to see the following improvements next week:

1. Tackling. We're still terrible at this fundamental. This should be fixed in one week, no excuses.
2. Stop defensive breakdowns: For the second consecutive week our defense was clueless on our opponent's next-to last possession. No one was within 20 yards of the tailback when he strolled leisurely into the endzone. This almost cost us the game.
3. Logical play selection: In the first half we ran the ball very well. After we scored our second touchdown, our next series was almost all passes. Why didn't we continue to run in the 1st half when we had Purdue on the ropes? In the second half, when facing third and long, we ran the ball instead of passing. Didn't make sense to me, but what do I know.
4. Our left tackle #72 Duncan seemed easily beaten on a few plays.
5. Punt distance & coverage seem weak.

Many thanks to Dan Hope for calling the timeout with 36 seconds left. It was refreshing to read the remarks of fans from schools other than ND who want to second-guess and fire their coach.

It's not possible to exaggerate the performance of JC. To come off the sidelines fighting an injury and deliver repeatedly under great pressure to win the game shows he has the Secretariat-sized heart of a champion. Maybe he should be allowed to hang the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign in his room.

Kudos to Kyle Rudolph too:

Rudolph with your 6'-6" height,
Help the Irish win tonight!
Then all the Domers loved him,
as they shouted out with glee:
While our loyal sons r marching,
Onward to victory!

Folks, it possible to be very critical and unhappy and say we could be 1-3. But let's be happy for the fight and never-say-die attitude our lads showed and hope they win the rest of their games.

Patrick Mikes
ND '79

9/27/2009 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous PAtrick Mikes '79 said...

Forgive me fans:

It should be HER loyal sons instead of our loyal sons.

Will this egregious error lead to my banishment from this site?


9/27/2009 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Patrick Miles.

Against a mediocre team like Purdue (or Michigan State for that matter), you can miss a few tackles and still win a game, as ND has proven. However, against teams like USC, that won't fly.

I understand the offense was banged up and there were a variety of formations used to keep Purdue on its heels. However, I came away from this game impressed by one thing - the running game.

It was powerful, fast, tricky and the last time I saw ND run like that was back in the Holtz days.

I wish Charlie would be less "cute" with the offense and keep it simple. Run between the tackles, throw in some wildcat to confuse the defense, get some play action into the mix, and take logical shots down the field.

Jimmy Clausen has established himself as the leader of the offense and one of the better QB's in the country. I'm excited about Armando Allen's improvement and the fact the OL CAN FINALLY DOMINATE THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE. Wow, I've waited about five years to make that statement. So kudos to Frank Verducci for teaching a 300lb kid how to move a 260lb kid three feet back.

The biggest areas of concern I have moving forward are the WR's - other than Golden Tate. Robby Parris, Duval Kamara (another game with multiple mental errors on his part) and Shaq Evans need to pick up the slack left by Floyd's absense. Kick returns and kick coverage needs to improve. And I'd say, arguably, most important is the defense. Stopping the run, generating turnovers, making the opposing offense EARN its yardage.

So goes the defense, so goes the rest of the season.

9/27/2009 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God Purdue's coach is more mentally-challenged than Weis. Not going for that first half field goal? The end would not have been so cardio-challenged.

9/27/2009 08:59:00 PM  
Anonymous James said...

We dress in coats and ties. We go to mass before each game. We sing together after each game. Why can't we hand the ball to the official after each touchdown? If we are going to act like LSU, USC, GA, FLA, etc, then we should stop pretending. If we are men, then we should act like men! How is it possible that we are dancing like little girls in the endzone? If we are ND, and if we are true sportsmen, then we should act like men before, during, and after the game!

9/27/2009 09:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that this game tells a lot about the heart of this team...granted, if they were full strength...ie floyd, aa, ja, jc...they probably win by 28 pts...but we have to deal with the facts....we are pretty banged up...and have to treat each game like it's the championship...I think that we all realize that this season is gonna be heartwrenching in that every game is going to come down to the wire...but at least, this team are a bunch of fighters...and I'm proud of them....and i agree with one of the bloggers about the showboating...though....I think that Lou wouldn't have stood for that...how about Knute? Leahy? Ara? Devine? I dont think so...

So please CW...lay down the law and perhaps you should read Lou's book about his first meeting with his first team...

Go Irishhhhhhhhh

Irish Mike

9/27/2009 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would rather see ND players dancing in the end zone 7-8 times a game, than watch them parade down the sidewalk in their suits and ties.

I don't root for ND because they go to Mass before games (which, most of the football players are NOT Catholic).

I watch them because, traditionally, they have embodied determination, skill, some luck, and a committment to FOOTBALL excellence that nobody else has.

I've seen enough ND teams walk proudly in their suit and ties as they parade to the Insight.com Bowl or Hawaii Bowl.

I want touchdowns. I want wins. I want the 21 year national champsionship streak to end.

9/27/2009 11:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exciting win, win being the key word. It is even more impressive that these kids have been playing their hearts out for their coach, but he still trusts his brain more than their execution...If only Charlie would stop outsmarting himself when it came to playcalling...That coaching management will be the deciding factor for the bigger games...in the meantime I have total trust in the heart of this team..kudos to jimmy and co.

9/28/2009 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAT A GREAT TEAM WIN - Kudos to Clausen who, despite the numbers, showed that he is a Heisman quality QB. Great job by Christ and Paris getting it done off the bench. Great game plan (except for going for it on both 4th downs). Great run D. For as depleated as we were on O we got it done and in exciting fashion. Weis had to reinvent the O and did a great job. I Loved it!!! I know we all want to win by 24 going away but this one was gutsy and showed character and determination in the face of uncertainty!!! GO IRISH - Sean H. '90

9/28/2009 01:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Domer praying in LA said...

ND players are taught to speak with (reasonably) proper grammar and cohesiveness; surely we can ask them to celebrate victories and defeats with grace and dignity. Being Catholic or not, the virtual of class transcends any religion -- often we reduce ourselves to thuggery in the name of victory. Having said all of that JC's and Kyle Rudolph's celebration are appropriate :-)

9/28/2009 03:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really dont know why everyone is so negative about a WIN! Ohio State won the 2003 championship when they beat a mediocre purdue team on an impossible last-second TD pass, a not-so-good illinois in OT and a descent michigan team on a last second int in the endzone! And thats only the half of that season! So get off our guys backs because, in the end, its the ending record, not the games inwhich we played!!!

As always God Bless and Go Irish!

9/28/2009 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous JJMcLure said...

Folks, let's face reality. This is the fifth year for the fat man. He himself said on 60 Minutes that "If I don't win the national title within 5 years, I should be fired."

Great recruiter, but overall Weis is not getting it done. We consistently make lesser teams look better than they are. This is a good team that deserves better than the so-called "genius." His only schematic advantage is at the buffet table.

Personally, I would not be surprised if we lost the next three. Throw grenades at me all you want, but you're celebrating a last second win over a mediocre team. We're lucky to have escaped. Washington, SC, BC and Navy have to smell blood in the water.

Here's hoping we can all welcome Coach Kelly or Gruden in 2010. GO IRISH!

9/28/2009 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want...I want...I want... You sound like the Smails kid.

I don't know why they go to pre game Mass now, but it used to be for a sense of comaraderie in battle and that no one on either team would be seriously injured.

9/28/2009 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, Washington is much improved, i'll give you that. But they are not that good! they beat SC because it was an emotional game, the head coach and def. coordinator are both from SC and the SC coaches didnt tell Corp that he was starting untill they took the field on the first play of the game! They also played very conservative and didnt capitilize on the opertunities they had with that QB in!

Once JC is back and healthy, plus AA back running, Washington wont stand a chance. The way the defence played in the first 3 and a half quarters, they should shut down the only player Washington has, Lake Locker.

And, ND wont fire CW unless we only win 6 or 7 games this year. There is no way we win that few of games! Next year will be another break-out year that CW needs. The defence is only 1 year behind the offence and will step up next year!

As always, God bless and Go Irish

9/28/2009 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Patrick Mikes '79 said...


You are absolutely right. Let's do the classy thing and keep making fun of Charlie's weight. Maybe we can say some rotten things about his son, too.

And, of course, Kelly and Gruden are messiahs 1 and 2 who guarantee us an NC simply by the fact that they are someone other than CW.

9/28/2009 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohio State won it all in 2003 with brilliant game management from The Vest. Take the 3 points when you can get 'em, punt to win the field position battle, manage the clock and time outs.

We do not have that on our sidelines. Not with ole "jump ball on second down" always looking to hit the big strike.

9/28/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well most of the time, with JC, that big shot worked, and for huge yards. In 2003, it was a different time, where Tressel-ball worked, but if you look now, Tressel-ball isnt as dominate. Look at the big teams, FL ALA TX OK, they all take long shots down the field with some regularity. Thats how college football is now-a-days. Also, it doesnt help when our punter is so inconsistent that he hits a 40+ yarder then a 20+ yarder. In 2003, OSU had the best punter in football that year.

You have to give credit where credit is due. CW is still finding ways to win games, which is what defines a coach now, how many wins does this coach has under his belt.

As always God bless and Go Irish

9/28/2009 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Mikes:

While I don't agree with the Gruden call, I do feel that Kelly and Chris Petersen would be improvements over CW. They are good candidates because they have overachieved as head coaches. They win more than expected. They upset more talented teams. They win their divisions. They beat all the teams they should beat. CW regularly loses to teams with inferior talent; has NEVER won an upset; has NEVER beaten a team that finished in the top 25; has gotten his ass kicked at home more than any ND coach in history; has gotten his ass kicked by more than 30 a few times; and routinely gets outperformed by teams with inferior talent (see Indiana's results against Mich and Central Michigan's results against MSU). Bottom line: CW underachieves with superior talent while many other coaches overachieve with inferior talent. And you may want to save the self-righteousness for a forum slightly more meaningful than the college football blogosphere.

9/28/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OSU won it all in 2002.

9/28/2009 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Drasail2 said...

These Irish are are pretty fun to watch. The hard work looks like it
is paying off.

Mission critical to a running
attack is absolutely no penalties
and this seemed to hurt us.

We have to begin trusting our defense to do their job -- the pooch punt is a brilliant play on a 4th and 10.

Word to the Weis -- the CRAZY is
totally good unless it becomes
one dimensional.


9/28/2009 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, Drasail2. A win is a win, and thats all you will see in the record books in later years. It doesnt matter how ugly the win is!

And, yes, OSU won it in 2002 season, but the championship game was played in 2003, and is considered the 2003 championship, not the 2002 championship.

9/28/2009 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

o I forgot,

As always God Bless and Go Irish

9/28/2009 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that we all have to put this game in perspective and at min, see it as a baramater on how much this team has matured and improved...last year...I would bet my life, that they dont come back....last year...they dont come back and score against michigan...last year they dont pick off mich state and they are 1 and 3....

THIS YEAR...they are 3 and 1...and the future looks bright...Lets give CW a break...I hate sounding like a broken record...but the guy literally had 3 years of NO RECRUITS...and please guys LAY OFF THE FAT JOKES...thats no class...what does his appearance have to do with anything? this isn't a beauty contest...yeah..Urban looks like a gq model, but he used us to get out of his contract and he's a jerk...at least cw cares...give him a break...

go irish


9/28/2009 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really shocked to read so many people still bashing Charlie's play calling. We're incredibly lucky to have him as an offensive coach (defense might be another matter, jury is still out). He's built one of the best offenses in the country through his recruiting and his scheme. Three weeks in a row Clausen and the boys have driven down the field for what should have been game winning drives. What he did in the second quater against Purdue was magic. We scored points with smoke and mirrors. Crist isn't ready to be a weapon on offense yet. If the QB can't throw in to Golden, just hand it to him. What could be more simple and brilliant? With all of the injuries that we've had to such key players, Weiss should be highly complimented on his ability to bring us a big road win.

Get in line behind the coach! Belive in him and root for him! Let's be the Notre Dame of old, lets have undying faith in our coach and give him ample time to show us what he can do.

9/28/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This team has a very good chance at winning out if we stop trying to arm tackle. Way to many whiffs. We also need to stop blitzing every single down. If Tenuta wants to keep the blizting up, we need more of a rotation with our LB's and DL. They appear to be getting very tired as the game wears on. And we have to get to the QB. Our DB's are not as good covering people as I thought they would be this year.

9/28/2009 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous TTone said...

I agree with all who say, "A win is a win." And I applaud Jimmy and our offense for getting it done. (I also thank their coach for calling timeout).

I get quite worried when Charlie starts talking about "getting back to fundamentals" in the middle of the season. Fundamentals are taught and drilled into teams in the off-season and pre-season camp. If your team is not fundamentally sound by this point in the season, it may be too late. As we near the halfway point of the season, coaching should become more of a chess match, we shouldn't still be fashioning our pieces.

I fear that although our coach is a great offensive coordinator, he simply does not have "it" figured out. "It" is pure coaching ability, ultimately culminating in wins.

The best measure of pure coaching ability (besides wins) is measured in "The 2nd 1/2." Great coaches make their teams better in the 2nd 1/2 of of games, and more importantly, of seasons. Charlie has NEVER demonstrated that, even in the two years that we made BCS bowls. His first team had to miraculously beat Stanford to make that Fiesta Bowl game, which we lost to Ohio State. His second BCS team got soundly beaten by USC before earning the privilege of getting beat by LSU in the Sugar Bowl. These were not well-coached teams. They were teams who fought hard and had great natural talent and leadership (Quinn, Walker, Shark, Zibby), that were not recruited by Charlie. They also had to pull miraculous comebacks against Michigan State and UCLA in which coaching had little to do with the wins, but desire and ability of some great players did.

Of course, last season was the best example of getting outcoached in the second half of games and of seasons. For evidence, check out the BC, Pitt, and especially Syracuse games (please take Prozac first). These are teams with comparable or inferior talent in which coaching should be the primary factor to wins or losses.

Painfully, I point to USC as a model of "2nd 1/2" when it comes to coaching. Although they routinely blow one early season road game (ie Washington), they generally improve at halftime and at the end of the season. Many times you see a USC team go into halftime down and having played poorly, but they almost always tighten things up and come out attacking in the second half. They are never mentally out of games, and they never get blown out. Even that Oregon State game from last year ended up a lot closer, with USC still having a chance to win at the end. As much as I hate to say it, Carrol has "it" figured out.

The idea is, the 2nd 1/2 of games and of seasons is when coaching truly happens. The ability to adjust and outsmart other coaches is one aspect of it, which Charlie has not demonstrated. But equally as important is the ability to adjust to your own team and your own coaching staff.

The 2nd 1/2 is where Charlie continues to fail, and I don't want to wait for the 2nd 1/2 of his contract for somebody to figure this out and do something about it.

I love our players for their desire and determination. In these last two wins, our young men "played like champions." I always hope for the best.

God Bless Notre Dame!

9/28/2009 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys, OSU won the NC in 2003 because Larry Coker is a bafoon. He could not coach his way out of a wet paper bag. The OSU of the last three years is the real OSU. They play 3 non-conference patsies, 1 decent non-conference game which they lose, dominate the big ten which is not a strong conference and then get spanked in a BCS game because they are way over ranked.

9/29/2009 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah. I almost forgot. OSU vs. SEC in bowl games ... 0-9. I rest my case.

9/29/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh I skipped right over the B Kelly comments. What fing joke.

10/16/2009 05:35:00 PM  

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