Rumors swirling about Clausen's arm and him not being ready to go after having a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow this summer, were proven untrue. After two handoffs to James Aldridge, Clausen overthrew D.J. Hord down field on his first career pass attempt.
On the Irish's next possession, Clausen came out firing, connecting with freshman Duval Kamara for gains of eight and 11 yards. Looking good in the pocket, and making quick decisions against Georgia Tech's second-string defense, the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Westlake Village, Calif., product hit tight end Will Yeatman for 10 yards, and D.J. Hord for five more. He finished the day 4-of-6 passing for 34 yards.
"In Jimmy's case, I told him I'll only use him in the case of emergency, A, and to get his feet wet, B," head coach Charlie Weis explained. "But I felt as the game dictated, it allowed me an opportunity, although in a negative vein, it allowed me an opportunity to go ahead and get that done."
Throughout fall camp, Clausen was rehabbing his elbow and competing for the starting job with Jones and Sharpley at the same time. Going through recovery, Clausen showed he was able to play at this level, but he wasn't able to put in the same amount of reps during practice as Jones and Sharpley.
"He's ready for the speed of the game," Weis said. "He just was, as the year went on, he told you guys he was rehabbing, and I told you he would be ready to throw the ball down the field on day one. Well, both of those were true. He was rehabbing and he was ready to throw the ball down the field on day one.
"But here was the problem," Weis continued, going into the quarterback derby. "The problem was as you're getting everything close to getting ready to go, those other guys are guys that are taking reps the whole time. What you didn't do is you can't sit there and take a quarterback and say you're in there under those two guys when you're not in there on a daily basis getting all the regular reps that everyone else is. I think that he's turned that one."
***Weis thought he could counter Georgia Tech's constant blitzing, with the sophomore Jones at quarterback and a running offense. If the Irish were ever in the two-minute drill or had to start slinging the football, the offense knew the junior Sharpley would become the team's signal-caller.
Neither really went as planned.
Jones started the game, but he and the Irish offense failed to move the football. Jones played all of the first quarter and most of the second. The team ran 25 plays for just 59 yards. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound Jones ran 12 times for a team-high 28 yards, but fumbled away the football twice leading to two Georgia Tech field goals.
"The two turnovers we had, that was completely my fault," Jones said. In his defense, he only attempted two passes, completing one for four yards, so the Georgia Tech defense had a good idea of what Weis was calling. "But at the same time, this is the game of football, not everything is going to go right. The coaches understand that, as a player I understand that. You just have to chalk it up as a loss and prepare to move ahead."
Georgia Tech moved ahead 16-0 with 2:44 remaining in the first half, and that's when Weis called on Sharpley.
Sharpley took a beating in trying to get the Irish offense going. He was sacked seven times, while completing 10-of-13 passes for 92 yards. He did lead the Irish on their only scoring drive, a 12-play, 58-yard march ending in Brandon Walker's 24-yard field goal in the third quarter, making it a 19-3 game.
"I think being a young quarterback, maybe that's something I hadn't experienced before," Sharpley said of Georgia Tech's constant pressure. "Their speed, they're very fast, and it was something we needed to adjust to and just didn't do."
Sharpley's last play in the game, he was sacked and fumbled, leading to the Yellow Jackets' final score of the day.
All three quarterbacks will wait to hear who will get the start against Penn State next Saturday. Weis said he should know by Tuesday after evaluating the film.
***With three new starters on the offensive line, it was expected the unit would struggle against Georgia Tech's pressure. Struggle was an understatement. The Irish ran for (-8) yards on 41 carries, mostly because the quarterbacks were sacked a combined nine times. For the day, Notre Dame had just 122 yards of total offense.
"There was a whole number of things," fifth-year senior center and captain John Sullivan said. "Just collectively, we have to play better than we did today and we will regroup and do that.
"Georgia Tech's an aggressive defense. They really executed today. We didn't execute great. That's what happens when an aggressive defense executes and an offense doesn't execute."
The Irish were especially bad on third and short. On three occasions, the Irish ran the ball and were stuffed in this situation. The glaring one was on 3rd-and-1 from the Georgia Tech two-yard line, Travis Thomas was hit for a loss of three yards. The Irish had to settle for Walker's field goal.
"I think we just need to put that on the offensive line's shoulders, squarely on ourselves," Sullivan said. "Third and short, that's our domain. We have to go out and execute better as an offensive line."
***The following offensive players made their first career starts. Jones at quarterback, junior Paul Duncan at tackle and classmate Michael Turkovich at guard, and sophomore Dan Wenger at the other guard.
***Freshmen running back Armando Allen made his debut, rushing for 25 yards on three carries. He also returned five kickoffs for 84 yards. Classmate Robert Hughes appeared in the backfield but did not make any carries. He had two kickoff returns for eight yards. Kamara had two catches for 19 yards in his first game.
***For the first time since 1985, the Irish failed to score a touchdown in their season opener.
***Tight end John Carlson had three receptions for 29 yards. His third catch moved him past Derek Brown and Dean Maszak into third place on Notre Dame's career receptions list for tight ends. Carlson has 63 career receptions and trails Anthony Fasano's 92 for second place. Ken MacAfee holds the school record with 128.